Sometimes returning to a place can be a disappointment. But, on a recent trip to Singapore I was pleasantly surprised to find that just the opposite was true. What I discovered was a new appreciation for the city. And, I was reminded how specific neighborhoods can impact one’s enjoyment of a city.

Though I’ve been to Singapore a number of times in the past, there were some new attractions that I was curious to see. So, I decided it was time to get reacquainted with the city. On previous visits I always stayed in the Orchard Road area (good for walking, people-watching and inexpensive shopping) or the Marina area (high end hotels and shopping). For this trip I decided to stay in the Singapore River Planning Area, which falls within the boundaries of the Central Area or “The City”.

As it turned out, I loved staying near the river. Clarke Quay, a two-minute walk from my hotel, is a colorful area along the Singapore River. It comes alive in the late afternoon and evening with lots of riverside restaurants and festive lights. One afternoon I took a bumboat ride on the river and the next day I walked along the riverbank as far as Merlion Park with its famous half-fish/half-lion statue, which is the symbol of Singapore. On the way back to my hotel, I crossed the river and sat awhile on the lawn in front of the Asian Civilisations Museum, with its view of the famous Fullerton Hotel. What a lovely place to relax and watch the boats coming and going on the river.

The Singapore River area is also within walking distance of Chinatown, one of the city’s interesting ethnic neighborhoods (others being Arab Street and Little India). As would be expected, Chinatown has a myriad of markets and local eateries to explore. And, as is the case with the river area, Chinatown comes alive later in the afternoon and evening – which makes sense considering Singapore’s hot climate.

The main trigger for me to revisit Singapore was my curiosity about Gardens by the Bay, the much talked-about, award-winning floral complex built on 101 hectares (250 acres) of land that was reclaimed from the sea. The Gardens are divided into separate horticultural wonders with highly imaginative and futuristic architecture.

The most recognizable features of Garden by the Bay are the eighteen metal structures known as the Super Tree Grove. The structures are covered in vegetation, are lit up at night, and the tallest of the Super Trees is 16 stories high. Two of the tallest Super Trees are connected by a bridge called the Skywalk.

I suggest buying a ticket that includes the three main gardens. And, I suggest visiting early in the day to avoid the crowds. I arrived at 9:00am, when the Gardens open, and for the first hour there were very few visitors, which was quite nice.

The Flower Dome is the world’s largest greenhouse with spectacular flowers and plants from the Mediterranean and other semi-arid regions of the world.

The Cloud Forest features the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, a treetop walkway (six stories high) and a cool, misty climate. In fact, it was almost cold. The Cloud Forest features ferns, orchids and other flora from tropical regions of the world.

The newest addition to the Gardens by the Bay is Floral Fantasy with whimsical features including a cavern-like display and flower baskets that move up and down from the ceiling. There’s also a 4D ride that takes you on a virtual tour of the Gardens from the viewpoint of a dragonfly. (Though I’m glad I experienced the 4D ride, I admit to having felt some motion sickness, even though I took one of the chairs that doesn’t move.) The 4D ride aside, I think that Floral Fantasy, though smaller in scope than the other gardens. was my favorite.

Singapore has long been home to a variety of class-act gardens and parks. Gardens by the Bay is just the latest addition. The Singapore Botanic Gardens are a mainstay, having first opened in 1859. The Botanic Gardens are home to over 10,000 species of plants. The highlight is the Orchid Garden, which houses one of the world’s foremost orchid research and breeding facilities.

Singapore city makes up just one area of the island country of Singapore. The rest of the island also boasts numerous parks and wilderness reserves. I’m making a promise to myself to focus on those areas of the country on my next trip to Singapore.

Diane Embree
December 12, 2019