Just as I was beginning to despair at Singapore my feelings towards it were saved when I bought a ticket to the Cloud Forest and teh Flower Room at the Gardens by the Bay. Not something that would normally be on my agenda you might be thinking but ever since I saw the Gardens by the Bay ‘trees’ at a work event a few years ago they’ve always been on my radar as something weird, and possibly wonderful.
I had 24 hours in Singapore and after a dramatic and expensive morning (don’t mention chilli crabs to me) I toddled off to see how many more of my Singapore dollars I could spend before getting back to the airport.
Exploring Cloud Forest
As soon as I entered the Cloud Forest they had me at the huge waterfall showering down over a huge pillar (aka Cloud Mountain) of colourful flowers at the entrance. It was spectacular. And that’s not a word I use. After gathering with all the other awestruck visitors to take a few inevitable selfies and help out a few folks after a new family portrait I made my way round the walkway. Slowly. Now I know nothing about plants – I can just about point out a pansy or a poinsettia – but I couldn’t help stop and snap the colourful flowers peeping out at me in every direction.
The flowers come from around the world and have been carefully grown in the special conditions. The whole project has been created to bring a taste of the rainforest to the Singapore concrete jungle.
“Our mountain has been densely planted with a mixture of fascinating orchids, delicate ferns, colourful bromeliads, dazzling begonias and menacing carnivorous pitcher plants.” – gardensbythebay.com
The whole site is 101 hectares (1,010,000 m2) and as well as the two conservatories there are many restaurants to choose from, plenty of recreation space and you can take guided tours around the three different areas. There’s a whole exhibition in there to see how they designed and created it all and a video to accompany the project’s work and the plans for the future.
You could climb up to the top of Cloud Mountain (via a lift) and work your way round the pillar along the slippery walkway back down again. I teetered in my flip flops, a random flash of fear after slipping slightly had made me slow down. It also meant I could take all these photos though.
At the end of the Cloud walkway there were more relics to discover – a huge lion carefully carved from just one trunk of wood, a doorway shaped like a lion’s mouth in roar that was just begging to be stepped through, and a family of foot-high snails made from stone. Everywhere you looked was something new, in fact. Once I finally exited I managed to persuade them to let me back in again for round two.
Enjoying the Flower Garden
In between trips to the Cloud Forest I went into the Flower Garden. In there was a Baobab Garden, a Mediterranean Garden and a bar which on the day I visited had a private function. I couldn’t help but wish I was invited to sip on the Champagne I could see through the arches. Would they notice a flip flopped backpacker through the slinky dresses and sharp suits? Yes.
More things to see at Gardens by the Bay
Unfortunately the skywalk had been closed thanks to the weather. On good days you can walk between two of the trees along 128m suspended 22m above the ground.
I went to explore what the rest of the Gardens by the Bay had to offer. The kids area looked great with huge flowers I’d seen squirting water earlier on from the window but as it was after 7 they lay quiet. I found the Victoria Lily Pond, a huge tank filled with huge fish I’d never seen before – apparently bought in from South America to sample life in Asia – and a Cactus Garden too.
Time to see the Supertrees
Night was starting to set in so I went to watch the Supertrees light up. It was mesmerising, watching the colour slowly work it’s way up the trunk. I walked over to the main garden and joined the hundreds of people sitting around on the stone benches. I looked around and actually felt overwhelmed at how awesome it was to be surrounded by the magnificent trees that were so out there, the comparisons to Avatar have come thick and fast for Gardens by the Bay. I lay back for a different view and noticed out the corner of my eye everyone next to me doing the same, falling like dominoes. Another beautiful moment in this incredible trip I’m having.
“Ladies and gentleman…”
A booming voice came over the loudspeaker and music started up. My ears were pricked!
“… may we present the Gardens by the Bay Rhapsody Light Show.”
And with that the dramatic music came in louder, creating the tension it was intended to. For the next 15 minutes it was as if the trees were passing round the light. Sometimes it would start from the base of their trunks shooting up and out to the very tips of their leaves. Then it would go the other way, they’d pass it to each other while the music provided the backdrop.
I started in my laid down position but soon got up for the better view just stood in the middle. Around me people were sprawled out on the floor, on the benches and they’d obviously opened the skywalk now the weather had improved.
It was absolutely incredible. Emotional, beautiful and totally unexpected, by me anyway. It was obviously what everyone else had been there waiting for, and from the announcement at the end I know now that it happens every night.
As the lights stopped the crowd stood up in applause. I honestly think it was one of the most emotive things I’ve ever seen. And it might be the buzz talking but right now I’d say it’s worth visiting Singapore just to see the Supertrees nightly light show I didn’t actually even know existed.