The freeloaders’ guide to condo-crashing in Singapore

Photo: Robin Hicks

Editor’s Note: This is a satirical opinion piece that is not meant to be taken seriously.

The most heinous social injustice in Singapore, give or take a bit of modern day slavery, elderly poverty and the death penalty, is probably the many hundreds of fabulous condominiums with facilities that are not used.

Lagoon-like swimming pools un-rippled. Empty tennis courts. Bubble-free Jacuzzis. Singapore’s lavish lodgings for the privileged often have a post- apocalyptic feel about them. It’s such a waste.

Happily, there is a solution to help real estate agents fill condos lumbered with record vacancy levels, and make them feel a little less like showrooms: condo-crashers.

If the 14 per cent of Singapore residents who can afford to live in a condo don’t make the most of their plush amenities, then the 80+ percent of us who do not have such luxuries might as well share the wealth, right?

But how? Well, it turns out that in Singapore, walking into a private condo for a free swim is only slightly more difficult than walking into an HDB block for a free game of outdoor chess.

Ok, so everyone Coconuts has talked to about this story has said that condo-crashing is easy because your correspondent happens to be ang moh (or Caucasian for our non-Singaporean readers). All you need to do is salute the security guard and you’re in.

Once passed the security barriers, niggling concerns about whether what you’re doing technically qualifies as trespassing – punishable with a S$1,500 fine and a three-month jail term – sink as you lower yourself into the lovely swimming pool, assured that as long as you behave and are discreet, what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll be asked to leave.

Your correspondent personally visited 11 different condos from August of last year through to last week, a few of them on many occasions, and only twice was unable to breeze in no questions asked.

Both times, because of a failure to think of a credible name or apartment number to give the security guard. Every other visit was met with no more resistance than a pair of swimming trunks to a fart.

So, for those too cheap to pay a dollar to swim in a soup of floating Band-Aids and uncles’ spit at your local public pool, and with a middle finger raised to elitism, here’s the lowdown on 10 Singapore condos that are a doddle to get into, if you know how.


Eight Riversuites, Whampoa East

If there is a condo in Singapore that reminds us that the ass has fallen out of the housing market, it is the 862-unit monster that cuts out the Kallang skyline like an overdressed guest at a party.

Eight Riversuites was built more than a year ago, and just over half of the units have been filled, and only one of the dinky pool-side beach houses currently has an occupant.

Which is just as well. The freeloader can cruise by in the enormous, empty lap pool and wonder how long it would take to save up to pay the S$2 million asking price for one of these fabulous fun palaces, which have their own private mini-pools that connect to the main one.

If the lap pool is too much like hard work, there’s a wading pool for the more lackadaisical freeloader. After some wallowing, why not amble up to the sixth floor, where – just in case one Jacuzzi isn’t good enough for you – there are four of them to choose from, plus a tennis court and an outdoor gym if you’re feeling energetic.

Be warned though. While you don’t need a resident’s card to get out onto the sixth floor – sorry, “sky terrace” – you need one to get out. So make sure there is someone else up there to help you escape.

If there’s a downside to Eight Riversuites, it’s the noisy construction going on around the complex. And the area itself – which feels curiously isolated for a place so close to the city.

To get in, simply walk up to the security gates, but not through them. Veer to the right, then cut in between a row of units down a narrow path. There, you’ll notice walkways bordered by “rivers” that look cool, but aren’t deep enough even to paddle in. They’re there to look pretty, and justify the exorbitant rental prices, OK?

If anyone stops you, just say you’re a potential tenant here for a viewing.

Caribbean at Keppel Bay, Telok Blangah

This condo, which is arguably the most impressive on our list, is so posh it has its own bus stop. Not that residents of Caribbean at Keppel Bay are familiar with the concept of public transport. They probably get to work in one of their yachts moored in the bay.

This condo complex is so big it has its own jogging track, and so convenient (right next to Harbourfront MRT, Vivo City shopping mall and the ferry terminal) it has its own convenience store – perfect for stocking up on beers to enjoy in the Jacuzzi that overlooks the marina.

To get in, veer to the right of the security gates, walk down into the carpark, then take the lift up to the main swimming pool. The vast, turquoise pool is presumably where the condo gets its name, as to swim in it feels like you’re drifting in the shallows of a Caribbean beach.

Of course, that’s not the only pool here. There’s a smaller, more private option around back by the river, where you can swim with fewer pesky kiddies around to ruin your experience.

The only niggle with Caribbean by Keppel Bay, which is basically a six-star resort without the irritation of hotel staff buzzing around, is that the freeloader suspects that there are even richer treasures to be had next door, at Reflections at Keppel Bay.

Sadly, Reflections was the only condo that your correspondent failed to get into, foolishly giving a unit number that does not exist. Schoolboy error, really. It’s probably not that difficult.

