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 A walk in the park
By Chandroo D.

Singapore is an evergreen city.  Situated in the middle of this green city is its beautifully landscaped Botanic Garden.  Being an early riser, I make it a point to walk in the park at least twice a week while I am in Singapore.  The park is around one-fifth the size of Central Park in New York and opens from 5am to midnight.   If one wants peace and tranquility, this park is the perfect place to relax, chill out and forget your worries.

Driving up to the main visitor entrance car park, I start my walk clockwise starting from the Café Verde end.  At about 7am, the temperature is quite pleasant and comfortable for a stroll.  After passing the café, the first thing I notice is a group of elderly men and women exercising vigorously.  Hands and legs move up, down and sideways – all following an instructor’s bellowing commands.  It is so refreshing to see all the elders keeping fit.  A few of them are in wheel chairs moving whichever limbs they can move with the assistance from their helpers.  Just next to the gymnastic crowd on the left is stairway leading up to a Rainforest.  This small tropical rainforest of around six hectares in size is older than the gardens itself.  It is very rare to see this mini rainforest within the Singapore’s City limits.  Walking through it is quite an experience for a city slicker like me.  Covered all around by huge gigantic trees it would appear quite eerie if one had a walk through it in the dark.  Occasionally I see squirrels darting in and out of the forest. It is common to find a few women sitting in a yoga position meditating peacefully.

Coming down the slope from the rainforest, I reach the huge main garden with its majestic mature trees which are the natural heritage of Singapore and serve as important green landmarks of the tropical garden city. They seem to create a sense of permanence and identity to the place.  I am sure it took decades for these trees to mature gracefully in the landscape.  Going forward I pass the Swiss Ball Fountain.  This very heavy granite ball rests on a huge basal block and is kept afloat by strong water pressure from below.   It is amusing to find children playing with it and trying to stop it from rolling.

Soon I reach the Swan Lake. The name of this lake is presumably inspired by the many pairs of white swans that waddle their way through the waters every day.  On the same lake are various types of fish and turtles.  Just behind the bushes nearby lives a huge mean looking but shy Iguana.  Once in while he pops out to look around and disappears into the bushes.  One day I found him near a waterfall quietly lapping away the splashed water.  Fortunately, my grandchildren happen to be around that day and were quite amazed as they had never ever heard of or seen an Iguana before.  This iguana did make their day and they carried a picture of it to school displaying it during ‘show and tell' period.

Nearby the waterfall is the Ginger Garden. The fragrance is the first thing that gets to your nose as you get closer. The garden houses a restaurant Halia with a gift shop for visitors nearby.  International tourists are mainly found in this area, as their bus stops close by.

Just next to the waterfall is another aerobic group.  This one is my favourite and very exciting!  A young energetic leader does Jive and Cha-cha in tune with the 50s and 60s music blaring away from his Boom Box.  The crowd behind him follows every movement and gyrates to the music happily and one can’t help but notice smiles all around.

I move on towards the Symphony Lake. The Shaw Foundation Symphony has a grand stage on Symphony Lake and it is surrounded by the lake with a side entrance for performers only.  One has to swim across if they want to get up close and personal with the performers.  Visitors normally lay out their picnic mats on the well-manicured grass when free concerts are held occasionally.  This is a great spot within the gardens for a cool and relaxing time-out with family and friends!

Further up I take a detour and enter the Evolution Garden. This Garden is very educational and tells the evolutionary story of plant life on earth throughout the ages. It demonstrates past changes, from the fiery planet of antiquity to the time when life was only in the oceans, to the age of ferns and dinosaurs and to the modern world of beautiful flowering plants.  There are also a few trees which are petrified and have turned into stone.   The Evolution Garden is the best area to sit quietly and read a book or peacefully get into a meditation mode.

As I move forward, I get close to ‘Au Jardin Les Amis’, a French fine-dining restaurant in an elegantly restored colonial bungalow.  The combination of fine French cuisine, a selection of some of the world's most exquisite wines and impeccable service amidst the tranquil settings of the Botanic Gardens, makes Au Jardin the ideal venue for romantic moments as well as grand affairs.

After an hour’s worth of walking around the Botanic Gardens, I settle down at Café Verde for a light breakfast and the morning paper.  This small indoor and outdoor Café faces the green tranquility of the Botanic Garden and small fountains around the trees.  Listening to the sounds of the birds and the splashing water brings peace to my mind.

Time to move on and drive back to the hustle and bustle of the city and face the daily active life.


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