Asia’s Urban Jungles: Close to Nature in the City

Tuesday 19 December 2023
Asia’s Urban Jungles: Close to Nature in the City

Gardens by the Bay (Singapore)

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay combines a stunning variety of plants from all over the world in three waterfront gardens. There’s plenty to explore in this marvel of modern architecture and design, whose fantastical Supertrees are its most distinctive feature—and actually harvest their own solar energy for the nightly light show.

For panoramic views of Marina Bay and the entire Gardens, traverse the OCBC Skyway—a 128m-long walkway hoisted between two Supertrees 22m above the ground—or climb to the top of the Supertree Canopy. There are also wetland walks, heritage gardens, outdoor play areas and more.

See the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at the Cloud Forest. Visit the Flower Dome, which holds the Guiness World Record for the world’s largest glass greenhouse and houses everything from African baobab trees to Mediterranean, Australian and South American flower gardens.

Top tip: Did you know that aside from 1.5 million plants and flowers, Gardens by the Bay also holds 200 works of art from around the globe? Try to spot them all—although we won’t blame you if you don’t!

MacRitchie Reservoir and Treetop Walk (Singapore)

Built in 1868, Singapore’s oldest reservoir is one of its most beloved green oases. Criss-crossed by several bridges as well as walking and running trails that range between 3km to 11km, MacRitchie Reservoir offers no shortage of activities for lovers of the great outdoors.

Explore the Reservoir by kayak or canoe, go forest bathing in the Japanese-inspired bamboo grove, or try your hand at fishing —this is one of the few places in Singapore where freshwater fishing is legal.

Don’t miss the TreeTop Walk, which connects the two highest points in MacRitchie with a freestanding 250m suspension bridge. This takes you 50m above ground for a bird’s eye view of the surrounding forest canopy. Feel the sunshine on your face and soak it all in.

Top tip: The eight-storey Jelutong Tower is also a great vantage point for views over MacRitchie Reservoir.

Kepong Botanical Gardens and Skywalk (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Originally developed as a research and horticulture facility for wild plants and rare flowers, the Kepong Botanical Gardens are a peaceful haven for jogging, cycling, walking and birdwatching—all within 30 minutes’ drive from bustling Kuala Lumpur.

The latest addition to the Gardens is the Forest Skywalk, a network of 8 bridges and 11 towers that offers a pleasant 30 to 40 minute stroll through a tropical rainforest, where macaques and giant squirrels frolic among the treetops.

Top tip: A separate entrance ticket is required to access the Forest Skywalk’s highest point, a 50m tower that rises 141m above sea level. For sweeping views of Kuala Lumpur to the south, we’d say it’s worth it!

Dragon’s Back Hiking Trail (Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong)

Its name might be dramatic and the views cinematic, but Dragon’s Back is considered one of Hong Kong’s more family-friendly, accessible hiking trails. A train to Shau Kei Wan MTR Station and minibus 9 to To Tei Wan gets you to the starting point of your adventure.

Stretching a total of 8,9km, this walk features gentle to moderate inclines along a well-marked path. Discover another side of Hong Kong Island altogether, where the characteristic skyscrapers and jam-packed streets are replaced by emerald green ridges, a curving coastline, and the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Top tip: Hiking on a hot day? Finish off with a dip at surfers’ beach Big Wave Bay—you’ve earned it!

Elephant Mountain (Taipei, Taiwan)

For a breathtaking panorama of Taipei’s skyline, take the train to Xiangshan MRT station and make your way up Elephant Mountain. It’s an easy, but steep 1,9km hike up a well-paved flight of stairs: 500 steps take you to a rocky viewpoint, 600 steps to the top, with lush forest greenery along the way.

You’ll be rewarded with unbeatable views of iconic Taipei 101, the 89-storey skyscraper that was once the world’s tallest building until the completion of the Burj Al-Arab in Dubai in 2022. Refresh yourself with drinks and snacks at one of the nearby cafes for the (far easier) climb down.

Top tip: Skip hiking during the hottest part of the day, and catch a spectacular sunset at the peak instead. Sundown is a popular time, so plan to arrive between 4 to 5 p.m. to beat the crowds. Who says it’s lonely at the top?