In the early stages of each land-reclamation project, when the imported sand sat for some time, huge desert-like landscapes began to dominate the eastern and western coasts of Singapore, mainly Tuas, Punggol, Marine Parade, and Changi. When these deserts started appearing in the 1960s, they took the place of the beaches that locals used to frequent. Making do with what they had, Singaporeans flocked to these reclaimed spaces on the weekends to walk towards the new shoreline, in the hopes of reaching the beach they once knew.
In the late 1990s, my father would take me to these reclaimed lands on the west coast of Singapore. These places were so huge that it would take 30 minutes of driving before we could see the sea. It has always been a mystery to me why such huge landscapes exist in Singapore. The city was only 224 square miles before the reclamation projects started in 1960. By 2030 it will grow to 317 square miles.
A casual visit to the reclaimed lands has become nearly impossible in recent years. The reclaimed lands are now fenced up. So I now make it a point to visit coastal dunes in other countries to try to relive the experience of walking on the sands of Singapore in my youth. There are giant dunes in the middle of several cities today, like the Dune du Pyla of Arcachon in France, the Tottori Sand Dunes in Japan, and the Dunes under Fort Funston in San Francisco. I take photographs in these foreign places and imagine that these were the kind of images I could have taken in Singapore when I was younger. Sometimes I wish I had a souvenir for the dunes of Singapore because most of us actually forget that, as Singaporeans, we are mostly walking on water or, if not, on the sand of others.
New Year festivities are with us once again and the