1 Wedding, A Funeral, Maids & Cowgirls – Singapore: The Final 90 Days Part 1

This is the final chapter on my story of living in Singapore as an Expat in 2008-9, this one is a bit long so its split into 2 parts, and there’s no pictures but I wanted to at least finish it.

With the deadline set in stone by Immigration (I wasn’t going to attempt another border run!) and limited funds (I had money, but without replacement work, it wouldn’t last too long) it was time to start planning. The first question: Stay or go? I must have mulled this over a thousand times, and it carried on right up to the day of my flight, the problem is, its not just about me. Finding work in a foreign land is not so easy – I knew all the requirements for the Employment Pass etc, but a lot of the companies didn’t want to go through the hassle of submitting the paperwork, and so simply state PR (Permanent Resident) only. Fortunately I did have a fair number of recruiters with my CV trying to match me to roles, and I was getting a few calls and even went to a few interviews. All seemed to be going well. As time progressed however, it started to look a bit more of an issue, I was getting interviews, but no further. Seems my last role paid too well for them to match it, I’d have to take a cut in a new role. I didn’t mind this, as I still wanted to stay, and I thought it would be worth it providing the job was good.

My flat mate and friend had been gradually getting more irritated by my neighbour, who has a morning ritual of sweeping the landing area outside of her house – at 6am. Its all good and nice to keep the communal path clean and do your bit, but for a person with damaged hearing, the sound grates like fingers down a chalk board. That combined with the stress of his work (he worked for the same company but in a different dept) he was getting more and more agitated. As there was the good chance of me now having to make a somewhat swift exit, it was a good time for him to jump ship, and find alternative accommodation. He found what seemed like a nice spacious house not far from one of our friends, seemed nice and quiet and so he took it. I on the other hand contacted Crown again, for a quote on getting my stuff sent back to the UK.

After a while I got word of a role at one of my old companies, and for a job I was previously going to move to, albeit now in a different country. I jumped at the chance, it would be work I knew, people I knew and hadn’t seen for a while, and I’d be in the sun and still in Singapore. All seemed to go well, I had the interview, but then no call back. Seemed odd. I gave it a week, still nothing. I decided to contact a friend in the company, hes moved up quite high now and could likely find out what happened. It seems it was a mistake by HR. I was liked it seems, but when HR found out my previous pay, they decided it was too high for them to match it, and decided it was not worth trying to negotiate, and so they didn’t even try to call me. I immediately said I would take lower than my previous role and be willing to negotiate – as I had said at interview. The problem however, was they already hired someone else locally who was obviously on a lower pay than I had been on. Looking back on it all, this was probably the pivotal point between me staying and leaving Singapore, if this role had worked out, I would have stayed, and the fact it didn’t meant I had to accept the fact I’d be leaving.

Its always hot in Singapore, and with Stephan now in his own place with a garden and outside porch, it was the obvious thing to do. The idea was simple, lots of nice meat, lots of beer, and all our friends. Stephan had been working on the plans for this for a long time, the meat was not going to any old thing either, he was going to take real time over it and perfect it to some great recipes he knew – this meant he wanted good meat and to do it properly. We also completely filled the fridge with beer and other drinks. We invited pretty much anyone and everyone we liked to come over, it was a celebration of his new house, and also partly a bit of a send off for me as it was looking less likely I’d still be around for much longer. My memory might be off all this time later, but I think there was about a month left to go on my visa at this point, and I was already well into negotiations with Crown to move me back to the UK.

The day of the BBQ arrived, we even ended up inviting the staff from Country Jamboree, one of our favourite bars and the nicest in Orchard Towers, they play country music, all the staff dress as Cowgirls or Cowboys, and a lot of our friends hang out there. We’d been on really good terms with all the staff, and were friends with most of them. Sadly, they were working that night, so we didn’t expect many would be able to make it, and sadly they couldn’t. Despite that, we had a great time, our good buddy Pinkie came over and joined the fun, and even went to the shop round the corner and bought enough beer to completely re-fill the fridge – it was going to be a long night. Floyd and some friends from Cosafe came over, he brought us some nice packs of ribs from his restaurant – I’d become quite the rib fan, and really liked Cosafe’s ribs as well, so that was a really nice gesture and surprise. The party went on quite late, and eventually everyone departed with only a few of us left, and we eventually headed off for some drinks at CJ’s.

To be continued in part 2 (the last part)…

1 Wedding, A Funeral, Maids & Cowgirls – Singapore: Work, Holiday and no Work

This continues the story of my life working as an Expat in Singapore in 2009…

The Family Visit
Not long into the new year my parents decided to come out for a visit, this meant a good opportunity to take a little time off, and show them around. The photos in this section are mainly taken by my parents while they were here. As there were issues at work I wasn’t able to take time off for the whole of their visit sadly, but despite this we still had a good time and took a fair few pictures.

