When you travel like we do you have to stick together as a team. There are 5 members in this team, 4 humans and 1 vehicle. Therefore it seems strange to split up for a while, maybe even rather callous to leave one member behind. Poor thing sitting alone, while the rest of the team jet off hoping that he will catch them up later.
We left the truck in Freemantle, near Perth, waiting to catch the ro-ro ship to Singapore. The ship had been exceedingly punctual on its journey around the world (Steve has been cyber-stalking it for the last month) but ended up hanging outside Melbourne for a week. We never found out what delayed it but the knock on affect was that after all that meticulous planning we still had to leave the ship in Australia while we flew to Singapore. This is the 5th time we have shipped the truck between continents and it is the 2nd time we have had to fly out before it leaves by boat. The truck had passed customs and was checked in at the port, so there was nothing for us to do. You’ve just got to roll with it and hope that when you turn up at the port at the other end that everything is present and correct.
For us it was hardly a hardship, Singapore is a wonderful place to spend an extra week. Great food; interesting things to do; nice people; fast wifi;………did I mention the great food!! – I now understand why it is a national obsession. It was also nice to spread out a bit, we rented a couple of serviced apartments in our time there. After living all in one tiny room 24/7 for 3 years, it was wonderful to have walls between us for a while. We even got time to do those jobs that are usually tricky on the road like going to the dentists, doctors, clothes shopping and getting school resources for the year ahead.
To coin a rather corny phrase, Singapore is a great cultural melting pot with a mixture of ethnic Chinese, Indian and European residents. Everyone seems to get on and everything seems to work well. All the signs are in Mandarin, Tamil and English. Our first apartment was more downtown on the river. We made several forays into Chinatown. Steve’s old colleague, Katya, who we met for dinner the previous week in Perth had a stop over in Singapore, so we met up with her again. She gamely came with us to a Hawker Market in Chinatown. Hawker Markets are a collection of food stalls, sharing tables for customers and they are everywhere. This being Singapore they are spotless, clean and full of excellent food. Just in this last week, a number of stalls have been given a Michelin star, that is how good they are. The girls and I found a table while Katya and Steve queued up at various stalls for dishes for us to share. Delicious food and lovely to see Katya again. Alisha is writing her first public blog all about the food in Singapore, which we will post straight after this one, so I won’t add any more.
Singapore made for a great first stop for us in Asia, as well as sampling the different Asian cuisines, there were some great museums highlighting the different cultures. The girls and I first took a serious look around the Asian Civilisations Museum before taking a treasure hunt to look for a missing museum mouse. We also had a lovely afternoon wandering around the district of Little India ending with, you’ve guessed it, a great meal.
We also loved the gardens, even though is modern city with 5.5 million people on a small island, there are lots of pockets of green around. The more formal Botanical Gardens were delightful at the weekend, full of relaxed Singaporeans. The new futuristic Gardens by the Bay blew us away with its 2 huge domes, strange structures and themed areas. The Cloud Forest had a 7 storey high waterfall, you made your way down through the mountain behind and above it, experiencing different biomes. The Flower Dome was meticulously laid out and was full of prizewinning orchids as part of a flower show. Outside the Supertree Grove looked liked it was straight out of a Dr Suess book, with its 4 and 6 storey high “flowers”.
Our second apartment was in a more residential district, as our stay was extended by a week we had to find more accommodation and it was busy. It was fascinating to wander around. The girls and I went to two different churches on the Sundays. It was amazing, the first a Methodist Church had a congregation of 7,000! Every Sunday they have at least 5,000 worshipers spread between 7 services. Even though it was so large, they were very organised so visitors felt very welcomed. The original English style church from a hundred years ago, had been added onto, and added onto, until the whole complex was massive. Trying to find the girls in Sunday School was tricky. We went to the English service but most of the congregation were ethnic Chinese. The same was true for the next Sunday at an Anglican service in our new neighbourhood. Although the congregation was smaller, they were just as friendly.
With the temperature fluctuating between the high 20s and low 30s, it was just as pleasant to see things by night as it was by day. We spent an evening out by the Marina Bay. Watching the water and light show in front of the weird and wonderfully shaped Marina Bay Hotel, which has a “boat” suspended on the top of its 3 skyscrapers. From there we walked through the massive, smart shopping centre to the Gardens by the Bay for their light show. It’s a testament to Singapore’s reputation for cleanliness, that to watch the show that most people lay down or sat on the floor.
All the time we were enjoying ourselves in Singapore, Steve has been slaving away getting all the paperwork sorted for Malaysia. We had thought it was a fairly straightforward procedure, until the Malaysian Automobile Association told us they wouldn’t issue us with compulsory insurance. Creating a flurry of panic on our side, eventually Steve found another provider. He ended up going over to Johru Baru twice, a town in Malaysia just over the border. First to get the insurance, then a few days later to get the temporary import permit. On his second visit to Malaysia he spent a total of 45 minutes in the country. Mind you he has had 2 more of his passport pages filled up!
The other complication is that motorhomes are illegal in Singapore. So the truck isn’t even allowed to drive from the port to the border, a distance of less than 15km. We have to employ a tow truck to pull us to the border. The border post is on a huge freeway. As we have an automatic truck, Steve will need to disconnect some things for it to be towed and reconnect it before driving over the border. The girls and I, with all the luggage, will have to meet him somewhere on the freeway/border/who knows?? Thank goodness for mobile phones.
Therefore for our last night we moved to our third hotel, just a kilometre from the border, with a marina…..and a beautiful view of the bridge going over the straits.
Hopefully all the issues will come together over the next 24 hours, we will be reunited with the truck and we can start to enjoy overlanding in Asia.