Dim Sum Gardens is a Full region on the Mainland that has been given over to a quite spectacular oriental themed public garden space that can be deceptive in its breadth and depth. Designed by Wee Willian Wylie, the gardens are built around a large lake, and are rich in features and details that can make any visit a voyage of discovery – although that said, it would be remiss of me not to note that such is the depth of detail within the gardens, a visit can take a lot out of older systems; so if you do tend to travel with a high draw distances or shadows always enabled, be prepared to make adjustments so that you might better enjoy things.
A visit commences on the south side of the gardens within a Japanese-style walled terrace area. Here, on a platform guarded by Japanese hunter / warriors and sinuous water dragons, sitting over a rectangular pool water and beneath a stylishly modern Torii gate, the landing point looks out across the lake as it spreads itself to the north, water falling from a low lip in the edge of the pool to add to the lake’s fill.
This is a place where the term here be dragons has genuine meaning: as well as the two water dragons busily keeping the pool under the landing point topped-up, dragon heads decorate a stone fountain on the terrace below, and two more are waiting to greet visitors as they descend the steps from the terrace to join the path that offer routes of exploration along the south side of the gardens. In addition, all of this – landing point, terrace and all – is watched over by a large water dragon that raises its head out of the lake to also examine arriving visitors.
Bracketed by trees and woods to the south, west and east, the lake reaches north to where the land rises in grass-topped bluffs that arc around the back of a large island that proudly rises from the waters, a couple of smaller, low-lying islands between it and the landing point to the south. This sheer-faced island is topped by a quite marvellous Japanese tea house that mixes modern and traditional design in a manner that delights the eye. Like the landing point, this tea house is also guarded by dragons as it sits over a water feature that is home to fountains and Japanese crane, whilst waters tumble from the rocks of its perch to also add to the lake below.
The tea house is just one of many buildings and structures to be found throughout the gardens, some of which may be easy to spot as they raise their roofs above screens of trees or sit out over the waters whilst others may only come into view as you wander, and some attempt to remain hidden right up until you are almost literally on top of them.
Most of the larger structures are distinctly oriental in design, although a further café, sitting on the north shore of the lake and tucked behind the bulk of the island tea house, is of western design, and several of the smaller hideaways and romantic spots could hail from anywhere around the globe, whilst a dance pavilion on an island tucked into the south-east of the lake carries an elven air about it.
But no matter what their heritage, the placement of all the structures, large and small, within these gardens means that they all simply work and come together with the landscaping to capture the eye and heart.
To get to all of them really is an exercise in exploration: whilst a trail runs east and west from the path leading outward from the landing point terrace, it quickly becomes sporadic and overgrown or broken, although in places fences and old wall may offer hints of where to go. This allows things like bridges out to islands or the rediscovery of the trail after losing it in long grass and wild flowers, to add to the sense of adventure – as can coming across the unexpected, near-unseen house and courtyard or Japanese pavilion hiding within a curtain of bamboo.
For those who tire of wandering – something hard to imagine here – or who simply want to sit and relax, Dim Sum Gardens again offers a lot, from simple benches in the shade of trees, to the aforementioned cafés and tea houses, to the many pavilions and picnic spots and decks built out over the water and rafts floating upon it.
Nor is the lake home to a lone dragon; ducks swim among the lily pads, puffins perch on rocks, and heron and pelicans keep an eye out for unwary fish that might stray too close to where they stand. rowing boats and lanterns also sit on the waters, whilst several pieces of art rise above the rippled surface. This is a place rich in the colours of nature: multiple hues of green from grass, flowers and trees, reds and pinks and whites of cherry trees, and where the reds and greys and browns of rooftops add their bursts of colour to the mix.
With something new to see wherever you look and surprises to be found wherever you wander, Dim Sum is a perfect setting (if, again being honest, a possible heavy load for some systems). Such is its design, more than one look might be required to find everything – as I found out when I returned to take photos and came across the orangery with its piano inside, so well hidden under the boughs of a cherry tree I’d completely missed during my first visit!
- Dim Sum Gardens (Malrif, rated General)