Gourmet Dining Aboard Singapore Flyer, World's Tallest Giant Wheel

Bernd Kubisch, DPA, May 6, 2013

SINGAPORE -- The sky is clear and the view is a good one. In the distance, one easily makes out some Indonesian islands as well as the southern tip of the mainland of Malaysia.

Singapore's skyscrapers look like you can reach out and grab them from inside the wheel. The air-conditioned glass gondola of the Singapore Flyer has reached its highest point, 165 metres above the ground.

This equates with the 42nd floor of one of the nearby high-rise buildings. Only the topmost residents can even wave down to the guests riding in the highest cabin of what is the world's tallest observation and amusement wheel.

Arif Wong is thrilled as he stands next to his son at the glass front of the gondola, pointing to the nearby hotel towers, the harbour with its luxury yachts, the Indian Ocean filled with container ships and sailing boats, the highway and the Formula One race track.

One revolution of the giant wheel -- its diameter is 150 metres -- takes 37 minutes.

For gourmet diners, this is naturally not enough time. Those who want to sit down to a dinner of champagne, sea perch and filet mignon served by butlers will need two or three revolutions.

Some companies will rent an entire cabin for the equivalent of 2,500 to 5,000 US dollars to entertain special guests.

It's advisable to book tickets in advance on the internet for weekends: the adult price for a ride is 33.00 Singapore dollars (26.75 US dollars). During the day, the price at the window can be higher, and prices also are higher for night-time rides when people want to see Singapore's glittering skyline. There's a hefty spike in the rates during special events, such as a Formula One race.

The "Singapore Flyer" was built in 2008 by a German giant wheel specialist, Florian Bollen. Twenty eight passengers can fit inside each of the gondolas weighing 16 tons. Boarding and leaving the cabins takes place while the wheel is still slowly in motion.

Only twice has the giant wheel involuntarily come to a halt -- once due to a short-circuit and another time due to a fire in the operational room.

Belonging to the Singapore Flyer attraction is also a three-storey consumers' palace of shops, restaurants and a tropical rainforest with a waterfall in the atrium.

Singapore has many other highlights, such as the shopping strip Orchard Road, the botanical gardens, Sentosa Island, China Town, Little India, museums and temples, and a night-time safari in the zoo.

But the giant wheel makes most of the headlines, a situation also having to do with record-setting plans elsewhere.

It is one thing for a press conference to be held announcing even larger -- up to 208-metre-high -- giant wheels elsewhere, be it Berlin, Beijing, Las Vegas, New York, Moscow or Dubai. But it is far more difficult to actually build one than to announce one.

Potential competitors have been plagued by major problems trying to realize their projects, and so for now, the Singapore Flyer remains the world record-holder. ___