Once I had dropped off my passport yesterday, I headed off to find the nearest MRT station. The MRT (does it stand for Metro Rail Transport?) is an amazing underground subway system that runs under the main districts of Singapore. It is a little more expensive than the bus yet fascinating because it is like entering a whole new world!
There were signs along the road pointing to the MRT station however I walked right past the entrance and needed to ask several locals for directions. The most amazing thing about MRT stations is that they are underground and most also incorporate shopping malls! It is bizarre to leave the heat & humidity and the tall buildings behind as you descend down a flight of stairs or an escalator. At the bottom, you are suddenly surrounded by people who are either shopping at the many shops or rushing to the MRT turnstiles.
At the Tanjong Pagar Station, I found a brochure with the MRT map although later I discovered that the purple Little India line was missing.
Maybe it is only a recent addition to the system? As I was standing there deciding what to do with my day, the Botanical Gardens Station hit me in the eye and I knew immediately that was where I wanted to go.
For SD$2.20, I got a ticket
to the Botanical Gardens Station and the entrance to the Gardens was just outside the station! Fantastic!
Right from the minute I entered the Gardens, I was entranced. So beautifully maintained and created with great imagination. I collected a map from one of the map points however the signage along the way was what I tended to use.
By this time it was 11:30am and I hadn’t had breakfast yet, so I headed straight to the Food Court. This took me from one end of the Gardens to somewhere in the middle, past the Fragrant gardens where I found this beautiful plant from Africa.
The best part about this food court was that I was the only westerner there. The other customers seemed to be local office workers with an ID card on a lanyard around their neck and wearing very formal clothing including shoes totally inappropriate for strolling around the Botanical Gardens!
Compared to Australian prices, the meal was quite reasonably priced, however at SD$4.50 or RP35,000 it was way more than I would spend if buying lunch at a warung in Indonesia! Tipat costs about Rp10,000 just to give you a rough idea of what I mean!
Now that I had refueled, I was ready to see some more of the Gardens. I headed to the Visitor Information Centre where I found the Westerners! I also found the toilets and discovered that they were automatic toilets! As soon as you stand up, the toilet automatically flushes! Even the squat toilet!
I headed off towards the Ginger Garden and on the way passed a flower from my childhood. My sister and I used to enjoy sucking the sweet nectar from the stem of the flowers.
The Ginger Garden was right next door to the Orchid Garden
but not being a huge orchid fan and balking at having to pay to see them, I was content to admire the flowers at the entrance before moving towards the ginger garden which is much more my thing.
Here are a few facts about the ginger family:
As I was walking towards the end of the ginger garden trail, the rain began. The thunder had been growling for a while and then suddenly the skies opened and the rain bucketed down. Luckily I had my trusty poncho that I bought several years ago in Vietnam and while everyone else headed for shelter, I was able to take some stairs down a small path winding down to a water feature area where I came across a large water monitor. He was probably enjoying the warmth of the path secure that in the rain he would not be interrupted! However, I don’t know who got the greater shock! By the time my adrenalin levels had returned to normal, he had disappeared into the under growth. I continued on my way a little warier.
The path came out near a bridge which crossed the Swan Lake and there right by the bridge was a swan.
There were huge fish including gold fish and I think maybe cat fish. There were many turtles too. Several came up to the side of the lake and popped their heads out of the water to say hello! I also came across a smaller water monitor who kept his distance in the water while keeping his eye on me! Unfortunately, just as I was enjoying watching the water monitor swimming in the lake, my phone rang. My backpack was on my back and I was still in my poncho. By the time I had removed my poncho to get to my phone, the ringing stopped! I scrolled through the options to find out the number of the missed call but weirdly there wasn’t any. Worrying that it was Hana Express with a visa issue, I decided to cut short my visit to the Botanical Gardens and head home.
Past beautiful yet enormous water lilies
almost as big as the ones at the Bogor Botanical Gardens.
Just as well I did begin the trek home then because it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I came out the Orchard Rd gate but the buses that stopped there didn’t seem to include the ones I needed. So I headed off down Orchard Rd looking for a 145 bus stop. I walked and I walked and in the end, I decided to retrace my steps to the Tanjong Pagar MRT Station where I knew I could find a 145 bust stop. On Orchard Rd, I found a MRT entrance which was something straight out of London. Literally an escalator on the footpath leading down to the underground! I felt like Alice in Wonderland. I left hot, humid, sticky Singapore and again descended into an air conditioned mall reminiscent of any mall in America complete with all the familiar shop names. I followed the signs to the MRT station and there topped up my card to go 2 stops back to Tanjong Pagar where I easily found a bus stop to take me back to my hotel.