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ISSUE 13TRAVELISTA

Maria Mahesar’s Singapore Diaries

Maria Mahesar, the National Communications Manager at Red Bull, recently fulfilled a lifelong dream and undertook a trip to Singapore to witness a Formula 1 event live. Here, she recounts her experience of being part of the exhilarating Singapore Grand Prix, the only night race on the F1 circuit, and discovering the wonders of the Garden City beyond the 3-day event.

After months of planning and contemplating, this September I finally packed my bags and headed to what is famously known as one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world, home to a diverse set of ethnicities… Singapore. Between almost missing my flight due to peak-hour traffic in Karachi and a gruelling 11-hour journey, I finally made it to Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Changi is a transit-passenger’s paradise and almost worthy of being a tourist destination in itself. It has won more than 500 “World’s Best Airport” awards since it opened, including Business Traveller magazine’s version for 28 consecutive years. It boasts some unexpected highlights such an outdoor nature trail, a swimming pool, movie theatre, hawker-style food stalls etc. I would have loved to loiter but my 7-day itinerary was packed and I didn’t want to waste a second of my coveted trip.

The force that had brought me to Singapore was the Singapore Grand Prix (September 15-17). I have religiously followed and worshipped Formula 1 racing since the age of 13 and since this was my first experience of watching a race live, I could hardly contain my excitement. What makes the Singapore Grand Prix extra special is the fact that it is the only night race on the Formula 1 calendar. The 3-day event – Practice, Qualifying and Race – is accompanied by a number of concerts, which remain a huge draw for the locals.

Not surprisingly, my friends accompanying me wanted to attend the concerts rather than the race and initially, to be honest, I was scared of losing my way alone in the large crowd expected to be in attendance. I was so nervous on my way to the Marina Bay Street Circuit that I could hardly hold my phone steady but it all changed once I reached the venue. Everything was extremely well organized and ran like clockwork, with ushers guiding you throughout in order to help you reach your allocated seat.

The venue was bustling with food, laughter, banter between fans supporting their favourite teams, merchandise stalls, music and large projectors to keep you in view of the race no matter how far back you were seated. At first, the cars seemed like a scene from an action flick; it took me a while to accept the fact that I was watching the cars and drivers I had idolized almost my entire life LIVE!

The thrill of the speed, and the adrenaline from the roar of the cars was electrifying; even the rain couldn’t stop the crowd from cheering and chanting up a storm. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) took the lead followed by Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) coming in second and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) third. The star-studded Podium Lounge Party to celebrate the conclusion of the Singapore Grand Prix saw influencers from the worlds of fashion, motorsports and music glamming up the arena, and as soon as Macy Gray took the stage, everyone headed to the dance floor and swayed to her sublime hits.

With the race out of the way, it was time to explore Singapore and what better way to start than a pit-stop at Haji Lane. A tiny lane hidden away in the heart of the Muslim quarter, Haji Lane is a fashionista’s paradise. The shophouses in this street come with a fascinating history. In the 60s and 70s, the area provided lodging for poor Malay families, and also gave shelter to pilgrims on their annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Incidentally, that’s where the name of the street has its roots — ‘Haji’ is the word for a Muslim man who has completed a pilgrimage to Mecca. The area is defined by beautiful yet quirky graffiti that makes you stop in your tracks and just stare, cosy yet stylishly unique roadside cafés and trendy fashion outlets. I shopped my way across the narrow alleys, picking out unusual colour combinations, cuts and embroideries; rest assured I’ve got my autumn wardrobe all set! The highlight of the trip to Haji Lane was fulfilling yet another teenage dream and finally getting inked.

No trip to Singapore is complete without a visit to the Gardens by the Bay, a multi-award winning nature park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land, with some awe-inspiring lush greenery, a stunning waterfall and suspended walkways between trees. If you find the time, do visit the gorgeous Marina Bay Sands Hotel and its infinity pool located on the 57th floor. The China Town Market is another interesting area with charming pre-war shophouses, temples and markets that provide a glimpse into Chinese culture.

When in Singapore you simply can’t resist the tempting mix of cuisines that incorporates flavours of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian influences. The must-try local dishes are Wonton Mee, Dim Sum, Laksa, Bak Chor Mee and Hokkien Prawn Me.

Even though this was my third visit to the country, it was the first time I got to explore it on my own. As I took a late night walk on the streets at 4am (a practise that I follow on all my trips abroad), I was amazed at the calm that pervaded, the ease with which people were enjoying their lives even at such an early hour. It was rather encouraging to see how welcoming the locals were towards tourists; they would give me their spot in case of long queues at taxi stands, patiently guided me with Google Maps on their phones whenever I lost my way and were interested to know more about my country and culture when they discovered my nationality.

This trip gave me a much-needed sense of self-exploration and me-time that I often tend to forgo due to the hectic lifestyle I lead in Karachi. My love and admiration for Singapore has grown by leaps and bound, and I can’t wait to visit this beautiful country again. Thank you Singapore for such a fantastic experience.

 

Maria’s Fall

must-haves

My style is sleek and urban-chic. I love high-end brands such as Tom Ford and Dior but I also have these bohemian moments where I like to experiment with vintage as well as contemporary trends. I like to keep myself updated with the latest international fashion trends as well as street style from around the world. Tokyo, Singapore and Seoul street style is what’s inspiring me these days.

  1. I love adding statement belts to cinch coats, sweaters and collared shirts.
  2. Comfy man shoes for daily wear are a must in my closet.
  3. Cozy knits with fun detailing, such as this asymmetrical Tom Ford sweater, are fall essentials.
  4. My work wardrobe consists of straight cut dress pants that can take me from a day in the office to an evening out.
  5. Printed stilettos for when I want to add some oomph to any outfit.
  6. I like my handbags minimal and chic and am especially loving suede clutches this season.
  7. A bit of arm candy can uplift when the most basic outfit.
  8. My favourite pair of denims are my boyfriend jeans.
  9. You can never go wrong with a checkered blazer, whether for work or play!
  10. My gold-plated hoops are my signature accessory
  11. A silk scarf, such as this beauty from D&G, looks on-trend yet classic.

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