There's something somewhat unnerving about strapping yourself on top of two hundred and fifty million dollars and three hundred tonnes worth of aluminium, plastic and kerosene.
Surely you'd have to be mad to assume it's going to lift you off the ground, travel very close to the speed of sound, and have you a quarter of the way around the world in ten hours or so. It would make far more sense for it to run off the end of the runway into the ocean, or just simply explode when someone turns the key on.
But, on a daily basis, thousands of people around the world pay a small fortune and place their trust in the hands of scientists, aeronautical engineers and pilots, and in turn are rewarded with shoddy food, nausea, and punch-drunk jet-lag that makes any airport McDonald's seem like a sensible dining opportunity.
I'll make this very clear - I'm a useless traveller. Air hostesses take one look at me after a flight and don't bother to thank me for flying with them. Anything over six hours on an aircraft (or two hours if there are any small children within screaming range) and I'm absolutely at my wits end. Those Wright brothers should have stuck to repairing bicycles.
Still, a free trip is a free trip, and it's been twenty years since I spent any decent amount of time here. As I was nine at the time, most of my memories consist of being allowed to drink as much Coke as I wanted. My parents figured a small amount of decay was preferable to what the other end of your body was capable of if you drank local water too often, a noble maxim that I completely forgot during a brief visit in 2003 and paid the price for. Details of which will not be printed here.
In the end, the flight over was largely uneventful. I was actually most excited about getting to try the Phitek M14 noise-cancellation headphones I reviewed here a while back. They were actually better than I thought they'd be - I was sitting way down the back of the aircraft and they pretty much entirely eliminated the cabin noise.
It's just a shame that Singapore Airlines couldn't have invested a bit more in their in-flight entertainment, because watching a heavily edited version of Beowulf on a 5" LCD is hardly appealing, no matter how good your headphones are.
Although the flight was delayed by an hour leaving Auckland, we made pretty good time and landed around 8:30 pm local time after just over nine hours in the air. Changi airport was practically empty, so after checking out Duty Free and avoiding everything because it was more expensive than NZ retail, I managed to score a taxi and headed out to the hotel.
I'm not sure if all taxi drivers in Singapore are homicidal maniacs, but there is at least one. I think he must have set, and then broken the Diesel Land Speed Record at least three times during the trip, or at least from what I could see curled up in the foetal position in the back seat.
Although, to be fair, he did slow down after we lost the cops, but this act of charity was pretty much cancelled out by the near collision with a scooter. I suppose even riding a scooter on the pavement has its fair share of risk, although in most countries you wouldn't assume death by taxi to be one of them. The fare was cheap however, certainly cheaper than the admittance fee at a reputable Formula One event, and they don't let you ride along with them.
I had a few hours to kill this afternoon, so I headed out to Orchard Road (think Queen Street, but with moving cars) to check out the city scene. I've been to plenty of large cities before, so there's nothing really too shocking about the place, and at least the crime rate is pretty low.
I stopped in at a small supermarket in a mall, and there was a bottle of champagne sitting on the shelf priced at $350, so one would have to consider shop-lifting a dying industry. That's not meant as a pun, I believe it's only drugs they execute people for here.
I've heard all the stories about Singapore, how chewing gum is a Really Bad Thing, and how you'd be best not to litter anywhere or you'll get fined etc, but it doesn't seem to have helped the situation. Orchard Road was pretty filthy. I doubt you'd find wild cats pawing through rubbish out the front of any restaurant on Queen Street, but I wouldn't like to be quoted on that.
Still, they certainly know how to fleece tourists - I'd lost my USB lead for my digital camera, so I found an electronics store and expected to be amazed at the low prices, given that Singapore is supposed to set the way in cheap electronics prices. You're probably reading this on a computer with quite a few components made not very far from where I'm typing this right now, so with that in mind it was pretty appalling that the list price of $39 would only come down to $25 under some pretty intense bargaining.
But, without that greedy shop vendor in a seedy mall, next to "Ahmed's Fine Linen Emporium", I wouldn't be able to share with you the amateur shots I took of Singapore today.