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Singapore children waving flags

Leaving Singapore, and discovering certain truths about this famous city state

Date: September 26th, 2011

I forced myself to wake up at 11am today. I obviously didn’t sleep too well after how frustratingly last night ended, but I had no choice but to get ready.

Back staircase Singapore buildings
I had to check out by noon

I had something eat, freshened up, packed and kept my bags in the hostel storage room. I got my deposit back and stepped out to take the MRT to Queenstown.

Queenstown MRT station Commonwealth avenue Singapore
I then took a bus to get to the IKEA store
IKEA Alexandra Singapore
The Alexandra outlet was the easiest for me to get to. IKEA has another store in Tampines.
IKEA lunch food pizza meatball fries Appleberry
I quickly bought everything I wanted and then decided to have lunch at the store itself. Every time I visited an IKEA outlet, the cafeteria was always packed and I never had the chance to try out their food. This time I got lucky as the queues weren’t long. I finally had their famed Swedish meatballs, which tasted alright, but nothing worthy of the hype it gets.
Alexandra road Singapore
I left IKEA
Alexandra road Singapore Hdb flats
I decided to take the bus back, so I could see a bit more of life in Singapore before leaving

The bus rode through what looked like a very residential locality of Singapore. Passing by the many HDB flats, I began to think about what life in Singapore must be like. Most of Singapore’s residents live in subsidized housing, apartment buildings developed by the Housing Development Board – the Singapore government’s public housing authority. I then wondered: “Wow, the government must be really nice here”.

Curiosity got the better of me, and so I began reading more about Singapore’s government, and about the nation itself – a nation so famous for being clean, strict and marketed to us as a ‘perfect’ place. But what I found were certain facts that really undermine that status.

Actually the first ‘discovery’ that kicked things off for me was about Singapore’s media industry. Since I was going to be in the country for over a week, my friend suggested that I at least put up my resume on a few Singapore job sites, so that in case any interview got lined up, I could attend it while I got ready for the F1 weekend. I only updated my resume two weeks prior departure, but I assumed given my experience working at an internet content major, the job offers would come.

I got nothing. Mostly because a lot of the jobs stated one had to be a Singaporean or a Singapore PR (Permanent Resident), which I obviously understand. A lot of the matching job profiles I got were for Mediacorp, Singapore’s largest media company. I was aware of Mediacorp because of Channel News Asia, which airs in India too. I initially thought Mediacorp was owned by Rupert Murdoch, given how much his empire controls most of Asia’s satellite TV business. But it turns out, Mediacorp is owned by the Singapore government, through it’s investment arm Temasek Holdings. The same Temasek who own sizeable chunks of Airtel, Mahindra, Jet Airways and ICICI Bank — some of India’s biggest companies. Mediacorp maybe registered as a ‘Private Limited’ company, but that doesn’t mean it’s free to run or say as it wishes. When you are funded by the government, strings are going to come attached.

Upon further learning, all media in Singapore is regulated by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (or MICA as it’s commonly known). Meaning, they control which publications are allowed in the country, including international magazines. Spending some time browsing their website, I came across their mission and ‘values’:

Singapore Ministry of Information Communications Arts values
What I highlighted in red is what I paid attention to the most

“To create a favourable view of Singapore among Singapore residents and the international audience” is a very polite way of saying “You’ll rarely hear anything bad about Singapore because we won’t let you say anything bad about Singapore!”. Even the largest print company, Singapore Press Holdings (publisher of the most widely read newspaper, The Straits Times) is closely linked to the government, with many of its executives being former bureaucrats.

It makes sense now, why many of us in India perceive Singapore in such positive light. All I ever knew about Singapore prior to my first visit in 2010 was how strict the laws were, the sights I saw from all the Indian films that were filmed in Singapore and travel shows. If there’s one thing Singapore is really good at, it’s marketing itself. Controlling Singapore’s image works, it’s worked for years. India still remains a top 5 market for Singapore tourism.

Another bit of research I ended up doing on Singapore was during the whole ‘Lokpal Bill‘ debate that shook up India last year. For those non-Indians reading this, a massive anti-corruption movement gained pace with a group pushing for a strong anti-corruption bill, which they say would put an end to corruption in India. (I never supported the bill, because unlike the majority of its supporters, I actually read the bill). A lot of noise was made, millions across India supported the movement and obviously, social media was used to create awareness. One of the stupid ‘share this’ messages that I kept seeing on my Facebook wall went something like this:

Singapore Lok Pal bill bullshit on Facebook
This message was copy-pasted by thousands of idiots in India

First of all, I can’t stand those “Re-post post this if you…” messages which upon first read itself, anyone with some common sense can tell the facts could possibly be incorrect! When I kept seeing this on my Facebook wall, I got irritated with the language used and went straight to Google to find real facts so I could dispel this bullshit. What I found was no such bill was passed in 1982. The only bill that was passed in Singapore that year was an ‘International Enterprise Singapore Board Act’. Hardly anything to do with curbing corruption!

Even before I learnt about the tax rates in Singapore, I took a hunch that there surely can’t be many Asian nations besides the oil-rich GCC countries that are truly tax-free. Singapore isn’t rich in resources to be a “no tax” nation. If at all, Singapore is one of those havens for offshore banking, a tag that isn’t often associated with a perfectly corruption-free country.

Another fact I came across when researching on corruption is that Singapore still does not have a law that protects whistleblowers. Singapore does have a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau though, incorporated in 1952, whose role is to investigate and push for prosecution of the corrupt. Does that make Singapore perfectly void of corruption today? No. I’m sure there is some corruption in Singapore. No society exposed to material wealth and globalization can be ‘corruption free’. Greed is a human condition. Where have you seen ‘have nots’ so lazy they don’t even aspire to be one among the ‘haves’?

There will be those who say Singapore has little corruption because their ministers are well paid*.  To them I say, read multiple news sources, there is corruption, you just don’t hear about it too often. Also, the solution to curb corruption cannot always be solved by paying people more. India’s ministers receive lower salaries (comparatively), but like many government officials the world over, everything else is also paid for too — housing, bills, transport, flights, assistants, etc. Can you guarantee paying a corrupt official 50% more will make him give back the millions he siphoned out of government funds for years and has stashed away in foreign banks?

I know it’s not fair to compare a nation of 5 million to a nation of over a billion with a much older history, but the truth of the matter is, Singapore is one of the least corrupt nations in the world. Meaning, Singapore isn’t as corrupt as other nations, especially its neighbours in Asia. Singapore’s government didn’t simply build a flashy central business district to appeal to businesses, while ignoring the rest of the country. Singapore’s corrupt surely can’t be as bad as the corrupt leaders of Pakistan, India, Philippines, or Indonesia.

Which brings me to another fact about Singapore, which I only learnt about recently — the country has been under the rule of a single party for the last 53 years! That party being the People’s Action Party (PAP), and it’s co-founder Lee Kuan Yew was the first prime minister of Singapore… for 30 years. Singapore’s current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong is Lee Kuan Yew’s eldest son. (Doesn’t sound too much like a democracy does it?)

Singapore political rally park
I saw this political rally in 2010, I don’t know which party this was for

It’s not like there aren’t opposition parties in Singapore, there are a few. But I haven’t researched too much on why the opposition haven’t been able to break the chain of command the PAP has had over Singapore since independence. Could it really be that the majority of Singaporeans still have faith in the PAP? After all, Singapore does hold general elections every 5 years. Could it be the ‘newer’ citizens of Singapore vote in PAP’s favour? Who knows, maybe the PAP’s victorious reign can attributed to the old adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it” — or just plain ignorance among the populace.

