Mandai Orchid Garden Hot
The highlight of this privately owned orchid garden, established in 1951, is the stunning view of an orchid-filled hillside. Over 200 varieties, including the national flower Vanda Miss Joachim, are cultivated here, and its gift-wrapped orchids are cheaper than in the city centre. But it’s probably only worth a trip if you’re a keen horticulturist or also visiting nearby Singapore Zoo.
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Of orchids, family and newfound friendships
I first visited the Mandai Orchid Garden on a primary school excursion. Truth be told, I didn't have a very lasting impression of the place, other than squeezing through a few narrow lanes lined with potted plants and the exceptionally hot weather.
Little did I expect that a few years down the road, with my grandmother and mother's newfound interest in gardening and orchids, the garden would become a regular annual destination for my family and a place that I would hold fond memories of.
Apart from the diverse range of orchids and serene natural surroundings, which always made for a most eye-opening leisurely stroll in the evening, and the relatively more affordable prices, the one factor that brought us back to the place was definitely the people. While I remember being initially intimidated by the mostly tall and well-built gardeners (most of whom were foreigners whose accent always made it a challenge communicating with them), their radiant smiles and uncompromising helpfulness in assisting us in selecting, packaging and transporting the orchids selected by my mother and grandmother soon broke the ice, and I soon found myself holding a great respect for their tireless labour in some of the seemingly most mundane tasks.
Though my mother's and grandmother's reduced mobility of late has saw us visiting the gardens a lot less, we would occasionally recall the place, the people and our little experiences there as a family and it never fails to bring smiles to our faces. While the place is indeed a bit out of the way and may not appeal to those who have limited interest in botany, it would certainly be a gardening hobbyist's haven and a great place to get a good pot of orchids if you happen to be around the area.
The title says it all: Boring. Since I'm not interested in flowers, it was probably a bad idea for me to go there to begin with, but I somehow managed to get roped into being a student volunteer following a group of children on an educational trip. Let me tell you, bringing a group of kids to a place where there's nothing except a garden of expensive bred orchids? Bad idea. It's like unleashing a bull into a china shop. The children were bored (Heck, I was bored, the TEACHERS were bored) and started to complain and get rowdy. The guide who went along with us looked like he was going to get a nervous breakdown for fear of the orchids getting destroyed by the kids.
Though there was a wide variety of orchids, some stunningly beautiful (and with weird names), there is still a limit to how long one's interest can be held by flowers, which do not exactly interact, in case anyone hasn't noticed. Pictures can be taken, but touching of the orchids was forbidden. I can't help but wonder, "Since that's the case, why not just go on the Internet and look at all the orchids I want?"