Singapore (Singapore!)!5th April 2005 ? 14th April 2005
We drove down from Kuala Lumpur after some sad goodbyes to Adriano?s relatives who all escorted us to the toll gate to leave KL. We drove down the rainforest coated highways, across the Tuas causeway bridge and arrived in Singapore on the Saturday 2nd of April at 3pm. Now that may not seem highly relevant to you, or us in fact, but this is the only border that we have crossed on a Saturday and had a problem. We arrived at the border checkpoint, were stamped through immigration and were directed to the booth to buy an autopass.
We were informed that we needed to get our Carnet de Passage stamped to get into Singapore and we were told that we were required to buy insurance and obtain an ICP and autopass before we would be allowed into the country. The Insurance could only be obtained by passing into Singapore to buy it. An ICP could only be obtained from the AA and the Carnet de Passage had to be stamped by the AA, a distance of 18km from the border. The Autopass could be bought at the border but could not be obtained unless you had the required insurance, ICP and Carnet stamp! The problem was further compounded by the AA office in the centre of town being closed after 1pm on a Saturday and not open on a Sunday. Luckily we were being met at the border by Kevin DeSouza from the Regents Motors Land Rover garage in Singapore. He got on the phone and was ringing round everyone to see if we could resolve the situation. Everyone at the border was so nice but there was no resolution to be seen, even when the head of customs came down! After trying to resolve the issues for 2 hours, we were informed that the best idea was to return to Malaysia until Monday when the relevant offices would be open. We would be allowed to park the car temporarily in the customs area to go into Singapore but one of the occupants would have to stay with the car.
We were stamped out of Singapore with a large VOID stamp on our passport and forced to travel back over the bridge into Malaysia. The Malaysian border guards did not have the documentation that we should have been presented in order to cross back into Malaysia. We just had a VOID stamped across our entrance stamp for Singapore. After some questioning and half an hour we were allowed back into Malaysia. Kevin rang us. He had contacted a friend who would vouch for us to park in customs for the weekend, obtain the correct documentation and then return to get our car from customs on Monday. We turned back and returned to Singapore, immigration stamped us VOIDED our stamps and we passed back into Singapore. Our vehicle was checked over by customs and then the Beast was searched by the sniffer dogs who were very cute but also quite terrifying. We had done our drugs check but you are always wary that something may have been planted on you. There is also a big stamp on the Singaporean pass into the country that says there is death for drug traffickers. Kevin and Richard arrived at the border to sign us into the country and vouch for us. We parked the car up at customs and we then, at 10pm, were allowed to pass into Singapore ? without our car.
Kevin kindly gave us a lift to Greg?s ex work colleagues house, Roger Phillips who kindly volunteered to put us up whilst we resolve the issues of shipping to Australia. It wasn?t until we got into Singapore and Kevin was transporting us to Rogers?s house that we found out who Richard is. The Assistant Superintendent for the Police had just helped us to get past the border bureaucracy of Singapore!
The ensuing week was a flurry of paperchasing around Singapore, obtaining the ICP, insurance and getting the Carnet stamped. There was a slight heart stopping moment when the lady at the AA asked us if the Beast was a motorhome (which of course we all know that no one has slept in the Beast since Europe)? and because it has ambulance stamped on the car documentation they wouldn?t allow it in to Singapore. We had to show her photographs, paperwork and then write a declaration just to prove that it was no longer an ambulance. After nearly 3 hours we were released from the AA to get our baby back. Bureaucratic Singapore!
The Beast was released from the clutches of customs and we drove her to the Land Rover garage, where she was tenderly restored to her former self over the following week by the kind mechanics there. As a token of our appreciation for all the help that Land Rover gave us we spent the weekend talking to interested people who had seen the article written about us in The Strait Times and convincing people that they needed to buy a Land Rover.
In the meantime, released from the worries of looking after the Beast, we had time to experience the pleasures of Singapore. We tried Holland Village, Muhammed Salat Road, Gay Leng road and China town. We visited Raffles for the compulsory Singapore Gin Sling, although Alexis visited in 1987 and thinks that it has lost half of its charm since they renovated it! We went to a world?s first, the Night Safari (!) which is part of the Singapore Zoo, which has over 900 animals. All the creatures of the night are illuminated in their naturalish environments in a humid rainforest environment that you can walk around in the semi darkness being bitten by mosquitoes or travel around on a tram. Orchard Road also had to be visited for a shopping spree or two. It is one of the longest roads that we have ever experienced for shops of clothes, accessories, electrical goods or in fact anything you ever want!
We were honoured to be invited to the Senior Officer?s Mess in the Police Academy by Richard Goh, the fantastic assistant Superintendent who saved us from driving around Malaysia for the weekend. The officers mess is a beautiful colonial building positioned on the top of a hill surrounded by redundant canons pointing out onto the country of Singapore. We were treated to a Singaporean treat, the fish head curry? believe us all, it is the most tastiest curry that you will ever try, and made by the mess?s chef, Auntie Doris!
