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10/12 Sunday 10:12PM

a walk in the park

image . BOSQUEDE CHAPULTEPEC, Mexico . www.imagenesaereasdemexico.com .

text . Pauline Chan .

Every bustling city could do with a patch of green no matter how small.  Cities packed with concrete structures and landscape can provide a respite for its residents from the hustle and bustle of modern city living by designating a plot of green where nature can thrive and man can rejuvenate. Parks are essential to recreation, relaxation and recuperation.  When parks are created in residential areas, within hospital grounds or in the heart of a business district, they don't just enhance the surroundings, they provide a space for quiet contemplation, exercise, recreation and even bring on a greater sense of well-being simply by standing in an area with better-quality air.  Many countries around the world have parks built within their major city centres and we have picked out a dozen parks/ gardens that we admire with our hearts and lungs. This week we feature six of them with unspeakable envy and deep longing to see a similar development downtown.

BOSQUEDE CHAPULTEPEC, Mexico - This is a massive park covering 2,100 acres of ancient forest which has been a sacred place for both the Aztec and Mexican people, making it the largest park in Mexico with several lakes and caves, and here's the beauty, the park is in the city. It is a lively place with fabulous museums, hiking paths, open-air concerts and the old fashion park attraction - balloon vendors.

 image . www.chapultepec.org.mx

The park is divided into three sections. The first section houses most of the museums and sights and hence is the busiest. At the top of the hill is Chapultepec Castle, which houses the National Museum of History, and within the park's bounds you will also find the Tamayo Contemporary Art Museum, Mexico's Natural History Museum, a zoo and Mexico's most famous museum - the National Museum of Anthropology.

This huge museum has 23 halls and covers a distance of five kilometres. It holds Mexico's most impressive archaeological and ethnographic treasures. The second section is packed with children attractions and has lovely fountains and statues.  The third section features the water parks, Atlantis - which shows performances by dolphins and sea lions - and La Ola, a waterslide centre.


CITY PARK, Hungary - This park sitting in the centre of Budapest used to be a swamp which was a favourite hunting ground of noblemen.  Sometime during the 18th and 19th centuries, the swamp was transformed into an English-style park so that the public had a place to go to for relaxation and entertainment. The Hungarians call it the Városliget and it is the largest park in Budapest. The park is old but beautiful and it holds several attractions on its premises that include The Museum of Fine Arts, The Vajdahunyad Castle with its gothic portcullis which houses the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture, Széchenyi Baths, which is a very large spa, The Time Wheel, The Aviation Museum of Budapest, The Municipal Zoological and Botanical Garden and the Budapest Amusement Park.

images . www.budapest-tourist-guide.com

The park's main entrance is just off Heroes Square, and the best way to explore the park is to take a walk from one end (Vajdahunyad Castle) to the other end (the zoo). The lake is great for rowing in the summer while perfect for ice-skating when it freezes over.  The City Park is not just for relaxation, there are entertainment places for the young.  The Grand Circus is the only permanent circus in Central Europe staging circus performances, sports events, concerts, operettas and dances.

images . www.budapest-tourist-guide.com

PARQUE SEMINARIO 'The Iguana Park', Ecuador - This park in Guayaquil is a hangout for giant green iguanas with their spiky back. It's not for the reptilian-averse average park-goer expecting an average park setting with pretty birds, squirrels and butterflies.  Instead, it is a brush with nature - Galapagos style.

image . Roger Bymolt .

Huge iguanas roam freely, some lounging in the sun, some perching on trees, some mingling with pigeons, some benching with humans, it is an unusual sight for first-time visitors.  Iguana Park is in the middle of downtown Guayaquil, a few blocks from the Malecon 2000 and it is over 120 years old. There is a little pond filled with turtles and fish, looked on by a statue of Simon Bolivar, who was a Venezuelan military and political leader who liberated Latin America from the Spanish Empire.  During his lifetime, he led Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia to independence and helped lay the foundation for democratic ideology in much of Latin America. During your visit, you can also take a peek inside a large cathedral opposite one side of the park. It will be an unusual experience to walk among the lizards but the locals don't mind them and they are treated no differently from any other normal park creatures.

image . Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador / Freddy Rivadeneira Lascano .

