Gardens By The Bay

Today we spent a lot of time visiting the amazing Gardens by the Bay, an incredible 101 hectare botanical garden on Marina Bay.  Please note, this is not the Botanical Gardens of Singapore which have been around for a long while.  These are a new and separate billion dollar development which aims to be part of a drive to turn Singapore into a city within a garden, rather than a garden city.   The outdoor gardens, divided into different areas with different themes are a triumph in themselves, but the main glory, at least currently, are the two enormous “greenhouses” which each create a different climatic environment: Cloud Forest and Mediterranean Flowers.

The outdoor gardens are all free, but you have to pay to enter the greenhouse Domes.  It is $40 for a dual ticket (about £20) and this allows multiple entries in a day.  Money well spent.  We got there at 9, just a it was all opening and I would strongly urge you to do the same.  We had 3 hours of peace and quiet and felt often that we had the place to ourselves.  Later it gets busy.  And noisy!!!

We went to the Flower Dome first.  This is the lower of the two but also the larger at about 3 acres and 125 feet high.  It features Mediterranean gardens from countries such as Australia, South Africa, South America as well as those around the actual Mediterranean Sea.  Temperatures are kept at a constant 23 -25C, except at the moment, when it was 16C.  This is because we were fortunate enough to be visiting when there was a major exhibition in there re-creating cherry blossom time in Japan, and in order to hold the blossom perfectly for some weeks, they took the temperature down….

The planting inside is absolutely spectacular and the designer is a genius.  I cannot adequately describe how very lovely it all is, from the tiniest underplanting of bulbs to the enormous ancient olive trees, the strange baobab trees and of course all the flowering cherries.  Just go through my photos and you will get a better idea.  Amongst the plantings are lovely carved sculptures of animals and birds, made from natural materials.  Nothing is out of place, nothing fake.

We then went into the Cloud Forest The Cloud Forest is higher but slightly smaller at 0.8 hectares (2.0 acres). It replicates the cool moist conditions found in tropical mountain regions between 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) and 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) above sea level, found in South-East Asia, Middle- and South America. It features a 42-metre (138 ft) “Cloud Mountain”, accessible by an elevator, and visitors descend the mountain via a circular path where a 35-metre (115 ft) waterfall provides cooling spray.  The “Cloud Mountain” itself is a massive intricate structure completely clad in epiphytes such as orchids, ferns, peacock ferns, spike- and clubmossesbromeliads and anthuriums. It consists of a number of levels, each with a different theme.  The planting of the mountain is a triumph of density, complexity and colour.  I have never, ever seen such displays of orchids of all types.  I had no idea there were so many!  It is truly spectacular.  Perhaps even more spectacular than the Flower Dome.

We spent the morning exploring the park and then walked back across the river to the Bayfront metro station and went back as far as the Suntec City Mall which is over the road from our hotel.  Had a good walk around in there and bought some minor electronic things we needed.  Got back to the hotel at about 130.  The heat was absolutely brutal by then in combination with the humidity and we decided to have a rest in our room before heading back out again in the late afternoon.

We had decided to go back to the Gardens to see them by night and also to enjoy the light show that happens there.  We took a taxi this time – only $10.  Both the domes were just as spectacular at night, lit imaginatively by many lanterns and lights amongst the planting.  Well worth seeing at the different times.

We had a bite to eat at the Hawker Market, Satay on the Bay, that is part of the gardens.  There were a lot of stalls.  Not terribly attractive to be honest but that’s the way these hawker markets are.  Had a plate of roast duck and pork, some fried rice and some egg and cheese roti.  It was ok.

It really started to look stormy at this point, and the sky went a strange yellow colour.  We walked back to the domes quickly.  One amazing thing along the way: there were loads of sea otters just off the path, eating and jumping around.  I have never seen so many, so close up.  They must be being fed I would think.

At 845 we found seats in the Massive Tree Grove, an area of the garden where the designers have created enormous “trees” with vertical plantings up the trunks and light heads at the top.  Very unworldly.  The whole look, combined with the Marina Sands hotel and Skypark in the background, just looks like something out of Star Wars.  Its definitely a city of the future sort of vibe.

The show lasted about 20 minutes and the trees perform to a musical soundtrack of largely film themes.  It was really good.  Very unusual.  I would see it again.

Got a taxi back, grabbed a free wine from the lounge and turned in.

Have had a fantastic stopover stay in Singapore.  I can;’t tell you how much it has improved in the last 20 years.  It is simply stunning and has now become one of our favourite Far East centres.  Certainly better than Hong Kong.  We will definitely choose to visit here again and stay for a while.

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