7 Green Spaces in Singapore

Nature is the best healing balm in the world.  So when city life gets overwhelming, I love to escape to Singapore’s green spaces.  From heritage gardens to beach parks, treetop walks and wetland reserves, these seven sanctuaries will lift the stress and fatigue, and magically restore you.

#1 Singapore Botanic Gardens

Picture via www.sbg.org.sg

Picture via www.sbg.org.sg

The only tropical garden in the world to be named a UNESCO World’s Heritage Site, this 157 year-old garden is home to more than 10,000 species of flora.  I love taking a walk in the Ginger Garden, unwinding at the Swan Lake, joining a workshop at the Botany Centre and enjoying a concert at the Symphony Lake.

Must-Do: Visit the National Orchid Garden, and discover the largest orchid collection in the world with 1,200 species and 2,000 hybrids!  Don’t miss the VIP Orchid Garden, with some 100 orchids named after celebrities, dignitaries and heads of states.  Look out for the Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher orchids.

#2 Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Picture by www.nparks.gov.sg/sbwr

Picture by www.nparks.gov.sg/sbwr

First discovered in 1986 by a group of birdwatchers, this 202-hectare of mangroves, mudflats, ponds and forests are home to diverse wildlife.  I love strolling through the meandering wooden stilts, and spotting crabs, shellfish, herons, kingfishers and sunbirds.  From September to March, you could even catch sight of migratory birds on their way to Australia – some of them have flown all the way from Siberia!

Must-Do: For a deeper appreciation of the wetlands, book a free guided walk in advance to identify flora, as well as birds and other natural inhabitants.  Art enthusiasts may also join an art class and create nature-inspired pieces. 

#3 Jurong Lake

Picture by www.nparks.gov.sg/juronglakegardens

Picture by www.nparks.gov.sg/juronglakegardens

Surrounded by verdant parkland, this freshwater lake and reservoir is an excellent spot for jogging, cycling or water sports.  I personally love coming here for brisk morning or cool evening strolls to decompress and escape the city bustle.

Must-Do: Visit the Chinese Garden. Stroll along the stone bridges, explore the pagodas and rest your feet at the teahouse.  The garden really comes to life during Chinese festivals such as Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival, where children will light up the gardens with whimsical lanterns.

#4 MacRitchie Reservoir Park

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If you love nature, you’ll love this reservoir park.  Its 11km of hiking trail are lined with gorgeous trees, long-tailed monkeys, squirrels and monitor lizards.  Fringed by Singapore’s first reservoir, it’s also a great place for kayaking and canoeing.

Must-do: Take a morning walk with your head above the trees – the Treetop Walk is a 250-metre suspension bridge.  Linking two of the highest points within the nature reserve, it’ll offer you majestic views of the forest.

#5 Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

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A mere 12 kilometres from the Central Business District, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is one of two tropical rainforests in the world located within city limits.  This ASEAN Heritage Park is home 840 species of flowering plants and 500 species of fauna.

Must-Do: Ascend to the summit of the Bukit Timah Hill.  At the height of 163.63 metres, it’s the highest hill in Singapore!  This summit trail is only open on weekends from 7am to 6pm.

#6 East Coast Park

Picture by www.nparks.gov.sg

Picture by www.nparks.gov.sg

50 years ago, East Coast Park didn’t even exist – all 185 hectares of this beach park is built on reclaimed land.  Today, it has become one of the most iconic hangout spots in Singapore, and my personal favourite.  With a cycling track lining 15km of gorgeous coastline, it’s the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors.

Must-Do: Enjoy seafood and local cuisine at East Coast Food Lagoon.  Try the satay (spicy meat skewers), wanton mee (dumpling noodles), sambal stingray and barbequed wings.  Or, rent a pit and enjoy your own outdoor barbeque by the sea.

#7 Southern Ridges

Picture via www.yoursingapore.com

Picture via www.yoursingapore.com

Connecting some of Singapore’s most iconic green sanctuaries – Hort Park, Mount Faber Park, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserves – this 10km trail offers panoramic views of the city and nature.

Must-Do: I love walking along the Henderson Waves, which connects Mount Faber Park to Telok Blangah Hill Park.  At 36 metres height, this wave-like pedestrian bridge is gorgeous when alit at night.

