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|17th November 2008, 17:30||#1|
Senior - BHPian
The Historic Singapore Formula One Night Grand Prix
DAY ONE, 27th September 2008, 3:45 am (All times are local times)
The alarm beeped softly, hit the button, switched it off & sat up in bed. Had been suffering from insomnia the past couple of nights & it was no different this night as well. Stomach muscles were tight in anticipation & the excitement was building up! It was finally happening - we were going to Singapore to be part of history, to watch the FIRST EVER Formula One night race!!
Woke my wife up & she in turn went to get the kids up & about. An hour later, fresh & showered, we were on our way to IGI. Singapore Airlines flight was at 8 am, we checked in & made our way to the Clipper lounge (courtesy my Krisflyer Gold membership & my wife's Mastercard Goldcard access) where we relaxed for the next hour & a half. Boarding announced, we took our seats.......seat belts fastened, aircraft started taxiing bang on schedule, we were airborne on the dot of 8 (so typical of SQ which is why I love them) & on our way we were with anticipation & excitement in the pits of our stomachs.
Singapore, here we come!!!
But hang on, let’s rewind a bit........
IT STARTED A YEAR AGO......
Although I have been a Formula One buff for as long as I can remember, my kids (more my daughter) started getting interested just a few years back. My wife has been a passive participant throughout our married life but she'd never really sat down & watched a full race on Star Sports. In late 2006, I was toying with the idea of actually going & watching a race & this resulted in us making our way to Kuala Lumpur in April 2007 to watch the Sepang F1 GP. And that's what got all of us hooked!
Trust me (and those of you who’ve been there will agree with me), NOTHING, yes, NOTHING can quite prepare you for Live Formula 1 - the sight of those cars up close & the awesome, ear-splitting sound of those engines & the adrenalin pumping excitement of actually being there is simply unbeatable. So after soaking in the Sepang GP experience in April, come June, I was already thinking of where to head in 2008. A couple of months down the line, we heard that the FIRST NIGHT RACE IN HISTORY was scheduled for Singapore in 2008 & BINGO, it seemed like the destination had been decided for us!
But I hadn't expected the kind of throat slitting Hotel tariffs that Singapore had in store for us. It was unbelievable! Every Hotel was quoting 3 to 5 times as much as the normal tariffs - it didn't matter if you had Gold or Silver membership of the Hotel rewards program, you had to shell out big time. Hilton had blacked out that period so I couldn't encash my free nights, same with Intercontinental. Looking at the overall cost, gloom was descending on us - would we have to ditch our plans??????? But stubborn me decided that - come hell or high water, we would make the trip, even if it meant that we would have to severely restrict all other expenditure for the rest of the year.
So, set up the Asiatravel quick search page on my "Favorites" & kept checking out five times a day for the best possible rates; kept calling some of the Hotels that I'd used in the past to see if I could beat them down. Checked out my miles on SQ to see how many free tickets I could manage. Asked my agent to book 4 tickets on Jet Ariways as well (since they were working out almost the same for 4 tickets as SQ's 2 tickets). And so the process continued. To cut a long, long story short, I eventually booked Holiday Inn Park View (where we had stayed earlier), they gave us the best deal compared to all the others (even though it was 3 times as much as what we'd paid earlier) & threw in Breakfast for all 4 of us free. Then I booked Singapore Airlines (since Fuel Surcharge on Jet had shot up by then, thereby overpricing that option) and we were finally good to go.
Oh & did I mention the Race tickets? Like all else, it was rip-off time for those as well! Logged in bright & early on the day it opened, just to make sure that I got the "best of the cheapest" so to speak but it was not to be! The buggers had a whole lot of server issues on the first day - I thought I'd hit gold in my first attempt but the freakin server HUNG!!! Thereby timing me out! When I managed to get back in, the message said that Grandstand was "SOLD OUT". So I was like....and then. Sorrowfully went for the next cheapest one - told the folks that we'd have to skip dinner for a couple of months to make it up. LOL. But then, I guess most chances to become a part of history don't come cheap, do they?!
Anyway, enuf said, back to Day One now.......
DAY ONE, 26th September 2008, 4 pm onwards
Ladies & Gentlemen, welcome to Changi Airport......
I don't know why but I really like Singapore. A lot of people including colleagues, friends & acquaintances have told me that they find Singapore clinical, antiseptic & just plain boring. But I love it for its discipline, its street food & the orderliness that you find displayed everywhere. Its one of the few places where we've dared to used the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) extensively, criss crossing from one end to another in a combination of trains & buses. Not once have we got confused. Or lost.
(Perhaps it’s the only place in the world where I would probably accept an offer of employment outside my country. The fact that no one's made me an offer is another matter altogether!)
