River hongbao is back this lunar this year, it is a lantern light up complimentary to the ones at Chinatown, and held at the Singapore Gardens By the Bay, Singapore’s premiere city garden. This time round, River Hongbao 2023 has an unconstrained format with no crowd limits with the lifting of Covid-19 measures. Let’s take an explore of one of the highlight events of the Singapore Chinese new year.
Massive god of fortune lantern
As with every River hongbao, the god of fortune is the highlight of the light up displays here. Interestingly, the God of fortune piece this year resides in the meadows area of the gardens, contrary to the Supertree grove as last year. Likewise, it is a tall lantern made in the likeness of the Chinese deity and stands almost 5 floors tall holding a large golden Koi shaped like a gold tael.
Furthermore, the gardens Meadows area is where most of the more beautiful lanterns reside. Here you can find the Wishing heart lantern with four bunnies dancing around two hearts with ringing bells inside. You can throw coins at the bells here to ring it and make a wish.
12 Zodiac animals
Also here at the Meadows is the Chinese zodiac lantern lightup. It comprises of an assortment of the 12 zodiac animals spread over 3 separate lanterns installations connected back-to-back in one area.
Hence, each display home to 3-4 zodiac animals. We have a break-dancing Pig, a vain Rat, lion-dancing monkeys, and a dancing ballet rooster. Also, the zodiac lanterns elements are motion animated too, with some notables like the rabbits on a rotating motorised carousel.
Additionally, other the Peace and prosperity lantern paints depictions of the Merlion and scenes of affluence. Flourishing times ahead lantern depicting a graffiti scene “Huat ah!”.
Also, these meadows grounds are home to two bunny themed lanterns, namely a Futuristics venture lantern depicting a rabbit sitting on a flying rocket. It has a comical element and very Singaporean indeed.
Entrance archways lightups
Furthermore, there are three grand entrances to the event at the Singapore Gardens By the Bay, each are alternate routes into the event with their own lantern grand arch. Also, these entrances spans at spots between the Dragon fly lake Meadows, Bayfront and Supertree grove area.
First off, the main and the most popular entrance would be the Bayfront entrance, which brings you across the meadows bridge. Also, if you are coming in via MRT, the Bayfront MRT entrance see you through an appetizer of small animal depiction of fairy tale from the Great spring race.
Also, here, you can find depictions of the race between the hare and the tortoise. Also, a highlight item outside the event grounds is the Dance of Spring lantern, comprising of a trio of lit white swans. You can remember this spot as the massive Tiger floating lantern from the River Hongbao the year before.
In-addition to the Bayfront entrance, is the Golden garden welcome arch. It leads from the Garden’s main carpark entrance from the visitor center and Conservatory area. Also, the arch is decorated and lined with phoenixes. It leads directly into the Supertree grove event area.
Wrapping up the entrance is the Meadow entrance walkway, which leads from the Meadows carpark. The walkway in has has butterfly wing shaped fixtures. Also, the first lantern greeting you at the meadows entrance is the “Kuai Gao Zhang Da” (Grow up big and strong fast, or simply “Quickly grow up”) lantern.
Also, the meadows area is also where the event stage is, where life Chinese-themed performances are held from 7:30pm daily. Do check the performance schedule on your day of visit.
Supertree grove stalls
Furthermore, the Supertree grove area is where most of the event carnival attractions are. The linkway here is decorated and lined with overhead lights and lanterns suspended under the treeline, this connects the Supertree grove to the Meadows area.
Moreover, here, you can find a tented food street here and an assortment of amusement fairground rides and carnival booths operated by Jkids amusement.
Also, you can find a collection of fairground rides, such as spinners, water boat rides, Ferris wheels as well as a double-floored carousel taking center stage in the Supertree grove area.
Moreover, the food street does feel like your run of the mill outdoor pasir malam (night market), complete with stores hawking kebabs, thai milk tea, fried food and Ramly burgers for instance.
Also, lined along the grove are stalls hawking a variety of CNY goods, including a lantern riddle booth and a snack street. You can also find a Singapore post booth here selling limited rabbit theme postage stamps.
Additionally, here, there is a stage ground complimentary to the one we saw at the meadows grounds, it comprises of a large TV screen looping Chinese festive promotional videos. The Hao Cai Tou lantern here is one of the more adorable lanterns with an abundance of tiny rabbit lanterns surrounding rather bountiful fruits.
Wet wet wet
Furthermore, the theme for this year’s River hongbao is probably rain, yet the rain was still very manageable and not heavy even in the evenings. It does get cold and windy at times, but nothing too much to drench your visit. The rain was tad a blessing too in keeping the crowds down. This was something I found this year’s event more bearable given smaller human crowds.
Also, thankfully, there were no long snaking entry queues to the event like last year. You can pass through the entrance lines and clear a bag check in under a minute.
Moreover, I find River Hongbao best visited when near sunset as it is bright enough to navigate the gardens and yet be able to see the lanterns. At night, the lighting of the lanterns does bring up the contrast and do make the colours pop, but you will lose the appreciation of what an otherwise beautiful garden around you. Also it is difficult to photograph lanterns with people at night.
Theater exhibition at SG50 lattice
Moreover, sitting outside the River Hongbao grounds too is an indoor exhibition area at the SG50 lattice structure. This event spot sits near the Gardens by the bay Flora Fantasy grounds we previously visited.
Also, the exhibition grounds are sheltered under a makeshift tent erected for the event, allowing you a respite from the rain despite the lattice structure not being fully sheltered. Within, the exhibition covers the history of Singapore theater scene with a walk through of old film, film personalities and the cinemas which supports it. It is tad like a history showcase, though not related to Chinese new year. It ends with a photo opportunity and a children’s colouring activity area.
Wrapping up, the Gardens also has a Chinese new year themed lantern area inside the Flower Dome conservatory too. However, entry within is a payable extra and not an essential items to catch unless you are already planning on visiting the Flower dome conservatory.
All in all, that wraps up our visit to River Hongbao 2023 for the year of the rabbit. Do catch it from 20 to 28th January 2023. The displays this year are notably smaller than the previous year’s 2022 River Hongbao, but still maintains the charm of a family friendly event. The displays are still of good quality not something that the rain can put a dampen on.