Friday, April 22, 2016

Why you should visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a historical tropical garden nestled in the heart of Singapore. This is an attraction I have visited multiple times yet I never get enough of it. Whenever we have family or friends visiting us, we take them to the Botanic Gardens and it never ceases to cast its magical spell. Unsurprisingly, the Gardens has been ranked Asia's top park attraction since 2013, by TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Awards. A visually stunning, pristine oasis right in the middle of a concrete jungle, it is one of the most popular weekend retreats for residents. Locals and tourists alike can enjoy a stroll at the gardens, take in the fresh air, soak in the greenery, lap up the tranquility, enjoy a picnic or watch musical performances at the Symphony Lake.

Over our numerous trips, I have accumulated a bevy of photographs which lay scattered in different folders. Since the Singapore Botanical Gardens was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site last year, I thought it deserved an exclusive blog post. I finally got around to doing so last week and had to spend considerable time combing through albums dating back to 2006!


The Singapore Botanic Gardens helped to transform the island into a tropical 'Garden City', a moniker for which the nation is widely known. In 1981, the hybrid climbing orchid, Vanda Miss Joaquim, was chosen as the nation's national flower. Singapore's "orchid diplomacy" honors visiting head of states, dignitaries and celebrities, by naming its finest hybrids after them; these are displayed at its popular VIP Orchid Gardens.

Pssst....while on the subject of celebrities, Indians take note - there is an orchid named after Shah Rukh Khan too!




Some  facts and figures for you:
  • The Botanic Gardens spans 74-hectares and includes the National Orchid Garden which has over 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids on display
  • Singapore's Botanic Gardens is the only one in the world that opens from 5am to 12 midnight every day of the year
  • The Botanic Gardens receives about 4.5 million visitors annually
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Pretty cool eh? 


The Gardens is currently based on a three-core concept. The three cores are comprised of Tanglin which is the heritage core retaining the old favourites and charms of the Gardens; Central, the tourist belt of the Gardens; and Bukit Timah, the educational and discovery zone.

The 156-year-old sprawling Singapore attraction joins more than 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites spawning 160 countries. It is the third Botanic Gardens to be listed as a World Heritage Site, and Singapore's first World Heritage Site. A matter of great pride for Singaporeans 

Image source: Singapore Botanic Gardens Official Website

Attractions:

National Orchid Garden
The National Orchid Garden is the crown jewel of the Botanic Gardens. It showcases exotic species and hybrids of orchids that one would have never seen before. The splendour of these gorgeous blooms is a magnificent sight to behold.




This is undoubtedly my favourite part of the Gardens. I love orchids and the varieties of orchids that the orchid garden houses is simply mind-boggling. You have every imaginable hue, different sizes and shapes, monochrome, contrasting colors as well as those with striking patterns. You can spend an eternity gawking at the stunning display.

The layout of the orchid garden is wonderful with its sloping hills, winding pathways and floral arches. Amidst clusters of colorful orchids, beautifully adorned paths meander effortlessly through exuberant green trees and shrubs, revealing interesting sculptures within the foliage.







Within the Orchid Garden there are a number of attractions such as:

Burkill Hall: A colonial plantation bungalow built in 1886, it used to be the director's house and was named in honour of the only father and son pair to hold the post of Director of Singapore Botanic Gardens. The ground level serves as an exhibition area, showcasing information on the different hybrids named after VIPs who have visited the garden.

VIP Orchid Garden: Located at the back of Burkill Hall, this garden displays hybrids of the most popular VIP orchids. Notable ones include Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, and Renantanda Akihito. More than 100 celebrities, dignitaries and visiting heads of states have been honored by Singapore's orchid diplomacy program.





Tan Hoon Siang Misthouse: Tan Hoon Siang was a descendant of Tan Tock Seng, who was a philanthropist and founder of the Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The misthouse contains a colourful collection of different hybrids. It also has a small collection of fragrant orchids like Vanda Mimi Palmer.

You have to bring your camera along (the best one you have). The subjects willing to pose for you are just mesmerising!






Lady Yuen-Peng McNeice Bromeliad House: Named in honour of its sponsor, the Bromeliad House showcases plants from the Bromeliaceae family, which includes the pineapple. The unique collection of bromeliads on display was acquired from Shelldance Nursery in the United States in 1994.


'Coolhouse': The Coolhouse tries to recreate the environment of a tropical highland forest and showcases orchids that are normally only found in the tropical highland areas as well as carnivorous plants.

On particularly hot and humid days, you might not want to exit the coolhouse!


Ginger Garden
Located next to the National Orchid Garden, this one-hectare garden brings together members of the Zingiberaceae family. The garden houses a restaurant called Halia Restaurant. There is also a drop-off point along Tyersall Avenue as well as a waterfall.



Rain Forest
The Singapore Botanic Gardens has a small tropical rain forest of around six hectares in size, which is older than the gardens themselves. The rainforest and its bigger cousin at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve are located within the Singapore's city limits.

Singapore is one of the only two major cities with a tropical rainforest within its city limits, the other being Tijuca Forest in Rio de Janeiro.

