Gardens by the Bay

11/12/13 October 2019

Not content with growing the country’s economy, the Singapore government is also doing its best to grow its total acreage through a bit of ambitious land reclamation in the Marina Bay area.  Given the desperate shortage of usable land here it’s pleasing – and very surprising – that some of the new land that’s been created has been given over to the development of some fabulous public gardens.

Gardens by the Bay is an independent organisation responsible for developing and managing one of Asia’s foremost garden destinations…Bay South, the largest of the three gardens, opened in 2012. With its award-winning cooled conservatories and iconic Supertrees, Bay South has placed Singapore squarely on the international map and is a source of national pride. 

Source: retrieved 15/10/19

Two of the most impressive features are the massive conservatories.  Here’s what the official website says about the Flower Dome:

Step into the Flower Dome and stand in awe of nature. Spectacular and innovative, it is the largest glass greenhouse in the world as listed in the 2015 Guinness World Records! Be amazed by changing display of flowers and plants from the Mediterranean and semi-arid regions.

Source: retrieved 15/10/19

And not to be outdone, the good folk at Gardens by the Bay have built a second giant greenhouse replicating a cloud forest, including a 35 metres foliage-clad man-made mountain complete with cascading waterfall .  The official website invites us to:

Enter the Cloud Forest, a mysterious world veiled in mist. Take in breath-taking mountain views surrounded by diverse vegetation and hidden floral gems. And learn about rare plants and their fast-disappearing environment.

Source: retrieved 15/10/19

These two greenhouses are stunning structures, and the plants they showcase are equally superb. And to add a whimsical touch, scattered amongst the plants are sculptures of various characters from fiction and mythology, including a fierce dragon and the key players from Alice in Wonderland.

Moreover the air inside the greenhouses is cooled!  I’ve never before come across the concept of entering a greenhouse to cool off, but this is just what we find ourselves doing at Gardens by the Bay to escape Singapore’s oppressive heat.  It’s a surreal, unforgettable experience.

And I still haven’t told you about the very best bit of Gardens by the Bay!  Have you heard of Singapore’s Supertrees?

Measuring between 25 and 50 metres tall, Gardens by the Bay’s Supertrees are designed with large canopies that provide shade in the day and come alive with an exhilarating display of lights and sounds at night. Stand in awe amidst these iconic giants, or stroll along the 22-metre-high OCBC Skyway and enjoy panoramic vistas of the Gardens and the Marina Bay skyline.

Source: retrieved 15/10/19

When we came to Singapore three years ago we saw the son et lumiere display but didn’t manage to see the Supertrees in daylight.  This time we did, and they are truly, truly amazing. Words fail me, so I’ll let a few of Mrs P’s photos do the talking.

The greening of Singapore

11/12/13 October 2019

Singapore is tiny, a mere pimple at the toe-end of the Malay Peninsula. Tiny, but very, very crowded.

I find the numbers astonishing: Singapore has a land area of just 279 square miles, and yet it has a population of some 5.8 million people. By way of contrast, the figures for the UK are 95,000 square miles and 68 million people. In New Zealand, our final destination on this trip, the numbers are 103,000 square miles and just 4.8 million people.

To put it another way the population densities of the three countries are: Singapore 21,476 people per square mile, against 279 for the UK and just 47 for New Zealand. Singapore is the third most densely populated nation state in the world, after Monaco and Macau. The UK comes in 51st, while New Zealand lags way behind in 201st position.

This sounds like very bad news for Singapore and its residents. Any reasonable person would describe it as chronically overcrowded, with inevitable detrimental impacts on those living in it. It’s a recipe for a wretched environment, an ugly eyesore in which all living things other than humans are marginalised or absent altogether.

And yes, large areas of the city are profoundly ugly, dominated by clusters of utilitarian high-rise apartment blocks all linked together by the inevitable ribbons of tarmac. Yet our main memory from 2016 isn’t of ugliness, but rather of Singapore’s heroic attempt at damage limitation.

Huge efforts have been made to soften the harsh urban landscape with sympathetic planting of trees and flowering bushes. The city is plainly on a mission to do away with the grey and brighten up the bland.

The key objective of our 2019 visit is to delve further into the greening of Singapore, so we hot-foot it to the Botanic Gardens. And ‘hot-foot’ sums it up nicely: this place is steaming!

The Botanic Gardens, just 15 acres in area, is the first and only tropical botanic garden on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It was founded in 1859 and showcases the best and most spectacular of tropical flora set in stunning verdant landscape.

In many cities the Gardens may not generate much interest or support, but here they constitute a natural oasis in a dreary, largely monochrome urban desert. It’s interesting to see how many mums – or is it nannies? – are here, pushing babes around in buggies or walking hand-in-hand with toddlers. In a place like Singapore this has got to be good for the soul, and, just as important, it’s free.

But for us it’s the reptiles that steal the show, including a couple of huge Malaysian Water Monitor Lizards that look like extras from a Jurassic Park movie. It’s strangely thrilling to see such ancient beasts in a thoroughly modern metropolis. Click here to see my video of them – the first ever video on my new YouTube channel!

Located within the Botanic Gardens is a distinct and separately managed entity, the National Orchid Garden. It is claimed to have the largest display of tropical orchids anywhere in the world – there are over 60,000 orchids from 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids in its collection.

As we explore we spot a few that are familiar from our local supermarket and garden centre, but so many of the others are entirely new to us. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours, and are plainly thriving here.

The National Orchid Garden brings an extra dimension to the greening of Singapore, and lifts the spirits of residents and tourists alike when they need to escape for a while from the urban jungle.

Good morning Singapore

11 October 2019

After a 13 hours flight from London we stumble out of the airport terminal into the manicured madness that is Singapore.

“Stumble” sums it up nicely. The terminal is air-conditioned to within an inch of its life, as cool as a winter igloo. But as we pass through the sliding doors Singapore slaps us round the face. The air is steaming hot, so thick with moisture you could cut it with a butter knife. Within seconds our glasses are coated with a thick layer of condensation, and we blunder around blindly for a minute or two, waiting for the fog to clear.

At last we catch a glimpse of the Singapore we know and love: colourful, efficient and welcoming. And we spot the cameras too, watching me, watching you, watching everyone and everything.


Singapore is the cleanest, safest city I’ve ever visited, and also one of the most characterful. I’m pleased to be back. But it’s also a bit of a basket case, where the most apparently innocent of activities – like eating certain tropical fruits in public places – can get you arrested.

However this place is an economic miracle, and I guess a ban on eating durian fruit in public is a small price to pay for Singapore’s prosperity. Fifty years ago it was all but invisible on the world stage, Asia’s mad woman locked in the attic.

But today Singapore is a financial and trading superstar, the poster boy for Asian capitalism. This place may have been a bit of a joke in the years immediately after World War 2, but nobody’s laughing now. And, on top of all its other successes, Singapore has transformed itself into a must-see stop-off point for visitors to south-east Asia and Australasia.

Our plan of campaign for this visit is to pick up some of the key sights that we missed out on last time. That will have to wait for another post, but for now it’s worth saying that Mrs P has taken 426 photos in her first 36 hours here!