So, off the aircraft, to immigration, switch on Mobile & receive great news - All Incoming calls free if you log on to Singtel.
Well, well, well, an auspicious start! As usual, immigration is a breeze despite quite a few flights having arrived - as always, by the time we reach the baggage carousel, our LARGE Black suitcase has also arrived. Through the doors & into the arrival area, head out towards the Taxi queue. And then, I'm like What the hell - something I've never seen before, a FOUR LANE deep queue for Taxis!!!!!! Jeez, is this because of the F1 rush? Ominous! Kids are hungry so off they go with wife to grab a McD, the queue moves forward, all of a sudden, a whole lot of cabs arrive, the queue clears & we are on our way to the Hotel. Hmmm, not bad after all. Son was going ga-ga over the number of Subaru's that we saw on the way coupled with Bimmers, Mercs, Supras & what-have-you. Cab driver told us that the shortage of cabs was due to an accident that had taken place somewhere leading to a massive traffic jam.
A short ride later, we arrive at our Hotel which is on Cavenagh Road, just off Orchard Road. Excellent place for a family, within shouting distance of all the shopping malls that you can think of.
Welcome back Mrs & Mr Dutt & children, how are you all this afternoon? You are here for the Formula One, right?
Yes, that's what we are here for
Great, my colleague will show you to your room, we've given you a Park View one as requested
Good beginning! We followed her up & found that they had given us a HUGE corner room. strategically located & with a great view. Completed the check in formalities in the room, in the meantime, our luggage arrived. Five minutes later, there was a knock & in came one of the ladies carrying the ingredients for the welcome drink. She expertly shook, mixed & juggled the contents of the various canisters & rustled up a couple of Singapore Slings for us & the Non-alcoholic variety for the kids. Wow, we were bowled over with the warm welcome!
But now it was time for us to head to the track to watch the Free Practice Sessions. So we unpacked a bit, freshened up, changed & made our way through the familiar lanes onto Orchard road. Brisk walk to the Orchard Road MRT station, quick purchase of 4 Ezlink cards (usable on all trains & some buses) & we were ready to go to our destination - City Hall. So, train arrives, we hop in like we've been doing it every day of our lives & off we go (I can safely say that I will be far more apprehensive using the Delhi or Kolkata Metros).
(Somewhere in between, Tifosikrishna called on my Mobile - he had been casing the track out for a couple of days to find the best vantage point. As we found out later, coincidentally, it was bang opposite our Grandstand. Its a small world - and you have a T Bhpian in every corner!)
As we get off the train at City Hall, the excitement builds up again. It’s been almost a year & a half since we heard the scream of an F1 car & we're about to hear it again! YIPPEE! Signs all across the subway tell us which direction we should head towards to get to OUR entry gates. Follow the crowds, follow the instructions & then we're out of the City Hall station & in the open. The time is a little after 7 pm.
And then, we hear it.........a distant high pitched whine which grows louder...and louder....and then becomes a scream....hits you deep in your guts, in the middle of your stomach.
Hey - the first of the cars are out on track! Let’s rush!!!
Nah, hang on, lemme see if I can get a pic through this gap
On second thoughts, lets go, we have some distance to walk yet
So we continue walking, down through another subway, up the steps & out in the open again & approaching our Gate, all the while the screaming F1 engines are roaring by.
(Sigh)This is what the good life is all about
There, that's our Grandstand - Marina
Hmmm, nice location, lets go up
So that was our perch for the next three hours or so, punctuated by a light dinner break. As most of you know already, the Singapore track is a street circuit that runs in & around the Marina Bay-Suntec City area. It’s a beautiful setting (similar to Monaco, Monte Carlo) what with the harbour & everything else. Thoroughly enjoyed what we saw going by in front of us & we also had a giant screen bang opposite us where we saw the action going on in the rest of the circuit. The ambience was incredible & I cannot really describe it. The cars were looking really gorgeous under the lights, the crowds were enjoying themselves & the Singapore skyline was looking awesome. We had the giant Singapore Flyer on our left, the harbour across the track & it was such an experience that words cannot do justice to it. Since our Grandstand had Turn 15 just before & Turn 16 just after it, the cars had to slow down from really high speeds & we got a good view as they flashed by in front of us. They were much closer than we'd seen them in Sepang but that being a dedicated race track, we had a panoramic view of a large portion of the track whereas this was a street circuit so you couldn't see beyond your immediate line of sight (except on the screen).
Now, it was soon after that I made the excruciating discovery that my archaic Point & Shoot camera (Canon Powershot A85) was completely useless for capturing race action at night under the lights. By the time the shutter clicked, the cars were three corners ahead. I can laugh now but it was mighty frustrating at that time LOL. So I told my daughter to keep capturing whatever she could on the video. Could have killed myself for not having bought a camera before the trip but in hindsight now, I'm glad I hadn't because it would have been a rush-rush job. And things done in a hurry are, based on my experience, quite unsatisfactory at times.
