Ladies and gentlemen,
Let’s explore a city, a country, and an island by visiting only one place: Singapore, located off the coast of Southern Malasia. The Asian city-state known as “The Garden City” is a global commercial, financial and transportation hub with tall skyscrapers divided by green space, allowing visitors and locals to breathe while walking in this futuristic megalopolis. Singapore has a subtropical climate with no distinctive seasons, heavy rainfalls and an average high of 80 °F year around and relative humidity of 84 %. The sudden and almost daily heavy showers rarely last more than an hour. No matter how warm and rainy, we started our tour by taking the monorail to stroll and laze around on the island of Sentosa Park, a name meaning peace and tranquillity in Malay. This is the entertainment island, a gigantic amusement park. There are four parks in all, including Universal Studios Singapore, theaters, beaches, golf courses, hotels, a freefall simulator, aquariums, a butterfly park and inscet kingdom, a zoo, a skyline luge and skyride, the Wave House with a rapid rider and flowbarrel, the ultimate surf machine. As Casimir sang in a French television show of the 1970s, “Voici venu le temps des rires et des chants / Dans l’île aux enfants / C’est tous les jours le printemps / C’est le pays joyeux des enfants heureux / Des monstres gentils / Oui c’est un paradis” that can be translated into English as, “A time of laughter and song / In the children’s island / It’s everyday spring / This is the joyous land of happy children / Gentile monsters / Yes it is a paradise…” And when night falls Sentosa offers a purely magical atmosphere out of our childhood dreams…
But Singapore is above all the bay, surrounded by the business district in perpetual construction and buildings of impressive height… When looking up from a street in the business district you get a little bit dizzy. Facing the bay stands the national symbol of Singapore “the Merlion,” a statue representing a lion’s head with the body of a fish. The name Singapore is derived from Singapura in Malay and from the Sankrit for “The Lion City.” Buildings of noteworthy architecture are numerous, including the Supreme Court and the Esplanade, a line of theatres on the bay and a performing art center opened in 2002. The building design has an appearance similar to a durian, a tropical fruit, or even the eye of a fly. This architectural achievement makes the wildest dreams of Le Corbusier look provincial houses, but the architectural gold prize goes to Marina Bay Sand or MBS openned in 2010, three 57-floor towers connected at the top at 656 feet by a 3 acres roof terrace known as Sands Sky Park. The 1,120 foot long Sky Park from the northern tip to the south end offers a panoramic city view, 2 upscale restaurants, gardens, a park featuring 250 varieties of trees and 650 varieties of plants, and the world’s largest outdoor swimming pool [15,026 square foot] with a 478-foot vanishing edge overlooking the bay and the city at 650 feet up. The pool can hold 376,500 gallons of water. A totally crazy building! This district of Singapore is also ideal for trying out the atmosphere of “Singapore by night,” when lights magically illuminate Marina Bay and discovering all the buildings from another angle!
Enough dreaming, it is time to go for some dim sum at Din Tai Fung. But how am I going to order, in which language? In Singapore we speak English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil… One-third of all Singaporeans speak English at home while half speaks Mandarin Chinese. In addition, Singaporean English is unique because it incorporates extensive borrowing from Chinese language, not only vocabulary but also grammar, inflections and word order… If you ask the question “Do you speak English?” The answer will be: “I speak Singlish“… Let’s have some fun, “When I was young” translates as, “When I was young that time” because in Mandarin Chinese you say, “when I was little at that time…” Similarly, in English we say, “Can you? Do you want to go? Do you want to come?… In “Singlish,” “You can or not? You want to go or not? You want to come or not?”
Then there are Malay words, substituting English words… For instance ordering a coffee is an art! If you arrive at a coffee shop and you ask “coffee please,” you will be served coffee with sweetened condensed milk. If you want a real coffee, say “kopi, please.” Since it is very hot, I order a “kopi peng” (iced coffee!) Ah, all that is really troublesome.” Oh, no sorry, I meant “This is Susah.”
Let us continue our tour of Marina Bay Sands. Surely you noticed “The Art, Science Museum” with its open tulip shape built on the water, a very complex structure. It opened in 2011. The architecture is carefully designed, for example the tulip shaped harvests rainwater and channels it down to the center of the building into a basin of water lilies. The Art, Science Museum offers permanent collections and exhibitions, but mainly hosts temporary exhibitions. In the background, we can see the Singapore Flyer, a giant Ferris Wheel opened in 2008 with an overall high of 541 feet. Until 2014, the Singapore Flyer was the world’s tallest Ferris Wheel. Now the High Roller on the Las Vegas Strip, Nevada, is 9 feet taller. London’s Ferris Wheel is only 443 feet high. Singapore is a race to excess !
Close to Marina Bay is another magical place not to be missed: welcome to the planet Pandora from the movie Avatar. Welcome to the Garden by the Bay, a nature park. Come, let’s go together and track some “Hexapede Yerik” on the back of an “Equidius Pa’li.” This futuristic Garden of Singapore, opened in late June 2012, is the most unusual: when the tops of the trees appears, another world seems to open straight from a science fiction universe. This is not a scene in CGI or virtual imaging, but very real. The place recalls the “wroshyr trees” in Star Wars? Remember those gigantic trees of several hundred meters high where the Wookiees lived and which covered virtually all of the land of Kashyyyk. Some 200,000 plant species from all continents are found in this garden. In total, eighteen supertrees, tree-like structures, stand in the middle of the landscape. A structure made of concrete and iron is entirely covered with vegetation and ranges in height from 82 feet to 160 feet. An elevated walkway at 22 meters above ground, the OCBC Skyway, connects two of the largest supertrees offers a splendid aerial view of the entire Garden of Singapore and the adjacent Garden by the Bay. It is not just a park, but a true ecosystem. Two greenhouses, science fiction style, are located near the “trees.” These two conservatories, Flower Done and Cloud Forest, are energy efficient: the proper temperature is maintained through a steam turbine powered by organic waste. Both greenhouses are energy sustainable. The cooling system uses rainwater. Just like the greenhouses, eleven of eighteen trees do not require any external energy supply. The supertree lighting and other night shows are provided by photovoltaic cells that harvest and store solar energy during the day. By night the Gardens are magical.