Fighting dragons, dangerous turtles and the bird paparazzi - it's all there in the Singapore Chinese Gardens. Part 1 of day 2.
by Kerry Tolson @kerrytolson.com.
Singapore is known by many monikers from the ‘Little Red Dot’ and ‘The Fine City’ to the ‘Asian Tiger’, the ‘Lion City’, and ‘Chilly Crab Country’. But today it was the ‘Garden City’, and that is just what we planned to do today, explore its beautiful gardens… just as soon as we could drag ourselves away from our ridiculously sumptuous bed and our ridiculously scrumptious breakfast overlooking absurdly opulent views… particularly the little known but incredibly tranquil Chinese and Japanese Gardens. These gardens, nestled on two small islands in the Jurong Lake (which sits on the western side of Singapore) are just a short fifty-minute MRT trip away from the city.
It’s a brilliant day screaming out clear blue skies and with it comes a mugginess that has me breathless the moment I step from the air-conditioned train. This is a small problem we find with travelling around Sing… from the moment we wake up in our suite, we don’t step out of air-con into fresh air until we reach our destination. Our hotel leads directly into the Raffles City Centre, which in turn leads into the City Hall MRT, which takes you directly onto an air-conditioned train to another air-conditioned station. It’s not until we reach the Chinese Gardens Station an hour later that we realise how heavy and moist the air is.
As we walk towards the East Entrance along the tree-lined path which runs through the middle of a wide open grassed area we notice that the green is absolutely peppered with the chocolate brown of Indian Mynahs. At first I mistake the brown mounds for ants nests until I see they are hopping about and taking flight. These birds are the same species that is ‘invading’ Australia and where they are officially recorded as "The Most Important Pest/Problem" and colloquially refed to as the Aussie ‘flying cane toad’.
But here in Singapore they are very much a native bird and their numbers are declining due to another mynah bullyboy – the Javan Mynah – who is so invasive that it was recently mooted in a newspaper (most probably with tongue-firmly-in-cheek) that perhaps one way to be rid of the Javan Mynah, is to turn them into Mynah soup. Perhaps an accompaniment to that other delicious dish – Frog Porridge.
Scattering the flock, we cross the lake via a small unassuming red bridge into beautiful breathtaking gardens with first view being of a magnificent seven storey red and gleaming white pagoda – Ru Yun T’a . Immediately upon stepping into the gardens we feel an incredible sense of tranquillity and although the shade is abundant as the gardens are graced in the most enormous wide-spreading trees from massive bamboo clumps, entwining ficus and dripping willows, the humidity from the greenery seems to raise the mugginess factor by quite a few degrees.
many areas to see that we’re not sure where to start first as we peruse the map of the 13.5hectar gardens.
We decide to start with the ‘Garden of Abundance’ which features hundred-year-old pomegranate trees and sweet almost comical statues of the Chinese zodiac.
Turns out the 'star' they are chasing is a beautiful Grey Heron down on the pond.
Just past this beautiful bird is a stunning bridge, glittering white in the sunlight.
Across from the pavilion is the Stone Boat - 'Yao-Yueh Fang’ - that glimmers into the green waters and has an almost ethereal look about it. We wander the ‘rooms’ of the Tea House - 'Ming Hsiang Hsieh’ - and fall in love with its beauty; the ceilings ornately carved, deep red pillars capturing the sunlight blazing like fire, lines of terracotta cups hanging in rows create a mesmerising waterfall feature - it’s possibly one of the prettiest garden buildings I’ve ever seen – but there’s not a cup of tea in sight and I could really do with one!
Just down from the Tea House we stumble upon a tussle between a group of enormous water monitors over a fish, of course the biggest monitor (which surely must be a Komodo Dragon! although after reading that these lizards can grow to 3metres in length, I'm now convinced it's on it's way to being a crocodile) wasn’t going to share his bit of flake with anyone and with his powerful tail smacking the others around, let all know in no uncertain terms the morsel was going to stay as all his. The brawl continued for quite a while, going round and round the tree, on and off the pond’s bank, and in and out of the water - at least they were probably cooler, which was more than could be said for us as we melted in the rising temps.
We puddle off to the building that housed the “Live turtle and tortoise museum’ and holds a Guinness Book Record for the largest collection of tortoises.
They also claim to have the Flattest tortoise in the world, a 6-legged tortoise, the MOST DANGEROUS tortoise in the world, the 3rd largest tortoise in the world (wonder who has the first two….) and the world’s most beautiful tortoise… which I find very curious as I never knew there were beauty pageants for tortoises and turtles.
Reading the sign, Mal declares the flattest tortoise must have been ‘run over’ by the 6-legged tortoise and therefore, it’s the 6-legged tortoise that’s also the most dangerous.
Never being ones for animals in captivity (although I'm sure they are kept quite well), we skip popping in to see for ourselves these curiosities and instead watch another curiosity – a model trying to look nonchalant and cool in melting heat during a ‘fashion shoot’ which is being undertaken under the arches of the magnificent Main Gate.
to be continued....
Hello! I'm Kerry
. . . a plan-nothing, have no idea where I'm going travelholic.
A daughter of the gypsies and the wife of a workaholic, I'm forever wondering 'What's over there?' and devising ways to squeeze through the barbed-wire fence of small-business ownership responsibilities and every-day life tangles to discover it.
and this is my book.
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