Getting up early

A year ago today, I woke up at 4:30 am to race Challenge Roth which started shortly after sunrise. Today, I woke at 4:30 am to race a 10 km run in tropical Singapore to finish shortly after sunrise.

Running in Singapore comes with two major differences to many places in the world: Humidity and Heat: Therefore, running is recommended early in the morning and after sunset only to avoid the heat. And the humidity makes for very sweaty conditions. During today’s 10 km race, my body weight reduced by 1.1 kg…

The race was very nice: It started at 6:30 am, which is still dark in Singapore. After the start, I had to run through many slower runners or walkers. It took 2.5 km before I was able to run with runners at a similar pace to mine. The route went out to the National Stadium and back to the Marina Bay. At km 7, the course had us running along the pit lane of the Singapore F1 race course. The stretch along the paddock building and the starting line of the F1 race course is very wide and straight. This would have been the perfect location for a runners pit stop (i.e. nutrition spot), however the nutrition station was positioned on a narrow path just after we left the F1 race course. It seems that runners are not fast enough to qualify for a pit stop on the F1 track…

A year ago in Challenge Roth I was a ‘daylight finisher’ and today I was also a ‘daylight finisher’…. however today’s race was eleven and a half hours shorter! I was a happy finisher in both events.

Running in the morning humidity of 86% and a temperature of 27°C is much harder than in European locations. It felt more like a half marathon, than a 10 km race. Imagine how it feels to run a marathon in this climate!

Belinda and me after the finishing line

Kebun Baru Bird Singing Corner

Kebun Baru Bird Singing Corner
Kebun Baru Bird Singing Corner

This is a special place in Singapore: The Kebun Baru Bird Singing Corner at And Mo Kio in the centre of the island. Located at the corner of a nice park, towering poles arise in a large area. Many of the poles have a bird cage hanging at a height of about 5 meters above ground.

Monitoring the birds...
Monitoring the birds…

At the side of the park, you find some sheltered areas with space for additional birds in cages. Old retirees are a common sight here – coming early in the morning and gathering for a chat and coffee as their feathered friends sing together with their fellow species.

Four species of birds socialise under this roof
Four species of birds socialise under this roof

The more serious hobbyists will engage in friendly competition among each other, revelling in their love for the sport. Prized birds are valued at tens of thousands of dollars, and are judged in categories such as singing ability, liveliness, stamina and beauty.

Kebun Baru Bird Singing Corner
The Club at the Kebun Baru Bird Singing Corner

It was a very calm and friendly atmosphere in this place. The tweeting  of the birds has a positive impact to your soul. The owners, some concentrated watching the birds, others sharing the latest with other owners seem to enjoy their Sunday morning in a relaxed atmosphere.

Men socialising while watching their birds
Men socialising while watching their birds

While we discovered the full area of the bird singing corner, an oriental pied-hornbill landed in a palm tree near the poles. As we are fascinated about these large birds (they are up to 60 cm long), we immediately moved over to this tree to see whether the hornbill is still there. And he was: As the palm tree had big fruits, the hornbill was busy eating one by one. It was fascinating, seeing how this bird with it’s long beak was able to eat these big fruits.

Hornbill eating dates at Kebun Baru Bird Singing Corner
Hornbill eating dates

I was fascinated about the hornbill, trying to find the best position to take a nice photo from big lawn under the tree. With full concentration for the hornbill, I stepped into a 20 cm deep hole that served another animal as the entry to it’s underground home. Luckily, the fall was not severe. I had no harm and the camera did not get damaged either. This allows me to continue discovering Singapore with my camera…

My first 100 days living in Singapore

Time flies; it’s already been 100 days since we arrived in Singapore in mid January 2017. Each and every one of these days has included an element of learning. Learning about the culture, the area, the huge variety of asian food, how certain things work, where to find specific items, etc. I love it.

Fifteen Robin – our home

We are fortunate to have found an apartment in a well located area, close to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. We live in a 4 year old high rise on the 6th floor where we enjoy a wonderful view over the roofs of the houses in front of us and spectacular sunsets in the evenings. As we like swimming, we both appreciate our 20 m lap pool at our compound. We have the luxury of having the pool to ourselves, most of the time. This is very different to the busy situations in public swimming pools we were used to before.

