Just alongside Singapore's central business district there is an oasis filled with flowering trees, green ferns and wafting palms with prodigious leaves. This is the Cloud Forest glasshouse, one of three recently opened public gardens that overlook the glistening Marina Bay. Home to some 130,000 plants found in cooler regions all around the world, its cool, moist conditions are a welcome respite from the arid air – replicating a climate typically 1,000 to 3,500 feet above sea level.
Singaporean streets are increasingly lined with greenery to shelter residents and grateful tourists from the sweltering tropics. If you’ve spotted the verdant bushes and plump boughs draping over office blocks and street corners, it’s all thanks to the efforts of landscaping policies from the local government. Little wonder that the orchid is the national emblem for this garden city of Asia.
Each of the spectacular botanical houses is a showpiece in modern architecture and design. Taking horticulture to dizzying new heights are the garden's 'supertrees': a grove of giant, vertical gardens encircled with exotic ferns, vines and bromeliads that are truly breath-taking when lit up at night. And if you want to understand the multicultural heritage of Singapore, stroll through the colonial-themed heritage gardens, with homages to Indian, Malay and Chinese culture.
(A visit to the Gardens by the Bay will cost $20 for adults and $12 for children, outdoor gardens open 5am – 2am, conservatories 9am – 9pm)
Tiong Bahru is Singapore's oldest hipster suburb, with heritage dating right back to the 30's art deco buildings that line its streets. True to its name (Tiong is Hokkien for tombs and bahru is Malay for new) the area has recently been reborn to cater for its trendy residents with artisanal coffee shops, slick design studios and concept eateries.
Key to the re-imagination of the area is serial entrepreneur Cynthia Chua, brainchild of grooming chains The Strip and Browhaus. Her newly opened 40 Hands café is an Australian style coffee joint, selling Fairtrade beans, freshly made sandwiches and squeezed juices.
If you don't fancy a latte, the Tiong Bahru food market on Seng Poh Road is regarded as one of the finest in Singapore. In a city where hawker centres are held in high esteem that's no small boast. Nibble on char siew pau pork buns at Tiong Bahru Pau and shark meat fritters with sticky sauce at 178 Lor Mee. The respected local food guide Makansutra bestowed its "divine" rating on the Hokkein Prawn Noodles stall, as well as Chwee Kueh and Jian Bo Shui Kueh stalls, both of which serve excellent rice cakes.