Marina Bay Sands & Gardens by the Bay: Week 185

Polaroid of the Marina Bay Sands and Helix Bridge: Singapore

Barret grabbed the railing above his head as the train picked up speed. The Circle Line to Bayfront was an air-conditioned bubble packed full of locals and tourists. Aside from the announcements, there was also a route map on the wall which Barret used to track our progress.

“Only six more stops to go,” he whispered as he leaned in my direction.

“Huh?”

“Six more stops,” Barret repeated, but I still wasn’t paying attention. A pungent odor had drifted my way and I needed to find the source. “Hey…” I cautiously began. “Did you put any deodorant on?”

“Nope. I didn’t have time.” This declaration made Barret feel proud. It was the same kind of conflicted pride that people get when they videotape their kids redecorating the kitchen with a bag of flour. It’s a disaster, but it’s also a very well executed disaster that could go viral.

“Funny how that always happens right before we go somewhere humid.”

“Yeah.”

“You think maybe that would be the first thing on your list…”

“Yeah.”

“Yeaaaah.” It was too late to turn back to Changi Airport, where we had left our luggage for the day. “Just keep your arms down.”

Ticket for Flower Dome at the Gardens by the Bay: Singapore

Singapore is hot and muggy all year, but that doesn’t deter tourists. Respite from the temperature can be found at Gardens by the Bay. Two separate UK firms designed the massive gardens which only recently opened to the public in late 2011.

The main attractions are the two conservatories and the Supertree Grove. Barret and I visited the gardens on the only Monday in September that the Cloud Forest conservatory was closed for maintenance, so it was an easy decision to visit the Flower Dome instead.

Polaroid of succulents inside the Flower Dome: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

The garden was a beautiful mixture of plants from all over the world. There was everything from succulents and orchids to kangaroo paws.

Polaroid of small crystal garden inside the Flower Dome: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

One part of the South American display had a small crystal garden, another part had an anatomically correct cactus covered in white hairs. It was called Old Man of the Mountain.

The conservatory dome arched way above the multilevel grounds and through the glass we could see the harbor and Singapore skyline.

Ticket for the Supertree Grove Skyway: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

After spending a few hours in the Flower dome, we walked through the outdoor gardens to the Supertree Grove. This main grove has eleven fuchsia tree structures which perform a variety of functions. Some of the trees harvest solar energy and others serve as ‘air exhaust receptacles’ for the conservatories. From 9am-9pm a canopy walkway is open and at night the structures are illuminated for a synchronized light display.

Supertree Grove: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

An hour or two before sunset, Barret and I walked back to the bay to get a look at the Marina Bay Sands. It was a stunning hotel from the outside, but it was even more airy and delicate inside. From the lobby, the structure reminded me of a delicately balanced house of cards.

Lobby of the Marina Bay Sands: Singapore

From there we walked along the bay, past the flower-shaped ArtScience Musuem, and across Helix Bridge. There were several promontories along the route with great views looking back at the Marina Bay Sands.

View of ArtScience Museum and Marina Bay: Singapore

We continued walking past joggers and stroller-pushers, the people who come out for the beautiful night breeze. An amateur photography group set up on the sidewalk to capture the highrise buildings and the bay.

Our visit was just a taster of what Singapore has to offer. We wanted more time to explore the colonial neighborhoods and the vibrant Little India, but we had a plane to catch and Changi Airport had an excellent shower hire facility. There was no way we were going to miss that before our international flight. No way at all.

How to get to the Marina Bay Sands: MRT Bayfront Station

Lobby of the Marina Bay Sands: Singapore

How to get to the Gardens by the Bay: Via Circle Line or Downtown Line- Take Exit B at the Bayfront MRT Station. Follow underground linkway and cross the Dragonfly Bridge or Meadow Bridge into the Gardens by the Bay

Chinatown & Chinese Gardens: Week 91

Polaroid of Emperor's Garden Cakes & Bakery, Sydney

From our house it was only a half hour walk till Chinatown. The two-block route on Dixon Street was stuffed with restaurants, bakeries, and pearl tea cafes. Our first stop was in front of the Emperor’s Garden Cakes & Bakery, where we waited in line for a walnut-sized pastry called an Emperor’s Puff. When we finally got up to the window, Barret pulled .60¢ out of his pocket and handed it over.  A batch of the naughty-sounding pastries dropped out of the machine with a clack and the woman behind the window gave us two.

From there we went a few shops down to the Yin Li Sichuan Restaurant. It had paper screens covering the walls and the kind of heavy engraved tables that were popular in the 80s. We ordered dim sum dumplings and a steamed rice cake with beef, which were both way more delicious than the vegetable stirfry. Barret and I both agreed that most of the Chinese stirfrys we’ve had are very unexciting; the official verdict is still out till we get to China though.

Polaroid of Kimber Lane alley art, Sydney

We also discovered that the alley behind our restaurant had been renovated with an art installation by Australian Jason Wing. As an artist with Chinese and Aboriginal heritage, Wing wanted to “create an experience like walking in between two worlds or travelling between heaven and earth.” It definitely felt otherworldly with stylized plumes of blue smoke drawn over red brick walls and sliver and blue spirit figures floating above the alley. Of course I had put black and white film into my Polaroid.

Polaroid of Chinese Garden, Sydney

After lunch we walked past the north gate of Chinatown towards the Chinese Garden of friendship. The gardens were built to celebrate Australia’s 1988 bicentenary and are a result of the relationship between Sydney and its sister city Guangzhou. Although the high-rise Sydney landmarks were visual distractions, the local Australian White Ibis birds seemed right at home. Their snowy feathers had the same wispy appearance as the weeping willow branches they rested on.

From what I’ve noticed, Sydneysiders hate these birds as much as Americans hate pigeons. My New Zealand coworker even went so far as to say the kiwi bird is incontestably superior and cuter. “They are cuter,” I agreed, “but you got to give the ibis credit for adapting to a city environment. From what I hear the kiwi is getting gobbled up by small mammals…”

My coworkers might think I’m crazy, but I still like the ibis. It looks exotic and reminds me that I am in a foreign country every time I see it. And you know what? From the pavilion where Barret and I were drinking a pot of jasmine tea, the ibis birds looked damn good nestled on the Phoenix Rock in the middle of the Lake of Brightness. You go bird!

How to get to the Chinese Garden of Friendship: Southern end of Darling Harbour, Sydney

How to get to Chinatown: Dixon Street, between Hay Street and Goulburn Street 

About the Kimber Lane street art

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