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The contrast in cultures and buildings of this amazing city.


Indian New Year celebrations. Seems every ethnic group gets their turn.


Tossing the dough to make our Murtabak.


Xmas decorations in Orchard Road.


Putting Jack in the box

Gathering the mussels south of Melaka


Fishing village south of Melaka


Village life on the water


Historic early Dutch settlers vessel in Melaka where there are many cultural influences.

Tempting street food in Jonkers St, Melaka.


Friendly Malaysians greet us as we pass by their front door on a narrow road along the river bank on the way back to Singapore.


Locals are always ready to help in any way they can, the bike is out the box and we need to reassemble bits and pieces.

We're on our way...

Singapore to Nepal

7/11/07
Singapore now seems like familiar territory as this is our third visit here. We know the ropes and although late at night, easily organise a taxi to the same hotel we've stayed at before, in Little India.

The next morning we're up early to meet Mike, a friend from Toowoomba, for breakfast at a small Indian café. The cook was pounding and tossing the dough, almost like a pizza base and we chose a Murtabak, which has a filling of mutton and is fried on a huge hot plate. Delicious authentic tucker washed down with strong black coffee and we're rearing to go.

Today was a public holiday in Singapore, celebrations of the Indian New Year, so we couldn't pick the bike up and instead went window shopping at the Sin Lim Square, a huge 5 story emporium of electronic goods. The Sales staff are aggressive and competitive, many offering unbelievable deals on cameras etc. As we understand it though, if the deal sounds unbelievable then it probably is. Often these touters would try to 'hook' us by offering a great price, then try to switch us to something else that they claimed was 'much better'. Anyway, a bit of fun and we weren't 'taken'.

Friday morning and today we collect Jack. We know the procedure and the bureaucracy involved and are prepared to 'go with the flow' and not get up-tight. First it's off to the AAA Singapore where Rosie checks and fills in the Carnet. She then arranges insurance S$100.00 and issues the Circulation Permit and reminds us to activate the toll card from the Road Transport Authority as soon as we collect the bike. Visitors are granted a couple of free days after which motorcycles are charged S$4.00 a day and cars S$20.00. When the vehicle leaves Singapore they check the days and charge accordingly.

The next process is to visit Angie at Megastar Shipping, give her about S$150.00 for port handling and she gives us the paperwork to collect the bike from the docks. Firstly though we need to get a special pass from the Port Authority to enter the port. Finding this office was quite a challenge and then we were expected to wait in this huge line to get our pass. Fortunately I've become a little thick skinned and noticed a clerk returning from lunch. Despite the dagger looks from the 'patiently waiting', I approached her and she processed our application. Then she wanted S$4.00 for the pass but, according to Singapore Government practices, is unable to accept cash. Only a special cash card will do and we can get one at the machine over there for S$20.00. What to do? Fortunately, looking helpless sometimes helps and a woman in the booth next door offered her card and we simply reimbursed her in cash.

Now we had to locate the warehouse at this huge port. Not as difficult as it seemed and the manager there escorted us with Jack to the exit where customs checked the paperwork and issued the 'stamp of approval'. Then, nearly 6 hours later, we were on our way into the dense traffic and hold ups that are a part of driving in Singapore peak hour.

Malaysia

The reason we wanted the bike in Singapore was so we could ride up to Malaka in Malaysia and hopefully get a ferry across to Indonesia where we hoped to spend a few days riding around but more importantly, visiting an Orangutan sanctuary in the Sumatra highlands. This was really important to Dianne and she was looking forward to it.

The ride up to Malaka was uneventful, except for an over zealous security guard at the Singaporean customs side. There is this unusual law, with steep penalties, in Singapore that Singaporean registered vehicles are not allowed to cross into Malaysia with less than 3/4 tank of fuel. You see, fuel is much more heavily taxed in Singapore and the authorities don't want the locals driving across the border and filling up with cheap Malaysian fuel, so they have this law. Well I wanted a photo of the sign, but the security guard got all hot and bothered over it. He insisted we got off the bike, showed him our passports and carnet, called his boss and generally went on a complete 'power trip'. Eventually I lost my cool and let him know that as we did not take the photograph he was being ridiculous and that we were just going to carry on. He started apologising and didn't resist when we just rode on. The last time I lost my cool with the Singaporean authorities was when we returned from our trip to SE Asia. At the border they were making things difficult for us because I'd lost or misplaced that dammed toll card. They mucked about for nearly an hour and it was only when I got really uptight did they seem to jump around and do something. In that case simply issue another card.

