I had tried to book a flight that I thought would cover the best arrival and departure times, but I’ve discovered that for a trip like this, that doesn’t matter. When you cross twelve time zones and rush through two shortened nights with only 2 hours sleep each, it really doesn’t matter what time of day you roll in.
And a 6 AM arrival was actually quite a treat. The plane slipped in quietly through light fog, with fishing boats drifting lazily in the harbor underneath us. Customs was empty. Baggage claim was easy (my usual habit of flying carry-on was foiled because my bag–though the right size–was too heavy, and the weight limit is now way down to almost nothing. Wonder what Rick Steves does about that?).
I got some Sing dollars, a phonecard and made my way to the Metro station for the slow, but cheap and scenic route to the hotel. Singapore has a clean and efficient metro, like most of the city. They have top-up cards that you only have to hold in your wallet as you pass through the turnstile. S’pore is also a very orderly society. If you eat or drink on the train, you can be fined up to $500 (at $1.30 to the US dollar), and for smoking, make it $1000.
At one of the Metro transfer stations you are admonished to walk on the left (it was once a British colony) and to not cross the yellow line, drawn on the floor, so that people pass each other in the crowded tunnels in an orderly manner. One thing about all the rules in Singapore–they are actually there for a good reason, and people do not seem the least bit put out. And when you see how clean the streets are and you manage to get on and off the train without being trampled, it seems like a good idea.
I rolled past parks with groups doing tai chi at sunrise, and enjoyed the melting pot of people headed into the city. Got a room with lovely surround-view windows on three sides, looking at the pool area and the nearby Clarke Quay dining and nightspot complex, but feared it would make it impossible to catch up on sleep before going to work on Monday, so I requested a switch to a room with a less engaging view, but much more privacy and comfort, and less of a “fishbowl” effect.
Singapore has all types of amenities for common folk that I’ve never seen in the West. Like heated mirrors that don’t steam up when you take a shower, and a lit-up sign that tells you where the public parking is located, with an up-to-the-second display of the exact number of available spaces:
And here’s one more thing: After getting settled in my new room, two staff members showed up at the door with a huge plate of fresh fruit and chocolate, proving that being a pain in the ass can work out if you are pleasant about it…