Speaking of Singapore’s new arrivals, I can’t not bring up the Chinese. As in, Chinese from the People’s Republic of China. When I first visited Singapore in 2010, it was during F1 weekend, when thousands of people from all over the world fly in, and given how little time we had on our first trip to Singapore, I never really had the chance to make that observation. This time though, I was here for a week, which was good enough to notice these things.

Now, most of my readers (who aren’t Singaporean) must be wondering: “Wait, aren’t most Singaporeans of Chinese descent anyway?” True, but if you ask a Singaporean of Chinese descent if he or she would like to be called ‘Chinese’ over ‘Singaporean,’ chances are they’ll take offense to being called the former. There are over 1.6 billion mainland Chinese, only a few million Singaporean Chinese. Consider it a status issue.

The ‘PRC’s (as they are commonly referred to in Singapore) have now started to come into the country thanks to global exposure and the fact they are now seeking opportunities outside the mainland. The PRCs obviously speak Chinese**, which gives them an edge in Singapore over every other race of people seeking employment in the country. But going by what I have read and what my friends experienced in Dubai, I’m guessing some Chinese are also willing to work for less too. What my friends experienced in Dubai was their companies losing work to Chinese firms because the Chinese were willing to do it cheaper.

Now, some people willing to work for less is nothing new in today’s globalized economy. American corporations began outsourcing to India because wages in India were lower than that of their American counterparts. In the 1990s, it wasn’t uncommon to see Japanese electronic goods that were assembled in Malaysia or Singapore, before they eventually moved every manufacturing to China (again, due to lower costs). But moving to an expensive country and then lowering the average working standards there, when the other standards (of living mostly) are going up, isn’t going to help the masses. I’m not making a blatant accusation against the Chinese (and only them) for lowering standards, but to those who lose out to the Chinese, that’s how they see it. Reading Singaporeans complain, there is some dissent towards these PRCs these days.

I don’t mind working in Singapore. I could easily fit into Singaporean society given my interests, but I’m not desperate. I would never move to Singapore, the third most expensive city in Asia (and in the top 10 worldwide), unless I was paid well enough to justify the move. In quite a few forums while researching for this post, I came across many who were willing to jump at any chance to work in Singapore. Experienced people from skilled fields, willing to work for salaries ranging from SG$2000-3000 (which may seem okay for certain professions, or for locals who don’t have to pay rent) but I wondered if they even did any prior research before realizing what awaits them in this pricey nation.

As is the case pretty much everywhere else, the biggest expense for everybody is the cost of housing. Real estate on this tiny island is very, very expensive! Land is obviously scarce.

Marina Bay Sands view from skydeck panorama
A lot of what you see at Marina Bay today was built on reclaimed land

Though the Singapore government has done a good job of providing housing to its citizens with HDB flats, opening up the real estate market to international buyers doesn’t help with keeping real estate prices stable, and affordable. Most apartment offerings from private builders in Singapore cost upwards of a million dollars. Ironically, it’s the Chinese who are leading the international buyer list, followed by the Malaysians, Indonesians and Indians. General impression may make those nations look good in terms of wealth, but as someone who knows the corrupt don’t always keep their illegally acquired wealth in cold hard cash, one can easily make the presumption Singapore’s private real estate market has its fair share of such buyers. Like I mentioned earlier, Singapore has joined the ranks of Dubai and Switzerland as safe havens for such ‘investments’.

Browsing through the newspapers in the one week I spent in Singapore, I could gauge what the average price of a decent sized apartment was. In simple terms: out of reach for the majority. Visit any property website, click the drop-down menu for prices, and that will give you an idea. Though there are some affordable flats (by Singapore standards), most new projects are quite expensive.

The world over, real estate prices have risen and fallen, at the same pace, mostly due to cartel-like pricing and speculation (the hype around “buy now or lose out” plays its part too). It’s only recently the Singapore government introduced measures to lower real estate prices. The HDB too have announced new projects to provide ‘affordable’ options to the growing population (although, there is an eligibility criteria for purchasing and even renting HDB flats). Though the HDB flats are labelled ‘subsidized’ housing, I doubt the HDB is losing money on these projects. They just aren’t as luxurious as the privately developed apartments are – or command the huge profits per sale.

After checking out some of these new HDB projects, it irritates me even more knowing just how over-priced (and over-hyped) India’s real estate market is. Take this project for example:

Fernvale Lea HDB flats Sengkang Singapore
A newly launched HDB project that is only a few minutes walk from Thanggam LRT

A 1216 sqft flat in the above apartment complex costs around SG$376,000 (Rs. 1.4crore^*/$300k/€226k). Most city-dwelling Indians know that’s how much one would have to shell out to live equally distant to the CBD in cities like Mumbai and Gurgaon. But those very same Indians also know Mumbai and Gurgaon don’t offer the quality of life anywhere near to what Singapore offers! I don’t have Rs. 1.4crore, but if I did, I would never spend it on flat in India (buying land is another thing). India is a country that now has every luxury imaginable, but lacks the basics. I’m sure the lower income citizens struggle a bit in Singapore, but at least they get their food and shelter covered.

Reading about HDB’s early years also brought up something I thought was ‘nice’. The government introduced a quota system through the Ethnic Integration Policy to avoid groupism among certain ethnicities. In a bid to avoid racial segregation, each block of HDB flats are sold to ethnicities comparable to the country’s average. On paper, it sounds like a great move. But another observation I made on this trip was, despite Singapore’s claim of racial integration as one of its strongest aspects, I still didn’t see many inter-racial couples. Like Singapore Indians with Singapore Chinese, or Singapore Malays – the three main ethnicities that make up most ‘Singaporeans’. I saw them as friends, sure, and even as work colleagues – but not a whole lot beyond that. I guess the Asian sentiment of marrying within your own community is still prevalent even in Singapore.

Singapore children waving flags
Grow up together, but then go your own way (Image source: Google)

All said and done, I’ll still prefer Singapore over cities like Dubai. As a Gulf-raised boy, it felt great when I went back to the Middle East after a gap of 7 years, that too Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I sat in awe the first time I drove through Sheikh Zayed Road, staring at the stunning skyscrapers. Dubai Marina, the impressive man-made marina that’s much bigger than Singapore’s Marina Bay. It was all very impressive to look at. But all it took was a few days to sulk in the reality of Dubai. The tallest building in the world, like the rest of the skyscrapers they built, were all empty. So were the people. There was such a prevalent racial hierarchy when it came to many workplaces. Arabs at the top (even if they’re not qualified to be there), followed by the whites, then the Indians, then Filipinos, Pakistanis/Sri Lankans, and now the Chinese. Some of my friends, those who weren’t working for MNCs (who generally have fairer policies with regards to all this), just accepted it and took the money. I just couldn’t do that.

Dubai from airplane
Dubai has no soul

I like to think of Dubai’s current state as karma. For all the poorly treated, under-paid labourers working in harsh conditions Dubai took in by the thousands, and then got rid off when the slightest of discontent arose. Dubai controls the flow of information too, and it’s illegal to protest. Formation of worker unions are not allowed and worker abuse is commonplace. The same accusations have been made against Singapore as well, like the fact you can’t protest without prior permission, but Singapore is still better off compared to Dubai. For one, Singaporeans are far more well educated. Unlike Dubai’s population, where the Emiratis (the nationals) make up for less than 20% of the population, Singapore still has a sizeable majority who can be called ‘locals’. Though I’m sure Singaporeans reading this will joke/argue that may not be the case in a few years time.

