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7 Days In Singapore – Day 1 – Gardens By The Bay

SINGAPORE

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

A first-time encounter.

Singapore has been on my “hope to see” list for ages. Obviously inspired by “Crazy Rich Asians,” but also by friends who have been and raved about it. My stepdad, who served in Okinawa, had wanted to get here, so I was also excited to be able to take photos and video footage to show him this intriguing country.

Singapore is a country, that’s also a city. My arrival here was exceptionally difficult due to Covid restrictions. You can read about my experience and tips for the VTL lane if you’re planning a visit.

Upon arrival at the airport, I got my bags and my PCR test, and then went to the taxi lane. I found out none of the drivers accept a credit card, and I had no cash and the money exchange office was closed. I tried to pull up Uber and found out I had to go downstairs to get it, and also that Grab was cheaper and more accesible.

I asked my Grab driver to teach me a few words in Singaporean, at which he laughed. In Singapore, there are so many different cultures, that there is no one common language, apart from English. Oops. We had a lovely chat all the way to my hotel, where, upon check-in, I had to isolate until my PCR results came back. In the morning, still waiting, I had to use Grab Eats to order breakfast, and tried a traditional Singaporean one with bread and an egg. I was not a big fan.

Once released from my windowless hotel room, I immediately visited the thing I wanted to see most – the Gardens By The Bay. Those flowers have been something I wanted to see for years!

A Few Getting Around Tips

For such a modern city, I was sometimes surprised at how many times I needed to pay in cash. One of those surprises was at the metro. You have to buy a Singapore MRT card and then add money so you can tap in and out of MRT stations. My credit card never worked at the top-up machines, so I always had to use cash. There’s an app where you can register your card and get the balance transferred to a new one if you lose it, as well as top up. But, my iPhone wouldn’t download it because it’s from a different region.

Getting To the Gardens By The Bay

The closest MRT station is Bayfront. There’s even a handy icon of the garden. (See map above.) Once at the station, you can either walk upstairs to the Marina Bay Sands hotel and across a bridge, or, follow signs to the Garden, emerge from the MRT and walk along the lake.

Visiting Tips

I didn’t realize there are also two cloud domes to visit. So, I suggest leaving at least a half day to see everything in this area. Depending on how long you have, you may benefit from buying a Friends of the Gardens pass. In addition to saving money, it allows you to easily book a time spot right from your phone, and, if you want to return to see the gardens at night, you don’t have to pay for two visits, as you get a year to enter as many times as you wish!

Getting To Those Flowers

There’s a lovely lake to walk around and snap photos. Along the way you get glimpses of the top of the flower garden. I was so excited to see them in real life, and feel the joy of getting closer and closer to my destination. Unfortunately, the lift up was closed when I arrived (Side note, make sure to research opening hours for everything you want to do in Singapore! Often the heat leads to unexpected opening hours.)

I grabbed a bite to eat, and when I returned, was able to go up the lift and see the view from atop the flowers! (During peak hours, you can only stay there for 15 minutes. During non-peak hours, there’s no time limit.)

Exploring

I greatly enjoyed being high above Singapore. I was mesmerized by the flowers and loved the 360 views of the city below. It was also holiday time, so I was humored by Christmas decorations. (Stay tuned for another blog post in this series where I returned here at night!)

I took my time walking from one end to the other, snapping photos, looking around, wondering how the flowers were even made. It turns out they’re made of steel, and here’s an interesting article about them.

The Cloud Domes

A few minutes walk from the flowers are the cloud and flower domes. I prefered the cloud dome, though they’re both wonderful. The cloud dome will immediately stun you when you walk in and see a giant waterfall among the mist…

singapore cloud garden

The next thing you’ll notice is relief! It’s bloody hot in Singapore, and the cloud dome, full of watery mist, is the  perfect place to take refuge. 

After your first few photos, walk along to the Orchid Haven and enjoy a walk along flowered beauty all around you.

The real fun of the cloud dome is to go up to the top, and walk the windy path down to the bottom. You’re serenaded by nature while gaping at wonderful views of Singapore in every  direction. Lush plants hang all around you while the mist creates cooling clouds. If you like photograpy, make sure you have a wide-angle lens here!

The flower dome brings you past plants from around the world. I loved the succulent garden in paricular!

Atop The Marina Bay Hotel

Remember the bar in the last scene of Crazy Rich Asians? You can find it atop the Marina Bay Hotel. After you’re done at the Gardens By The Bay, walk to the hotel (use the underground passageway if it’s hot outside). Buy a ticket and head to the skypark elevator and you’ll witness wonderful views of the city. One of my favorite was seeing the Gardens By The Bay, where I had just been! 

Though Covid restrictions meant it was impossible to get to the bar and infinite pool without being a guest, I did snap a photo…

Ending The Day With A Merlion

I ended my first day by walking to the Merlion Park waterfront and watched the sun set and the Singapore icon come to life. The perfect end to a perfect first day.

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