World heritage wonders in South-East Asia

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2. Singapore Botanic Gardens

singapore-botanicDespite its reputation as a ‘Garden City’, urban Singapore isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you think rare flora. Which makes swapping its hotbox streets and hawker malls for the cool, bucolic quiet of its 157-year-old Singapore Botanic Gardens one of the city’s great pleasures.

Inscribed in 2015, it was just the third botanic garden to be listed by UNESCO (after Kew and Italy’s Padua). The site also has roots deep in Singapore’s colonial past, and once nurtured the seeds that would go on to form the great 19th-century rubber plantations of Malaysia, shaping whole swathes of South-East Asia. These days, though, it’s the early-rising, free-to-enter green lung of the city.

Perambulate the grounds north to south, passing red-faced joggers and limber tai chi students, and cover 2.5km of primary rainforest and parkland. Spot sea eagles, waders and Malayan giant frogs, then strain up the hill to the National Orchid Garden: a sweeping enclosure containing some 60,000 plants. Keep your nostrils primed for its Papilionanda Mimi Palmer orchid – it smells a bit like chocolate.

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