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Published: June 23rd 2015
And so we crossed over the causeway to Singapore and passport control. On inspecting Noushin's Iranian passport, the female Passport Control officer made a couple of telephone calls, before an armed guard escorted us away to the administration centre for further interviews. The Passport Border Guards remained courteous and polite throughout and after tying up a few loose ends, her passport was stamped and the official wished Noushin a pleasant stay in Singapore. We went through the Red Customs channel as we had nuts and other food stashed away in our panniers, however when we were met by the customs official he simply asked us whether we had alcohol or cigarettes in our possession and then told us that he himself was a keen cyclist. Having given us clear route instructions on how to reach our destination, he wished us good luck and sent us on our way.
We pedalled southwards, immediately noticing how clean the streets were with futuristic buildings looming up everywhere. The driving seemed to improve with car and bus drivers giving us wide berths during overtaking manoeuvres. The roads seemed relatively empty. I subsequently found out that people wishing to purchase a very ordinary 5 seat
One of the hotels in Singapore
The top part of the building apparently has a swimming pool overlooking the city
car in Singapore can pay in excess of £60000 for a car as well as a staggering 40000 Singaporean dollars tax. The government is seriously discouraging its citizens to use personal transport and opt for public transport or bicycles instead.
By this stage of the day we had developed a bit of an appetite and so we decided to eat at a restaurant where we had a burger and chips and some pasta with a couple of soft drinks. As I received the bill, my heart missed a couple of beats. Admittedly it was only the equivalent of £28, but certainly the most I had paid for a meal during the past two years.
We rode the short stretch to our friends house where we were warmly welcomed by Elspeth with Gin and Tonics in hand. We could not have received a greater welcome and the following day she and her two sons Murdo and Lachlan took us on a short tour of the Island's business district, before we retired to the British Club for a swim and an indian curry.
We ended up staying 7 days at my friend Andy's house and having been on the
road for such a long period of time, it was a welcome change to sleep in the same bed for more than one night.
Over the next few days Noushin and I explored Singapore visiting the famous Night Safari as well as watching some of the the opening rehearsals for the 2015 South East Asia (SEA) Games at Marina Bay. We completed a 9 KM walk along the Southern Ridges as well as visiting the reclaimed island of Sentosa, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Little India and China Town and the Bay of Gardens as well as picking up Noushin's New Zealand visa.
Singapore truly is a marvellous country, state and city. The Urban Redevelopment Authority is a free museum which illustrates how Singapore went from swamp land to one of the most futuristic cities on earth within a matter of 50 years and it really is an exceedingly interesting exhibition with plenty of interactive displays. From architecture to the well planned transport systems, to the High Density Buildings (HDBs) of which 85% of the population own their apartments, to the community swimming pools, Food Courts and Park Spaces everything seems to work efficiently.
Interestingly, the HDBs are
divided up amongst the different ethnicities, so that you couldn't,for example, have 100% Chinese ethnicity living in one tower block. Hence each Tower Block is divided, so that 75% of the inhabitants are Chinese, 10 percent Indian,10 percent Malay and 5 % other ethnicities.
The walk along the southern ridges following along metal foot bridges allowed us to view the city in peaceful surroundings, whilst the cable car to the island of Sentosa gave us breathtaking views across the anchorages towards Indonesia.
The famous Night Safari is a well rehearsed spectacle, allowing visitors to get close up to animals in their night time habitat.
The Bay of Gardens featured a waterfall and plants and vegetation within a glass framed dome whilst the 'Super Flowers' on the outside proved to be spectacular as the light show began.
Of course the food in the Singaporean food courts is extremely good value, with the added knowledge that strict hygiene standards are adhered to, with each stall being graded accordingly.
Having spent a lengthy time at our friend's house, the two of us checked into the 'Tree in Lodge' hostel where we were warmly received by the owner SK
who himself cycled from Finland to Singapore several years ago without a tent, knocking on people's doors each night. He ended up staying with 322 different families and had many a good story to tell.
On our second day there, we met up with two local Singaporeans Vincent and Thomas who kindly took us on a bike ride of Singapore as well as offering us many culinary delights in Chinese restaurants such as Peanut pancakes. En route we visited the Shimano bike gear museum, where I witnessed electronic gear shifters for the very first time. Apparently they've had them in Singapore for the past 5 years but I had never seen them in the UK before.
Singapore also allowed me to meet up with another ex-naval colleague Mark whom I hadn't seen for the past 13 years as well as my German nephew Daniel.
On previous visits to Singapore, I had always found the place to be a little sterile, but on this occasion meeting up with local Singaporeans and really exploring the Capital I fell in love with the country and its people.
The recently deceased former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew who recently passed
away certainly made his mark on this country. Whilst some may argue that the country has too much legislation and rules, the country seems to work efficiently.
And so we sadly said good bye to Singapore and reentered Malaysia to cycle up to the east coast island of Pulau Tioman. Here, whilst snorkelling I was able to witness a wild turtle swimming in the sea, a truly rare sight, as well as recently hatched turtles being released into the sea to start their 7 day voyage to freedom. Unfortunately, many fell foul of predators as soon as they entered the water and only a staggering 2 out of a 1000 baby turtles survive this exodus.
From Pulau Tioman we returned to Kuala Lumpur where we were hosted by the lovely Siew Yung, an avid and enthusiastic cyclist who treated us to a night of Korean food as well as feeding us copious amounts of chocolate ice cream........just what we needed before we continued on our long onward journey to New Zealand to commence the next part of our cycle adventure. The journey continues........
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