Singapore, my new favorite city state

The difference to Malaysia was immediate and striking: There were no more street vendors or awkward shops along the road. In fact, there were no buildings at all lining the roadside: After I had managed to exit the proper highway coming straight out of immigration I was cycling through a lush forest, then along a calm lake.

Welcome to Singapore! (Cycling on the highway..)

Eventually I entered the city, and followed cyclist-friendly streets (by local standards) for the next 15 or so kilometers. Everything was clean and quiet and it reminded me a lot more of a German suburb than a bustling Asian metropolis. In the late afternoon I reached the place I would stay at during my few days in Singapore; the flat of the incredibly generous and knowledgeable warmshowers-host Rama (“warmshowers” is a hospitality network similar to couchsurfing, but exclusively for cyclists; with many enthusiasts opening their homes to the interesting species of touring travelers). It was an apartment complex in a big living area composed of similar buildings, about 10km away from the city center.

Residential Area

I learned that a huge percentage of the buildings here in Singapore were state built and state owned, and that in general flats could not be bought, but only leased for 99 years.

The next morning Rama took me and the other cyclist who had arrived at his home out for a tour around the less visited areas of the city state. I noticed the many parks, and found out that this had been one part of the Singapore’s “master plan”: to make it the greenest city/country in the world. We rode along a “park connector”, mostly a narrow strip of nature, connecting one park with another. The ambitious goal of this ongoing project is to connect all the parks with each other, so that one day one can run, skate or cycle the whole country without sharing the track with motorized vehicles.

We also passed a reservoir that had taken the place of Singapore’s largest landfill. And it was a revelation to hear how this nation had, through relentless research and scientific effort, mastered the challenge of water supply: Just a few decades ago Singapore had been depending on Malaysia and imported their water, now it is producing best quality water by itself, efficiently and sustainably, and is even exporting their knowledge and water technology to other countries. My personal experience of this feat was that I could drink the tap water, and that it did not taste of anything – which felt amazing and was almost unbelievable to me after many months without this privilege!

View from Marina Barrage

In the afternoon we cycled down the East Coast Park and landed right at Marina Barrage, from where we had a great view over the Gardens by the Bay with its “Supertrees”, and of the skyline of Singapore.

Super Tree Grove

The eye gets caught instantly by the luxurious hotel Marina Bay Sands, an architectural masterpiece: Its three uniquely angled towers are interconnected at the top by a bent structure that resembles a boat. And this boat carries, besides bars and restaurants, a gigantic infinity-pool (you can swim right to the edge) with a dramatic view over the city center.

The Infinity Pool - great view over the city!

View over Gardens by the Bay at night

Unfortunately there was no way for me of trying it out since I did not want to stay in the hotel, with room rates starting at 300€ or so per night…

Not too far away, behind the towering skyscrapers of banks and insurance companies, lies Chinatown.

Chinatown over Chinese New Year

CNY celebration: Year of the monkey!

Chinatown at Chinese New Year

Decorated with colorful Chinese lanterns, inflatable monkeys and the other animals of the calendar it was ready for the big celebration. I had seen test fireworks, but on the night to February 8, the start of the Chinese New Year, I managed to miss the big show: The streets were so full of people that I was literally stuck in the crowds, and unable to move to the street where the action took place. But I heard it, and after five minutes it was also over again. Another firework down at the bay the next day, coupled with the light show there, were a good enough alternative…

CNY fireworks in Singapore

In retrospect the festivities, which were my initial motivation to come to Singapore at this time of year, are moving into the background and give way to the more important experiences: Meeting other cyclists and hearing their inspirational stories, and also to see and live for a few days in what I think might be the most modern and best thought through country in the world.

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