Singapore is one of those places you can never really tick off your bucket list. Sure, you’ve taken a photo with the Merlion, gone on the Night Safari, shopped in Orchard, frolicked in Sentosa, and gazed in fascination at the unearthly form of the Marina Bay Sands. But have you been to Gardens by the Bay?
My answer, before November last year, was no, I hadn’t, despite having been to Singapore several times. Gardens by the Bay’s main attraction, the Bay South Garden, was only opened to the public in 2012, two years after my last visit. Its two cooled conservatories, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, as well as the iconic Supertree Grove, were therefore on our list of places to visit — this time around — when my family and I went to Singapore last November.
Truth? The whole idea of Gardens by the Bay, and especially the sight of the Supertree Grove, secretly horrified me at first. It’s a wonderful place — Cebu should be so lucky to have a nice, cool garden in which to have a nice, comfortable walk to see nice, colorful plants — but the idea of a clean efficient society with metal/concrete trees, underlying racial tensions, and kids learning calculus at, like, 6 weeks AOG is a little too dystopian-future for me. The Supertrees’ photovoltaic cells notwithstanding, I’d much prefer giant sequioas, equality for all, and kids being kids.
That said, I have to admit: I liked Gardens by the Bay. We all did. My mum adored the Christmas-themed display of plants from all over the world in the Flower Dome. Hunter loved running along with kids playing football just outside the second level of the Cloud Forest. They even let him kick the ball sometimes, which delighted him to no end. And there’s no doubt that the Gardens, for all that it is man-made, was thoughtfully designed around nature — to showcase and to complement and not, surely not, hopefully not, to replace.
Singapore, at any rate, seems to be leading the steady march into a future of Supertrees and superkids, and we keep coming back, to watch in fascination. Maybe we will like it. Maybe we will even get to kick the ball.