Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I have read that Singapore reinvents itself every five years. Our taxi ride, along a wide, immaculate boulevard lined with trees and meticulously-clipped planting beds, from Changi Airport into the city was a marvel of ooohs and aaahs. Once leaving the long boulevard and soaring over the bridges leading into the city, the amazing sight of Gardens by the Bay and Marina Center stunned us. The first, two billion dollars worth of horticultural excess housed in two enormous greenhouses, is right on the Singapore River. Facing it, is what we came to call The Boat, a sixty story triple-tower extravaganza topped by what looked like an airplane fuselage, its prow jutting out a hundred feet into thin air. The photo at right hardly does this massive tour de force justice. All around these architectural wonders were many other
buildings of fanciful shapes. I would think Singapore is an architect's dream-come-true. Just about anything goes here as long as it's different.
Once we'd checked into our Chinatown hotel, we went for dim sum (they call it yum cha here, but it's still one of my faves). Then we took the sparkling clean MRT across town to Gardens by the Bay. Two billion dollars built these immense greenhouses, marvels of construction with outer cladding that looked like pleats. One houses a garden with various climates from around the world, the second a cloud forest with six story waterfall. Outside, a forest of artificial trees (see left), about 15 of them,
house photovoltaic cells and exhaust chimneys; underneath the whole thing is an extensive green biomass converter, part of their much-touted commitment to going green (although that did not extend to commenting, on the signs under the silly airplanes, on how air travel is a major pollutant). The trees were the best part as they weren't jammed with visitors, all of whom took endless photos of each other amidst much shrieking and giggling. With a tourist entrance fee of $28US, this was no cheap exploration (locals pay maybe five dollars Singapore). But a lovely gentleman from Cairns had said it was an epic construction full of marvelous gardens, that all his Aussie friends made special trips to see it. So...we forked over the money, joined the mob, and...
Once inside, the immense space was filled with flowers and specimen trees and, inexplicably, plastic hot airballoons and small-scale metal airplanes. Despite all the effort, it was a let-down, more a Disneyfied version of a cutesy garden than a real gardener's space. But it was well done, with sloping walkways that gradually fed you into the tunnel leading to the cloud forest. Entrance there was damp, with moisture drifting in the air and the waterfalls roaring down into a pool. A pair of skywalks soared overhead, looping through the air, giving stunning views to the outside, where The Boat soared into the sky.
in we went...
Despite the cost and the extravagant feel to the place, we went through it pretty quickly, then out into the sunshine where the grove of trees cast welcome shadow. We strolled through the theme gardens (more Disney) and then across Dragonfly Lake onto the elevated walkway that led to The Boat. Rumor had it that we'd have to pay a $30 cover charge to have a drink, that there was a strict dress code (all of us would've failed on any number of accounts), that only gorgeous Eurasian girls and their impeccably-dressed escorts (with closed-toe shoes and designer jackets) were admitted.
They let us in, Teva sandals and all, without a peep. Up we went, non-stop, to the 58th floor, strolling along the hall into the open air where a large bar served insanely expensive drinks. We'd wanted to see the infinity pool but that was only for guests. Imagine swimming to the edge of an infinity pool fifty eight stories up! So we ordered drinks, and talked, and watched the sun set, just like we were wealthy tourists. I had two glasses of red wine: $65US. Worth every penny. Photo above, left to right, Deb, Lea, Martine, Lee. Photo at left Singapore at dusk, jsut visible in lower quarter, the two greenhouses at Gardens by the Bay.

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