The packing has started for the first family holiday. Singapore here we come! Although recently named the world’s most expensive city to live in, for us it is first and foremost a beautiful, green oasis that we keep returning to. It is a joy to escape to somewhere that manages to combine the cosmopolitan glamour and shopping, culture and lifestyle options of city living alongside lush, green tranquillity. My experience of South East Asian cities generally is that they tend towards poorly planned concrete jungles, which seem to fail residents and non-residents, pedestrians and drivers alike. So Singapore makes a very refreshing change.
Perhaps because it is one of the most densely populated countries on the planet, the tiny island state of Singapore takes its urban planning very seriously indeed. Some of this is simply because, with space at a premium, planning for residential areas, travel networks, and communal space needs careful consideration to maximise space. But in respect of planning and regeneration, Singapore was also blessed with a fairly visionary Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, back in the 1960s. He felt it was important to use trees and green public spaces to soften the edges of the urban development work, and create a verdant heart to the city. His legacy is very apparent in the green corridors which flank the roadways, the many areas of parkland and public spaces, and the general sense of a lush, living, breathing city.
The slogan ‘let’s make Singapore our garden’ is one you see all around the city, including on construction site hoardings. And with only the true multi-millionaire being able to afford anything other than high-rise living, it makes sound practical sense for Singaporeans to embrace their communal city garden. There are a massive variety of resources available to Singaporeans to enable them to get out in the great outdoors, enjoying the tropical sunshine. And most of them have free access, if not to all areas, then at least some. Great news in a city where a pub meal out with a glass of wine can easily cost the same as a weekly shop back in the UK!
We have been to the Botanic Gardens before, but barely scratched the surface. It was unexpectedly enormous and beautiful. Even though I did my very best pregnancy waddling at the time, it definitely deserves another visit to see the bits we did not uncover. The wildlife there was incredible and you really would not know you were in the heart of the city once you pass through the gates.
I also really fancy a stroll along to the iconic Henderson Waves pedestrian bridge. It is found on the Southern Ridges, which is a 10km thread of open space linking various parks and nature reserves. And if I’m really pinched for time, the Gardens by the Bay are always an easy-access option. Singapore likes to be known as the Garden City, and the Gardens by the Bay are a highly visible relative newcomer to the city centre. Part of the 21st century Marina Bay development, the allocation of 100 hectares of prime development land to this exciting green space seems an important symbolic reinforcement of Singapore’s commitment to their garden city philosophy.
Singapore might well be hideously expensive to live in, and even short breaks can be a bit of a shock to the bank balance. But despite all of that, I still always leave wanting more time to explore. If that is not the mark of a good holiday, I don’t know what is.