Even though my first visit to this island state was only for 3 days, I still knew I liked Singapore over Dubai. Singapore has more culture than all of UAE likes to claim it has. And a food culture. I’m a fan of both!

Of course, all this is just my point of view, based on my observations. To most Singaporeans, whatever I wrote above would be shrugged off as “nothing new, we know all this la^”. To even get all the facts and find out what the locals are talking about, I had to speak to a few of my readers, hang around Singapore’s forums and read comments on articles (whichever website allowed comments) to get a grasp of what’s really happening there. There was a lot of disdain, racism, complaints from locals about ‘foreign talents,’ foreigners accusing Singapore of being a ‘third world nation pretending to be first world’ – that mostly by Westerners, all the while enjoying the ‘expat life’ (hiring a maid, cheating on their spouses, etc.)

I still felt obligated to write this because there are many who view Singapore as ‘perfect’ nation, Indians included. Because of how it’s marketed here, from all the packaged tours Indians take that only show the touristy side, the view they get is: “Wow, surely everything is better off here”. Compared to most Asian nations, it honestly is. But no society is perfect, that too a globalized, multi-racial, materialistic one.

Some of you who have a problem with interpretation will say what I wrote above amounts to slander. It’s not, but knowing the internet, I’m ready for your comments.

Singapore is a small nation, but it’s still a significant one, especially when it comes to business. A lot of trade passes through Singapore’s port, which is among the busiest in the world. Singapore, much like Qatar these days, also aspires to be politically significant, with the hosting of many high profile meetings and conferences. Its location makes it a great spot for converging, but political significance is never going to be one of Singapore’s strongest aspects. When terrorism strikes somewhere, it’s common to hear from world leaders either condemning it or otherwise. Singapore’s prime minister may give his opinion too, but let’s be honest, that news isn’t going to travel very far.

Singapore likes to make a good impression, and it often succeeds, but the problem with setting the bar high is when you disappoint, it’s made out to look worse than it is. Like when I reached Changi Airport.

Changi Terminal 2 Singapore airport departures
My Singapore Airlines flight was out of Terminal 2

I wanted to get my IKEA purchases shrink-wrapped, but I couldn’t find the machine anywhere. When I asked some of the airport staff, I had to stop saying “shrink wrap” and instead try “plastic wrapping/cover” and only then did one of the staff understand and tell me I had to go to Terminal 1 for that!

Taking train to Terminal 1 Changi Singapore
I was quite frustrated thinking how I had to take the train and go to another terminal just to get a baggage shrink-wrapped. For a multiple award-winning airport, I assumed such services would be available in every terminal.
Changi Terminal 2 Singapore airport departures check-in
After waiting in line, paying SG$15 for the shrink wrapping, I took the train back to Terminal 2
Changi Terminal 2 entertainment deck Singapore airport
After shopping at the Duty Free, which is actually quite good in terms of variety and pricing, I went a level up
Gaming room Wii Changi terminal 2 Singapore airport
Wii room
Sunflower garden open air Singapore Changi Terminal 2
One cool thing though is this open air Sunflower Garden
Sunflower garden Singapore airport terminal 2 Changi
Other than this, Terminal 2 didn’t ‘wow’ me. Maybe with all the hype around Changi, my expectations were too high. Either that or the newer Terminal 3 is the one everyone raves about.
Artificial pond Changi Terminal 2 Singapore airport
But I saw a lot of kids enjoying what the terminal had to offer

As I waited to board my flight, I wondered when to visit Singapore next. I was hell bent on flying again when news broke SNSD would be holding concerts in Singapore in February, but then that got pulled forward to early December. Couldn’t afford to do it then. Oh well, here’s hoping for an SMTown concert in Singapore.

My 2 year Singapore tourist visa expires in August this year, and I’m sure I’ll end up using Singapore as a connecting destination for my other Asian journeys, if not visiting Singapore a third time. This time there was a sense of boredom already. There was little else for me to explore. As it is Singapore doesn’t have much to offer. I only have Sentosa & Universal Studios left to do, as it’s something I had to skip this time due to my hand injury. Plus, I want to see more of inner Singapore, and the middle class way of life here.

Mutton korma rice Singapore Airlines meal
The lamb curry and rice meal was yum

I enjoyed my last few Singapore Slings and… erm… yeah, that’s it. Actually no, I remember now. I was reading the newspapers and particularly about a lot of collective sales happening for the really old HDB apartment complexes. Deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars were being struck buying prime land by the big names in Singapore’s private real estate industry. Older HDB flat owners would get their share of the sale money, which for some deals would net them over a million dollars. It may sound like they struck gold, but with the cost of buying a new apartment today, I guess that newly minted millionaire status won’t last long. Unless they already owned a second home.

Yeah that’s it. I went back to drinking.

Previous posts in the series:

Singapore 2011: Day 7 – Little India, F1 Sunday race, Linkin Park concert and Avalon Club

Singapore 2011: Day 6 – F1 Saturday (Rick Astley, Shakira and Shaggy concerts)

Singapore 2011: Day 5 – Chinatown, F1 Friday (Charice, Seungri and GD&TOP concerts)

Singapore 2011: Day 4 – Marina Bay Sands Casino and views from the SkyPark observation deck

Singapore 2011: Day 3 – Bukit Timah and Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore 2011: Day 2 – Jurong Bird Park and… *ouch!*

Singapore 2011: Day 1 – Landing a second time; walking around CBD

*Singapore’s PM commands the highest salary for a Prime Minister in the world – SG$2.2 million per annum (US$1.7 million), after cutting it down recently from  just over SG$3 million. US president Barack Obama’s salary is around $400,000. Again, I doubt both heads of state pay rent.

**I know there are numerous dialects in the Chinese language like Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien, but for the sake of simplicity, I referred to the language as just Chinese

^* 1 crore = 100, 000, 000 or 1,00,00,000 in the Indian numeric system

^ “la'” is kind of like an end-of-sentence slang commonly used among Singapore’s youth. Just like “da” in South India, “ka” in Thailand, but unlike “yaar” (which actually means ‘friend’) in North India, I have no clue what ‘la,’ ‘da,’ and ‘ka’ mean and how they became a trend!

Mike Shinoda guitar Linkin Park concert Singapore F1

Singapore: Day 7 – Little India, F1 Sunday race, Linkin Park concert and Avalon Club

Date: September 25th, 2011

How time flies. I landed on the 19th and thought “Hmm, I can take it easy, I have lots of time!”. Now it was my last full day in Singapore.

I decided to visit Little India, as last year I had to rush through it. Plus, I wanted to have lunch from a restaurant there.

