Diary - Singapore

Friday 26th July 2002 - DAY 177

Starting point: Melaka, Malaysia
Ending point: Singapore City
Distanced travelled: 167 miles

Robin in front of arts centre Nic with Singapore skyline

On the road again, for the last leg. We pack Tony and Simon who are looking more than a little worse for ware (lightweight northerners) into the back of the truck and head off for Singapore and the mountain of bureacracy in between. We drive the last couple of hundred miles to the border carefully calculating our fuel consumption so that we have a nearly empty tank for when we containerise the vehicle. Leaving Tony and Simon to walk un-hindered across the border, we have to split up to obtain the necessary paperwork to get the car into the country. While Nic sits with the truck just feet from the Malaysian emigration, Robin slips his 'briefcase' under his arm and crosses the border to go and meet our shipping agent in Singapore. A moment of panic when she is not there passes with a phonecall, and soon he's being driven across the island to the AA offices. We need to get insurance, an International Circulation Permit (ICP) and (rather bizzarely, considering the whole document is an AA endorsement in itself) get our Carnet endorsed. It's tedious, and a seemingly totally pointless exercise, but that's just the way this country works. The agent goes on to explain many of the rediculous laws of the place, such as having to buy a permit in order to buy a car, which invariably costs as much as the car itself! Another one that captures the imagination is the illegality of importing chewing gum.

It transpires that since our ship will be arriving on Thursday, we cannot put the car into the container until Tuesday at the earliest, and we have to wait until it leaves on Friday to get all of our documents stamped. Oh well, its going to cost us a bit just to eat and sleep in Singapore, not to mention parking fees, but at least there's plenty to see here. The city is really stunning, and the technology evident in every walk of life quite staggering. It's certainly a very rich place.

Four hot and sticky hours later, Robin is back in Malaysia, only to turn round and drive straight back into Singapore (much to the amusement of the immigration officer when he sees I've already been in once today). It was reassuing to find that the first trip to collect the documents was actually necessary, as customs, immigration and the Land Transport Authority go through everything with a fine tooth comb. When they can't find any excuse to turn us away, they stamp the Carnet and issue us with our Autopass card (after a brief Catch 22 when we can't get one without the other). It's 9:00pm by the time we are through, but the day isn't over yet. It transpires that Robin's fuel calculations were a little on the thin side, and about 2 miles out of town, in the middle of the freeway, we splutter to a halt. Fortunately, we have an empty jerry and a petrol station is found not far round the corner, but it really tops off the day! However, there are yet more surprises to come. We are just reaching exhaustion point having discovered our chosen hostel has been closed down (as have virtually all the budget accomodations in the city), when Andy from Laos runs across the road in front of us. He shows us to his hostel, where there is a roof-top dorm and is probably the cheapest place to stay in town. And, as if the co-incidental meetings over the past few days haven't astounded us enough, Poul and Pia, the Danish overlanders, appear from around the corner and take us for some food. After that, it hardly even seems surprisng when we discover that, of all the places in the city, Tony and Simon should have the bunks right next to us!