If you have been to the Gardens by the Bay (here), then you might had been awed. Because in the evenings there is a light show. And it is indeed spectacular seeing the tall metallic trees turn up a kaleidoscope of colors in the night. And if you are in the Orchard road area, a short walk will bring you to the UNESCO heritage Botanic gardens. You know they commission breeds of orchids for dignitaries there right?
But far out in the western side of Singapore, in the midst of what we call the “heartlands” are the Chinese and Japanese gardens.
Free to access, the gardens are easily accessible by public transport. The most obvious would be to come by the MRT (Chinese Garden EW25) and take a short walk over, can’t miss the pathway. Alternatively, stroll over from the lakeside gardens on the white rainbow bridge. It comes over from the gardens closer to Lakeside MRT (EW26). The view will be of the water as you come over from this side.
We recommend you come for an early morning walk, because it can get really hot and humid anytime after 10am. Perhaps consider the late evening instead if you’re not a morning person. And at times such as the mid autumn (“moon cake”) festival, the gardens would be adorned too.
The Chinese Garden
Now we cannot profess to tell you how to go about the gardens and the map above will serve to guide you to what you can see and do. Being early in the morning means you can see the sun rise over Jurong lake which also serves as a water catchment area / reservoir. Our recommendations are the following.
Climb to the top of the 7-storey pagoda. No lifts here! LOL. But when you get to the top, the views are well worth it. We recommend this as a start because it helps you get a sense of direction and where you want to head next. Can you see the zoom of the tea pavilion set in a little pond? There’s a stone boat there too, replicating the one in Beijing’s summer palace which Empress Cixi would have been proud.
If one walks around the water’s edge, one will come across the twin pagodas.
Overlooking the western side of Jurong lake, it is very near the rainbow bridge. So far, so good. Now every morning especially on the weekends, you will find throngs of people out in full force jogging, walking their dog etc (oh we exaggerate). And there will be the usual group exercises where folks practice Taiji or Qigong. Why not sit down on the many lawn areas and watch the proceedings? It’s a wonderful way to take a well deserved rest after the run, jog or walk!
In the middle of the Chinese garden is a Bonsai exhibition area. Opened only from 9am every day, come here to see the little miniatures lovingly and painstakingly manicured by the local gardeners every morning. This is a garden within a garden and the miniatures are really exquisite. We promise you that.
And how can you not explore the prosperity garden?
Just a short walk further from the Bonsai enclosure, you will find stone benches held up by two sentinels – one of each side. Notice the sentinels are the animals of the 12 zodiac signs of China!
Now you might notice that the Chinese garden is larger and its scale of structures too. Not so at the,
The Japanese garden on the other hand has a gentler layout with more green spaces. It is smaller too as we mentioned but that does not mean it is less vibrant. And a beautiful bridge links it with the Chinese garden too.
A Torii gate welcomes you and leads to a pond filled with lilies and lotus, and the occasional heron stalking its prey. And speaking about herons, did you know the gardens are a sanctuary for these nesting birds? You can hear them as they greet each other when they fly ‘home’ to their tree nest high up. Folks with good optical zoom cameras should have a field day! Come to think about it, it seems the herons are all here! Probably because there are more water bodies within the Japanese garden compared to the Chinese one.
We definitely found the small connecting bridges here beautiful indeed and we are sure you will too. Especially when they are over ponds filled to the brim with lotus!
Enjoy the gardens. As we mentioned, it is free. They definitely offer a fresh perspective from both local culture and how daily lives are lived in our little red dot.