So, one measly snap of my favorite car
& one measly snap of my not-so-favorite car are all I have to show from Day one
Well, it had been a long day & the excitement & the adrenalin pumping had taken its toll. We decided to skip the latter part of the 2nd Free Practice Session (which was from 9.30 to 11 pm) & headed back to the Hotel. Pleasant surprise in the room - complimentary "Survival Kits" for the 4 of us; these consisted of ear plugs & single use raincoats (since chances of rain were high at that time of the year). These were selling at the track for S$ 2 each but it was not about the cost but more the thoughtfulness displayed by the Hotel. As we saw over the course of the next couple of days, they went out of the way to make us feel comfortable & made sure that we'd go back in future. Bloody Hilton should learn a lesson or two from them!
So, freshen up, change, switch off lights, climb into bed (they'd set up two BIG Queen sized beds, each accommodated two of us with a bit of room to spare), animated discussions, first warning, more animated discussions, FINAL warning, YAAWWWNN and then............zzzzzzz.
End of Day One
(to be continued.....)
Last edited by suman : 17th November 2008 at 17:41.
|17th November 2008, 17:45||#2|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Feb 2007
Thanked: 22 Times
Grabs up a packet of Lays, some diet cokes and sits in couch!!
Looking forward for the great pictorial, Let them come Suman !!
|17th November 2008, 22:26||#6|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Dec 2007
Thanked: 216 Times
Hey, that was a nice start. I liked the style of writing this. Keep it coming.
|17th November 2008, 22:37||#7|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Mumbai, India
Thanked: 192 Times
Bring it on suman. This sounds like fun. Waiting for an interesting travelogue from you
|17th November 2008, 23:50||#9|
Join Date: Oct 2005
Thanked: 352 Times
Suman, that is a wonderful narration. Waiting to hear your side of the story. As they say, pictures speaks a 100 words.... (quality of suman's narration is too good, that's why) here are some fillers to pass time before suman resumes....
|18th November 2008, 10:01||#11|
Join Date: Oct 2008
Thanked: 20 Times
@Suman : Simply Stunning!! The way you narrate it is exquisite man !!
Waiting for more!!!!
|18th November 2008, 10:06||#12|
Senior - BHPian
Thanks everyone, Day Two coming up in a while.......
|18th November 2008, 10:12||#13|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Oct 2004
Thanked: 1,655 Times
Whoooaaahhh!!! Long time coming...
Fantastic Narration by Suman and stunning pics by KK......This is gonna be some travelogue....
Keep it going guys !!! cheers:
Last edited by kpzen : 18th November 2008 at 10:14.
|18th November 2008, 12:07||#14|
Senior - BHPian
The Fun continues......
DAY TWO - 27th September 2008
We'd decided to avoid extensive sightseeing & shopping on this trip and concentrate more on the racing. But we did want to complete those portions of Sentosa etc that we'd missed out on our last Singapore holiday. So, the plan for the day was - Sentosa, back to the Hotel, some quick shopping, back to the Hotel & then off to the track for the 3rd Free Practice session (if time permitted) & the Qualifying.
We set off after a leisurely breakfast & did the usual drill - Orchard Road MRT to Harbour Front, a short walk to the Bus terminal, hop on to the Sentosa Special & make our way there. The Plan was to cover the Merlion, the Skytower & the Cable Car which we had not done last time. And a special request from the kids to do Underwater World again. We found a few changes (for the better) had been made in the arrival & departure area - took me a while to figure out though. Then we started on our tour. Some pics -
The Magnificent Merlion
View of the Harbour
The Tiger Skytower, Asia's tallest free standing observation tower. You get in at ground level & then it gently revolves up 360 degrees to a height of 131 metres above sea level.
Breathtaking & panoramic views on the way up & down & at the top
Then it was time to go down to earth & then make our way to the Cable Car station for another awesome ride across the waters & back
By now, our stomachs were beginning to growl so made our way to one of the Food Courts where we grabbed Hot Dogs, Burgers, French fries & something to cool our parched throats. It was quite humid as well. We were greeted by the sight of these wonderful specimens, some of them sunning themselves & others roaming around, pecking at anything they thought was palatable. Couple of them even tried out some fries
Stomachs fed & eyes satiated, we walked across to the Underwater World, Asia's largest oceanarium. There is this moving travellator that takes you through an 83 metre acrylic tunnel & the various forms of marine life are all around you (including on top of you), behind the glass. Its quite something being surrounded on all sides by fish of different species including barracudas, sharks etc. Don't miss the jellyfish, don't they look eerie?
