Transit

I have to admit to being a bit negative about stopping off in Singapore on the way back home. I can’t really remember why I decided to stop here, since I find Hong Kong more interesting. For some reason I decided to stop in Singapore for five nights on the way home, although later I changed this to 3 days.

But when I arrived here, I started to recall why I like travelling in Asia, and why I find Asian cities so much more interesting than Chilean or Argentinian ones. As soon as I saw people squatting down to rest, I felt like I was getting back into it. Other classic sights too, like the old Chinese man with skinny arms and legs, but a big belly, which he is trying to pull his pants right up over. You can see him thinking to himself “Yep, that’s just about done it, I reckon one more firm tug and I should be able to get my belt up to my nipples.” He seems to be a security guard of some description, but he’s about as effective as the guards Jeremy Clarkson is referring to here. The humidity hits you like a wall, but it feels like a comforting blanket to me. The food stalls everywhere are one of my favourite parts too – especially here, where there is such a variety.

Singapore does have a couple of unique bits – e.g. people will just do things to be helpful, or because it’s their job, and not expect a tip. At the airport, I needed to get down a couple of levels of travelator to the left-luggage office, to deposit my bike. Due to construction, the lift was very slow and busy, but I was initially told I couldn’t take my bike on the travelator. So the lift attendant pushed my luggage trolley all the way, chatting pleasantly as we went along, but didn’t even hang around to let me tip him, as I was about to do.

There is one thing that causes me problems in Singapore though, and that’s bedbugs. Last time I was here I got bitten, and within minutes of lying on the bed this time I had bites. Must be at least one hundred bites on my back. Little bastards can’t just take one bite and feed – I think they keep moving along, searching for a vein. It was a pretty crappy hotel, so I decided to splash out – Wotif.com had a fantastic deal for a 5-star hotel, for a very reasonable price for Singapore. So, for my very last night in a hotel on this trip, I’m staying in rather nice surroundings. Will have to checkout at 11:59am tomorrow, make the most of my time.

And then it’s home, time to sort out my gear, wrap up the trip, and settle down again. Will do a couple more posts over the next few days.

One more thing – my last residence in England, “Slatters of Downley” was once again superb. I must write it up on TripAdvisor.com. Special mention of the Danish food, and the provision of a bike box, and transport to Heathrow. Saved me a fair bit of hassle there.

Oh and that’s what my back looks like – two main tracks from the nasty little biters

Bye Bye Asia

The time has come. After almost one year on the Asian continent, I am about to leave. Tomorrow night, I have booked a flight with Tiger Airways. The flight only cost $70SGD…plus a whole bunch of taxes and other charges. $160SGD miscellaneous taxes and fees, another $30SGD for the bike, and then $5SGD because I’m paying by credit card. And then I still don’t get food or a movie. But no matter. Everyone else seemed to cost more. Looking at lastminute.com was suggesting daft things like flying Singapore -> Brisbane -> Cairns -> Darwin, taking 22 hours. Um no I don’t think so.

So the bike was getting a clean earlier this morning, in preparation for boxing up. First decent clean in a while – hopefully there won’t be any problems entering Australia with it. Just about finished, about to do the last task of dropping the seat down…and it’s frozen in place. Not moving. Try dribbling lube down in it, nothing happen. After applying a lot of rotational force to the saddle, the tube doesn’t move…but the clamp at the top of the tube starts to move. Not good. Not good at all. So I’m just going to have to leave the post sticking out, and hope that it doesn’t make the package too big. I’m getting the cargo guys down the road to box it up for me, will be interesting to see what they do with it, and if I can get it in a taxi tomorrow afternoon…

I’ve been mucking around in Singapore for too long now, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the road. Jan has referred to the process of moving, and I’ve been stuck for a while. It will mean a change of company though – Sally is heading back up through Malaysia to Thailand, while I’m going to be joined by my father in Darwin. He’s going to be my support crew from Darwin to Alice Springs. It’s going to be an interesting way of travelling, with a supporting vehicle – it means I’ll have someone to carry cold drinks for me along those long hot dull stretches I’ll be facing.

