The natural side of SingaporeA modern city, bursting with sleek high rises and business suited inhabitants of a corporate world. Bustling with people. Filled with shopping malls. Chaotic. Frenetic.

Well yes, Singapore is all of those things, but I also found another side to this incredible city. A green side.

I am always looking for the natural side of cities because they are a big part of what makes cities special to me. It is the reason I didn’t love New York but am obsessed with Vancouver. The reason I chose Sydney over Melbourne to live in. Why I will go back to live in my home country of New Zealand one day.

I am keen for green.

Lush SingaporeDuring our 24 hour stopover on the way to South Africa coupled with the four nights we spent there on the way back, I noticed an underlying natural beauty to Singapore that could almost be overlooked in this concrete jungle of the city.

Wandering along the streets in the city there were small reminders of the pre-urban environs. Fragrant flowers provided bursts of colour to a background of steel and glass. Large angsana trees line the upmarket Orchard Road and dense foliage grows wildly in tropical parks. These little swaths of green have hung in there despite the high level of urbanisation.

Bukit Brown flowerModernisation of Singapore has failed to completely extinguish the city’s jungled beginnings. A reminder that Nature cannot be completely repressed.

Chinatown was the first place we explored in Singapore and we immediately were surrounded by green as we walked along the outskirts of the district through lush parkland. Rogue chickens pecked at the rich soil on the side of the pathway which was shaded by a canopy of vine draped trees. A rooster greeted us from atop a tree stump. A small, rural enclave in the big city.

ChinatownThe Singapore Botanic Gardens were another fantastic spot to escape the fast pace of city life. Free to enter you could wander around for hours, surrounded by rolling fields and native trees. There is a dense pocket of tropical rainforest with a raised boardwalk that takes you through thickets of vegetation. Flying squirrels dart from tree to tree and the air is thick and humid. Singapore is one of the only cities in the world to have tropical rainforest within the city limits, along with Rio de Janeiro.

Gardens by the Bay 3 Bird at Gardens by the BaySingapore Botanical GardensAlso within the Botanical Gardens is the National Orchid Garden which is home to the largest display of orchids in the world: Over 60,000 plants! Set over 3 hectares, the Orchid Garden includes a mist house, which was very refreshing to walk through both for the orchids and for me, and a cool house, which recreates the environment of a tropical highland forest. The morning before our visit to the Botanical Gardens was stressful when we took the wrong bus and ended up in the middle of nowhere but all of my worries washed away while walking among the beautiful orchids.

Orchid 1 Orchid 2 Orchid 3Another garden in Singapore that is well worth a visit is the impressive Gardens by the Bay. The main gardens are lush and tropical, surrounded by the waters of Marina Bay on one side and encompassing a lake and a river. Giant glass domes encase a cloud forest and a world of flowers, both which looked amazing but were out of our price range. The stars of the show are the manmade super trees, giant creations that light up in a display of beautiful colours at night, but the rest of the gardens are very natural.

Gardens by the BayGardens by the Bay 2We saw locals running along the river as the night approached and the air became cooler. Sitting riverside at an outdoor food court, we ate sticks of chicken and prawn satay as the night got dark, surrounded by trees with fairy lights strung between them. A cool breeze drifted off the water.

Gardens by the Bay SatayThe most unique green space we found in the city was the 213 acre Bukit Brown Cemetery, a historic cemetery bordered by a busy highway. It is believed to be the largest Chinese cemetery outside of China and is the last resting place to around 100,000 people.

Bukit Brown CemeteryBukit Brown 1It is delightfully lush and overgrown, with some headstones completely engulfed by the long grasses and jungle vegetation. It feels more like a nature reserve than a cemetery and it’s a shame it isn’t because a large section of this peaceful place will be destroyed soon to make way for an eight lane road. The exhumation of graves has already begun and sections of the cemetery were closed off when we visited, but there is still so much space to explore and we hardly saw anyone else during our ramble.

