Monday, June 10, 2013

Singapore's Gardens by the bay: Celebrating nature with Hi-Tech excellence; Part III

Entire project of 'Gardens by the Bay' is one of the largest garden projects of its kind in the world. When finished, the total site area would occupy a staggering area of 101 hectares mainly of reclaimed land beside Marina bay in downtown Singapore, and would comprise of three distinct gardens – Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central. Bay South is the first and largest of these three landscaped gardens of this project, that is now completed. However the two conservatories, called as “Cloud Forest” and “Flower dome,” that I have just described, are not the only attractions of the bay south gardens.

A bird's eye view of the Bay south Gardens, from the nearby Ferris Wheel called “Singapore Flyer,” actually makes a visitor aware of the enormity of this project. Besides the two caterpillar like glass dome conservatories, what catches attention of every visitor, are eighteen huge steel structures called supertrees, erected in groups at three spots in the gardens. The groups have been named as “ Supertree Grove,” “Golden Garden” and “Silver Garden.” These so called super trees are actually giant steel towers varying between 20 meters to 50 meters in height and are shaped to look like trees. Each of this supertree is designed to have thousands of plant species growing up their vein-like cladding. The super trees also serve the purpose of rainwater harvesting for the gardens below and are embedded with sustainable energy and water technologies integral to the cooling of the Cooled Conservatories. The tallest supertrees have restaurants and bars in true Singapore style, where you can dine with a magnificent view.

There is an area called “canopy” in between the two conservatories. From here a path leads to the southwest. I start walking along the path. The Supergrove cluster of supertrees is located here. At the center of the grove are the two tallest supertrees. Clustered around them are 10 other superthrees, which would mean that this cluster has 12 supertrees in all. The other two clusters of supertrees are much smaller, each having just 3 supertrees. The management calls the supertrees as vertical gardens with each of them studded with vertical display on walls of of tropical flowering climbers, epiphytes and ferns making them appear almost spectacular. I reach the tallest supertree in the center. There is a lift available for going to the top. In few seconds, I reach the top balcony. The view from here is just breathtaking to say the least. Off course, towards west, only thing that I can see are the giant triplets of the “Marina Bay sands” hotel and casino. To the north is the Marina Barage and in other directions magnificent view of the bay and tall buildings of the downtown dominate the view. I have a closer look at the steel tower made from welded steel pipes. The surfaces are entirely covered with creeper plants and orchids. Some of them displaying brightly coloured beautiful flowers.

Between two tallest towers a walk way in the sky is suspended with help of steel cables. The path, about 3 or 4 feet wide and at a height of 22 meter, shakes slightly and has some horizontal movement too, making a walk on ,it a thrilling and exciting experience. This is perhaps as nearest as we humans can go nearest to walking in sky and I love it. On the other side, the skywalk reaches the other tall supertree. The view below shows a well manicured chain of small gardens linked by pathways and the whole thing look like an emerald necklace, around the supertree grove. I reach the other tower and swiftly come down by another lift. Ahead of me is a beautiful manicured lawn and beyond that a chain of restaurants with exotic names like Hill Street coffee shop and Peach garden noodle house. No place in Singapore can survive without eating places nearby. Even with so many restaurants here, locals have been complaining about lack of food courts here. I decide to make around of the emerald necklace of gardens that surroud the grove.

These gardens, in all 10 in number are all themed gardens, each having its own theme like Indian Garden, Chinese Garden, Malay Garden, California garden, Colonial Garden and World of Palms. On the west boundary of the park a beautiful small lake has been created with a strip like shape (parhaps as an after thought) but with good landscaping. It has been named as Dragonfly lake. The Landscaping is superb and I decide to linger there for few minutes, as I find it quite relaxing.

The time is around 7 pm and I decide to visit one of the restaurants on the other side. I order Nonya vegetable curry with rice. However instead of the rice being served separately, it has been added in the curry itself in the form of cheese or tofu alike cubes, cooked from finely ground rice flour. Nevertheless, the curry is very tasty and I am satisfied with the food.

After my food, I come out on the lawn outside. The view has changed completely. In front me there is a backdrop of tens of thousands of lights sparkling from the rooms of “Marina Bay sands” triplets. In front of them stand the supertrees now lighted with sparkling and soft glowing lights of different hues and colours. The spectacle of colour, texture and fragrance is a mesmerizing experience for me. I relax a bit on the lawns. Exactly at 7.45 pm, there is an announcement on the public address system and the light and show starts with pleasing music that can be heard clearly. The group of 6 or 8 supertrees ahead of me suddenly light up with thousands of lights of different colours and start dancing in tune and rhythm of the music. I find the spectacle fascinating and quite pleasing for the senses.

The show ends in 15 minutes and all the supertrees now glow up making the view grand and superlative. With a heavy heart, I get up and start walking towards to underground car park. My visit to the Bay south gardens finally over. It was no doubt an unforgettable experience.

7th June 2013

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