Singapore's latest attraction hopes to enforce the garden in this city17 July, 2012 by Chad
Singapore’s newest tourist attraction are the Gardens by the Bay. Since it’s completion two weeks ago on 29th June 2012, the canopy-like landmarks there have been standing out quite a bit, especially when passing by from Shenton Way. So over the weekend, the peeps at Supermerlion took a trip over to Marina Bay to check it out.
It’s been a while since we’ve visited anywhere touristy in Singapore, so it’d be quite a refreshing experience. Getting back to covering more of the local attractions for the sake of our overseas readers has been something on the back of our mind for quite a while but had been procrastinating for too long. It’s an interesting project too, since I have as much familiarity as any other tourist to this place. I had heard that the Gardens by the Bay houses a conservatory and was hoping that it’d be something like the Sakuya Konohana Kan over in Osaka.
The nearest station to the Gardens at the Bay is the new Bayfront Station on the Circle Line which opened earlier this year. In our ingenuity, we had stopped over at City Hall for lunch though and ended up taking a leisurely walk over. Even from Bayfront Station though, the gardens are quite a distance away. Walking around in Singapore tends to be quite draining when you consider the humid Singapore weather. Thankfully a slight breeze this afternoon helped to elevate our spirits.
Singapore is popularly called a little red dot and we rarely expect to ever have to walk far to reach any place. But the reformed/reclaimed Marina Bay area is quite impressive in size indeed. All in all, it took us a couple of hours to make our way over there after making a lot of pit stops along the way to marvel at the ArtScience Museum and the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.
Though I had passed by many times on my way home from work, today was my first time actually stepping in there. Would definitely love to spend more time here another day. Honestly, Singapore looks like a pretty place if you just stick to this side of the city. Daryl remarked that the area bore certain resemblance to Odaiba, Tokyo’s own reclaimed island.
As we made our way toward Bayfront Station we begun to notice the sheer number of people headed there today. Sure it was a Sunday, but we didn’t think there’d be that many people interested in plants. Singaporeans tend to take the greenery that has been planted all over this country for granted, but that didn’t stop their curiosity for this “new” attraction. Still we didn’t really mind the crowds, though Bayfront Station was being annoying by being an underground train station with no air conditioning.
Back outside, the entire pavement in the direction of Gardens by the Bay was an endless queue through the park. Kind of made it look like a theme park. Not all of the trees or grass here had grown out yet, since they were only just planted so it didn’t look too much different from the usual greenery we see in Singapore.
First thing that came to mind was the set of the old Jurassic Park movie, though the overall architecture and layout of the park bares a striking resemblance to Universal Studios Singapore. Guessing they got the same people who did Resorts World Sentosa here. As we slowly made our way in the direction of the towers, we discussed which 48 members would be a good candidate to bring along to such a place. My vote was for Umechan.
The most noticeable thing at first glance would be the OCBC Skyway. I had initially expected them to be much bigger, and thought they housed the observatories themselves, but they don’t. Instead, the OCBC Skyway is just a suspended platform where you can get a slightly better vantage point of the gardens. More on it below.
Getting around the gardens wasn’t all that easy with the crowd. It turned out that the main reason why there was so many people here today was for some Straits Times concert which had a bunch of Singaporean artists and 4minute among others. The venue occupied about half of the park and unfortunately the side events spewed into most of the walkways.
The booths sold a measly amount of merchandise, just a bunch of tees and instead was mostly non-related stuff like insurance or whatnot. Also, a cosplay contest! Not sure what is it with random Singapore events and cosplay. It was terrible.
After looking around in vain for the observatories, we were pointed in the right direction by one of the guys at the Skyway ticket tent. Turns out the two mysterious dome shaped buildings I had wondered about earlier from the bridge were the observatories. Pretty impressive, was looking forward to it already.
Ticketing prices to get inside weren’t too bad. Just $10 each. Sadly, both the observatories were packed as full as the local transport here. The ticket queue itself spanned at least an hour, probably because there was really only one counter actually doing the sales, so we decided to give it a miss today on account that we wouldn’t be able to make it during the daylight. Probably will have to return on a weekday, or when some of the novelty dies down.
Instead, we checked out some of the souvenirs (which bore the RWS mark) at the gift shop outside, some of them were actually pretty good. Mus contemplated getting a shirt that made him look like a hotel bellboy and our messing around even made one of the cute salesgirls eavesdropping smile.
To avoid the trip from being a complete waste of time, we decided to hop on board the OCBC Skyway. While we queued up Mus bought the tickets (which were just $5 a pop) at the ticket booth set up at the base too.
It was quite obvious that the queue looped around the base of one of the towers but for some reason everyone who had bought the tickets first was shocked at the queue. It moved pretty fast though so we were going up the elevator in no time. No elevator girl, mood lighting or welcoming voice overs in the lift, just a generic “second storey” ding when we reached the top.
Reaching the top, we sort of learned why the queue moved so fast and everyone spent so little time above. The Skyway was actually suspended from the artificial canopy towers and swayed a little whenever someone walked. Additionally, to the detriment of Mus, who was deathly afraid of heights, even more so than myself, the base of the bridge was actually made from a metal grills, the kind that covers drains, so you could fully see the ground below you. Make sure to hold onto your stuff extra careful when up there, because it will totally fall through the gaps.
It was a little too low to get any really nice pictures on the OCBC Skyway. But it was nice and breezy up and you do get quite a nice view of the gardens. Still, if you’re dropping by the SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands, I would probably give the Skyway a miss.
The Skyway makes the centerpiece of the park and in the evening, the towers come alive for a short while with a little bit of music and lights. The show is not unlike the one at RWS. It’s well produced, but not particularly spectacular. The sound effects are pretty decent but it’s a waste, since there weren’t that many lights on the towers, just some tiny LEDs that don’t get really bright at all.
On the plus side, there were actually a surprisingly ample amount of places to chill out at the Gardens by the Bay. For once, there were no shortage of seats throughout the park. And by the time the concert started, the rest of the park ended up being pretty devoid of locals and tourists alike.
While a good concept, Gardens by the Bay is plagued by poor execution that prevents it from being a truly spectacular attraction and draw point for Singapore. It does add to the already sizable number of touristy places that have sprung forth within this short span of time and might still be a worthwhile visit for those coming from somewhere with not as much greenery. We have yet to check out the observatories though, so I’ll wait till that for a more complete impression.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.