Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 03/24/08 6:14 AM

Travel: The Singapore Flyer


Where eagles dare

Watching Singapore go about its daily life from the heady heights of the Flyer is an uplifting experience




It is 10.20 a.m. and I’m staring at the Merlion. The creature is framed by fat droplets of rain that is furrowing its way down both sides of the spouting statue. I stare harder… is that a faint mist, wreathed like a wispy crown on its head? I have to admit, it makes for an unusual picture.


I’m on the Singapore Flyer, inside one of the sleek, teal blue-with-steel-trim glass capsules (there are 28 of them, each able to hold 28 people), along with a family of four, the kids zooming around the capsule in great excitement, a young couple, and a group of radio journalists; altogether a motley crew. It’s raining outside but it’s definitely not raining on our party…this lot is checking the 360-degree Singaporean vistas by rain quite happily.



Bird’s eye view

It`s  10.30 a.m., and the sea is one huge ripple of grey, shot with silver where pellets of rain hit the surface. I can spot vessels, big and small, but all through a thin fog, straight out of a pirate movie.


And then, the rain suddenly stops and I glimpse a red ferry packed with people, cheerfully chugging its way just below me. I fancy that I can hear its motor, all the way up here, if I listen hard enough.


The young couple and I do the space dance … manoeuvring for space for the perfect shot, that is! I ask and they answer: yes, they wanted to be among the first to ride the Flyer and no, they aren’t too sure if they are having the time of their lives.


Photo: Yaj Malik

Just across from us, a trio of Aussie men overhears and grins. “Should-a brought some wine and had a party,” says one of them, gesturing to the silk-draped table in one corner of the capsule. I blink, think about reminding them that it’s just gone ten in the morning, then refrain.10.50 am, and the golf green is drying, a carpet of brilliant colour with golf carts already tootling about on the narrow paths.


I can see someone’s swanky white yacht not too far out at sea. The two little girls who make up the infant population of the capsule are busy posing for their indulgent father, and I get into conversation with their mother, also named Sheila.


“We’ve been on the smaller wheel in KL,” says Sheila. “This one is much better, the capsules are so compact, the views are great. We can grab a bite after the ride, the girls can make their own teddy bears at the Build-A-Bear workshop, it will be a good day out.”


I reflect that the ticket queue had been almost entirely composed of young families, when I’d walked in; indeed, after the novelty wears out for the tourists, not that that is going to happen all too soon, it may well be the kids who are going to keep the Flyer rolling. In the interim, though, several themed events, cocktail and champagne packages, class gatherings, corporate events, wedding parties, are all on offer.



Getting the buzz
The build-up to the Singapore Flyer (“new tourism icon”, it was dubbed) was typical of new attractions in this tourist-driven city-State; there were discounts offered, contests galore where you could win tickets to go aboard the wheel. On the anvil are a Greek theatre, an Asian rainforest, a waterfront dining promenade. And a whole host of shops. Of course.


Rumours are that China is building a bigger wheel but that does not seem to worry David Beevers, Managing Director of the Singapore Flyer, one bit. “It’s not the Flyer in isolation,” he explains. “We have a lot of things to offer the visitor, a total entertainment experience. It’s going to work out well.”


10.55 a.m., and the golden domes of the Sultan Mosque shine  in the light of an emerging sun. The skyscrapers of Shenton Way, the Business District, look freshly washed. There is a wide swathe of road being cut just below me, along the waterfront; it’s for the F1 track, I realise. The radio journalists  corner me: Am I having a good time? It’s a 30-minute ride and not one of us sit down on the benches in the capsule.


We are too busy moving from glass pane to glass pane, staring like committed rubber-neckers, taking a hundred photographs and yes, exchanging complicit smiles with others.



The Flyer sits on Marina Bay, cost US$ 170 million, and opened  formally on March 1, 2008. At 165 metres (42 storeys), it is the world’s  tallest observation wheel, affording views of the sea, sundry islands of neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia on a clear day,  skyscrapers and golf greens, the whole Marina Bay area.


New kid in town

So, it’s spring and all is well with Singapore. The tai-tais are still tucking into foie gras at haute eateries. The venerable Minister-Mentor  Lee is talking sanguinely about bar top dancing. Everybody and their cousin are still trawling the malls with diligence, integrity and  dedication. Life as we know it is doing its usual thing in this small island.


Ah, but the Singapore Flyer is quite the newest thing in town.


There it sits, its outline lit up in electric blue, sometimes pink, virtually defying you to not go aboard. Come September, it will be another story, with the F1 cars hitting town. As of now, though, all eyes are on this huge observation wheel that turns slowly, inexorably.

This ran in THE HINDU of 23 Mar 2008.

Related Links:

Travel: Singapore`s hawker centre food

Travel: Fish Reflexology Spa, Singapore

Travel: Singapore Spas

Travel: Singapore`s Orchard Road

Travel: Singapore`s Botanical Gardens





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Sheila Kumar • March 24, 2008

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