SECRET GARDEN, 1 UTAMA (can you keep a secret?)

There is a Chinese idiom called “Shi Wai Tao Yuan” (世外桃源 ), which literally means “an out of the world land of peach blossoms”. The idiom was derived from a beautiful story written by Tao Yuan Ming, a famous Chinese writer in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420). A fisherman unexpectedly discovered a secretive village isolated from the outside world during one of his usual fishing expeditions. When his fishing boat squeezed through the narrow stream of river, he was immediately captivated by the overflowing sweet aroma bursting from the bright pink peaches and the picturesque scene of serenity and calmness. The inhabitants of this secretive land lived peacefully and in contentment. They were descendants of refugees that had fled from the turbulence during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.), and since then, had no knowledge of any turmoil of war, exploitation or oppression which were prevalence at the time in China. The people, understandably, had no desire to be reconnected with the cruel and depressing world beyond the village. Before the fisherman left to rejoin his counterparts, the villagers pleaded with him and made him vowed not to disclose to others the location of the village, lest their peaceful life be destroyed forever. The fisherman left the village, but was unable to restrain himself from sharing with the people about this wonderful out of the world paradise. The curious people commenced voyages to seek for this idyllic world, yet the place (fortunately) was never to be found again. Today, the idiom “Shi Wai Tao Yuan” symbolizes a haven of peace and happiness, an ideal world without pain or suffering.

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I am proud to say that I shared a similar amazing experience as the lucky fisherman in discovering my own little Shi Wai Tao Yuan. I was in the midst of my usual shopping expedition in the gargantuan 1 Utama shopping mall when I discovered this inconspicuous sign of “Secret Garden- Upper Roof” quietly hiding at a corner of the colossal seven-storey building right before a particular elevator. I did not move up to the Upper Roof immediately on that day, as my kiasu-ness (the fear of missing out) reminded me that there were still plenty of serious shopping tasks which had yet to be completed. But the mesmerizing word “secret” was like a powerful magic potion that kept me enchanted, and I knew that one day I would embark on an adventurous excursion to explore this mysterious hideout space.

So on a Saturday afternoon, I successfully squeezed through the throng of eager shoppers and found that special access elevator that brought me all the way up to this surreptitious garden. The feeling of first setting my gaze at this oasis of green was surreal and hypnotizing. The clock seemed to have stopped running at that very moment. The intended 20 minutes exploration turned out to be an extended 95 minutes of lingering at the beautiful lush green paradise abounding with rare tropical and temperate plants of 500 species spanning across a land of 30,000 sq ft, until the downpour of rain forced me to retreat back to reality.

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No words (nor my mediocre photography skills) can do justice to this charming garden. I am no botanist nor would I call myself an avid nature lover, yet for once, I am glad that this Shi Wai Tao Yuan will not disappear overnight and a second journey to this impressive garden is, by all means, possible.

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Useful Information

Free Admission. Open Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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