As recently as just three years ago, the widely-held opinion was that Singapore was – despite being a modern, efficient, and overall decent place – quite boring. Evidence to counter that belief is becoming ever more prevalent, especially in the area around Marina Bay where we spent a bit of time a few weeks ago.
Anchoring the change is the Marina Bay Sands, a casino, hotel resort, and shopping complex on the southern edge of the bay. The trio of towers, connected by a roof deck, is visually arresting and provides the city with a signature element to what was an otherwise bland skyline.
Looking back at the Singapore financial district on the other side of Marina Bay from the Marina Bay Sands. In the next few years, the existing financial district area will double in size, spreading south around the bay and meeting up with the Marina Bay Sands complex.
As a sign of future growth, you can see the Bayfront MRT station just west of the Marina Bay Sands. Within the next few years, these blocks will be developed as the financial center spreads south. All of this is reclaimed land.
Despite the heat, humidity, and rainfall, the attractions around Marina Bay seem designed to lure people outside at least some of the time. In the shadow of the lotus-shaped ArtScience museum is a reflecting pond and waterfront promenade.
Part of the Marina Bay Sands complex is a massive shopping mall (because Singapore has a shortage of malls!) with more than 800,000 square feet (74,000 square meters) of shops and restaurants. In addition to an ice skating rink, the mall features a canal on which you can take sampan rides.
The complex also features a 1.3 million square foot (120,000 square meter) convention center. We stopped by to visit our friend Otto Fong, the author of the Sir Fong’s Adventures in Science comic book series, as he launched his fourth book at the Singapore Toys, Games, and Comics Convention. A former science teacher at Singapore’s prestigious Raffles Academy, Otto left to follow his passion drawing comics.
I’ve known Otto since the mid-90s and am happy of his success. I was also tickled because he invited Tawn to be a character in this book, playing a fashion designer in the not-too-distant future, designing clothes for a K-pop superstar’s tour. You can see Tawn’s cartoon self just above his head, to the left of the bunny.
A close up of how Tawn looks when cartoonized. Otto captured him quite well. Here, he explains to the K-pop star how the scientific process applies to costume design.
One of the most exciting changes to Marina Bay is Gardens by the Bay, a trio of parks bringing 250 acres of parkland to central Singapore. The highlight of the gardens are the two climate controlled conservatories: the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest.
The Flower Garden, the larger of the two, covers three acres and replicates the semi-arid region. The inside temperature is a pleasant 74 F (22 C) and flora from around the world populate the garden.
The gardens have been open only a few months and the plants are still taking root. We were there on a weekend that coincided with Malaysia’s national holiday so the gardens were too crowded. I look forward to my next visit, though, when I will be sure to visit the gardens on a weekday afternoon and take the self-guided audio tour.
The second conservatory, the two-acre Cloud Forest, recreates the cool, misty conditions of a tropical mountain. In the center of the conservatory is a lift that takes you seven stories up, then you can stroll down a meandering skywalk that weaves in and out of the “mountain”.
At the base of the 115 foot (35 meter) waterfall, a rainbow appears in the mist. Despite the crowds, the Cloud Forest was quite a treat, lush but comfortable. If you make it to Singapore, be sure to go to the Gardens by the Bay.
Singapore is a young country, one that continues to reinvent itself. Despite a British colonial heritage dating back almost two centuries, Singapore is developing a unique, distinct identity, one that is increasingly sophisticated and ever more interesting. Because it is the first country outside of North America I visited, way back in 1995, Singapore holds a special place in my heart. It is especially nice, then, to see it maturing into something more than the neat, clean, but boring relative into that cool cousin that is always up to something new.
It’s not boring anymore?
That is a beautiful area! Good to stroll and meditate.
The gardens look lovely — and that’s a very interesting building — I hope it stands up well to winds and earthquakes!
Wow… that Gardens by the Bay look very interesting. Will you be a character in one his upcoming books too?
It looks AMAZING there!
Do you still have photos from 1995? Would be interesting to see the changes?@Wangium – Well, I still think it’s boring. LOL But maybe it’s me. @slmret – Luckily, we have no winds here. In the time I have been here, we never had any typhoons. And earthquakes … there was a very small one some time ago but most people didn’t even realize. We outsource the typhoons to the Philippines and the earthquakes/tsunamis to Indonesia.
Impressive. Singapore more have more land area than I thought.
I am emailing this to Mohamed. Such beauty in the small island nation. Great pictures as usual. And Congratulations to Tawn for the the new celebrity status.
What an amazing place and who ever would be bored there has no sense of adventure at all. This is an amazing place to have an adventure and celebrate life.How exciting that Twan will be a character in Ottos book and great cartoon of him.The gardens are amazing and my grand daughter, the 15 year old adventurer, would love strolling down that skywalk, in and out of the mountain, climbing up all 7 stories.What an amazing place.Great photos and TY for taking me with you in your photos.
I’m thrilled for Tawn! He’s a real celebrity!!
Those flowers and gardens are really beautiful… I could get lost in them.
Gardens at Marina Bay is one of the things that would make me come back to Singapore for the nth time. I just love how that small country just keeps on innovating. I just hope they don’t ruin marine biodiveristy by over reclaiming land.
The cartoonised Tawnis cute….. Tired of being bored in Singapore, come over to Hong Kong, with daily protesting, fighting to get into the MTR train with the so called FREE WALKER tourists from the Strongest Country from the world….quite entertaining….
that’s so awesome. to be inspiring someone to do a cartoon self of you in his book. tawn must be so proud. oh, never been to the gardens by the bay. wasn’t done the last time i was in spore. would love to check it out the next chance i get to visit the boring city again.