Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wonderful Greenery at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

At the end of June 2012, a botanic gardens will open for the public at the Marina South area called Gardens By The Bay. It's Singapore's second botanic gardens and will feature lots of great new features such as the Cloud Forest, Flower Dome and the SuperTree Grove. However, we must not forget about Singapore's first botanic gardens which is the Singapore Botanic Gardens located at the Bukit Timah area. The Singapore Botanic Gardens has already existed long ago since the year 1822. It's a very old garden but the Botanic Gardens still manage to attract lots of people. A lot of great plantations, trees and other features such as the National Orchid Garden, Bandstand, Swan Lake and so much more can be found at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Scroll down further to check out my visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Thanks to the new Botanic Gardens MRT Station, getting to the Singapore Botanic Gardens has gotten easier. Once you exit the MRT station, the garden is just on your right. After going past the golden gates, pick up a map so that you know how to navigate the gardens easily. After picking up the map, I walk past this section known as the Trellis Garden. The Trellis Garden shows climbers which are plants that require support to grow upwards so that they can harvest sunlight. Some of them will look different and some of them will have fragrant flowers and edible fruits. It was truly something different other than the usual trees that I normally see around the island.

After walking past the Trellis Garden, I came across a big lake which is called the Eco-Lake. If you were to go nearer to the edge, you can see various fishes swimming around and also, I spotted some kind of bird floating above the water. After taking a look at this sign, I believe the bird was actually a swan although not the white swans you usually see on TV. I still can't really confirm this so if you spot one brown coloured bird floating on the water, please let me know what that bird is. In a distance, I also spotted two black birds which look bigger than the brown bird that was closer to me. It would be great if they can come nearer. If you come here, please please please do not feed them and the fishes. It's an irresponsible thing to do and you are actually ruining their diet.


Moving on, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is also a great picnic spot as there are plenty of big shelters for people to have a seat, take a shelter and rest. Most of them were occupied by big groups of people so it's best to find one with few people or an empty shelter which is even better. If you want to have a picnic under the sun, there are also plenty of benches and if you really want to go to that extra length, you can lay a picnic mat and have a picnic on the grass. After having a nice picnic at the shelter, there's this quite uphill pathway which will lead to the rest of the Botanic Gardens. Along the way, I spotted a construction site for a new section of the Botanic Gardens. It's called the Fragrant Garden and according to the sign, there will be fragrant flowering shrubs and trees to be found in this new section of the Gardens. I can't wait for it to open. I will be looking forward to come here the next time I visit the Botanic Gardens.

After the Fragrant Garden, there is also another section of the Botanic Gardens which is known as the Healing Garden. It's already completed so don't forget to enter the area if you're there. The Healing Garden, as its name suggests, is a garden with plants and trees with healing abilities. Also, when you enter the garden, there's actually a fragrant smell which makes the visit to the Healing Garden more worthwhile. At almost each plant, there is a small sign telling readers the name of the plant and its healing abilities. Nothing still beats actual visits to the doctor but this garden will give you some advice on how you can quickly cure yourself with the plants. Ironically, nobody is allowed to pluck any plants or fruits for their own benefit so I think it's a good idea to take pictures of the sign and take notes of which plants are beneficial to health so that you can get or plant your own.

There are also shelters and water coolers within the Healing Garden so it's important to have a rest and fill up your water bottles with some water because a lot of walking will be involved. Moving on, there were also some nice fountains around which makes the Healing Garden a very peaceful and tranquil place to visit. While walking around, I spotted this thingy which is like suspending into the air. There were also some more around the Botanic Gardens. If you know what they are and what the uses are, please let me know because I really want to know what's that.

After visiting the Healing Garden, it's time to walk some more. Unfortunately, I did not stop by the Eco Garden while walking from the Healing Garden to the Visitors Centre which will be a great complement to my trip. I was short on time anyway. After passing by the Eco Garden, there was a car park and while walking along the car park's shelter, I entered the Visitors Centre. The Visitors Centre is where the gift shop was located, it's where you can ask questions with the Reception, it's where you can get a toilet break and it's where you can eat something at the food court available.

After walking so much, I wanted air-con badly and luckily, the gift shop called The Garden Shop was open and I entered the shop not only to check out their souvenirs, but also for their air-con. If you read my Jurong Bird Park article, you will know that I don't like to buy anything at gift shops because of its exorbitant prices. Usually, I will keep a map as a souvenir. Not all gift shops are bad though as they're great for tourists who are in Singapore for a while and want to bring a piece of memory home (although they're still expensive).

Moving on, it's time to check out the Rain Forest and the Symphony Lake. The Rain Forest, as the name suggests, is a rainforest that still exists today. Way back then, Singapore was full of forests and to make way for development, plants and trees had to be removed. Luckily, Singapore still has forests around and the Botanic Gardens' Rain Forest is the only rainforest to be located in the city area. If you want, you can explore the rainforest by just walking along the boardwalk and dirt path provided just like the one at MacRitchie Reservoir (article here) so it is impossible to get lost. During my visit a few weeks ago, I did not explore the rainforest. Instead, I used an alternative called the Symphony Lake.

