A hallmark of a great city is one that has a grand public park. Central Park in New York, Hyde Park in London, and Lumphini in Bangkok are three that spring to mind. Most of these parks were laid out over 100 years ago (or 1920 in the case of Bangkok), back when there was more space. It’s rare to find a new park that is built in a central location, yet Gardens by the Bay in Singapore is one such park.
Gardens by the Bay is located on the edge of downtown Singapore, next to the marina and on what is mostly reclaimed land.
I first visited the gardens in 2013 – a year after it had opened – and it still had a “just planted” feel to it. The trees and grass were all transplanted here and it felt like the greenery was still settling in.
I revisited the park this year, and after three years the park felt more lived-in and permanent. Not having so many bamboo poles propping up trees helped with that. It’s never going to look completely wild, but having more greenery made it a pleasure to walk around.
The gardens cover over 100 hectares, which is about the third of the size of Central Park. I arrived by metro at the new station at the Marina Bay Sands complex. From there you can walk out over the Dragonfly Bridge into the park.
The gardens have a botanical gardens feel to it, with a variety of plant species marked out, and artistic floral arrangements. For a proper botanical garden experience you should visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The most visible landmark of the park the Supertrees, which are vertical gardens with tree-like canopies.
There is an admission fee to go up the Supertrees, but you can freely walk around the surrounding park. There are plenty of vantage points to take photos of these impressive structures.
Along with the Supertrees, the other places requiring admission is the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest.
The Flower Dome is the largest glass greenhouse in the world and has a continually changing display of flowers and plants.
The Cloud Forest recreates a tropical forest in a highland environment, in sea-level Singapore.
Back out in the park there are walkways passing by wetlands, with sculptures of animals native to the region.
And some animal sculptures not so native to the region.
Look out for the “Planet” sculpture, which is not a planet but a baby that looks like it’s floating in mid air, like a planet. The size and detail of the sculpture alone is remarkable, then you realise that the whole thing is delicately resting on the baby’s hand.
[Planet: White painted bronze, stainless steel. Sculptor: Marc Quinn (UK).]
From the installation description:
Beautifully balanced on a languid arm of a sleeping boy child, this seven ton, 383cm by 353cm by 926cm bronze cast sculpture floats like a heavenly body above a verdant earth. Renowned sculptor Marc Quinn (b. 1964) created this work in a depiction of his infant son, Lucas. Quinn delays an assortment of materials and techniques to explore nature under human influence in themes that include the changing human body and the dual meanings of human life, between spiritual and physical, surface and depth, cerebral and sexual. This piece is the second of three editions, and is gifted for permanent display in the Gardens by the Bay
– By Putra and Imelda Masagung, January 2013
You are free to wander around most of the park, and there is an admission for two conservatories and the skyway connecting the Supertrees. I was short on time on this visit so I plan to visit those on another Singapore visit. The gardens would have to rank as one of the best gardens in the world so a revisit is an easy choice for me.
One thing I didn’t get to see is the Garden Rhapsody show, which is on every night. The Supertrees are lit up like, um, Christmas trees, and the photos I’ve seen inspires me to plan my visit in the evening the next time I visit Singapore.