My trip to Singapore is not at all about tourism. I live differently this travel. I fully enjoy the atmosphere of prosperity. I adore the 35˚ᶜ at the end of February. I let myself charmed by the thousands of lights at night. I peacefully walk on each street, paying attention to everything the way teaches me. I let myself – with every geometric form I meet in the traditional and modern architecture – fusion.
I left because I was waking up at night with the desire to pack. Because the New Chinese Year is coming and in my soul, I feel more attuned to this new beginning as with the one in December. Because I felt like jumping from the sofa the same way one is standing up when one hears some beat music.
Singapore attracts me with its calendar full of events and festivals. In Europe, the old buildings became heavy, everything is too narrow, limited and stifling.
Almost any European landscape seems to define itself through a castle, a church, a fortress or a museum. This time, I feel that the spirit of the place and the celebration make the whole life. The high buildings let themselves penetrated by this spirit, letting it reign the atmosphere and being witnesses to a reality that is happening now. Instead of remaining inaccessible and distant, the buildings’ architecture allows the passers-by to enter their lobbies and go along their halls, combining themselves with their life.
I arrive in Singapore in the evening, after a flight with Qatar Airways, during which my eyes were enchanted by stewardesses with perfectly arranged hair and wearing suits. The airport, abundantly decorated with palm-trees and suspended plants dressing up the walls, gives me the happy confirmation that a truly exotic air is waiting for me outside. I get on the bus while tourists impatiently queue for taxi-cabs. I wait only a quarter an hour and I am invited to a bus just for me. Asking the driver “how does it come that other people do not take the bus?”, he replies: “you are very lucky“. In the Chinese District, I am welcome by full-of-light decorations which mark the Year of the Monkey.
At the hotel, a woman with Indian features and clever sparks in her eyes is called to help me with the luggage, which is a small rucksack. The whole hotel is red, just like my French coat. I feel it is inadequate to let another woman carry my luggage, be it even a hotel’s employee. I want to carry it myself, but I am not let to do this.
I go out immediately, although it is after 10 pm. I am curious to see the Marina Bay. It is dark and I can only sense by the cooling breeze that the bay is close. After a while, I postpone my walk on the Marina Bay to the next day. On my way back to the hotel, not having a map on me, I let myself guided by a tall building with a construction in form of a red flower on top. At night, this flower is lit and I used it as compass. I search the Internet and I find out that this building, CapitaGreen, on whose façade green plants are growing, won an architecture prize: “Best Tall Building Award for Asia and Australasia Region“. The sustainable design belongs to Toyo Ito, the architecture firm which received the Pritzker prize in 2013.
I need to understand more about Singapore: the economic and political context, who and what favours its development. I wonder if the world divides itself in privileged places and forgotten, cursed and deserted places? Is there only the spirit of time or also, the fake of time? I am fascinated by Singapore’s founder, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, as well as by all explorer men. I feel the power of the British spirit to build empires.
Days pass by quickly. I am enchanted by red-orange lampions, the odour of the Kalachuchi flowers under the warm, slow rain that started while I was visiting the art galleries Gillman Barracks, by the green of the exotic vegetation, the tradition of the dancing dragons fed with oranges in the shopping malls, the glowing richness of the Buddhist temples, by the ambience of the old commercial streets and the evening fall accentuating all colours of the illuminated bridges.
How does the heart of this city beat is all I want to know. I am so happy to feel its lively heart: I go to drum performances; to art galleries organised in former military white huts; to a presentation about the visual language in the mandarin Chinese whose every sound I absorb, despite not speaking the language; to free music performances in the open. I breathe the air of the Singapore river while a rainbow of colours reflects itself in the waters, boats are floating in both directions and bridges change colour from pink into orange and then, turquoise. In Singapore, colour is at home.
I feel at home,too, and this is not something that happens to me in every town. I rediscover another person inside myself, a person who once lived much more than I am living in this life. How exaggerated seem all existential struggles in a single town, on a certain street, in a particular building! How many things I did not know about myself! How much other people are building transforming the world!
In the ambience of a pleasant music, young people party quietly on terraces, wearing their corporate, neat and elegant suit. Girls wear dresses that let their femininity show or office dresses with sandals or shoes.
Never have I felt so well by myself in my travels. I do not want to stop any of my impulses. I discover the design centre in a brochure and I reach there fast without having a map. I am amazed by the discourse presented on the walls of the exhibition. They talk about having built the identity of the population in Singapore in only 10 years from the moment they gained their independence (1965 – 1975). Further objectives were reached in each of the next decades.
Mesages met in the streets seem really well-intended to me. A poster presents a child asking himself about his future and talking about the situation of many young people who in their 40s are already exhausted with work. While I am enjoying a delicious Vietnamese salad with green papaya, I reflect on the message on the car stopped right in front of the restaurant. It encourages births explaining that spermatozoids are much more fertile at 27 years old than at 35 years old. As somebody told me – somebody I met at a crossroads while I was crossing in his direction and he was walking in the direction I intended to take – the government of Singapore aims to double the population in the next years! Also, to bring home Singaporeans studying or working abroad. An Aesop quote on a bench in the park reads: “No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted“.
I entirely abandon myself and I surprise myself moving no face muscle anymore at the concert « The Four Great Classical Novels » of the Chinese Orchestra of Singapore. Inspired by four writings of the old Chinese literature, the compositions are played with such an exactitude, synchronicity and fluidity which suggests to me a perfect machine formed of musicians organically linked among themselves.
I felt on another planet and I am happy that I discovered it so close. World is indeed large and anyway larger than we can imagine it in our daily judgements and prejudices and despite having watched for hours so many TV news. From the roof bar CÉ LA VIE at the 57th level of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, I understand many things and I wish I had seen Singapore when I was 16-17 years old.
I cannot have enough from watching the ocean and the Marina Bay with its impressive huge buildings of corporations and banks. Above all and everything, I feel light.
I imagine how each of the tens of ships shining in the night carries me away on waters to new exotic lands. Each invites me to a new adventure and discovery: a large world outside the narrow circle from which I came. The light of ships becomes more and more intense to the extent that the night falls. Its golden yellow makes me think of the Chinese ingot, symbol of prosperity and which appears to have a ship shape.
The breeze of the Johor Strait blows gently. I am on the esplanade of the Marina Bay and I forget of myself contemplating for longer than an hour – a time frozen in one magical second -, the scintillating show of the grandiose architecture.