Mid-autumn is one of my favourite seasons at the Gardens by the Bay.
We actually visited the Gardens twice, in September alone. The first time with some relatives from my maternal family, when we had a great lunch at Peach Garden Noodle House, followed by a stroll around the gardens. The second time was to experience the beautiful lantern light-up at night.
We have a Friends of the Gardens Family Annual Pass, which offers unlimited entry to the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest and OCBC Skyway. Every pass also entitles members to 2 hours of complimentary parking per visit per day at Gardens by the Bay, which I feel is a great perk! There’s an ongoing promotion, with 25% off membership rates if you present a 2-dome ticket and receipt on the day of visit. The membership welcome package also comes with vouchers galore, including discounts at their plethora of F&B outlets.
For a sumptuous celebratory meal, or a venue to impress foreign visitors at, there is no better place to go other than the Majestic Bay Seafood Restaurant. Serving fine Chinese cuisine such as their Signature Kopi Crab and Whole Abalone on Homemade Beancurd, the restaurant is conveniently located at the exit of the Flower Dome / entrance to the Cloud Forest, and offers lovely views of the Singapore skyline across the Bay. We were treated to a wonderful meal there as part of our media invite and I must say that it’s the best seafood meal I’ve had this year. With the juicy crab pincers and whole abalones…… I felt like it was my birthday!
Beyond the food, our family does love being at the Gardens – kids can roam free in air-conditioned comfort, access is wheelchair friendly for the elderly, and family snapshots against such beautiful floral backdrops make for great memories. In fact, I’ve even made a small scrapbook album for my mum, of her many visits to the Gardens with us this year. Membership for Seniors (above age 60) go for only $60 per person per year, so with a 25% discount if you present a 2-dome ticket, it’s really a great deal! I have an elderly uncle and aunt who are both Friends of the Gardens, and they really enjoy visiting whenever they can.
There is something therapeutic about strolling through lanes bursting with intricate flourishes of colour, and something restorative as we stop ever so often to contemplate the uniqueness of each bud and bloom. So each time a new display is unveiled, we whip out our Friends Annual Pass, and make time for a visit to spend some quality family time at the Gardens.
What’s the Mid-Autumn lantern display like this year?
Well, there were many impressive large-scale displays of famous Chinese legends such as Chang E (嫦娥奔月), her husband the heroic the Archer (后羿), and the Old Man under the Moon (月下老人）who is supposed to be the deity of love and fate, bringing couples together for a lifetime of bliss.
Most of the displays are scattered around the Supertree Grove, but there are some at the Golden Garden (en route from the Supertree Grove to the conservatories) and at Palm Court (The Eternal Woodcutter Wu Gang) and the Dragonfly Bridge (monkeys at the Reflection of the Moon).
This was “The Moon and the Sun”, from Korean folklore where a brother and sister escaped a tiger’s attack by grabbing on to a rope that descended from heaven. Subsequently, sister morphed into the Sun and brother, the Moon. Celestial siblings! It’s the first time I’ve heard of this one.
Every time I gaze at a full moon, I still see a rabbit’s outline. No wonder that rabbits also feature in this lantern display (Jade Rabbit at Supertree Grove). These were a huge crowd favourite, and there was an incessant queue of children and adults who wanted to take photos with these cute bunnies.
There were throngs of visitors when we were there on a weekend night, so there was a real festive atmosphere! There are also some craft booths where Friends of the Gardens can do free crafts or sample chinese tea. Other booths include the usual lantern riddles and lantern decorations for children (big round white lanterns that you can colour).
If you are not one for crowds, do try to visit on a weekday night instead. Parking will be less of a challenge too; there was a long tailback of cars in the queue to the entrance of the main carpark when we went.
Other parking options that are slightly nearer than the East Meadows carpark include parallel parking in the small roads opposite the main entrance, as well as parking near Satay by the Bay.
What’s in the flower dome? Last year, in tandem with Mid-Autumn, the dome was filled with the scent of chrysanthemums. However, this year, adding some refreshing variety and contrast, are blooms from South Africa!
Here’s a giant teddy to bring us on a safari trip through the exotic blooms. Initially we thought the little critter on the scarf of the bear was a detailed decoration. But when we walked by again, it was gone! So it was actually a real life lizard, haha.
There’s a trickling waterfall feature that’s 3 metres high (topped by Simba’s dad, haha) that was inspired by the Nieuwoudtville Falls, which are in the Namaqualand region of the Northern Cape of South Africa. Those falls are 100 metres high, but this does evoke the spirit of it I guess, and is reminiscent of the geographical beauties of the land of South Africa.
Did you know that gerberas are native to South Africa too? Its the favourite flower of more than one of my friends! Before this, I never knew that these cheery flowers hailed from South Africa.
Tribal Tempo is actually the first display of South African flora on such a large scale. It’s a treat for Singaporeans, and not just tourists, since it takes about 13 hours to fly to Johannesburg.
A thatched hut and some bongo drums lend a nice touch to the display. This hut is traditional to the Nama Tribe, and is called the Iharu oms or matjieshuis (meaning ‘mat house’) since it is constructed with woven grass mats.
Apart from being light and easy to dismantle and reconstruct (given the nomadic life of the Nama Tribe), it also offers good protection from the natural elements experienced in that climatic zone.
Apart from the King Protea, which is the South African National Flower, there were a large variety of other blooms including the Erica (top right of photo below), that actually looks like it belongs more to the underwater world.
Apart from the interesting flowers, what I particularly appreciated were the animal sculptures (the elephant and giraffes are very avant garde, being made of mesh and all!) and African elements of masks and drums. The animals are a nod to South Africa’s famous wildlife – the big 5 of the elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and Cape buffalo, as well as the crocodile (and what a huge wooden one that was at the Flower Field), giraffe, wildebeest and zebra.
The rhino display was my favourite part of Tribal Tempo.
Look at how intricate the patterns of beans and seeds are! The tail’s texture is so fascinating, and almost everyone commented on the interesting use of cinnamon sticks on the lower legs.
For more details on the many festival highlights happening at the Gardens this season, check out this link to their events page.
Thanks Gardens by the Bay, for the media invite – we had a wonderful evening!