Sunday, October 13, 2013

Gardens by the Bay - where to bring your kids in Singapore

The carbon neutral super trees at Singapore's Gardens by the Bay (photo by Eustaquio Santiman)

After a visit to the Zoo, TT went on to Gardens by the Bay, one of the key tourist attractions in Singapore's Marina Bay. Here's her take on whether it's worth a visit. 

I have heard mixed reviews about the Gardens by the Bay. Too artificial say one of my friends referring to the cooled observatories. Worth a visit says another. Well I decided to go and check it out.

While the website provides detailed instructions on how to get to the gardens by public transport the easiest way to get there is by taxi. If you were to go via train you would have to either take a shuttle bus or take a walk which might not be the best idea in the heat or if you are travelling with children.

There is a variety of eateries and cafes within walking distance of the Gardens. There is something for every budget from fast food to fine dining. We had lunch at Peach Garden Noodle House which forms part of the Supertree Dining area (a mouthful but essentially a classier food court with clustered eateries instead of stalls) before moving on to explore the observatories.

Admission to the two cooled conservatories cost $28 for an adult and $12 for children over the age of three. Discounted rates apply for citizens and residents of Singapore.

We went to the Flower Dome first. It replicates the climate of South Frica, California and parts of Spain and Italy. What greeted us was a riot of colours. Vividly coloured flowers of all shapes and sizes imaginable. There are some markings to differentiate the various flowers but unless you are an expert in this area or opt for an audio guide you will be at a loss as to how to make sense of this kaleidoscope. It is all very pleasant but I fear I left the dome none the wiser about the flowers on display and how they ate adapted to their native habitat.

The waterfall in Cloud Forest (photo by Shiny Things)

Next up was the Cloud Forest. The moment you enter that zone you are greeted by a waterfall and mist all around. It sounds idyllic but I am afraid the reality is different. The concrete is there for all to see and rather than resembling a mountain covered in lush vegetation, I am afraid it reminds me of a multi storey car park. In fact you can take a lift right up to the top. This zone is meant to showcase plant life from tropical highlands up to 2,000 metres above sea level. Again there is very little explanation about the plants on exhibit so again we wonder cluelessly around. There is this model railway which aims to showcase how railways help to facilitate life in the mountains. I am afraid I can't see the link between the railway and this ode to nature and it was rather unfortunate that the railway set was not even very well put together - it does not seem to be to scale!

That said, the kids love it

While I am not a fan of the cooled observatories I can see how they might appeal to families. There are lifts for easy access and my friend who has a babe in arms loves the clean and spacious nursing rooms. Children can roam in the cooled domes which provides some weather proof fun. There are a number of interactive educational displays which will help to keep the small people entertained. It can easily keep restless children entertained for a couple of hours if you have run out of ideas on how to entertain them one afternoon.

These greenhouses are built to be carbon neutral which can only be a good thing. There is a sobering video about climate change at the end of your visit so while I have learnt little about the plants on display at least I left with a better understanding of the impact of climate change.

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