Rewind: Back to the future in Singapore
Currently, we spend nine hours a day six days a week wrapping grape vines around wires— a six-week blast of intensive money-making so we can get back to days of carefree vacationing.
It’s not bad work, but it doesn’t exactly make for thrilling blog material. Therefore, we’re starting a new miniseries to keep your attention, drawing on past travel moments or reflections that never quite made it online.
This week: a brief sojourn into Singapore.
Long layovers are one of the dreaded necessities that come with air travel. They vary from several hours in grimy purgatory (New York’s LaGuardia) to pleasant free web surfing (Portland, Oregon). But generally, once the book stores are given a once over and a seven dollar beer is consumed, they are something to be forgotten. We heard Singapore’s airport was one of the nicest in the world, so we were actually looking forward to stopping there enroute from Manila to Melbourne last May.
Upon arriving, we rushed through terminals to a nondescript kiosk to take advantage of something that almost sounded too good to be true: Changi Airport offers a two-hour city tour for passengers on long layovers. For free. We barely made the last departure for the day, happily signed up, cleared customs, and piled on a bus with a dozen others. As we drove past brand new high rises, the largest Ferris wheel in the world, and state of the art stadiums and botanical gardens, it was clear that this tiny urban nation was a complete turnaround from the Asia we just left. And really, a complete turnaround from much of the world.
The city was spotlessly clean, orderly, wealthy, and quiet— to the point that it kind of reminded us of the Epcot center at Disneyworld. The government also has a hand in nearly everything here: even chewing gum is outlawed to preserve the purity of the streets. As the bus wove through the gleaming streets, our cheery and funny guide tossed out tidbits of Singaporean life. Our personal favorite: “What kind of wildlife do we have here? We have no wildlife. Only cats and dogs.”
Once downtown, everyone was allowed a half hour to explore, and then it was back on the bus and back to the airport, all with brilliant efficiency.
As nice as the city was, we were frankly more amazed by the airport, which surpassed our lofty expectations. Here few of the most outrageous complimentary features:
A gigantic TV comprised of 12 mounted flatscreens along with plush chairs, complete with built-in speakers.
We did not partake in the 3D Xperience Zone, but it seemed to involve video games.
Countless gardens and orchids on every mundane surface.
A man playing soothing music on a grand piano.
And our personal favorite, a movie theater, where we watched Russell Crowe slay Frenchmen in the latest version of Robin Hood.
When the time came, we didn’t want to leave. It was like spending seven hours in the future.