Okay, I have been to the Gardens by the Bay previously, however that last time I was in Singapore I ended up rushing through it because the sun was beginning to set (it does actually set pretty quickly around the equator, even with daylight savings time, which pretty much does absolutely nothing except move sun up and sun down a hour forward) and I did want to get a look at a couple of spots before I headed back to Chinatown to grab a beer at one (or three) of the great beer stalls in the Chinatown Complex. However, this time I decided that it would be good to set aside some more time to actually appreciate the gardens, though as it turned out I didn’t actually look at as much as I had originally planned on doing, namely because my brother wasn’t all that keen on going up the Supertrees. However, I did get to check out the Forest Dome and the Flower Dome, which does count, so I guess I can skip the Gardens the next time I’m passing through Singapore.
Anyway, like last time, we made our way to the Marina Bay Sands, though I ended up getting off at the wrong railway station, namely Marina South Pier. A part of me suspected that it would be easier to get into the gardens by getting off there, however when we did get off the train, and walked out of the station (which was one of the few stations that I actually stepped outside of – most of the stations you visit in Singapore you do so to get from one train to another), I discovered that I had stepped into a huge rainstorm. Okay, not a storm like you would get in Melbourne with wind buffeting everywhere, but rather gallons on water pouring from the sky onto your head. The other thing was that there was absolutely nothing there, except for a magazine stand. Well, that suggested that I might be able to get an umbrella, however that turned out not to be the case, namely because she only accepted cash.
Anyway, I then looked at Google Maps, and then at the rain that seemed to be endlessly pouring from the sky, and concluded that we weren’t going to get anywhere here, particularly anywhere that didn’t involve us getting wet, so we decided to go back into the MTR and see if we could exit elsewhere. As it turned out, this station is rarely used, which was pretty clear by the lack of people milling around, except for when cruise ships dock to let off passengers. On the subject of cruise ships, I have been trying to work out how I could get from Melbourne to London without catching a plane – as it turns out the only way to do it is to travel from Australia to Bali by Cruise Ship, since there are no ferries operating between Australia and any of its neighbours – such is the nature of government policy.
Oh, talking about Google Maps, here is a where the gardens are located:
Shopping Like the Rich
Well, like the previous time, particularly since it was raining, we decided to go and check out the Marina Bay shopping centre. Okay, it is basically a part of the hotel, but just not as high up. Like the last time I marveled at the canal that ran through the centre, where people on gondolas would paddle up and down the waterway for whatever reason that chose to do (personally I would rather save my money and go on a gondola in Venice – oh, already done that and it wasn’t all that impressive). We also wandered around looking at the shops and concluding that there wasn’t actually anything all that exciting here anyway. There was the casino, but the entry requirements left me deciding that maybe going into the casino wasn’t all that worth it, so instead we went to look for something to eat.
So, after walking past countless numbers of fashion shops we finally found some restaurants on the far southern end on the bottom level, and one of them was Indian. Well, since I hadn’t had a vindaloo for a while I decided to check it out, and proceeded to look at the menu, at which point I almost had a heart attack – $50.00 for a vindaloo – seriously, you have to be kidding me. In my mind Indian restaurants aren’t classy – far from it. They are cheap, nasty, and really hit the spot. It is sort of like fish and chips, Thai, or Asian – they aren’t classy. Now French is classy, but then again anything French literally reeks of class. Okay, you do have seafood restaurants that charge ridiculous amounts for a meal, but one thing they don’t call themselves is ‘fish and chips’. As for Indian, well, $15.00 of a Vindaloo, sure, I can do that, but not $50.00.
Fortunately for my brother, and for my hip pocket, there was a food hall next door. Okay, food hall and incredibly classy shopping centre technically don’t go together, and also since the place was full I felt like we were really pushing our luck eating here. Fortunately, having two people, means that once we find a seat we plunk one of them down (namely my brother, since he really doesn’t have the ability to be able to place an order, let alone perform an business transaction), while the other goes and gets something to eat. For my brother that happened to be chicken – he is easy to please. However, what confused me was that this place looked like a single restaurant when it in fact it was a food hall – it was just that they used the same kitchen, and in fact there was no division between then, just a bunch of separate cash registers.
Well, now that lunch was done away with, it was time to go and check out the Gardens by the Bay, though we first went and had a look around the Marina Bay Sands. Well, basically it is a really flash hotel – unless you have more money than you know what to do with, my opinion is that staying here is basically not worth it. Sure, you may be treated like royalty, but the experience only lasts a short time and when you leave you discover that you are out of pocket something like $500.00 a night (at a minimum) and nothing to show for it. Personally, give me a cheap hotel with working broadband and a pub around the corner and I’ll be happy.
