If there’s one lesson that traveling has taught me over and over again, it’s that life is generally more fun, more interesting, when we say “yes” rather than “no”. Saying yes we risk the unknown and open up ourselves to the possibility of being surprised, to having our boundaries expanded and our points of view changed. Maybe it’s because, on the verge of saying no, our expectations for the experience are lower, or maybe it’s because opening ourselves up to “yes” primes us for other great things that are headed our way. All I know is that it has been exceedingly rare during this trip that I have wished I had turned an opportunity down.

Take our visit to one of Singapore’s most recently opened mega attractions, Gardens by the Bay. Nestled next to the iconic Marina Bay Sands, the two giant space-age greenhouse domes and expansive “Supertree” arboretum that comprise Gardens by the Bay make for formidable additions to the city’s skyline.

Like most activities in Singapore, a visit to the Gardens doesn’t come cheap: access to both domes costs a whopping S$26 ($20US, or the cost of a Singapore Sling), which is pretty pricey to go see some plants. I’m no budding horticulturist, and if we had left the decision in my hands, I probably would have given the Gardens a pass, but this is why it can be exceedingly nice to have access to a local who can help you make better choices. Our friend Chris had already visited the Gardens, and he had enjoyed them so much that, despite the hefty price tag, he urged us to visit them and to sweeten the pot, told us he would happily come along with us.


The first dome we visited contained the Flower Garden, which is a lot like a traditional greenhouse, except it is filled with plants from all over the world. Because we were visiting during the holidays, there were a few Christmas-themed decorations scattered throughout, and of course, because this is Singapore, there were also many signs prohibiting all manner of bad behavior such as throwing gravel and touching the plants. Now, I don’t want to throw stones (pun intended?) or point fingers, but during our travels we have come to believe that these signs are largely for the benefit of visitors who come from one Asian country in particular. It seems like most people who live in the world understand the social contract we are all bound by and are perfectly content to “look with their eyes”, but for people from this country, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in a greenhouse, a museum, the ocean or a UNESCO-protected site, if something is worth looking at, then it is also worth touching and indeed must be touched. At this point, I have lost count of the number of times we have seen people contort themselves over and around barriers in order to get their grubby little paws on things, but suffice to say that the signs at the Gardens were being flagrantly ignored by a certain swath of visitors and the poor plants were quite literally being manhandled.

Bad behavior aside, we quite enjoyed our walk through the Flower Garden, marveling once more at how spectacularly diverse our planet is and how weird nature can be. And of course, because we are all sometimes 11, we also spent a good deal of time laughing at some of the more, ahem, suggestive plants on display; the cacti section was particularly amusing.

Kids, ask your parents why this is funny
Kids, ask your parents why this is funny
The name is almost as goofy as the tree itself: Boabob
The name is almost as goofy as the tree itself: Baobob

Like I said, I’ve never taken a great interest in floral life, but I still really enjoyed observing the vast selection of flowers on display. Having so much variety spread out in front of you, it’s pretty astounding to note the many shapes and forms that plant life can take, from intensely intricate to outright bizarre. My personal highlights were probably the sweet pea plants with their gently curling tendrils and, all the way from the other side of the globe, the preposterous baobab trees, so squat and lumpy and a slice of Africa a continent away.


Next up was the Cloud Forest, and OH MY GOD it was so cool! Also enclosed in a huge glass dome, the Cloud Forest is essentially a chilly rainforest, complete with a crashing waterfall that seemed as though it were cascading from the heavens. I felt like we had stepped right into a videogame as we made our way across suspended skywalks (which terrified heights-hating Tony to the very marrow if his bones), passing through lush greenery featuring beautiful orchids and carnivorous plants. Hovering hundreds of feet in the air, the view of the skyline across the river was spectacular. If the film Blade Runner took place in the jungle rather than a big city, I think this is where it would be set. The blend of the exotic with futuristic elements is pretty much Singapore in a nutshell, and this was far and away the highlight of our visit to Gardens by the Bay.

