Across the water channel separating the two countries, Singapore shows it’s ugly side, a power plant. Malaysia is upstaging Singapore in a big and bad way and answers the eyesore with it’s own vision of beauty.
Johor is under construction, with cranes working around the clock. A group of Bangladeshi migrant workers are enjoying a game of volleyball in their living compound, knocked up rooms of cheap plywood. While next door, three identical buildings are going up. It’s a copy cat of Marina Bay Sands with the hanging swimming pool.
Singapore may have been strutting its stuff, but I’m sorry, there’s a new kid on the ‘clinical’ block. Malaysia is aggressively pushing for a better class of tourists. With access to cheap migrant labor from Bangladesh, and lower construction costs, a grand project is underway just across the Singapore causeway.
It’s bold. And a monorail will connect the two cities. Bold plans aren’t just underway. Construction is well and truly transforming the face of Johor.
It’s Malaysia’s snub to Singapore.
Along the waterfront is a fenced off area for a new mall, a medical hub and residential complex. Heavy earth moving machinery is busy reclaiming land and bringing Malaysia closer to the island of Singapore.
Fences conceal what’s really going on but the developers are flouting their wares offering glimpses of their Singaporean Utopia. It’s an ideal world of beautiful and well off people who are enjoying life on a Riviera of the Far East.
Just up the road, near the ferry terminal and duty free, the walkway is cracking at the seams, and there are no rails to protect anyone from falling down the crumbling rubble below. And the palm trees look like they are just about to be washed away on a high tide.
That’s beside the point. It’s only a matter of time before a new ‘clinical’ world is molded out of money, and with lots of it flowing over from Singapore, in a few years Johor will transform from a sleepy but busy border town, to a state of the art clone of Singapore.
The two billion US donation many Malaysian are talking about might just well be going into Johor, funding a ferocious building frenzy. Malaysia hates being second to Singapore, and the race to attract the well heeled tourists is on the way. It’s derby time between the two border towns. And I have a feeling that Malaysia might just pull this one off, if all the cranes and half complete buildings is any indication.
“The Singaporean might have taken our land,” says Rahim, my masseuse. “But our Sultan will bring back the wealth by building his own Singapore.” There’s real living proof of that.
Mahathir had his Twin Towers, and Najib’s legacy will be a replica of Singapore but bigger and better.
It’s Malaysia’s Gateway to, well, Malaysia.
I just hope they leave Grunge Town alone for poor trashy tourists like me.