Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I woke a half hour before the alarm clock.  That's anticipation and the fear of missing a train.  Dressed and packed, I left my hotel room and took the elevator to the lobby to check out.  Buffet breakfast smelled so fine I decided to partake, not knowing what fare I'd find on the train.  I had had visions of the Orient Express and remembered the wonderful train rides across Canada with CNR and CPR as a child, with restaurant cars and lounges.  It occurred to me that this might not be the case and I'd best have sustenance before a day's train ride. I'd also thought to pack a can of coconut water and chocolate bar.
I did enjoy the waffles and maple syrup with sausages and fish in white sauce.  Pineapple juice and later coffee was a pleasure too.
I caught the taxi but had a moment of anxiety as the Chinese driver kept asking me the name.
"Woodlands Train Station."
I repeated this several times until he finally said, "Woodlands Railway."  How much difference in a word.  After that  my mind was at rest for the half hour journey.
I watched motorcyclists, mostly on Yamahas and Hondas, maybe 250 to 350's, and the occasional BMW 650 or so, scoot between cars. They're allowed to go wherever but appeared to be respectful of the overall speed. It appeared somewhat dangerous but the cars were more respectful here than in Canada. I noticed that drivers in Singapore know how to use their turn signals and actually checked to see if someone was behind them before changing lanes.
I told one taxi driver about the law in Canada that prefers the driver hit from behind, giving rise to all the 'stop and start' traffic and apparent attempts at 'whiplash' insurance.  He laughed and laughed , saying "that would never do here'.  Apparently drivers are all responsible and individual accidents are decided on the overall merits of the case.  I didn't see any accidents and thought overall the drivers were a whole lot better than in Vancouver at least.  I wonder though, if I would think  that ,if I rode a motorcycle here  as I do in Vancouver.
The fare was $20.  The American dollar is $1.25 to the Singapore dollar.
At the train station I hefted my luggage and climbed two flights of stairs to where train travellers were waiting for the train. Uncertain that my E-ticket was sufficient I hiked back down the 2 flights of stairs and looked for a ticket office.  The pleasant gentleman there said the E-ticket was fine so I returned and hiked up 2 flights of stairs with my luggage.  By the time I took a seat in the waiting line up I'd felt I'd had my morning work out.
(Long rambling discourse on travelling suitcases and back packs follows: ---This type of travelling is a lot about pulling and carrying luggage long distances and up and down stairs. I've got this new Eagle Creek carryon that's working out amazingly well.  My travel addict friend, Moon,  had learned about Eagle Creek from a Lonely Planet editor she'd met using one.  It has wheels, meets the carry on requirements for planes, but also has shoulder straps for the whole thing to be carried on one's back, while it can be divided in two with a smaller pack with it's own shoulder straps.  Ideally, with time, I'd just use this alone to travel as my friend Moon does. She doesn't have my penchant for gadgets and electronics but is beautiful with amazing hair so must have her own challenge travelling lightly as an attractive woman who doesn't look like she lives in one set of clothing.
I have this second suitcase which is really for clothing.  I wouldn't need it except for changes of clothing for this conference I'm attending. I still have a need to be presentable and admittedly 'fashionable', though why, I do wonder.  My brother is a traveller who despite his massive camera and accessory bag, has a limited clothing bag.
Dr. Ney, a consummate traveller of countless years, was disciplined to washing his clothing each night when I stayed with him in Azerbaijan. He is an impressive traveller indeed, not just a world class sailor, but a man with a limited kit that's well suited to the overland travellers needs.
I like my hard 2/3 size second case from Delsey mostly so I can buy 'stuff' and bring it home. I've a penchant for getting 'bags' for the women in the family and packing my clothing lightly I have room to return with 'stuff'.  The Delsey hard suitcase has a combination lock on it  making it a sort of 'safe' when I leave stuff in my hotel room. At Miramar they had one of those in room personal safes but the Delsey suitcases works well for this too.  It has 4 wheels and I can attach the Eagle Creek to the extending handle on top.
I would think that a 'rule' of luggage might be something like, if you can't carry it up and down 3 flights of stairs and lug it about on wheels or by hand yourself for several hours , it's too much or too awkward or wrong for travelling.  I notice more and more older travellers and they're showing the same 'sense' I'm reflecting on. When I bicycled across Europe as a kid I had 'everything' in a large backpack I could carry for a day on treck.  I did the west coast trail  for a week with a backpack, with sleeping bag, tent and cooking gear included. Bicycling I had more room in the saddlebags, the back pack sitting on the back rack.  I did that for weeks on end.  Canoeing I had the back pack with a duffle bag for extras.  Motorcyling I travel fairly light though bought an extra bag to bring loot home from Sturgis, South Dakota. This plane travel, doesn't even require me to carry sleeping bag and cooking gear.
Moon and Dr. Ney are definitely, A + travellers, for economy of gear and thoughtfulness, whereas I figure I'm doing B+.  I think the exercise carrying the gear this morning was good for me.   Looking about I always see those who are journeying more like refugees, sometimes with shopping bags or suitcases that sometimes two are employed in moving about.  Some may indeed be refugees so I certainly don't judge. I think of buses I've been on with chickens and how I've travelled myself with Gilbert and an airline required kennel.  There's the families with babies and children and men with golf carts.  Travellers are a funny sort. There's no 'judgement' that's correct for this sort of thing.  It's just my desire to be 'efficient' so I enjoy the travelling especially as I age and the delays and distances grow more onerous.--End of long rambling discourse on suitcases and backpacks - something travellers talk about a lot among themselves )
Now here I am on a train again. There's all these doors to go through with bags and distances to step across. I helped an older chinese lady get up onto the train platform. She had one bag and a basket and clearly would have managed well herself but appreciated the chivalry considering the heavy door we had to keep open to get the bags through.
The attendant just brought through a loaf cake and bottle of water so I wouldn't have starved.  There's real jungle all along here and huts in the jungle on one side and a road with more modernity along that side.
I'm in Malaysia now. It was just a causeway that separated Singapore from the mainland.  I looked at the sailing ship similar to mine at anchor  near a coast guard boat.  Now this area is rural with sheep and cows and smells of farming.  Singapore was once part of Malaysia.  It's wealth and urban nature is so in contrast with the evidence of relative poverty in places along this train tracks.  Not that appearances are all but there is a more run down flavour here with rusting corrugated tin roofs on buildings that have been long between white washes.  There are newer buildings too so it's just an overall impression.  Travellers aren't doing statistics and their insights are anecdotal rather than double blind comparisons.

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