Bring sexy back to save the Flyer

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Flyer has been placed under receivership, just five years after it opened.

The wheels on my mountain bike lasted longer than the big one down at Marina Bay.

I'd be lying if I said I was surprised. I've been on the Flyer twice. The first time was to research for a book. Within five minutes, my daughter was sitting on the capsule floor and colouring in a leaflet.

She thought the Singapore Flyer was a spaceship.

When the wheel proceeded to move more slowly than a snail stuck on chewing gum, the anti-climax overwhelmed her.

For half an hour, she asked: "When does it start, Daddy? When does it start, Daddy?"

When we got off the Flyer, she said: "But we didn't actually go anywhere, Daddy."

The second trip was for a TV show and there was no denying the kiasuism of the country's architects.

Most countries build an observation wheel around a view. Singapore is the only country in the world that builds a view around an observation wheel.

The London Eye takes in the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Whitehall and a thousand years of history. The Singapore Flyer takes in three years of history.

It's hard not to imagine someone at the Ministry of National View Development saying: "We need a better view. It's just sea and sampans... Can we dam the place, add a hotel, a rooftop pool and maybe a floating platform... No, I said a platform... We don't have anything floating in the Bay anymore, we've got toilets everywhere now...

"What's the platform for? Who cares? Malaysia hasn't got one, so we'll have one."

So in less than three years, a view mushroomed around the Singapore Flyer. And it kept getting tweaked. Going on that big wheel is like watching the latest edition of Star Wars. You're never entirely sure what you're going to see.

When you re-watch Star Wars, you say: "I don't remember Greedo shooting Han Solo first."

When you revisit the Flyer, you say: "I don't remember those gardens being there. That place used to be bowling alleys, steamboat restaurants and cars rocking from side to side on a Saturday night."

Marina Bay might as well have been designed by George Lucas. There's no definitive cut, no final edition. The scene is constantly updated or replaced.

If you stand still long enough at Marina Bay, someone will erect a green metal fence and turn you into a construction site.

But the changing landscape still hasn't been enough to attract more paying customers to the Singapore Flyer. That's because it's not the exterior but the interior that needs a makeover.

The Flyer feels like a dentist's waiting room.

At any moment, one expects an attractive woman in a white nurse's uniform to burst in and say: "I'm ready to see you now."

Actually, I'm not sure if that's a dentist's surgery or an old porn clip.

But Flyer capsules tend to veer towards the clinical and sterile. Some are spiced up with fancy dinner tables, but they are the wrong tables.

They should be mahjong tables.

Stick mahjong tables in a few capsules and throw in a couple of TVs playing Chinese drama serials on a loop and aunties will be fighting each other to get in.

Getting them out again might be a problem.

Flyer staff members would probably have a better chance of removing one of the actual capsules than the aunties.

But there is one other alternative that ticks every box. It's a revenue spinner, a tourism magnet and addresses the thorny issue of remembering Singapore's heritage.

Bring sex back to Marina Bay.

That's what the place was once famous for.

Everyone went to Marina South in the old days to give their bowling balls a spin. Some even actually went bowling.

Many a married couple today once used Marina South as a warm-up for their honeymoon.

Singapore's birth rates have never been the same since they replaced the mating grounds with Gardens by the Bay.

The gardens' architects are rightly proud of those Supertrees. They are magnificent, man-made erections. But they weren't the first ones at Marina Bay.

The Singapore Flyer could bring the sexy back.

Hang some curtains in the capsule, play a Marvin Gaye album and the big wheel could hold weddings and honeymoons on the same night.

In a tasteful, private setting, couples would have a full 30 minutes to consummate their marriage.

Most men could get it on and still have 25 minutes left to play mahjong.