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Singapore’s infrastructure worth emulating

Ever since it was used as the backdrop of the 2018 blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians, its fame has tipped over

In Summary

-Everything is designed for maximum ease of the pedestrian. 

View of Gardens by The Bay from the Roof Top of Marina Bay Sands
View of Gardens by The Bay from the Roof Top of Marina Bay Sands
Image: NABILA HATIMY

Singapore is five hours ahead of Kenya. I lost an entire day and half travelling from Kenya to Singapore. Adjusting my sleeping time was my mission the first five days I was there. Mostly, I couldn’t sleep because I was overly excited about all the magnificent things I was going to see. The first stop, one of Singapore’s most recognised landmarks: Marina Bay Sands. Unlike other countries, pedestrians hardly ever walk by the streets next to busy highways. As it turns out, the entire city is an interwoven web of underground metros, bus routes and tunnels. We decided to use Singapore’s famed Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) to get to Marina Bay.

Arriving on the platform, we were greeted by two female MRT employees, asking where we were headed. “Marina Bay Sands,” I said. “You’ve just missed it, please have a seat till the next one in five minutes.” As the next one approached, she called out to passengers headed towards Dhobay Ghaut, intermittently informing us that we should not get on this train as it was not headed in our direction. Finally, as our train approached, she waved her white gloved hands at us to queue at the correct spot. You see, as the trains are automated, everything around them is designed in a way to ensure swift and easy flow of passengers. Arrows on the floor indicate how passengers should move. The left and right wings of the doors are for passengers boarding, while the central part is designated for passengers arriving. Some lines are designated for the elderly.

The lady firmly told us to get off at the Bayfront station and not the Marina Bay Station. Bayfront station primarily serves as part of the integrated resort of Marina Bay Sands. The train opens its doors right onto the resort’s mall, The Shoppes. The Shoppes is part of Marina Bay Sands’ integrated resort. The integrated resort also features The Sands Expo and Convention Centre, ArtScience Museum, two floating Crystal Pavilions currently occupied by Louis Vuitton and Pangaea Club, and the world's largest atrium casino.

We got off the train and walked straight into the underground part of The Shoppes mall. Even though a portion of the mall is underground, its ceiling is made of glass that fills the area with enough sunlight. Right underneath the glass ceiling is a river of the bluest water. The river starts at a point where the glass ceiling caves in, spouting a waterfall, as though it is raining outside all the time. The mall itself is leased by designer-branded stores, with the likes of Tiffany’s, Nina Ricci, Gucci, Sephora, and so on. The food court is spoiled with choice of delectable meals and treats. After touring the mall, I followed well-marked paths going into Marina Bay. As I passed more shops, and finally the Casino, I suddenly realised I was in the lobby of the second tower of Marina Bay Sands!

I was shocked! I realised I had gotten off a train, passed through an extravagant mall and right into a seven-star hotel with no one prodding me with metal detectors or shoving their heads inside my handbag! There was no ‘security check’, no harassment of persons. For some time, I wasn’t even amazed by the splendour before me; I just kept imagining the kind of security I would have to go through if this resort was in Kenya.

Meanwhile, inside the atrium was a frenzy of tourists and locals taking pictures of the superb architecture and interiors of the hotel. Others were guests checking in. Others, like me, made a beeline to the queue of people waiting to take the elevator to the 57th floor Skydeck that has splendid views of the city and coastline. Right outside the door of the third tower (where we were queued up) were an array of colourful Lamborghinis. As we moved up the line, the ladies behind the counter informed us that for 22 Singapore Dollars, we could visit the C’est la Vie Bar and Lounge on the 58th floor instead, and use our tickets as coupons to pay for the drinks and meal we ordered. It was a deal.

However, I must confess that while it was amazing sitting on the roof top of Marina Bay Sands sipping on a cranberry juice, the food and service I received there were probably the worst of my entire stay in Singapore. The waitresses were overworked, and the food was not worth writing about. Right behind Marina Bay Sands is also the famous Gardens by the Bay. I found myself shuttling between the Gardens, Marina Bay Sands, The Shoppes and finally into the ArtScience Museum without crossing one street! Everything is designed for maximum ease of the pedestrian.

Singapore was already quite famous for its fast-paced development and modernisation. But ever since it was used as the backdrop of the 2018 blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians, its fame has tipped over. Tourists flock the small island nation from all over the world just to indulge in its vast wealth. I would do it over again… just for the infrastructure.