home . index

The Road to Singapore

Dec. 6, 2008

< < previous | next > >

On the causeway that links Malaysia to the island nation of Singapore, right next to the big "WELCOME TO SINGAPORE" sign, is a smaller but no less bold message: "Death to Drug Traffickers." Not really aimed at us but, still, a clear signal that they don't suffer fools here.

So, we were a little nervous when the border agent told our driver to park off to the side and instructed us to go inside. Did Ellie have gum in her purse? I hoped not, as I texted to my friend Roger that we'd been detained and if he didn't hear from me again to please make inquiries.

We sat quietly, our hands folded in our laps, while we waited our turn, and were reassured by the brashness of the New Zealand mom waiting next to us who complained loudly that this sort of nonsense occurred all too frequently. I gripped my McKinsey business card in case I had to demonstrate my ability to produce legitimate connections.

The passport agent smiled at us, fingered through our well-worn passports, then explained to us that three of our four passports were within six months of expiration and so, regrettably, he could not give us a full three-month visa, but only ones good for 20 days.

"We only need 20 hours," I thanked him, collected our passports and we walked -- not too quickly -- back out to our minivan and were whisked away.

(Below: palm plantations along the road from Kuala Lumpur; a mini-mosque next to the restrooms at a freeway gas station in Malaysia; and Sarsi, a Malaysian cola that fell somewhere between Mr. Pibb and grape soda.)