These things bring you to reality as to how fragile you are;
at the same moment you are doing something that nobody else is able to do –
the same moment you are seen as the best, the fastest and somebody who
cannot be touched –
you are enormously fragile.
If you talk to anyone who has lived in Singapore, they will tell you the main event of the year is the Formula 1 night race in September. When J-Mar was looking at some options to take a business training, we discovered one of the classes offered was in Singapore the weekend after the big race. We jumped at the chance to explore Singapore at its liveliest time of the year.
Walking around town, we stumbled upon what can only be described as a luxury-car club having a meeting at the St. Regis hotel. Seriously, it was like every type of extremely expensive car one could imagine was parked out front of the lobby. At first we thought it might be some type of make-shift car show, but there weren’t enough people around. Certainly, there were tourists (and probably locals as well) stopping to take photos, so we didn’t hesitate to join in.
We (ok, mostly J-Mar) were admiring all the rides when suddenly a slow stream of owners came out, fired up their engines and drove away. I don’t think we’ll ever know exactly what was going on. When we went to the race later that night, we saw several blocked off areas near the track hosting similar show-and-tell sessions.
Those cars may have been cool, but they are nothing compared to the rubber-burning Formula 1 cars we saw next. Before we arrived, we bought “walkabout” tickets for the race online. Your options for getting into the race are: expensive, more expensive, super expensive and more ultra-super expensive. The low-class tickets we purchased only allowed us in limited areas to walk around the track and stake out a spot for viewing wherever we could. We would have been well advised to arrive early and get a coveted spot in the grandstands that the walkabout tickets had access to. Well, that would be the case if we hadn’t committed a tourist faux-pas and climbed into a fountain with some other people so we could see better.
There was a fountain that backed right up to the track, and there was just enough space for a human to fit between the fountain edge and the barricade. I wasn’t brave enough to go first, but after I saw someone take off their shoes and snag a spot at the front of the fountain, I reminded myself “YOLO” and “you-only-buy-expensive-formula-1-tickets-once”. From there, our view was pretty awesome.
It was a bit challenging to take photos with the cars whizzing by behind a fence, but I did my best trying to capture the out-of-control sponsor logos and extremely fast motion. That blur is totally intentional! So is this:
The cars were actually a bit quieter than I imagined; we scrambled a bit trying to find some ultimately unnecessary earplugs at the convenience store before we went to the race. I have been to a few NASCAR races in the past, as my stepdad is a fan, and I always remember needing earplugs of some sort. What is similar between the two racing styles is the mesmerized crowd that gathers to watch these speed demons put their lives at risk to make for an exciting show. Singapore is home to the only F1 night race, and I’ve got to say, under the city lights, the race made me feel the closest I’ll ever get to an action movie set.
If you’re planning a trip to Singapore and can time it for the race, I’d recommend it, especially for all you racing fanatics. Check out the short video below for a better view of all the action:
Should you find yourself in Singapore, another great nighttime activity to check out is the somewhat-distant Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo. I say this because the Zoo is a solid 30 minute drive from anywhere in the city, so you do have to go a bit out of your way to get there. However, having been on an actual safari before, I will boldly say this is the closest you’re going to get to the real deal without having to travel to Africa. First up, flamingos for mom!
True, it’s a bit commercialized, but they do an amazing job of keeping the animals contained in a cage-free environment with as natural feel as you can get riding in a tram car. As you can tell, it was again a bit difficult to get non-grainy photos, but I did catch J-Mar crouching down near a cheetah. It’s like you can’t even tell there was a glass barrier! 😛
The grain and glow from the colored lights makes for some interesting 1970s-esque night vision, but nonetheless, we had a fun few hours hanging with the animals and walking around the night safari. Tips: go when it first opens to avoid lines. Also, there is a really nice, large food court there with many international cuisine options, but as with any zoo, I’m sure it’s not cheap. If you can, make sure you walk around a bit before or after riding the tram. Being in a zoo at night is just fun!
After these exciting weekend activities, we headed to our fancy-schmancy business-trip-sponsored room at the Ritz Carlton. Don’t get too excited, the hotel was nice but rather dated in my opinion. I probably wouldn’t spend my own money to stay there. The great thing, though, about our room and the hotel, was the view.
The hotel directly overlooked the F1 racetrack – you can see the grandstands along the river there. They were still in the process of breaking everything down when we checked in. The other view, the top photo, includes the iconic building of Singapore, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. It’s just as lovely at night (especially amid the post-race city glow), with it’s lasers beaming from the roof as well as its Chocolate Bar.
Wait, what? Yes, that’s right, the Marina Bay Sands hotel has this awesome thing called The Chocolate Bar: an (over-priced) all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet. To top it off, you can pair your sugar with some more sugar in the form of a delicious (-ly overpriced) wine flight. It’s almost as good as it sounds – until you realize you’ll either get a raging stomach ache or go into a diabetic coma pretty quickly if you don’t pace yourself. For chocolate and wine (pretend-)connoisseurs such as myself, it’s still worth the trip.
In all, though Singapore certainly kept us entertained with its fast-paced city life and great restaurants (I highly recommend Bistecca), we didn’t get a huge sense of local culture during our visit.
One of the big complaints about Singapore is that though it is nice and shiny with its shopping malls, high quality of life and want-for-nothing attitude, its high-speed development has come at the price of local culture. Over its short and interesting history**, Singapore has been built around a strong foreigner community with most residents being immigrants who have come to find work. Today, Singapore has remains an economic hub of Asia, and the population of foreigners still hovers over 40%. Combined with the rapid growth of concrete jungle, whatever culture originally inhabited the island is difficult to find.
**Singapore turns just 50 years old this year, after being “expelled” from Malaysia in 1965, a decision that local government officials did not love at the time. This all occurred after Singapore gained independence from Britain 1963. Before Britain entered the picture, only about 1,000 people lived in Singapore. Like I said, interesting.
On an even more depressing note, the major event of my week will be watching the series finale of Parenthood this Friday. In the hum drum of recent life, this is sort of the opposite of the cherry on top. My work hours have been few lately, things are just moving at a slower pace now. The overcast weather that fluctuates between cold, windy and rainy doesn’t help. Thus, I’ve gotten into my January slump of being a homebody/hobbit again, and we don’t have any major trips coming up until March, so I haven’t been in travel planning mode either.
In any case, the best television show of all time is going to end in the emotional equivalent of an unsightly car crash, and the worst part is that Mom and I can’t mourn it together over a bottle of wine since she’s in Louisiana and I can’t get our Slingbox to show live TV. Whatever happens, though, #teamjoelia is back together, Crosby is still alive, and Amber named her baby Zeek as I predicted at the beginning of the season; so all is well with the world. Which means I can dry my tears, catch a little [Braverman dance] fever and finish my next blog post. Kuala Lumpur, here we come! (Or, rather, there we were?)