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Nothing in Singapore is free.
That’s what the driver who collected me from Changi Airport said as we travelled down a freeway with lanes separated by ornate flower beds that can apparently be removed should the country ever need an extra airstrip.
I would learn that he was partly right.
This trip was free for me and other invited media who travelled from, in my case Australia, and otherwise Europe, to be at the Tour de France Prudential Singapore Criterium.
The welcome champagne on arrival at the recently refurbished Mandarin Oriental – an opulent hotel with views of the sea and iconic Marina Bay Sands – was also gratis.
Singapore, as many of its friendly multicultural residents would later point out, doesn’t have natural resources. It recycles even water but the glass I asked for instead of bubbles during check-in came in a can with a moist towel.
What the small country with the second-highest population density in the world doesn’t have in natural resources it has more than made up for though, turning sea into land and building many high rises that now house big, global businesses, and a multicultural society that communicates in four common languages. Cargo ships are a permanent fixture of its coastline, symbolic of the economy and maritime heritage.
The hawker centres – outdoor food courts serving chicken, rice, soups, juice, beer, fresh seafood and…