Monday, June 13, 2011

The secret meadows of Singapore

Singapore Zoo: 69 acres
Jurong Bird Park: 50 acres
Labrador Nature Reserve: 25 acres
Admiralty Park: 66 acres
Singapore Botanic Garden: 155 acres
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve: 214 acres
East Coast Park: 450 acres

400 acres of primary rainforest. Four nature reserves. 17 reservoirs. A ridiculous number of rivers. In short, field and fountain, moor and mountain are all present in abundance. Side by side with skyscrapers, housing estates, malls, restaurants, hotels, roller coasters, the metro, one of Asia’s largest airports, and of course the residences, offices and tool storage spaces of the 21000 people employed by the Parks Authority. When you’re freshly expatriated to Singapore, your most frequently asked question is “Where do they find the space for it”?

In the time it takes you to reach your local supermarket in Mumbai, you could get to Indonesia. You could be wandering casually in the bird park of a morning when you’ll discover that your phone is on international roaming because Malaysia's that close. And Singapore's that small. How does a tiny island have so much luxury of land? The official greenery alone covers almost half of Singapore, and then there’s the stuff that’s just lying by the roadside.

Turn off a thoroughfare in the city centre and you're likely to find yourself on quiet, Top-Gear-style roads winding through little green hills dotted with venerable black and white mansions lolling about in acres of their own. Walk casually through a cobbled passageway in busy, touristy Chinatown and you’re wrapped in silence, on a path lined with the gardens of quiet homes. You could be walking purposefully past the imposing edifices of banks at the centre of Asia’s financial hub or in the glass-walled places where the purveyors of finance are eating steak, and suddenly you’ll be opposite a cricket green, where people in white are playing a gentle game to languid applause from a white verandah. Take a different route to the supermarket and you’ll come upon a stand of prehistoric creepers with leaves so large, they hold puddles, not raindrops. It’s all very Harry Potter. And quite delightful.

Why can’t other places do it? Life is so much better when it’s tree-lined. It’s not that there’s no development here – you notice the occasional ominous board on a patch of wild green announcing an apartment building or “community” in the making – but there are clear tree-and-garden rules that make all the difference.


achan said...

I have not read all. I just told your mother when her eyes are back to normal there is lots to read.
love, achan

bookjunkie said...

I just love the way you make me appreciate Singapore so much more :) I do love our trees and I marvel at all the green spaces...I guess the fact that mostly everything is built up vertically makes for the space?

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