140321 Hotel Fort Canning

Whenever I come to Singapore, I notice the many parks and gardens.  The boulevard from the airport to the busy business centre is well kept and attractive. Years ago, the government brought in a rule to have residents and visitors refrain from littering.  This has helped to make Singapore one of the most popular hub cities in Asia, if not the world.  The place always looks tidy and, you feel safe.

I had never really experienced the parks of the centre of Singapore so I decided to book my accommodation at the Hotel Fort Canning en route to Penang.  This award winning boutique hotel has just 86 stylised rooms and suites. Mine is just a ‘basic’ room, but is well supplied with modern fixtures and fittings.  Controlling the blinds and light from the TV remote, I enjoy a comfortable sleep to awaken to the idea of a hot bath. The bathroom is on what was the balcony in a previous version. Not many bathrooms have such great views to be enjoyed but, from the large tub-bath overlooking the surrounding parks and gardens, this one has that uniqueness.

The staff in The Glasshouse Restaurant were very helpful and encouraged me to enjoy both the delicious breakfast and the day ahead.  The chef makes great omelettes, too.

The hotel was once used as a base for the British during World War II.  For many years, while the military were in residence, the area was known as the “The Forbidden Hill”.  But today, the wise developers have turned the “hill” into a parkland. Walkways extend throughout the parkland of well established tropical vegetation. Atop the hill, is a water reservoir, which is used in the metro water system. One section of the garden is dedicated to ASEAN sculpture, with some interesting forms indeed; another section contains a large variety of spices. On display are a 9-pound gun, a battle box, a time ball and a lighthouse – all remnants from war days. There is an archeological dig exposition, and many rotundas where picnics can be enjoyed, away from the bustling streets of Orchard Road and the like.  All these items and exhibits make the morning walk from the hotel that much more interesting.  You may want to use the fitness station.

Within the parklands are some older style buildings.  I was interested to see included in the marriage registry building, a Registry of Muslim Marriages.  There was a Muslim couple having their photos taken and they were dressed in black.  (I wonder what the black means if white stands for purity in a western wedding? Mmm.) In the ‘lowlands’ area of the park is the Galleries Utama and Viridian Art House.

I’m glad I chose this magnificent location to stay these few nights.  I can look out towards other hotels and ask “why would you stay in a matchbox full of tight rooms spilling out onto the busy pavements of Singapore?”  I think whenever I return to Singapore, I will be considering to return to the relaxed estate lifestyle of Fort Canning Park.

 

140323 Gardens by the Bay

I’ve often thought about my own garden as being in heaven. The lush green leaves and new growth just excites me during the spring and the yellow, orange, and red colors in the autumn tell me that ‘I’ve had a good summer.”

It was not until I entered the brilliant “Gardens by the Bay” today, that I realised Heaven has moved to Singapore.  If you ever take a flight to Europe, and you’re the slightest bit interested in gardening, take a few days off in Singapore. I stayed at Hotel Fort Canning, which is a boutique hotel with 86 rooms just close to Orchard Road. You need to be prepared for some walking but the parkland around the hotel is great to enjoy that early morning walk before a day of retail therapy.

The first wonder of the modern gardening world, the “Gardens by the Bay” is what I just said – it is WONDERFUL! You can travel by train or taxi or by ‘leg’ from the city or from your accommodation. A walking frame would make the journey quite arduous indeed, but for those fitted with a comfortable pair of sneakers, the walk through the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and shopping complex is well worth-while.

Someone in Singapore has a great imagination.  Setting up gardens is one chore but the design of Gardens by the Bay is another.  Featured are more than 500,000 plants from over 2,200 species. These plants are featured outside and inside in the very large ‘cooling’ houses.  The Flower Dome features 9 different gardens from 6 different countries – an extensive array of Baobabs, cacti, plants from South Africa, South America, California, the Mediterranean region, and Australia – yes, kangaroo paw of many varieties.  The changing Flower Field Display currently displays the War of the Roses.  In the next couple of months, there will be many tulips shipped in especially from Holland.

The second ‘cooling’ house , is the Cloud Forest.  You can explore the highlands amidst orchids, pitcher plants and ferns from the cool-mist Tropical Montane region.  Featured is the World’s tallest indoor waterfall at 35 metres in height.  In this cooling house are 7 ‘discovery’ zones; the Lost World, a Cloud Walk, a Treetop Walk, Crystal Mountain, Earth check, +5 Degrees and a Secret Garden.  Each two hours, automatic misting is turned on to water the gardens, and you feel like you are in the highlands of a tropical rain-forest.

After taking the lift, you stroll along suspended pathways around the forest. The vertical garden is covered with various kinds of orchids and other tropical plants. These plants expose some beautiful blooms of magnificent colour.

As you exit the dome, the gift shop is filled with souvenirs of top quality surprises for friends and family, as well as to keep the memory of a great garden vividly in your mind.

I took an Audio Tour through the extensive themed gardens outside – there can be lots of walking if you wish, as an alternative.  You can stroll the 22-metre high OCBC Skyway.  In the evening, there is a free light and sound show called the OCBC Garden Rhapsody using these large man-created metal trees.  These structures have more vertical gardens growing up the entire ‘tree’.

This area is permanent and is a must see whenever you come to Singapore.  In fact, Singapore used to be a ‘stopover’ point but today, it is a ‘destination’ in its own right.

In a fews days, I will have to return to my ‘summer burnt’ heaven in Australia. Now, thats not a good ‘gardeners’ thought at all.