For more cool ideas, speak to your personal assistant at Capella Singapore.

 

The Tet Paul Hike

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November is Health & Wellness Month in St. Lucia and with good reason! The island’s mix of adventure and tranquility provides an unbeatable setting for physical, mental and spiritual health. Here at Capella Marigot Bay, a 24 hour fitness center, yoga classes, spa treatments and an array of nutritious meals ensure that achieving health and wellness is always easy and fun. Even after just a couple of days here, I always feel rejuvenated!

Outdoor activities in such a pristine setting are a cornerstone of health and wellness and in St. Lucia that exists in abundance.  One of my personal favorites is the Tet Paul Nature Trail. The difficulty level is just challenging enough to make it a great cardiovascular activity while still being pleasant!

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Tet Paul is an excellent nature hike as there are plenty of plants, fruits and flowers to observe and learn about. Our guide, Jarod, was quick to point out the amazing tropical plants we were seeing along the way.

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I saw my first ever pineapple plant in person on the Tet Paul hike! We were even able to try some of the fruits that grow in the area while we were there and they were incredibly flavorful as well as nutritious.

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But of course, the main attraction is the view at the top of Tet Paul! Once you reach the end you are rewarded for your hard work with the most glorious view of St. Lucia’s Piton mountains. That alone is worth the trip and while no photo can truly do it justice, I can tell you that you won’t be disappointed.  It also happens to be the perfect spot to “Touch the Top of the Pitons” a social media phenomenon where visitors take photos of themselves touching the top of these iconic Caribbean mountains and share it online!

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I would love to see your “Touch the Top of the Pitons” photos so be sure to tag me @CapellaStLucia on Twitter and Instagram. ‘Til then, Happy Hiking! Even if you aren’t in St. Lucia for Health and Wellness month, I highly recommend treating yourself to some outdoor activities and of course, a great massage. You deserve it!

 

24 Hours: Best-Kept Secrets in Singapore

As you disembark from your plane at Changi Airport, you’ll probably hear plenty about Singapore’s Mandai Zoo, Bird Park, ArtScience Museum and S.E.A. Aquarium.  And indeed, these famous attractions are certainly worth a visit.

That said, Singapore’s not just a nation of pretty theme parks; it is also full of hidden gems for the free-spirited and unconventional traveller.  So if you’re craving a different kind of adventure, allow me to take you off the beaten path to discover some of the best-kept secrets in Singapore.

Morning – Decompress At The Reservoir

Forest Adventure at Bedok Reservoir - https://forestadventure.com.sg

Forest Adventure at Bedok Reservoir – https://forestadventure.com.sg

Singapore’s reservoirs are a picture of serenity at sunrise.  Even before the city stirs, the birds begin their morning song amidst emerald foliage.  The magical light of dawn illuminates the lake with soft colours, and the air is clear and cool.  A few moments at these lush sanctuaries will restore you with a quiet sense of calm.

This scenic spots also offer adventure for solo travellers, adrenaline junkies and families with young children.  Bedok Reservoir Park for instance is a popular spot for dragon boating and kayaking.  It also features a 2.5-hour Forest Adventure with bridges, trapezes, wobbly logs, a Tarzan swing and zip lines across the reservoir.  There is also a Kids Course and Mini Course, if 2.5 hours seems a tad long.  Do keep your eyes out for swallows, herons and kingfishers amidst the 14,000 diverse wetland plants.

Noon – Discover Art Havens

Kondo Akino at Mizuma Gallery

Kondo Akino at Mizuma Gallery

Take refuge from Singapore’s unforgiving mid-day sun at our latest contemporary art cluster. Gillman Barracks is so named because it used to be a military camp.  The charming colonial barracks now houses 11 international art galleries, the NTU Centre of Contemporary Art Singapore and three restaurants.

These galleries feature art from the region and around the world.  I’m currently fascinated by the fantastical, subversive and dystopian worlds depicted by some of the artists at Mizuma Gallery, as well as the well-curated exhibitions at Arndt, Fost Gallery and Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

Late Afternoon – Explore Secret Beaches

Sisters' Island - picture by NParks

Sisters’ Island – picture by NParks

Singapore and Sentosa island are too small to harbour any secret beaches – so rent a yacht, head out to sea and go island hopping.  Pack a picnic, pop some champers and soak in the golden sun rays.  Companies such as Lloyd Marine and White Label Charters offer private yachts of various sizes for rental.

