Singapore: City in a Garden

It pains me to think that we made the mistake on more than one occasion of merely passing through the state of Singapore en route elsewhere in the world. Knowing that this tiny island is home to the world’s best airport, should have been an indicator of some of the amazing sights and treasures to be discovered. Because our friends Carol and Roy were temporarily living there, we were privileged to a week of nonstop entertainment with their ‘local’ insight.

This small nation in Southeast Asia has become one of the world’s most prosperous countries. Singapore is known to be expensive. It isn’t just one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s report, it is the MOST expensive. Singapore’s reputation for being clean, non-corrupt and efficient is due to the fact that it has extremely strict laws, covering not only drugs, but also vandalism and political activity. We’d heard about the hectic fines facing anyone who spits in public or creates graffiti, but I was amazed to hear that the penalty for not flushing a public loo is $150 and chewing or selling gum could lead to two years in jail! 😳

Raffles Hotel for Singapore Slings
When in Singapore it is of course necessary to immediately sweep into the gorgeous and grand Raffles Hotel, head for the famous Long Bar, and order a Singapore Sling. Amongst the many modern and luxury hotels in Singapore, Raffles Hotel prominently stands out as an historically rich landmark dating back to 1887. It encapsulates the old world charm of the British colonial era with its exemplary hospitality, (the doorman makes you feel like a royalty) and remains a calm oasis amidst the bustling city. The colonial grandeur invokes visions of the past, before rapid modernisation changed Singapore forever. Just walking around the hallways admiring the art and the flower arrangements was something special.

The Long Bar itself is like stepping back in time with its polished teakwood bar, comfy wicker chairs and traditional reed ceiling-fans. Part of the experience are bags of monkey nuts on the tables – guests being encouraged to toss the casings on the ground, just as Somerset Maugham and Rudyard Kipling would have done in their day. The shells make a satisfactory crunch beneath your feet.

Then it was off for drinks at The Lantern rooftop bar, which is one of the best spots to watch Spectra, the Marina Bay Sands light show that takes place every evening at 8pm and 9pm. We had cocktails and marvelled at the amazing views of Marina Bay while watching the Sound and Light show.

Roy and Carol know how to show you a fantastic time. Next on the agenda was dinner at ‘The Lighthouse’, Perched on the very top of The Fullerton Hotel, The Lighthouse restaurant occupies the exact location where a beacon once guided mariners into the safety of the Singapore port in the 20th century. The venue commands one of the most mesmerising views of Singapore’s skyline and Marina Bay waterfront.  The Lighthouse is an upmarket Italian restaurant with delicious, not inexpensive fare. 

After dinner, Roy had planned a taste of Singapore’s soaring nightlife. The Altitude bar boasts the highest views in Singapore. Located on the 63rd floor of One Raffles Place, it has a 360-degree vista and only a thin, shoulder-height glass panel to stop people falling off the edge. This was clearly where the fashionable set were hanging out and we enjoyed the on-top-of-the-world feeling.

A stroll through the vibrant streets of Singapore, admiring the busy and upmarket shopping area of Orchard road,  was a lovely end to the evening.

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Botanical Gardens
This 150+ year-old property is the only tropical garden to be honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was close to Carol and Roy’s home, so we managed to spend a bit of time each morning, appreciating a small corner of the garden before it got too busy.

The National Orchid Garden, with more than 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids on view was truly special. The pathways, the sculptures, the plants and flowers, were all truly spectacular. Every bend revealed something special and beautiful.

The Gardens by the Bay
I’d never heard of this amazing place, and it turned out to be the highlight of the trip. You will want to get there right at 9 a.m. to get ahead of the crowds. I was absolutely mesmerized by the Supertree Grove. These 18 cleverly designed ‘trees’ are between 25 and 50 meters tall. They  collect rainwater, cool the air, store energy and generate solar power for the light show,set to music. Two of the trees are connected by an aerial platform or Skyway. Did I mention that they are absolutely beautiful too!

