Nauru Travel Diary

From Houston to Sydney 2013

From Houston

to Sydney



As I mentioned in my diary yesterday, we are not really in Singapore for sightseeing.  Nonetheless, we spent five hours doing precisely that today, and it was great.

Having slept in as part of our “time zone adjustment therapy”, we had a late breakfast and spent time on the phone talking to family.  We set out at 1 pm, and didn’t return until a little after 6 pm, which is quite a long while to be walking around in equatorial humidity.

We had just two destinations.  The first was the Singapore Flyer, the world’s tallest Ferris wheel with a height of 165 metres.  Although some storm clouds were building up, the air was fairly clear and we judged it to be a worthwhile risk to take the ride and enjoy the view.

It was excellent.  It took just over 30 minutes to complete the cycle, and we had great views of Singapore city to the west, the high rise housing blocks to the north and east, and across the Gardens of the Bay development to the south.

Gardens of the Bay was our second destination, and the one that took the most time.  When I was in Singapore last time, which was two years ago, this was a huge construction site with bare red earth being churned over by heavy machinery.  Today, it is a 101 hectares (250 acres) area of themed gardens, conservatories and super trees.

The super trees are huge tree-like structures that function as vertical gardens at heights of between 25 and 50 metres.  They provide a home to exotic ferns, vines, orchids and bromeliads.  Interestingly, they are fitted with environmental technologies that imitate the ecological function of trees, such as photovoltaic cells that harness solar energy and the collection of rainwater for use in irrigation and fountain displays. The Supertrees also provide air intake and exhaust functions as part of the conservatories’ cooling systems.

We visited both of the conservatories, the “Flower Dome” and the “Cloud Forest”, and each was quite an amazing experience.  The conservatories won the building of the year award in the 2012 world architectural awards, and it was easy to see why.  They are huge buildings (the “Flower Dome” covers 1.2 hectares and the “Cloud Forest” covers 0.8 hectares), and they are glass domes built without any internal structural support.  Each is climate controlled, with different areas of different conditions to allow plants from various environments from all parts of the world to thrive in their natural conditions – quite an achievement when the outside climate is Singapore’s hot, humid, equatorial climate.

We visited the Flower Dome first, which features seven different gardens within it – the succulent garden, the baobab garden, the Australian garden, the South African garden, the South American garden, the Mediterranean garden and the Californian garden.  Each garden featured several very useful information boards and small species identification signs.  I thought the Flower Dome was a very impressive conceptual, engineering and architectural achievement, and Di agreed, though she felt there was an artificial aspect to it that limited her enjoyment.

We then entered the Cloud Forest, and my first reaction was “Wow!” as I looked up at the 35 metre high indoor waterfall, the wall of which was covered in tropical rainforest species of ferns and flowering plants.  The Cloud Forest dome mimics the environment of cool, equatorial mountain areas between 1,000 and 3,000 metres in altitude.  The air was thus notably cooler than the Flower Dome, and also more humid, especially as sprays of water vapour periodically burst from cliffs, bridges and walls to create indoor clouds.

The centre of the dome comprises an indoor mountain with a spiral walkway that takes visitors through a succession of alpine environments with different climates and plant species.  I thought that the Cloud Forest was an even more impressive structure than the Flower Dome, though Di felt it was even more artificial than the Flower Dome.  She was also saddened to see all the exotic plants trapped in a glass prison-like structure because they seemed not to be thriving happily.

Overall, I thought Gardens of the Bay was an incredibly bold concept, probably unique in the world (although one wonders when somewhere like Dubai or Qatar will try to copy it and construct a version that is even larger).  Construction of the gardens was a very impressive achievement on a massive scale, and when I compare the appearance of the gardens today to the deranged piles of red earth I saw in October 2011, I can only be impressed by the speed and quality of Singapore’s construction.

Day 44 - Singapore


18 August 2013