by David Isle

I have had a most rare vision - past the wit of this man to say precisely what it was, but I will try. I went to Singapore thinking I would find a city - the “concrete jungle” as the tired metaphor goes. But Singapore also has a fair amount of actual jungle. The hot and humid climate certainly goes for the jungular. Many of the buildings around town have greenery climbing up their walls. The parks - and particularly the city’s impressive botanic gardens - are home to some spectacular sylvan arabesques.  

And then there is the Cloud Forest, Singapore’s biggest tourist attraction. The thing about the cloud forest is that it is not an indigenous tropical forest, as you might expect in a tropical city - an Onoda of the plant kingdom, refusing to surrender to the human invasion. No, the Cloud Forest is a human invention. Its intent is to educate visitors on the dangers of climate change, in particular the perils that threaten actual cloud forests in the wild. And I suppose the project succeeds in this didactic mission. But the effect of a man-made cloud forest is strange, as I hope to illustrate. Masters, I am to discourse wonders.

First of all, the cloud forest is air-conditioned. As I said, the climate of Singapore would seem perfect for a tropical jungle - it’s like a typical August afternoon in Washington, DC, except more humid and the weather is the same year-round. So it’s quite odd to go to an enclosed space to see an actual jungle, and then even odder for that space’s temperature seemingly to be set - surely at great expense - for human comfort. It turns out that real cloud forests are actually quite cool, since they are at high altitudes. But the feeling is that of walking into a movie theater from a hot summer day.

Also there are plants made of legos (I believe these are Venus fly traps):

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And flowers made I think of fiberglass:

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Such that the real flowers start to look fake (at least I think these are real):

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But then man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say that a real flower in a fake forest in a real city looks fake.

And then there is an exhibit on stalagmites in caves. It is on the fourth floor:

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From the upper walkways you get some lovely views of the city:

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From below, the walkways look ominous, like the whole apparatus is part of a bio-fueled Death Star:

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The Cloud Forest is a fantastical experience. It’s not a greenhouse, but maybe something more like a...plant zoo? Except a zoo with some dioramas like in the Museum of Natural History in New York? No man can tell what. Cloud forest, thou art translated.