Gardens by the Bay

Before going to Singapore I didn’t really know what the Gardens of the Bay were beyond the iconic Supertree Grove. I knew I wanted to see those in person as they were on my list of iconic Singapore sights. (Along with the merlion I was destined not to see)

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Gardens by the Bay however is so much more than the Supertree Grove. It was actually too much. There’s so much to wander around and see that I ended up exhausting myself. I didn’t even make a dent in the garden.

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There are three main sections of the gardens. Bay South, Bay East, and Bay Central.  I spent the majority of my time in Bay South, which is the largest section of the garden.

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I entered the Gardens of the Bay by crossing over from Marina Bay Sands (including walking through part of the hotel which felt awkward as there were people sitting down eating. However everyone else was walking past so it seemed like a common path to get to the Gardens.) The first part of the garden I entered was called Dragonfly Lake. This section of the garden allows you to walk along the waters edge and can be easily spotted by the giant dragonfly statues over the water.

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The path then led my friend and I through some of the heritage gardens. There are four of these that celebrate the diversity of Singapore. These include the Indian, Chinese, Malay, and Colonial Gardens.

I did not end up seeing the latter two, but did walk through the first two. And was passed by a Garden Cruiser tour. If you’re concerned about the size of the garden (it’s huge), your time to see it all, and want to know more about the gardens in general then booking a garden cruiser tour is a very smart idea.

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The Garden Cruiser has 22 seats and offers a 25 minute tour of the gardens that goes through at least 4 areas of the garden. They run every 15 minutes from (generally)  9am-5pm. Tickets are $8 and the tours are in English, but depending on how you book/what sort of tour/package you book you can opt for Mandarin or Japanese. I didn’t realize they weren’t that expensive and kind of wish I’d booked tickets to jump on one since I watched several go past and in those moments caught clips of interesting facts about the area I was standing in.

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Soon we found ourselves in the busier section of the garden, the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. Tickets for both conservatories together is $28. If you only have time or only want to do one conservatory it’s $12.

We started at the Cloud Forest. A cloud forest, if you remember from my Mossy Forest tour in the Cameron Highlands is a type of water forest with low clouds, usually tropical and pretty cool in temperature. Plants tend to get their water from the fog. Unlike the Mossy Forest the Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay is man-made with temperatures ranging between 23°C- 25°C (73.4°F-77°F) with 80-90% humidity. The cloud forest is open from 9am to 9pm with tickets sold at 8am and last admission at 8pm. Man-made mist happens several times throughout the day at 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, and 8pm.

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The first thing you see when you enter the Cloud Forest is the waterfall. It’s pretty impressive and if you get too close you’re sure to get a bit wet. (Which with how hot it is outside is welcome.) The Cloud Forest is broken into about 7 sections and it’s no quick visit. I hadn’t looked at a map before going in and when I first looked at it I thought maybe the mountain and area around it was it. So I took my time slowly taking pictures of all the orchids I could see.

Another fun thing is that within the Cloud Forest (and in the Flower Dome) are free tours. Once about 5 people are gathered tour guides will show you around the cloud forest and explain about the plants and their role in the environment. While I was there the volunteer tour guides were all kids from a local school. The tours are about 15 minutes and are on a first come first serve basis. To join one of these tours look for the “Ask Me!” meeting point. (There are two in the Cloud Forest, one by the waterfall and one at the Treetop walk)

The orchid exhibit changes from time to time at the Cloud Forest. While I visited it was the “Scentsational Orchids” which will continue until September 22, 2019. For this they had several boxes with orchid’s in them with a circle cut into them so you can stick your face in and smell the orchids. There’s four basic scent groups orchids can be categorized into: delicate floral, sweet floral, spicy floral and intense floral. My friend and I smelled each of these, and both found at least one that we did not like at all. It was different though for each of us.

The next part was a section called “The Lost World” which is the highest point of the Cloud Forest, at the top of the 35 meter (114.8 ft) mountain. This section hosts all of the Cloud Forest’s carnivorous plants.

The path then led us along the Cloud walk (which depending on when you’re there may include some of that man-made fog) which gave us some cool views of the garden and a closer look at all the plants along it. It was at this point I felt utterly drained and just wanted to sit down for a bit. I was really feeling my 1 hour of sleep and the sugar sludge from my breakfast tea that had been keeping me going had finally sent me crashing. We sped walk through the rest of the cloud walk, pausing to take in a couple sights like the endangered/possibly extinct in the wild plants that can be found on display in the Secret Garden.

Some things we rushed through that if you have energy or a thirst for knowledge you may want to slow down and enjoy: Crystal Mountain.

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This section introduces man made stalactites and stalagmites for a fun geology lesson and the importance of fossils.  The Cavern, where you can learn more about specific plants that tend to thrive in Cloud Forests around the world and about some plants that don’t actually need to live in ground, like orchids (epiphytes). If you want some harsh reality take a seat in the Cloud Forest theater to watch a video about what will happen to our planet if don’t stop the temperature from rising five degrees. It’s about 10 minutes. (It ends on a hopeful note on what we can do to prevent this.) This section also leads into an area that discusses humans effect on the environment throughout history and the current damage as well as possible ways in which we can fix things.

After sitting for a bit and trying to recover energy we made our way to the Flower Dome. While the temperature of the Flower Dome is about the same as the Cloud Forest, the humidity is much lower as it fluctuates between 60%-80%. The Flower Dome has a couple permanent exhibits such as the Australian garden, the South African garden, the California garden, the Mediterranean garden, the South American garden, the Olive grove, and two we didn’t see because once again we got too tired. This includes the Baobab trees and the succulent garden which are on the upper level of the flower dome.

They also have a section that is constantly changing called the Flower Field. While we were visiting it was an explosion of Tulips. You can check out what the current display is here.)

It was very beautiful and thankfully much smaller than the Cloud Forest so it was easier to get through and less exhausting.

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Our last stop on our trip to the Gardens of the Bay was the Supertree Grove. These are giant concrete structures are between 25 meters (82 ft) and 50 meters (164ft) tall and connected by the OCBC skyway (which is 22 meters above the ground/72 feet). To go up and walk along the skyway you need to purchase a ticket. These tickets are timed as the skyway is a suspension bridge. So buy your ticket near the grove, wait for your designated time and then line up to take the elevator to the top. The tickets are $8 and admission is from 9am till 9pm with last admission at 8pm.

Things of note: The best time to visit the Supertree grove is probably in the evening as the trees light up and there is a light show. Garden Rhapsody happens twice daily at 7:45pm and 8:45pm. This program was designed by Adrian Tan (award winning lighting designer) and Bang Wenfu (music composer/arranger). It’s probably one of the biggest regrets that I didn’t have time to see this light show. (I saw 2 out of 3 of the biggest free light shows in Singapore but missed this one) The program tends to change so there’s a good chance if you keep going back you’ll catch something new.

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This is really all we had time and energy for and we didn’t see everything. It wasn’t truly clear how big the gardens were until we got high up and could see that the green space continued on a lot further than we had expected. A lot of the garden is free. You can wander around (biking is not allowed) enjoying the greenery or you can pay to go into the conservatories or get a higher view. It’s really fun whether you’re on your own or not.

If you bring kids you may want to check out the Children’s Garden which includes a playground and several water features (they suggest bringing along swimsuits for the kids) and best of all this is another section that’s free. There’s even a toddler specific area.

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