Category Archives: Singapore

Day 15: “It must be Sayang…” – Singapore


According to the schedule we were supposed to hit the road again, head across the bridge, and then 200 kilometres into Malaysia but the receptionist at Urban Hostel must have put a hex on us or something because we both felt a bit ill, especially me. Although, granted, our health could possibly have been due to a combination of too much sun, too much beer and eating chicken that was so raw it was still pecking at the vegetables on the plate.

Whatever the cause, we decided it was necessary to change hostels and stay an extra day to recuperate. We were both aware at this time that we’d been lucky with hitchhiking through Indonesia. We were fortunate it was such a chilled out country. The police seemed to play by their own rules, which, that time, had worked in our favour.

Singapore, however, has a notoriously officious reputation. There are over 40’000 illegal offences many of which are innocuous, such as littering, leaving still water lying around your house or workplace, failing to lock up your bicycle when not in use, walking around naked in your house, and oral sex, unless, of course, it’s part of foreplay.

We felt lucky not to have to hitchhike in this environment. The receptionist at our new hostel had agreed to take us over the bridge, to the border of Malaysia, in the morning.

“I know some Malay”, said Michael, while we were killing time in one of Singapore’s numerous shopping centres.

“Oh really”, I replied, “What’s that then?”

“’Sayang’ means ‘love’”

“Oh right so that’s what ‘Sayang House’ [the name of Michael’s house in England] means” I said.

I was in the toilet, drying my hands, when a small Singaporean, probably about 45, pottered over to me. He was about 5”4, with gaps between every one of his top teeth. He was wearing a short sleeved shirt that was too big for him and a belt high around his mid-rift.

“Hello!” he said, enthusiastically, leaning on his heels with his hands behind his back.

“Hi,” I said, and we started shaking hands. “Are you new to Singapore?” he said.

“Yes”, I replied. We then proceeded to have a 5 minute chitchat conversation, just the usual kind of stuff. When he was listening to me, the little man had a curious habit of tilting his head and pursing his lips as if he was sucking on an invisible straw.

Suddenly and inexplicably he came out with: “Do you know any gay people in Singapore?”

It was at this point that I realised we were still shaking hands.

I took my hand back. Michael was now washing his hands next to me. I could see him sniggering at me in the mirror. “No. I’m new to Singapore”, I said.

“Do you know where I can find gay people in Singapore?” he said, taking a step closer to me.

“Ermm, no”, I said, nervously scratching my neck and looking around. “I’m new to Singapore. You could check the internet?’

The little man appeared to think about this and he took another step closer to me. “Do you mind if I do this?” he said, and he started stroking my shoulder. It wasn’t in an especially erotic way –it was more like as if he was brushing some dust from my T-shirt.

“Erm… I’m going to have to go now”, I said, stepping away, feeling like my personal space had been invaded a bit to far, especially considering we were in the mens´ toilets. “Great chat though. Let’s go Mike”

“One sec mate” he replied, “my hands are still a bit moist-” I grabbed him by the collar.

The little man followed us out of the bathroom, asking us questions about our lives. He didn’t come across as threatening, just a bit weird and creepy.

He kept trying to engage us in conversation as we walked through the shopping centre.

“What was your job in Australia?”


“Did you have you drive far to work” “


“Did.. errr… did you bring a pack lunch?!”


“Did you bring a pack lunch to work”


“Can I have your address?”

“Don’t give him your address, Richard,” Michael whispered to me,“He definitely looks like the stalker type”

Mike went into a shop to buy some sunglasses. “Can I write to you in England?” the little man said to me again.


“Pleeeease”, he said tugging at my sleeve.

“Fine”, I said, and I ripped out a page from my diary. “You can write to me in England”

He studied the address I had given him.

“Oooooooo”, he said, looking excited, leaning on his heels. “Do you know that ‘Sayang’ means ‘love’ in Malay?”

Day 14: A chilly reception – Singapore


We stepped gingerly off the boat with sunburnt faces, raw lips and bruised hips.

It was like stepping into another world. I was reminded of a cartoon I once watched where, for some reason, Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble had been teleported into the Jetsons’ future word.

“Ugg!” I said, as I pawed inspidly at the neon buttons of a lift.

“What did you say?” asked Michael

“I said, ‘Surely there are no two countries in such close proximity that are so different?’”

“What about England and Narnia” he replied, almost instantly, “They’re pretty different and they’re only separated by a cupboard”

I nodded.

Due to our ships delayed departure from Indonesia we were very late for check-in at our hostel. I was worried because, due to the F1 event, it had been really difficult to find accommodation. We were due to check-in at 3pm. It was now 7pm.


We tried to ignore the distinct possibility that our reservation had been given away as we made our way through the futuristic cityscape. Pushing the prospect of a night on the streets into the back of our minds, we tried to distract ourselves discussing the differences between our former and current countries.

Indonesia seemed to vibrate with colour and friendliness and a pleasant grittiness. Singapore, on the other hand, seemed clean almost to point of being sterile and much of it smelled like a dentist’s waiting room. The people here instantly came across as more aloof, sometimes cold, even in customer service roles.

The woman who checked us into Urban Hostel, for example, must have been abducted and replaced by a giant scorpion, wearing human skin, stretched over her exo-skeleton as a disguise. As we walked up the pristine white staircase to reception, I felt an icy trickle of fear seep down my spine.

As soon as I laid eyes on her I knew that she made the demon masseuse back in Jakarta seem like Mary Poppins.

“Yes? What do you want?” she hissed upon our arrival, barley lifting her eyes.

“We’ve b-b-booked a r-room,” I stammered.


“Egan mam,” said Michael, taking off his cap and twisting it in his hands.

She looked into her book and searched for our name, with a long, sharp fingernail.

“You!” she growled, clenching her fists. “You were due at 3pm! It is now 7pm! Do you not realise that I could’ve given your reservation away?!”

“Our boat was late,” Michael said truthfully, knees knocking.

“You could have phoned!”

“Our boat barely had an engine let alone a phone,” I said.

“There are plenty of phones in a Singapore,” she spat, with a bit of venomous bile dribbling onto the desk.

“We only got here half an hour ago. We just wanted to get here as fast as we could” We daren’t wait for a response. Michael grabbed the key from her clutches and we scarpered into the safety of our room. “We’ll make a break for it later,” I panted. “She’s got to sleep sometime”


“What Michael?”

“I… I think I’m in love with her”