Last Friday, my husband and I visited the World Orchid Show which was held in Singapore from 14-20 Nov. The show tickets also allowed us to have a preview of the Flower Dome at Gardens By The Bay across the highway from Marina Bay Sands. We’ve heard of GBTB, but never checked it out. In fact we thought it was part of the MBS Integrated resort project. So we were pretty surprised to find out it is actually a governmental effort to develop a huge garden belt at the southern end of Singapore, right at the new downtown financial center.
We decided not to park at MBS since parking rates cost an arm and a leg. Instead we parked at 313@Orchard and took the train to Marina Bay station. There was shuttle bus pick-up near the station which ferry visitors to both GBTB and the Orchid Show at MBS, but the arrangement sucks. The bus that picked up passengers near the bus station came from MBS, and going to GBTB. So only a few visitors got off the bus each time. There was a queue already at the bus stop when we arrived, and we had to wait more than 20 mins before there was a bus with available seats. There was only a small shelter. By the time we got up the bus, the queue had gotten even longer. Even though it was a weekday but there were quite a lot of visitors, particularly old folks and housewives (well, they look like housewives). Either the transport frequency should be improved from the 10-15 mins rate, or provide different buses plying both locations.
Anyway we arrived at GBTB, and the place looked interesting. Whenever we drive past MBS or overlook the area, we spot this big tree-like structure dotting the landscape. We had thought those were part of the landscaping design for aesthetic reason. But at GBTB, we got up close to the structures and found that there are plants grown on them. We learned that these are called “SuperTrees”, and the signboards state they have multi-functional usage and other info about making used of environmental technology. It is all rather vague and there is no explanation on what the uses are. My husband joked that perhaps they were launch pads for intercontinental ballistic missiles. It was only after I googled and found out on Wikipedia that the usages of these structures are clear: planting, shading and acting as environmental engines for the gardens there, like providing lighting, collection of rain water etc. Appreciate if the national park board put up clearer explanations in 4 main national languages for the visitors. Many old foggies and housewives may not know how to google for wikipedia. They’ll go “oooh, aahhhh, but what the hell are these things for?”
We bought tickets for the Orchid Show which also gave us entry into the Flower Dome for a preview. The Dome will officially open in June 2012. According to Wikipedia, the Dome is a 1.2 hectare conservatory complex that houses plants from the Mediterranean and semi-arid tropical regions. There is also a changing display of flowers and other plants. Before going in, we checked out the maps on display of GBTB and we were amazed by the huge land that has been gazetted for this development. It turns out that there will be 3 gardens, and where we were, with the Flower Dome and Supertrees, is known as Bay South which is the first to be developed and also the largest garden at 54 hectares. There is going to be another conservatory complex that’s being built, parks within this garden, river etc. The other two gardens are Bay East and Bay Central. It appears to us that Bay East will be linked to East Coast Park. This is going to be an amazing project. My husband was starting to get impressed with the PAP government.
Outside the Flower Dome was some display of carved wooden animals, maybe to showcase the safari look. But I thought the whole thing looks tacky, not impressed.
The Dome is air-conditioned. (Thank God! Yeah I know I sound like a typical Singaporean. But try walking in the humidity around 1.2 hectare.) The whole place (shaped like some cyclist helmet from the outside) is like a gigantic greenhouse: really bright, but luckily cool. The Dome is segregated into different gardens: Africa, Australia, Mediterranean, California etc. When you enter the Dome, you are directed to start at the Succulent and the Baobab gardens, where there are so many varieties of cacti and baobab plants on display that are truly amazing.
The cacti have such wondrous thorny shapes, and the baobabs remind me of the sculptures of Fernando Botero, nature’s beautiful artworks.
When we entered the Australian garden, my husband commented there was the unmistakable scent of the Eucalyptus, which is prevalent in Australia. I thought it’s a pretty nice scent. Some people might think that too much greenery in the earlier gardens is boring, so the flower display here with all these brightly colored Gerberas, in various hues, add vibrancy to the place.
At the lower level, there is the Mediterranean garden with beautiful palm trees and thousand-year old olive trees. Next to it is the changing flower display.
I guess to complement the Orchid Show, the organizers arranged to showcase various orchids. Check out these 2 new species.
I wonder why these two have orchids named after them. It’s not as if they are popular.
We think that the Flower Dome is a paradise for plant lovers, and even for non-plant lovers, it’s a wonderful experience walking around. My husband, who’s not exactly crazy over plants, was astounded by the different varieties and their beauty. We’re also impressed (will be using this word liberally) with the ambitions of GBTB. When we walked to the bridge linking GBTB to MBS, we passed by a river with what seemed like rice padi planted next to it.
My husband calls GBTB a souped up Kew Garden multiple times over. He’s also been to Central Park Conservatory Garden in NYC, which is smaller and not as wondrous as a garden. He thinks that GBTB is an ingenious idea and a feather on the government (PAP)’s cap. We’re really looking forward to the official opening of GBTB in June 2012. We think it’ll be a hit with both locals and tourists, especially since it appears to be one of a kind in Asia. My husband said he would bring his mom and the baby here; his mom is a plant lover and we can probably leave her here for the whole day while she slowly mozy around. One thing that struck me about the staff at GBTB is that they are almost all locals. This is a good sign, national attractions should be staffed by locals.
We walked through GBTB to MBS, where the World Orchid Show was held in the expo center. There were a lot of people at the show, and I can imagine the crowd during the weekends. The varieties of orchids on display were simply amazing! We first checked out the orchids from Botanic Garden that were named after famous people. There was a newly minted one for Elton John, who apparently was there earlier to receive the orchid and its birth certificate. As befitting of him, the orchid has a flamboyant color pattern.
But most of the orchids were either rather plain (like the one named after Lady Di which is a plain white orchid), or rather dull in color like the one named after Nelson Mandela. I like the one named after Jane Goodall, with small flowers which is rather sweet looking (below top), and one named after Angela Merkel is a rather elegant fuchsia pink orchid (below bottom).
The orchids from the US look really fabulous with their huge petals and bold hues. I thought they are more beautiful compared to those from Singapore.
On display were also many award winning orchids with their vibrant colors. To be honest, we didn’t get to check out all the orchids. They were apparently more than 50,000 on show, and after some time, my husband asked for a time out. Said he was “orchid-out”. So we called it a day; it was truly an eye-opener to get up close with numerous varieties of this beautiful flower.