Border crossings

I’ve just crossed my 15th border, from Malaysia into Singapore. Not necessarily any more remarkable than many others but worthy of a note as the fifteenth. The first and only time I have been asked to unpack everything in my bags was before even leaving the UK at Ashford International. A couple of borders through Europe were crossed without my knowledge, it is difficult to judge border crossings when there are no distinguishable markers. But from entering Belarus onwards, each has had its own inimitable style and ranged from taking a matter of minutes (although this is exceptional) to the best part of a day. Arriving at Singapore overland I took a bus journey across the bridge from Malaysia. Leaving Malaysia is straight forward enough, get off the bus, queue up, passport shown and stamped, but arriving at Singapore involved something of a Christmas shopping/early sales dash off the bus (while it is still queueing in traffic heading to the border) grabbing all luggage stowed away under the coach and running headlong for immigration (safe in the knowledge that the bus will leave without you if you take more than 20 minutes). Queues quickly stack up before you can register which of the many lines are for ‘Singapore only’ and which ‘all passports’. That fail to win strategy of guessing which is the best queue to join. Then the prolonged period of anxiously waiting, watching as each person is checked in ahead, taking what seems to be a laboriously long time, while all the other lines seemingly move more quickly. There are ten people ahead of me and the man in the blue shirt is looking increasingly nervous, waiting at the desk. The woman the other side of the desk stands up, takes a drink of water and seems to be none the wiser to the chaos around her. As his wait goes on it appears that the computer has broken. Someone comes to ‘assist’, followed by someone else. I surreptitiously inch my way along to the next line. Nothing happens for what seems like a very long time. As I get to the next queue, predictably enough, the first line starts to move again. The queue I now find myself in is now waiting twice as long as the staff scan both lines of passports.

After a good deal of internal cursing and desperate looks to the customs area, willing myself ever closer, I finally reach the hallowed place where my passport and arrival card is examined and stamped – taking just long enough to make you doubt who you are and where you are from and that you might actually be some major drugs baron or similar. Bags are then hurled on to the conveyor belt that takes everything through to be scanned and dumps it unceremoniously in a heap muddled up with everyone else’s suff. No idea of how long has now passed, but sure it is more than twenty minutes I take my chances and head to where the bus would be…success, it seems he waited for everyone after all (even the person caught with chewing gum, yes chewing gum is illegal in Singapore), why not make it a more interesting event and threaten to leave the poor lost travellers stranded? Ah those tricksy bus drivers and their cunning sense of humour. Next time I’m taking the train.

Singapore skyline (Louise Kenward, 2013)

Singapore skyline (Louise Kenward, 2013)

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