Against a vision of creating a city in a garden, Gardens by the Bay in Singapore fits this bill perfectly. Its leafy lushness gives way to impossible works of art in the shape of steel trees with embedded environmentally sustainable functions in their canopies. It really isn’t surprising that Guardians of the Galaxy take inspiration from here. It’s like some other worldly futuristic place that seamlessly combines technology and nature for the good of the planet (with a healthy boost to tourism while they are at it!)
Gardens by the Bay are actually very new – opening in 2011. Singapore became a sovereign state in 1965 so is actually a pretty young country itself at only 54 years of age. Since independence Singapore has been on a mission to make Singapore the beautiful city it is. Extensive land reclamation has increased its total size (although it’s still not much bigger than Lake Taupo) by 23% and the National Parks Board has a vision very romantically put of creating a city in a garden.
There is so much to explore at Gardens by the Bay that it’s best to tackle it over a couple of days.
My first visit was the night I landed in Singapore after an 11 hour flight from New Zealand. I was jet lagged, disoriented and tired so of course I decided to go up the observation deck at the top of Sands Sky Park. Some 57 levels high its the place you see on all the shots of Singapore – the three buildings soaring up to the sky with a boat like structure perched on top.
So here I was, jostling through the crowds, looking down on this unbelievable vista of steel and green below me. The heat and the humidity slowing my movements and combined with my foggy mind feeling more and more like a strange dream.
The feeling was complete as I entered the gardens. I walked over the wide path. Lush greenness and tropical flowers surrounding me, the towering city behind me glinting in the sunset and 16 story high futuristic trees of Supertree Grove in front of me.
The fusion of man made materials and nature is incredible. The skin of the steel and concrete trees comprised of plants growing up the side of these monolithic structures that also acted as solar panels and air extractors for the green houses nearby.
It was at the point that a monk stepped out in front of me, dressed in robes and started to take a selfie in front of one of the trees that I realised I really had to go home or risk completely succumbing to the weird state I found myself in.
Much better equiped to deal with the enormity and ambition of the gardens I returned on my last day in Singapore to explore more. Top of my list – the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome.
The Flower Dome
My favourite season is Spring so it was inevitable that I was going to love a giant green house which proclaims to be perpetually Spring. Added to that, my visit also coincided with the Rose Romance Floral Display – and roses being my favourite flower I was doubly delighted to explore.
I didn’t know quite what to expect in the Flower Dome. But what ever it was, it wasn’t quite this. In neither a good nor a bad way – it was just simply unimaginable.
Roses bloomed everywhere. They carpeted the floor and climbed over white statues of cherubs and artfully draped ladies.
I’m always one for a castle and yes, in this greenhouse there was also a castle, complete with roses climbing up the sides of it.
In a greenhouse with trees double the height of me the scale was just awe inspiring. Reading later I found that it is in fact the biggest glass house in the world which didn’t surprise me one bit.
I’d seen so many pictures of the Cloud Forest before I arrived but there is nothing that prepares you for the scale of it first hand.
It is a surreal space. Mist filled with a 35 metre high “mountain” covered in plant life from the tropical highlands and claiming the worlds largest indoor waterfall (although I think that award may now have passed to Jewel at Changi Airport which I also visited). Whether it is or it isn’t, they are both absolutely incredible and both in Singapore.
It is just marginally cooler than outside at 25 degrees and 90% humidity so it’s a hot walk about that you have to weigh up as you first make your way up to the top of the Lost World before descending down through the Cloud Walk, The Cavern, The Waterfall View and Crystal Mountain (I laughed because we have one of those in New Zealand too – just a bit different) whether you want to make your way right around the tree top walk.
I opted for probably seen enough/get me to some air con and made my way down to the Secret Garden.
It’s a photographers dream. There are little nooks through to perfectly crafted views just made for photographers. It reminds me of the sets I build for my baby shoots – absolutely perfect in miniature. It also meant that although the Cloud Forest was busy it didn’t seem it in photos with the trees positioned in just the right places to provide a natural screen.
Again, the juxtaposition of nature and man made materials. It took me a few minutes before I actually realised that half of the things in this pond were actually made from lego…
And everywhere sculptures. It’s still only 8 years old so I’d love to see it in another 10, 20, 100 years when everything has aged so much more and become even more cohesive with the surroundings. With all the trees and plants inside this is a space that will constantly evolve and change.
Was it worth going? Absolutely! It was just like all the amazing pictures I’d seen and at the same time so much more than I could have possibly imagined standing there myself.
If you are pressed for time and weighing up between this and the Botanical Gardens I’d choose this in a heartbeat.
Definitely make sure you get the combo deal with the two conservatories as the walk between the two is really easy and they are both well worth exploring.