Our swimming pool

Within 10 minutes, we reach the gates of the world heritage listed Singapore Botanic Gardens. We love this proximity for jogging through the garden but also enjoy an evening walk through this calm and green area. However, it’s not only the Gardens and Parks that are green here in Singapore. 50 years ago, Singapore published their vision of becoming a Garden City. This vision has been well implemented. Everywhere you go in Singapore it is green; you find trees, bushes, nice plants, etc. Even bridges or walls are covered with plants and everything is well maintained. I often have the feeling that I walk through a giant garden…

Proximity to public transport is great for us. It takes me 4 minutes to walk from our block to the MRT station that brings me directly to the office within 13 minutes. Alternatively, there are two bus stops within a few minutes walking distance that bring us to Orchard road in a few minutes. Otherwise, taxis are on a very affordable. However, public taxi drivers often drive a special way in constantly accelerating, rolling, accelerating, rolling, etc, in the hope to use less petrol. Even if it saves a bit, one could easily get car-sick. That’s why I use Grab, whenever I can. Grab is a Singapore based startup with presence in South-East Asia running the same concept as Uber. I had a better experience with them. – Importing my car from Switzerland was not an option. Import taxes for vehicles in Singapore is 40%. Licence plates must be requested through an auction system. Such a COE (Certificate of Entitlement) currently costs more than 35’000 US$ and entitles you to drive your car for up to 10 years. This is how they encourage people to think twice about investing in a car in Singapore. In return, public transport is affordable with a good network and taxis are inexpensive.

The demand of taxis here in Singapore change quickly. As soon as it starts to rain, waiting times and prices for taxis increase immediately. Living in a tropical area (located 1° above the aequator), we have rain almost every day. Usually, this is a matter of 15-30 Minutes,  short but heavy. – The day after we moved into our apartment, it rained in the morning. Being Swiss, I was used to wearing a raincoat in these conditions. Walking well protected to the MRT was ok, although the humidity didn’t make it too comfortable with an air tight raincoat. As I entered the station, I realised that the locals either carried a small umbrella or they just ran from the bus stop to the nearby building. I quickly realised, that I was the big exception wearing a rain coat. This was a immediate learning to me, that a raincoat is not required in Singapore. However, it is a good advise to always carry a small umbrella in your bag.

My office is located at the Marina Bay Financial Centre, one of the tallest towers in Singapore. During business times, this is a very busy area. I am fortunate, that my MRT station stops directly under my building. It takes me only 2 minutes from the MRT station to the 43rd floor with has a spectacular view to the Opera, the sea, as well as to the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel.

View from my office – Marina Bay & Opera
View from my office – Marina Bay Sands & Marina Bay Gardens

Apart from the rain, sunshine, heat and humidity are present every day. I am slowly adapting to the humidity. However, it is hardest in the morning when the humidity is usually at it’s highest and I have to walk from my apartment to the MRT Station… From there, many places like MRT stations, offices and shops are all air-conditioned. The same goes for the MRT, buses and taxis. Sometimes too cold, so that I find myself looking forward to escaping into warmer areas…

Recently, we discovered a market, not far away from where we live. In Singapore, markets are usually split into two sections: In the dry market, you find fruits and vegetables while in the wet market, meat and fish are sold. The floors in this section are regularly cleaned with water, hence the name “wet market”. I love the variety of the fruits sold at these markets. They offer different types of mangoes, a variety of bananas, pineapples, papaya, longans, durians, coconuts, rambutans, etc. all from south east asia. As a European, I still consider these as exotic fruits. But living in Singapore this is now the other way around. Here, the exotic items are Parma ham, Mozzarella, Feta cheese, etc. So, it is all a matter of perspective… – Next to the market, there usually is a hawker centre where you find food stalls offering a huge variety of options (Chinese, Thai, Indian, etc.) in good quality at affordable prices.

There are 4 official languages in Singapore (English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil). During my first weeks, I had to get used to understanding the locals. English is most commonly used. However, the asian infused dialect is fairly different to British, Australian or American english. On top of this, there is also a local variation called Singlish. If someone says “Can”, this simply means “Yes, I can”. There is no further elaboration of what the person is referring to. And the contrary is simply “Can not”. Another example is if someone says that they are “going marketing” it simply means they are going shopping! It takes a bit of getting used to Singlish but the more you hear it the more it makes sense, and you start applying it as well.

I will be sharing more about my experiences in Singapore. So stay tuned!