BB.com Goes To Singapore 2: Singapore Botanic Gardens & Fort Canning Park
Parks play a vital role in an urban environment where skyscrapers and high rises are the stars of the city. In a fast-moving metropolis like Singapore, parks keep the balance between modernization and nature. People could turn the pace down one notch and slow things down even for a short period of time. To stimulate more interest to these places, park coordinators added features such as science, culture, and, history that amplifies your regular leisure park stroll experience. Let’s get to know some parks that I’ve visited when BB.com Goes To Singapore Botanic Garden & Fort Canning Park.
An underpass that lead to Fort Canning Hill.
Going up Fort Canning Park.
One lazy day in Singapore, I had no plans, no destination, I got nothing in mind. But I can’t let one vacation day pass just lying in bed, staring face-to-face with a laptop monitor. So instead, I got on my feet, brought a camera on one hand, and the city map on the other. Down Orchard Road, I traveled on foot as I make my way through this concrete jungle towards a hill where a historical park peacefully sat today.
Raffle’s House in Fort Canning Park.
Fort Canning Park bears quite a history before it became a place for recreation and tranquility. First, the “Forbidden Hill”, as the Malay call it, was believed to be the site of an ancient palace of Malay ancestral royalty. Then, modern Singapore’s founding father, Sir Stamford Raffles, became fascinated with the hill’s significance and strategic vantage point so he decided to build his residence here which also became the colony’s governors, thus being named, “Government Hill”.
Gothic Gates of Fort Canning serve as a landmark on this hill.
Sally Port escape passages in Fort Canning Park.
Government Hill was changed to Fort Canning when the governor’s residence was demolished and turned into a fort named after Charles Canning, Singapore’s Governor-General during that time. The Second World War came to the Pacific and Fort Canning was a command post eventually overrun by the Japanese invading forces. The war ended and the Fort was handed back to the British, then to the Singapore Armed Forces later on.
Fort Canning’s The Battle Box.
Wax replica of a British soldier in Fort Canning Park’s underground bunker. Photo from 2008.
Today, the former British Army barracks, now Fort Canning Centre, and the Underground Far East Command Centre known as The Battle Box, remain, not for military used, but for learning the strategic importance Fort Canning played during the wars while the Fort Canning Centre, is now a home to the Singapore Dance Theatre. Nine-pound cannons still fire today not to invading forces but to tell time with a bang.
I’m not really sure what OMSQ is for.
The resting place of Iskandar Shah, also a resting place for pigeons. Photo from 2008.
The historical Fort Canning Park also features a Spice Garden imitating the first botanical garden created by Sir Stamford Raffles who was also a botanist. Keramat Iskandar Shah, the controversial resting place of the last Malay ruler of Singapore, could also be found in Fort Canning Park, though it was argued by scholars for Iskandar Shah left Singapore for Melaka before he died. Fort Canning Green was a former graveyard of 600 tombs but now the living’s venue for events and concerts, like “Incubus: Live At Fort Canning Park.”
Nature paths for jogging or walking in Fort Canning Park. Photo from 2008
Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit opened the Circle Line in 2011, providing easier access to other destinations including the Singapore Botanic Gardens whereas a station was built dead-on the gates of park. Enticed by this convenient route, I took on this trip, on a different occasion, with a thought that my visit was going to be a “walk in the park”.
Walking in Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Singapore Botanic Garden covers 74-hectare of land teeming with virgin rainforest, numerous gardens and green houses, lakes, and ponds, which were landscaped into a park. Since the park began more than 150 years ago, it has been a breeding ground, a place for cultivating and studying plants, crops, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and trees. Henry Nicholas Ridley, the Garden’s first Director, made Singapore a Southeast Asian leader in the rubber industry with his propagation method he studied for over 20 years. Rubber became their fortune-generating cash crop. Today, tourist influx increased as the flagship park of Singapore added features attracting more and more flora enthusiasts.
The first stages of the earth in Evolution Garden.
Mosses and Liverworks. That’s what the label said.
Forest in Evolution Garden.
I came in from Botanic Garden Station in Cluny Road, and started what I thought was going to be a leisure stroll in the Healing Garden. This section showcases a wide variety of Southeast Asian plants with healing properties and can be used in traditional herbal medicine. Few meters passed this section was Evolution Garden which tells the different stages of the earth from barely rocks to a flourishing foliage of flora.
A bench just facing Symphony Lake.
Palm Valley in front of Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage.
