Off To Singapore: Day 4 – Botanical Gardens and Sentosa

The rains happened as the weatherman predicted. We woke up to some showers, which gave us pause as to what to do today. Then they appeared to have stopped, so it was back to the originally scheduled idea.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens are one of three gardens around the world to have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as being the sole World Heritage Site in Singapore. Oh, and they’re free to enter. This really means that there is no excuse to not see these whilst in the country – especially because they have their own subway station with an escalator leading right to one of the garden’s main entrances.

Unlike a lot of other major gardens that I’ve been to, the ones at Singapore are completely out in the open. I guess that, with Singapore being a tropical country, there is no need for hot houses whereas in countries like Denmark and the UK we have frosts that would kill off tropical plants.

By being completely open there is more a feeling of inclusivity and informality to the Singapore Botanic Gardens despite, in Singaporean style, there being a lot of signs displaying the rules, regulations and possible fines. However, this is still a set of proper gardens and so has a number of interesting sections including an ‘evolution walk’, where petrified wood is displayed, and a medicinal garden that contains plants that have been used for medical purposes.

List item: See where pineapples come from
Status: Completed

This is one of the weirder things from my list, and was added alongside wanting to see natural growing bananas. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of pineapples growing up from the ground like this and now I’ve seen it for myself. As well as a papaya tree.

Now, it was around this time that the rain started to spit, so we made a beeline for the nearest food place (as we hadn’t had breakfast) so we could try and ride out the rain. It felt like a mini-hawker place and so we were able to get brunch for a total of $11, which included the new love of my life: Fanta Lychee. Im not usually a bit Fanta fan, but I can make a huge exception for this.

Half and hour later and the rain wasn’t letting up. In fact it was now worse and we could hear thunder rolling in the distance. So we did what any smart person would do – walk around the gardens with out umbrellas up. I know this isn’t the best thing to do in a thunderstorm, but we couldn’t just stay inside for the rest of the morning!

So this was the rest of our morning in the gardens: walking quickly with the umbrellas up and admiring the scenery in the rain. Palm Valley, where they sometimes hold concerts, was especially beautiful – even in the rain.

No visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens is complete without a visit to the orchid gardens. It’s the only part of the gardens where you have to pay for admission ($5 each) and you get to see a fantastically well laid out area filed with all manner of different orchids.

This part of the garden also houses the ‘V.I.P. Orchids’ that have been named in honour of visiting dignitaries as part of Singapore’s ‘Orchid Diplomacy’. Some of these are more recent, like the orchid for Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and others, like the one for Margaret Thatcher, have been cultivated for decades. It’s really interesting to see how the names and the orchids match up.

Given that it was still raining, and time was getting on, I bought some refreshing melon milk from a vending machine and we made our way back to the subway to head for our next destination for day: Sentosa.

Sentosa is basically a resort island that contains a lot of hotels, a theme park and a whole lot of other touristy things. Honestly it’s not my sort of thing because it erases a lot of what makes visiting Singapore special, but I guess I can see the attraction of staying here and just doing things on the island (although you miss an awful lot by not venturing onto the mainland, which someone behind us in a queue was not going to do during a week long stay.)

Our visit to Sentosa got off to a rocky start as there was a problem with their machine redeeming our pre-bought tickets. Half an hour waiting at the counter to be told that we would have to pay again in cash and then wait on a refund to be done in the next five days. Hardly ideal, especially as there was no refund receipt that they were able to give out… so just a bit of a warning there.

Anyway, that unpleasantness aside, we were here for the oceanarium… which was closing an hour early some some unknown reason. Pushing forward though!

This oceanarium was excellent. I mean, I am a real sucker for a good aquarium but this is one that, until recently, boasted the largest viewing panel for a single tank in the world. More on that room later, because that really was special.

I also really appreciated that a lot of the glass on the front of the tanks appeared to be anti-reflective, which made it a lot easier to take pictures of the more interesting residents like the nautiluses, hammerhead sharks and sea dragons.

List Item: See a manta ray
Status: Completed

The real highlight, as I previously mentioned, was this big tank and the three manta rays that lived inside. Sure there were a myriad of other fish in there including unicorn fish, tuna and other rays, but I was here for the manta rays. If the aquarium had closed at its normal time I could have easily just sat there watching this tank for a solid hour. Still though, I had plenty of time with the rays and now I am left with whale sharks as the final ‘must see’ animal on my list.

Since we had some time before the water show (whose tickets gave us the problem earlier) we decided to explore the island of Sentosa for a bit – which lead us to an islet dubbed as the ‘southern most point in mainland Asia’. A cool moment for the hub as he could say, with some certainty, that this is the furthest south that he has ever been.

Dinner at this resort island of Sentosa ended up being ramen. It’s been so long since I’ve had a ramen this good (probably not since Japan) and, considering that we were in a touristy area, it was reasonably priced. For dessert, I had a very literal durian ice cream sandwich (yes, that is bread wrapped around a block of ice cream) which helped to change my mind on the taste of durian. As an ice cream it tasted like rum raisin, which just happens to be my favourite flavour.

We finished the night with the Wings of Time water and lights show. It was technically impressive with flamethrowers and fireworks alongside the projected images on water. However, this was very much aimed to be family friendly and I found myself rolling my eyes when two of the characters in the show began to sing a song about achieving dreams (because I’m dead inside). It had a lot to live up to after the more abstract water show that I caught two days previously, and I think that it lacked some of the heart and the authenticity that the other show had. Still, it was entertaining.

So this leaves tomorrow as the last full day. The weather is set to rain all day, but weather reports here change on a dime, so I guess it’s a game of wait and see.

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