19th, 20th, 21th October

We had a good night on the boat. In the end, the cabin we have is comfortable enough. We enjoy our free time on the ferry to update ourselves with everything we can do offline. We arrive in Pulau Batam around 16h30. We are a little concerned whether we’ll manage to go to Singapore tonight, since we have not booked the ferry Batam-Singapore. In the end, no problem for this: nearly all the passengers of the boat are Indonesian, and they only go to Batam, and don’t continue to Singapore later.

Since we are going to change country, there are administrative controls to pass: in Batam, the Indonesian custom stamp our passport, but only after having strongly asked for how long we are in Batam island, whether we had worked in Indonesia, ! And also X-rays controls, just like in an airport. The shuttle that crosses the strait of Singapore is very fast. However, it is a small boat (for 30 people), and so it dances a lot on the waves. Mick wished he had not taken a last Indonesian nasi goreng just before boarding. We discover the impressive skyline of the city as we approach.

When we arrive in Singapore harbour, we have to do the same paperwork as in an airport: our bikes and paniers must go through x-rays, and we have to pass the customs. Again we have to give the address of the place we’ll stay in Singapore, and as we don’t have it here, a cell phone number is enough. Here too, it seems that they are pragmatic.

We have 5km to cycle to join our couchsurfer’s house in Singapore. These kilometres are simply unbelievable. The city of Singapore is so tidy, so calm, so refreshing and relaxing compared to Indonesia. There are nearly no cars on the road. And the air seems really clean. It’s so nice to cycle with these conditions finally.

In fact, we found our host tonight, Akira, not thanks to Couchsurfer, but on Warmshower. This website has been created on the base of Couchsurfer, but specially designed for cyclotourists. So Akira is fond of mountain bike, and wants to cycle around the world when he’ll have time. He is Japanese, but currently working in Singapore.

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He lives in a magnificient duplex flat, situated in a small tower of Alexandra Road. Tonight, we have a room with its fully equipped bathroom for both of us! we are far from the expected condition of only a couch for sleeping. And in the floor above us, there is a swimming pool, that we can’t wait to try!

This morning, we leave the house around 10 for a much desired breakfast. We finally have a lunch in Chinatown, the Chinese part of the city. We move inside the city by bike, and since we left our paniers in Akira’s house, we feel like we are going to take off!

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After some shopping and a little rest, we go to Marina Barrage. It is in the Marina Bay neighbourhood, probably one of the most famous postcards of Singapore.We meet there a friend of a classmate of Mickael in Nantes, Sock Ngee, and another 3 couchsurfer, that answered to our proposition to go to visit the Marina Barrage this afternoon.

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As soon as we arrive at the place, an employee of the barrage recognizes from our bike that we are travellers, and proposes himself to guide us through the visit of the site. He is very motivated and gives us a lot of precision, not only about the barrage, but also on Singapore history, current situation, on the NEWater plant, !

The United Nations place Singapore among the states suffering from water scarcity. The problem in Singapore is not that it does not rain (in fact it does rain, like 2m per year, much more than in Europe) but that the rainwater is not collected by the land, and so is lost to the sea. This problem is becoming even more acute with the population of Singapore growing. So Singapore government has taken measures on the two sides. On the one hand, a special care is put to reduce the water consumption: the domestic water consumption per capita has been brought down from 165L per day in 2003 down to 152L per day now. The goal is to reduce it to 147L per day in 2020 and 140L per day in 2030. On the other hand, 4 answers have been found to provide water to the city, and they are usually called the four taps of Singapore:

  • Reservoirs: There were 4 reservoirs in the 70s, there are 17 now, among them the Marina Bay reservoir (the biggest of all).
  • Buying water to Malaysia: the current agreement runs until 2061, but Singapore government already prepares the situation for when they won’t have this agreement anymore.
  • NEWater: plant to recycle water. It’s the leading plant in the world for this field, combining physical filters, inverse osmosis and UV treatment. We will visit this plant the day after tomorrow.
  • Desalination of sea water: but it is very expensive in energy, with 3.5kWh needed for 1 m3 of water, compared to the 0.5 kWh needed in NEWater to recycle 1 m3 of grey water.

The share of the water is: 60% for reservoirs + imported water (more or less 30% for each, but it varies every year), 30% for NEWater and 10% for the desalinated water.

For the Marina barrage, the constructions started in 2005. The barrage was finished in 2008. As the reservoir water level is very similar to the sea level outside, the barrage consists of a bridge, 350m long. There are 9 gates that can be open independently to evacuate the reservoir water, and so avoid flooding the city in case of strong rains. In case of high tide, when these gates cannot be open (since the sea water would enter the reservoir and introduce salt in the fresh water), 7 pumps are functioning to evacuate the water. These pumps are among the biggest in the world, with an output of 40m3/s. Each pump can empty an Olympic swimming pool in 1 minute!

Once the barrage finished, it took two years to remove the salt from inside the reservoir (since before, the sea was entering), using the natural rainwater.

Now, this dam has three main functions: it ensures water supply to Singapore (collecting the water of 100km2, and supplying around 10% of the total needed water!), it controls the water level of the Singapore river and so avoids floods, and it is a leisure place in the city. The building itself has been designed so that people enjoy coming here to rest, stroll, or play with kites. In addition, it is surrounded by the “Gardens by the bay”, a futuristic and relaxing park.

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At the end of the visit, we are lucky enough to see the barrage as they open one of the gates in prevision of strong rains. It’s an interesting spectacle, that many Singaporeans come to see. And as expected during this afternoon, the rain is coming this evening. As we have to wait, we enjoy to take a dinner in the restaurant for the visitors of the barrage.

After this really interesting and unexpected visit, we continue our discovery of Singapore. After the business centre and Chinatown this morning, the park this afternoon, we go to Little India tonight. The Indian part of Singapore is fully illuminated with decorations for the upcoming Deepavali festival, on November 2nd. We go to the big supermarket there, Mustafar. In fact, we can do everything inside, from buying clothes, food, electronics, jewels, to changing money, post service, ! it is very crowded, messy, and not as cheap as we were expecting. But at least we manage to do what we wanted. After shopping, we have an Indian dinner: rice with dal, and a fish.

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We have a lazy morning, between enjoying the building swimming pool, updating the website, and shopping for some food.

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We go out in the afternoon to visit the Museum of Asian Civilizations. Since we will spend 4 months in Asia, it can be useful to learn a little about South East Asia, China, India. The museum is interesting, and for sure we would have needed more than the 3 hours we stayed inside.

On the way back, we stop in a small Chinese restaurant, to enjoy some noodles. At home, we can finally go to the swimming pool. It’s really impressive: it is like 80m long, at the roof of the building, with a view on the city. And next to the swimming pool, if you get bored, you have Jacuzzi, sauna, and some sports equipments.

For sure we are seeing an idyllic side of Singapore, but the city is starting to seduce us.