The Sight of Smells

I was 15 when I first smelt Singapore. I landed with my school band (I played the flute). The aeroplane door opened. I stood at the top of the steps and inhaled.

Sultry. Complex.  Heavy with spice. Layered, year upon year like sheaves of history.

The aroma has drawn me ever since. I remember it at odd times. I have wanted to immerse in it again to enjoy and to refresh my memory. Alas, passengers are now funnelled from the plane directly into the airport building. By the time one emerges into the air, the aroma is barely noticeable. It has seeped imperceptibly into one’s olfactory system . The moment of immersion, of recognition, has been stolen.

I may never fully smell Singapore again.

But I have the sight of smells.

The durian, that contradictory fruit whose repulsive smell has earned it its own sign on trains, has reached gargantuan proportions.

Fun-loving architects have left a trail around the city.

In an interesting reversal, this boat carries its own expanse of water – a 150m infinity pool (accessible only to hotel guests).

The value of tourists is duly noted with them emerging from a cornucopia.

I’ve never been to Dubai, but the extravagant shopping centre at Marina Bay Sands had me feeling that I had been transported to that acknowledged showcase of resource-devouring, environmental remodelling. Even a shopping centre with one storey and old-fashioned floors can put me in an odd state of dislocation from the outside world. This one had a PhD in disorientation, with majors in wanton excess and fun.

Float from end to end in a sampan, passing beneath miniature Venetian-style bridges.

Hitchcockian lights roost above a stage.


For information on the Marina Bay Sands Skypark, including the public viewing area on the stranded boat, click here.

9 responses to “The Sight of Smells

  1. Hallo,
    This is for you, for being kind to others and me : )
    Pick it up here if you want to

    Sweet greetings, Summer

  2. Wow, gorgeous pictures. It’s like a sci-fi movie 🙂 Shame how the aromas have been sanitised…

  3. Isn’t it interesting how we associate aroma with a place!

  4. I’m sorry you were disappointed about the aroma… I remember a similar experience when I arrived in French Polynesia; a heady, empowering smell of flowers carried by hot, damp air. Smells leave an indelible impression on the memory and it’s frustrating when they disappear. As always, fabulous photography. Thank you for the visit, which did me good as I have ‘flu and won’t be going anywhere just yet.

    • I was disappointed not to have the aroma again. Next time I shall wear a diving mask and tank filled with a supply of air from the previous country so that I can step outside the airport, pull off the apparatus and suddenly inhale Singapore.
      I hope you recover quickly and are able to use your time of low energy and sedentariness to some advantage.

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