Next day started well with me downloading all the photo’s from the day before and being pleased with how many had turned out so well. I also needed to deal with some emails and my last one to my sister Judy in Australia was that my first day had been wonderful and a great way to start my “6 month adventure”. (I have to differentiate the Judys here as my travel companion for the first 5 weeks is also Judy – a school friend – who I might add is telling everyone we are doing the trip “to celebrate us both having turned 70”.)
A few minutes later, our plans of doing the third of the "Hop on Hop Off" bus tours in the morning and the Botanical Gardens in the afternoon hit a snag when I slipped getting into the shower. I have always hated a shower over a bath and had a fear of slipping – but it had not happened until then. I won’t go into full details but I did end up at the Raffles Hospital being checked out to make sure that, though battered, bruised, stiff and sore as I was feeling, nothing was broken and I was fit to fly that night. I like to tell people “as we could not stay at the Raffles Hotel because it is closed for renovations, I decided to check out the Raffles Hospital instead.” (I can assure you that is operating very efficiently.) That chewed up most of the morning so we did not get to do the third tour to Sentosa.
However we got the bus for the first tour we did, back to the Botanical Gardens for lunch. It is a very pleasant place too. Not as ‘geared up’ for tourists as the new one – but it opens from 5am till midnight every day as well. It is very historic having been established in 1859 and, with 4 million visitors annually, is the most visited botanic gardens in the world. It is also Singapore’s first nomination as a World Heritage Site. In the early years it fostered agricultural development in the region through “useful plants” – including para rubber which played an important role in the region. In 1920 it spearheaded new techniques in orchid breeding and founded a regional breeding and cut flower industry. It has the very popular “Jacob Ballas Children’s Gardens” where children up to 12 learn how plants provide their daily needs. Adults are only allowed entry if accompanied by a child/children and all children must be under 12 and accompanied by an adult. (So I have yet to see this one.)
They have what they term “Themed Gardens’ - the Ginger Garden with over 3,000 species of the ginger family, a number of which many of us have growing in our backyards in FNQ; The Healing Garden with over 400 varieties of medicinal plants traditionally used in S.E Asia; The Fragrant Garden gives an aromatic experience to visitors (which is particularly popular at night when many of the plants give off their scents); Foliage Garden “showcases an extensive display of ornamental terrestrial and aquatic plants with a wide variety of foliage of various shapes, colours and textures”; the Evolution Garden which takes you on a journey from ancient times into the modern world of 400,000 flowering plants.
On this trip though, the main attraction for us was the National Orchid Garden – although we did have a quick look at other parts as we meandered to the orchids. It is also worth the trip to Singapore just to see them if you have even a passing interest in orchids and flowers. It has over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids as a result of the breeding program started in 1928. You do have to pay for entry into this area, but at $5 for adults $1 for Senior Citz and students and free for kids under 12 it is not going to break the bank for most people.
The orchids are set out in a garden setting – integrated with other (complimentary) plants such as Bromeliad (they have over 300 species and 500 hybrids of these as well) and tropical foliage. It is wonderful to walk around and enjoy them.
It is also interesting to see the different things they have done with the same variety. For example the “Dancing Lady” orchid that many of us are familiar with was in pots at the first display inside the exhibit. Then they were used as part of other arrangements along the way to add a bit of contrasting colour and then they were plaited over the arches in another section making a lovely arched walkway. This idea of using them in different ways was repeated with many of the other varieties. It is just wonderful and quite lovely to see the care that has gone into creating each display. (They do re-arrange them from time to time and we saw one area that had been cleared and was being redone. Many of the orchids seem to be still in pots so they can be exchanged when no longer in bloom with some that are.) The Vanda Miss Joaquim which was chosen as Singapore’s National Flower in 1981 is highlighted in one of the displays.
There is one section called the VIP Orchid Garden for those hybrids that have been named after visiting State Dignitaries eg Nelson Mandela and Prince William. (I recall seeing a Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron and John Howard in this area.) Another called the Celebrity Orchid Garden showcases the hybrids named after celebrities to commemorate their visit eg Jackie Chan and Andrea Bocelli. The orchids are just stunning. (I have 100 odd photo’s to try to choose just a few of them too.)
There are several suggested “Photo Ops” and places to just sit and enjoy the display. To learn more of the Singapore Botanical Gardens visit www.sbg.org.sg at your convenience.
When we were in one of these I noticed this squirrel like creature in a nearby tree. It was only small (maybe 30cms long body) with an equally long bushy tail and definite squirrel features. Later we saw one jump from a branch in one tree to a branch in another tree much as our ‘gliders’ do. Still later I saw another one on the ground – but his face and head were more like a mongoose. I showed the photo's to some locals later but they said they had no idea what they were. So I am open to suggestions please – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with what you think they were.
I have to tell you another little story from the Botanical Gardens. You know the old saying of “the blind leading the blind” (or as some people prefer “the blind leading the vision impaired”) well we saw that in real life. Two obviously blind people walking arm in arm with their white canes in the gardens. They had obviously been there often as they seemed very assured with where they were going. They were both happy and chatting away with big smiles on their faces. I thought ”how wonderful“ when I saw them. I am told the Fragrant Gardens are particularly popular amongst the visually impaired so perhaps they had been visiting there, or maybe they were just out for a walk together. Whatever the reason, my day felt the lighter for having seen them.
There are many more things to do in Singapore. Last time I went to Changi Chapel and Museum which I found very emotive. I also went to the Singapore zoo and enjoyed that last time too, but did not see the need to go back. I always love the dining selections at Singapore - and I never even mentioned the wonderful dinners I ate at our Hotel - only because both days we were too tired to adventure forth. There are many shopping options and dining experiences, but I will have to save them for my next visit.
I can’t leave Singapore without mentioning that we encountered our first instance of totally electronic service at a restaurant when we stopped for lunch on our first day. There is an ipad attached to the end of each table and you order on this. It does not allow for questions like “is there carrot in this?’ or “Is there a gluten free option?” So we were a total failure and had to call for help. I also wanted to share the photo of the beautiful old building that is the Museum of Singapore. It was just too lovely to be missed.
We returned to the Hotel at 5 and moved out of the room at 6pm. We were not being picked up till after 10pm so the Duty manager said that we could continue to use the room until 10pm if we liked, as the cleaners would not be there until then. I liked – so after dinner we returned and we both got a couple of more hours sleep. I have to say the people at the Hotel Grand Pacific Singapore were very helpful – and particularly after my fall, and I think this was another example of them assisting me. The drive to the Airport is still spectacular at night as the trees ‘mute’ the harsh street lights and make it less visually aggressive and more alluring somehow. Well that is my ‘take’ on it anyway!
I thought we should finish this post with a few more photo's of orchids.