Flying into Singapore on a Friday evening is invigorating. On the left of the plane, the city stands confident, bathed in light. Skyscrapers reach glass and steel fingers into the sky. On the right, in the dark bay, a vast flotilla of cargo ships, a hundred or more, form a queue waiting their turn to unload and collect at Singapore’s port. Their lights, flickering red and green resemble a long weekend motorway traffic jam.
The airport itself is a buzz of energy – shops and restaurants are open and busy serving staff and passengers. An orchid garden is signposted on the right, a food court further on. The aircon is cool, the directions clear, everyone is moving.
I find myself in the flow of people heading for the metro system and like neat little bottles on a conveyor belt we ride the escalators then find staff on hand to provide advice, assistance and even small change for the newly arrived.
The trains themselves are new, spotlessly clean, air conditioned and filled with a cosmopolitan crowd. Young super stylish kids play with i-Pods, phones and games, then stand for an old Chinese couple who lower themselves slowly onto their seats. Two Indian women, one in an iridescent sari reminiscent of a peacock’s tail, stand by the doors adding a touch of glamour to the carriage.
It’s midnight when I emerge into the heat in Chinatown, where I’m staying. Everything is open – stores, restaurants, bars. Music beats loud from storefronts and there’s a smell of incense in the air. People are browsing, eating, shopping, chatting; all calm, all relaxed, not a drunk or a burger wrapper in sight.
I think of what the same experience might be like arriving into Heathrow late on a Friday night and the contrast is a little shaming.