For S$26 (+ S$5 if you want to do the Supertree Skywalk), Gardens by the Bay is certainly an expensive activity and one that you might find hard to justify if you aren’t head over heels for plants, but I’m glad all the same that we went and saw what Chris was so excited about. If you are interested in visiting but want to cut your costs, I’d say that you should at least make a visit to the Cloud Forest a priority: it’s a truly magical experience you won’t want to miss.

Keeping up the ultramodern fantasyland vibe, we ended our time at Gardens by the Bay with a wander through the Supertree Grove; although you can pay to access another elevated walkway between some of the Supertrees, they are just as enjoyable (and perhaps even more impressive) from below; sometimes you stand on the shoulders of giants, other times you stand in their shadows. Looking as though they were plucked straight out of Avatar (or a far less crappy version of the film), these towering “trees” range from 25-50 meters in height and have been designed to not only astonish the eye, but to carry out environmentally sustainable operations such as harvest solar power and offer air filtration. A large portion of the Cloud Forest was devoted to explaining the ins & outs of the hows & whys of the Supertrees, some of which seemed dubious at best. But potential scientific skullduggery aside, even if these trees wind up being largely decorative, they are insanely cool to observe, which is reason enough for them to exist as far as I’m concerned.

If there is a theme to our time in Singapore, it is probably me reluctantly agreeing to activities that I secretly didn’t think would be all that great, only to find time and again that I was wrong and that whatever we were doing was very worthwhile indeed. Saying yes changes us; it pushes us forward, and sometimes it even pushes us up, all the way into the clouds where it teaches us a new way of seeing. And when we come back down to earth, we find our outlook—on the world, on ourselves—is different as a result. That is the power of saying yes.

Tell us: Have you ever visited an attraction or tried an activity that you didn’t think was for you only to find you really enjoyed it? What was the last great thing that you said “yes” to?

Written by: Stephenie Harrison

In another life, I moved from Toronto, Canada to Nashville, TN to pursue my doctoral degree in Psychology. That chapter of my life is now finished, but I did earn the right to demand you call me Dr. Steph (though I respond just as well to plain old Steph). I am an avid reader whose book collection is rivaled only by my many pairs of cute shoes. I also like to knit, hold impromptu karaoke parties, and try new and unusual foods. Generally not all at the same time. I also really love to learn languages, which may explain why I took 3 years of Latin in highschool. I'm turning over a new leaf, so instead of looking forward, I'm going to work on enjoying the present, so the country I'm most looking forward to is whichever one we're in right now!

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Read comments (16)

  1. September 30, 2013 at 6:35 am
    Sep. 30, '13

    *Saying yes changes us; it pushes us forward, and sometimes it even pushes us up, all the way into the clouds where it teaches us a new way of seeing*

    I could not agree more with this statement! Saying yes is the reason I went from being a bored accountant to enjoying my life through travel, seeing amazing places, meeting new people and getting a cool job where I get to see dolphins in a beautiful part of the word!

    Saying yes more may not always be life changing but it does makes you do cool things 🙂

    Pics look amazing by the way, particularly love the rudey cactus
    Rob recently posted..The next challenge is…

    • October 2, 2013 at 11:45 pm
      Oct. 2, '13

      Right, even if saying yes doesn’t change your life, generally it makes things more interesting and at the very least, you tend to get a story out of it!

      You have no idea how long and hard (!) we snickered at the rude cactus… 😉

  2. September 30, 2013 at 9:11 am
    Sep. 30, '13

    Ah, feeling so jealous right now! We didn’t hear about the Gardens until too late and didn’t have time to visit, so great to live vicariously through your descriptions and beautiful photos. It’s on the list for our next visit to Singapore definitely. Like so many things in Singapore this place looks otherworldly, I love the photo of the waterfall in the Cloud Forest. Also intrigued as to which Asian country you think is home to people who have to paw exhibits? 😉 It irritated the hell out of me whenever we were in museums.
    Maddie recently posted..A visit to the Peruvian Amazon

    • October 2, 2013 at 11:47 pm
      Oct. 2, '13

      I know you two fell in love with Singapore, so I’ve no doubt you’ll return and the Gardens will be there waiting when you do! The Cloud Forest is truly unreal (and insanely photogenic!).

