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Fiasco in Singapore

View Sydney to London 1964 on Ozac's travel map.

Saturday 5-9-64

At Singapore - I rose at 5.30 am and went up on deck, just in time to see the rising sun. The lights of Singapore attracted my attention more however, as this was our first overseas port of call. We took the pilot and customs officials aboard about 6.30 am and proceeded to our berth. Then came the announcement; “Singapore is a closed port at the present time and no passengers in transit will be allowed ashore”. This came as a complete shock, and at the time, with Singapore stretched out before us, oriental, fascinating, it could not have been worse if we had been asked to abandon ship. I had been in a state of slight nervous apprehension about landing in this strange foreign city, and I was glad that this feeling passed with the announcement, though I feel it will only delay it until Bombay. Nevertheless, as the thought of missing Singapore settled in, I became bitterly disappointed. We passed several small islands on the way to the dock, and they were covered in tropical jungle and native Malay style houses. There were also some bombed out ruins and some prosperous looking British Colonial homes. It was all so picturesque and definitely how I imagined Singapore would be. There was a fishing village on stilts over the water, and motorized sampans making their way up the harbour. I tried to imagine the time when the Japanese had invaded the island and had patrolled these very shores and waters. The experience was already so strong and yet it was so frustrating to think that it was not to be completed. We had come so far, and were so close, yet we were to leave without seeing it. From various sources we learned the reason for the ban. Last night there had been renewed outbreaks of racial violence in the city, many being either killed or injured. Malays were fighting Chinese, and the riots were apparently instigated by Indonesian infiltrators who had been parachuted in the night before. The whole of the city had been declared a danger area and a state of emergency was in force. A twenty-four hour curfew was imposed and it was, and still is, impossible to move about without a curfew pass and a police escort. No one except disembarking passengers could possibly leave the dock area. Singapore was having big trouble and we had arrived in the thick of it. There was so much I wanted to see, do and buy, but impossible. About 12 midday we were allowed to walk around the dock area, and we took full advantage of this small concession. There were some World War II sunken hulks in the water on the other side of the dock, some distinctive architecture, and plenty of Malays, Chinese and Indians working on the wharves. They were very friendly and talked freely of the trouble, especially the smartly dressed police. I went on board a tug and talked with the captain, a Malay, for a while. Some of the others gave money to some small children, through the wire fence, but it disgusted and embarrassed me to see them being so patronizing, as if they were feeding animals at the zoo. It was exciting to see the typically attired native workers, and it is definitely the people, and not the change of scenery, that make you realize where you are. Another complete tour of the docks after lunch found us eventually aboard the Lloyd Triestino ship T.V. Asia, which was in port at the same time, enroute to Hong Kong. Much older and smaller than the Galileo. We returned to the ship and she sailed at five pm, six hours early. Singapore was a fiasco, a disappointment and a cheat. Thousands of miles to see a confined dock area, interesting though it was. We could not buy any cheap goods, so we lost money on that score. I can hardly wait now until I disembark in Bombay. I am sure I would have loved Singapore and its people, so I will come back one day to see it and stay awhile. Tonight we are sailing up the coast of Malaya, and Ade tells me we have just passed Malacca, on starboard side. Sumatra is to port. Five more days of partial monotony, until this new life of independence and experience which I have tasted begins to fully bloom.

Posted by Ozac 21:29

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