It’s been a while since I wrote about my trip to Singapore in March, but with the city-state’s Golden Jubilee approaching on August 7-10, I thought it would be interesting to comment on a couple of cultural observations about the city.
Today’s focus is on the Gardens by the Bay, a massive project that used reclaimed land to build a 183-acre botanical garden next to the more iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel (the one with the infinity pool on the roof). This project was still only half completed during my first trip to Singapore in 2012 shortly after receiving my doctorate.
The main attraction is the “supertrees” — 10- to 15-floor steel frames with vines, tree surrounds, and other plants growing over them. They contain cisterns and photovoltaic panels that help fulfill the utility needs of the gardens.
This earlier photo is from before the supertrees had much time to grow. You can barely see any of the vines on the main trunk, and they certainly haven’t reach up as far as the canopy. Eventually they should hide most of the framework.
We arrived in the late afternoon, so there wasn’t much time before dark. Our first stop was the Flower Dome. I appreciated the air conditioning, so this is a good destination during the day if you’re not use to the heat and humidity. However, I realize that flowers and plants aren’t really everyone’s idea of fun. My favorite parts were some of the more unusual specimens like these baobab trees and rock-like plants.
There were also, of course, some more artificial creations that were no less impressive.
But after moving through quickly it was getting dark and we still had enough time to visit the Cloud Forest next door. In my previous review I described our visit to this indoor controlled environment with a 7-floor waterfall that, yes, really does manage to create some clouds. I was excited to return since I’d heard that things were a little different at night.
Afterwards we walked back through the supertrees to the IndoChine restaurant at the top of the highest tree.
While IndoChine was okay, I don’t really think the view from the main restaurant is good enough to justify the special trip for dinner. Instead, visit the roof bar for a better view and then maybe consider somewhere less touristy for dinner.
One place I would have liked to visit on my trip is the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It just received a UNESCO world heritage designation — the first for Singapore. These gardens are roughly a mile from the shopping and luxury hotels on Orchard Road and were founded in 1859. Several concerts and other events will be held there during the Jubilee, and it’s one place on my list when I go back for what I hope will be my fourth trip to Singapore next spring.
Our tour guide emphasized that Singapore tries to maximize its open spaces and gardens despite the limited space available within its borders. Devoting so much effort to using reclaimed land for a public garden is just one example. I shared pictures earlier of skyscraper apartments and office building with their own parks on the roof or middle decks. Singapore also has nature preserves and three zoos, including the famous Night Safari, that I think are on par with some of the better zoos in North America. That doesn’t mean it’s not a busy, hyper-urban environment, but there are certainly many opportunities to escape that if you’re looking for something more relaxing.
If you have the spare time and think it would be interesting to visit Singapore for the Golden Jubilee, know that the last two weeks before departure is some of the best time to book award space. Airlines have a much better sense of how many seats will go empty. If they can’t sell it for cash, they can at least get some of the liability from frequent flyer programs off their books. And if you have elite status, there are fewer fees for last-minute awards or changing reservations as better options come along.
Full Disclosure: Singapore Tourism Board provided air and ground transportation, accommodation, meals, and a guide during my visit to Singapore. I received no other compensation, and STB did not review or recommend specific content prior to publication.