I entered Singapore with a BIG SMILE!! And clocked 100 SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS! ;)
Day 2,074 since October 10th 2013: 183 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross).
The Saga is not getting easier – it is getting harder
It seems counter intuitive to me. I would certainly think that things would get easier towards the last countries as I have this many contacts and so much experience. However the remaining twenty countries will be highly complex to reach. Maybe at times fun…however no picnic.
Let’s set one thing straight right away: I did not do this alone. Thousands of people if not tens of thousands have in one way or the other taken part in this achievement. Nobody reaches 183 countries without flying by accident. Much effort, sacrifice, disappointment and hard work has been instrumental to getting this far and the involvement of many people has been imperative. From my earliest childhood I was taught to remember to say thank you to everyone. No matter what always remember to say thank you. So without further ado: Thank you for the tea, the smiles, the shelter, the kind words, the translations, the financial support, the wise words, the contacts, the encouragement, the occasional luxury, the friendships, the meals, directions, gifts and everything else which I fail to think of right now. This is a “we” project and not a “me” project. And nowhere will that be truer than for conquering the final twenty countries.
I finally had laksa!! That is addictively good!!
I looked deeper into my magic crystal ball to see what the future holds. It felt utterly depressing to me. Of the remaining twenty countries I can only reach seventeen by means of public transportation! The good news is however that of the twenty countries I only need visa for two. On all other accounts I can get the visa on arrival (VOA) or simply apply for an easy E-visa. That does not mean that bureaucrazy (as it’s called within the Saga) is over though. It will just be another type of bureaucrazy. The island nations of the pacific are small some of them are not even significantly frequented if you fly – which I don’t ;) I’ll need ships! Lots of ships!! And then we are back to weighing out incentive. Will I be able to incentivise shipping companies which have never heard about the Saga? It is not that easy. Approaching someone at an office with a request to come on board a commercial vessel which solely carries cargo is often flat out denied. The primary reason is that it is really easy to say no. Then you can delete the email and go about with the rest of your day. I actually approached the Danish Pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk recently. I wanted to know if they were interested in a cooperation regarding the publicity Once Upon A Saga can offer. It was immediately turned down with a few kind words. I immediately approached them again with a few more encouraging words to entice cooperation. I was quickly turned down again. They did not even ask what I wanted in return or what a cooperation could look like. It is easy to say no.
Interesting being in this part of the world during the monsoon season. The rain doesn't last long though.
Well, recently there has been a financial upswing for the Saga. A lot of you have signed up with your support on Patreon, which is just amazing! That way the Saga receives a financial contribution on a monthly basis. And people of the Great Viking Kingdom of Denmark in the High North of Europe have been generous too across MobilePay (12711). I have actually been surprises about all of your willingness to help. Thank you. I write an article once a month for Syre Global in Sweden and in return I get to invoice them for it. So that pays for a few days within the budget too. And Bob (Robert), the journalist I met in Uganda, has taken the initiative to open up an online store for Once Upon A Saga, which we are currently working on getting ready. So if any of you would like to buy a Saga t-shirt or some other apparel then that is soon an option. Hopefully that will generate a small income too. It is beyond me why no corporate entity is funding this endeavor? There is so much to win and so little to lose? And the publicity is excellent. Many of the post I make reach well above 10,000 people and I generate a lot of content. Sometimes I just wish that I was a skinny blond woman who was not afraid to show my shoulders…because like it or not…that works wonders. Oh well…I’m not ready for a sex-change just yet and as such let’s just let the beard flow :) What is next? Well as far as I can see we’ve got some distance to cover from Singapore through Indonesia (184), across Borneo to Brunei (185) and from there to Manila in the Philippines. All of that can be managed with ferries, buses, taxis and what have we. From thereon out it gets a lot harder. Maersk is as always willing to help but given the small amount of trade these island nations have they do not have vessels calling most of them. Maersk in Singapore has however been helping me get in touch with some of the large Pacific players which count PIL, APL and Swire. Between those three companies and the ports they call I see light at the end of this now five year and seven month long tunnel.
This was create by Saga project member Parth Nilawar. Doesn't it look good?