In order, Sentosa beach, Tanjong Pagar Malaysian Railway Station, Tony Roma’s Ribs, The Penny Black in Boat Quay at night, Boat Quay by day, The Raffles Hotel, Singapore Flyer and F1 track, the Merlion.

They also got a quick tour of the office…
My desk area, the pictures go side by side as displayed on the page, although they don’t line up as there’s a gap between them. I was still drawing anime characters and having my own personal panel of white board was perfect for it.

They also went to see the bird park for a day…

The final image is of Clarke Quay, before we visited the Crazy Elephant.

Work, and Leaving the Company
I’m not going to give details of the issues at work, but after working in support for 2.5 years, and due to some other issues, I’d finally decided it was enough. My health was suffering from the level of stress, and well it was time to move on. In the IT world many places want you out fairly quickly, especially if you deal with customers directly or if you might be in contact with security related data, therefore I was quite lucky and didn’t have to wait long from handing in the notice. For me I had done it, finally thrown in the towel, and I was wondering around City Hall area, and then this sudden overwhelming relief hit me, I suddenly felt free and finally all the stress just went in an instant. If only I had done that sooner, then I probably wouldn’t have felt so ill before, sometimes you can hold on too long, when its better to just move on. Technical Support is not my thing, the technical side and the customer service side of it is fine – if it were that simple then I’d have stayed, the trouble with support is that by nature it soon becomes a numbers game, the company wants to measure everything, time for each ticket, number of tickets, customer satisfaction – all these sound good in practice, but what tends to happen is they then try to push the figures, you have to do more cases and do them faster and increase the satisfaction, this dosn’t always work. If you go too fast, you make mistakes, if you take too many cases and then you get a problem that slows you down before you know it, you get behind on the others. Its a big balancing act, and as many will tell you, support is often a thankless job. I wanted to do something else.

Run for the border
A few days later I was invited back to the office, and we signed the papers and I packed up my things. My good friend Stephan decided to throw in a bit of humour, and gave me his “The Sims 3” bag to take my things back in. It also just happens to have a great big ‘Bon Voyage’ lettering on the side. It still cracks me up now thinking about it. The HR team however decided to cancel my Employment Pass and issue me a 5 day visa via the Immigration Board. The problem with this is that they were not going to pay my final salary until 5 days after my visa expires, the same pay which was going to pay for the relocation and flight back to the UK. When I complained about this, they just did nothing. I was therefore forced to make a day trip to Malaysia, doing this means you leave the country and therefore re-enter and in theory get a new visa. The problem however is that your not really supposed to enter either country without a ticket home, and therefore it was technically possible to be refused entry to both countries, and get stuck in the no-mans land between the two. I would hope and expect the embassy would assist in such matters, but I didn’t exactly want to get to that point. Unfortunately I had run out of time, and had to make the trip, I was on the final day of the visa, and had to leave that day, so off I go. The trip started out ok, but it soon began to rain, and man did it rain, it was torrential, like buckets, there was water flooding everywhere. The MRT (metro system) was fine, but the bus was a bit more ‘fun’ in the heavy rain, especially as I didn’t have an umbrella.

During my parent’s visit, it also rained heavy, these were taken by them while they were here.


While leaving Singapore, the immigration officer stopped me and wanted to have a more detailed chat, no doubt wondering why I was making this trip on the very last day. I explained everything, and he explained the risk above, and said I can go, but that he cannot guarantee if I can get into Malaysia or even back into Singapore, but as it was the last day, he agreed I had no choice, and so off I went. As it turned out, I managed to find a computer fair, and spent the best part of the day wondering around that, still in the rain, before catching the bus back to the border. All day I had this lingering feeling in the back of my mind if there was going to be an issue getting back. The bus trip seemed to take forever, mainly because the rain meant more traffic, and so a huge queue for the border. The actual border part went without any issue, I asked if I could have time so I could try to find new work, and the in-bound officer gave me the full 90 days visa without any problem, I then carried on my trip back to my apartment. In the relief of getting back in, I managed to forget the umbrella I had bought near the computer fair, it was when I got to the train that I remembered, and of course too late to go back for it, but given how well it had gone, it was a small price to pay. I now had 90 days to get everything sorted, and either find new work, or go back home. I started putting my CV out right away, and while waiting for news and do some interviews, I finally got myself a nice stress free holiday, with no work to worry about.


1 Wedding, A Funeral, Maids & Cowgirls – Singapore: The First 8 Months – Part 2

Its been quite some time since the last real update, and this second part of the story is now almost a full year from its original time. This means the details are a little fuzzy now, and being back in the UK it all feels like a distant memory. I was of course writing this story after the event anyway, but the time when I came to writing part 2 originally, I had lost most of my will to write, the details of that will come in due time, but first I wanted to try to finish this story.