Since I haven’t done much riding recently, Sally and I set out for a ride around Singapore yesterday, heading down to East Coast Park, then riding around past Changi – with an A380 coming in directly overhead – up to Changi Beach Park, and back around into town. It was quite a surprise to see just how many people were out enjoying the parks, and how well maintained all the facilities were. Many family groups were out having a picnic, with tents set up, and balls being thrown around. It was a bit strange seeing all the cargo ships just offshore, but it didn’t seem to stop people going in the water. Guess it was cleaner than it looked. Something I thought was really well done was having clearly marked bike paths between the different parks – so you could put together a loop, going around the different parks. Good to see a different side of the city.

Another side of the city was the Night Safari. Now all zoos are animal prisons, and I’m not usually that keen on them, but this is really good. I’d heard good things about it before, and had been meaning to go, but never got around to it. It was very well put together, with nice enclosures allowing you to get pretty close to the animals. Perhaps too close in the case of the bats flying around my head. Watching/hearing a lion roar, reasonably close by, was pretty cool. I’d recommend it to anyone else passing through Singapore.

I’d heard that Little India gets busy on a Sunday, but I didn’t realise just how busy – it seemed that every Indian adult male in Singapore had been bussed in to Little India, mainly just to hang around. Very strange to see almost no women or children. Wonder where they all were?

Of course, some shopping had to be done too – so I bought a new Garmin Vista HCx GPS, to replace the one that was stolen back in July. I’ve just transferred some free GPS maps of Australia to it – yes there’s only one road to follow, but it will still be interesting to see just how far to the next town.

Right, time to go and see what the Indian crew have done to my bike, and then maybe a celebratory drink down at the flashy Quays area.

No Camera Crew, No Ambassador, No Tears

Nothing at all like this. No little stage at Sentosa, with people bearing gifts and cakes. None of that for me. I am definitely sacking my PR outfit, and employing someone new.

Instead all I got was in trouble with the beach patrol at Sentosa, for taking my bike across the rope bridge leading to the southernmost point of the Asian continent. I had ignored the “no bicycles” sign, and the megaphone telling me to leave my bike behind. I got across, got the photo, and then meekly went back across with the lifeguard. He did say he could take me to their office, and give me a cup of tea while he explained all their safety rules to me, but we both agreed that might be a waste of time. So he let me go. Just as well. I could have gotten 10 lashes of the cane, or something like that.

Because I am now in Singapore! After 388 days, and 24988km, I have made it to Singapore. Yes, I know, you’re thinking “why didn’t he go for a victory lap around Singapore, to make it 25,000km?” I thought about it, but decided that the next few km can wait. I’ll do them soon enough – Australia should be at least another 4,000km.

So now I’ve got a little while off the bike. I’m going to head back to Thailand, do a dive course there, and muck about for a few days, before heading across to Darwin, to do the last leg down through Australia.

After KL, I headed down to Melaka with Jan. Melaka was nice, and could be worth staying a few days, but I was keen to get the riding out of the way. Special mention to the Discovery Cafe in Melaka, where we stopped a couple of nights. The Carlsberg reps were on site, and they insisted on giving me and Jan free beer, constantly topping up my glass. Made trying to study a touch difficult.

From there it was a couple of days further down to Johor Bahru, the border town. A bit of a suspect place. Lots of people were drinking at street restaurants, which made me wonder if it was a duty-free town. But not to be…it’s just even more expensive to drink in Singapore. I think I’ll have to boycott alcohol. That’ll teach ’em.

The elections were interesting in Malaysia – flags and bunting everywhere, and I was given “Barisan Nasional” flags to carry on the bike. They didn’t do as well as they would have liked, but luckily the streets were quiet the day after. People were just going about their business, cleaning up the old posters. No trouble. I’m sure the Foreign Office would have had me stay inside that day, barricading my hotel door, but I wasn’t having any of that.

Overall Malaysia wasn’t that great a place to ride in – a few interesting things, but far too much traffic around, and with the level of development, it’s getting a bit anonymous. Not quite the Asian place I expected. Perhaps it all comes down to the high price of beer? Maybe I need to go back to Langkawi where it’s duty-free, do some comparative analysis?