From then on, I lost my coordinates and just followed wherever my feet would take me. It led me to a clearing where Symphony Lake, a man-made body of water, sat in the middle surrounded by walk paths and benches adorned with clumps of different species of Heliconia, on its banks. The lake’s centerpiece is the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage which has been a venue for open concerts with regular performances by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Singapore Chinese Orchestra during weekends.
Parakeet flower, a species of the Heliconia genus.
Singapore Botanic Garden’s main attraction is the National Orchid Garden, a habitat fore more than 1,000 species of orchids and 2,000 hybrids. Three hectares of land were carefully-designed and landscaped on a hillside slope. Unfortunately, the Orchid Garden required a 5SGD entrance fee which at that time, I have nothing but my EZ Link, and not cash. However, I still enjoyed taking photos of the section’s main entrance decorated with colorful orchids.
I think this is a lavender cattleya orchid.
I think this is something from the Phalaenopsis genus of orchids.
Yellow-orange spotted orchid (now, I’m giving names).
Another type of orchid with sharper petals.
The only ginger I knew of was the yellow spice with bizarre shapes and sizes used for cooking until I visited the Botanic Garden’s, Ginger Garden. Yellow, red, green, pink – name colors and you’ll find different hues of ginger in the one-hectare garden of the Zingiberaceae, or ginger family. My stroll in Ginger Garden was life-changing – it changed my entire point of view on gingers.
Torch Ginger (Etlingera elatior)
A type of Renealmia ginger.
Probably a Renealmia genus of the ginger family.
Life-like statue of a girl beside a pond.
Strangely-shaped sun-drenched desert plants you see in spaghetti western films are displayed in Botanic Garden’s, Sun Garden. A large collection of cactus varying in sizes, shapes, and appearances you ever dreamed of, are cultivated in this garden. They have lots here but they don’t have the one I’m looking for – the cactus with a faucet as seen on TV.
Looks more like a deadly weapon than a plant
I think this one is the Argentine toothpick.
From cowboy flicks, we move to the orient where the Japanese skillful artistry of Bonsai cultivation and aesthetics. Examples of these branch of art are displayed in the Bonsai Garden. Simply watching this dwarf tree standing plain on its tray was somehow contemplating and relaxing, but I guess that’s the message of its creator to the viewer – just like a painting.
Bonsai Tree (Can’t find the species used)
Bonsai Tree (Can’t find the species used)
A sculpture of Koi’s and waves complement the Bonsai Garden.
Now, I was officially lost in this 74-hectare park without any clue where to exit. Seeing different species of plants for the first time entertained me, just like in Singapore Zoo. Singapore Botanic Garden gives visitors a glimpse of the world’s countless flora, and you don’t get to see that everyday – maybe in a lifetime, especially species nearing extinction.
Man strolling with his dog in Singapore Botanic Garden.
Little girl feeds swans in Swan Lake.
Aside from being a place of learning, recreation and social gatherings, parks provide respite for those who want to kick back from their daily stressful routine. The peacefulness and tranquility of a nature parks like Singapore Botanic Garden and Fort Canning, reboot a persons system to get him ready once again to go back the daily grind. For me, I find parks to be a place where I could think and reach deeper into my inner soul to find answers to solutions. The entire process begin with a slow stroll under the thick canopy of treetops, surrounded by luscious greens which are soothing in the eyes, gently caressed by the forest breeze, and the rest seemed to work on auto-pilot.
Here are some fast facts that may help you on your trip:
1. Fort Canning Park is bounded by Hill Street, Canning Rise, Clemenceau Avenue and River Valley Road. You could enter from either street.
2. To get transportation directions, travel time, and cost, click on GoThere.SG
3. Fort Canning Park’s Battle Box guided tour cost:
SGD 8.00 – Adults
SGD 5.00 – Kids
5. Singapore Botanic Gardens is open from 5:00 AM to 12:00 midnight.
6. No Entrance Fee for Singapore Botanic Garden.
7. National Orchid Garden entrance fees:
SGD 5.00 – Adults
SGD 1.00 – Students and Senior Citizens
FREE – Children below 12 years old
8. There are restaurants and shops in Botanic Gardens.
9. Be mindful of you trash. There are garbage bins in both parks.
10. Read more about the BB.com Goes To Singapore Series.
11. More Singapore destinations in Biyaheng Singapore.
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13. Follow @BiyaherongBarat on Twitter
14. Happy travels everyone.