Besides pristine beaches, Kusu Island has a lovely tortoise sanctuary, Sisters’ Island is perfect for snorkelling or hiking, and Pulau Ubin is home to Singapore’s last kampung (a traditional Malay village), as well as a diverse ecosystem of mangroves and corals.

Night – Rendezvous At A Hidden Bar

Operation Dagger

Operation Dagger

There’s something irresistibly sexy about secret bars or speakeasies – perhaps owing to a sense of covert romance.  So if you’ve had enough of rooftop bars, swing by these ‘underground’ establishments instead.

Try Operation Dagger along the hip Ang Siang stretch.  Its name sounds like a Hong Kong spy flick, and you won’t find any signage here – merely a gothic symbol near the door, as well as apothecary-like bottles with indecipherable labels.  Another fun find is Bincho @ Hua Bee (more information via City Nomads here), a nuclear bunker serving Japanese whiskies and cocktails.  Pick a tipple you’ve never tried before, an have an unforgettable evening!

I love discover the many secrets in Singapore!  For more interesting and unusual experiences, speak to your Personal Assistant at Capella Singapore, then share your favourites with me!

A Visit To Pigeon Island National Landmark

With the rainy season almost over, I find myself eager to explore the beaches of Saint Lucia.  The Pigeon Island National Landmark located in Gros Islet, is one of the island’s most important attractions and is as beautiful as it is historically significant.  On my recent visit I had a chance to get to know the park a bit better.

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The Pigeon Island National Landmark or National Park as it is sometimes called, portrays vivid representations of historical and cultural monuments, depicting the battle for control of the island between the English and the French.  This breathtaking, 44 acre park was originally an island in its own right, but was joined to the mainland in 1972 by a man-made causeway.

I did not know that this landmark held so much history and was even more amazed as I walked through this living museum.  I discovered some of the ruins from the war and immediately thought that this would be an excellent location for colonial-style weddings.

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There is an Interpretation Centre that tells you all about the war and how The French in 1778 declared war on the British but then lost.  The battle for The Helen of the West which is sometimes used interchangeably for Saint Lucia continued for fourteen years.  The British built a Naval Base at Gros-Islet Bay, which protected Pigeon Island from being captured.   At that lookout point, they were able to observe the French fleet in Martinique which lead to the defeat of the French at the Battle of the Saints in 1782.  Further into the park, you will find a secluded restaurant at the water’s edge serving locally caught seafood, a hidden pub amongst the ruins and a look out point called The Fort with the best views of the northern part of the island.

I love the white sands of the beaches nearby and the way the grounds are so well maintained.  Many major cultural festivals are held in the opening space including the well known Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival.  I was so happy to have discovered that this relaxing location is only a twenty minute drive from Marigot Bay as I knew I wanted to come back here very soon.

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Would you like to visit the Pigeon Island National Landmark?  Be sure to ask your Capella Marigot Bay Personal Assistant to arrange your special tour to the live museum.   And be sure to stay tuned as I continue to share insider experiences with you about the lovely island of Saint Lucia.  

A Truly Unique Mother’s Day Gift

May is one of my favourite months.  This is because the second Sunday of May is Mother’s Day.  As a new mother, it has become even more meaningful — signifying to me the true beauty of life.  I have learnt to appreciate my own mother a lot more as well. As such, I decided that instead of buying my mother a generic Mother’s Day gift this year, I would do a bit of my own research so that the flowers I buy her will have significance and meaning.

What better place to learn about flowers than the Singapore Botanic Gardens — which was where I headed to last weekend.

Opened in 1859, the Singapore Botanic Garden is home to the National Orchid Garden, which features the largest display of tropical orchids in the world.  As the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid is the national flower of Singapore, I thought it fitting to give my mother a bouquet of orchids for Mother’s Day.  Covering more than 3 hectares of ground with more than 60,000 orchid plants representing 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids, I was sure to find the perfect orchid for my mother.

National Orchid Garden Singapore

When I was there, I found out that many famous people had orchids named after them, such as, Princess Diana, Lady Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela and even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!  Apparently, the National Orchid Garden has named more than 100 VIP orchids.

