Travel

An Unexpected Torrential Downpour, 300K People, and Green Day: Why The Formula One Is Great in All Conditions

What happens when 300 thousand people attend one exhilerating race in the pouring rain?

singapore grand prix

In July, a freak weather storm left hundreds of thousands of festivalgoers bogged and stranded at Splendour in the Grass. As someone who has never been to a music festival, I admit I looked at the social media posts and the news articles with judgement. Why would anyone want to stand in the rain and trudge through mud just to see a live performance? Could it really be worth it? A few months on, I discovered the answer is yes.

It was the Sunday morning of the highly anticipated return of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix. The humidity was cranked up to a sweaty 100%, and it was around 30 degrees, with the sun beaming down on the city. It was shaping up to be a great day as racegoers fueled up on breakfast buffets across the city. I started my day with a paddle down the MacRitchie Reservoir. The sun was biting at this point—left my shoulders red by the hour’s end. Surely it was going to be a hot one tonight, I thought to myself as I laid on my kayak, soaking up the rays, disturbed by the sound of long-tailed macaques rustling in the trees. They are conspicuous animals, but I was told not to get within two metres, as they can be quite vicious.  

Afterwards, I scoffed down a soft shell crab burger at Open Farm Community— a charming little urban garden restaurant serving everything from a brunch carbonara to a kale and pumpkin bowl. It’s right across the road from the Botanic Gardens, which I also managed to stroll through its wet rainforests and open green pastures in the heat. By this time, the sun was still shining, and it was T-minus four hours until the race. 

I retreated back to my hotel room at the Fairmont, which was right next to the race track and, conveniently, my allocated seat. I’m told that no other circuit on the Formula 1 calendar can compete with Singapore’s GPSS. From Friday, the city kicked off the start of the GPSS with a hotbed of parties and feasts across sky suites, restaurants, and bars. So since Friday, I’ve been up past midnight. Suffice it to say; I needed a power nap come Sunday. When I woke, the clouds had settled in. The sky was grey, and things were looking bleak. 

Dinner rolled around, and there still wasn’t a drop of rain. I emerged from the underpass to Raffles City, where we passed by people in white linen shirts, soaked through, exposing hairy chests and skin. Some were barefoot, shoes in hand dripping over the white tiles. This was a bad sign. Then I saw it. Mother Nature’s wraith. It wasn’t just raining; it was pelting, drenching every poor soul within seconds of stepping outside. In any other situation, most would turn around and go home, but this was the Formula One Grand Prix. Not to mention Green Day was due to perform that night. So, with 300 thousand other people, I stepped outside. The umbrella shielded me from most of the rain, but the ground was pooling with water. My shoes were wet, and my socks were soaked. By this point, my group and I were committed. It can only get better from here, right?

We joined the queue of people waiting to enter the grounds. We climbed an overpass and were met with more water on the other end and mud. The grandstands were on the other side of a massive mud field—previously a thriving green space. The mud was thick enough to swallow shoes, the orthopedic inserts of shoes and some umbrellas. Our seats were on the other side of the mud field. We pushed through the mud sludge, fighting its pull with every step. My previously white shoes and socks were caked in brown. The rocks, sticks, and other foreign objects were firmly lodged between my toes and under the soles of my feet. At this point, I’m thinking about the meningococcal outbreak post Splendour. I quickly shake the thought out of my head and continue on. We finally reached our seats, and the rain stopped. The race was delayed an hour, but the buzz in the crowd never faltered. Everyone was cheerful, despite sitting for hours in soggy clothes and shoes. I even met a few Aussies on my row who said nothing would stop them from seeing this race. They’re avid Formula One fans who have travelled to many grand Prix. I told them this was my first. They responded, “Oh, you’re going to love it. It’s addicting.”

So far, my socks were uncomfortably wet and muddy, I wrung the remaining water out of my linen dress, and there was still another hour before the race. One of the women I was travelling with was Gladys Lai from GQ. When it comes to Formula One, she’s a walking encyclopedia. All day, she had hoped for rain—she manifested it. I look over, and there’s Gladys, happy as a kid who just found out they’re going to Disney Land. I could see the glee in her eyes. She gazed out on the wet track, turned her head and said, “Just wait, the rain always makes for an interesting race.”

She was right; the green light flashed, engines roared, and the crowd was electric. Cars zipped past. If you blinked, you would miss them. The still, undeniably wet track caused many drivers to slip and slide across the track as they struggled to get hold of the car. One by one, cars slammed into barriers, spun out of control, and knicked other cars. Travelling at 300km per hour, tires drew water from the track, flicking it up, leaving a cloud of thick mist in their wake. Every close call was met with a synchronised inhale from the crowd as cars bumped into each other. You could feel the tension from onlookers. It was intoxicating. As someone who doesn’t know much about Formula One except the drama portrayed in the Netflix series Formula 1: Drive to Survive, even I held my breath and stood up when a car slammed into the barrier. Latifi clobbered Guanyu from Alfa Romeo into the wall of Turn 5, forcing the safety car out. A few laps later, engine problems stirred on the track, infecting car after car. Eventually, 14 cars remained, including Aussie-favourite Daniel Ricciardo.

singapore grand prix

In the last 20 minutes, there were two battles. One for the first position and one for the third position. The cars and the crowd rip-roared as the final lap approached. Pushing everything to the limit, Perez crossed the chequered flag first and the crowd burst. They forgot all about the wet, smelly socks and possible pruning skin. All that mattered was the race. The race they waited two years to return. Hugs were shared; some even had tears or water dripping down their faces. It was a race to remember. I looked over to Gladys, who simply smiled from ear to ear. She got what she wanted. 

The race was over but now started a race to the Green Day concert. Our seats were a mere 300 metres away, so we didn’t have to go far. Still, the stage was in front of the mud field, so we ventured out again into the mud to watch Green Day live. The atmosphere was just as energetic, if not more. People jumped, slid and splashed mud around as Green Day played their iconic hits. At that moment, I realised not even freak weather could stop sports lovers, music fans, or festivalgoers from attending outdoor events. From Coachella to Splendour in the Grass and even the Singapore Grand Prix, the desire to celebrate together prevails over any natural element mother nature decides to throw out that day. 

Book your Singapore Grand Prix 2023 experience here.

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Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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