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Gardens by the Bay

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The newest addition to Singapore’s urban skyline is the spectacular Gardens by the Bay, perhaps best described as the city state’s version of New York’s Central Park. Located right in the heart of town, with its intriguing structures visible from the nearby highways, it’s worth making an effort to see.

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A sea of green in downtown Singapore.

A sea of green in downtown Singapore.

The outdoor areas of the gardens are free to wander without paying any admission; you’ll mingle with parents pushing prams, runners taking a break from jobs in the nearby CBD, newlyweds posing for photos and those interested in learning a little about botany and geography as well.

The OCBC Skyway offers a stunning view at dusk.

Supercool supertrees.

If you thought on your arrival to Singapore, coming along the highway from the airport into town, that things were pretty green here, well, you ain’t seen Supertrees yet. The gardens contain 18 of these 16-storey-high sculptures, which marry concrete with plants. Around 163,000 plants — comprising more than 200 species of orchids, ferns and tropical flowering climbers from 30 countries — are incorporated into them. For S$5, take a walk along the OCBC Skyway, a 128-metre long walkway above ground which connects two Supertrees at the Supertree Grove. The view is best at twilight or at night, when the nearby Marina Bay Sands light up and the Supertrees start feeding off the solar energy they’ve absorbed during the day.

There’s a bistro on top of the tallest Supertree (which is 50 metres high) where you can hang out; at 19:45 and 20:45 every night, the Supertree Grove plays host to a light and sound show which should not be missed.

Everyone wants a piece of the Gardens by the Bay.

Everyone wants a piece of Gardens by the Bay.

The Supertrees punctuate other parts of the gardens, such as the Heritage Gardens, a collection of four themed gardens that will take you through Singapore’s history. You’ll find out about edible fruits and medicinal plants used by the local Malay population, while the Colonial Garden will provide an educational experience on crops which have helped shaped Singapore’s economy. At the World of Plants section, check out flowers and fruits in bloom, and learn how to identify different tree species at its Secret Life of Trees segment.

One tip: the gardens are an excellent vantage point to take great Singapore skyline pictures, be it against the Singapore Flyer or the Marina Bay Sands casino. The periphery of the gardens area is lined with a variety of flora and gives you a great view — it’s a lot of bang for no buck.

From the Gardens, you can get great shots of the Singapore skyline.

From the gardens, grab some great shots of the Singapore skyline.

Seeing the indoor sections of the gardens comes at a price, but it’s definitely worth shelling out for and is still among Singapore’s cheaper things to do. The Cloud Forest has water features that will not fail to impress. Housed in one of the glass greenhouses is a 35-metre tall ‘mountain’ with the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, where you’ll find plant life from up to 2,000 metres above sea level. You’ll feel like you’re in the Andes as you follow the walkway that encircles the mountain.

The world's tallest indoor waterfall in the Cloud Forest enclosure.  Close your eyes, and its sounds will take you to Brazil, or a lush African jungle.

The world’s tallest indoor waterfall in the Cloud Forest enclosure.

The Flower Dome meanwhile takes you to the drier ends of the earth, modelling the cool-dry climates of Africa and the southern Mediterranean. Of the two we much prefer the Cloud Dome, so if you can only stretch to one, go for that.

The Flower Dome features cacti from dry climates.

The Flower Dome features cacti from dry climates.

Gardens By the Bay has developed into one of Singapore’s star attractions, and we’d allow a full half-day to take in all there is to see here. Pictures taken in the day, at dusk and after dark can be spectacular in different ways; we’d head to the OCBC Skyway at twilight and catch the light show.

The closest SMRT is Bayfront from where it is a ten minute walk to the periphery of the gardens -- transport is available for a nominal fee from here right to the Cloud Dome entrance.

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