Little India mrt station Singapore
Took the MRT
Kerbau hotel Little India Singapore
It was noon by the time I got here
Chander road colourful old buildings Little India Singapore
It’s Indian, expect lots of colour 🙂

Andhra curry restaurant Little India SingaporeLittle India shops corridor SingaporeCatherine goldsmith Thirupathi salon Little India stores SingaporeMagazine newspaper stall Little India SingaporeSerangoon road Little India SingaporeSerangoon road Sunday afternoon SingaporeJewellers Little India SingaporeAmritsar restaurant Little India SingaporeLittle India residential apartments SingaporeLittle India colonial buildings Singapore

Sri Veeramakaliamman temple Indian gods design Singapore
Sri Veeramakaliamman temple, on Serangoon Road
Sri Veeramakaliamman temple Indian gods models
It’s a major tourist draw in Little India, but to most Indians — we’ve seen bigger
Shoe rack Sri Veeramakaliamman temple Indian Singapore
It was closed at this time

Akbar Anand employment agency Little India SingaporeMasjid Angullia Little India Singapore

Mustafa centre Little India Singapore
Went to the famous Mustafa Centre
Mustafa center Little India Singapore
Even though Mustafa Centre is famous for being open 24 hours, I consider it a lousy place for certain goods, especially as far as pricing goes (Read my 2010 experience)
Ananda Bhavan vegetarian restaurant Little India Singapore
You have enough vegetarian food available in this part of Singapore
Serangoon plaza Little India Singapore
I just walked around aimlessly hopping from one shopping centre to another

Little India market textile shops Singapore

Flour mill auto supply store Little India Singapore
It was time to find a place to eat
Azmi restaurant Norris road Little India Singapore
After checking out a few restaurants, I sat at this corner shop. You can buy beer from the Chinese vendor on the right and food from two other vendors on the left.
Mutton kheema chapathi Tiger beer Singapore
Had a few phulkas with mutton kheema & peas curry (and a beer). The whole meal cost less than SG$10.
Thye Chong restaurant Norris road Singapore
This is the place

Little India alley Singapore

Little India white building windows pattern Singapore
I walked back to the MRT station
Gandhi restaurant Little India Singapore
This place seemed really popular as there was a long queue for takeaways
Shree Lakshminarayan temple Little India Singapore
Shree Lakshminarayan temple

Colourful buildings Little India Singapore

No durian sign MRT Singapore
‘No Durian’ – popular fruit in Singapore, but not allowed in public transportation! 🙂
Back alley pubs boat quay Singapore
I decided to enter the circuit via Gate 5 as I figured the lines would be smaller than the more easily accessible Gate 4
Gate 5 entrance Singapore F1 circuit
I made it just before 3pm and I was right, the queue wasn’t that long

Singapore skyscrapers Marina Bay headquartersAs soon as the gates opened and the security check was done, I began to run. Because so did many other youngsters! And by youngsters, I mean Linkin Park fans!

Line for Linkin Park Padang Singapore
Because this was the scene just 10 minutes past 3 ‘o’ clock. Two lines had already formed on either side!
F1 concerts Fanzone wristbands Singapore gp
Luckily, I got my Fanzone wristband! Woo-hoo!
Fanzone section Padang concert Linkin Park Singapore gp
Some people were already queuing to get as close to the stage as possible
Linkin Park concert line Singapore F1
Just shows how popular Linkin Park is!
LG Cinema 3d tv booth Singapore F1
I didn’t really have anything on my agenda, so I checked out LG’s booth where they were showcasing their 3D Tvs
LG booth babes Chinese model Singapore GP
I checked out the demos and left. (That model is really pretty isn’t she?)

Instead of wasting time, I decided to go all the way up to Avalon Club at Marina Bay Sands to find out when The Chemical Brothers were set to hit the stage for the F1 After Party tonight. The Linkin Park concert was surely going to end past midnight and I didn’t want to miss The Chemical Brothers. After all, I paid good money to see these both these acts!

Walking to Avalon club Singapore
I took the MRT and then walked to the club
Avalon club Chemical Brothers Singapore
I saw two guys who resembled Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons (a.k.a The Chemical Brothers) but I couldn’t go up closer as they were testing the visuals and the sound. I at least felt good knowing I could expect a good set tonight!

I asked around the club when The Chemical Brothers would take the stage for their set but no one could give me a definite answer. They guessed it would be after midnight, and well after the race.

The reason I came all way to Avalon Club is because when I tried calling them earlier, no one answered. I had good reason for concern. When I tried visiting their Facebook fanpage yesterday, it had been deleted. I wanted to know how Friday night’s party (LMFAO and Ludacris) went but there was nothing! (Avalon has a new page now with a different Facebook url)

Marina Bay sailing Singapore
I left Avalon Club with the notion I may be able to catch The Chemical Brothers in time tonight

Sail boats Marina Bay Sands dock Singapore

Marina Bay Sands The Shoppes mall interiors Singapore
Stepped inside The Shoppes for some air conditioning
Marina Bay MRT station Singapore
I took the MRT back to City Hall
St. Andrews cathedral church Singapore
I decided to go inside St. Andrews Cathedral as I passed by it so many times but never went in
Chinese fish St. Andrews cathedral pond Singapore
The Asian touch
St Andrews cathedral prayer hall Singapore
Christianity is the second most widely practiced religion in Singapore after Buddhism

St. Andrews cathedral glass art Singapore

Zone 4 grandstand Singapore F1 circuit
By 5:40pm, I went back in
Earth Collide Thai band Singapore F1 concert
A Thai band called Earth Collide were playing at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre

Earth Collide Thai band Singapore gp concertBoat cruise Marina Bay Merlion Singapore

Marina Bay Sands hotel Artscience panorama
Marina Bay Sands was gleaming in the afternoon sun
Marina Bay Sands skypark Singapore
Took out my 70-200mm lens again

Artscience museum afternoon sunlight Singapore

Singapore evening by the bay
The sun was about to set
Concert by the bay next performance Singapore
I waited for the Forbidden Broadway show to begin
Drivers parade on screen Singapore gp
But just then, the F1 drivers parade began
Drivers parade Singapore F1 Sunday race
I rushed back to Esplanade Drive and raised my camera over a barricade to try and get a clear shot
Rubens Barrichello drivers parade Singapore F1
Rubens Barrichello
Jenson Button drivers parade Singapore F1 raceday
UK’s Jenson Button
Sebastian Vettel drivers parade Singapore F1 raceday
And the obvious guy to win the race — Sebastian Vettel

I went back to the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre where the Forbidden Broadway show had began.

Forbidden Broadway show Singapore F1
New York’s longest running off-Broadway musical comedy revue parodies popular Broadway shows
New York off-broadway Lion King spoof
Like ‘The Lion King,’ which ironically, was playing right behind them at the Marina Bay Sands theater
Forbidden Broadway Singapore show Lion King spoof
They ripped Walt Disney for its corporatization of Broadway and invading live theatre with their successful film franchises
Lion King spoof Forbidden Broadway Singapore
It was pretty funny
Ariel Little Mermaid Forbidden Broadway Singapore F1 show
Even Ariel, The Little Mermaid, wasn’t spared
Avenue Q Forbidden Broadway Singapore show
Next up was Avenue Q (Poor Elmo, what did they do to him!)
Forbidden Broadway puppets Singapore F1
Shows using puppets were ridiculed next
Mary Poppins spoof Forbidden Broadway Singapore
Oh god…
Mary Poppins spoof Singapore F1 show
Mary Poppins! Another Disney franchise that was made into a Broadway show.
Les Miserables spoof Forbidden Broadway Singapore
Next up, the long-running Les Miserables
Les Mis spoof Forbidden Broadway Singapore
The actors were funny, but they were great performers and singers too
Phantom of the Opera spoof Forbidden Broadway Singapore F1
‘Phantom of the Opera’
Wicked spoof Forbidden Broadway Singapore

Even though I had never seen a Broadway musical live, I still got most of the jokes. After all, if you watch enough Glee or follow popular culture, one would have found this show funny. I enjoyed it, it was good change from the usual concerts.

