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Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Before my first time to set foot in Singapore, I’ve always heard positive comments about the tiny island city-state. “Clean country”, “Well-organized”, “Well laid out and efficient transport system” and “Garden metropolis” are just some of those comments. I’ve also appreciated that while Singapore is a bustling city, it has not set nature and the environment aside. Based on what I saw in pictures, Singapore has made greenery co-exist with concrete.
Singapore is a first-world country, with none of its 4.7 million citizens living under the poverty line. With that said, they can afford to buy and build anything! And last June 29, Singapore’s newest attraction opened: Gardens by the Bay.
I first learned about the development during a Singapore Tourism Board (STB) press conference in Cebu last February. Back then, the STB presented destination updates and the gardens were among the things to look forward to this year. We were presented with only three photos of the gardens and a brief description of its highlights: the Supertrees and cooled conservatories, among others. Beyond that, I really didn’t know what to expect but I guess, that’s a good thing as it kept me excited, to the highest level!
Fortunately, I was in Singapore just two weeks after its opening so I was among the first half-million to visit the expansive (and expensive) gardens.
HOW TO GET THERE:
- From where we stayed in Hougang, we took Bus 109 to NEX/Serangoon MRT. From there, we took a Circle Line train bound for Dhoby Ghaut. We were to alight at Bayfront Station but since it is just part of a newly opened branch line, we had to disembark at Promenade Station where the line splits, and board the next train towards Marina Bay. Bayfront is just a station away from Promenade. (see map below). The trip took us about 40 minutes and cost us around S$2.
Since Gardens by the Bay is a new destination, directional signs at the Bayfront MRT station were very helpful. We took Exit B and proceeded to an underground walkway to the gardens.
Huge photos of flowers on the walls, a preview of what’s in store for us at the gardens.
As we reached the end of the tunnel, we took an elevator which brought us to ground-level, but if you want to make use of your legs, there’s always the stairs.
As soon as the elevator doors opened, we were instantly greeted by hot air! I felt too comfy with the cold buses, MRT stations and trains that I almost forgot that Singapore was a hot-and-humid tropical country! From where we were standing, the entrance to the gardens was still a good two hundred meters away, and we had to walk under the scorching hot sun. Good thing’s that we were armed with our retractable umbrellas. But wait, it felt quite awkward that we were the only ones walking with our umbrellas. If we spotted anyone else with the umbrellas open, we immediately concluded that they were Filipinos too, LOL. A few minutes later, we realized that it felt hotter with our umbrellas on since air from up above could no longer enter, so we decided to just keep our umbrellas. (TIP: apply sunblock!)
We finally reached Dragonfly Lake and we were given a first glimpse of the Supertrees! The Dragonfly Lake may look like an ordinary lake but it actually plays an important role in supporting the ecosystem vital to the Gardens’ sustainability. For that, interactive QR codes have been planted along the 440-meter boardwalk around the lake so visitors like us can learn more about the role this lake plays. Augmented reality binoculars which transport viewers into the world beneath the lake can also be used for free!
Avatar’s Pandora Trees in real life!
Dragonfly Island and the Supertrees
To cross the Dragonfly Lake, we had to walk on… the Dragonfly Bridge. The bridge afforded us a 360 degree view of Marina Bay Sands, portions of the Marina Bay skyline, and the whole Gardens by the Bay development.
A 180 degree panoramic image of a Supertree, the Colonial Garden, Dragonfly Lake and a portion of the Marina Bay skyline
Most of the visitors to the gardens, such as those coming from Marina Bay Sands and Bayfront MRT enter through the Dragonfly Bridge, while the rest who have their own vehicles or are taking a bus or taxi, enter through the main gate along Marina Gardens Drive. See the map of the gardens below.
At the end of the bridge, the Malay Garden greeted us. It is part of the Heritage Gardens, with three other themed-gardens: Chinese, Indian and Colonial Gardens. These four gardens tell us a bit of Singapore’s history. There was a time when Singapore was still governed according to race. If you might not have known, Singapore’s population is comprised by largely by three ethnic groups: the Chinese, Indians and Malays. These gardens show the link between plants and how these ethnic groups formed the Singapore today.
As soon as we entered the 54-hectare development, I made a sweeping declaration. We won’t be able to cover everything in the garden in just one day and would need to go back, again and again. And with what we’ve seen and experienced, and I’ll be sharing them with you as well, I’ll definitely be going back!
Toilet between the Malay and Chinese Garden
With a price tag of S$1-Billion Singapore Dollars (around P33-Billion Pesos!), Gardens by the Bay was built as a major part of the Singapore government’s strategy to revolutionize and transform the island city-state from a “Garden City” or merely a city with gardens, to a “City in a Garden”. The ultimate goal is to raise the quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city.
Lower level of the Malay Garden
The well-landscaped gardens showcase vibrant garden artistry, educational and entertaining interactive displays, and most of all, environmental sustainability.
From the Malay Garden, we took an elevator going down to the lower level of the gardens leading us to the Supertree Grove.
One thing that would probably identify the development or be the icon to represent the gardens are its Supertrees. From a distance, these giant man-made trees look like alien structures.
There are 18 Supertrees all over the gardens. Ranging from 25 to 60 meters in height, each Supertree’s trunk is covered by tropical flowering climbers and epiphytic ferns and plants. Aside from their face value, 11 of the Supertrees are embedded with green functions as they serve as solar energy sources. The solar energy is used for the Supertrees own lights at night. Aside from that, the “trees” help perform air intake and exhaust functions for the cooled conservatories.
At daytime, the Supertrees’ wide canopies provide shade from direct sunlight. At night, the Supertrees come into a whole new dimension as they come alive with a magical light and sound display twice daily at 7:45pm and 8:45pm. The tallest Supertree will soon play host to a bistro-bar serving fusion food. Interesting.
One of the key attractions in Gardens by the Bay is the OCBC Skywalk. For a minimal fee of S$5 (or around P160+), you will be able to walk on a 22-meter high and 128-meter long aerial walkway that connects two Supertrees. It is not for the faint of heart though.
It was already high noon when we reached the very heart of the Supertree Grove and while it wasn’t too hot as the sun barely had any chance to shine in its full glory, the humidity was too taxing.
The view from Supertree Dining
For that, we took refuge in air-conditioned comfort at Supertree Dining and enjoyed a sumptuous lunch. Upon first look, the area seemed like a food court but it was anything but a food court. It has all-glass walls so diners enjoy a panoramic view of the green surroundings.
Lunch at Peach Garden Noodle House
Supertree Dining, which sits beneath another set of themed gardens, features five distinct dining concepts. Peach Garden Noodle House, where we chose to have lunch, features affordable Chinese dishes. Hill Street Coffee Shop offers a traditional coffee shop experience. Casa Verde offers Italian food, trattoria style. Texas Chicken is an American fast-food chain which offers Halal food for our Muslim brothers and sisters. Finally, Canelé Pâtisserie Chocolaterie is a must-try for their sweet treats!
Even the dining area is not spared from the garden theme. Small openings in the ceilings allow sunlight and drops of rain to nurture the trees inside the dining area.
At around 2pm, we were ready to resume exploring the Gardens. But before that, we paid a visit to the toilets.
Even the toilets are adorned with potted plants. Amazing!
(…to be continued)