Cruise Report # Twenty – Day 33 – Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Singapore, Republic of Singapore

From the Ships Navigator

Today we will embark the local pilot at 5:30am. Thereafter we will sail on a westerly course towards our berth in Singapore. The weather forecast for today predicts an outside temperature of 78 degrees, thunder and a moderate breeze blowing from the southeast with a force of 4.

Welcome to Singapore

After three restful days of sailing on a southerly course through the South China Sea we slipped silently through a narrow channel into a sleepy harbor of Singapore. In the Pacific Northwest we are used to long twilight periods before the sun rises or sets, here near the equator, I wouldn’t say “the sun comes up line thunder” but I would estimate the time between first light and sunrise can’t be over a half hour. This morning most of the sky was overcast with the expectation of a heavy rain.

Singapore, an Island country and the smallest country in Southeast Asia, is located on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. The site of several ancient port cities and a possession of several empires in its history, Singapore was a Malay fishing village when it was colonized by the United Kingdom in the 19th century. It was further occupied by the Japanese Empire in WW II, and was later part of the merger which established Malaysia. When Singapore acquired independence, having few natural resources, it was socio-politically volatile and economically undeveloped. Foreign investment and rapid government-led industrialization has since created an economy which relies on exports of electronics and manufacturing primarily from its port. Singapore is known to have the highest standard of living in Asia. Measured by GDP per capita, Singapore is the 22nd wealthiest country with a foreign reserve of US$119 billion. Eighty-three percent of Singapore’s population lives in housing estates constructed by the Housing Development Board and nearly half use the public transport system daily. As a result of efforts to control motorized traffic, the maintenance of natural greenery, strict regulations on industrial locations and emissions,, and other pro-environmental initiatives by the government and the private sector, Singapore has been able to control its pollution levels to well within World Health Organization standards.

Our arrival in this beautiful city also marked the end of the first half of our 64 day cruise, and we had to say goodbye to three of our Cruise Critic family. Nick would stay a few days in the city, with Bob and Pat heading to the airport for their long flight home to Cleveland Heights, OH. It was also with sadness that we bid one our evening tablemates farewell. Millie was also boarding her flight today back to her retirement home in Palo Alto, CA. A place she fondly referred to as “The Orphanage”. I am sure our table will look very critically at her replacement, as her wit, wisdom, beautiful personality, and interesting stories will be missed.
The only shore excursion I was interested in was the one that visit the Kranji War Memorial located on the north side of this small island nation, and near the Straits of Johor. This narrow waterway separates Singapore from the Malaysian Peninsula. This country has great reverence for those twenty-four thousand Allied Services men and women who proudly fought and died in defense of their homeland during World War II. This memorial is a fitting tribute and is located near where the Japanese commenced their successful invasion and subsequent three and half year occupation of Singapore. Their gravesites are meticulously tended, and include a flowering perennial gracing the foot of each individual stone marker. Although not all of the 24,000 are buried there, every name along with the identification of their unit is listed on both sides of the 12 walls of the main monument. In front of this monument is a single freestanding wall engraved with the following:
On several individual headstones were engraved messages from home and hearth, one such on the marker of a 17 year old Private reads “A GOOD LIFE, A NOBLE END, FONDLY REMEMBERED AND MISSED BY ALL, MOTHER”.
My few minutes at this hallowed ground served to remind me of what the sacrifices that were made by that generation meant to me, and how fortunate we are to live in freedom today. WE MUST NEVER FORGET!

During this four-hour tour, our 28 year old guide, Jossie, (pronounced Joyce) related stories told to her by her “Auntie” who lived through the brutal occupation of Singapore. Her family was ensuring that the generations who followed would not take their freedoms lightly. School children are taught both English and their mother tongue. Her ancestry is Chinese as is 70 percent of the population of Singapore. It was apparent that she was extremely fluent in both languages as we witnessed how rapidly she conversed with our Chinese driver “Mr. Lee”. Jossie was a joy as she entertained us and shared her extensive knowledge of the history and culture of her homeland. She was far and away the best tour guide I have ever had the pleasure to be around.

Our final stop, before heading back to the ship, was at the Changl Chapel Museum near the International Airport. This museum brings to life the everyday horrors suffered by those incarcerated in the Japanese POW camps in Singapore. The reason it is so named, is to honor the various Chapels the POW’s were permitted to build around the prison. The most famous being the one that was constructed by the Australians, and subsequently dismantled after the war and shipped to Australia, where it has become a permanent memorial site in that country. Today, a full size replica stands in the courtyard of the museum. While we were there a small class of elementary age school children was visiting with their teacher. In order to preserve the exhibits, no photographs were permitted inside the buildings.

Legend has it that there was once a very tall tree that stood in Changi. This tree must have been very significant as it was noted that the tree had been marked on maps and had been used as a landmark for nearly a century before. The famous “Changi tree” marked the eastern approach to the Straits of Johore and was felled in 1942 to prevent the Japanese artillery from using it as a ranging point during World War II. More than half a century later, we still find a Changi tree, perhaps an offspring, not as tall but nevertheless magnificent, standing within the compounds of a bungalow along Netheravon Road, Changi.

In comparing this tour with others that were offered, I feel I got the best, because I also got to see the country side, as most others stayed mostly in the city, and I had the best tour guide.

Barbara and I went separate directions this day, as she preferred to experience a different side to Singapore. She had a morning tour to the National Orchid Garden, with a city tour seeing Little India, Chinatown, Arab Street, the historic Colonial District, the symbolic Merlion, and shopping. In the afternoon’s tour she returned to the National Orchid Garden and then enjoyed a delicious buffet high tea at the legendary Raffles Hotel. The Merlion is the symbol of Singapore, which is half-fish and half-lion, welcoming visitors to Singapore.

Our next report will be from the southern hemisphere, after our visit to Java, and Bali, Indonesia. Our port lecturer, Frank Buckingham, has assured us that we will be perfectly safe at these locations, till then, we send our best from the doldrums in the Java Sea.

Jack and Barbara

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