Exploring the Attractions at Marina Bay

Adjacent to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Gardens by the Bay is an oasis of lush greenery that has won multiple accolades since it first opened in 2009.  Spanning over 100 hectares, it is a nature lover’s paradise comprising man-made super trees, a flower dome, cloud forest and many kilometers of walking paths through immaculate gardens of Jurassic proportions. This place is amazing and a must see for anyone visiting Singapore.  We are embarrassed to admit that during our last visit, we completely overlooked this area. We didn’t even know it existed. Epic fail on our part!  We certainly made up for it this time, exploring every nook and cranny of the park during our first weekend in Singapore. By the way, if you want to read about our first visit to Singapore, click here.

The super trees are huge steel structures against which vertical gardens have taken hold.  This is but another example of Singapore’s commitment to weave nature throughout the ever-expanding metropolis.  In fact, green spaces such as vertical gardens, green roofs, and verdant walls are everywhere in Singapore.  Here’s an interesting article from National Geographic that describes how Singapore is striving to be the worlds’ greenest city.

Each night, an impressively choreographed (and free) light and music show brings in the crowds.  Not only did we watch the show from the base of the super trees multiple times, but we had front row seats from the comfort of our hotel room balcony too.  

The Flower Dome is a gigantic glass greenhouse that is by far the biggest and most impressive conservatory we have ever seen.  The plethora of exotic plants in the themed gardens offer a unique backdrop to hundreds of sculptures from around the world.  The building itself is a work of art; its curvaceous glass walls and soaring ceiling offer abundant views of the harbor and surrounding gardens.  And of course, our iconic hotel was never far away. As if this wasn’t enough, the Dome is delightfully air conditioned and let me tell you, with temperatures in the high 30’s with humidity and the “sweat index” permanently set to “very uncomfortable” on the Weather Channel, any chance to get out of the heat is most welcomed.  While the Rhododendron Display was a special exhibit and seemed to attract the crowds, with the colourful, showy displays, I was particularly drawn to the succulent and cacti gardens, and the clever use of driftwood in their arrangements. Needless to say, I am infinitely inspired for next year’s gardening season.

Right next door, the Cloud Forest is another contemporary greenhouse that boasts the world’s largest indoor waterfall, flowing over a 35-meter man-made mountain covered in lush tropical vegetation.  Visitors follow a winding path through densely planted orchids, ferns, bromeliads, and carnivorous pitcher plants to the base of the cloud walk platform, reached by elevator six stories above.  Once at the top, you follow a path that seems to float through the cloud forest until you descend into a secret garden – simply stunning. 

Each night, directly in front of the hotel, there is a light and water spectacle that makes the Bellagio Water Show in Las Vegas look like a drinking fountain.  Spectra dazzles with dancing lasers, water jets and futuristic art projections on mists of water, focused around a 12-metre glass prism that forms the heartbeat of the show. We watched the free 15-minute program multiple times from the steps of the Event Plaza on the first floor of The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.  This was by far the best vantage point to see the show.  However, one night, we wandered over to the other side of the bay facing the hotel and caught the late performance.  While you miss the art projections and some of the finer details of the water fountains, you see a completely different perspective where a kaleidoscope of colours is beautifully choreographed against the surrounding buildings (Marina Bay Sands Hotel, The Shoppes at Marina Bay and the Art Science Centre).   

Here is a video of the whole show. It is almost 15 minutes long so be forewarned. It was captured from iPhone so not the best quality but it will at least give you an idea of this amazing show.

While we are not keen shoppers, we felt a trip to The Shoppes at Marina Bay was in order just to be sure we didn’t miss anything this time around.  This shopping plaza is packed with high-end designer labels such as Versace, Louis Vuitton, and Mont Blanc to name a few.  We were reminded of the shops along the Champs Elysees in Paris, where we observed tourists purchasing Louis Vuitton handbags for a mere 40,000 euros!  Needless to say, this was window-shopping territory for us.  The magnificent architecture of the mall was equal to the neighbouring attractions and that in itself made the visit worthwhile.  The mall offered some interesting attractions like the indoor canal complete with sampan boats, that circled the Rain Oculus – essentially a huge outdoor basin above that periodically released tons of water down a drain that spiraled into the canal below.  We were having a coffee beside the canal watching the tourists on the little boats in the canal, when suddenly the plug was pulled and water descended into the canal right before our eyes.  It was pretty cool, I must admit – the water show that is, not the cheesy boats on the canal.

After living in a bubble all weekend, venturing only as far as the neighbouring gardens and attractions, it was time to experience the real Singapore.  On Monday, we packed our bags and headed off to a budget friendly hotel in the heart of Chinatown where we planned to stay for the rest of the week.

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