It was a pleasant flight from Mumbai to Singapore. The Qantas staff was great, the food delicious, and the book I was reading (‘The White Tiger’, by Aravind Adiga) very entertaining.
We arrived in the afternoon and had to catch another flight, this time to Bangkok, the day after, around lunchtime.
Some friends and Facebook followers had told us that Singapore Changi airport was a great place to hang out and sleep, with computers, videogames, free wi-fi, shower facilities and rest areas with chairs that could be made into beds (or something like that 🙂 ). Therefore – and also because it was just one night, we decided not to look for accommodation in town. Instead, we thought, we would sleep at the airport.
The choice, once out of the airplane, was to either stay inside the airport (meaning inside the area after security) and wait for the next flight, or going out for a walk in town and coming back to Changi around midnight to sleep – this involved clearing the customs and having to check in again the following morning. We opted for the second, so we cleared the customs, left our backpacks at the left luggage facility, took the metro, changed at Tanah Merah and headed for City Hall.
On the metro there was a sign warning passengers that eating and drinking is forbidden, and there is a fine of 500 Singapore dollars for those who break this rule. This made me think of a friend who had been to Singapore some years before, who was telling me that they had a lot of rules, including a ban on chewing gums…
When we got off the train at city hall, everything was so clean, ultra-modern and organized that we almost had a culture shock in reverse – let’s not forget we had spent six weeks in India :). As a gentleman we met later in our journey put it: “Take Japan and Switzerland, blend them together and you will obtain Singapore”.
It wasn’t long before we found a place to have dinner. Nearby, going toward the sea, there were a number of food stalls with tables outside – these street restaurants were all serving excellent Singaporean food. The cost of life in Singapore is higher than in India, so even though I’m sure the food was cheaper by Singaporean standards, it looked damn expensive for some folks who were coming from India 🙂
On the way to the street restaurants I was amused by the fact that Singapore didn’t match my image of Asia (probably because I haven’t been to Japan yet!). This little island country has a commercial, materialistic, consumerist soul, whereas most of the other neighbouring countries have a more spiritually-oriented tradition (not that these other Asian countries I’m thinking of are not becoming more and more materialistic themselves, but Singapore, I believe, was born like that).
Shopping centres in the Marina area spring up one after another, with their bunch of Zara, Nike and Lacoste stores, and McDonalds and Starbucks packed with people tapping on their iPads or laptops… Well, a short walk sparked some interest and curiosity about this small, unusual island country and I wish I’d had more time to explore it and learn more about its mix of cultures, history and traditions. But there’s no way I could convince Romana to go back there, even for one or two days. She thinks it’s too westernized to be of some interest. She also says, rightly so, that it’s too expensive for someone travelling on a budget like us.
Because we didn’t have much time, we decided to look for some nice skyline to photograph. I could have gone for equally interesting subjects like people, or life in the shopping centres, or street scenes. But I suppose it would have required more energy (and probably more time, as I said) than we could spend…
It was already dark and I didn’t have a tripod, which I needed for the slow exposures I wanted to take. But fortunately in Marina Bay there are so many convenient places to put your camera on. Obviously you have some limitations because you don’t have full control over the composition of your frame, but still…
After taking some pictures we sat by the seafront at an almost empty outdoor theatre esplanade and enjoyed the peaceful view. But after a couple of minutes a heavy, intense rain reminded us that despite the heat, we were in the middle of the Singaporean wet season. But because the outdoor theatre esplanade is covered above, we were safe and kept dry.
When the rain finished we ran toward the metro and took the train to Tanah Merah, but once in Tanah Merah we found out that the last train to the airport had left a few minutes earlier, so we had to take a taxi.
At the airport we weren’t able to check-in for our flight to Bangkok (obviously it was too early, since the flight was only the day after…) and we couldn’t go to the area after security, which is where all the fun we’d heard about is. So we went into a coffee shop, plugged our computer and pissed about on Facebook, checked our email and post-processed some of the pictures we’d taken at Marina Bay.
The air conditioned was so strong inside the airport that Romana started feeling cold and with the lack of sleep, she got very moody and difficult to put up with 🙂
The morning after we checked in and this nice lady at the Cathay Pacific counter, probably smelling Romana’s bad mood in the air, put us into business class, against any of our expectations. This was enough to put a smile on our two wrecked faces. A bit of luxury, although we’re talking about a two and a half hours flight, was what we needed.
After the security, we went straight away to the rest area until our flight to Bangkok was called. We were looking forward to going to Thailand where we were going to meet a couple of friends, who came from Europe for a three week holiday in South East Asia.