Centenary World Cruise Day 42-43: Singapore

We started out at Gardens By the Bay, an enormous botanical garden close to the marina. While the gardens take up several acres of ground, we stuck to the flower dome and the cloud forest dome.

In the flower dome, there are several dry-weather biomes re-created. To celebrate Chinese New Year, they had a display of dahlias that I could have sat and stared at all day.

The exhibits are arranged by biome, including South Africa, succulents, Mediterranean, olive grove, and California.

In the California area, there were lots of citrus trees, and what could have been our own garden – rosemary and lavender and blackberries. I was charmed and enchanted until we got to an area with a little thyme plant. Thyme is one of my favorite cooking herbs, and we had (have?) two large plants from which we took what we needed to spice up our cooking. One whiff and I was in tears, homesickness hitting me square between the eyes.

The cloud forest dome was beautiful, but they have turned a lot of it into an Avatar exhibit, with fiberglass Pandora animals and plants in among the real ones. While I’m sure it was a big draw for the kids, I wished they could have kept it to one area, because I was far more interested in the plants and art. In both the flower conservatory and the cloud forest, there were driftwood sculptures of animals. I love driftwood sculptures because they sort of look like things with the skin off so you can see the musculature underneath. There was also a really cool sculpture that looked like a stump had been dug up with the roots intact and the tree end made into an eagle’s head.

From there we went to Singapore’s famous Orchard Road, the high-end shopping district. Because we’re high rollers, we had an expensive lunch and then did some luxury shopping. We bought new toothbrushes, cough drops, and painkillers. Yeah, I know. You’re jealous.

On our second day in Singapore, we decided we’d go on our own to the amazing hotel with the observation deck shaped like a ship. I booked the tickets online yesterday, and we were going to walk there from the ship, because Googlina says it’s only a 20-minute walk.

Except, now I’m sick again. I’ve been low-key sick on and off for about a week, but now it’s really coming on. But here’s a thing: we already paid for the tickets, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to flush that money down the toilet. Small change of plans: the ship has a shuttle bus that drops people off right across the street from that hotel. Instead of walking, we’ll take the shuttle bus. It’s a little fiddly, because we want to leave as close to our ticket time (1:00pm) as possible, but we can’t leave the ship after noon because of some immigration rules. Yesterday, the process of getting through immigration just to go into town (which, in most other countries involves showing the immigration officials our cruise ID card, and, in some cases, our passports, which are given a cursory glance and then we skate in) took about 45 minutes. We decide to leave at 11:00am.

There’s nobody in the cruise terminal. We sailed through in about 5 minutes and managed to get on the bus just as it was leaving. This meant that, instead of getting there at noon-ish, we got there about 11:10. The bus dropped us off at the convention center which, like a lot of this part of Singapore, is attached to a gigantic, high-end mall (seriously- Orchard Road is one giant high-end mall after another). We walked through the mall where I bought a teapot and some more tea, and then had a pricey lunch at a lovely Indian place. From there, onto the hotel. Getting there was a little weird – a lot of major streets in Singapore can only be crossed either by tunnels underneath or bridges overhead. We couldn’t figure out how to get to the bridge that would take us to the hotel, and a guy who looked like he was picking up someone’s food order directed us to the correct elevator – so many people here are really, really nice!

The observation deck was everything it promised to be – great views of the entire city, and we got some really good pictures. Far in the distance in the center of this photo, you can see the Queen Mary 2.

I was thinking as we came back on the bus about how proud everyone in Singapore seems to be of their city. The cab drivers we had all bragged about how clean and safe it is, and exhorted us to go all sorts of places. Guides talked about its great infrastructure and innovative environmental programs. Yes, you hear about the stiff penalties for chewing gum and littering, but if I could have completely safe streets, a good social safety net, and tidy streets, I’m okay with not chewing gum.