Monday, 7 July 2008

Day 411 - Singapore

Leaving KL was leisurely, I didn't want to go, or at least I didn't want to get up. I was just about to leave when I got talking to somebody who was just arriving, so I didn't set off until 10am, still I didn't have far to go as I was taking 2 days to get to Melaka and it's only 160k. I decided to pick up the expressway for an easy route out, the expressway that goes right past the Indonesian Embassy. I got to the embassy really easily, I did it, I wasn't defeated, and what's more it's only 3km to get there, the shortest I have done it in before was 6.5km. For reference, just in case you need to get there from the hostel, go out of the front door and turn left then at the traffic lights turn right. Technically the right turn isn't illegal, but to get yourself there you have to go a short distance the wrong way along a one-way street, that bit might well be! Left at the T junction, then do a U-turn at the next lights, slightly illegal, but you wont be the only one doing the manouver. Immediately left, then keep going straight until you hit the lights at the expressway, where right, on to the wrong side of the road heading into 3 lanes of oncoming traffic and then the embassy is a short way down on your right. Hmm reading through that again I shouldn't be so chuffed with myself about finding an easy way there. I haven't told you where the starting point is either, I don't want to make it too easy. Anyway I made my way down the expressway, but didn't get very far before the heavens opened. When it rains that hard it is no fun, so I took shelter. The heavens closed again so I was off, but before long there was a repeat process, this time lasting longer making the water somewhat deeper. When I stopped I took off everything apart from my shorts and wrung them all out, my shirt holds an alarming amount of water. Clearly I wasn't going to get far today. I decided to stick to the expressway until Seremban, it was easy going and route finding was a doddle. I was going well too, was it because of a few days rest or because of the tailwind, probably both. The tailwind was a man made one from the passing vehicles, but still welcome. I saw a sign to Melaka saying 89km, so tomorrow was going to be a short ride. Then I decided to make tomorrow no ride at all as I would push on and get to Melaka, I stuck to the expressway for all apart from the last 15km, not the most exciting thing to do, but it suited the mood I was in, besides I was enjoying the easy ride, it was fast too. With just 7km to go the heavens had another delivery for me, this time it looked big, black and even more nasty than the others. I had a sneaky feeling I was going to miss it though, but I was proved hopelessly wrong as I waited at another set of traffic lights, so I dived for cover in a petrol station. It dumped the worst of it, but the cloud had more patience than me, so I set off after 30 minutes into the rain and water covered roads. I rescued a tortouise I saw crossing the dual carriageway, I took it to the otherside, but I have to say it looked a bit cheesed off with my good turn, it probably only wanted to get to the central reservation! I checked a couple of guest houses before opting for one full of character, though it would have been nice if the walls reached the ceiling, they fall a good 2ft short, it is more like a dormitory with cubicles. It's a very green guest house, though I am sure not really intentionally. There are few lights which are all very dim. I looked around for an electrical socket but can't find one anywhere, oh well.

A day in Melaka was enough, I liked the place but the points of interest are all in the centre and close together, easily managable in a single day. The highlight for me was the trishaws, the whackist I have seen, there seems to be a competition as to who can get the most plastic flowers on them. Once it's dark they are lit up with hundreds of LED lights and unfortuantely my photos don't show the music blaring out of the CD players. Half of the centre is old colonial Dutch buildings, the other half was the ubiqitous China Town, though it was a rather a nice place to have a wander about, though there are no pavements and with the traffic and open drainage, you need to be a bit careful. I have a nasty feeling I shall be returning to Melaka after Singapore as it seems to be the easiest place to get a ferry to Sumatra. From Singapore it means some island hopping and nobody can actually confirm if it is possible to do with a bike, we will see.

Heading south wasn't over exciting, though there seemed to be a constant smell of Durian, I rather like it. The idea was to make it to Singapore in 2 days, so the further I got on the first day, the easier the second day would be. It was easy going, though trying to avoid the new road was the biggest challenge. I managed to stick to the coast road most of the time, at least I assume it was the coast road as I never saw the coast, though I did see plenty of places that suggested it was there 'Sea View Restaurant' for example. What sea view? It was only a single storey place, perhaps you view it contents on your plate, then eat it! I seem to have food on the brain at the moment don't I? Lunch was late, about 3:30, but I stopped off at a little restaurant and was soon joined by the owner Zainurin, a 43 year old man with 8 children, he has my full sympathy. He said life was a struggle with prices on the rise and his eldest son needed funding at university in KL, yet when I came to pay he refused payment. I didn't cost a huge amount, but I am sure that the money would have meant more to him than me, what a wonderful gesture. The Malaysians have been kind and friendly the whole time, I like them, and he was a fine example of the people in general. I pushed on, I knew I wouldn't find a place to stay and I couldn't stop to camp yet as I had no food and water, I passed plenty of good spots though, so it wouldn't be problem. At Serrangar I bought my food and topped up with water, but from there on it was houses, villages and little towns the whole way, my exploration down little paths and tracks only brought me to more houses. I called in at 2 police stations to see if there were any homestays in the area, there weren't. Then I saw a fire station, so I called in there and asked the same, still none. We got chatting and before long I was asked if I just wanted to stay one night, if so I could sleep there, well I wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I was given a whole appartment, 3 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and lounge, all to myself and all for free. You could tell the place was used by men though as the tele only seemed to tuned into the football channels, what a blow!

