North and West
The northern and western parts of Singapore are less populated and less developed than the southern and eastern zones. The south and east are home to more than half the island's population and it is here that you'll find most of the most popular of Singapore's attractions and sights.
Singapore's western region consists mainly of Jurong and Tuas. The area is home to deep forests, and is also the site of much of Singapore's heavy industry. In fact many multi-national corporations have set up plants here, including Exxon, Pfizer and Tyco. Tuas is also well known as the centre of Singapore’s marine engineering and shipyards. The presence of all this industry doesn't mean you should leave the area out of your island exploration plans, though. In fact, it's right here that you'll find quite a few points of interest, not to be missed.
For starters, there are the Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden, overlooking Jurong Lake. During the Mid-Autumn Festival or Chinese New Year, the Chinese Garden is decorated in traditional oriental fashion, with thousands of lanterns, moving figures and light displays telling traditional Chinese stories. Even during non-festive times, the beautiful gardens are definitely worth a stroll, and provide a restful contrast to the fast-paced city life of the south. Both gardens are on extensive grounds – you could easily spend an entire day exploring, with visits to the Peking-style bridge, quiet courtyards, the fish pond, tea house and beautiful twin pagodas.
A few kilometres away is the Jurong Bird Park – the largest in the world, spanning 20.2 hectares. The park is a Singapore landmark, and home to 5,000 birds, of 380 different species. For those who aren’t keen to walk the entire distance, there is a monorail that stretches across the entire park. Watch for show times to catch each day’s entertainment highlights – delights for children and adults alike.
At the island’s north-western tip, you’ll find the beautiful Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, with its stately mangroves and rich mix of rare fauna and flora. Chances are high that you will encounter huge water monitors, lizard like creates that are harmless if you admire them from a certain distance. Looking out over Kranji Reservoir, visitors can also see the southern-most part of Malaysia. The area is well known among nature photographers – they come here in the early mornings and late afternoons for spectacular animal and nature shoots. Be prepared, though – the area is not easily accessible by public transport. The nearest bus stop is quite some distance away, so we suggest taking a taxi. The little restaurant near the reception area closed down recently and with no other options around we suggest to pack enough water and maybe a snack.
The island’s northern sector is generally referred to as Woodlands and Mandai. Like the west, this region appeals primarily to nature lovers. One of the major highlights here is the Singapore Zoo and the recently completed River Safari. The Zoo along covers over 28 hectares housing more than 2,500 animals, from 315 species – of which 36% are in danger of extinction. One of the world’s premier zoos, an excursion through its lush greenery and visits to its fantastic shows, huge water playground and inviting eateries make for an experience you’ll never forget.
If you find walking in Singapore’s hot and humid climate an uncomfortable proposition, but still want to get close to the zoo’s animal inhabitants, the Night Safari may be the perfect answer. This 40-hectare park is the first of its kind in the world. Visitors can observe some 1,000 nocturnal creatures, from 115 different species. It’s a wonderous adventure for children, especially if you board the train for a rustic ride through the thick jungle, stopping at several stations along the way, to explore in greater detail.
The parks are open from 7:30 pm to midnight, making them terrific spots for a fascinating after-dinner walk. There are also several theme restaurants close by their entrance areas. Be sure to ask about the Park Hopper packages, which offer admission to the Singapore Zoo, the River Safari, the Jurong Bird Park and the Night Safari, all for one special price.
Yet another intriguing northern site is the Kranji Turf Club, where horse races are held on weekends, public holidays and selected Friday nights. Please note that, as with all gambling establishments, only adults above the age of 18 will be admitted.
Singapore’s northern and western regions offer their own unique perspectives, perfect for family outings and close encounters with nature’s wonders.
Images: Courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Zoo
Photographers: Battery Chen, Ryan Billy Agosto, Teng Kok Soon