Sunday, 14 May 2017

Marina Bay, Singapore

It was on one of our first days out exploring Singapore that we had a walk around Gardens by the Bay. Like many parks, it's free to enter. However, it has several points of difference than any old park, and a big one is that it cost over one billion dollars to construct. 
An international competition was held to find the design for the gardens, and entries were received from 24 countries. The main attractions are the Supertree Grove, the Cloud Forest, and the Flower Dome. I'll cover the Supertrees last because some crazy shit went down, so we'll begin with...

...the Cloud Forest! While the gardens are free, the two 'conservatories' are not, and we paid $28 for a combo ticket. As soon as we stepped inside the Cloud Forest enclosure, we felt an immediate change in climate. If possible, the humidity in the air around us actually increased, but the temperature was considerably lower. The numerous waterfalls play a large role in this.

The impressive central mountain was completely covered in lush vegetation, like ferns and other beautiful leafy plants. Some had even been crafted out of Lego! I'm not sure why, but probably simply for the spectacle. Singapore is big on the whole "wow factor" thing. 

There was a so-called "Secret Garden" at the top, which was the furthest it could be from secret because visitors to the Cloud Forest literally had to walk through it in order to exit. Despite the silly name, it was stunning, and my favourite part of the forest. 

Next up was the Flower Dome. As could be expected, it was full of flowers! They came in many different arrangements and formations, one of the most memorable being the roof pieces of a central pagoda. 

The cactus garden was also a highlight, and it contained a vast number of desert-type plants from all over the world.

Quite a few of them I had never seen before, and some looked frankly unreal. There's something about desert dwelling plants that have a very alienesque quality about them.

On to the Supertrees! And they sure are super. We had a couple of opportunities to go up onto the elevated promenade through the trees, but never did. Instead, we viewed them from below. During the day they're mighty fine, but if you visit at night they're all lit up! A light show plays every night at 19:45 and 20:45 and lasts ten minutes. On the evening we spectated, there was an enormous thunderstorm taking place in the distance behind the gardens, which made the light show even more dramatic! Every so often, the clouds would flicker like a dying light bulb and illuminate the sky.

On 4 May, we went to see the light show again because a special event was taking place for the annual Star Wars celebrations (May the Fourth be With You). The Supertrees had been kitted out with beams that turned them into giant lightsabers, and actors were around in various costumes. Chewbacca and Kylo Ren were the stars and required fans to wait in a queue in order to get a photo (Chewbacca's line was more popular). 

We found a clear spot on the ground under the Supertrees, where everyone was sitting to get a good view of the light show. I don't want to rave too much so I'll keep it short, but it was amazing! The music! And the lighting effects! I was blown away. It was so great. 

From Gardens by the Bay, there's a direct walkway to the famous hotel Marina Bay Sands, and from there you can walk through to "The Shoppes": a swanky shopping centre with even more designer brands than usual, and a bizarre indoor canal set up like a mini Venice that you can take gondola rides on. 

From the Shoppes (is this olden timey England?) you can take a futuristic pedestrian bridge over to the other side of the bay, where you can see the Singapore Flyer ferris wheel or head over to Raffles Avenue and beyond.

Each year in March, Marina Bay Sands puts on an event called "i Light", which is a light festival of sorts. I walked around with my friend Katie when she was visiting for a couple of days and saw the many sculptures and installations that were dotted around the bay.

We also watched the laser show, which has been running every night for the last six years but is currently under renovation and not functioning (as of May 2017).

Even without light shows and laser shows and festivals and events, Singapore's Marina Bay is beautiful, especially at night when the lights from the skyscrapers cast long reflections on the water.