Just to make sure I could still do it I left at 7am, it was only just getting light. I thanked the crew and it turned out they had no overnight calls, they looked disappointed. Again, not an exciting ride, but I went through a traffic jam, the first proper jam in a long time, 3 and 4 lanes of stop start traffic, a normal road at home. I opted to use the First Link causeway to Singapore, though I was seriously tempted by the Second Link when I saw a signpost earlier, though thankfully I didn't head that way as I later heard that cyclists apparently can't use the expressway there.

As soon as I entered Singapore I wondered what all the hype was about, it's reminds me of Combe where I live, just with a better road surface. I knew straight away I was going to like it, there were signs for Pies everywhere. Actually it was just Pie, but I assumed as there were so many signs that there must be more than one pie otherwise they would sell out pretty quickly. Imagine my disappointment when it slowly dawned on my that it was actually the road I was on, the Pan Island Expressway. You can't eat that, not in one sitting anyway. Combe doesn't have a PIE, well it wouldn't do would it, it's not an island, but it does have a PVL, not that is signposted as such. I found the hostel I had booked very easily, my crap map of Malaysia has a very good map of Singapore on the other side. The dorms are mixed and most occupants seem to be female. I was on a top bunk and I knew straight away that whoever the girl was on the bottom bunk had to come from the UK, who else would come to a place where it is over 30 degrees and bring gloves? Ok, so it's the same as Combe except that there are more people here, about 4 million more and Singapore has more shopping Malls than Combe.

Today I had expected to do another visa run, to the Aussie embassy, then I discovered that it can be done online, so I will leave it a while yet and do it much nearer to my arrival date. I was still up reasonably early and ready for the free do it yourself breakfast. I sat next to Nick from Canberra and we chatted for good length of time, but I was in no rush. When Nick left I was joined by a girl from Scotland, Aberdeen, and she didn't have a Scottish accent. It seemed rude not to have another breakfast with her. It was about midday before I eventually set out, just in time for it to start raining. I managed to get far enough away from the hostel to have got very wet going back, the rain here is much wetter than the stuff at home. Not one to miss an opportunity I went into a cafe for lunch, but to be honest it rained long enough and hard enough to warrant 3 lunches, but I was very good, I only had the two, I am on a diet afterall. Come to think of it Singapore probably has more cafes and restaurants than Combe. Then I went shopping, and this is the city to do it, unless you want a map of Indonesia. Everywhere you go, or at least I went, there were shops, shops and more shops, it seems to be the only passtime here, shop until you drop and more, shop until your head falls off (photo). I found some maps of Indonesia, one was a reasonable Nelles map but I knew Borders was around the corner, so I checked that first, their maps were useless. By the time I had got back to the other bookshop some bastard had nicked my map, can you believe it? I asked if they had any more in stock only to be told that they had never stocked it. I pointed out it had been there earlier and that somebody had stolen my copy, so they checked again, they had sold it 5 days ago. Time goes so fast when your head falls off. They tracked one down for me in another store, but I will save that for tomorrow, I needed to get back before my feet fell off.

Well some of my odd jobs carried out in KL seem to have been a bit of a waste of time. My tooth is only marginally better and my watch after just 3 days says the battery is running low which means the light and the alarm no longer work. I am dreading having a look at my Indonesian visa, I have a nasty feeling it will have reduced to just 30 days!

So having told you all about Aoiffe and her BMT in the last post, I have to decide what to write about her in the future. If I write nothing, then it seems that I have forgotten about it, but you obviously realise now that that will not be the case, I will hopefully have an update at least every other day by a text message, but it will still be a tough emotionally. But I don't want to write about it every time either, it's not a blog about Aoiffe, besides, she is lying in bed doing nothing, she can write her own bloody blog! So I have decided to mention it occassionally, as I see fit, as it affects me. Yes this is a travel blog, but I also want it to include my emotions. I have always thought that a long journey is all wonderful, a bed of roses, but in reality it isn't. Sure it's good, afterall it's what I want to be doing, but there are tough times too, but they don't often get a mention from other travellers.

Ok, so Combe doesn't have a Chinatown or a Little India. Also it doesn't have any ferry terminals or an airport, but otherwise you couldn't tell the difference.


dad said...

Hi John, thanks for the information on how to reach the Indonesian Embassy, it may come in handy if I decide to cycle to Australia! Crossing a dual carriageway to rescue a tortoise doesn't count as a good deed,more like a good hearted person affected by the heat and too many duplicated meals. Must look at the Singapore pictures to see if I can spot your house. Have fun.

Caff said...

You say there is a PVL in Combe - I think I know that one - is it Pongy Valley Lane?
Have I heard right? That you are changing your plans and now "Cycling to Japan" instead of Australia so that you can get to the G8 summit where they have 18-course meals? That's the spirit!!! :-)

Caff said...

Can you hurry up home - I've just run out of your chutney and would love you to make some more! :-)