Singapore: Green cake and great coffee

Those who know me, know that I like coffee. So, often when travelling I end up drinking green tea as it can be really hard finding a decent coffee, and Singapore can be like that. But on this trip I think I’ve found one of the best coffees to be had there, in the unlikely arena of Suntec City mall. Just head for Starbuck’s, because right behind it is a coffee and cake place called Cedele’s. This is a local Singapore chain that now has more than 30 outlets in Singapore alone. Their recipe for success? Really nice organic coffee from beans to cup brewed by well-trained baristas – that, and cake.

Cedele’s is primarily an artisan bakery that makes amazing cakes – many of them covered with a rich dark unsweetened chocolate. And one cake in particular caught my eye, in more ways than one. It gets a good tick for having that chocolate coating, but inside is a deep olive green colour. My first thought was that this was a triumph of chemistry over nature, but I checked out the description. It turns out that the green colour comes from green tea with no food dye in sight. I just had to try it. Called a Chocolate Matcha cake, it is coated in a chocolate fudge made from 70% cocoa chocolate, with layers of butter cake flavoured with green tea. It is well worth a try.

[I have no affiliation with nor received any financial benefit from this review or any companies mentioned therein].

Singapore: Gardens by the Bay

What are those weird unearthly tree-like structures that comprise the Gardens by the Bay? We often think of Singapore as a giant shopping mall, but it is of course much more than that.

With a spectacular view from the 61st floor of our hotel — itself a marvel of engineering — it struck me just how much has been achieved in this small island state over an extraordinarily brief period. The Singapore of 30 years ago has long been eclipsed by the 21st century version. And the iconic Gardens By The Bay is a great example of this.

Beneath the towering ‘supertrees’ you step into a giant organic-looking glass dome and breathe cool air amid the overwhelming sound of a giant waterfall. You look up along the vertical garden covered with orchids and ferns and mosses to see that yes, there is indeed a waterfall falling 16 storeys (35 metres/115feet).

The whole park is laid out to symbolise the entire ecosystem that is Singapore itself, flowering like a giant orchid — Singapore’s emblem. The metaphors doesn’t end there. It takes root at the waterfront, while the ‘leaves’ (landforms), shoots (paths roads and aerial link ways) and secondary roots (water, energy and communication lines) form man integrated network with blooms (the theme gardens and supertrees) at key intersections. All this represents part of Singapore’s government-led strategy to transform Singapore from a ‘garden city’ to a ‘city in a garden’.

And so to the super-trees themselves. These are designed to represent a rainforest canopy, but one that actually functions like a rainforest ecosystem as part of a sustainable and integrated life cycle. The domes are covered in special glass that filters the light selectively to keep the heat down while letting light in for the plants. Chilled water pipes are cast within the floor to cool the ground so that cold air can settle and provide a climate for temperate plants, while the warm air rises and is vented out through the super tree canopies. The supertrees have solar panels to collect energy to power the spectacular nightly light show, and the horticultural waste is burned in biomass generators to generate power for the chillers and the rest of the systems. In addition, the supertrees collect water from the humid outside air to be stored in huge rainwater tanks that form the superstructure, and their exteriors are planted with over 162,000 plants

In Brief
area: 101 hectares/250 acres
plants: over 1 million, covering 5000 species from 5 continents
time to see: allow 1.5-3 hours
admission: Adults SN$28, Children 3-12 SN$15
waterfall
: 35metres/115 feet — world’s highest indoor waterfall
opened: 2012
architects: English designers Grant Associates and Dominic White. According to Wikipedia, Alongside the lead designers Grant Associates, the design team for Bay South included WilkinsonEyre, Atelier Ten (environmental design consultants) and Atelier One (structural engineers). They were supported by a number of Singapore firms including CPG Consultants (architecture, civil and structural, mechanical and electrical), Meinhardt Infrastructure (civil and structural), Langdon & Seah (cost consultants) and PMLink (project management).

So what I am coming to realise is that Singapore is not (just) a consumer’s paradise of air-conditioned shopping malls — though it has those in abundance — but if you look a bit closer, you will find great natural beauty and places of tranquility amid the bustle of a world-class city. [Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the companies or attractions listed here and have received no financial benefit from them.]

Singapore’s Colourful markets

You can taste the air, thickly laden with moisture and heat and frangipani, as soon as you step off the plane in Singapore’s Changi airport. It was quite a contrast with the minus 3C we experienced flying out of Canberra’s Winter chill.

Orchids

Singapore is ideally placed to be a global market situated at the cross-roads of the Malacca Straits. Something like 80 percent of the world’s trade passes this spot, making it the ultimate strategic location for trade.

Here you can choose to shop for major brands in air conditioned hyper-malls – in which the act of shopping as entertainment becomes an experience in its own right. But while you could literally spend days in the malls, you would be getting only part of the experience of Singapore.

Marina Bay Sands

Time to venture into the local markets where in many ways you meet the ‘real’ Singapore.

Market stall Singapore

It is hot and humid, and the air in places smells of fish, algae and durian fruit. Durian fruit is an experience all by itself. You encounter it first as a cloying sweet rotting smell, as though some small furry animal had died in a vat of custard – no wonder it is not allowed on buses, planes or inside hotels!

But it is surprising how quickly you become accustomed to it and the smell is soon part of the background, mixed with orchids and jasmine and frangipani and exotic spices.

Rambutan

It is here you begin to see the the true richness of the markets – amazing foods; wonderful flower stalls; and exotic fruits lusciously presented in stacks on the market stalls.

Flower seller

Picture dragon fruit and star fruit and fresh coconuts alongside oranges and tomatoes and many varieties of bananas (not just the plain Cavendish ones we see in supermarkets!).

Dragon fruit

This is where Singapore comes alive for you. Why not strike a bargain for some fresh produce, or just soak up the atmosphere with a friendly smile. Venture out, eat where the locals eat, and encounter the true richness and diversity that Singapore has to offer.

Fish seller