It’s official. I’m in love with Singapore. When I landed at Changi airport on Thursday it felt like I’d come home. I know that sounds really sad but it’s true. I was very happy to be back. I headed to Aljunied, my MRT station a stone’s throw from the hostel. I’m staying across the road from where I stayed last time, partly because I knew where it was, mainly because it was the cheapest on hostelbookers.com.
I arrived quite early, too early to check in according to the stroppy receptionist (she is genuinely mental), so I took the opportunity to head into the city and hit the malls. I walked loads, which probably wasn’t the best idea seeing as I’d spend the next two days pretty much on my feet. Oh well! I saw loads of Singapore that I didn’t quite see the first time – Chinatown, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, the Botanical Gardens…so it was worth the walk.
I thought that Friday might be a good chance to escape from the city before two days of malls, music and madness followed by Bangkok on Monday. So I took the MRT to Tanah Merah and hopped on a bus to Changi village, where you can catch a bumboat (don’t ask, I don’t know why they’re called that) to Pulau Ubin. Danny Wallace went there when he took a weekend trip to Singapore in Yes Man, which I read in Malaysia, and I’ve been intrigued ever since.
It’s essentially one of the last escapes in Singapore from the malls, MRT and money. It’s a small island that can easily be explored in a day by foot or bike, just don’t stay too late because the boats only leave when there’s 12 people! I hired what I’m going to call an “Amsterdam bike” – basket, high handlebars, no gears – and headed to the coastal boardwalk that takes you out to sea and back again. A bit like a pier. It’s a lovely place to spend the day, but being worried about not making it back in time, I headed back to the jetty at lunch time.
“Are you getting the boat?” a prim and proper lady asked me in an Australian accent.
“Yes, how many of us are there?” The jetty was full of men sat around, so I wasn’t expecting to be waiting long.
“Six! I’ve been here an hour already!”
“Oh, but all these men…?”
“They are just waiting for business. They’ve all got boats, but, they’re just waiting to fill them. Maybe we should just charter the boat? It’s $30, so between the six of us, $5 each.”
Not feeling I really had a choice, I had to agree with the posh lady and pay double the fare! Never mind, it got me back in time for a chilled out afternoon in Little India – another area I thought I saw last time, but it’s now apparent I didn’t.
Walking around the city over the past couple of days, I literally had to bite my tongue with excitement to stop myself from jumping up and down whenever they played Shakira clips in the street or Sebastian Vettel was advertising a watch on the side of a bus. It’s all very exciting! So I couldn’t get much sleep. I therefore started my Saturday very early at ION mall at Orchard MRT station with the intention of weaving my way in and out of the malls (and air conditioning) all the way down to City Hall, where Gate 3 into Zone 4 awaited me. This plan worked and at 3pm I headed into Zone 4!
I was instantly amazed at how close to the track you could get, and then even more amazed when I later found the bridge with the track on one side and audience on the other. As a short person, I was rather pleased to find lots of free standing platforms to raise you up without the help of Westlife to get a better view of the races.
However, I was clearly more of a Shakira fan than others because by the time she’d finished on Saturday night, the platforms were jammed for the qualifying. Speaking of Shakira, she was amazing, as expected. I was glad I got the wristband given to me because I was so close! Take a look here to see what I caught of the show.
Sadly, I was a little too slow getting food and so had no chance to see Rick Astley as the seating area around the Esplanade stage was absolutely rammed with people who have probably been Rickrolled at least once in their life and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. HOWEVER – not sadly, this bit’s exciting – from where I was stood, Rick Astley did walk right past me (literally less than a metre!) as he headed to the stage. HOWEVER – sadly, this bit’s devastating – I’d treated myself to a coconut and had slightly sticky hands and couldn’t get to my camera. Told you, devastating. He sounded good though. Well, as good as cheesy 80’s pop can sound.
After the qualifying, Shaggy was next in line on the entertainment front. He was pretty good. The audience were pretty annoying. I’d got there nice and early, making the most of my wristband and was one row back in the fan zone – even closer than I was to Shakira! After watching the end of the qualifying on the big screen, out popped Shaggy. And in popped a bunch of people “excuse me-ing” their way in front of me and the girl next to me. Who was even shorter than me. To be expected at a gig so we didn’t mind too much, but when some other guy tried it on I wasn’t having any of it.
“Excuse me,” he pointed to his ‘friend’ in front as he attempted to make his way past me.
I tapped him on the shoulder, “Ehh! Where you going?”
“Who? Where? Nuh uh, I’m stood here, get back.” And I made my way in front of him and carried on cheering. Felt brilliant.
After such a good day I couldn’t wait for Sunday!
I did the same as Saturday and drooled at the drinks menus in the food courts of the malls as I made my way down to gate 3. A band called London Fog played early on the Esplanade stage. You know in Mean Girls when Janis draws the canteen for Cady? Well these guys would be sat on the Cool Asians table. I managed to catch a bit of Earth Collide who performed some acoustic covers of Muse, The Killers etc, before heading back to the Esplanade to catch Forbidden Broadway, which was very funny. Definitely worth a Youtube search if you get the chance! Or just click here for The Lion King segment and click away in the sidebar for more.
Then of course, the reason all this was happening, it was race time! I left Forbidden Broadway early despite absolutely loving it and there still being 40 minutes until the race started. Ahh ha! I wasn’t going to be caught out like yesterday! I was going to get up on that platform!
No I wasn’t. Still full. How long had these people been waiting?! I did get right up to the front of the barrier though so could see (and hear) pretty well! After about 10 laps of jumping onto the barrier each time the cars came round, I decided this could get quite tedious 61 times, and so headed for a screen. Ahh ha! I wasn’t going to be caught out again! I had a plan, I headed for the Padang field where Linkin Park would be performing after the race. This time, the plan worked! I wasn’t too far back from the end of the fan zone (no wristband this time) and sat on the grass in between two parts of the track watching on the big screen.
It all got very tense at the end when Jenson Button nearly caught up with Vettel, everyone started standing up! So up I got and stayed that way until the last few songs of Linkin Park, by which point the sweat was dripping down the backs of my legs and I had to get out, so I made my way backwards to a bigger space where I could breathe and soon it was all over.
It really was an amazing weekend and I’d recommend it to anyone! One of the many immigrants staying in my dorm looking for work (long story, not going to go into it now, this post is long enough as it is!) told me that Abu Dhabi is a good track, maybe that should be next…
I’ll be uploading some clips of Shaggy, Linkin Park and of course the racing over the next couple of days, so check my Youtube channel to see what I saw!