BUTCHART GARDENS, Canada - In 1988, Robert Butchart began a cement business and later relocated to West Coast of Canada to tap the rich limestone deposits necessary for cement production where he settle his family in Greater Victoria on Vancouver Island. As he exhausted the limestone in the quarry near his house, his wife Jennie came up with an idea to use this pit for a garden. This blossomed into the famed Sunken Garden. Soon, the garden expanded with a Japanese Garden, an Italian Garden, Rose Garden and a pond that nurtured ornamental birds from all over the world.

images . The Butchart Gardens Photo Gallery .

The gardens are now a National Historic Site of Canada, but still privately owned by family descendants and visited by more than a million people a year. The Butchart Gardens offers 55 acres of beautiful floral display. The family's commitment to horticulture and hospitality continues to this day.  There is an entrance fee to this garden that vary according to the seasons, with the cheapest in winter (Can$16.35) and the dearest in summer (Can$29.60) for adults, children pay considerably less.  However, according to reviews on the TripAdvisor, many reviewers had no regret forking out the fee after they entered the gardens.  The place is a feast for the eyes and a treat for the nose.  Every season presents a different stage to tantalise the senses and flaunt the brilliance of Mother Nature.

images . The Butchart Gardens Photo Gallery .

CENTRAL PARK, New York - This is probably the most famous park in the United States and is visited by 25 million people a year. Central Park is 843 acres and features an abundance of attractions including 2 ice-rinks, 2 restaurants, a public swimming pool, carousel, tennis courts, baseball fields, educational facilities, performance centres, all  nestled in the sprawling grounds overlooked by the Empire State Building. There is a world-famous zoo here - the Central Park Zoo and Wildlife Centre, featured in the animated movie, Madagascar - which is home to over 1,400 animals.

image . Philip Chan .

Central Park is also home to one of the three ‘Cleopatra’s Needle’ obelisks, the oldest public monument in North America, which was built in 1450 BC and erected in New York City in 1880. The other two obelisks are in Paris and London.  There are also sculptures of characters from the book 'Alice in Wonderland' like the Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit.  Central Park is wholly man-made but it is designed such that natural elements such as lakes, hills, forests seamlessly blend in with the formal gardens and vast lawns. Tourists can get a map to explore this place - it is so big that you might need a couple of days to walk through and see the whole area - and the things you can do there are endless. You can do it all or just relax and watch the day go by, or watch people play instruments and sing, kids feed squirrels, or perhaps take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage or just ride a horse. Meals can be savoured within the park at the restaurants or the multitude of vending carts.

images . Philip Chan .

SINGAPORE BOTANICAL GARDENS, Singapore - The botanical garden is more than just a place for joggers, strollers and tourists. It is an important institution for botanical research, conservation and education. It is the foundation of Singapore's Garden City initiative and a multi-million dollar orchid industry. In the late 1920's, laboratories were set up in the garden to conduct experiments in orchid breeding and hybridisation, resulting in orchid hybrids that are celebrated around the world. Today, the 3-hectares National Orchid Garden is a major tourist attraction. From the mid-1960's, the garden became the source of plants and plant material used in urban landscaping and recreational areas on the island, playing a major role in the greening of Singapore.


To mark the 150th Anniversary of the Singapore Botanical Gardens, an additional 9.8 hectares of parkland will be added in 2012 bringing the total area of the Gardens to about 74 hectares.  Visitors can look forward to new attractions such as The Learning Forest, Marshland and additional amenities. The garden is very popular with both the locals and expatriates.  Sometimes, one can catch wedding couples in the gardens posing for their wedding album with the beautiful landscape for their backdrop.  It is usually quite busy in the evenings when the tropical sun is at its mildest.

Volunteers can support the park by taking up various jobs in the park. There is a sheltered stage and the park regularly hosts performances early in the evening, visitors can bring a picnic basket and sit on the grass for an outdoor concert.  There are several entry points and it is easily accessible by trains and public buses. The grounds are open from 5 a.m to midnight and it is well-lit. Admission is free except for entry to the National Orchid Garden. 

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