Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Gardens by the Bay

Feeling Tall and Reckless. Drunken on Rarefied Air, and Expensive Mineral Water.

semi-overcast 28 °C
Marina Bay Sands, view from Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Marina Bay Sands as seen from Gardens by the Bay
When Bill and Jamie visited me last August, he stayed in the Marina Bay Sands (they didn't gamble at all, but they used the roof-top infinity swimming pool a lot. Well, they're Aussies). His hotel room faces the Gardens by the Bay (GBTB) just immediate opposite. While it was already completed for barely over a month, going by the few visitors, I thought it was still in construction. But then Gardens are never crowded except maybe in special occasions.

Like the other casino in Macao that Sheldon Adelson built, GBTB was also built on reclaimed land. No, the Marina Bay Sands wasn't built on reclaimed land, nor GBTB built by Adelson. Let make that clear.

Marina Bay Sands as viewed from Gardens by the Bay
Another angle

I remember Bill commented at the hotel balcony that he can't see how they make money from the Gardens. Theme parks would more likely the tourist drawcards. I jokingly said that perhaps the Singapore's image was ruined by the casino, and the government is doing damage control, and the Gardens is just the thing to save its hard-earned, cultivated image of a clean and green city. A fraction of  the casino revenue would be more than cover the running of the Gardens. Revenue isn't the goal for GBTB.

Using Taoist Speak, there're just too much bad chi emanating from the casino, and a place with positive chi is needed to place nextdoor to restore the balance of positive and negative chi.

Speaking of Taoism, and fengshui and whatnot, the surfboard or boomerang on top of the Marina Bay Sands not only giving the casino hotel a unique architectural feature, without it, the 3 towers would look like 3 joss sticks. Few Chinese superstitious gamblers would gamble there. By the way, gamblers are superstitious by nature, Chinese or otherwise. Many Chinese gamblers know about how the old Lesboa's architecture in Macao looks like a birdcage with iron chains around it. Very bad fengshui for gamblers.

Sorry, I digress. While some of the structures - Cloud Forest and Flower Dome - look pleasing, it's a garden after all. The idea of visiting there didn't exactly appeal to me. Let's say it isn't my cup of tea.

Etta bought some cheap entrance tickets to the GBTB from Groupon, and it's expiring soon. Also, I have bought my Sony NEX-6 just last week, I'm itchy to take it out for a test drive before the upcoming overseas next month. So I have something looking forward to do in the Gardens.

The entrance to the Gardens is free, and the tickets - cost about $10 pax from Groupon - are for entrances to the 2 conservatories: Cloud Forrest and Flower Dome. While they both contain pretty flowers, they reinforced my reluctance. The Singapore Botanical Gardens does a better job. But then we're no there to see plants. We're here to see the artificial trees or supertrees.

Orchid, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Suspension bridge, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Supertrees, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Chinese garden, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Chinese garden, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Exhibit in the conservatory, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

We arrived around 4:30pm to avoid the hottest part of the day. There was some nice breezes as the Gardens are surrounded by water with the Bay at one side and the ocean at the other. It was in fact a perfect day. It had a bit of scatter cloud with nice breezes throw in.

Supertrees, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Supertrees structures

After quick tours of 2 the greenhouses, I went around taking photos of the various structures, especially the supertrees. As I photographed them, I had to say they grew on me. As the sun started to hug the horizon, the various nice juxtapositions and perspectives of these supertrees looked somehow inspiring. I could see how the design won an international competition held in 2006. While they supposed to look like trees, they look to me more like champaign glasses.

Skywalk suspended between Supertrees, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Skywalk suspended between the Supertrees structures
One of the attraction/highlight of the Gardens is a stroll on the OCBC Skyway. It's a skywalk suspended between the supertrees structures. My vertigo added cheap thrills to my skywalk.

The skywalk is quite steady, only if my nerves is as steady. The supertrees are as tall as 16 storey building, and the skywalk would be about 12 to 14 storey tall.