      I think I told you about when we were at the Asian Civilizations museum in Singpore and a lady from this handsy nation was actually picking up mallets in the musical instruments room and STRIKING the items that were roped off. She was with her 6-year-old grandson and he was better behaved than she was! So INFURIATING!

  3. September 30, 2013 at 9:24 am
    Sep. 30, '13

    Omg this is so surreal and ethereal. I would LOVE this… my overactive imagination love love loves places like this that completely transport me away from reality. I would probably shell out the dough for this.
    I think you are right about all this saying yes business, especially with travel, but I have been finding the power of saying no to some things too. Maybe this is an at-home attitude, but I am quite introverted, and I find often that I am much MUCH happier staying at home with a book and my cat. 😀 Yep, I’m the cat lady.
    Colleen Brynn recently posted..I Could Totally Live In… Buenos Aires, Argentina

    • October 2, 2013 at 11:58 pm
      Oct. 2, '13

      Oh, I’m an introvert as well and I definitely value my down time; it’s vital to me. BUT, I would never argue that staying in to read a book or watch a film is more memorable or interesting than the opportunities I passed up in their favor. Doesn’t mean that I made the wrong choice, just that if I spent every night in playing video games or listening to music, my life, even if enjoyable to me, would probably be less interesting as a result!

  4. October 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm
    Oct. 1, '13

    who throws gravel?
    Hogga recently posted..Seeing Montreal with Le St. Martin

    • October 2, 2013 at 11:59 pm
      Oct. 2, '13

      I don’t want to point fingers, but it’s a country that rhymes with “China”…

  5. October 3, 2013 at 12:09 pm
    Oct. 3, '13

    This looks amazing and your photos really bring it to life. Keep saying “yes!”
    Cindy – thetravelgal recently posted..Photo Thursday: Almost Fall in Saint Paul, Minnesota

    • October 14, 2013 at 9:32 am
      Oct. 14, '13

      Thanks, Cindy! That’s definitely the plan! 😀

  6. October 3, 2013 at 3:49 pm
    Oct. 3, '13

    This place looks spectacular! It sadly wasn’t open during the time of our Singapore visit but I do hope to experience it one day. Though I will be avoiding the holiday season. I had my fill of bad behavior and flouting of signs when I lived in a certain place for two years!
    Heather recently posted..Afternoon Tea at the Puli Hotel, Shanghai

    • October 14, 2013 at 9:33 am
      Oct. 14, '13

      Yes, I think many of the rule flouters were on vacation from your two-year home… 😉

  7. October 8, 2013 at 11:21 pm
    Oct. 8, '13

    oh my gosh, we went to Plitvice park, and sure enough there’s always some group of tourists to ruin it. They made a wish and tossed a coin into a very tiny lake full of fish, who proceeded to eat the coins.

    I kind of hope the opposite of their wishes come true.
    Nicole recently posted..Vienna’s Music Film Festival is All About the Wiener

    • October 9, 2013 at 1:20 am
      Oct. 9, '13

      I have had a similar hope on many occasions. Dare I ask whether these were domestic tourists, or whether they might have come from a certain Asian country?

  8. October 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm
    Oct. 9, '13

    Haven’t been there yet! Love the photos especially the night shots 😀
    Micamyx|Senyorita recently posted..Eating London: An East London Food Tour Experience

    • October 14, 2013 at 9:34 am
      Oct. 14, '13

      It’s the rare garden that actually is cooler by night, but these ones certainly are!

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