And Yet Another Singapore Visa Trip


My wife and brother-in-law drive me on the long trip from Singaraja to the airport – two and a half hours of weaving and bobbing up the mountains that separate North Bali from the central and southern areas and then down again past the small roadside warungs that serve as meeting places for locals to have a meal or a drink and share some gossip and pass the time.  I’ve seen these scenes for so long that the figures blend into the backdrop of rice paddies and vegetable fields.

We stop at the American Consulate to pick up one of my daughter’s passport. The secretary asks me when I’m going back to Sumbawa. I tell her in a few days. She wishes me well, and we stop by to visit a sister-in-law and her family in Denpasar and pass the time before I need to go to the airport.

Check-in has become much easier these days, or perhaps it’s just that I come at the right times because I’m in through security and done with ticketing in a manner of minutes. I pay my fiscal and quickly pass through immigration with only a comment of “you’re giving up your retirement visa.” A comment, not a question.

I wander over to the bookstore where I buy my books on each trip out of the country – one of the highlights of my trips. I pick up the new Theroux travel book, happy that I won’t have to look for it in Singapore. Time then for my routine whiskeys before the flight leaves. I take a seat in the smoking restaurant and order a double whiskey. As I’m sipping my whiskey, smoking a Marlboro and checking my travel documents, I notice two familiar figures from Singaraja enter the restaurant – an expat couple that own a small hotel in the tourist area west of Singaraja. We sit and chat about business and local goings on until time to leave. They’re off to renew their visas in Bangkok; I’m off for a new visa in Singapore. Part of the life of expats in Bali.

The plane is only half full, but the two seats next to mine are taken by a foreign couple. I slide into my aisle seat and pull out the Theroux. The lady comments that the book looks good, and we enter into a conversation – something unusual for me on planes as I usually avoid conversations on flights preferring to lose myself in thoughts about what I’m going to do when I reach my destination.

But it turns out that they are Americans who have been vacationing in Southeast Asia and are on their way back to Michigan where I have relatives.  We pass the time in pleasant conversation about Bali, Thailand, the States, and my book on Bali. When we arrive in Singapore, I say goodbye and take off through the airport as quickly as possible so that I can get checked in to the hotel and make it to the computer mall to buy a new computer before the store closes. I only have 24 hours in Singapore, and I need to do some shopping for the next seven months of living in Sumbawa.

I’ve been doing visa runs to Singapore for many years now; the city has morphedinto a high tech postmodern shopping mecca since I first visited there in 1987. It’s lost a lot of the funkinessthat it had then, but I still enjoywalking around the city checking out the people and buildings.

Singapore wasalready displaying the Christmas spirit. Orchard Road was a tropical winter wonderland with Christmas scenes and lights ablaze; waiters in some of the restaurants wore Santa caps; Christmas sales signs were everywhere. The aggressive spirit of capitalism in the face of global depression.The impression was heavily surrealistic, but it suited my frantic mood. A silent taxi ride gave me time to reflect on my early Singapore memories.

My first visit to Singapore was a stopover on the way to Madras (Chennai). I had twelve hours so I took off to wander around the city thinking that I would most likely never be back again. Like many young men on their first trip to Asia, I ended up in a rather suspect bar on the advice of a taxi driver. As I was sitting in the small dark bar reflecting on my trip, a fellow next to me asked if I was looking for work.

“What kind of work?” I asked.

“I’m looking for a cook’s helper,” he replied flashing aCheshireCat smile. “We go down to Perth and then out from there to Southeast Asia again.”

“I’ve only worked in a short order place,” I said assuming naively that that would end the conversation.

“Perfect,” he replied.


~ by drbrucepk on November 29, 2008.

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