After taking the smaller coastal roads and being invited to try some local mussels at a small restaurant along the way, we arrived in Malaka late afternoon and found the 'Famous Inn' where we had stayed before. The staff were pleased to see us and we were pleased to be back in this inexpensive but clean and well appointed hotel. Everything is so much cheaper in Malaysia and we were glad to be back.

Up early this morning to make arrangements to get across the narrow crossing to Indonesia. Unfortunately, there is only a passenger ferry and we can't get Jack across. We could leave him in Malaka and arrange transport in Indonesia, not our preferred option but one that we would consider and make a decision in the morning.

The rest of the day we spent visiting the markets along Jonkers Street and taking in some of the local sights. For dinner we thought we'd try some Chinese street food that looked good.

Well that street food may have looked good but it didn't agree with Dianne and she was up the whole night with 'the runs', and was completely knocked out the next day. Didn't get out of bed at all, well except to...

This changed our plans completely though as we were already pressed for time in Indonesia and to loose a day and with Dianne weak, we decided to just chill out and take it easy and make the most of Malaka and the surrounding area. Just as well as it turned out.

Before we left Singapore we'd checked with the freight agent who would be handling getting Jack to Kathmandu. We just wanted to make sure that everything was OK. Unfortunately all was not well. Despite confirming arrangements before we left Australia, it seemed they had omitted certain costs and had not taken into account the fact that the bike needed to be air freighted as 'dangerous goods'. Dianne and I did not get a good feeling from them but they did say they would sort things out and email us with the revised procedure and costs. They never bothered to get back to us but we always say that if you are going to have bad luck then you also need to have some good luck and it seemed that a business across from our hotel window had wireless internet. This proved to be a major asset as we spent several days negotiating with other freight companies in Singapore to get Jack to Kathmandu. Eventually we got onto a company called Airtroplis Express and one of their sales managers, Melissa knew her stuff and arranged everything for us. Unfortunately the air freight cost was much higher so she offered a cheaper alternative to sea freight the bike to Kolkata in India.

Although the cost was tempting, we'd locked in our flights from Singapore to Kathmandu via Delhi and there was no option to change the flights so we would then have to find our own way from Kathmandu to Kolkata. That didn't seem like it would be a 'fun' trip on public buses. Then there was the notoriously difficult Indian customs to deal with. Gut feeling told us to go with the air freight option. As it turns out we're glad we did. Firstly there was a typhoon off the Bangladesh coast, near Kolkata that wouldn't have been good and then we read about rioting in the streets of Kolkata with the army having to be brought in to quell the unrest and burning of vehicles in the streets. If we had had any remaining doubts about spending the extra money on air freight, the day after we arrived in Kathmandu, we met 3 young Germans who had shipped their Land Rover from Perth. The boat arrived 3 weeks later than scheduled and it then took a further 3 weeks and several bribes to get the vehicle released. They then had to endure driving through one of India's largest cities.

Yep, I think we did the right thing. After arriving in Kathmandu, we contacted the freight agent, they took us to the airport and within an hour we had Jack (in the box). Everyone was keen to help get Jack out of the box and another hour later we'd reassembled everything and were riding away. I'd been a bit concerned about what to do with the crate, remembering that in Brisbane they had wanted about $100.00 to 'dispose' of it last trip, but as I was reassembling Jack we noticed the locals scurrying away with sections of the crate and the packing material. They were just glad to have the timber.



Riding through the busy streets in Kathmandu is a very different experience, click below on Next page to continue our journey in Nepal.

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©Haydn and Dianne Durnell 2007