Orchids named after Princess DianaOrchids named after the late Princess Diana

Orchids named after Margaret ThatcherOrchids named after the late Lady Margaret Thatcher

It was at the National Orchid Garden that I realised that you did not have to be a VIP to name an orchid after someone.  An orchid can be named after your loved one for a fee of anywhere from S$5,000 to S$15,000.  The National Orchid Garden can put you in touch with a local orchid breeder who confer a unique hybrid after the name of your choice.  He will then send the details to the Royal Horticultural Society in London.  How amazing is that?  Who wouldn’t want an orchid named after them?  Don’t you think it is a truly unique Mother’s Day gift?  One that will live on forever.  I might just name one after my mother this Mother’s Day!

For those who are interested in finding out more about naming orchids, please contact your Capella Singapore Personal Assistants at pa.singapore@capellahotels.com / +65 6591 5034.  Alternatively, The Knolls is offering guests the opportunity to create a bouquet of flowers for their mothers during the Mother’s Day Sunday Brunch on 11 May 2014.  Please contact theknolls.singapore@capellahotels.com / +65 6591 5046 to find out more.

The Amazing Beaches Of Zihuatanejo

In my last blog post I shared with you some of my favorite beaches in Ixtapa.  Today I would like to share with you a selection of my favorite beaches in Zihuatanejo.  Both destinations offer beautiful beaches, suitable for any kind of interest or activity you might wish to partake.  I am certain that you will find your favorite!

Zihuatanejo Beaches

ZIHUATANEJO BEACHES

Playa Principal (or Main beach)
Located in downtown Zihuatanejo, this beach is about 400 meters (0.25 miles) long, with many restaurants alongside it.  At the pier you can take a boat to Playa Las Gatas beach, for a fishing trip, and it is where the passengers from luxury cruises arrive for a tour of our cities.  From here I love to admire four other beaches located within our bay (Playa La Madera, Playa La Ropa, Playa Las Gatas and Playa Contramar).

Playa Larga (or Long Beach)
As its name suggests, Playa Larga, is the longest beach in the area with more than 3 km (1.8 miles).  There are restaurants with hammocks that serve fresh seafood and perfect cocktails.  I love jogging here in the morning with my dog, and taking long walks, or just relaxing and enjoying the sounds of the ocean.

Playa Blanca (or White beach)
After Playa Larga you will find Playa Blanca. Here is the renowned “Barra de Potosi” (Potosi’s river mouth), a small fishing villag, which sits on a lagoon that is rich in bird life.  I love visiting for a relaxing day of taking photos at the lagoon.  Read about my trip to Barra de Potosí here.

Playa La Madera (or The Wood beach)
This is the smallest beach within our bay.  It is 300 meters (0.18 miles) long and has very soft waves.  It is ideal for relaxing. I love to spend my time here with family and friends.  Its name originates from colonial times when Spanish trading ships loaded oak, pine and mahogany at this point.

Playa La Ropa (or The Clothes Beach)
Playa La Ropa is probably the most famous and popular beach of Zihuatanejo.  According to local legend, Playa La Ropa got its name when a commercial Spanish galleon, which was returning from the Orient, shipwrecked at the entrance of the bay and its cargo of fine silks and clothing washed ashore.  When snorkeling, pay attention, you might find some of the remains of the galleon (I always bring my goggles!).

Playa Las Gatas (or The Cats Beach)
I love the history of this beach: The legend says that king Purépecha used to come to this beach to relax.  He ordered the construction of an underwater reef, in order to eliminate any waves, so his wives could swim in calm waters and not be bothered by harmless cat sharks, which lived at the bottom of this beach many, many years ago.  Because of this reef, the ocean here seems calm like a lake or a pool.  It is great for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Playa Contramar
While I wouldn’t recommend this beach for lounging, it is a beautiful place to snorkel!  Instead of sand, the beach is made up of surf-polished rocks and not sand.  The coral and rock formations are impressive and there is even a “secret” tunnel!

Whether in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo, there is clearly a beach for everyone.  Be sure to ask your Personal Assistant for help in selecting the perfect beach for your excursion.  And share photos with me on Twitter (@CapellaIxtapa) – I love to see them!