Day -2 Shipping and Humidity

Hello Sports Fans....

We arrived in Singapore after an 18-hour non-stop flight from Los Angeles; the longest commercial route that United Airlines operates. Given the time zone changes, you land two days after you start.

First, the car:

It arrived a week earlier than we did. We retrieved it today from the bonded warehouse. Car arrived in good shape, but wouldn't start. Brant, my co-driver, fixed the problem with a very technical maneuver; he hit the starter with a swift blow from a hammer. Magic; it started like a charm. A little W-D40 in the bushings to remove the squeaks and we're ready to begin our 8,500 km journey through Southeast Asia. Tomorrow we sign on and get our instructions, route books and a lecture on what can go wrong. Our car will be inspected for road worthiness and safety equipment. The following day, Sunday, we will begin early, headed north to Malaysia.

About half of the crews doing this Road to Saigon are friends from previous rallies and we have enjoyed seeing old friends. Tonight we are all scheduled to meet in the hotel bar before dinner and we will get a chance to catch up on each other's lives.

Second, some early observations:

Looking out my Joel window at a few of the hundreds
of ships awaiting cargo in the Port of Singapore
When you arrive in Singapore by air you cannot but notice the enormity of the port. There are literally hundreds of very large ships waiting outside the port to either load or unload their cargo; many of them are oil tankers. The Port of Singapore was, until recently, the largest port in the world (that title now belongs to the Port of Shanghai, which is the main sea connection for 1.3B people). In fact the Port of Singapore is one of the driving economic factors that has turned Singapore into an Asian Tiger. Its strategic location has always made it the crossroads between East and West. Traffic from the West (the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and Europe via the Suez Canal) and traffic from the East (China, Japan and the West Coast of North America) meet in Singapore to trans-ship their goods. It is a bevy of activity 24-hours a day......and it provides a substantial portion of the revenues collected by the Singaporean Government.

Even during the time of the British Empire, Singapore was the headquarters of the least the part that was East of Suez. That is why it was a key target of the Japanese during the early days of WW II. They captured Singapore, rather easily, and by doing so deprived Britain of all the materials it extracted from Asia, especially raw materials like petroleum and rubber, diminishing their ability to wage war. More about war when we get further north along the Malaysian Peninsula.

The independent city-state of Singapore has used its port revenues wisely. It has built a modern, clean, highly educated country that mixes the new with the historical. Its high-rise office buildings and condos (one more spectacular than the next), efficient public transportation and beautiful gardens make Singapore a very pleasant place to live. There are about 5M people living here, including many ex-pats representing all sorts of global businesses.

One thing that takes a bit of getting used to is the humidity. Singapore is located one degree north of the Equator and surrounded on three sides by ocean. The result is that it is always humid. We are here today at the end of the Monsoon Season and it seems to rain hard every afternoon for a couple of hours. Locals say it gets better as Spring arrives, but I have my doubts.

The plants are beautiful and some are exotic, but if you have to move around outside in one of the daily downpours, it can be a little complicated.

Talking about plants, tomorrow I plan to visit the elaborate Botanic Gardens. They have a large orchid exhibit and since I've just started orchid growing as a hobby, I'm anxious to see the exhibit.