January, 2009.
For the most part it was very quiet, I was at work all the time, even doing some over time to earn a little extra, and had little time for anything else. My new apartment was awesome, and I was simply enjoying some quiet living and slowly organising things. My good friend and colleague from work, who had originally offered me a place at his apartment was having difficulties however, the AC was terrible, the windows had gaps and the chance of keeping the place chilled was imposable. To cut a long story short – literally – I simply offered the same deal, move into my spare room. This worked out very handy for us both, my friend was caught “praying” to the ac unit several times, citing the cooling power as the reasoning, and was instantly happier by it. This meant his extensive art collection could finally leave the sealed air tight box it had been in since his arrival in Singapore. For me, it meant a friend close by, and half the rent paid for. Something I was very thankful for.

I forget now the exact date, so I will drop it in here, but my friend also had a nasty accident one evening, and while trying to avoid some fellow pedestrians who would not yield some pavement space, slipped and fell into a drainage ditch which was obscured by vegetation. These ditches come in various sizes all over Singapore, and are fully open and uncovered concrete ravines. Some are small “leg breakers” like the one my friend found, which are about 2 feet deep and just wide enough to get a leg inside, others can be the size of a canal. They are quite frankly a menace and a disaster waiting to happen, and leaving such things totally unguarded, uncovered and right next to walk ways is insane. My Friend suffered a rather nasty injury to his lower leg and knee, and this injury still causes him much discomfort even now, over a year later. The cause of this however is not down to the original injury, but due to the poor medical care he received. After seeing many doctors, all which turned out to be extremely incompetent, he went in for surgery on his knee. As both of us were with the same company, we had medical cover, or so we thought. They constantly argued over this and kept trying to find every way out of paying up. This caused a lot of tension between us and our company, as they also failed to help sufficiently. When I had some other medical issues, although very minor, the amount of paper work and initial refusal to cover the costs caused much disagreement and argument with the company as well. The insurance did however finally pay up for mine, and I believe my friend did get his paid for, however his injury, and the incompetence of the doctors who made it worse, still plagues him – he may well be unable to have full use of his leg ever again. I wont cover this in full, as I will leave it to him for a much better story.

February and the Chinese New Year.
Chinese greet the new Lunar year in February, and this meant the whole city was decorated for the occasion. The only problem however is that the town almost shuts down. Just like over the western new year, wonder the evening streets and you half expect to see tumble weeds rolling around. The late evening is a different matter in the tourist areas however, as that’s yet another excuse for a party. Singapore is an awesome place if you love night life, in comparison to the UK, I have totally lost interest the UK nightlife, its boring, its over crowded, often dangerous and its all over by 2am. Singapore is a 24/7 place, you can go out at anytime, and pretty much stay there until when you went in the next day. In the tourist areas venues are often open to 6 or 7am, you may need to move around places a bit, but its not a problem as the transport is so cheap.

A few weeks later came my birthday, I’d planned to host it at Cosafe as my friends would be around and its close to the office. Following several attempts to remind my coworkers of the invite, it came down the final day with no one confirming. I made my way down there with my friend and flat mate and had some drinks waiting for anyone who might turn up. My friends at Cosafe were of course there, but the only person who arrived from the office was my boss. He made a nice gesture of paying for a couple of rounds before dashing off, however this may have been down to a bit of a guilty conscience as no one else had arrived, and partly due to some other disagreements which where starting to emerge in the company, however I wouldn’t know any of this until much later. It appears my relationship with my coworkers was not as good as I had thought, as not a single one of them turned up by the end of the evening.

The Wedding
My dear friend Desmond and Willow had invited me and Stephan to his wedding celebration at the Raffles Town Club. A very splendid and tasteful venue, and it gave us a hint as to what was coming. Desmond is of course well known in the local F&B circles with his own catering business, so this wedding celebration was also a chance to demonstrate his abilities. Top chefs from all over were invited, a big local DJ was hired as the MC and lots of people from restaurants and F&B circles were present, including some old friends from Cosafe. The evening was planned down to the finest detail, and although our assigned table was apparently overbooked by 10 people, we did finally get ourselves seated. One of the most impressive aspects was the delivery of the first course. The lights of the ball room were lowered, and in perfect procession some 100 waiters came in with candle lit dishes to stand by each table, and then lower them to the centre in time with the others. It was a grand display of perfect service, and set the elegant tone for the rest of the evening with a tradditional Chinese meal, I forget how many courses were served, but it was certainly a lot. My best wishes for a long happy marriage and continued prosperity for them both and the business.

The story will continue in part 3 soon…

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…

Crazy Elephant Anniversary

Sunday 14th Dec brought about the anniversary party at Crazy Elephant, and it was expected to be rather good, and it sure was. The whole place was kitted out like some hippie hang out complete with makeshift tent inside, decorations all over the place and a second temporary bar setup outside.

The music was fantastic as allways 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 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 disapoint!