I want to travel to Singapore she said. But why what’s there in Singapore I asked?
All these years of corporate friends referring to Singapore as a finance and media hub, I just presumed it is a concrete jungle. At the time of research too everyone spoke about the man made Sentosa Island for joy rides, Newton street for high end shopping, Mustafa for electronic and that was pretty much it.
But Yuktie insisted. No there is something about the place, lets do some research our way. That’s when I woke up to the real Singapore.
They Love Their Trees
An island nation madly in love with its trees, so much so that they have 17 reservoir parks surrounded by trees that are so tall and ancient, you could barely wrap your arms around them. Running trails bang in the middle of the banking headquarters and vast spaces for skateboarding and cycling. Recently I read in the news about how an abandoned railway yard too will be converted into a nature park full of a wide variety to trees!
So much love for trees just shows why it is one of the most livable countries in the world. They leave a 4-foot perimeter around all the trees and cover the soil with rich leaf litter; if there is construction work going on nearby, they cordon off a tree in the area with strict instructions on a banner saying, “do not litter construction material near the trees.” There are placards reminding people not to step on protruding roots of old trees too.
I noticed their dedication to trees in such detail that when I got back to India I started comparing it with the trees here in India. Big mistake. Too much heart burn was experienced jut witnessing how trees are chocked to the bark with paver blocks or tar on roads, ailing trees are left to die and their stark white trunks just left there with no respect for the glory they had. Thankfully a new community Rastaachap has been giving them some dignity by clothing them with colours and messages.
But I digress. I travelled to Singapore in the week before the new year with my sister Yuktie. Now the thing is, when you travel with Yuktie, be prepared to explore. I mean really explore. I mean cover every single station on the MRT, cover 3 parks in a single day and generally keep walking throughout the day.
The Deck – an art and photography gallery was part of the itinerary on one such day. It is unique in the fact that every room is constructed using recycled shipping containers. I was impressed with their art and photography exhibits, special mention to the work by Robert Zhao in his exhibit The Tree That Fell ( http://sagg.info/the-tree-that-fell/). The use of art in space construction is visible here at The Deck as well as in all the high rise structures around Singapore; one of my favourites of which is the Arts and Science Museum.
It is here where Yuktie stopped for a bit. With a huge multi touch, interactive screen showcasing a story dedicated to Alfred Nobel, we took off our backpacks, parked ourselves in the creature comforts of the air conditioned museum and immersed ourselves in the surround sound storytelling. Did I forget to add this was all free entry? Of course if given the luxury of time, I wanted to check out the Collider Show, where you can experience how it is to be right in the center of a space collision. But I was equally happy to spend the remaining hours at the gallery with led displays of atoms exploding springing inspiring quotes by Nobel laureates. There was also a steady supply of paper and crayons there for us to express and pin up all our wild ideas of what science could be/ do for the world.
And even though they are so in-tune with their environment, yet this editorial in a youth magazine struck a cord. (image)
We stayed in the Fort Canning Reservoir area, best decision ever. I love the greens, the view from the lodge, and the immediate access to the expansive Fort Canning gardens, a great outdoor workout space, herb gardens and unending nature trails. Talking about nature trails, I have left a bit of my heart somewhere along the Macritchie Reservoir treetop walk route. A little over 10 kms one way, with a light drizzle and the odd runner along the path, Singapore’s natural wonders are right here for you to experience.
Happy, hungry, we hitched a ride back to the bus stop with a worker gentleman in his truck from where we took the MRT to Little India for some refills. Ah little India – I got my dose of raw carrots here (every time I travel, my backpack has a ration of raw carrots I munch on along all through the day, cheap, healthy, yummy snacking all day long!).
We did not visit Sentosa, we flew past Gardens By The Bay and just about visited Newton Street to see the Christmas decorations. But we did explore Orchid Garden a mecca for fitness enthusiasts. We witnessed school kids training, marathoners practicing split timings and enjoyed participating in a traditional Tai Chi class with a fan and sword too! The orchids here are magical, there is one named after Shah Rukh Khan too; we managed to explore through at leisure with not a sole around the orchids section till about 9am post which the spot was thronging with big tourist groups.
See it Differently The Next Time You Visit
We sure did visit the famous theme parks of Singapore. Jurong Bird Park was a super history lesson in the variety of bird species on earth. The River Safari is a brilliant effort in explaining the importance of conservation to the people. But this mentality: “There is nothing in Singapore besides theme parks and Sentosa; that too is overrated.” Thanks to Yuktie, it is a myth clearly busted. While exploring Singapore, I woke up to the fact that an island nation as small as Singapore can have outdoor treasures like no other. What surprises me is that the Singapore tourism board promote only theme parks and other man-made spaces or events to leisure travellers and the financial district to business travellers. If they do showcase this green feature of their nation, travellers surely will see it in a different light.
I will follow this post with a picture essay of many many more of my favourite Singapore experiences. Soonly 🙂