The Symphony Lake is a an open space with a stage in the middle. As you can see from the picture above, the stage is located right in the middle of a pond which is something that I have never seen before. Sometimes, there will be free performances at the Symphony Lake. If you want to watch the free performance, there is an open field for you to sit down, lay a picnic mat and enjoy the show. There are also some wooden benches too close to the stage. The open field at the Symphony Lake is also a popular place for people to play the game of Frisbee and kite-flying.

Just right after the Symphony Lake, it's time for another toilet break. If you are a fan of orchids, otherwise known as the national flower of Singapore, you can pay an admission fee to the National Orchid Garden in which you can check out an array of exhibits featuring different kinds of orchids. I didn't check the place out at the time but I will the next time. I forgot what the admission fee was so if you want to find out, do check out the website. It's still ridiculous to charge people to the National Orchid Garden since it's part of the Botanic Gardens. After you've visited the Orchid Garden, there are souvenirs for you to purchase at the National Orchid Garden Gift Gallery by the popular Singapore gift brand, Risis.

Just right after the entrance to the National Orchid Garden, it's the Orchid Plaza. You can't really find orchids here though but if you're hungry, you can get yourself some snacks at the food kiosk available at the plaza. Other than that, there are also several restaurants serving fine dining cuisines like the Halia Restaurant. What I like about the Orchid Plaza is the 'cave' where you can enter and check out the small waterfall. It's cool and it reminds me of a real cave and waterfall.

There is also the Bandstand although it's not located at the Orchid Plaza. The Bandstand is a shelter where you can sit down inside and take a breather in a very classic structure. There is also some history behind the Bandstand too. Back in the days, the Bandstand was used for military performances in the evenings for many years. Now, it's no longer used for music. It's too bad that I didn't get any access to the Bandstand because there were people occupying the space for photography purposes.

If you didn't access the National Orchid Garden, it's okay because you get to see a preview right here. It's called the Vanda Miss Joaquim exhibit and it's named after MIss Joaquim, also known as the founder of the hybrid Singapore orchid flower. Doesn't the orchid look beautiful? I wish I have a DSLR so I can take great pictures of the orchid with it.

Just right next to the Vanda Miss Joaquim exhibit, it's this cactus exhibit. I totally forgot its name but the exhibit shows a wide array of cactuses and it's located in this cool little glass shelter. If you're a big fan of cactuses, come here and check out more about them.

Right here at the Botanic Gardens is what they call The Plant House. According to the sign, the Plant House was built in 1882 to display the large amounts of climbers. At some of the plants, you can see some white flowers and orange flowers blooming. It's somewhat similar to the Trellis Garden that I mentioned earlier but it also has a pond and some uniquely shaped shelters.

After entering the Plant House, I saw this shelter in which the roots of the plants were dangling from above. It's so cool to be walking underneath the roots. It can be a little bit ticklish and somewhat irritating, but it's still cool. The sculpture at the bottom is a combination of a sculpture and a fountain. It's called the Swiss Ball Fountain and it was donated by the Swiss Community in 1991 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation. The ball above is actually rotating and uses water pressure to rotate the ball. You can even come closer and touch the wet ball if you want to.

After passing by the Swiss Ball Fountain, I wanted to walk over to the Swan Lake. As I was on my way to the Swan Lake, I spotted this tree called the Tembusu Tree. Sure, it may look like an ordinary tree to you but this is actually the tree that can be found on Singapore's green $5 notes. Seriously, take out a $5 Singapore note and see it for yourself. Well, it's actually flipped because I took the photo from in front of the Swan Lake instead of the back of the tree. I hope this tree will be preserved for future generations to see.

I am almost going to reach the end and before I leave, it's time for me to check out one more cool feature of the Botanic Gardens which is the Swan Lake. It's a big lake with plenty of plantations, fishes, swans and so much more. Unfortunately, the beautiful swans were so far away from me and I really wanted to take a picture of them and their beautiful looks. However, all is not lost as I did take pictures of a turtle (or is it terrapin?) and some fishes swimming around the edges near where I stood.

After all that walking and exploring the whole garden, it's time for me to leave the garden. The gate shown above is the Tanglin Gate and the reason it's called that it's because it's located near Tanglin Road which will then lead to Orchard Road. The bus stop is just right in front and there are plenty of bus services which will bring you to Orchard Road so you can go shopping at Singapore's most popular shopping district. By the way, I also love the design of the metal gates.

Overall, my visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens was truly worth it. I get to learn about different species of plants, I get to check out what plantations that can actually heal illnesses, I get to watch a concert rehearsal and I also get to check out expensive Botanic Gardens gifts that I'll probably never buy. It's a very peaceful place and you will not find any noisy vehicles and crowded people here. To make it more worthwhile, you can bring a Frisbee and play it at the Symphony Lake open field or have a picnic while a performance is going on. Gardens By The Bay is also going to open soon so do check out both botanic gardens if you have the opportunity.

Getting Here 

Bus services available: 48, 66, 67, 151, 153, 154, 156, 170, 171, 186 (Bus stop along Bukit Timah Road outside Botanic Gardens Stn)

Nearest MRT Station: CC19 Botanic Gardens MRT Station (Circle Line)


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