martedì 5 maggio 2009


07/02/09 Singapore, night.

First was Panama, now is Singapore's turn. These two citys used to stand in my mind (with Alessandria, and other few) for the nevralgic hubs of travellers circulation, mixtures of cultures, pirates, smugglers and adventurers. I did expect to find beautiful mixed architectures and neighborhoods full of history and charm, shaped by the passage of all the different and contrasting influences throughout the centuries; on my way to Singapore I was fancing me wandering around narrow canals and dark alleys, eventually moving aside a dirty courtain to step into the workshop of an old chinese foreteller who would have read my palm boosted by opium smoke.

Nothing of that came true. What I found is a cement-casting without the bless of any art or style, a strict agglomerate of shining skyscrapers as cold as a prision of ice.
This, at least, was my first impression while a logorrheic taxi driver was driving me from the airport through the city, then I reached my hostel in one of the many outskirts, in this case little india, and I started to suspect something...

What you can see in these outskirts is a completely different landscape: short, coloured houses with architectures recalling older styles.

No skyscrapers, no huge streets, just small shops and lanes, were people crowd very easyly. Here life is still in a human rhythm and walking around is agreeable.

However my visit to Singapore is fated to be short, tomorrow I will jump on The Train... emphasis is due as we are not talking about an ordinary train, we are talking about the Oriental Express, the legendary train running all the way from Singapore to London.
Well yeah, to be onest I will not take exactly the Oriental Express (that one is a luxury equivalent to the best hotels ever, and it costs accordingly, for the curious: I am gonna take the normal passanger train, but that runs on the same route, and we'll try to be happy with that. I will go from here to Kuala Lumpur, then to Penang, finally to get to Bangkok after a total of almost 3000 km.

09/02 Kuala Lumpur, just exit a big mall.
I saw the light. The slight sickness that seized me as I arrived in Singapore, the very same oppressive sensation that I felt walking down the city center here in KL, is getting eased by a clear understanding.
The very concept of city that we Europeans bear in mind here is completely turned upside down. We are used to cities where the geographic center is also the historical and cultural center: not only it is the oldest part, but also the most beautiful, charming, and agreeable one. In the center is a pleasure to wander around, and streets and palaces are human-size. In the suburbs, on the contrary, big buildings and skyscrapers pile up, the streets get broader, and it's not convenient to walk anymore. There we use cars, elevators, escalators - things among other things - because all the spaces and the environment itself are on different size, not really human anymore.

Now what happen here is exactly the opposite: the center of these big cities is composed entirely by huge skyscrapers, and the everyday life is spent confined inside the big shopping malls. It is a modern middle ages: the core of the city is enclosed in cold walls without any art, while is in the borders that the different ethnic groups have built cultural structures. In the center people are confining themselves inside impenetrable walls, to escape the terrible heat of the streets; and actually the streets of the center are really unwalkable: overhead roads, eight lanes streets, choking quicksands of cement, make nonsense to wander around. It is in the outskirts that we can find some nuance of that idea of city we keep in mind: little India, Chinatown, the Muslim neighbourhood, in these kind of place we recover the concept of town. Here the life is lived on the streets, narrow and well shadowed, where people impress their culture and tradition.
The night markets are the best expression of that. Taking advantage of the better temperature, the streets get animated: is the time for relax and feast, everybody stay around till late. Here in Orient the night is really and fully lived.

2 commenti:

franco carlo ha detto...

Purtroppo oramai in Oriente, i nostri romantici sogni si avverano solo in periferia!I borghi medioevali toscani
o quartieri come la Plaka ateniese li trovi solo nella vecchia Europa,anche se ultimamente le Chinatown e le moschee muslim
si sono stabilite proprio nel "core" di Roma e Milano!!!Quanto al viaggio sull'Eastern&Orient Express "you're gonna
take"solo un normalissimo treno "pendolare"tutto perchè avevi dimenticato il blazer,il blow-tie e lo smoking per il dinner!Che smemorato!Fortunatamente la strada era la stessa ma non.. the luxury.
Ma Ishmael cerca solo l'acre profumo dell'avventura alla backpacker..che oltrettutto costa meno!

Anonimo ha detto...

excellent writing .