In Singapore, day 2: Suntec City, Din Tai Fung, Gardens by the Bay, and Marina Sands Bay
In the morning I had a business meeting with Dr. Ho at Suntec City, (home of the world largest HD screen), where I also attended the Medical Asia trade show. It wasn’t easy to get there, because the Formula 1 preparations had many streets closed to pedestrians, so I had to navigate my way around a maze of hotels and shopping malls. In one of them, the Marina Square, I saw a Mr. Bean’s Teddy & Me theme restaurant, and a few steps later a store clerk that looked exactly like Eva Mendes in her early twenties tried to flirt with me. Quite a surreal morning.
The meeting with Dr. Ho went well, but the trade show was quite weak, so by the afternoon, I had covered every single exhibitor.
The first thing I did before going anywhere else was have lunch at a landmark restaurant: Din Tai Fung. No wonder it has a Michelin Star and made it to the New York Times top 10 chain restaurants in the world. Their Xiao Long Bao was absolutely exquisite. The problem with tasting such delicacies is that now I am spoiled, and will not be satisfied with any less than the famous 18-folds.
After that delicious lunch, I crossed the Helix Bridge, going past the lotus shaped and oddly named Art Science Museum, through the Marina Bay Sands, straight into Gardens by the Bay.
Costing over S$1 billion, it which looks like something out of a science fiction movie. The Bay Garden South section features 18 striking “supertrees,” which are tall constructions made of steel and concrete modeled after giant mammoth trees that are illuminated at night. Twice a day the play a music/lights show (“Supertree Rhapsody” I believe they called it) that is worth watching. I caught mine at 20:45h.
An aerial walkway connects the two biggest trees. The IndoChine restaurant is located on top of the tallest tree, which is 164 ft/50 m high. Some of these trees produce electricity with solar cells. They serve as vertical gardens, but they also ventilate and irrigate the gigantic state-of-the-art conservatories housing 220,000 plants from endangered habitats.
The Flower Dome has plants that grow in temperate Mediterranean and subtropical climate zones, while the Cloud Forest recreates a cool mountain forest of the tropics including an artificial cloud mountain with a 115-ft/35-m waterfall. One can’t help but wonder if, very soon, we will be talking about nature in past tense, and visiting artificial domes to be able to experience “wonders from the past” like flowers or animals.
Four Heritage Gardens feature Chinese, Indian, Malay and Colonial Gardens surrounding the Supertree Grove at the northwestern corner.
Striking as it is when you first see it, it is even more spectacular if it’s dark when you leave, and look back.
Before leaving for Singapore, I asked fellow NY expat Iñaki Berenguer, who goes to Singapore often, for suggestions: “Lo que no te puedes perder es subir arriba del hotel que tiene el barco en la azotea (marina sands bay) y tomar un drink mientras ves las vistas” (“You can’t miss going on top of the hotel with the boat on top (marina sands bay) and have a drink while enjoying the views”) he told me.
Obvious as that sounds, he’s absolutely right. The view is breathtaking, and the atmosphere is not as touristy as one would imagine. Or perhaps it’s the fact that there are so many expats in Singapore that rarely anyone seems like a tourist any more.
Before calling it a day, I watched the cheesy but cute nightly water and light show by the bay. Perhaps an even more interesting “show” were the luxury cars parked in front of hotels: a constant display of excess, a reminder of the socioeconomic differences that are prevalent in the whole world, and rapidly becoming extremely apparent in SE Asia.