Fun Factoid about Singapore: it’s nickname is “the fine country”. That’s because you get fined for lots of things like littering, feeding monkeys, spitting on the floor, sticking gum below the chair/table and more. Is this a great country or what? And don’t get me started on their draconian legal system…..these folks do not pussy-foot around.
Time for me to head east and stick my tootsies once more into a fish tank…..yes, I did say fish tank. This city-state in southeast Asia is where I first experienced the dubious thrill of fish spas a few years ago, and I’m more than ready for new water sessions. More about this fun stuff later. First, it’s 3 flights across the Pacific via Seattle and Tokyo, before touching down at Changi in tropical heat and humidity just before midnight, and 45 minutes early. Aching head and back with a numb ass are familiar symptoms, but after 27 hours of virtual non-stop flying, what else can I expect?
Singapore’s 74-hectare botanic wonderland is a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the city’s most arresting attractions. Established in 1860, it’s a tropical Valhalla peppered with glassy lakes, rolling lawns and themed gardens. The site is home to the National Orchid Garden (adult/child under 12yr S$5/free; 8.30am to 7pm, last entry 6pm), as well as a rare patch of dense primeval rainforest, the latter home to over 300 species of vegetation, over half of which are now (sadly) considered rare in Singapore.
The National Orchid Garden itself is the legacy of an orchid-breeding program that began in 1928, and its 3 hectares house over 1000 species and 2000 hybrids. Of these, around 600 are on display – the largest showcase of tropical orchids on Earth. Located next to the National Orchid Garden is the 1-hectare Ginger Garden, with over 250 members of the Zingiberaceae family.
Ranked as the world’s most vegetation-dense city, urban jungle Singapore, with her own green standard, ups her game when it comes to combating climate change.
Though small, Singapore topped the list of 17 cities with the highest density of greenery in a recent study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Senseable City Lab, and the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Cities and its Global Shapers Community.
Indeed, Singapore is dotted with green lungs. Apart from her first UNESCO World Heritage site, the Singapore Botanic Gardens (above), there’s Fort Canning Park, Labrador Nature Reserve, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (below), Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The latest green marvel is the recently opened Learning Forest at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Located in central Singapore, just minutes away from the city’s main shopping district, sits the first and only tropical botanic garden listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Established at its present site in 1859, the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG) covers 82 hectares and is home to thousands of plant species.
Since 1875, the SBG Library has supported research at the Gardens. Over the years, the Library has amassed a large collection of rare and scholarly literature and artworks that are housed in climate-controlled spaces. Access to these materials has traditionally been limited to privileged, on-site researchers. Recently, to increase the accessibility and impact of these collections, the SBG Library has embarked on an extensive preservation and digitization program.
It ain’t Niagara Falls or the Sahara Desert, but really, these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Southeast Asia are just as enthralling.
1. Komodo National Park
Komodo National Park, or more colloquially known as the Jurassic Park of Indonesia, plays host to a whopping 2,500 Komodo Dragons. So expect to see these world’s largest lizards everywhere at this majestic island. Lots of them.
2. Borobudur Temple Compounds
With its origins dating to over a millennium ago, Borobudur sits atop a remote hill in central Java, and also holds the title of the world’s largest Buddhist monument.
3. Gunung Mulu National Park
Like a scene right out of Nat Geo, these limestone karst formations in Gunung Mulu National Park makes just one of its many renowned natural features. Others include gorges, rock pinnacles, and caves chambers, including Clearwater Cave, the largest cave in the world (by volume)!
Known for being one of the most expensive cities in the world, Singapore is a thriving playground for those looking for bespoke experiences. The St. Regis Singapore, with its unequivocal dedication to the luxurious, puts guests at the heart of what makes Singapore so unique. Located just steps away from the Singapore Botanic Gardens (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the city’s most famed shopping district, the property leaves little to be desired for even the most discerning traveler.
Singapore—as a global financial center, luxury shopping destination, and cultural hub—is one of the most unique places in the world. Don’t let the luxury of this city let you think it’s out of touch with its roots, however. Often called “The Garden City,” the region is home to a wealth of flora and outdoor experiences that can often be hard to find in such a vibrant urban area.
Following our story on Punggol Zoo, one of Singapore’s earliest zoos opened by “Animal Man” William Basapa, publisher NUS Press informed us that Botanic Gardens once housed fantastic beasts in a zoo.
No, it wasn’t kept in some magical suitcase located at the Gardens where one could climb into to see the animals. There were also no nifflers, bowtruckles, erumpents, demiguises, occamies, and thunderbirds.
It was a traditional real-life zoo
The Botanic Gardens’ zoo had operated many years before Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was published in the Harry Potter series. It was also established before Punggol Zoo.
According to the book Nature’s Colony by Timothy Barnard (were you expecting Fantastic Beast and where to find them by Newt Scamander?), the Botanic Gardens’ management first raised the idea for the zoo to the British colonial government in 1870.
Singapore has long had a love for its botanical spaces, no doubt a result of the high population density. Having lost 95% of its historical forest areas, over half of the naturally occurring flora and fauna now reside in nature reserves. In 1967 the Singapore government introduced measures to make the country a garden city and since then almost a tenth of Singapores area has been set aside for parks and gardens.
The Singapore Mint has long lauded its botanical heritage with a succession of coins celebrating the orchids for which this tiny state is well known, it being the national flora. Orchids are again a part of this design, even though the focus is on the botanical garden itself.
These botanical gardens embody British colonial influences, and testify to the spread of commercial rubber plantations across Southeast Asia in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
Singapore Botanical Garden is more than three times older than the nation of Singapore itself. The gardens are 157 years old, having been established in the year 1859. These botanical gardens embody British colonial influences and the spread of rubber plantations in Southeast Asia. Most of the 31-hectare garden dates back to the middle of the 19th Century when the British founded it as a semblance of the Malay jungle. There are about 3,000 tropical and subtropical plant species and an herbarium containing 500,000 preserved specimens. Singapore Botanical Gardens lead the world in orchid research and provides a vast expanse of the natural landscape right in the heart of the city.