Floating stage Mambo Jambo Singapore F1
I caught up with my friend Niranjan who had also flown down from Bangalore for the Singapore F1
Marina Bay Sands hotel ArtScience museum F1 night
We just sat by the bay and took a break from the heat
Marina Bay Sands F1 car lasers Singapore GP
Marina Bay Sands had laser F1 cars going up the towers
Esplanade drive crowd Singapore F1 raceday
We walked back to Esplanade drive
Mithun Divakaran Niranjan Singapore
Me and Niranjan (Photo was taken by his wife)

I parted ways with Niranjan and we agreed to catch up after the race. I decided to watch the race for a bit.

2011 Singapore F1 starting grid
The 2011 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix was a go!
Zone 4 Grandstand Singapore F1 Sunday race
I walked to the overhead staircase near the Zone 4 grandstand to get a better view
Zone 4 grandstand Singapore F1 circuit
Mind you, blocking the stairs to take photos isn’t allowed
Zone 4 seating from staircase Singapore F1
Also, I wasn’t the only cheapskate tried to get to a better view, there were quite a few
Singapore F1 zone 4 grandstand race day
I didn’t stay on the bridge for long, just took these photos and left
Zone 4 walkabout Singapore F1 circuit
I walked to another vantage point
Singapore Grand Prix circuit turn
I mounted my 70-200mm lens again
Force India F1 car Singapore GP
Bends are probably the best spots to snap these cars, because that’s where they actually ‘slow’ down
Ferrari racing Singapore F1 car
And when I mean ‘slow down’, I mean taking turns at 90-100kmph
Air Asia racing F1 Lotus car Singapore GP
I shot these hand held over the photographers who had placed themselves right in front and set up their tripods
Red Bull racing Singapore grand prix F1 race day
Red Bull Racing has had an amazing 2011 season so far

I got bored and walked back to the concert ground. My opinion about watching an F1 race remains the same. When I watched the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from a grandstand seat in 2010, at first the prospect of it sounded exciting — but it soon got very boring. Be it seated or even with these walkabout tickets, watching cars whizz by at speeds in excess of 100kmph gets boring pretty quick. Given how loud these cars are too, you can’t even hear the on-air commentary through the speakers until the cars fade away.

Crowds watching race Esplanade park Singapore F1
Watching a race on the big screen is any day better in my opinion. You get to see the cars better, hear the commentary and view multiple angles.

But the Singapore Grand Prix is an experience like no other. First of all, the city is the circuit! That too the impressive central business district, which looks even more impressive at night. They don’t set up most of the grandstands until a few days prior to the race week. It’s an event which really showcases Singapore’s glamour — something the government is really good at marketing.

Watching Singapore F1 race Padang stage
I went back to the concert grounds and watched the race on the screens there
Padang stage crowd watching race Singapore F1
It wasn’t that exciting a race anyway
Germany flag Singapore F1 crowd
As expected, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel won
Linkin Park Padang concert Singapore F1
With the race over, there was one final moment everyone was waiting for
Linkin Park concert Singapore show
One of my favourite bands, and one of the best bands that debuted in the last decade — Linkin Park!
Linkin Park concert Singapore GP 2011
Linkin Park hit the stage at around 10:45pm
Linkin Park Chester screaming Singapore F1 concert
Took out the big lens for a few close-ups
Chester Bennington Linkin Park live in Singapore
I don’t know how he does it every night, but Chester Bennington’s heavy vocals are amazing!
Chester Bennington Linkin Park Singapore F1 concert
His screaming especially! Undoubtedly one of the best rock vocalists out there!
Mike Shinoda Chester Mr Hahn Linkin Park live Singapore
From their early days when they mostly wore casual black, these days the members look very ‘grown up’ 🙂
Mike Shinoda Linkin Park concert Singapore
The unofficial leader of Linkin Park, Mike Shinoda, and resident DJ Joesph Hahn on the turntables
Linkin Park clapping hands Singapore concert
It was harder for me to take photos of the other members as they remained ‘in the shadows’
Dave Farrell Phoenix bassist Linkin Park Singapore concert
Bassist Dave “Phoenix” Farrell
Brad Delson guitarist Linkin Park Singapore concert
The rather quiet Brad Delson on lead guitar
Linkin Park white stage lights Singapore concert
Linkin Park were on the Asian leg of their ‘A Thousand Suns’ tour, so they played a lot of their new material along with all their hits from albums past

I didn’t record videos because I did enough of that at the Abu Dhabi concert. I wanted to enjoy the show this time, so I only took one video. Here’s “The Catalyst,” from one of my favorite Linkin Park albums:

Linkin Park live stage lights Singapore concert
It wasn’t easy for me to take photos surrounded by so many people, but I did my best
Chester Bennington on-screen Singapore concert
I had a blast seeing these guys again
Mike Shinoda guitar Linkin Park concert Singapore F1
This is why I love the Canon 70-200mm lens! Hardly needed to make any adjustments to this photo.
Mike Shinoda guitar Singapore concert
Mike Shinoda’s look reminded me of technology editor Joshua Topolsky (Yeah, what a geek am I right?)
Linkin Park Singapore F1 concert
The show lasted nearly one and half hours
Chester Bennington end of concert Singapore
Chester finally got to rest his vocal chords
Linkin Park end of concert Singapore
The band gave out guitar picks as usual
Rob Bourdon handing out drumsticks Linkin Park concert
Drummer Rob Bourdon finally came to the front of the stage

If you want to see the entire concert, this guy filmed it — but don’t assume the crowd was lousy based on that video. The crowd was much better on my side! It was a better crowd than at the Abu Dhabi concert, all thanks to the Zone 4 ticket prices which made it affordable for real fans of Linkin Park to come see them. Something the mostly younger fanbase couldn’t afford in Abu Dhabi.

For a band that has yet to perform in Bangalore, I feel quite privileged to have seen them twice. The setlist was slightly different (at least the order of songs) from the Abu Dhabi show late last year. Of course, in Abu Dhabi, I actually met Mike Shinoda in person! That luck didn’t repeat itself here in Singapore.

My 2011 Singapore F1 experience was finally over. I truly got my money’s worth! For SG$138 (Rs. 5000/$110/€83) I got to see Linkin Park, Shakira, a bit of Shaggy, 3/5th of K-pop supergroup BIG BANG, Charice, Rick Astley, an off-broadway show, samba dancers, etc. — and cars racing. Beat that for value! Had I not stepped out of the circuit to go around town with Aimee, I would have seen much more. The organizers definitely did a better job this year as far entertainment went. In 2010, they had a pregnant Mariah Carey headline on Sunday. Yeah, don’t ask. My friend Ramesh attended the race last year and he told me how bad it was!

I have my bets placed on Coldplay headlining the concert series in 2012 and even though I would love to go back to Singapore, the same Zone 4 Walkabaout ticket is now SG$178! :-/Update (10/02/2011): A day after this was pushed live, Maroon 5 has been announced as the headliners for Saturday. Now that a band is headlining one day, will it be a female artist like Rihanna or Madonna (or Katy Perry) headlining Sunday? (Please, no Britney!)

As I exited the concert grounds, I bumped into another friend from Bangalore who told me he attended the Friday party with LMFAO and Ludacris at the Avalon Club. He told me the experience wasn’t great. That… didn’t sound to good to me. None the less, I exited the circuit after catching up with Niranjan and his wife.

I said my goodbyes to them and took the MRT to Marina Bay, which was on its last journey for the night.