And so the tail of Singapore begins. Do you remember my frustrations with switching between my two passports? The immigration at both sides of every border from Vietnam, Thailand to Malaysia would not let me do it. However the immigration officers I met when I entered Malaysia said if I headed back to Thailand and got an exit stamp in the passport I wished to continue traveling with then they would put my entry stamp in that passport. I did not have time to head back over the border to the Thai immigration and just entered with the same passport which was now quickly filling up. When I left Malaysia I then obviously asked immigration to put an exit stamp in both passports so that I could enter Singapore with the unused passport. Seemed logic that if they suggested that tactic on my entry then they would comply with it themselves when I left – no? They utterly refused. However I stood my ground until they brought me to the “higher-ups”. I was naturally calm and polite throughout all of this. You need to be. At the chief immigration officer I was told that they couldn’t do it. Then I questioned what the proper procedure might be to switch between two passports in Malaysia. The officer did not know but offered to call someone and ask. I waited patiently. He returned and said that it could not be done within the borders of Malaysia. I would have to go home or to a country which accommodates it. I was not happy about the answer but very satisfied with the officer. He went above and beyond to accommodate me. Good man!
Then I walked towards Singapore’s immigration officer, handed him the unused passport which he processed without looking for my exit stamp (which was in the other passport). As such I entered Singapore with the unused passport and it could not have been easier! Success! Passports have been switched! I know have 32 blank pages to conquer the Pacific. Singapore: I love you!! :)
Singapore is arguably the shipping capital of the world! It was founded upon maritime trade and has continued to develop upon that. The port is now 200 years old as it was constructed in 1819. That is about how old Singapore is too. That’s just not completely true. The earliest written record of Singapore occurs in a Chinese account from the third century, describing the island of Pu Luo Chung. But this place is so small and so overly developed that there is no real trace of anything which dates back more than 200 years. Singapore is a brilliant place and I would have loved to be an expat here working out of this crown jewel of a country. Singapore rather reminds me of the highly developed, highly unlikely and highly efficient countries of UAE or Qatar. Singapore is obviously in much more lush vegetation as it is tropical versus the deserts of the golf. You can however go skiing in Dubai and you would struggle to do that in Singapore ;) What I am trying to say is that it is highly artificial to the degree where even most vegetation has been planted and much land has been claimed from the ocean. It somehow just seems very pleasant in Singapore. I guess it’s all the green. Some suggest that Singapore is nothing but a concrete jungle. Nothing could be further from the truth. Singapore is abundantly green and vegetation is highly prioritized. It is really nice.
Since Singapore is listed as number 7 in the world regarding GDP per capita, I was not surprised to see a fancy car like this, while walking through the garage of a building. I was slightly more surprised to see three (red, black, yellow)! And I was very surprised to hear that they all belong to the same man!!
My father knows Kamilla who used to play professional football (soccer) in Denmark. Now she lives in Singapore with Michael who’s also Danish. There are quite a few Danes in Singapore and it could be because Denmark is likewise a great shipping nation. Maersk was founded in 1904 and has since grown to become the world's largest container shipping company, a prominent position the company still holds today. Another Danish company is Dampskibsselskabet Norden which was founded in 1871, making it one of Denmark’s oldest internationally operating shipping companies. And I would have to mention Blue Water Shipping (BWS) which is my alma mater within the shipping industry. BWS wasn’t founded until 1972 and is a freight forwarding company unlike Maersk and DS Norden which both operate fleets. However BWS is in part were the Saga began. I was a shipping trainee with a bunch of amazing people. One of them lives in Singapore today. At BWS I had some fantastic colleagues who showed me the ropes and I had a boss who believed in me and sent me to work in-house with a client on a project in Libya. I think it’s fair to say that the “Libya project” redefined me as a man and put me on a new course in life with more confidence and a greater understanding for many things. I doubt that I would attempt reaching every country in an unbroken journey without flying, had I not been working in Libya from 2006-08. And so we are the result of the many handshakes we have made in our lifetimes. The tea we have enjoyed, the tears we have cried, the meals we have had and the thoughts we have carried. In order to close the loop Kamilla is expecting twins with Michael and Michael works for BWS in Singapore.
This wonderful woman!! Amazingly open and easy going. Really good company! Thank you Kamilla (and dad).
