Arriving in Singapore after Darwin was a revelation. It
was similar to arriving in Buenos Aires after Cape Town. Suddenly things
were buzzing. We'd gone from the sparsely populated sleepy Northern Territory
to one of the worlds fastest moving cities. I wasn't too sure what to
expect but was really impressed. It is incredibly modern with a huge amount
of fastish moving traffic which is easily avoided by using the best metro
system I've ever used. The city is also clean and has good footpaths on
the side of the road so you can actually walk around. I'm writing this
after a couple of months in Malaysia and Thailand which despite being
western countries are nowhere as advanced as Singapore. Oh, and a further
6 weeks in Nepal, India and Pakistan which is another story. A further
bonus for us was that English is widely spoken. The country is essentially
populated by decendents of immigrants from China, Malaysia and India who
find English is a useful common language although with the increasing
commercial importance of China the government is apparently promoting
the use of Mandarin.
We settled in to New Sandy's Place, a guesthouse recommended
by a fellow traveller we'd met at Elkes Backpackers in Darwin. It's right
near Newton MRT Station and has parking for both bikes and cars if necessary.
It's also quiet which for us boring old farts is important. Must get our
beauty sleep you know!
We have got the impression that many travellers don't think
much of Singapore. We loved it however and, apart from things like it
being modern, clean and easy to get around, the main reason for liking
it is its huge number of good hawker food centres. There are loads of
them including one at Newton which concentrates on seafood so is a bit
pricy. These food centres range from appendages to old markets to food
courts in modern shopping malls and they all offer a good variety of Chinese,
Malaysian, Indian and Indonesian food for reasonable money. Our favourite
was the Lau Pa Sat Festival Market located near Raffels Place MRT in the
middle of the financial area. It is contained within a wrought iron structure
dating from about the 1920's and reminds me of many large old British
train stations. We stuffed ourselves there most nights and then waddled
over to the river which separates the financial area from the colonail
district. There is a pretty pedestrian area perfectly designed for us
tourists to enjoy some great views in a tropical city which at that point
looks like a very nice British city centre. Just don't buy anything in
the pubs there - beer is twice the price of a central London pub!
We didn't have to go far to be in a small Chinese or Indian
town although I must say Little India seemed pretty dull after Chinatown.
To be honest nowhere is that far in Singapore but the heat and humidity
can make getting around a bit of a chore if you're not using the metro.
We gave ourselves sore feet and very smelly socks wandering around the
We collected the bike after we'd been there for about 4
days. Jesselton Shipping are the agents for Perkins Shipping in Singapore
and they were very helpful. It took nearly half a day to get through all
the things we had to do to bring the bike in to the country though. First
the we had to go to the AA of Singapore where we were required to have
our carnet endorsed ie. having the reverse side of the next available
page stamped the date we were clearing the bike through customs and the
date we expected to take the bike out of Singapore. We were entitled to
up to 30 days but could take the bike out at anytime before the leave
by date stamped by the AAS. The reason for this is that Singapore Customs
go after the AAS if we don't take the bike out of the country when we
should. The AAS also sold us a form of road tax for foreign vehicles and
third party insurance for Singapore and Malaysia. They then made the necessary
alterations to our carnet to extend its validity till the end of our trip
which had proved such a problem for the Australian AA. Our business at
the AAS was completed in about an hour which considering what we needed
is really good going.
Next we had to go to the Road Transport Authority to get
an Autopass Card on presentation of our endorsed carnet which cost S$10
plus S$4 for every day the bike was in Singapore. It is a sort of "credit"
card and can be topped up at any 7-11 shop. All that done we could now
collect the bike from the port and clear it through customs. Once we'd
found the correct bit of the port - our taxi driver was really helpful
here - this was completed in about half an hour. For a change all we had
to do to the bike was connect the battery as we were able to ship it loose.
It arrived in the same condition we had given it to Perkins Shipping in
We had more paperwork to go through in Singapore than we
ever had anywhere else but the process was so efficient it was done far
quicker than any other country probably would have been able to. We were