The city state was not on the list and our visit is an accident rather than careful planning. We are entering Singapore on a Malaysian bus, which I must say are the most spacious and comfortable I have ever come across. Crossing the border is Visa free, officers are helpful and friendly, only the too frequent red signs reading something along 'Drug trafficking is punished by death penalty' seem a bit hostile. On the other hand the city state is famous for the strict rules and penalties enforcing these.
From the first moment is apparent that this is a modern city. I have learnt the second day that it is the best and most contemporary city in fact. That I've visited anyway. Our first journey next day in the morning took us along the flying circus's pit lane that until then I didn't expect to see as I wasn't looking for it. I recognised the building and Singapore Flyer from the F1 races I've seen and to my biggest surprise I could enter the race track like it was an ordinary stretch of road. Except there is no traffic here under the Flyer except of those few special days. From this moment for the following three days I was totally taken by the architecture, urban planning, infrastructure and somewhat forgot about my love to 'people photography' in that amazement. On the other hand I might have mentioned to Majka something about missing my job, which is surprisingly true. I do like interior and architecture photography, but I got to know that perhaps I've been doing it for the wrong crowd to match my personality. No, I have no immediate plans on returning to my job, if you've been wondering that.
Very much like in China there is not an inch of land that is not landscaped, improved or otherwise changed, but to my biggest surprise all of it is functional and lacking the tackiness and kitschiness of Mao's giant. It's actually all well thought of, extremely well realised and while there is always room for improvement this is the metropolis that could set standards. It's streets are immaculate and I have to think hard to remember whether I've seen a single pice of rubbish just lying around. The Marina Bay itself is the best example of ingenious engineering and if I had to set out the best building or structure I would have difficult time deciding. The Art Science Museum, Esplanade or as locally known The Durian, one of the beautifully designed office buildings, Singapore Flyer, The Helix Bridge, Marina Bay Sands, Flower Garden and Cloud Forrest domes, The Supertree structures, or another one I fail to remember right now??? Who am I kidding?! Of course the crown goes to the Marina Bay Sands, that looks like a giant spacecraft docking to its mother ship. Hats down to the visionary architect who was brave enough to toss this crazy design into investors hands. Hats down to the looney investor who signed this project off and bought Singapore it's very own unique masterpiece of landmark that alone put the city state back on the map and high on the bucket list of every person with itchy feet. On the other hand if you had enough hustle of the modern metropolis you can always visit Chinatown with its shophouses or Bugis with more shophouses and bustling night life, or you can get out of the city and visit Universal Studios on Sentosa island, go for a night safari to the ZOO... While Singapore is not exactly invented for the budget backpacker type of tourist, there is plenty you can do for on budget or even for free and is a must for architecture and design lover.
The city state was sort of kicked out of Malaysia in the late sixties, when it was hugely impoverished. Even drinking water had to be imported from mainland. In less than 40 years, those in charge, have turned around the fortunes of this tiny island. Yet another example for the world and its leaders. If you are looking for more good examples then you'll be happy to hear that Singapore is another place where coexistence of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian religions are possible. While in Kuala Lumpur I was taken by the retro futuristic looks, Singapore is unmistakeable contemporary and it even felt future proof. Of course that depends on how much we let the seas rise which in turn depends on how much more ruthless greed we let exploit our planet. But that's a different story... While I am always very happy returning to a metropolis, I am also equally happy to leave one behind. First journey on our last morning in Lion City takes us to the airport terminal, Jakarta next.