Into the Gardens
The biggest problem with the Gardens by the Bay is actually getting into them. Seriously, I spend more time trying to work out how to get there than actually wandering around them. Sure, there is always the mad dash across the road from the Marina Bay Sands, but with my brother in tow I’m not going to run across a freeway (and he’ll point blank refuse to do that anyway – he has a great respect for cars – they are big, hard, go pretty fast, and hurt an awful lot if they hit you). The other way is to walk over the bridge that runs through the hotel, though the catch is actually trying to find out how to get onto the bridge. We eventually succeeded, walked through the hotel, being thankful that we hadn’t been lured in by the seduction of luxury, and made our way to the gardens.
Well, speaking of luxury, what better way to experience luxury than walking through a beautiful garden without having to spend a cent. In fact the billionaire class have their massive mansions, and beautiful gardens and probably never actually spend any time in them, where as me and my brother, on much more modest means, get such delight out of simply wandering around a public park, particularly a public park that has been as beautifully manicured as the ones in Singapore. Mind you, it turned out that there was a flower festival on in the gardens, but we were able to walk around it and explore the park without having to go inside.
I would suggest that the Gardens are like a green and flowery maze, but in reality they aren’t, namely because there are signs directing you. Also, it is sort of like a botanical garden with separate spots such as the Malay Garden, the Chinese Garden, the Indian Garden, the Colonial Garden, though looking at them I realise that they are in reference to the four nationalities that make up Singapore. However, you also have the Supertrees, the Flower Dome, and the Cloud Forest.
We headed down to the Supertrees and looked up, and I must say that they were impressive. I had planned to go up to the walkways, but as it turns out my brother doesn’t particularly like heights. Well, he didn’t seem to mind traveling on the cable car over to Sentosa, but he certainly didn’t want to travel up the Supertrees. Maybe it had something to do with us taking a wrong turn when were were at the Vatican and 900 odd steps later found ourselves at the top of the dome (probably not, but I’m never going to forget climbing 900 steps on a stinking hot day). Anyway, Tim decided to pass on the Supertrees so instead we went and checked out the Domes.
The Flowers and the Forest
If I was Bill Bryson I would probably be complaining about the tourists, the lines, and the customer service that I received. Actually, thinking about that I’m sure nobody could fault customer service in Singapore – they are just so nice. This is a city where people will actually stand up and let an elderly or disabled person have a seat on a train. In fact this is a city where, if a stranger comes up to you and asks you for money then the world is coming to an end and you have to post about it all over social media – Singaporeans simply don’t beg. So, to raise an issue about customer service, particular at a popular tourist destination, is almost unheard of. Mind you, requesting to speak to a manager tends to open lots and lots of doors in Singapore.
As it turned out, Virgin Australia decided to put a block on my travel card because I was making transactions in Singapore. Seriously!? This is a travel card, it is supposed to be used for travel, and the fact that I had flown one of their partner airlines to Singapore should have been enough to notify them that not only had I left the country, but I was also in Singapore. It seems as if their computers don’t actually talk to each other, though the algorithm should be pretty simply: if customer flies to Singapore then customer is in Singapore, therefore if customer’s card makes a transaction in Singapore then don’t block the card because said customer is in Singapore – said customer flew their two days previously.
Anyway, enough of that, since despite the problems that I have had with them, it is nowhere near Qantas breaking my Port Power flag, and then basically saying ‘to bad, so sad’ when I queried them – if they had just paid me out the $20.00 for the flag maybe I would have flown them more often – as it turns out I haven’t, and I’ve flown overseas multiple times.
Well, I seem to be letting time get away from me because, like Bill Bryson, I have a tendency to waffle. However, after getting our tickets we then wandered into the Cloud Forest, which I have to admit was absolutely amazing. Basically it is an indoor forest, which a huge artificial mountain in the middle. You walk around the ground floor, and then take a lift to the top, where you then walk above the canopy (it is supposed to be a jungle), and then slowly make your way down to the bottom. Actually, you don’t go to the bottom, rather you go underneath the forest into the root cellars, and wonder around there, before you end up exiting through the gift shop (while receiving a lecture on environmentalism, which is a bit rich coming from Singapore that externalises all of its factories over to Indonesia).
As for the flower dome, well, as you can expect, it is full of flowers. It was also full of people, but then again this isn’t actually a private place where I can wonder around the flowers all day. Mind you, having to dodge the multitude of people who were here for a flower festival sort of didn’t make for a pleasant experience, but there were certainly an awful lot of flowers in here. Also, while we were here it started raining again, but that was okay because we were inside. However, we did eventually find our way back outside, and decided to call it a day and head back to our hotel. Actually, it was Sunday which meant that we then went to church, but after Church my brother went to bed while I partied the night away down at Clarke Quay (which does sound a little odd – partying in Singapore – it sounds like something that might attract a fine).