The entrance to the skywalk is $5 pax. The view from above, almost pricesless (small discount on vertigo).

Skywalk, Gardens By the Bay, Singaore
Skywalk at the weak-knee and eye level

Skywalk suspended between Supertrees, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Look! It's birds! It's ants! It's tourists!
One of the supertrees - the tallest - has a restaurant IndoChine at its top. Yep, all these structures aren't just standing there looking pretty. They actually serve some fucntions. They also serve as piers for the skybridge.

As the name suggests, the restaurant  serves Indochinese cuisine: Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, and Thai.

We know we're going to be charged with touristy prices, but we decided to splurge. There were some restaurants planted firmly on terra firma with more down-to-earth pricetags, but we decided to dine in a lofty style with soaring bill. We were feeling tall today after looking up at these supertrees all day, and walking in the air.

We ordered Bo Luc Lac (black peppered beef), springrolls, and lemon grass tiger prawns. They happened to be all Vietnamese.

Boc Luc Lac - the beef is a little bit chewy, and dry.  6.5/10.
Lemongrass tiger prawns - the prawns are spongy, not springy. Little too sour for my tastes. 6/10.
Springrolls - not bad, but nothing special to blog/write home about it. 7/10.

It came to $120 for 2 pax. I told you it's going to be a splurge (everything is cheap for the European tourists. Maybe Euro is overvalue?). The dishes are cheap comparing to the bottle of water that cost $18. Holy macro, you say. Holy water, you ask? No, just mineral water imported from Italy. May be it was blessed by the Pope, God only know (say it in Italian accent). Lucky Etta didn't spring me the price of water while I was drinking it. I could have choked. At the very least, I may have spit out $3 mouthful worth of water, springs from the finest spring of Italy.

The only consolation price is the admission to the roof of the restaurant and let me capture the aerial view of the Singaporean dusk just in time at 7:20 (As Singapore is located at the equator, its sunrise and sunset times are pretty much the same all year round, with plus or minus 15 mins variations).

Aerial view from the roof top of IndoChine restaurant at dusk, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Aerial view from the roof top of IndoChine restaurant at dusk. Marina Bay Sands on the left, and Singapore Flyer on the right.
If the Supertrees take your fancy at daytime, then you should stick around until after dusk. That's when the Supertrees shine, in more ways than one.

Light Up of Supertrees at night, Gardens By the Bay, Singapore
The atmospheric, dreamy light up of the Supertrees at night

After some free sumptuous after-dinner sunset photos, we came back to earth for the light and music show, which takes place at 7:45pm and runs for 10 mins (and again at 8:450).

Light and Music Show, Gardens By the Bay, Singapore
Light and Music Show

It may be the over-inhalation of rarefied air talking, or the over-the-top mineral water talking, it was quite an enjoyable day overall, despite my unhealthy bias against gardens (I'll let you in a little secret why I don't like gardens. I'm a hayfever sufferer. So it isn't so much I don't like flowers, flowers don't like me). Perhaps, my very low expectation makes this such a great experience.

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

While we spent a total of 3½ hours (4:30 to 8:00pm), we spent most of our time in the Supertree Grove area, which makes up about 25% of the total area.

At the start, we hopped on a shuttle (costs $5 pax) that drove us around the place with recorded commentary to give the visitors a brief and quick run down of BBTB. Borrowing a Chinese expression, it's like "looking at flowers on a running horse" (="走馬看花"). It's needed to be modernised to "looking at flowers on a moving vehicle". Even the shuttle didn't cover the whole Gardens. To see it all (without riding a horse. I don't think it allows), you probably need a full day or several visits to do it justice. The best is to get off your high horse (sorry vehicle) and explore on foot.

In fact, I could see myself revisit this place. They're planning to put more stuff into GBTB. I'm looking forward to it. Believe or not!

The locals - especially families - would be blessed with such a place. Thumbs up, Singapore!

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