Marina Bay Sands light signals Singapore
I walked to the Avalon Club
Marina Bay Sands hotel shoppes night Singapore
The excitement I initially had for seeing The Chemical Brothers had wore off a bit. I was quite tired and I wondered if it was too much to attend this party as well.

As I entered the club, there was a sign outside stating an apology for Saturday night’s Sander van Doorn party — which was cancelled. This was yet another sign implying something wasn’t right about Avalon. It was too late for me to bail out though, I had no choice but to go in.

Once inside, I wasn’t too impressed. One, despite its exterior, the dance floor didn’t look that big for a big-name club. Two, what the hell is this?

Avalon Club smoke fog inside Singapore
I haven’t been to hundreds of clubs, but where have you seen this much smoke/fog?

It really irritated me. It’s as though the management didn’t want us to see if the DJ was even there! I made my way through the smoke and to the DJ stand, where there was no one playing a live set at the moment. I went upstairs because the smoke got nauseating after a while, plus it was really hard to see.

Avalon club Singapore F1 after race party
I still couldn’t see the stage from here, but at least I could breathe better

I ended up chatting with a few youth who had come down from Indonesia just to see The Chemical Brothers. We were excited and danced away when any Chemical Brothers track came on. An hour passed and after the popular tracks like “Star Guitar,” “Do It Again” and the epic “Hey Boy, Hey Girl,” I stopped dancing. The smoke machine was still on and I began to wonder if The Chemical Brothers were even performing live!

I bought my tickets for this gig with certain expectations. I wasn’t expecting Glastonbury-level of epicness inside a club, but the visuals are very much a part of The Chemical Brothers experience. When I visited the club earlier in the afternoon, they were running some visuals on the screen. As long as I was in the club, that screen didn’t even come on once! I felt so ripped off.

Avalon club fog machine Singapore
All I got was smoke & mirrors – quite literally

The Indonesians left after a while and I felt like leaving too. That is until I looked outside…

Heavy rain Singapore night Marina Bay
It was raining so heavily! For the past three days, it was sunny! It’s like the deal F1 organizers had struck with the rain gods ended as soon as the race was over.
Avalon Club inside VIP lounge Singapore
I was stuck inside the club. I had to wait until the rain subsided as I wasn’t carrying an umbrella — and the roads were a bit of a walk away.
Long chandelier Avalon club Singapore
Looked like they floors going a few level below the entrance

For something that was branded an ‘F1 After Party,’ I didn’t see many who even remotely looked like they were part of the major F1 teams. No drivers, nothing. Just a bunch of fat men who were ordering pricey vodka bottles and had Asian girls much younger to them on either arm. It wasn’t the crowd I was expecting for a Chemical Brothers gig.

Boy George DJ Avalon club Singapore
The smoke only subsided during Boy George’s set. His set was pretty good actually, but I was quite angry reaffirming myself all that smoke from earlier was to hide the fact The Chemical Brothers set wasn’t live!

It was nearing 3am, and I wanted to leave so badly. I didn’t care about the SG$83 I paid for this ‘party’ because I needed to get some sleep . I still had things to do before I left Singapore later in the evening of the 26th (which it already was). After Boy George ended his set and before the next DJ began his, I left. It was still drizzling, but I placed my handkerchief to cover my head. I was told by the staff at Avalon I could get taxis in front of the convention centre at Marina Bay Sands. I went through the Shoppes to the bus stop in front and waited.I showed my hand to many taxis that passed by, none of them stopped. Some were full, some were not — and there were quite a few of us in need of a ride home.

Fed up, I then walked to dropping point at the casino, to try my luck there. All the taxis that stopped here were already booked or weren’t taking any passengers. A bunch of Indians from Mumbai were frustrated and said if it were back in their city, they would have already gotten a rickshaw or a taxi in a matter of minutes. It’s true.

I was getting really angry at this point. It was still drizzling, I was wet and sleepy. Past 4am at this point, I then walked to the Marina Bay Sands hotel lobby hoping the reception could call me a taxi no matter what the cost. At the lobby, I was then shown to the dropping point where an snake-line had already formed, and where many like me were waiting an awful long time to get a taxi. An Italian woman who looked like model was frustrated at the notion of waiting this long to get a taxi at an “$8 billion hotel”! Couldn’t help but agree with her to an extent.

Many in line were fuming. Some tried the old ‘slip some money in the hands’ of staff to get an advantage, but the staff declined. But it didn’t matter. Some people saw that and started shouting at the staff over preferential treatment — even though the hotel employee didn’t show any. One taxi that did stop by demanded SG$500 from some Westerners who needed to go the airport. The taxi driver got a “Fuck off!” instead.

I stood there quietly, but very, very frustrated. Eventually I got fed up as the line wasn’t moving as fast as I hoped. I asked the staff when the MRT would open and he told me 5am. Fuming, I walked in the drizzle to the MRT station as it was only few minutes until 5am.

Got the first train, and finally reached Central mall. I didn’t take the overbridge, I just hopped over the divider and crossed the road. Yeah, I jaywalked, I didn’t care! I was so frustrated with how my night turned out after what until Avalon, was such a good day! Never going to make this mistake again. Another lesson learnt? Carry an umbrella at all time when in Singapore.

As soon as I got to my room, I took off my socks and slept. There was little else I was in the mood for.

Next Post:

Leaving Singapore, and discovering certain truths about this famous city state

Previous posts in the series:

Singapore 2011: Day 6 – F1 Saturday (Rick Astley, Shakira and Shaggy concerts)

Singapore 2011: Day 5 – Chinatown, F1 Friday (Charice, Seungri and GD&TOP concerts)

Singapore 2011: Day 4 – Marina Bay Sands Casino and views from the SkyPark observation deck

Singapore 2011: Day 3 – Bukit Timah and Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore 2011: Day 2 – Jurong Bird Park and… *ouch!*

Singapore 2011: Day 1 – Landing a second time; walking around CBD

Mithun Divakaran with Rick Astley Singapore F1

Singapore: Day 6 – F1 Saturday (Rick Astley, Shakira and Shaggy concerts)

Date: September 24th, 2011

Today started real slow. Got up… I don’t know when, had breakfast at the hostel and just chatted with the other guests staying at River City Inn.

I only stepped out in the afternoon to meet up with my friend Aimee and her fiance for lunch. After much pondering, we sat down at a seafood restaurant on Boat Quay.

Alex Presto Aimee Marie boat quay lunch Singapore
Alex and Aimee
Alex Presto Aimee Marie boat quay restaurant
Don’t remember what the conversation was about
Haven lobster seafood restaurant Boat Quay Singapore
Haven Lobster & Seafood restaurant is where we sat
Mithun Divakaran spring rolls chopsticks Singapore
Feasting commenceth!

Mithun Divakaran Alex Presto Chinese lunch Singapore

Aimee Marie Alex Presto lunch Boat Quay Singapore
This was just the appetizer
Chinese chilli fish Boat quay Singapore
We had this fish next, which was alright
Singapore chilli crab Boat Quay seafood restaurant
I finally got to eat some Singapore chilli crab — pretty much the city state’s most famous dish
Singapore chilli crab after
Had it with some white rice. It was yum.

It was a nice lazy lunch as I was in no hurry to enter the F1 circuit and didn’t care much for collecting today’s Fanzone passes like I did yesterday. I felt relaxed with tummy full and sipping on chilled beer. Well, relaxed until the bill came. I knew the chilli crab was pricey but I was willing to pay for it beforehand. The fish you see above cost SG$88 (Rs. 3,400) — which we felt was a ripoff as it wasn’t even that tasty! It was the price we had to pay for making the mistake of not finding out the cost before ordering.

