Trees and Flowers and Clouds

All cities underground trains are better than the UK… Literally all of them. We invented the underground train, why do we suck at it?! Once again we board a beautifully clean train, in a huge open and light station, where the platform edge is protected by barriers that open for the train doors. Even better this time, the trains are driven by computer, so there is no one to go on strike and you can see out the front. 

We took the train over to Gardens by the Bay, the big attraction for us in Singapore. Here we had tickets to the Floral Fantasy display, the Flower dome and the Cloud Forest.

The Floral Fantasy Display was like some sort of dream. We followed a path thru a continuous display of flower arrangements. Some were living plants and some were dried and sometimes it was hard to tell. The colours and patterns were amazing, but also the sculptures. I particularly liked, what I’ll call, the bark giant. But there were also huge birds and horses made from dried flowers and ferns. There was also a Merlion, the mythical creature of Singapore, carved from wood, looking thru a waterfall. It was an impressive sculpture.

There was a short 4D cinema experience here too. It’s the first movie where I’ve been asked to wear a seatbelt, as the whole row of chairs rocked and swayed in response to the film. There were some bursts of air, water sprays and bubbles, which was fun, but the film was basically a short promotional tour of the gardens by the bay park.

After this we headed over to flower dome which  had a special display of roses. Hundreds of species showcased, arranged in shrubs, trees, climbing vines and all sorts of patterned arrangements. This made the greenhouse exceptionally busy. And for some reason people had brought their children. Sure, go to the Avatar exhibition next door, but this is literally just flowers and plants. It made the whole dome echo with noise and really made it feel hectic. This is the opposite feeling I expect to have. Usually you feel warm and cocooned by the flowers, all towering over you and close to you like you’re bushwacking thru an exotic rainforest. Normally it’s quiet and dense with just the sound of running water and hushed discussions. But not this place. Its very much more modern than Kew Gardens, so it’s built for thousands of visitors per day, not hundreds per year as they were. The avenues are wide and the flowers set in raised planters at chest level. We just felt detached from the garden. There were also people rushing around getting “Instagram” photos and then moving on. The flowers are photo-worthy but take a minute yeah?! I ended up enjoying the tiny little succulents that had grown nestled in a cracked log the most. They looked the most naturally occurring. They were also being pretty much passed by without notice so were less busy.

This dome is kept at cool and dry Mediterranean temperatures with cooling pipes in the floor. It was cool enough that Aimi felt like she was getting a chill. I was just grateful to feel comfortable and less sticky. Not only is it hot here but its absolutely hammering it down with rain today. While Aimi focused on flowers I enjoyed checking out the building. This huge dome has its major structural arches on the outside and then the grid of glass windows is hung beneath it. This makes it look wonderfully delicate and continuous over the whole span. The arches also contain in their profile, something like roller blinds. These unfurl on very sunny days to block out some of the light and keep the dome from getting too hot. It’s a really cool structure… get it?

The other dome is differently shaped, being much taller and skinnier. This one houses the Cloud Forest, imitating the higher altitude rainforests around the world. These forests are responsible for creating a large proportion of our fresh water on earth and have evolved their own ecosystems. In here has been built a 4 or 5 story concrete structure to imitate a cliff face, planted with hundreds of bushes and flowers. They stick out and cling to their perch all on top of each other. Right at the top and in a few places lower down there are stainless steel channels of floating water creating a cascade down the front. We both agreed this waterfall was much nicer and more satisfying than the one at Changi airport. It was nice having all the foliage around it. When we got to the top of the structure there was a large glassy pond feeding the waterfalls. Here were some amazing glass sculptures by Chihoulie. Ive enjoyed seeing his works at kew and other places several times over the years, so it was great to see more of it here.

Avatar was putting on an exhibition here at the Cloud Forest. In among the flowers and trees were “life” sized models of the Avatar characters and beasts. Kids were congregating around the models captured by the bright colours and fantastical animals. I wonder how many of them thought they were real? Certainly the “game keeper” actors putting on a nature show with an animatronic Banshee made it look real. It was quite impressive the animation and the movements, especially when it reacted to commands shouted by the audience. We had fun in a photo booth getting Avatar-ized

Unfortunately I was a little annoyed to see that in the Floral Fantasy display, and in the Cloud Forest, they used real stalagmites and stalactites to decorate the scenes. This is despite preaching about the importance of preserving nature. These rock formations take thousands of years to grow and now they had been cut down, so I found their use inexcusably hypocritical. 

We have found all our western favourite shops in Singapore, like Starbucks, Subway, 7Eleven and McDonalds. We would prefer to shop at a more independent place, but we found ourselves at Starbucks again. This is simply because it was situated the best and we needed an energy boost. Aimi has not been wearing her smart watch, to avoid getting a suntan line (as if she could tan!) but it would have been interesting to know how many steps we are racking up. We must be doing 10s of thousands each day as we always get to about 3/4pm and need to sit down and recharge.

Over this end of Singapore is the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel. Its 3 towers in a line and one huge ship like deck that spans them all. It has a pool that runs nearly the whole length, overlooking the city, bars, restaurants and I’m sure some penthouses too. I looked into staying there, for just one night and was quoted someone’s ridiculous monthly salary, so we passed on that. But we could walk thru and oggle. 

We also walked thru a shopping centre nearby and saw another Team Labs installation. It was a combination of the LED rope lights hanging from the ceiling like a gigantic chandelier, and an interactive colourful projection onto the floor. As kids ran around in circles the paint brushes following them made lines on the digital canvas and occasionally combusted in a burst of flowers.

This burned a little time while we waited for darkness and the Super Tree light display. We had walked past them earlier in the day and seen these giant structures up close. They are concrete pillars, surrounded in a metal frame on which hangs vertical planters with lots of bushes and leafy things growing there. Some of them have platforms and walkways and one has a bar and lookout on top. The metal frame at the top, fans out to like sort of like the branches of a tree, but they were all empty and skeletal. I don’t know why, but I thought this was meant to have stuff growing up, using the frame to climb, but it was empty. This did, however, leave plenty of space for the show to reflect and fill the structures with light. 

We found ourselves a spot on a rockery and waited. When it started, the accompanying music was lots of west end show tunes, some we knew and some we didn’t. There were a couple bars from Phantom of the Opera, a chorus of Memories from Cats and a good melodic chunk from Les Miserables. This one always sends shivers down my spine, I love it. The lights glowed and rippled up and down the trees, turning on and off and moving in time to the music. It was good fun and very colourful, but you could happily skip it during the day, just go at night. I hope the photos we took captured the spectacle.