One thing about me and hubs. We don't queue. Okay, maybe 20 minutes tops but it can't be for something frivilous like food or toy or free newspaper. Second thing about us. We don't queue in the sun for hours. Especially for me. Being prone to migraine and headaches, standing under the sun is a no-no.
We had read in news reports that the public could pay their respect to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, whose body is lying in state in the Parliament House from Wednesday to Saturday. There was a overwhelming response on Wednesday and there were reports that some people waited for 8 hours. I told myself 8 hours was not something I could do. I mean I'm no spring chicken anymore. I do 1 hour of cardiomix and I need to sleep for 3 hours to regain my energy.
Thursday noon hubs announced he wanted to go and queue. He had read some updates that the waiting time had been greatly reduced. I thought he had gone completely mad because hubs literally never queues. Then I heard myself saying, "I'll go with you." And that was that. No turning back. Well, actually, there were many opportunities for turning back.
We took the train to city hall and saw a sign that indicated where we should go. There were loads of people. You pretty much get pushed along. We exit the train station right in front of Capitol building, next to the church and the first thing we saw was this little girl holding a sign, "Queue starts here". Hubs immediately jumped right in and I joined him.
Queuing with us was a group of navy boys and the little girl who had the most difficult job of controlling the queue was asking if the navy boys were sent to help her manage the crowd. As she was speaking to the boys, people continued to join the queue and honestly there wasn't much floor space for her to play with. There was construction and a bus-stop in the way and at most she could form two loops of queue. Pretty soon, I expected the people in the station would not be able to exit the station anymore. The boys told her they were in the queue to pay their respects to Lee Kuan Yew and the girl sadly walked to the end of the queue to carry on with her heavy responsibility. Poor thing. I really felt sorry for her.
I had read in the updates that the queue starts in The Padang. (field) That the queue starts at city hall meant only one thing. There was a massive queue in front of us. We were not even close to the padang.
Here we are still looking fresh. It's been 5 mins in the queue. Then I noticed one couple left the queue. Already? I started to feel afraid.
I looked at the people we were standing closest to. I thought it was important to recognise them. The navy boys were easy to spot.
At this point, I want to show you the map of where we are heading. See the blue dotted line? That's my queue. But as I experienced it, this is a very simplified map. See, we started at City Hall and made a huge loop before we even entered the padang where the start of the blue dotted line is.
Swissotel, The Stamford.
Once we went past the war memorial, we used the Esplanade underpass to cross the road. At some point, we went past some toilets but neither of us needed to go. The queue was very orderly. Everyone tried to keep up and somehow we always stayed with the people I recognised. Along the route, there were many, many officers standing by, to direct or to answer queries. So far our goal was to reach The Padang.
It took us exactly 45min to enter The Padang. Volunteers were handing out cakes, sweets, water and umbrellas.
BreadTalk which had pulled a tribute bun to Lee Kuan Yew from sale after negative feedback. It was a bun with a bad pun. I read that the bad pun bun contained coconut so eating it would give me a 5 day migraine.
This is The Padang. It's a huge field with a magnificent view of the central business district. It is also not sheltered. Well, there were small tents erected throughout but take a look at the heat. Take a good look. I took this photo at 3pm. The sun was blistering hot. It was dazzling bright. Occasionally I thought I lost my vision. Hubs was drenched. I was slowly dying.
And I wore black. Well, a lot of people wore black. Waiting in The Padang was the hardest part. Mainly because of the heat. The queue barely moved. Also we had no idea how long the queue was and where our queue was heading. We noticed that in the padang, there were two queues. Our queue and another one very close to ours but separated by the barricades. Hubs and I started talking crazy. Hubs speculated that we would leave the padang, loop somewhere and come back to the padang to join the other queue. That got me really depressed because the other queue was massive and seemed ever larger than my queue. Still, I was determined to carry on queuing. I was committed.
Then hubs told me he needed to go to the toilet bad. Usually that meant explosive diarrhea. I asked him specifically what he needed to do at the toilet. When he said he needed to pee on account of all the water we had been drinking, I told him to hang on because I was confident there would be another toilet along the way. Anyway, we were deep in the queue and leaving would be logistically hard. Plus I wasn't going to give up for a pee. Maybe if he had fainted.
And someone did faint attended to by hub's navy friend. When the woman was carried out in the stretcher, I immediately heard the people around me speculating that the woman hadn't taken enough water. I was careful to sip water constantly.
At 4:10pm, we left the padang. We had been in the padang for 1hour 10 min. Much to hub's relief, there were toilets along the way. We walked along quite fast, all the while wondering if we were going to loop back to the padang.
Once we hit the Singapore river, we knew we would not go back to the padang. I was so relieved and at the same time very confused. Clearly the people in the other queue had been in the padang for a much longer time than us. I wondered if they were in the priority queue which would make no sense.
Finally we reached the white tent. There were many air coolers so it wasn't hot anymore. Also there were television sets along the way to keep us entertained.
An officer handed out cards for us to write something and there were boxes for us to put the cards in. Some people in the queue brought flowers and the soldiers standing guard asked to take the flowers away. I'm guessing you can't bring flowers into Parliament House.
A lady tried to return her "loaned" umbrella to an officer but he told her to keep it. Then I noticed that there were places for you to return the umbrellas.
We walked past some scanners which I assume scan for body temperature. The organisers really thought of everything! I guess Singapore will never forget SARS. But the scanners weren't in use.
See the numbers on the fixtures? These are to scan our bags. We had to put our phones and bags on a basket like in the airport. I was also asked if I had a laptop or ipad. I didn't and I wondered what would happen if I had one.
Once we were cleared to leave the white tent, the queue moved really fast. Here we were right outside the Parliament House. Suddenly everyone started taking photos.
Once we entered Parliament House, we had to stop taking photos. I noticed there were two queues. My queue was the main queue. There was another entrance where officers let in a few people from the priority queue.
This photo (cna) is a good indication of what we saw. You get a few seconds to do your thing - say your prayer, bow and then you have to move along. There were a few people who were quite stubborn and stayed a bit longer. Honestly with the massive crowd still waiting in the queue, it was the right thing to do to make everyone hurry along.
It took us 3 hours 10 minutes in total. I'm really glad I went. I guess only Lee Kuan Yew could motivate me to stand under the hot sun for 3 hours 10 minutes.
Generally the mood of the people we queued with was upbeat. Everyone had one purpose. Well, two purposes. First to reach the padang. Second to reach Parliament House. No one scuffled. No one complained. Everyone just tried to bear with the heat and passed the time with conversations. The queuing was surprisingly not impossible.
After we left Parliament House, we saw the extremely long priority queue which was barely moving. I felt really sorry for the people especially the handicapped and moms with babies. I think the priority queue has far too many people. (This evening I read that a new express queue has been created for the handicapped and people with prams.)
Today even more people have joined the queue. I read that the waiting time was 10 hours. People are advised not to join the queue. I think hubs and I were very lucky we went yesterday. I mean compared to 10 hours, 3 hours 10 minutes is nothing. Oh, I never got sick yesterday. No migraine, no headache. How about that?
You can read hub's version here.