Sunday, March 1, 2015

Visiting Singapore--Sky scrapers and rainforest

Another place that energetically celebrates Chinese New Year is Singapore. (The traditional celebration went for many days, so you could still be celebrating new year for a couple of days into March 2013.)

Singapore is a complex, bustling mix of English, Chinese and Malay cultures, plus many smaller ones. When I was there in 2010, much of the rest of the world was in a recession but the economy of Singapore was strong.

port, Singapore

port, Singapore

A small island, they have built upward to maximize space. I was told they are fortunate in not being on an earthquake fault line and are protected by other islands from the direct force of tropical typhoons. A vibrant economy means there are fine hotels, diverse restaurants, goods for sale from all over Asia and excellent museums.

It is close to the Equator and surrounded by water, so it is warm and humid. That as: hot and sticky or pleasant, tropical and romantic, depending on your mood.

We headed to the Botanic Garden. It is crammed with gorgeous plants.

flower, Singapore

Singapore Botanic Garden

Singapore Botanic Garden
 National Flower of Singapore, Vanda hybrid Miss Joaquin
Here is the cactus house. The roof deflects the rain. Singapore is too wet for desert cacti to grow well.

cactus house, Singapore Botanic Garden

Up above Singapore, a patch of the native reinforest has been preserved--Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Doubtless it is a slightly weedy, over-used forest, but I had never had the opportunity to see an Asian tropical forest. This one was within easy access of downtown Singapore. Local ecologist Subaraj Rajathurani took us around, naming the plants, pointing out features, explaining about the history, and generally enhancing the visit. 

rainforest above Singapore
Dawn, rainforest above Singapore
For example, I wondered if they had trouble with house cats from the city killing the song birds. No, Subarj explained, the pythons kill the cats. The Reserve has a high density of pythons, though they are difficult to see. Oh.

rainforest above Singapore

There were several very pretty ferns that I had seen introduced elsewhere in the world. Here these divided-leafed, creeping ferns are native.

fern, Singapore

And wild pepper vines closely related to black pepper, Piper nigrum, one of the most important spices in history (and today).

Wild form of black pepper, Piper nigrum
As always, rainforest trees are too tall for a photograph to do them justice. 

rainforest above Singapore

rainforest above Singapore

While hiking, we met people on their morning run. At the time I didn't think much of it, but today the comparison of a morning run on a convenient local running trail in the Rocky Mountain foothills or Central Park in New York City or in Bukit Timah in Singapore is wonderful for similarity and difference. Of course local people make recreational use of what is available.

Singapore introduced me to tropical Asia. It was hot, humid and lush. The city was full of interesting sights, from the tall office buildings to fountains near the port. The diversity of shops and food and people were visit was not enough to look at products from all over the world, try the tastes of a dozen cultures and revel in the variety of the people. And of course, to see plants now found around the world in their homeland.

Comments and corrections welcome.

Kathy Keeler

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