Healing Garden
The Healing Garden showcases over 400 varieties of plants used medicinally. It is laid out thematically relating to component parts of the body such as head, respiratory and reproductive systems. Spread over 2.5 hectares, this garden is designed as a tranquil retreat with medicinal plants traditionally used in Southeast Asia as the main focus.

You can immerse yourself in the beauty and serenity of the Healing Garden and discover the power of plants to heal and enhance the quality of life.

Fragrant Garden
The Fragrant Garden was said to be created to perfume the air and create an aromatic experience for visitors. Located next to the Healing Garden, it is also an ideal spot for night time visits as many of the plants give off their scents in the evenings. A new boardwalk was developed and is beautifully lit at night to enhance visitors’ experience at the Fragrant Garden.

The Fragrant Garden showcases many species of plants that have evolved to emit fragrances. The blooms attract butterflies and visitors will be able to spot these and other insects fluttering amongst the plants in the day.

Jacob Ballas Children's Garden
The Children's Garden was named after its main donor Jacob Ballas, a Jewish-Singaporean philanthropist. It opened on Children's Day, 1 October 2007. The National Parks Board claims it is Asia's first children's garden. There are play areas like the Water Play area, a small playground, tree-houses with slides, and a maze. There are also interactive exhibits that teach how photosynthesis takes place, and a mini-garden that showcases how plants may be used to make dyes and beverages, or as herbs.

Other features
Tropical plants line the bank of the Saraca Stream as it meanders its way down a small hill. The main highlights of the stream walk are the Yellow Saraca trees (Saraca cauliflora) and Red Saraca (Saraca declinata). Other attractions include the Palm Valley, Bandstand area, Sun Garden and Sundial Garden.

The Botanic Gardens has three lakes, namely Symphony Lake, Eco-Lake and Swan Lake. The Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage on Symphony Lake occasionally has free concerts on weekends.

A host of restaurants and cafes are also available to satisfy thirsty and hungry visitors after a day out in the blazing sun.




I have a few fond memories at the Gardens. The first time I visited with my husband, mum and brother. My husband was almost pecked by a cheeky black swan and we all laughed ourselves silly (I even have a pic to prove it!). The next time I stopped by with my in-laws and my mother-in-law had a delicious cold coffee at a place near the National Orchid Garden and how much she loved it. The last time I was here with my sister-in-law who had flown in from the US and whose birthday it was that day. We all had such a lovely and memorable day at the Gardens.

So if you haven't been to the Singapore Botanic Gardens yet, I hope this post has inspired you to swing by! The lush greenery, heritage trees, creative sculptures, sporadic wildlife (grey squirrels, songbirds, swans, turtles and the occasional monitor lizard), captivating flowers and serene lakes will transport you to another world. It comes as no surprise that the Gardens is a hot favourite among couples seeking a fairytale location for a wedding photoshoot. The Gardens are immaculate and despite it being a popular tourist destination, still retains an aura of idyllic solitude. You can spend an entire day here. It is the ideal place to embrace nature and offers a welcome respite from the buzz of glitzy city life.



I would advise you to dress lightly, slather on sun block, make sure you have your hat and sunglasses and pack a large mat, some light refreshments and an umbrella. Going early in the morning or late in the afternoon would be a good idea to beat the unforgiving Singapore heat and humidity. 

I haven't been to the Botanic Gardens since my children were born but I do plan to gather the troops soon so they can run to their heart's content and have fun frolicking in the huge open spaces. I haven't been to the Jacob Ballas Children's Garden so far so it'll be a good chance to check it out. Since it will be another photo-op, I may update this post with more photos!

Visitor Information:

Address: Singapore Botanic Gardens, 1 Cluny Road Singapore 259569

Getting There:  Botanic Gardens MRT (for Bukit Timah Gate)
                         Orchard MRT (for Tanglin Gate)

There are three entrances to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, one at the Napier Road entrance which can be accessed by bus or taxi from Orchard Road. The second is at Tyersall Avenue which is only accessible if you drive and this is the closest entrance to the National Orchid Garden. The third is from Bukit Timah Road via bus or the newly opened Botanic Garden Station of the Circle Line.

For more details on getting to Singapore Botanic Gardens via other gates, please click here

Opening Hours:
Main Garden: 5am – 12 midnight daily
Admission: free
National Orchid Garden: 8.30am to 7pm daily (last entry at 6pm)
Admission Fee: Adults $5.00
                          Students $1.00
                          Senior Citizens (60 years and Above) $1.00
                          Free for children below 12 years
Children’s Garden: 8am – 7pm daily (last admission 6.30pm)
Admission: Free

Contact Number: 64717138, 64717361, 64719937

E-mail: nparks_sbg_visitor_services@nparks.gov.sg

Websites: Official Homepage | Facebook Page






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Information and statistics obtained from,
Wikipedia
Singapore Botanic Gardens official website


Did you find this post useful? I would love to hear your thoughts!

If you enjoyed reading this post, you might also like the following,
Gardens by the Bay (Singapore)
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (Singapore)
Tourist attractions of Singapore 


Cheers,


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