Archive for the ‘Singapore’ Category

Freighter update and plans

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

When we arrived in Singapore, we began searching for freighters that would take us from Southeast Asia back to Canada or the Northern US. We had heard many good things about The Cruise People in both the UK and Toronto, so we decided to try Fred in Toronto as our agent. We had also heard that the French CGM-CMA freighter line provided great service to passengers (including free wine at dinner – go France!), so we did not want to book directly with NSB, as that would limit our choices. In the end, we found a freighter that aligns well with our time constraints and will take us from Shanghai, China to Seattle USA and depart on or about June 1st. It’s the Hanjin Madrid, another NSB-crewed vessel, so no free wine, but there’s a chance we’ll see some of the crew from previous vessels again. So now we need to figure out how to get ourselves to Shanghai.

Unfortunately, we do not have an unlimited amount of time. Shanghai is a little further north than we had hoped, so it means that we will need to take a train in China. Our current cycling destination is Nanning, China. From Nanning, we can take a 30 hour train ride to Shanghai.

Our plan to get to Nanning is to ride North through Malaysia and Thailand, then west across Laos into China. We might chose to go into Vietnam and then into China – we will see what we are feeling like when we get there.

Through Peninsular Malaysia we plan to ride up the East coast to 36 km south of Kota Bharu. From there, we will ride across Malaysia to Georgetown. We hope to find a place to leave our bikes for a couple of days, while we visit Scott’s university roommate Jon in Kuala Lumpur. Once we return to Georgetown, we will make our way to Langkawi and take the ferry into Thailand.

We have no idea how much riding we will do once we get to Thailand. That will largely depend on how much time we have left and how much we are enjoying the riding.

We will need to skip a visit to Cambodia for this trip. In Singapore we were able to get a 60-day single entry visa for Thailand. We don’t expect to have an excessive amount of time, so we had to sacrifice something. With the single entry visa, it does not make sense to leave Thailand so early and then have to deal with visa extensions, as we expect to want more than 15-days after leaving Bangkok (the closed major city to Siam Reap in Cambodia).

So, roughly:

  1. Malaysia (March 8 – 27) – 3 weeks
  2. Southern Thailand (March 28 – April 18) – 3 weeks
  3. Northern Thailand (April 19 – May 2) – 2 weeks
  4. Laos (May 2 – 9) – 1 week
  5. China – riding to Nanning (May 10 – 24) – 2 weeks
  6. China – Nanning to Shanghai (May 24) – 3-4 days
  7. China – Shanghai preparing for boat departure (May 28) – 3-4 days

Does anyone have friends in Shanghai who would like to meet some slightly crazy round-the-world cyclists?

Singapore – Our first impressions

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Our first impressions of Singapore are that we love this city! It has a great multicultural mix that makes Toronto look homogenous (OK, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration – there are fewer cultures in Singapore, but more people from each culture).

Becky riding over a fancy river walk bridge

Becky riding over a fancy river walk bridge

Riding around town, Becky was grinning and saying hi to everyone. She did not realize just how oppressive the Middle East has been to her. In the Middle East (Syria and Jordan particularly) she could not smile or make eye contact with men – especially young men. Anytime she did, she got hissed at or she was made to feel uncomfortable. She quickly learned to do as the local women and just walk looking at the pavement and not smiling – which is so out of her nature. It wasn’t until we arrived in Singapore and the men were giving her a thumbs up, smiling and waving that she realized how this affected her moods. It was wonderful to allowed to be visibly happy and friendly.

In Singapore, we are staying with our friends Gordana and Mark. They used to live in Ottawa, then moved to Atlanta, and only last month they moved to Singapore. This worked out very well for us, and we are happy to be able to visit with them. We had planned to visit earlier in our trip when our ship was leaving from Savannah, Georgia, but then we got redirected to Miami.

Upon our arrival, Gordana was on an airplane on her way home from a business trip to Toronto. Mark entertained us by leading us out for a lunch of a Korean noodle soup and dinner of Thai food. We are definitely going to enjoy the variety of cuisines while we are here. For Becky at least, SE Asian cuisine is comfort food, so she is happy to be able to sample local varieties of the food with which she is at least partially familiar.

We expect to be here for about a week. We need to visit the Thai embassy and try to get ourselves a 60 or 90 day visa. From all the reports we have read, Thailand is only issuing 15-day visas at land crossings, which is too short for us. We will also be trying to book our onward passage from someplace in the Middle East to someplace on the North West coast of North America.