Bukit Brown Singapore Bukit Brown The sun finally came out on our last day in Singapore so we headed to Sentosa, determined to find a natural side to this flashy tourist island. Walking across the Sentosa Boardwalk that links the island to the mainland, we continued on past numerous theme parks, tacky souvenir shops and American chain restaurants. It certainly felt like a South East Asian Disneyland and I suspect that is exactly what they are going for. The closer we got to the other side of the island, the quieter it became.

Sentosa BoardwalkArriving on Palawan Beach we were pleasantly surprised. I have always heard that the beaches in Singapore are nothing great but I thought it was beautiful with its swaying palm trees, crescent of white sand and sparkling waters. It wasn’t completely undeveloped (it is still Sentosa after all) but it was more tastefully done, just a couple of discreet beach bars/restaurants to compliment the natural beauty. The beach was relatively empty with just a few people sunning themselves on the sand or swimming in the slightly murky sea.

Palawan Beach Palawan SentosaWe had left the crowds behind at the theme parks.

A suspension bridge spanned the short channel between the beach and tiny Palawan Island, the southernmost point of Continental Asia. There wasn’t much on the island, just a tiny beach, a couple of towers you could climb up for a view over the Singapore Strait and a few palm trees.

Palawan suspension bridge It felt so good to soak up the sun between dips in the reasonably cool ocean. I wandered the other section of Palawan beach along from the suspension bridge and came across a peacock also out for a wander.

Peacock Palawan Beach SentosaSentosa Palawan BeachAfter days of rain, our perfect morning at the beach could not have been more appreciated.

We only had the chance to visit a few of Singapore’s green spaces. There are so many more that I would love to experience in the future such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve with its tropical rainforest and hiking trails, Pulau Ubin which is a small island off the coast where there is a traditional Malay Kampong (village) and MacRitchie Reservoir and its treetop walk.

Singapore is a super modern city that has risen out of the jungle, seemingly changed completely from what it once was, but nature stills lives there.

You just need to know where to look for it.

Sentosas Palawan Beach

8 Comments on The natural side of Singapore

  1. Dana (Wanted Adventure)
    March 19, 2015 at 1:06 am (2 years ago)

    Ooooh! Those flowers are beautiful. I really like the greenish one with the little red dots of sorts. I would love to see flying squirrels one day, too! That would be really cool I think. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      March 19, 2015 at 10:00 am (2 years ago)

      Thanks for your commetn Dana, the flowers we saw in Singapore were very unique and beautiful and the flying squirrels were so cute 🙂

      Reply
  2. Anna | slightly astray
    March 10, 2015 at 4:13 am (2 years ago)

    Lovely post! That cemetery looks awesome!! We didn’t go and I think we definitely missed out with that one. What a shame that they’re building a road through it!! That’s so sad that they’re disturbing the resting bodies. We also got lazy to go to Sentosa (I know… No excuse since we had a month), but I don’t feel too bad about that. I had a feeling it’d be Disneyland-ish. The beach actually looks pretty decent though.

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      March 10, 2015 at 9:08 am (2 years ago)

      The cemetery was pretty special, definitely put it on your list for next time! Sentosa Island essentially is Disneyland but I really enjoyed the beach – would be nothing on Boracay though!

      Reply
  3. Tamara
    March 5, 2015 at 2:02 pm (2 years ago)

    I love your photos from the botanical gardens! Amazing captures of the birds.

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      March 5, 2015 at 2:19 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks Tamara. I really tried to get photos of the flying squirrels too but they were too fast for me!

      Reply
  4. Justine of The Travel Lush
    March 4, 2015 at 2:54 pm (2 years ago)

    I’m heading to Singapore in a few weeks so this post is super helpful to me. I’d love to check some of these places out! The beach actually looks really beautiful 🙂

    Reply
    • theworldonmynecklace
      March 4, 2015 at 3:01 pm (2 years ago)

      Have an awesome time Justine! The beach was surprisingly nice, nothing on the beaches of the Philippines and Thailand I’m sure but still very nice 🙂

      Reply

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