Tribeca by the Waterfront, Tiong Bahru

The only other condo your correspondent failed to breach on the first attempt was Tribeca by the Waterfront, in Tiong Bahru. Invalid unit number supplied: #condocrashfail.

But on the second visit, this time accompanied by a Chinese woman, and riding bicycles, entry was as easy as getting arrested for walking up and down River Valley Road in the nude, randomly graffitiing government property while singing the Malaysian national anthem.

Once you’ve passed the security gantry, bank left down into the carpark, and use the lift to go up to the swimming pool.

The upstairs pool at Tribeca is not only an infinity pool – the only one on our list – it is wonderfully long and slim, perfect for lap swimming. It also has a sweet view of the old Zouk night club, may she rest in peace.

Downstairs there’s another pool, which is fine – if you can put up with a rabble of children splashing about and screaming in your ear while you’re trying to exercise in their parents’ pool.

After that, you’ll probably need to de-stress in one of the classy steam rooms, which are to be found in the 5-star hotel-standard changing rooms.

Icon, Tanjong Pagar

If you’re a couple visiting Icon, which is without a doubt the grand dame of Singapore condo swimming pools, there is something you absolutely must do.

Go to the spacious whirlpool, which is sited slap bang in the middle of the enormous swimming pool complex, and lie on your fronts. Now, if you’re a guy, and can leave the Jacuzzi without an embarrassing protrusion in your shorts, you probably need to see a doctor.

After the whirlpool, to regain your dignity and chill your loins, lower yourself onto one of the sunken sun loungers that bubble softly about your person. Or go to the pool next door and stand under a jet of water so powerful it feels like a whale spitting in your face. It makes for a good, brief back massage, but there’s only so much you’ll be able to take before it feels like someone is punching you.

Now, the pièce de résistance at Icon is the main pool. A thing of beauty, it is best enjoyed at night, all lit up, when big round lights on the sides make it feel like swimming beside a sunken ship.

To get in, ghost past the security guard behind the sliding doors on Gopeng Street, and cruise up the escalator. When you get to the top, try not to look at the hideous Jackson Pollock-esque painting in the lobby as you head for the elevator. The pool is on the seventh floor, and it wouldn’t be cool to throw up in it.

D’Leedon, Farrer Road

The D’Leedon condominium in Holland Village is hard to miss because of its peculiar design. The four towers that poke the Farrer Road skyline look like they’ve melted, and were built by a drunk person.

The condo complex is so ridiculously big that service staff get around in golf buggies. The cheekiest of freeloaders might try to cadge a lift from the enormous main pool to one of the party villas around the back. You won’t be able to use the villas, but you will be able to sink into one of the wonderful Jacuzzis in front of them.

D’Leedon is the condo for people with too much time on their hands. There is not one but two golf-simulator rooms, and also rooms for karaoke, reading, watching movies and billiards. You’ll need a resident’s pass to use them, but not the underwater gym. Yes, one of the many pools dotted around the facility has a fleet of underwater exercise bikes and running machines. (Yes, you read that correctly. There are exercise bikes attached to the bottom of the pool.)

It is also the condo where design has triumphed over comfort. For a place of such splendour, the changing rooms by the pool are no plusher than a public pool’s, and the chairs dotted around the facility that look like giant eggs chopped in half are not your bottom’s friend.

To get past the embassy-like entrance, say you’re visiting a friend, scribble down a unit number on the registration chit, and in you go.

River Place, River Valley

A few months ago, a French couple were caught having sex under the bridge of River Place condo swimming pool by security. They were residents, but nonetheless requested to leave, despite providing some excellent entertainment for the boys watching the CCTV screens. It was the early hours of the morning, and the pool closes at 10pm.

You don’t have to be French to have a good time at River Place, nor do you have to be a resident. Though the pool sucks for the freeloader in the market for lap swimming, it is perfect for wallowing in and fooling around.

One half of the magnificent, but often child-infested swimming pool at River Place, is shaped something like a penis. It begins in a large ball-shape, then narrows into a shaft that runs under the bridge and through the condo block, opening up into a splendid bathing pool on the other side.

To swim through the narrow, shallow canal between the block, which is overlooked by a window through which people can be seen pounding on a running machine, feels sort of intrepid, as Singapore condos go. The freeloader may get the feeling they are a crocodile as they wade by the feet of the joggers.

It is the pool that anyone who has walked along the Singapore river at Robertson Quay will have peeped at over the deliberately low row of bushes and glass wall that separates the condo from passers-by.

It’s the condo for exhibitionists, it seems. A glorious Jacuzzi by the barbeque pits overlooks the footpath along Singapore River.

