When I last visited Singapore in 2011, I went up the Marina Bay Sands hotel and had a look of much of Singapore’s main downtown area. I could see a lot of the Singapore River as well as the famous Orchard Road district. I could even see the entire F1 circuit and enjoy the heat from above the city. I even had a chance to see the Gardens by the Bay under construction. In 2011, they were still doing a lot of construction on the entire area and most of it was nothing but dirt. The Super Tree Grove was erected but they were inaccessible to regular people. The Flower Dome and Cloud Forest were nearly completed and the area looked like it would take years to complete. Fast forward a couple years and my return to Singapore meant the entire garden area was complete. I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked so I focused primarily on the Super Tree Grove area rather than actually going everywhere in the gardens. Next time I visit Singapore, I’ll try to spend a little more time there, but I doubt I will visit the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest as it doesn’t seem interesting for me.
Getting to the Gardens by the Bay is not an easy task. It involves going through the Marina Bay Sands hotel, or in my case under it, and past a busy highway. You are then at the main entrance to the gardens. Due to the size of the gardens, they actually have a shuttle “bus” that is very similar to taking the Universal Studios tour in California. You are in a daisy chain of golf carts that take you to various locations around the gardens, for a fee. Being the cheap traveller that I am, I skipped the carts and decided to walk most of the gardens. It is more interesting to walk everywhere anyways. My experience was hampered due to the heat, physical exhaustion, and the fact that my camera lens was broken. To make a long story short, the lens would not take photos at any zoom point under bright conditions, but it could still take photos in its natural state or in a zoom state when it was dark. When I was in the gardens, zoom features would have been great but I did the best I could with what I had.
The gardens themselves are split into different regions. The main entrance passes the Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes. This area is nice to look at but the gaudy looking Chinese pavilion did take away from the look of the area for me. I’m not a fan of the bright yellow pavilion, especially when I have come to appreciate the subtle and “boring” look of Japanese temples and shrines. I also had a chance to quickly browse the Heritage Gardens, which is sectioned off into different plant areas that highlight the cultural make-up of Singapore. There is a Chinese, an Indian, Malay, and a Colonial garden highlighting the botanical gems from each culture and what they brought to Singapore. Due to the time and energy levels when I visited the gardens, the Super Tree Grove and Heritage Gardens were only areas I touched on. I skipped most of the gardens, which is a shame, but at the same time I was unfortunately unimpressed by the gardens themselves. I’m sure that if I had a lot more time, I would enjoy it a lot more and I would be able to see the beauty in more detail. I hope to revisit these gardens in the future and to see exactly what makes them so special. While I only skimmed most of these areas, I did spend a significant time in the Super Tree Grove.
I love the look of the Gardens by the Bay but the Super Trees are why I visited the gardens in the first place. They look very cool and interesting and they have a very interesting attraction. The main grove itself is located in the centre of the gardens and it is a nice open area. I really enjoyed the area as a place to relax. It is also the location of all of the restaurants and fast food shops, but I wouldn’t buy anything there if I had a choice. I would buy things at the Marina Bay Sands hotel rather than at the gardens due to the mark-up of prices. Be aware that the outdoor gardens are free, so they make a lot more on people who need amenities such as water. Being Singapore, they make a killing at the gardens. The one thing I had to do at the Super Tree Grove was go up to the OCBC Skyway. It is a suspended platform that spans the main trees. It is not for those who are afraid of heights, but it is a great place to see a lot of the area. You head up 22 metres and walk along the suspended platform between the trees. The walkway sways in the wind and below your feet, there are holes so you can see below you. Thankfully the holes are small enough that people can’t really see you from below and most items won’t fall down to the ground either, but it can be scary for people who are scared of heights.
In general, the Gardens by the Bay is a typical tourist trap. They have overpriced items and a few interesting things to see. It wasn’t as amazing as I had hoped it to be but it wasn’t a bad experience either. You definitely need to be prepared by bringing a little water as well as being prepared for the heat. With the heat and humidity in Singapore, you really need to be ready for it all the time, but I felt being in the gardens and parks are worse than the developed areas as you don’t have anywhere to duck out of the heat such as an air conditioned shopping mall. You can see a lot within the gardens but it isn’t as interesting as the Singapore Botanical Gardens. If you are staying near the Gardens by the Bay, it is still a good place to visit and I think the best areas are free.