Of flowers, ferns and foliage: inside the majestic gardens by the bay

By Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo |May 26,2017 - 09:50 PM
The Flower Dome,  the largest glass  greenhouse in the world. photo: gardens by the bay

The Flower Dome,
the largest glass
greenhouse in the world.
photo: gardens by the bay

Singapore—My feet and calves are screaming for me to stop and rest after an hour of going around the Cloud Forest of Gardens by the Bay.

At the time of this writing, it is Wednesday, my third day in Singapore in a trip that is part of what I call “periodic reconditioning”—or more appropriately, a less dramatic “Eat, Pray, Love” journey that doesn’t involve finding a lost self.

I do this often—even before marriage and motherhood—and my husband Jeff knew it was the time of the year to let me fly and be alone … with myself for two weeks.

The destination: Southeast Asia.

First stop: Singapore.

Not the kind of traveler who rushes to see everything, I decided to spend five days here and the object of my desire is Gardens by the Bay, renowned worldwide for the variety of exotic species found in its cooled conservatories and towering vertical gardens—including the Supertrees.

A few days ago, I was welcomed here by three of Gardens by the Bay executives—business development director Darren Oh, assistant public relations director Adeline Chong and public relations senior executive Ada Tong—who personally took me on a tour around the 54-hectare property that covers Gardens by the Bay, Bay South.

Inside the Flower Dome, Darren showed me the variety of flowers and succulents which come from different parts of the world: flowers from South Africa, Baobabs of the cool-dry Mediterranean, and thousand-year-old olive trees from Spain.

It’s hard to imagine how theSingaporean government managed to ship all these plants to where they are now, a cooled environment with a dedicated team of horticulturists and maintenance crew who make sure they are well taken care of.

But if there’s anything the Singaporeans have proven to the world, it is that they can commit to get things done with utmost care and efficiency.

And this is evident in Gardens by the Bay.

Designed by UK-based landscape architecture firm Grant Associates, Gardens by the Bay is an Asian oasis featuring the best tropical horticulture and garden artistry.

The Gardens will eventually occupy 101 hectares of prime land by the water as part of Marina Bay. For now, Bay South is the one opened while Bay East and Bay Central will be developed in a later phase.

This is part of Singapore’s “City in a Garden” vision where the island-state is woven into a green and floral environment that
increases the quality of life of its people, a premier tropical city destination conducive for “live, work and play.”

Only five years old—since its launching in 2012—but already it has gained accolades from different institutions including the World’s Largest Glass Greenhouse (Flower Dome) in the Guinness World Records 2015, the Award for Outstanding Achievement in the 20th Annual Themed Entertainment Association Awards 2012 in the USA, and World Building of the Year during the World Architecture Festival 2012 in the United Kingdom.

I spent a longer time inside the Cloud Forest where I explored the “highlands” of ferns, orchids and flowering plants of the cool-moist Tropical Montane region.

Let me just emphasize that this is a 35-meter man-made mountain and waterfall—and what a beautiful masterpiece
humanity has created!

The topmost floor is called the Lost World and you may very well be lost in this great collection of colors and sights as you weaved through each floor alongside several dozens of people coming from all parts of the world to have a glimpse of this massive attraction.

This is “Disneyland” sans the rides and animatronic characters and an overwhelming emphasis on the beauty of nature. I found the video presentation on the ground floor (near the Secret Garden) to be informative and educational on the issue of climate change.

Take the children with you on your visit as the Gardens has the Far East Organization Children’s Garden with spider nets, tree houses, suspended bridges and motion-activated water play facilities to tire them out.

There are several dining options within the Gardens. I recommend Pollen, which serves British cuisine, with Asian twists by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton.

If you fancy local goodies, there is Satay by the Bay, which offers variety of dishes at affordable prices.

I suggest capping the nightat the Supertree Groove for the light and sound show which happens at 7:45 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Freddie Aguilar’s song “Anak” played that night as they featured music from all over Asia.

If you are to ask me, I could easily stay the whole day in the Gardens but if you have limited time in Singapore, three to four hours is enough for you to tour the two cooled conservatories.

There are several ways to reach Gardens by the Bay but I preferred taking the East-West Line and alight at Tanjong Pagar and take Exit C where Bus Station 03223 is located.

Hop onto Bus 400 and alight at Bus Station 03371, that’s the closest stop to taxi/drop off area.

Alternately, you can take the MRT Blue Line and alight at Bayfront Station.

I have never looked at Singapore as country worthy of a repeat visit.

This is my repeat visit to this city/state but this has proven to be a time to rediscover Singapore beyond the usual touristy spots
of Universal Studios and Merlion Park.

I’m leaving for Thailand soon but already I’m planning a trip here with Jeff and the threemutants (i.e. our children).

Yes, Singapore is worth the repeat visit if only for … the majestic Gardens by the Bay.

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