07 November 2014

Stopping over in Singapore

This time last week I was sweating in Singapore, a bit of a contrast to last night’s low of 2 degrees Celsius here in England’s Cheshire – I much prefer the cold!

Lucky for me, one of my cousins lives in Singapore so it was the perfect place to break the long haul from Auckland to Manchester and enjoy a short visit with her at the same time.

I’ve been to Singapore many times so wasn’t really interested in a lot of sightseeing and, anyway, it was far too hot to stroll as much as I normally would. One thing that had been on my ‘must see’ list for a while, though, was the Gardens in the Bay, especially the Super Trees, so that was my focus for this short two-day stopover.

After a good night’s sleep, armed with one of my cousin’s MRT cards and directions to the nearest station, I set off to explore. I was rather proud of my handling of the MRT – I managed to recharge the card, find the right train to get on and negotiate a change of stations en route to Bay Station, the nearest to the Gardens. Admittedly, Singapore’s well-signposted and well-organised transportation system was a huge help and made it easy to find my way to the Gardens once I alighted from the train.

I hit the humidity wall walking up the steps from the wonderfully air-conditioned train and station so it wasn’t long till I was red-faced and dripping. I just kept on walking – and it was a good excuse for a deliciously cool mango ice cream a little later – round the beautifully landscaped gardens, along boardwalks by the canals, finding interesting plants and gigantic sculptures.

The stunning baby boy sculpture is Planet, by Englishman Marc Quinn, a huge bronze cast sculpture measuring 383cm x 353cm x 926cm, that balances, incredibly, on that lower arm. Silvery sculptures of dragonflies also grace the water’s edge in places and then, of course, there are the eighteen trees. Ranging in height from 25 to 50 metres, they tower over the wandering visitor, though you can pay $5 to walk along the 128-metre-long Skywalk that stretches between some of them.

I didn’t bother with that but I did explore the two conservatories, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest ($28 for the two), both enormous structures of glass and steel filled with botanical species from around the world. The Flower Dome was less interesting to me as I’ve seen most of the plant varieties before, though the rather garish Diwali / Deepavali flower display was interesting to say the least – not quite sure what giant teddy bears had to do with it but it was very colourful.

From below and from above
From the moment I walked into the Cloud Forest dome and got deliciously damp from the spray of the 30-metre-tall waterfall, I loved it. Strolling the precariously balanced sky walks was both breathtaking and exhilarating at the same time – with thumping heart I made myself walk on the see-through mesh and lean over the side to take photos – definitely not a place for the vertigo-challenged!

Towering over the Gardens by the Bay is the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, an impressive piece of architecture, known for the incredible view from the infinity pool on its rooftop terrace. I didn’t go up but I did enjoy a walk through the equally impressive interior of the hotel on my way to the enormous shopping mall next door. This is a paradise for retail therapy – not my idea of a fun day out but the air-conditioning was almost literally to die for and the food hall had so many delicious choices for lunch that it was difficult to choose just one.

Outside the shopping centre you get a good view around Marina Bay, of The Flyer, Singapore's version of the London Eye, and other well-known tourist attractions like the Merlion. Here also sits another amazing piece of architecture, the ArtScience Museum, shaped to resemble a lotus flower. It’s certainly an incredible structure but I was just as impressed by the waterlily garden in the pool at its base. Waterlilies are my favourite flower and these were simple gorgeous.

Nature trumps man-made in my book every time, and I guess that’s what I think about Singapore as well. Its skyline, its architecture, its immense man-made structures are the result of wonderfully creative imaginations and incredible feats of engineering but I probably spent more time photographing those gorgeous waterlilies than I did admiring the constructed city around me.

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