Last Sunday, I went to Gardens by the Bay (GBTB) with Mum and a family friend, a really really sweet lady from Bali, and OH. MY. GOODNESS. The trip to GBTB was downright phenomenal.
To my readers who aren’t from Singapore, GBTB — opened in 2012 — is a nature park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore. Some of the locals call it ‘the flowery place with cyborg trees/ giant umbrellas’ (otherwise known as its signature Supertree Grove) though haha! 😉 It is, according to Trip Advisor, Singapore’s Top Attraction, has reached 20 million visitors in 3 years, is the world’s top 20 most checked-in place on Facebook and contains more than 500,000 species of plants. This billion-dollar techno-garden theme park is absolutely stunning right through and is definitely a place to visit if You were to ever drop by Singapore!
Oh and if You were wondering what is that bizarre, colossal structure dominating the landscape, it is the Marina Bay Sands hotel complex itself – shaped like a giant cruise ship beached atop three giant columns.
1st Stop: Supertree Grove
Entering the Gardens, I walked straight into one of the main attractions: the Supertrees. They stand between 25 and 50 m tall and each Supertree is a vertical garden supporting a range of ferns, vines, orchids and other plants, which creep over the towering, purple skeletal structures. One of them even housed a restaurant all the way at the top!
Each Supertree is designed to mimic the function of a real tree, with photovoltaic cells to echo photosynthesis and contribute energy to run the park. The trees also collect water during Singapore’s frequent heavy rains and channel it throughout the park wherever irrigation or fountains are needed. Some are also used as exhaust flues for the Gardens’ underground biomass boilers.
For SG$5, I could have taken an elevator trip up to a 128-metre long skywalk between two of the larger Supertrees, offering staggering views of the Gardens and bits of the Singapore cityscape beyond. However, we were a lot more pumped for the indoor conservatories, i.e. the climate-controlled bio-domes, so we headed for those immediately instead. Fun-fact: A catwalk took place up there once!
AND for SG$20 (if You’re a local/ PR) or SG$28 (if You’re a tourist), You get to enter both the Cloud Forest & the Flower Dome! That’s what I meant by a $20 World Tour – because for $20 I saw quite literally all the beauty of the world! 😉
2nd Stop: Cloud Forest
There are places on this Earth where You simply stand, have Your breath taken away, and where You must simply pinch Yourself to make sure You’re not dreaming – and The Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay is as surreal a place as I’ve ever been. It is a gigantic bio-dome that recreates the environment and climate of a mountaintop forest at sea level. It houses a man-made mountain inside a climate-controlled dome that replicates the cool, moist conditions atop tropical mountains between 1,000 and 3,000m above sea level.
At the entrance, I was greeted by a very much-needed refreshing blast of cool air (it was searing hot that day!), followed by the sight of the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, which rains down water and mist from a breath-taking height of 35m. Talk about grand and magnificent?!
I took an overloaded elevator — it was a Sunday and there were heaps of visitors there with us, both locals and tourists — to the top level and the doors opened to welcome me to the mossy, ferny “Lost World”, after which I circled the mountain on the way down via a series of huge skyways. While the snaking walkways granted me a series of spectacular views, both of the ‘mountain’ itself, as well as the rest of the facility and out across the bay to the city, it gave Mum nothing but fear haha! She was so worried she would slip through the wire meshes at the edges of the walkway which were put there to give visitors the sensation that they had nothing below them. I found it pretty adrenaline-pumping. Loved it! 😛
Half way down the Crystal Mountain cave, we were greeted by a variety of stalactites, stalagmites and hollowed-out crystals — simply spectacular! They take hundreds, thousands and some even millions of years to form. I couldn’t help but think about how small of a fraction my existence is and how minuscule my life truly is. It was humbling to be in the presence of such grandness and greatness.
After that, we were taken through the +5° C video presentation room, which demonstrates the effect that a 5° C increase in temperature due to climate change is expected to have on mountain-top environments like these. Forest fires, extinct species, floods and desertification were among the many dire consequences mentioned. I quite liked the way they presented everything — they were succinct and blunt in letting people know of the realities we could face by the end of the 21st Century if we kept living the way we did. As the mood naturally became sombre and adopted an almost-hint-of-seriousness, the video picked up a livelier vibe and started suggesting changes which we could adopt into our lifestyles in order to alter the route that our and our Earth’s existence is heading towards.
I whispered, “Go Vegan.“
There were flowers everywhere, and of all shapes, sizes, smells too. Some petals were rougher than others, some were rounder than others. Some stems were thornier than others, some were hairier than others.
But I loved them all, they were all lovely and so loveable. Flowers make me so irrationally happy.
Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses. – Alphonse Karr, 1808-1890
Who would have thought it possible that a tiny little flower could preoccupy a person so completely that there simply wasn’t room for any other thought. – Sophie Scholl
There were many flower enthusiasts with me that day. I knew this from the way they acted around and treated the flowers before them. “Go a little closer, go macro even, that’s how You’d capture their true and undeniable beauty,” and “Don’t forget to focus! It’d be a pity to miss out on all the incredible grit and texture,” they’d say.
I felt pretty alive walking through my living, breathing colourful companions. Oh but there was one set-up that wasn’t exactly ‘living and breathing’. It was a set-up of lego flowers, namely of predatory flowers such venus flytraps and pitcher plants and of the grandest, biggest and stinkiest flower of them all — the Rafflesia, featured in the middle of the bottom row in the little montage above. Looks like the real deal, doesn’t it?
3rd Stop: The Flower Dome
After about a good hour in the Cloud Forest, we steered ourselves towards The Flower Dome, which keeps a dry climate of between 23-25° C and features a range of plants from Mediterranean, Australian, South American and South African regions.
We were first greeted by a little Japanese garden. It had a delightful little black pagoda standing in front of a wooden bridge which was constructed over a little stream. That was my first time seeing cherry blossoms in real life and I trust that You’d be able to imagine just how excited I was when I saw them — I could barely keep my camera still as I took these shots. I’m thankful I managed some decent ones!
I felt so humbled standing before something so alive, so intact, so pure, so gentle, so silent and ever so modest. They seemed to have taken a hold over my very human heart. They seemed so immortal to me, almost unreal. They took my breath away.
There were succulents — my current obsession — and cacti, too, to pair the gentleness of the floral bloom. It was a great symbiosis of the smooth and the thorny, the reserved and the aggressive. The dome was utterly and absolutely brimming with beauty and perfection.
Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life. – R. Search
May You find the heart to be open to the magic that is here on this Earth for You and me to discover and also to love and respect Mother Nature for all her greatness and generosity.
We are living in such a blessed time and age, it really is a great day to be alive.