‘Gardens by the Bay is not for everyone’

Belmont Lay
The Flipside

Gardens by the Bay is Singapore's latest big tourist destination. (Photo courtesy of Gardens by the Bay)

In "The FlipSide", local blogger Belmont Lay lets loose on local politics, culture and society. Take with a pinch of salt and parental permission is advised.  In this post, he talks about his experience at the Gardens by the Bay.

The newly-minted Gardens by the Bay is attracting visitors aplenty.

Close to 300,000 people from Singapore and beyond have descended upon it like locusts since its June 29 opening.

And I can see where this fascination for man-made nature comes from.

A place for reflection

First and foremost, the Gardens is sweet payback for many Singaporean men who survived outfield jungle training during National Service and completely despised the experience.

That horrendous week in the midst of endless chlorophyll, grovelling in mud, wearing leaves and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes while squatting over a hole in the ground?

Eat my shorts now, Mother Nature.

Look, Man will fashion everything out of steel, concrete and plastic if we have to.

And everything that can't will be trimmed and pruned or uprooted or poisoned with pesticide.

This is a redefinition of nature -- and a glimpse as to what our human nature can be like.

Therefore, going to the Gardens allow us to take a good hard look into ourselves.

Nostalgia-inducing

Next, the Chinese Garden, Malay Garden, Indian Garden and Colonial Garden are very good for inducing nostalgia.

Spending time in these four stereotypical heritage gardens help retrieve fond memories during and up until the 1990s.

That was a time when Singapore was still governed according to race. But eventually, our elected rulers lost the plot.

Because as we all know these days, since 40 per cent of this country is already composed of foreigners, having just four representative gardens is only 60 per cent accurate at most.

This speaks poorly of history at best as it doesn't warn us in advance of the pitfalls of a liberal immigration policy.

But as a cruel inside joke, it is wickedly funny. In a sad way.

Expensive admissions charges

Since Singapore is filled to the brim, introducing discriminatory admissions pricing is very helpful when sorting them out at the Gardens.

You see, non-Singaporeans are charged $28 to look at the results of hoarding 225,000 species of leaves and branches from around the world that are perennially held hostage in the opulent glass houses known as domed conservatories.

Singaporeans, on the other hand, only need to pay $20 to look at these same kind of things that grow slowly and silently out of the soil rather purposelessly.

Which on normal days, they wouldn't even pay to look at green things if they went to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve or Bukit Brown cemetery where the cost is free-of-charge.

But most importantly, setting a high admission cost will help keep poor people out.

Certainly, you wouldn't want them around when the entire set piece is a tourist attraction and Singapore needs to put its best foot forward.

Exclusive special edition chicken rice

And then there's the chow.

It takes eating chicken rice to a whole new level.

What's so special about the Special Edition Gardens by the Bay Chicken Rice is that it is made from chicken and rice. With cucumber. And sauces.

At $20 a plate, as you eat you, you can feel your heart surging with pain and it wouldn't even be cholesterol-induced.

The price certainly justifies the sensation!

But if you prefer not to give in to your extravagance and pamper yourself this way, simply take a cab to Maxwell Food Centre and gorge yourself to death from the rival chicken rice stalls.

It will probably set you back $18 max. In total.

Danger of looking passe

Happily, the Gardens still manages to attract the bored, lethargic and wide-eyed, besides families, couples and anyone with Instagram.

And everyone has to go now before it is too late.

That is because the whole place will look dated by some time end of this year. Even though it was planned to look futuristic.

And by 2014, it will be officially passe.

Like how all phones produced last year look passe only six months down the road.

Overall, I have to admit, it was a pleasant experience.

But I hated it.

Belmont Lay is one of the editors of New Nation, an online publication that is well-liked only among a few people.