Southeast Asia: Fit for a King
We follow in their footsteps of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as they visit Southeast Asia.
The world’s eyes have finally shifted from London, only to move to Southeast Asia, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have headed as part of their Diamond Jubilee tour. First stop for the couple was Singapore, where, after jetting into Changi International Airport, they toured the Singapore Botanic Gardens and had an orchid named after them.
Regular visitors to this 183-acre park might not have a flower christened in their honour, but they will find plenty worth seeing. The gardens were founded in 1859, and the main attraction is the National Orchid Garden, where you’ll find more than 1,000 species, as well as 2,000 hybrids. There’s also a small tropical rainforest, along with a healing garden, home to more than 400 varieties of medicinal plant.
The couple followed this up with a state dinner at the Istana, the president of Singapore’s official residence. While again, as an ordinary citizen, you might struggle to gain entry to the palace itself, the Istana opens its grounds to visitors on five days of the year, in January, May, August and November. Not all of the estate is accessible during this time, but you will see pretty ponds, woodland and nutmeg trees, together with vast, manicured lawns. You’ll also get a close-up view of the Istana’s neo-Palladian architecture.
The royals then visited another horticultural sanctuary in the heart of the city, this time the Gardens by the Bay. The highlights here include a collection of futuristic ‘supertrees’ – tree-like structures that mimic the ecological function of trees, and reach some 50 metres in height. There’s also a 35-metre artificial mountain, covered in lush vegetation.
The next stop on the couple’s tour was the Rolls-Royce factory in Seletar, 20 kilometres northeast of the city. Seletar feels a world away from Singapore’s skyscrapers. Its streets are lined with British colonial houses, while the surrounding countryside is dotted with flower and tropical-fish farms (Singapore is one of the world’s biggest exporters of tropical fish.)
From here, William and Catherine flew to Kuala Lumpur, their second Southeast Asian destination of choice. While the royal couple are spending much of their time here visiting dignitaries and hospices, KL – as those who’ve spent time here can vouch – is one of the region’s most fascinating cities. Everybody planning a trip to this part of the world should include it on their itinerary.
Must-sees include the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which were, until 2004, the tallest buildings in the world. These may have been usurped by Taiwan’s Taipei 101 and, more recently, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, but they’re still enough to make you gasp, particularly when lit up at night. Head to the observation deck on level 86 and you’ll see what the city looks like from 360 metres.
After that, you can hit the boutiques – KL is one of Asia’s best shopping destinations. Bukit Bintang is the city’s premier retail district, home to both glitzy malls and colourful street markets. Try the Pavilion, where you’ll find more than 450 outlets, including the likes of Gucci, Prada and Celine. If you’d prefer to hunt down a bargain, Petaling Street in Chinatown is the place to do it.
No doubt the Duke and Duchess will be enjoying the city’s fine Malaysian cuisine, its world-class architecture and perhaps even its cutting-edge nightlife while they’re here. And the good news? All three are accessible to everyone who comes.