I am doing a rather fetching impersonation of a fly catcher. Thank heavens it is dark and no one can see me! All around us music soars and giant man made tree-like structures put on a spectacular light show. Towering behind them, the impossibly lovely Marina Bay Sands Hotel gazes down on the action. This is the Singapore I so love. This is Gardens by the Bay’s nightly show, Garden Rhapsody in full swing.
Singapore’s popularity as a stopover destination rose in my eyes when the magnificent Gardens by the Bay was built in 2007. It is the result of the government’s plan to transform Singapore from a “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden”. They ran a competition seeking world class design ideas for Gardens by the Bay. There were more than 70 entries submitted by 170 firms, from over 24 countries, including 35 from Singapore. Interestingly the two winning entries both came from the UK (my English friends will love that!). But did they get it right?
Gardens by the Bay covers 101 hectares (250 acres) of reclaimed land. As well as the wonderful Super Tree Grove, there are restaurants, two giant conservatories and several other speciality gardens. Dotted amongst the lush greenery are wonderful sculptures and lakes connected by a series of pathways.
The conservatories, or domes as they are called are our favourites. The Flower Dome is the largest glass greenhouse in the world (2015 Guinness World Records). Here the cool dry climate of the Mediterranean is replicated, very pleasant indeed on a steamy Singaporean day! Whilst some of the plants are permanent the main body of this dome has a changing display of flowers and plants.
Our favourite is the Cloud Forest dome with its 35 metre high mountain style centre piece and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. We both love this dome but it wasn’t until we visited the Amazon did we realise that there is such a thing as a cloud forest. Yup, David Attenborough would not be pleased with us! A Cloud Forest is generally tropical or subtropical, it is a moist evergreen forest characterised by persistent low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level.
Much of the Cloud Forest dome is permanent but I have noticed some of my favourite whimsical little pieces have been replaced. The way to do the dome is to get the lift to the top and walk down the winding walkways which come out from the mountain. I am not the greatest with heights but this walk is well worth pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
Gardens by the Bay was intended to be the city’s premier urban outdoor recreation space, and a national icon. So did they get it right? has this beautiful garden taken Singapore from a “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden”? Have they achieved their goal to raise the quality of life by enhancing greenery in the city? I can’t play both judge and jury but looking at the number of locals out enjoying the gardens on a Saturday I think speaks for itself.
Tips for visiting Gardens by the Bay
The Gardens are open daily and admission is free. Garden Rhapsody is on twice nightly at 7.45pm and 8.45pm and it too is free. Do get there in plenty of the time to secure a good vantage point!
There is a charge to visit the domes, there is a discount if you visit both and they are both well worth it.
The whole area surrounding the Gardens is great to explore. The Helix bridge is pretty spectacular and the shopping centre attached to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel is fabulous. Luxury shops for the shoppers, a Venetian style canal complete with gondolas and giant glass plughole in the ceiling so make sure you are there when it rains.
Marina Bay Sands Hotel is the stunning building behind the Gardens, but be warned it is very expensive. We thought about it for our Wedding Anniversary but instead chose the wonderful Hotel Vagabond which is now one of our favourites!