Exotic specimens, peaceful oases, serene passersby: a visit to Singapore’s Botanical Gardens leaves Phil McCann wanting more
All bridges across the main roads were clothed in bubbling bougainvillea, most in flower, but I was worried. Would the botanical gardens, the main reason to visit along with afternoon tea at Raffles Hotel, be gardened to the point of sterility? Could the showpiece gardens of Singapore, and indeed Asia, be too manicured and too clinical? I’m not saying that dropping my chewing gum wrapper on the lawn while swearing at a local jaywalker is my thing, but the occasional tree stump ripped out by tornados and monsoons would be interesting. I needed to be impressed.
Schoolchildren actually took notes and looked as if they wanted to learn about the plants as they crocodiled through the orchid displays. Poets and artists sat and contemplated whatever poets and artists contemplate, lovers strolled hand-in-hand, and picnickers enjoyed the perfect surroundings, meticulously taking home every piece of litter. Amazing specimens like the Cannonball Tree (Couroupita guianensis) had me gasping in wonderment, flowers and fruit emerging from the massive, craggy trunks. And yet, with the hustle and bustle of the vibrant city all around, I felt that I was the only person in the place. Before long I was playing a vital part in this spectacle of nature. Singapore Botanical Gardens needs to be visited and admired, and leaving the main gates and visitor centre, on to Cluny Street, I vowed to return. It’s that kind of place.