Alas, we paid our SG$300 (Rs. 11k/$240/€180) bill — the most expensive meal I’ve had on this trip so far.

Seafood restaurants Boat Quay Singapore afternoon
I wouldn’t rate where we ate as the best in terms of taste. I’m sure there must be better in Singapore, or even here at Boat Quay.
Alaskan king crab forum seafood Singapore restaurant
The Alaskan king crab — way, way more expensive than what I just ate
Mud crabs Alaskan aquarium Boat Quay Singapore
Plenty of seafood available here — but given the location, expect to pay way more than inner Singapore

Victorian London Pub Penny Black boat quay SingaporeI parted ways with Aimee and her fiance, and made my way in to the F1 circuit.

Singapore parkour boys practicing
Some boys were doing a bit of parkour practice
Singapore boys parkour jumps Marina Bay
I wonder if these guys come here every weekend. Felt like asking them if the building’s management objects to this French import being practiced here.

It was 4:30pm, but I still walked straight to the Padang grounds to see if the Fanzone passes were still available.

Padang ground F1 Saturday fanzone Singapore
Guess what! They still had a few left 😛

Trouble is, I didn’t know what to do to pass time now. There was nothing on the schedule for Zone 4 I was very keen on witnessing, except for the Rick Astley gig.

Alfero gelato ice cream Singapore gp

Singtel booth F1 Saturday Singapore
The SingTel booth was busy as ever
Singtel booth formula one car simulators Singapore GP
I felt like having a go at one of these simulators but you needed to sign up a form first. Thought I’d do it later.
Taking underpass to Esplanade theatres Singapore
Decided to take the underpass to get to the Esplanade side of the track

Way to Esplanade theatres underpass

Basement parking The Esplanade theatres underpass Singapore
Quite a basement

Esplanade theatres escalator lobby Singapore

Singapore F1 circuit Esplanade view
This is in front of the Esplanade
Singapore F1 Esplanade drive zone 4 stands
The JK Racing first race was taking place
Esplanade drive Singapore F1 race stands
I walked to the stands

JK Racing Saturday qualifier race Singapore gp

Esplanade drive F1 stands zone 4 Singapore GP
They have quite a few viewing platforms here
Singapore skyline JK racing Saturday race
Since it’s an elevated platform, the views are better

Viewing stands Singapore F1 Esplanade driveSingapore Marina Bay Sands hotel view from Esplanade drive

Walking to Theatres by the Bay Esplanade Singapore
I walked to where Rick Astley was going to be performing
Colours by the Bay Esplanade Singapore
You have bars and eateries by the Esplanade Waterfront
Panda suits Esplanade restaurant Singapore
As seen at a restaurant here
Zone 3 Bay grandstand seats Singapore F1
This is the end for Zone 4 ticket holders, that over there is the Zone 3 Bay grandstand
Sunlight ray through clouds Singapore Marina Bay
Good weather today

Singapore marina bay skyline from Esplanade bay

Man sleeping Marina Bay Singapore afternoon
For some, it was quite a relaxing setting
Amphitheatre by the bay stage Singapore
It was 5pm
Apmhitheatre by the bay concert stage Singapore
The Rick Astley gig was in an hour’s time
Amphitheater by the bay seating Singapore
But I still sat down to reserve myself a good spot
Amphitheatre audience Rick Astley concert Singapore
…because by 6pm, this was the scene
Marina Bay Sands skypark observation deck Singapore
I took out my 70-200mm zoom lens
Merlion park evening Singapore
I would be using this lens throughout the concert
Rick Astley band backup singer Singapore concert
By 6, the band got on stage
Rick Astley band playing Singapore concert
The music began…
Rick Astley entering stage Singapore F1 concert
…and from the side of the stage walked a man with a deep baritone voice

You can watch the video of his entrance here.

Rick Astley Merlion Singapore concert
Rick Astley began the concert with his number 1 hit “Together Forever”
Rick Astley singing Singapore concert Marina stage
Rick Astley still had his distinct voice — which sounded great even at age 45
Rick Astley fan Singapore concert
The 80’s pop idol posed with fans while he sang
Rick Astley winking Singapore concert
Rick had a fantastic sense of humour too
Rick Astley drinking water Singapore concert
Like when he complained about the heat in Singapore and really wished he had some cold beer
Rick Astley looking at watch Singapore GP concert
Poor Rick wonder how much longer he had to be on stage in this humidity, because the organizers denied his request to serve him alcohol on stage. The audience booed.
Rick Astley fan giving beer Singapore concert
But then came this damsel, with a glass of beer, to Rick’s rescue!
Rick Astley drinking beer Singapore concert
Rick Astley beer bottle Singapore concert
The organizers finally relented and gave Rick some beer… in this bottle. Which Rick and the crowd agreed looked like something else 🙂
Rick Astley concert audience Singapore F1
Even though not everybody in the audience was familiar with Rick Astley’s songs, it was still a fun atmosphere
Rick Astley with back up singer Singapore concert
Heck, even I only knew “Together Forever” and his biggest hit “Never Gonna You Give You Up”
Rick Astley on stage Singapore F1 concert
After all, had it not been for an internet prank, Rick Astley wouldn’t have seen a resurgence in popularity

That prank being the “Rick-roll”. Basically it works like this: “Hey, check out this amazing video of me doing the splits while juggling!” And if you opened that link to watch the video, you just got “Rick-rolled”.

Rick Astley singing Singapore F1 grand prix concert
The British singer entertained us for over one and half hours, despite the heat!

Rick Astley ended his concert with the song everybody knew (okay, some still didn’t — they probably don’t spend too much time on the internet I presume). He even brought on a special guest for “Never Gonna Give You Up”…

Rick Astley Eddie Jordan drumming Singapore F1 concert
… racing supremo Eddie Jordan on drums!

(You can watch the final performance of Rick Astley’s set here)

Rick Astley Eddie Jordan Singapore concert
Eddie left the stage, and so did Rick soon after

It was a fun concert. Rick Astley knew the cheesiness of his 80’s pop music in today’s times but he didn’t mind indulging in the campiness of it all. After the concert, as I packed my bags, there were many middle-aged women in the audience who all spoke of how young they suddenly felt seeing their teenage idol perform. Rick Astley was a nice addition to the Singapore GP’s entertainment line-up.

Rick Astley tshirt Singapore
The Rick-roll internet meme has inspired clothing prints too
Rick Astley band backstage Singapore concert
Rick Astley was busy with photographs
Rick Astley with fans backstage Singapore gp
Rick then posed with a lot of fans/random people in attendance

Here’s a brief video I took:

I was pretty close to him and I just wanted to shake Rick Astley’s hand and tell him he still sounded amazing, but there were more ‘real fans’ eager to have a few seconds with him, so I stepped back, let them take my place and I walked back to the F1 circuit.

