Singapore. Another huge personal milestone. The end of the land mass that began for me over a year and a half ago when I arrived in France. From here I can go no further without taking a boat.
I had goosebumps arriving into the centre of town. Singapore is one of those few places in the world that I always knew I’d pass through if I ever did reach Australia. Arriving on my bicycle seemed like such a distant dream when I cycled out of Calais but now here I am, and I have the photo to prove it:
I cycled over to Tree in Lodge, the famous bike touring hostel in town. I’d only paid for accommodation once in the last 6 weeks and decided to take advantage of the cheap cyclist rates to treat myself on the big occasion. SK – the owner – had been following my blog for over a year and more than a dozen other cyclists I’ve met on the road in that time have passed by his place before or after we met.
SK’s sister Pheoebe (Riding Cyclette) is also cycling this way from the UK and we only narrowly missed each other in Uzbekistan last October. It was around the time that the Tajikistan embassy in Tashkent stopped issuing visas. I was lucky – I had enough time on my Uzbek visa to wait for them to sort themselves out, but Phoebe wasn’t so fortunate and had to change plans and leg it out the country to Kyrgyzstan.
So unfortunately we never actually met. But when I arrived in Osh, Kyrgyzstan I did meet Phil & Leonie – a German cycling couple. In yet another small world story, Phil was actually in Singapore the same time as me. We met for lunch the day the day I arrived, over 9 months since we last met! They’d been cycling since, but overtaken me in China. Phil had gotten sick in Malaysia and had been stuck in hospital in Singapore for a few days now, but he was finally well enough to return to Malaysia (where Leonie was). Here’s a link to their blog – Weltradlenker.
Singapore was expensive. Crazy expensive. I was back in the world of western prices and I didn’t like it one bit. Fortunately we could go for free dinner at the Sikh Temple next door and save a few quid. It’s possible to live cheap in any corner of the world.
There was another cyclist staying there called Leigh – a Scottish guy who’d been cycling around South East Asia for the last 8 months. He’d contracted a really nasty infection in Thailand and had his holiday cut short after accumulating a monster medical bill in the hospital in Penang, Malaysia.
We went out for lunch the next day in ‘Little India’. Little did Leigh know at the time, but while we were tucking into our feast of a meal he was supposed to be flying back to his home in Holland. When we got back he received a phone call from his girlfriend – he’d missed the flight! He’d though it was scheduled for 1.30am the following morning, but had gotten the dates wrong (not quite sure how you can screw that up) with the midnight change. But – in a stroke of miraculous fortune – the flight had been delayed until 5.30pm so he could quickly pack up his bike, jump in a taxi and catch it for the trip home. Lucky bugger!
My Mum had posted my sleeping bag and coat out to Singapore (luckily they could be save from all that mold in Thailand) and with all my new bike repairs I was almost completely ready for Indonesia. There was just one thing missing – new tyres. No one in Singapore was stocking 28” Schwalbe touring tyres (I now understand why everyone tours the world on 26” wheels) but SK arranged for someone stocking them in Kuala Lumper to post them down.
And I had an extra day to wait Singapore, meaning I could go and stay with Sebastian – my second ‘small world story’ for this blog:
I was stuck for most of 2014 unable to get a passport for either UK or Denmark (long story). When I finally received my first UK one in November I went on holiday for a friends birthday to Berlin and from there I took the bus/boat/bus to Copenhagen to see my Mum and arrange my Danish passport. It was on this trip that I met Sebastian. I was so hungover I could barely talk, but managed to hold a conversation with him on the ferry crossing. I’d be leaving on my bike ride a month later but had still barely planned a thing. He was on his way to get a flight from Copenhagen to New York to travel in the States. We kept vaguely in touch and a few moths later he got a job in Singapore, I said there was a chance I might see him next year and now here I am!
We met up by his office in the centre of town. Singapore is beautiful in the evening – the cityscape is unlike anything I’ve seen in such a long time. I’ve become such a nature-lover on this tour that I never thought I’d use the adjective ‘beautiful’ to describe an urban environment, but the man made monsters that lined the river were definitely beautiful, albeit in a rather different way. Cycling around the city after dark was like riding through a video game. Everything was lit up clearly but I’d have to crane my neck to see the tops of the sky scrapers towering over the narrow roads.
Singapore reminded me of London. More so than anywhere I’ve been since leaving – perhaps that’s why I liked it. I used to work the odd job around Moorgate and here was a similar financial centre. In the morning everyone’s rushing to work in clean pressed shirts, but in the evening the top buttons get undone at the yuppie bars where the city boys can grab a pint for the same price I could get 10 meals in Malaysia.
Somewhere like Singapore makes me miss working. Or rather, makes me miss earning money. I hate seeing my bank account just decrease every time I look at it. My Australian ‘Working Holiday’ visa was approved last week and I can’t wait to raise some funds down under.
On the other hand, somewhere like Singapore just reminds me of the lifelessness of city life in London. Faceless bodies just chugging back and forth from home to the office. Lets see how I feel once I have a job again…
Singapore is so sterile at face value but it’s also surprisingly seedy. In town the red light district runs straight through the financial centre and the workers hang out in front of their shops in tight dresses greeting every man who walks past with a ‘hello mister, you very handsome!’, or ‘come inside sexy!’.
One evening I went out for a few drinks with some friends and ended up in some Chinese karaoke joints – it turned out to be a hilarious evening. All the bars looked exactly the same. Old local guys, prostitutes and no foreigners. Dark rooms with the karaoke so loud you couldn’t even hear yourself think.
My tyres had arrived and it was time to catch the ferry to Indonesia. I’ve taken plenty of boats across rivers and estuaries on this trip, but this crossing is only second essential boat ride of the trip (after crossing the English Channel).
The Southern Hemisphere was calling my name and I had my eyes on that equator!