Singapore was always at the bottom of my travel list as its dense urbanisation is far from my liking. Additionally, it doesn’t appear to be great for budget travellers because of its steep cost of things. The main reason for me to do a trip to Singapore was to see my friends. However, the country turned out better than I had thought and the one amazed me the most was the green cover which can be found everywhere in the city-state.
It is not difficult to get back to nature in Singapore although it is not so blessed with any natural resources. Amidst the score of glass and chrome modernity and technological and architectural wonders, the country has managed to increase its green cover by creating a wide range of parks, gardens, lakes and even protected rainforest, which has given it a nice balance with nature.
My time in Singapore was short but I managed to check out as many green places as I could apart from seeing my friends and celebrating my 25th birthday. And here are three of my favourite places.
3. Gardens by the Bay
Located next to the famous Marina Bay, this colourful and futurist park offers some really cool attractions for mostly free. The Supertrees, which are giant artificial trees covered by plants and flowers, are one of the highlights of this green spot. They looked more stunning at night when the lights turned up and danced around in sync to the Garden Rhapsody music. Sadly, I could not get any chance to visit the flower domes as my time was brief but I will check them out next time for sure to see spectacular green scenes the domes feature.
It is interesting to talk about this place as there is a controversy over whether Gardens by the Bay is worth a visit or not. Some claim that it is an eco-disaster because the Supertrees are actually made from concrete and steel which are not natural materials. Plus, it is money and energy consuming due to a huge amount of electricity used for the light show. However, I personally think it serves a different purpose: a chill-out, scenic hotspot and event space, rather than an eco-garden. It is still a lovely place to visit for me.
2. Botanic Gardens
This Singapore iconic green space offers a great view of tropical floral set in a stunning verdant landscape. Spanning an area of 82 hectares, the garden features more than 10,000 types of plants from orchids, ginger, palm trees to carnivorous plants that eat insects.
There are different themes set up in the garden. For example, you can learn about the history of plants on Earth since early stage at the Evolution Garden while the Learning Forest allows visitors to explore habitats ranging from forest wetland to lowland rainforest. And of course, if you are a flower lover, the National Orchid Garden is the one for you.
It took me roughly a day to stroll around the garden. There are a couple of restaurants and cafés inside the garden but you can grasp some food with you if you want to save money. It is an ideal place for a morning exercise, a lazy walk, family picnic and even … a nap. I am not kidding at all because that was what I did. How hard it is to resist doing so, especially when you are sitting in the shade of a tree with the kisses of cool breezes on your face. Awkward but totally worth it, believe me!
1. Pulau Ubin
Located off the northern coast of Singapore, this island may not have a long white sandy beach, but the rustic charm makes it a magical place for both nature lovers and thrill seekers.
I went to Pulau Ubin on my birthday, pretty sure that this place was perfect for a natural escape. I took a train bound for Tanah Merah Station followed by a bus ride aboard Bus No.2 terminating at Changi Village where the Changi Point Ferry Terminal is located. Then after a 10-minute bumboat ride which cost $3SGD one trip, I arrived at the Pulau Ubin jetty where my venture started.
The island can be explored by bicycles which cost about $8SGD for a whole day. But if you are fit enough, you can do a tour around the island on foot. As I felt my feet should be on the ground and one of the prime reasons for me to be there was to go trekking, I decided to walk.
Pulau Ubin is unique in its kind as it is one of the last rural areas to be found in Singapore. It is largely green with a variety of flora and fauna, many of which are palm trees. It also boasts many wetlands which are quite intact, including the Chek Jawa Westlands, one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems.
It is said that Chek Jawa is a unique natural area where seven interdependent ecosystems – namely, its coastal forest, mangrove forest, its rocky shore, the sandy shore, sand bar, sea grass lagoon and the coral rubble meet and mix.
A boardwalk along the coastline allows you to get closer to intact mangrove forests and plant and marine life. You can even get some knowledge on different types of plants and animals thanks to educational panels along the boardwalk.
Meanwhile, Jejawi Tower offers a perfect spot to observe the entire view of the island, Singapore and even Malaysia.
There are also various granite quarries which boast breath-taking, picturesque views of the old granite pits and the surrounding greenery. Visitors would be cooled down just by looking at the deep green colour of the lakes at those quarries.
It is not difficult to encounter wild animals such as monkeys, lizards and wild boars on the trekking trail. But be careful, they are quite aggressive, especially the monkeys and wild boars. One wild boar intended to hit me when I walked past him. It was a bit scary but also interesting to see those creatures as they are just rare in the city.
Pulau Ubin is also well-known for old-school kampung style houses, giving visitors a glimpse of Singaporean life back in the 60s. Small conversations with people residing on the island can help you understand better their simple but enjoyable lives. The old lady, the owner of a shop where I bought a coconut, has been living on the island for 40 years. She told me the slow pace of living on the island is part of her life and she occasionally goes to the mainland just to visit her children.
With a great combination of nature and rustic village life, this hidden charm of Singapore definitely allows you to go off the beaten track to see a different side of the modern city-state, immerse into great green its offers and discover more about its history and culture.