Marina Bay Sands ArtsScience museum at night panorama
The guests staying at Marina Bay Sands could watch the race from the Skydeck
Marina Bay Sands skydeck watching F1 Singapore gp
Though at that height the F1 cars must look like slot cars
Esplanade Drive standing platforms Saturday night Singapore gp
The Saturday practice session was going on
F1 car barricades Singapore grand prix
This was the Esplanade Drive straight stretch
Petronas F1 car Singapore GP race
I tried my best to freeze frame but these were F1 cars — it’s no joke how fast these things go on a straight stretch
Esplanade drive barricaded track at night Singapore F1
But I got to see how the professionals photograph an F1 race. You see that section to the right?
FIA photographer taking photos Singapore F1 race
There’s an opening, through which authorized photographers can take photos
FIA photographer taking photos Singapore gp
Like so!
Singapore F1 night race Esplande drive track
There’s also better lighting where he’s taking photos from — and no barricades covering the view
Marina Bay Sands at night from bridge Singapore
Odd looking building, but looks impressive at night none the less
ArtScience museum at night Singapore Marina
The ArtScience museum
2011 Singapore F1 crowds Esplanade drive
I decided to head back to the Padang grounds
Singapore F1 track Esplanade Drive
The practice session had just ended
Esplanade theatre dome Singapore at night
I went back to the Esplanade theatre to take the underpass

As I took the escalator down to the basement parking, I saw a familiar looking man taking a photo of a blonde woman posing with one of the security men.

Rick Astley taking photo Singapore Esplanade
Rick Astley Mithun Divakaran Singapore F1
So, in the end, I still got to shake Rick Astley’s hand and compliment his voice. Mithun Divakaran, officially ‘Rick-rolled’ in Singapore!
Singapore gp Saturday crowd
Everybody was heading towards the Padang stage for Shakira’s performance
Shakira concert Padang stage Singapore gp
I didn’t rush, I already had access to the Fanzone anyway
Singtel Singapore F1 Shakira concert stage
I didn’t bother trying to get too close to the stage today
Shakira Singapore F1 Saturday concert
The sexy Colombian singer hit the stage just after 8:30pm
Shakira band performing Singapore gp concert
Shakira had a pretty big band to back her up
Shakira jumbotron Singapore concert
Quite straight away, Shakira got down to ‘business’ — much to all the whistles from the audience
Shakira Singaporean girls concert Singapore F1
During her performance of “Whenever, Wherever,” Shakira brought up on stage a few Singaporean girls
Shakira hip dancing on stage Singaporean girls F1 concert
And she taught them how to shake their hips

Shakira Singaporean girls Singapore F1 concert

Shakira guitar on stage Singapore F1 concert
Despite her visual appeal, there’s no doubt Shakira has a myriad of talents. She even performed a mellow(er) version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”.
Shakira on the ground drummer Singapore F1 concert
But it wasn’t long before she was back to writhing about on stage and doing chest thrusts
Shakira dancing Singapore F1 concert
Lots of flamenco and belly dancing
Shakira music singing Singapore F1 concert
Shakira sang a lot of her Spanish songs, which I didn’t mind. I figured she was saving her English hits for later.

Shakira sexy Singapore gp Padang concert

Shakira dancers Singapore F1 concert
Shakira went through a couple of costume changes

Shakira stage visuals Singapore F1 concert

Shakira silhouette Singapore F1 concert
Another dress change later…
Shakira belly dancing Singapore concert
… Shakira returned to perform the first song I ever heard from her — “Ojos Asi”. It still ranks as my favourite Shakira song!
Shakira on stage Singapore concert
Shakira got a lot of love from her truly global audience

Shakira singing Singapore concert 2011Shakira concert screen visual Singapore gp

Shakira bending belly dancing Singapore F1
More sultry dancing
Shakira singing Singapore F1 concert
… and then back to singing
Shakira Hips Don't Lie performance Singapore F1 concert
When it came time for “Hips Don’t Lie,” we didn’t get Wyclef Jean but a guy who looked like him to sing the “Shakira, Shakira” bit
Shakira Waka Waka visuals Singapore concert
As soon as this came on, everybody cheered… because we knew what time it was
Shakira waka waka dance Singapore concert
“Waka waka” time!
Shakira waka waka concert Singapore F1
Even though the 2010 World Cup is more than year over, this song remains wildly popular
Confetti Shakira concert end Singapore F1
It was the last song Shakira performed

As Shakira left the stage, her latest hit “Rabiosa” came on the speakers — which sucked, because I expected her to perform it, in either English or Spanish! She didn’t perform many other hits like “Did It Again” or “Objection (Tango),” so it wasn’t a full fledged concert. Who knows, maybe Shakira had to be at some other event.

Singtel booth simulator car Singapore
I decided to try out the F1 simulator at the SingTel booth
Waiver liability form Singapore F1 car simulator
But first I needed to sign a liability form — just in case anything happens (to me)
Singtel F1 car simulator Singapore gp booth
Fortunately I got in just in time. It was 10:30pm and they closed the booth.

The experience in the F1 car simulator was alright. You go around the Singapore Grand Prix track and experience the bumps, the breaking and the jerks that one experiences (when you drive badly :P).

Cameras people thronging samba dancers Singapore
As I left the SingTel booth, there were many clamouring to take photos of some dancers
Samba dancers at Singapore F1
It was a group of Brazilian Samba dancers
Brazilian samba dancers Singapore F1 performance
It wasn’t easy to photograph the girls. They were moving fast and many men were in front of me.
Brazilian samba dancing Singapore F1
So I just took overhead shots the best I could
Brazilian samba dancers Singapore F1
I had never seen hips being shaken so violently before! Forget what Shakira did on stage, this was the real deal!

For someone who ranks witnessing the Rio Carnival pretty high on his travel wishlist, it was a good experience to see real samba dancing in all its exotica. It’s like the organizers didn’t want to leave anything out as far as world-class entertainment went!

I had dinner from the circuit itself and went back to the Padang grounds for the final act in Saturday’s concert line-up.

Singapore Formula 1 Padang main stage
The artist closing out Formula One Saturday was none other than…
Shaggy Singapore F1 Saturday concert
… reggae star Shaggy(!) “Singapore, remember me?!”
Shaggy singer Singapore F1 concert
“No? Awww… come on!”
Shaggy concert Singapore
‘Mr. Bombastic’ performed all his hits from the 1990s including “Summer Time” & “Oh Carolina” before moving on to his 2000 singles “It Wasn’t Me” and “Angel”
Shaggy concert Singapore F1 2011
But as with all rap/urban artists, half the time it was shouting instructions: “Wave you hands!”, “Put ’em up!”, “Say ho-O!”, do this , do that! Ugh.
Shaggy mic in pants Singapore F1 concert
The way he ‘sang,’ it was as though you could sense his frustration about being ‘not so cool’ anymore
Shaggy backup singers bored Singapore Saturday concert
“Oh just give up Shaggy”
Shaggy reggae band Singapore F1 concert
He did try his best to energize the crowds
Singtel Singapore Padang concert Shaggy
But I had no energy left. It was another tiring day for me and I left the circuit past midnight.
South bridge lights at night Singapore
I walked back to the hostel and called it a night

Tomorrow was going to be the big day — the Sunday race, and Linkin Park!

Next posts:

Singapore 2011: Day 7 – Little India, F1 Sunday race, Linkin Park concert and Avalon Club

Leaving Singapore, and discovering certain truths about this famous city state

Previous posts in the series:

Singapore 2011: Day 5 – Chinatown, F1 Friday (Charice, Seungri and GD&TOP concerts)

Singapore 2011: Day 4 – Marina Bay Sands Casino and views from the SkyPark observation deck 

Singapore 2011: Day 3 – Bukit Timah and Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore 2011: Day 2 – Jurong Bird Park and… *ouch!*

Singapore 2011: Day 1 – Landing a second time; walking around CBD

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