Notes on Singapore

I've spent the last week or so in Singapore. It was a work trip, but I feel like I've learned a lot and not just about the project I was here for.

First impressions permalink

The first thing I noticed leaving the airport was how big the road were (American highway size) and how expensive most of the cars were. That changed as we got closer to the city center. It was then I started noticing the trucks carrying construction workers, all of whom seemed to be glued to their phones.

I knew almost nothing about Singapore when I arrived, but. Almost immediatly, I got a sense of it being a melting pot. Even before talking with people who live here, it's clear that this is made up of people who have come from all over.

So many trees permalink

After getting to the airbnb and getting some sleep, we left the next morning to get to go run the workshops. Being a massive tree geek, I couldn't help but notice that we passed at least 20 to 30 different species of tree from the airbnb to our nearest MRT station. I wasn't able to identify one of them.

In front of the airbnb, there were trees whose leaves looked like magnolias from back in Texas, but the flowers were something else entirely. After a bit of internet research, it turns out these trees are actually frangipani.

At the corner at the top of the street was another amazing tree, so tall that I couldn't really get a good look at its leaves. I'm pretty sure now that this was an Angsana tree, after stumbling onto a photo of one at the Singapore, Very Old Tree exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore.

The other trees that stuck out were the Banyan trees with their amazing aerial roots. I saw these in a number of places, but the enormous trees in Fort Collins Park were the most impressive. They must have been supporting at least a dozen species of ferns a epiphytes in their branches.

Encountering so many trees that I don't know makes me feel both axious and excited. The anxiety comes from feeling out of place because I don't have the reassuring presence of trees that I know well around me. But the excitement comes from getting to know so many new trees. And apparently, there are a lot of trees in Singapore:

The National Parks Board estimates about 1.4 million trees are planted throughout Singapore – the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve alone is home to more species of trees than the entire North American continent!

Paying a visit to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve alone would be a reason for visiting Singapore again! I didn't get a chance to see the Jungle, spending most of my time in the city. It's something I'd desperately like to see.

And the birds

Much like the trees, there are many birds, none of which I know. on sight.

The first morning I was here, I woke to the impressively loud call of the Asian keol. Much like the sound of a kookaburra in Sydney, the keol lets you know that although you are in a city, you a walking through a place that was once wild and very, very different.

On the walk to the SMRT station on that first day, I also spotted a raptor of some sort landing about 10 stories up. I still don't know what it is. My best guess from a quick glimpse of its underside was a Japanese Sparrowhawk.

When we got to the offices where we'd be running some workshops, I was surprised to see the one bird I was able to positively identify. Hopping along the ground was a myna bird. I only knew this because my Mom used to tell me stories about a mynah bird she worked with when she was a secretary for a linguistics professor. The bird I saw was a Javan myna, an introduced species which is apparently the most common bird in Singapore.

Finally, in Fort Collins Park, we saw a number of red junglefowl. We initially spotted one foraging in the Artisan's garden. Initially we had trouble identifying it because the bird app I was using showed the male by default. After seeing several more, and realising how much like chickens they behaved, identification was a lot easier.

I've seen and heard so many other birds while I've been here that I haven't been able to identify. From a sign in the National Museum of Singapore, it seems that you could dedicate a few lifetimes to getting to know the plants and animals of Singapore:

Singapore prides itself on being a city in a garden — a city nestled in greenerly , with clean waterways and more than 40,000 species of plants and animals.

Again, another good reason for trying to find my way back to Singapore.

The food

Well, the food. My work colleague is very much the foodie, and our second night we made our way to the Old Airport Hawker Market...

(more to come... need to get some rest... will finish this post when I'm back!)

Queries permalink

  • How many species of tree are native to Singapore?
  • How many trees species of trees have been planted as a part of Singapore's tree planing programme?
  • How were the tress that are planted throughout Singapore selected?