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Friday, March 1, 2013

Slightly Seeing Singapore

I'm only in transit (for the second time this week!), but I do want to 'see Singapore,' courtesy of the free bus tour co-sponsored by the Changi Airport and Singapore Airlines.  Though tours are offered at several times, day and night, you can only avail of one per transit stay. and must sign up at the airport's tour kiosk, allowing enough time to be back in the airport two hours before your ongoing flight.  The tours are filling up fast; I sign up for the mid-day tour just in time, and hurry off to check my carry-on suitcase for a nominal fee at one of the 'baggy' rooms...(there's a wait at the baggy room...I make a note to allow time for thatthe next trip through Changi.)  I re-join others congregating around the tour kiosk, where my attempt at making conversation with a young couple in the group proves rather lame...  I guess they are honeymooners.  Nobody in the group is talking to anybody else, only eyeing each other now and then.

Half an hour before the tour, a brisk woman's voice calls us to take our passports in hand and follow her. We fall in and out of line like school children on a field trip, as she guides, no, exhorts us, down an escalator to the immigration level, where she instructs us to show our passports, receive a trip-i.d. sticker, and wait until all of us are cleared.  Extra attendants whisk us efficiently to the quickest moving lines, and we cluster around each other on the other side of the gate. I look around, find another woman who seems travelling solo.  This time I am more successful at striking up a conversation.  After initial small talk, she asks, surprised, "How did you know I was alone?" (Takes one to know one, I suppose.)  

She's a graduate student on her way back to studies abroad, after a home stay in India.  We find seats across from each other on the luxury tour bus just in time for the guide to start her narration.  The woman guide is exceptionally articulate and full of interesting facts and asides ("Singapore's national pastime is eating.") as we roll on through the lush (sorry if I repeat myself, it's the only word I can think of, for the abundant greenery I see in Singapore and Indonesia.) boulevards into the heart of town, learning about the history, population, and activities of the city.

Numerous clubs, from tennis to model airplanes, and restaurants line the shores to our left.  Impressive apartment buildings and a meticulously groomed golf course consisting almost entirely of hills and water traps are on the right.  More and more unusual constructions are visible off on 'the water side' of the road as we approach the city's center:  The Marina Bay Sands (as in the Las Vegas Sands)  is actually three hotels joined together with a skateboard-like crown bearing a rooftop esplanade. Another building is shaped like a humonguous blooming lotus.  The Singapore Flyer is the largest ferris wheel in the world.  A pair of bulging buildings look like the two sides of a clamshell. 

Clouds and lightning threaten rain as we take a twenty minute halt midway on our tour, and  descend stairs of a large plaza to view the Singapore's iconic fountain, the mythical white 'merlion' (half fish, half lion) spewing water into the Marina Bay mdi-city center.  ("In Singapore we have  no place to go but up.")  I snap a picture of my new friend, and she of me, promising to send me a copy.  I give her my email address , but fail to get hers, and, unfortunately, later lose the picture she sends me, in a spur-of-the-moment blitz-emptying of my spam inbox.

The ride back is along the same route we came on, with a less than satisfactory proximity for viewing the unusual architecture of some  of Singapore's public buildings.We have seen from the air, however, evidence of the shipping that is Singapore's number one business (finance,tourism, and manufacturing being the others)  There are lots of ships in the harbor, like seven hundred, today. 

I reach across the aisle to share a chocolate with my friend, only to hear, "And please remember, no food on the bus," matter-of-factly inserted into the guide's running patter.  We smile sheepishly, but eat the morsel - quickly - anyway.

Everyone is eager to get back to their air travel itinerary, so we bid friendly good byes as we depart the bus.   Back in the Ambassador Transit lounge, the food for the evening buffet is fair to good: fresh fruit and salad stuff, one each carb, meat, and veggie dish, plus snacks and desserts, a cream soup, all kinds of expected condiments and drinks (although the hard kind requires a cash outlay).  But I choose to survey the mall level restaurants in search of that ever aromatic and tummy pampering chicken soup, before I indulge in a pedicure at the spa at five.

I am definitely enjoying this Changi stopover more than the last--and that time, you may remember, I was charmed.

1 comment:

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