TRANSPORTE INTELIGENTE | Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay
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Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay

Having required five layers when departing wintry Melbourne, it is with bare arms I now clink wine glasses on a typically balmy Singapore evening. The twinkling panorama of the Lion City wraps itself around us like a pashmina, and while there are plenty of rooftop bars to enjoy this kind of view in the city, this is the only one located in a tree.

I’m 16 storeys up, nestled atop a vertical garden structure known as a Supertree. Singapore is being transformed from a “garden city” into a “city within a garden” and a big part of that has been the construction of the billion-dollar Gardens by the Bay development. When finally completed, it will cover 101 hectares of reclaimed land by Marina Bay. The first stage, known as Bay South Garden, is the biggest, covering 54 hectares.

This vast green space is a true gift to locals and visitors. Like many Asian cities, Singapore is a densely populated, heavily urban environment. Buildings cluster and soar, with glass, concrete and steel being ubiquitous. But here, if not in the heart of that then lying pretty damn close, is this perfectly manicured oasis, open to all. There are 10 horticulturally themed gardens, offering places to sit, rest, reflect. The four heritage gardens – Indian, Chinese, Malay and Colonial – are a nod to the culture of Singapore’s main ethnic groups and colonial history. There’s a whole hectare for kids to splash and water-play in the Far East Organisation Children’s Garden plus the Sun Pavilion, home to a 100 different species of succulents, and two lakes.

The 18 Supertrees are a key feature. Twelve of them form the SuperTree Grove. The trees – designed to imitate the canopy effect of a forest, and tall enough so as not to be too dwarfed by the iconic Marina Bay Sounds triple towers next door – are like mega-sized “mosaiculture”, a horticultural art form where metal structures are fleshed out with foliage to create living sculptures.

A variety of bromeliads, ferns and tropical flowering climbers are winding their way up the trunks and upper artificial branches, giving them life, while technology also mimics ecological functions. Some Supertrees have solar cells in their canopies, which then power the nightly sound and light show (on at 7.45pm and 8.45pm) while others vent waste heat from the complex. At the centre of the tallest tree, which rises 50 metres, is IndoChine’s Supertree rooftop bar. (The highest rooftop bar in Singapore, in case you’re wondering, is Altitude, at 1 Raffles Place; but you’ll get your best view of the gardens from Ce La Vi, 57 storeys up at Marina Bay Sands) It costs SGD$18 to get up the Supertree but entry also includes a glass of wine.

From here, we can see two glass domes, which lie closer to the water’s edge. These two massive greenhouses – The Cloud Forest is 0.8 hectares and The Flower Dome is 1.2 hectares – may very well be the types of thing future generations end up living in once climate change has destroyed everything and that’s kind of the point. Both of them are home to endangered plant species from regions under threat from both climate change and habitat loss to help educate about the importance of environmental awareness and sustainability.

Cutting-edge enclosures, they have won international awards for architecture and design. Each one is climate-controlled, the Flower Dome a cool-dry conservatory and the Cloud Forest recreating a cool-moist environment. Both are 23 degrees to 25 degrees and the drop in temperature, and change in the air condition, from Singapore’s tropical humid heat is obvious the moment you enter. In the case of the Cloud Forest, which has a recreated mountain as it’s centrepiece, you’ll also be hit with mist and water droplets which bounce off the cascading waterfall.

Cloud Mountain, as they call this 35-metre construction, boasts the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, which you can also view from inside the mountain and a viewing platform at the top. Walkways extend out and over the whole lot, so you can get a birds-eye view of this spectacular horticultural display (and views across the Marina Bay waterfront).

While this glasshouse replicates cloud forest vegetation found about 2000 metres above sea level, in the Flower Dome, it’s more of a desert environment that has been recreated. There are succulents from arid regions like Namibia, Bolivia and Mexico, for example; 1000-year-old olive trees and even some Australian Kangaroo’s Paw. Plants have been sourced from every continent except Antarctica and in the centre is a large, frequently changing Flower Field.

The domes, which you must pay to enter, will take a couple of hours, longer if you wish to eat in the restaurant in the Flower Dome and you could easily spend half a day exploring the entire complex.

Whether you’re a hard-core horticulturist or someone who can barely keep a pot plant alive, the Gardens by the Bay will impress for its innovative design and impeccable presentation, not to mention the sheer scale of ambition that has been realised here.

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