My son posing in front of the Giant Spider Crab
So, that was a nice, crisp visit to Sentosa & it was then time to wind our way back to our Hotel. Enroute to the MRT station, my son managed to kick off his shopping by purchasing some stuff which he claimed was "Rare & authentic" but which was all Greek to me. LOL. Back to the Hotel, a short breather & then (by popular demand), off to the Orchard Road shopping malls to lighten the wallet further!!!
Last edited by suman : 18th November 2008 at 12:10.
|18th November 2008, 12:26||#15|
Senior - BHPian
Of 3Qs & Mini Meets!
DAY TWO Continued - PM
Once we returned from the brief shopping expedition, we decided to chill in our room for a while before setting out to the race track. So we put our feet up & were generally relaxing when the bell chimed. My daughter opened the door & there were these two senior ladies from Housekeeping & guess what they'd brought us as gifts?
Two Ipod Shuffles!!! Now, wasn't that real sweet of them? Kids were happy cos they were so much more convenient to carry around, we were happy at the hospitality! Excellent! But this meant that both kids spent another 15 minutes fiddling around & listening to some music (even though the music was Jazz which they never otherwise listen to!) - shooed them out of the room & we were on our way to the track. The plan was for us to come back to the Hotel & have dinner (from their strategically named "Formula One" menu) even though it would be late. Though there was the third practice session as well, we weren't too keen on watching it but definitely wanted to be there for the qualifying (which started at 10 pm). The whole concept of watching qualifying Live at 10 pm at night was really exciting. In between, had touched base with Tifosikrishna & told him that I’d hop across to his walkabout area at some point in time during the qualifying. Told him to give me a buzz once he’d settled down.
We took our usual mode of transportation to City Hall MRT & then decided to take a slight detour. There were some heavy discounts being offered at Harvey Norman's (an electronics store) at Suntec City so off we went to check out the Camera prices. Checked out the EOS 450D (Rebel XSI) but the price was close to India B&W prices - thought it was pretty pointless buying it there (though they had a lot of freebies on offer like a 2nd battery, a tripod & two 4 gb cards free). Checked out some Point & Shoots as well but eventually meandered our way to the track without purchasing anything!
Made our way to our Grandstand & settled down to a gorgeous view of the Singapore night skyline & a wonderfully festive & charged atmosphere-
This is what we were all waiting for
And no prizes for guessing who we were supporting
Once it started, I decided to hop across to the other side of the track to meet up with Tifosikrishna. Q1 was under way but we managed to hear each other over the scream of the engines & I saw him. Warm handshake exchanged. It was great being able to finally meet up with him. He had a nice spot to himself, a great angle to get the shots from. He was chilling for a while because he wanted to soak in the sights & sounds without having to “work”! Spent a few minutes with him telling him about how the view from the Grandstand had been better at Sepang and then decided to go back to my seat. End of Team BHP Mini Meet! However, the disappointment of not being able to snap the action with my wonderful P&S continued & this is the only bit I have of the qualifying taken from Krishna’s side of the track - a glimpse of David Coulthard sticking his car's tail out
Didn’t waste any further time trying to take stills during Q2 & Q3 (I’m sure Krishna has a whole lot of them, roll them out mate), decided to concentrate on the live action instead - the suspense built up & reached a crescendo in the final moments of the session. Felipe Massa grabbed pole position!!! As we had been hoping & praying for!!
Yay, Felipe has done it
Wish Kimi was second but third is good too...
Hope it doesn't rain tomorrow!!
So, Ferrari were lining up No 1 & No 3 on the grid & it was going to be a cracker! The crowd were enjoying themselves. Look at the Finn supporters. They are a very close-knit group. To them, it’s a question of supporting their countrymen - even if both their countrymen happen to be in rival teams. LOL. Nice camaraderie I thought (don't miss the Vodka) -
And in the middle of their pack, there was this little animated Brazilian lady who was shouting herself hoarse, wildly cheering for Massa. LOL. Sorry, no pics of the lady, guys!
We made our way out of the circuit in a happy frame of mind, after picking up some Singapore Grand Prix T shirts for self & kids. Hopefully, we'd see a Ferrari 1-2 at the end of the race tomorrow
LITTLE DID WE OR ANYONE ELSE KNOW WHAT DESTINY HAD IN STORE........
On our way back to the Hotel, saw a special offer on Tiger beer at the convenience store next door, so picked up a few large cans, ordered dinner in our rooms, opened the brew & settled down. It was almost midnight & we chomped, glugged & chatted away till 1.30 in the morning! Didn't realize it was so late, I guess the excitement was mounting........finally called it a night though I think we were all awake for quite a while thereafter! zzzzzzzzzz............
End of Day Two
(to be continued......)
Last edited by suman : 18th November 2008 at 12:33.
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