Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Walking from London to Singapore

Technically, of course, not possible. But I did it a number of years ago after the pressures and stresses of the rat-race in London were starting to take their toll. My body needed a change and so did my mind; and the prospect of sipping Singapore slings in balmy Singapore proved too good an opportunity to pass by.

I left my home at some ungodly hour, and began the long walk to Heathrow Airport, some 10kms from my house, half an hour by car but about three hours on foot.

The planes never seemed to be far away when I was a kid - in fact when Concorde used to fly over the roar was so loud that the house would literally shake - but it was still a fair old walk to the airport.

The posh tree-lined streets of suburban utopia soon gave way to busy highways, and subsequently I reached the more gritty area of Feltham, just a few kilometers from the airport.

Now this being the pre-Bin Laden era, the airport security guards weren’t too perturbed by my presence – today, of course, you’d probably be gunned down as a suspected terrorist - but they still told me to take the long way round to get to the actual terminal - when simply jumping over the security fence would have been a whole lot easier.

Finally I made it to check-in. Physically exhausted, and still tired from a lack of sleep, I slumped into one of those uncomfortable plastic chairs they have at airports.

Now comes the flight – or the part that must be erased from memory. So I sleep.

Welcome to Singapore! The most efficient island on the planet. And one of the few places in the world where chewing gum is banned (and so is oral sex I’ve been told!). I’m out of the airport building in minutes but get some odd looks from airport employees – maybe I am the first tourist ever to leave Singapore Changi Airport on foot; everyone else goes on wheels: the bus, the train, by taxi or private car.

It’s a good walk to Orchard Road from the airport. Something like 15kms according to my Garmin.

It’s incredibly hot and humid. And quiet as well.

Huge residential tower blocks congregate together. This is where most Singaporeans live: like rabbits hutched up in cages. But there is no graffiti as you would find anywhere else in the world around residential tower blocks like this; the Singaporeans have it good and they are grateful for their lego homes.

Crossing a huge river bridge, I get my first good views of Singapore proper: huge office towers and international branded hotels reach for the skies.

Orchard Road is humming with people. They walk briskly and with a purpose. It’s not far to go now. Down Bencoolen Street and there is the traditional Chinese hotel I booked on the net. I go in.

The man shows me to my room and asks me if there is anything I would like.

“Well, would it be possible to get a massage. I’m very tired having walked here from London.”

He gives me a funny look.

“Oh, and a Singapore Sling. Yes one of those would go down very well indeed ...”

Note: walking door to door across huge distances is starting to gain in popularity. Beginners – often photographers - start with inner city jaunts before progressing onto greater things. All in all, Psychogeography includes just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape, or indeed an entirely new landscape.