Gardens by the Bay has two magnificent cooled conservatories; the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest Dome, each with a unique  layout containing exotic plants and fabulous exhibitions. Like the Supertrees, they utilise a technology system where rainwater is collected from the surface of the domes and circulated into the cooling system. What is also astounding is that the huge glass-roof structures were built without any additional interior supporting columns. The flower display changes frequently to reflect seasonal changes and important festivals. When we visited, the stunning Tulipmania had opened and we were dazzled by the over 35 000 tulips that greeted us. These included some 60 varieties of tulips. The colours were dazzling and we had fun taking photographs from every angle!

Next we wandered through the Cloud Forest Dome. It was so impressive that we didn’t want to leave. It’s like you are stepping into a dense, steamy, tropical jungle. You are surrounded by a mythical lost world with a big mountain, green and lush and covered in mist. It was pretty humid but the temperature was a pleasant 25 degrees. Amazingly there is a gigantic 35-meter tall waterfall as you enter. It is the world’s biggest indoor waterfall.


We took a stroll along the Cloud Walk which is a path that winds up and around the mountain overlooking the forest.Its amazing to be above the jungle canopy enjoying the treetops. The walkway leads you into an area known as the Lost World. Here vegetation that is usually found at 2000 meters above sea level was showcased. It was also spectacular to see the Marina Bay, Supertrees and glimpses of the city through the glass dome. Inside the mountain, there is a display of crystal as well as real stalactites and stalagmites. It is quite educational and there is lots of information about the formation of the earth, its geology and the significance of the fossils.

Gardens by the Bay houses one of the largest cacti and succulent collections in Southeast Asia. This is mainly housed in the Sun Pavilion

Finally we wandered through the Secret Garden area, which consists of limestone forests and caves and plants representing 135 species. we recognised some from South Africa.

‘Planet’ by Marc Quinn
We went on a short ‘train’-ride around the gardens and came across this beautiful work. At a hefty seven tons, this impressive white-painted, bronze sculpture is 9m long and 3m tall. It portrays an oversized reproduction of the artist’s own son, Lucas, as a baby. The sculpture’s weight is masterfully balanced on the infant’s right hand, creating the illusion that the sculpture is floating in the air.

Quinn has explained that the work deals with “a paradox, an inversion of our relationship to our planet. It makes you realize that something big, like our planet, is vulnerable as well, and kind of precious” (

Marina Bay Sands
You don’t have to have a room at the hotel to take in the view from this iconic spot. We opted to have lunch in the restaurant on the 57th floor and were stunned by the panoramic views of the city as well as the rooftop infinity pool.

Singapore DUCK
Carol insisted that we take a trip aboard a refurbished WWII amphibious vehicle from Vietnam for a unique tour of Singapore. One moment you are driving through the streets looking at some of Asia’s most stunning architecture, the next moment you calmly enter the water and cruise along the Marina Bay, to admire further views of the bustling city’s skyline. 

We checked out Singapore’s most iconic landmark—the towering Merlion fountain. This half-fish, half-lion statue is the symbol of Singapore.

On our last day we headed to the National Gallery. Its special to see how some of the oldest buildings find new life through creative uses. The national gallery is a case in point : Two beautifully restored monuments, (the former City Hall and Supreme Court) linked in an iconic way using aluminum and glass that maximise light and spaciousness. The huge museum always has a range of exhibitions and we enjoyed the eclectic mix of art as well as the great views from the roof terrace.

Carol whisked us around some of the best shopping malls (even one that had a magnificent water feature, where gallons of water swirl around in a glass dome periodically cascading into the pool below). We paused to have lunch at Din Tai Fung which offers some of the best Chinese cuisine in Singapore, serving a tantalising collection of dishes. We opted for the steamed pork dumplings and some delicious duck pot-stickers with an outstanding plum dipping sauce, amongst other delicacies.

Singapore is often referred to as a “City in a Garden” and it’s not hard to see why. The balance of maintaining beautiful green spaces, combined with amazing architectural icons makes this city-country truly exotic, vibrant and exciting.



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