We were treated to a visit to the East Coast Food Centre by Kevin and his wife Amelia who took us. A hawkers stand for those of you not versed in the lingo is a food stand selling any kind of delicious food cooked for you, there and then. Adrian was in his element! There were over 50 different stalls there for us to decide from. A nightmare! After that we were taken Gay Leng which is a red light district, intermingled with the best food in Singapore, according to our hosts ? the even roads have prostitutes and the odd roads have food, take your choice as to which one you want to drive down! The sole mission was to experience a proper Durian. Greg had never tried one and Alexis and Adrian could just remember the last time they tried one. There is a reason why you try to blank this foul fruit from your memory. It is one of the stinkiest, most revolting fruits known to humanity. It is about 30 cm high, green, spiky and smells like a cross between rotting flesh, human excrement, honey and turpentine. Truly a delight to see and taste! The fruit that you eat is within a fleshy exterior and is yellow with a large stone inside. To eat it fills your nose with revulsion, followed by an uncertainty as to whether you are enjoying the sensation of eating something that should just be endured in the bedroom followed by further revulsion. This fruit is banned on public transport, in confined spaces and in hotels. Taste at your own risk!
Roger introduced us to one of his work mates, Derrick and his wife Jessie, who very kindly introduced us to his family and especially his mum. They showed us true Singaporean dishes like popiah and some delicious sweet potato and yam deserts. Any of you who are interested in Singaporean food and would like to attempt to make his Mum?s food, you can see his Mum?s secret recipes on this webpage www.makantime.com . Any publishers out there, his brother is also looking to publish this fantastic recipe book!
After obtaining a date for the shipping of the Beast we had to ensure that it was clean for shipping. We spent 2 days trying to sort out the shipping of the Beast to Darwin in Australia. Believe me, there isn?t much that you can ship to Australia without it being searched, x-rayed, fumigated or destroyed, unless it is quarantined. Most of the stuff and food that we have had in the Beast since Europe and most of the way across the world had to be disposed of because they wouldn?t allow it in to Oz. There is a no eggs, no dairy and no meat policy with restriction on wood, food and animals (we know that we will have to have Greg checked over at the other side ? but I think that is something to do with his glands!!). We spent a day cleaning everything in the Beast, removing all the contents, scrubbing every surface with a toothbrush and cloths before disinfecting everything. All the surfaces had to be cleaned thoroughly including the underside of the Beast, which we had to make sure was clean of dust, soil and seeds as well as dead insects. We have been warned that the AQIS, Australian Quarantine guys, can be very strict, so we are hoping that our endeavours in the 37oC heat were not in vain!
Unfortunately, because the Beast is too big to ship in a container we have had to ship her on the deck. This means subjecting her to being lashed down to a rocky boat, with corrosive sea air and water and not being too sure if she will survive to Australia without falling over board or being kidnapped by the pirates that maraud the Malaca Strait through which our champion ship, the Arafura Endeavour Voy 29, has to pass. We will see if we have a car at the other end when we arrive in Australia in 10 days time
There are several webpages that can help any would be shippers as to what you can and can?t ship to Australia -
http://www.affa.gov.au/corporate_docs/publications/word/quarantine/executiv/whatcanti2003textonly.doc, http://www.aaa.asn.au/pages/import.htm#NT and http://www.wwcf.com.au/importingmotor.html.
Unfortunately our time in Singapore has come to an end and we need to cross over the equator to more southern climes. We have met some of the nicest and friendliest people along our trip. Greg?s workmate from the UK, Roger Phillips, kindly volunteered to put us up in the beautiful district of Holland Village whilst we are trying to work out the shipping, flights and our general lives. He has carted us around the country and showed us the wonders of his ex pat life style. Thank you again Roger! Thank you also to all our friends at Land Rover, the Singapore Police and the others who have made it not the bureaucratic nightmare that we were expecting but the enjoyable personable place that it is.
Notes about Singapore:
- There are 4.2 million people in Singapore, an island 24 miles by 34 miles, an island the size of the Isle of White!
- When Sir Stamford Raffles first landed his troops on an island off the peninsula of Malaysia, they spotted what they thought was a lion (more likely a tiger) and named the island, Lion Island, Singapura.
- Singapore has the lowest birth rate in the world with an actual negative birth rate! The government are encouraging people to have children with cash incentives of S$3000 for your first child and S$6000 for your second child.
- 77% of the population is Chinese, the remaining 23% is Malaysian and other nationalities.
- If you own a car in Singapore you are required to pay S$30,000 (about #10,000) over a 10 year period for the privilege of having a car ? the Certificate of Entitlement (CoE).
- Only 15% of the population own a car.
- It costs S$20 per day to have a foreign vehicle in Singapore.
- You must have an autopass machine in your car. For any car to drive underneath a gantry with ERP written over the top, you are charged for the privilege of entering the central business district and your card is charged. You can also use the card as a credit card or pay for car parks.
- It is illegal to bring chewing gum into Singapore.
- It is illegal and therefore fineable to spit in Singapore ? S$500 fine (#150)
- If you jay walk you can be fined up to S$1500 (#500).
- The minimum wage is S$4/hour (#1.30)
- There is a death sentence for drug trafficking.
- If you commit a crime in Singapore you can be convicted and sentenced to caning. If you?re sentence is 6 whips then you will be whipped 6 times but if you pass out after the second whip then you will be sent to hospital to recover; once recovered you will be returned to complete the sentence.
- There is a 24 point system for your driving license and you can obtain 12 points on your license for speeding as well as S$200 for every kilometre over the speed limit.
- There is compulsory national service in Singapore. As a male you do 2 years service and you must also maintain a certain level of fitness until you are 40 in case you are called into service.
- Much of the Singapore coast line is reclaimed land.
- Singaporeans put Lah at the end of every sentence.
- There are 22,000 taxis in Singapore