When you’re done showing off, there’s also a steam room and a sauna in each changing room. There’s a vending machine if you need a snack, which you can enjoy gazing into the inaccessible Club House.

Emerald Park, Alexandra

What is first noticeable about Emerald Park is the inexplicably large carpark that surrounds the complex like a useless moat. There is also an underground carpark. The architect seems to believe this is the US, where everyone has at least three cars.

To get in, wave at the lovely security staff as you stroll under the barrier, either to the left or right – whichever – through a bit of carpark, and on to the pool.

OK, it’s not the Shangri-La, and the cat poo-coloured Victorian-style decor dripping from the buildings feels like the set from a bad English period drama.

But for the honest lap-swimming freeloader, the classic figure-eight pool is big enough to pound out a few in what at night feels like what an estate agent might call a lagoon.

Showing its age, Emerald Park has what historians call a squash court. But you need a resident’s pass to use it, which residents mostly do to play court football with their kids. There’re also a couple of tennis courts, a cramped gym and a puny baby pool.

This is the condo for the low maintenance freeloader who is in the market for a quick, no-fuss dip, and then a good meal at the food court opposite, outside Block 22, Havelock Road. Have the chu-chu and the Tom Yam soup, you won’t regret it.

Queens, Queenstown

If there is an icon of the over-privileged it is surely the Queen, and it’s probably about time the old lady spread the wealth and let us into her castle.

Queens condominium in Queenstown isn’t anything like a castle, though. Definitely not in the security department, which puts up as much resistance to non-residents as a windpipe to the guillotine.

Your correspondent entered on a bicycle and was waved in, disappointingly enough, not with a royal wave that Queenie herself might have appreciated.

Like the Royal family, there is a tired, damp feel about the place best enjoyed when it’s raining. But though the condo blocks all have royal names (Windsor, Buckingham and Hampton), and there are a few bits of ornamental English garden furniture and twee fountains spouting here and there, that’s where comparisons with royalty end.

Peculiar dome structures held up by pillars seem to serve no purpose at all since they provide no shade. One has an intimidating brown sphere in the middle of it that looks like a giant rabbit has taken a dump.

The floor is striped with what looks like do-not- cross police tape, which can be unnerving for the freeloader conscious of his sins.

The pool, though enormous, is shaped like a splodge of paint that will infuriate the freeloader here to do some serious lap swimming. There are no straight edges or floor markings, so swimming here can be disorientating.

Still, if swimming is making you dizzy, there’s a badminton court, a tennis court and a basketball court to enjoy. No entry to the gym though. That requires a resident’s pass, although Coconuts understands that some condo passes or even work passes work at multiple locations, so it might be worth giving yours a try if pumping iron is your thing.

The Merasaga, Holland Village

The easiest condo to get into in Singapore. Just be honest. Say, as your condo correspondent did, that you’re not a resident, but you want to try out the swimming pool. That should be enough.

Walk through security after signing in, turn left and amble up to the swimming pool. The bulb-shaped, aquamarine pool is solid for lap swimming, although a shallow stretch under the bridge at one end feels a bit tight when facing oncoming traffic.

There is a tennis court, some barbeque pits, a clubhouse, and four forceful showers placed around the pool, but no public toilet – so remember to wee before you enter the place.

If you’re a fan of fake nature, there’s a stream behind the pool that looks like it was made at Universal Studios, complete with styrofoam rocks, a mini-waterfall and a pair of fugly fibreglass herons.

Citylights, Farrer Park

Though it feels a bit long-in- the-tooth for a Singapore condo (10 years old, tear it down already!), Citylights just about wins the competition for the place with the best swimming pool.

It’s vast. So big that there are trees growing in the middle of it, but they don’t seem to get in the way. The water is a bit murky, which adds to the feeling that you’re swimming in a jungle lagoon. At night, the frangipani trees light up, and bats dart about the sky giving the place a magical atmosphere, if you can ignore the rumble of traffic on Kallang Road.

There’s a lovely Jacuzzi to frolic in while you look up at the trees, but – the most first-world problem ever – the jets are too soft, so there’s a slim chance of arousal if you sit on them.

The steam room in the men’s changing rooms is broken, but there’s a vibe that it’s OK to sneak into the girls’ one (which is working) if no one else is around.

To get in, go around the back on Penhas Road where there are two red and white barriers. There’s no need to wait for the barriers to raise, because there’s a large gap between them.

Walk through the gap. Do not look at the security guard slumped in the guardhouse opposite. Head down, turn left for the carpark. Walk through the carpark and out into a courtyard.

Here, you’ll immediately notice a rather wimpy waterfall and a network of ponds full of Koi carp. The ponds are not easy to see at night, and the path is treacherous in the rain. Watch your step. This is the sort of place that eats the freeloader who’s had one too many.

Photo: Robin Hicks

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