Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Surreal Landscape

This morning I went to Gardens by the Bay, a huge public garden near Singapore's downtown business district. It's what you might call a futuristic natural landscape,  with vast steel "supertrees" rising far above the actual tree canopy, and backed by the bizarre, nautical architecture of the gigantic Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino.

I took the subway to get there! My first adventure with public transport in Singapore! It was very easy (unlike China, the signs are in English) and very cheap. Interesting colorful murals in the station, too!

When I first got to the gardens -- where admission is free -- I walked the public paths and noticed some colorful birds. Eventually I found myself in the same area with several photographers toting massive lenses and pointing up at trees. A good sign that more impressive birds are about!

This spectacular bird is a blue-throated bee eater, or so I was told by another photographer who waylaid me and asked what I had seen. He was a pushy Australian (and I don't mean that as any kind of generalization about Australians -- just this particular Australian) who wound up giving me a long lecture not only about birds but also my camera settings and what I was doing wrong. I suppose he was trying to be helpful and, to his credit, he did show me some things about my own camera that I didn't know. But I was still annoyed, especially when he handed it back with all the settings changed, and it took me a while to put it right again.

This is not a great photo, but that's a collared kingfisher holding his breakfast, an unlucky lizard. That bird was brilliant blue, but I just couldn't get a shot that did his feathers justice.

Anyway, after wandering the gardens and enduring the heat, I paid to go into two vast greenhouse domes, one dedicated mainly to flowers and plants from cooler climates, and another containing a "cloud forest" and "the world's tallest indoor waterfall." Surprisingly the domes were air-conditioned, which seems like it wouldn't do the plants any favors, but it sure felt great to me!

The cynical side of me wondered if this is our future. After we turn our planet into an essentially human monoculture -- us and the species that immediately serve our needs -- will we hold our remaining wildlife inside glass domes?

Really, though -- cynicism aside -- they were interesting and contained lots of surprises. (African baobabs!)

I also paid to walk an aerial walkway through the "supertrees" and had lunch at a Chinese restaurant below. It was not a picturesque lunch.

Finally, I walked over to the Marina Bay Sands hotel and went up 56 floors to the observation deck, which offers an amazing view over downtown Singapore. The weather has been a bit hazy with all the heat and humidity, but it was still an interesting perspective. (A tip, though, in case you come here -- if you go to one of the restaurants on the roof, you don't need to pay for the observation deck. I wish I'd known!)

There's even a swimming pool up there -- but alas, not accessible to we peons on the observation deck.

Now I'm back at our own hotel, cooling off and preparing to go to the student honor band and orchestra concert that brought us all here in the first place. Tomorrow morning we fly back to London!


  1. Wonderful photos. I hope you enjoy the concert and have a safe flight home.

  2. What a SUPERB photo that top is! Wow! Love it! Not to say that they are all good, but that one is something special.

    I would have never gotten out of that garden! Look at those gorgeous birds!

    We've seen that crazy hotel on Amazing Race where they actually repelled off the top!

  3. I'm unlikely to go to Singapore myself so I'm really enjoying all your fabulous photos..

  4. These are mesmerizing. Absolutely mesmerizing. That top photo is completely surreal. I'm gobsmacked. Truly.

  5. what a fun day. you get to experience so much.

  6. you've captured a certain futuristic beauty in this post. singapore looks fascinating.

  7. Whoa! I agree with Ms. Moon - that top photo is surreal! Very Dr. Seussian :)

    Now I find myself wondering about your lunch - uninteresting, or TOO interesting for the internet. Ha!

  8. I can't get over that garden suspended on three buildings.

    Such beautiful photos.

  9. i love love love the pictures. also, you describe everything so clear.
    i don't write well and of course don't take pictures at all!!!
    Thank you!!

  10. What a beautiful photo of the metal trees and Marina Bay Sands. You could sell it to The Singapore Tourist Authority! I didn't realise that there was a fee to go to the top of Marina Bay Sands or I would have mentioned it. My friend and I just got in the lift with a couple of kids in bathers carrying beach towels and got out with them at the top. We did buy an iced coffee though. Sometimes ignorance is bliss! No guilty body language.

  11. These photos are simply fantastic. I love them all. I can't get over how huge that glass dome is at the garden. I love that last shot. I've seen photos from up there before but I love the way you've shot out toward the end of the deck. It sounds like there was lots to see and explore in Singapore. That first photo is the image I've seen before. Those "trees" are so fascinating to me.

  12. Fantastic photos, Steve! Congratulations on what looks to have been a wonderful trip.