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In the Middle of the Singapore CBD
Singapore's Central Business District (shortly: CBD) is a riveting "skyscraper forest" where I just adored getting lost...
Looking up at the high-rise buildings like an ant and eating out at Lau Pa Sat...
Hop on, let's see what the CBD is all about!
On my first day in Singapore, I went out on a look around walk that eventually dragged me deeper and deeper into the heart of "Lion City". At the end, the night has fallen, but I still had the insatiable desire to explore...
Almost one on top of each other - skyscrapers in the Raffles Place area
The CBD has caught me magnetically.
It topped all my expectations and I felt like this was the most thrilling business district that I have ever seen with my own eyes.
Old and modern
Streets were so clean, I felt like being in a hospital, intense road traffic, gigantic stylish skyscrapers, fine restaurants...
We could say that this is the main engine of the Singaporean economy.
I do not know for sure, but it is certainly imaginable that most of the country's GDP is generated through this bustling business nest.
Singapore has a mainly a service-driven, especially financial sector-lead economy.
Of course, the CBD is a vastly larger zone than I'm going to present on this page, but right now I will focus on the parts roughly between the Chinatown - Outram - Singapore River - Marina Bay areas.
Essentially, the dense skyscraper-filled part, which I named "skyscraper forest" is mainly in the Raffles Place and Shenton Way areas.
In fact, most of Singapore's skyscrapers are concentrated within this area.
This is also the place where the tallest buildings can be found.
During my visit (and when I'm writing this article), 3 skyscrapers in the Raffles Place area were the tallest in Singapore.
Still, the constructors have to respect the maximum height limit of 280 m for the sake of air travel and the Paya Lebar Airbase.
My favourite is the Republic Plaza skyscraper, seen on both photos above. It is one of the 3 tallest buildings.
I has a staggering height of 280 m (919 ft) and has 66 floors.
The Raffles Place MRT station is the best way to approach this part of Singapore.
MRT tunnel entrance at Raffles Place
There's really not much the average traveler can do in this skyscraper area besides sightseeing and eating. But I felt an insatiable desire to do just this!
And, speaking of eating... I already wrote in this article about the Lau Pa Sat hawker centre:
Lau Pa Sat, like an oasis between skyscrapers
To me, walking on these streets reminded me of Manhattan, just that it looked a lot cleaner and - I allow myself to say: more serious. It feels, looks, sounds and smells business and elegance everywhere.
Singapore is as squeaky clean as a pharmacy. From this point-of-view it felt like I felt in Japan about 12 years before this trip.
Busy road traffic... it looked a bit like Manhattan
There was some life in this skyscraper nest, but in the early evening there were surprisingly few people... still, plenty of car traffic everywhere.
To be honest, I think this skyscraper area of the CBD feels a lot bigger than it really is. Not just by analyzing the map, but as I was criss-crossing the streets, I couldn't help noticing that some landmarks, buildings portions of views were repeating!
As the Sun was setting, I found almost deserted wide roads with just a few cars passing by... many shops, restaurants were closed already at 8-9 PM. Yet, I don't know whether this is a general rule or just an exceptional case during my visit.
Amazing street view
In parts like around Lau Pa Sat/Telok Ayer Market, the hungry people were just gathering and even close to midnight. Spicy smells were flying in the air and the area was resonating with laughter and blabby noises emanating from the hawker centre.
Eventually, this little stroll got me exploring so deep, I could hardly convince myself to return to my hotel (pretty far away, so I had to catch the MRT).
The awe-inspiring CBD required more research, so naturally I did return on the following days as well...
I think the guidebooks and travel guide sites tend to emphasize more on Singapore's historic attractions, its ethnic neighbourhoods and others, but somehow overlooking the CBD core or treating it too superficially.
It's interesting to see palm tree lanes deep in the shady concrete-glass jungle, which sometimes felt like some sort of a canyon.
I was stunned to see so many Asian bank names here (besides the Singaporean banks)... banking firms from China, Japan, India, Malaysia (like Maybank, whose prominent building stands near the Fullerton Hotel overlooking the bay area) and, of course: HSBC (Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation).
As of mid-2013, in Singapore there were 70 skyscrapers with a height of at least 150 m.
Singapore has 16 more tall skyscrapers (reaching above 150 m) under construction, as of mid-2013 and, there already are 238 high-rises that are at least 100 m high!
Wicked light and odd silence below mega high-rises
In many classifications, the country is in the top 10 regarding high-rise buildings.
But, newly developing mega cities like Guangzhou (Kanton), Shenzhen, Chongqing and the already bigger developed metropolises like Tokyo, Shanghai, Dubai are adding skyscrapers at a huge rate.
Singapore is a small island country and logically, it would eventually run out of space, but they're struggling to reclaim land from the sea (by creating artificial islands).
Height limitations due to air traffic also make it less likely that Singapore will build more and more immense high-rises.
Still, at least several more skyscrapers will appear, eventually linking the existing buildings that are lined up along Raffles Quay, with the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
Then, the massive Marina Bay Sands hotel won't stand alone anymore...
In a way, I think it looks better to stand alone, but more high-rises won't bother the views much (the skyline when viewed from the SkyPark observation deck) - after all they will pop-up to the west from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
That angle of the view from the SkyPark was anyway blocked during my visit (no access).
The skyscrapers aren't all occupied by office space and hotels. Some of them are high-end residential complexes with huge well-equipped apartments, spas, fitness centres, restaurants...
One weird interesting building (rather interesting than beautiful, because I wouldn't even call this nice) is the Pinnacle at Duxton residential complex... admire below...
Pinnacle at Duxton
The "monster building" is a 50-story, 7-tower complex of apartment blocks - which have 1,848 apartments. And there are sky gardens on the top! (Lucky those who get to see the views for free from up there!).
I honestly wouldn't want to live in such a flat concrete building... it's so lifeless, lacking warmth. But I bet those who live there have sensational views from their windows.
The Bank of China and Maybank skyscrapers
The riveting stylish skyscrapers still have my heart, though...
Designers and investors weren't miser, they gave style to their creations.
Unlike Frankfurt and Tokyo, which had more boring high-rise buildings, the Singaporean counterparts were works of art!
My photos on this page only give a pinch of what's in there, in the "skyscraper forest".
But rather soon I'll have to put the lid to the writing, stop the stream of words... one has to experience this. You will eventually have to visit Singapore!
About the Author:
Escape Hunter, the young solo traveler in his early 30's explores the World driven by curiosity, thirst for adventure, deep passion for beauty, love for freedom and diversity.
With a nuanced, even humorous approach to travel, an obsession for art and design, Escape Hunter prefers to travel slowly, in order to learn and "soak up" the local atmosphere...
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