1 Wedding, A Funeral, Maids & Cowgirls – Singapore: The First 8 Months

Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar, April, May, June.
That’s 8 months since relocation day back in November on a cold winters day in England. Actually it wasn’t such a cold day, but compared to 35+C here it was. A lot has happened, and with only the briefest of a passing mention, it only seems fitting to give those more significant events a revisit.

Part 1: Asia Tour Re-Visited: The One-way Ticket, November 2008.
My first relocation, an interesting and quite hectic experience. It starts off slowly, the job offer comes in, the acceptance is sent back, and then I made some casual plans in preparation. My intent, was to fully sort out all my personal possessions (read junk) into 3 simple categories – things going to Singapore, things to store in the UK and things to go to /dev/null (trash / b1n / rubbish). In reality what occurred was far from it. The speed in which the Employment pass was approved was totally unexpected – a mere 24 hours. That’s the efficiency of the Singapore Government for you, and very appreciative I was too, all the worry immediately removed. The problem however was I now needed to actually do it, I now had a start date, a holiday period and suddenly I needed to give notice on my flat, book a flight and a hotel and find a company to move with. Oh and sort my junk. I did manage to sort out a lot of rubbish, and threw out an obscene amount of stuff, however this paled in significance to the mountains of junk i had managed to accumulate.

What followed was total mayhem. I made the bookings for everything, including the relocation, all within a day of each other, pretty good eh? Yes…except I still had to move the junk and store it in my parents place. A very good friend offered to help me move, he’d done it before, seen the mess, the mountains of junk, and yet came back for more punishment. I shall be eternally grateful for his help, as without it, I simply would not have made it. I choose Crown Relocations for my relocation to Singapore, and they were fantastic. I was sending 2m Sq, and there man packed the whole lot of it in under 45 mins – despite my chit chat and lots of questions. Then it was gone. I was left in my flat minus all my best stuff, and just the furniture and the junk.

We Haul
2 days later came the big move, my friend helped me hire a transit van, and we got packing. Actually I had been too slow on the packing, so a lot of it wasn’t ready, luckily he called up some more friends who came down to help out, and we had a sort of packing party. Another group showed up to buy some of my better junk, and we finally got the van loaded up. I then had to clean the place. This took some time, during this time my friend went for a well deserved nap in the car. My own tiredness, and trying to rush the cleaning made me make a fatal mistake, I took the trash out to the bin, and swung the front door open so hard it bounced back – and locked shut behind me. No problem, I have my keys….right…no…in here…no…oh crap. Yep, I was locked out my own block, and flat, on moving out day, the day before my flight to Singapore, and it was a Saturday night.

I tried in vain on all the door bells for the block, nothing. Everyone was out. I decided to at least alert my friend to the situation, and from his nap he came. After a few minutes of waiting around in the hope someone, anyone would turn up, he decided to try his house key. It was all we had, it fitted the hole but was not meant for this lock- he kept jiggling it – its kinda the whole point of a lock really, can’t use just any key to get in, that’s like protecting your house with a little “Please don’t come in” sign, then click. Yep, a 1 in a million chance, and it worked. We were back in. I won’t ever mock that lock again.

Flat cleaned and van loaded, we drove off some 100 or so miles up to my parents house. We got there very late, like 7 or 8PM or something maybe – it was dark anyway. Then came the unload. This seemed to drag on forever, but we got it done. The night wasn’t totally lost, we did get some food and had some time for a couple drinks. The next day came re-assembly of some of my furniture, I wasn’t just dumping it there, it was getting a new home and a new owner. Then it was time for the long drive back. We returned the van, grabbed my luggage and headed off to my friends house for a while before getting dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant. The food seemed fine, I did try to stay off any seafood just in case, then it was the dash for the flight. Check-in and security etc all reasonably ok, and the flight left about on time.

Hell at 35,000 Feet
Some 4 hours into the flight however, hell occurred. I started feeling a bit sick, very tired, painful stomach etc. Tried to ignore it. Tried going to the bathroom, then while in the queue I collapsed on the floor. I then spent the majority of the next 8 hours laying on the floor of Singapore Air’s finest new Airbus A380 with all the crew trying to give me tea and water and work out what was wrong. They kept thinking I was flight sick and just tired, I however know it was that Chinese restaurant. I know mild food poisoning when I see it. Needles to say the flight was hell, the crew were however fantastic. I arrived in Singapore feeling dreadful, almost no sleep, I was tired from the moving, and still felt ill. My new manager was kind enough to meet me, but was no doubt surprised at how bad I looked. We had a couple of beers, and then he had to head off to take care his daughter who was sick in hospital. I’m grateful for the meeting, it helped a lot and was a nice gesture. I then made my way to the hotel.

