I've had only a vague mental picture of this place forever, at least until last year's inaugural Formula One race here--the first night race in F1 history--which gave the world a glimpse of a very modern-looking city.
And so it is. But what a route to get here; it reads almost like an English colonial adventure novel: out of Sydney Northwest across the vast absolute nothingness of aboriginal Australia, across the Timor Sea to Bali, over to Surabaya and Ujung Control (where non-native-English speaking controllers on scratchy radios a thousand miles distant regularly ask you to report passing some unpronounceable fix), past Jakarta and down through the 100% humidity into Singapore itself, the airport sitting right at the borders of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Everything about the place seems foreign; it's hot and muggy as hell, and there is water everywhere with zillions of tiny islands and archipelagos, and the names are all utterly foreign to the American tongue. As we descended through the clouds to join the localizer for runway 02 center, we passed over what looked like three hundred little islands, each brightly lit. I asked the captain "Are all these islands inhabited?" He said "Look closely; those are all ships!" You could have knocked me over. I've never seen such a concentration of ships at anchor. Apparently there are water taxi services to bring the crews in and out.
Today--after as much sleep as I could manage after several 24-hour days in a row, each ending in a quite different time zone--I stepped outside and quickly learned that it was too murderously hot for any kind of a long walk (I was sweating like a runner after five minutes of gentle ambulation). And so I found some lunch at one of a zillion local malls, where I picked a place and decided on some "beef pepper rice," which was very good, actually. The woman taking my order seemed one of few who spoke almost no English (most people speak it like natives), and after much gesturing she gave me a little Diet Pepsi and took my $50 and disappeared. I waited for about 10 minutes until someone else brought my food and kept waiting while I ate. Right about the time I had decided to chalk up a very expensive fast-food lunch--20 minutes after ordering--she returned with change. (Crime is legendarily low here, so I should have known better. It is said one can walk anywhere at any time of the day or night; indeed, there were people everywhere on the streets when we got to the hotel about 2:30 AM.)
After lunch I made my way over to the nearby Singapore Flyer, a gigantic ferris wheel in the style of the fabulous London Eye--but even bigger, reaching over 500 feet up. It gives a good 30-40 minute ride with spectacular views of a very spectacular place. There is construction going on everywhere, and the fabulous Formula One track goes right beneath us (and very near our hotel).
From all appearances, this place could keep one occupied for a couple weeks easily. There are several very interesting-looking parts of town on the map, and there are many tourist sites. Here's hoping for another visit very soon.
Alas, we are shortly off for Taiwan.
(I've been told for a couple years that our Singapore hotel is one of the nicest we stay at. It is spectacular, with floor-to-ceiling windows and remote-control power blinds!)
(Another view out the window. The cityscape is so vast that it's difficult to take in the view with a picture or two.)
(This is NOT where I ate. I could not identify anything on this display. I guess I'm not in Kansas anymore.)
(Mass poisoning? Mass suicide? Or maybe even the locals can't stand the heat. But who takes a siesta by just collapsing on a concrete slab below a huge freeway? ...Well, actually, I felt a little like joining them.)
(Lots of construction everywhere. This looks like some kind of park or vast commercial development. I hadn't planned it this way, but this photo continues the panorama, as do the next two photos, which continue sweeping to the right.)