During the past week, I have traveled from New York to Nashville to Dallas and finally to Cancún. Monday through Friday were primarily spent in work-related activities, but I was also able to visit with many friends in both Nashville and DFW. On Saturday, I arrived in Cancun, a bit later than planned because of an aircraft delay, but the warm weather, the azure and turquoise waters of the Caribbean, the white sand beaches, and the tropical breezes made the delay easy to forget.
A few weeks back, I spent the weekend in Singapore with a dear friend and his better half who were disembarking from a multi-week cruise. We enjoyed dinner together at Din Tai Fung on Saturday evening and on Sunday morning we went to Gardens by the Bay, a 250 acre park near Singapore’s marina.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the country’s third prime minister and the eldest son of Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, proposed the idea of these gardens in a speech at a National Day Rally in 2005. An international design competition was held the following year and the park was finally completed and opened to the public in October 2011.
The most impressive and imposing parts of the gardens are the Supertrees, tree-like structures that contain vertical gardens ranging from 80 to 160 feet in height. The large canopies of these man-made trees provide well-needed shade during the day and a light and sound show in the evening. Vines, ferns, orchids, and bromeliads make their homes in the 18 Supertrees, 12 of which are in the Supertree Grove and three each in both the Golden Garden and Silver Garden (see map above.) An elevated walkway, about 50 feet above the ground, connects two of the larger Supertrees and a food court with a variety of dining options sits atop one of the larger Supertrees.
Two large domes — the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest — are north of the Supertree Grove near the Marina. Covering three acres, the Flower Dome is the larger of the two; it provides a cool, dry climate, a nice respite from the intense heat and humidity of Singapore. With over 3,300 glass panels on a steel frame, it is the world’s largest columnless green house. This dome teems with plants and trees from semi-arid and desert environments — ranging from the Mediterranean to the US to Africa. Among the most interesting are the Baobobs and bottle trees that store water in their swollen trunks so that they can survive months of drought in the arid regions of Australia, Africa, India, and Madagascar.
The two-acre Cloud Forest replicates the cool and moist conditions found in mountainous regions of the world and it includes a 115 foot tall waterfall that flows down a 138 foot tall man-made mountain. An elevator takes visitors to the top of the dome so that they can walk down a pathway that encircles the mountain.
The outdoor gardens focus on the relationships between Plants and People and between Plants and the Planet. The Plants and People theme is played out through the role of plants in the Malay culture and in the development of Singapore, e.g., medicinal plants, food plants, and crops for export. The Plants and the Planet theme centers on biodiversity and the ecosystem.
Suk San Wan Songkran (Happy Songkran)
This weekend, April 13-15, is Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year and the country’s most important national holiday. At this time of year, most Thais travel back to their hometowns to pay respect to their elders, family, friends, and local monks. Over the years, the holiday has devolved into a national water festival where water fights with hoses and squirt guns are common and where passing pedestrians, motorists, and motorcyclists are routinely doused with water. Personally, I am ok with a drier celebration on the beach in Cancún!
¡Muchas gracias and Kop Khun Krab.
© 2013 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.