Apec leaders all dressed up for dinner

Asia-Pacific leaders, wearing colo-urful designer shirts, were ferried by rickshaw to a glittering dinner Saturday, taking a break from annual talks to enjoy the Singapore waterfront and skyline, AFP reported.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching welcomed leaders, most with their spouses, at the Esplanade arts centre on the shores of Marina Bay.

The dinner setting offers some of the most spectacular views in this trading port, a multicultural city-state that has grown into one of the richest nations in Asia.

In keeping with Apec summit tradition, the leaders wore custom-made tops reflecting the host country's culture, this year crafted by Singaporean designer Wykidd Song.

Male leaders were given long-sleeved linen shirts with mandarin collars, a style inspired by the blend of Chinese, Malay and Indian culture found in Singapore.

They chose from blue, red or green variants.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, the two female leaders, were supplied with V-necked blouses in red silk, with elaborate embroidery and lace.

Leaders were transported in old-fashioned bicycle rickshaws, pedalled by men in wide-brimmed hats, to their dinner marquee at the Esplanade, Singapore's premier arts venue, which has a distinctive spiky and undulating roof.

Many of the VIPs, including Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, gamely smiled and waved as they were taken slowly past onlookers positioned behind a cordon.

Bachelet chatted animatedly on her mobile as she was pedalled past the crowd by rickshaw - which in British colonial times was an important form of transport in Singapore.

The leaders were to be treated to a spread of Singapore cuisine - made less spicy and pungent than usual - as well as a 30-minute multimedia concert featuring 367 local artists, organisers said.

Singapore's high-rise banking district, a 55-storey Las Vegas-style casino complex under construction and the Singapore Flyer, said to be the world's tallest observation wheel, are visible from the dinner venue. - Borneo Bulletin (15th November 2009)