Night Service
My hotel was the Fragrance Ruby in Geylang, I won’t cover it too much here as I already did in another post at the time. It was chosen as it was the cheapest I could find, I was paying for everything on this relocation, not a penny from the company, so I was cutting corners every chance I got. The staff are nice, always friendly, the room is really basic and quite tired, but it would be my home for the next month and a half. Geylang is a wonderful and interesting place, during the day its filled with restaurants with some of the best local food around, and then as the day goes on all the brothels open up. Geylang is one of the 4 locations in Singapore where prostitution is legal. They operate out of any buildings they can use and fill it with as many girls and beds as possible. Despite this, the streets are simply full of girls wondering around offering service. It is these services, which later came a bit of problem in the hotel. The constant sound of clacking heels on tiles, the doors slamming and the inevitable other sounds of service, do not make the best atmosphere to sleep to. I needed an apartment.

Maids – (1)

Cosafe during the Christmas party the previous year.


It had been almost a year since I was last in Singapore, and I was eager to meet up with some old friends, naturally first stop was Cosafe. The restaurant was just as I had last seen it, albeit with some new faces, and some new table signs. The biggest change was however the departure of one of my dear friends, apparently my 2 buddies had decided to go their separate ways and part company. My good buddy Floyd was still there and as cheerful as ever. Desmond was now at a new location, working with his brothers in their chain of restaurants. I spent a good amount of time as usual here and stopped by every so often over the next few weeks, the visits got a bit shorter due to financial and time constraints. I did keep visiting in the hope of seeing my friend Ferlyn who was coming back from Tokyo for Christmas. Now back to the flat hunt.

House Hunt
Apartment finding in Singapore is not a fun experience. Some agents are good, some are bad, and some are just terrible. I was blessed with a few good ones, although I still had 2 failed leases. The first was a nice place right near Bugis, clean, in a small block, no amenities, no cable service, no furniture except for a lovely dark wood dining table. I made an offer with some conditions, they wanted to up the price further to meet those conditions, and even further still to get the cable line. I declined it and kept looking. Another agent, from a good local friend, found me some nice places, one in Ang Mo Kio and another in Tanjong Pagar. I opted for the latter, put in the letter of intent again, and even a deposit. Unfortunately we hit a problem, the owner did not want to get the rental stamped and made official. This means they can avoid income tax. Being a new foreigner into the country I did not want to make my first official action illegal, and so declined this also. Luckily, we found another, in the same complex. This went through fine, stamped and all good, for a good price, with full furnishing. 2 bedrooms, 1 kitchen, 1 main room, 1 shower room and 1 toilet room. Newly refurbished, in the city, opposite an MRT station, above a shopping complex and next to a food court, all for SG$2,500. Done. Only problem was I had to wait to mid December to move in.

A view across Tanjong Pagar Road to the plaza, taken from the Amara hotel and a view inside of the living room.


A Funeral
The end of November and start of December was not such a happy time however, the condition of my new boss’ young daughter worsened, and she past away a short while later. Despite being the newest employee of a mere 2 weeks I felt it was important to attend the funeral and pay my respects. This was the first Chinese style funeral I had seen, and was a little different from the western style. I can never imagine how hard it would be to loose a child, and I prey I will never have to.

Maids -  (again) (2)
I was quite looking forward to another Christmas here, and also to finally be here for Cosafe’s anniversary celebration (Dec 12th) , which I had missed by a mere 2 days last year. Unfortunately it was not to be, as due to some planning and organizing issues, they had to cancel the event. Shame, hopefully next year I can be there.

Elephants & Hippies
December 14th brought
the anniversary for The Crazy Elephant over in Clarke Quay. The music was fantastic as always and everyone was dressed in various highly colourful hippie clothes. Even the floor was decorated with stickers and flower patterns. The event went on well into the early hours and towards the end of the evening they even started giving out free pours of shots to everyone, it was an insane party, and the place was packed all night. This has to be one of the best anniversary parties I’ve seen for awhile. This was already one of my favourite venues, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! The next day I finally moved into my new apartment. It was a few days later that my shipment arrived, and thankfully not a single breakage, and no damage at all. I finally had my new ‘home’ and it was just in time for Christmas.

Low Crime Dosn’t Mean No Crime…
A few days later disaster struck, I had left the office and headed out to Crazy Elephant to see the live music. It was a Thursday night and usually one of the best times to be there. I left late and didnt have time to drop off my bag, so I took it with me. Bad idea. Despite sitting at a single table, with a raised floor area behind it and full tables either side of me, someone managed to steel my bag from under the table. While I was sitting there. I never left the table once, not even for a minute. I only found out when I got up for the bathroom and reached for my bag (to take it with me) only to find it gone. My bag, my Sony Vaio and my UK phone – gone. Unfortunatly no CCTV, and no whitnesses. The police and security arrived in a matter of minutes and were very helpful, however there was little that could be done as the thief had already gone. They kept on searching for it, and the investigation finally concluded about a month or so later, with no sign of it. The moral of the story, keep your bag in hand, and record all the serial numbers of your stuff.

Full Circle at the 7,000 Mile Marker
Christmas and New Year came and went quite fast this time, no big parties, just a night out in a local bar with a friend, nothing like my mega trip last year where I went off to Korea and Japan. Money was still tight from the hotel living and relocation, so quiet was good. And so ended 2008, almost full circle from back in 2007, another winter on the other side of the world, some 7,000 miles from home.

The sotry will continue later…

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