I got to meet Michael an hour before he headed to the airport on his way home to Denmark. As such I was left alone in their apartment with the beautiful and charming Kamilla. Kamilla’s football days are behind her and she now works for company, which extracts selected information from the news and social media and delivers it to clients on request. Pretty cool stuff if you ask me. Apartments appear to be super expensive in Singapore although there is an option to move into public housing which are subsidized by government according to your income. A rental lease can be held for up to 99 years and more than 80% of Singapore’s residential population live in such lease accommodation. Isn’t that remarkable? However expats rarely chose to live in the public housing. And then accommodation makes up a significant part of the budget! Singapore does not need to be an expensive country to visit though. I’ve found hostels as low costs as $13 USD / night. The MRT (metro) and the buses are reasonably cheap and walking is really easy. On my first day in Singapore I walked 17 km (11 mi) or maybe even more. Singapore is packed with expensive places, restaurants, hotels and attractions so you can certainly spend money if you want too. However if you want a low costs meal then find a hawker centre. A hawker centre is an open-air complex housing many stalls that sell a variety of inexpensive food. They are typically found in city centres, near public housing estates or transport hubs. You can easily find a delicious meal for $2 USD or a simple bowl of white rice for just $0.70 USD. I’ve been drinking the tap water and I feel fine. It can be done :)
Within my first days in Singapore I began looking into how we will reach the final twenty countries. I began networking and I also reunited with old friends. Bjarke used to be a shipping trainee alongside me seventeen years ago and continued to work at BWS until 2017 when he created Anemos Solutions, a consultancy company dedicated to assisting project developers and manufacturers, with solid hands-on expertise in optimizing transportation and logistics solutions with the main focus on renewable energy projects (can you tell I copy/pasted that?). Anemos appears to be a success because I visited Bjarke and his beautiful wife Kunjung (KJ) in their impressive apartment on the 65th floor at a prime location with a glorious view of the sea and all the way across to Indonesia! Well done Bjarke!
A good night out in Singapore with delicious Indonesian cooking! ;)
I also had a chance to reunite with Jan whom I first met in Kenya back in 2016 when it became country number 121. Me oh my we have come far since then! Back in 2016 Jan’s wife was pregnant with Mathias who is now 23 months old. And when I met Ysabel now she was pregnant again! I wonder if she will be pregnant every time we meet? Ysabel is a very charming woman from the proud Caribbean island nation of the Dominican Republic. A gorgeous green island I will absolutely return to explore someday. So she is Dominican and Jan is Danish. Therefore I wonder if that makes Mathias “Danican” or maybe “Dominish”? He’s definitely a charmer! The three of us headed out for a delicious brunch followed by a visit to the Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay. Like in the UAE and Qatar the man made features are absolutely incredible and true testimonies of what man can do. Coincidentally Singapore, UAE and Qatar are also all into making and breaking Guinness World Records. Just saying. Jan and Ysabel have been keen supporters of the Saga for as long as I remember and have bent over backwards in order to help me in various ways. Jan now works for Geodis and has (like Ysabel) many years of experience from the transport business.
Yeah, so while Mathias was generally full of smiles and laughter he clearly wasn't for this photo :)
Inside the Cloud Forest dome. Will life on Mars look like this?
Entering Singapore I had already done 97 public speaking engagements across 53 nations worldwide. When do you get to call yourself a public speaker? I had three speaking engagements scheduled for Singapore: BWS, Maersk and one at the Danish Seaman’s Church. That would make Maersk number 99 and the Seaman’s Church number 100 which did not sit quite well with me. 100 is a special number. Sure numbers are just numbers but see how the Chinese feel about the number four as it sounds similar to the word ‘death’. Nah numbers have importance and represent achievement in various form. Do you have $10 USD on your bank account or $10 million? I wanted to make Maersk number 100 because they have in so many ways been so instrumental to the success of the Saga. Maersk put me onboard their vessel so I could safely go eastbound across the Atlantic in 2015. I did my first “Saga talk” at Maersk’s office in Madagascar back in 2016 and I first met Steve Felder in Kenya who has since then put me in touch with so many other Maersk offices since then. The network of those offices have at times helped me across borders by providing me with the needed documentation. I am proudly representing the Danish Red Cross as a Goodwill Ambassador throughout the Saga, however the Red Cross has mostly been a silent observer of the Saga while Maersk has been an active friend. I was therefore very pleased when Jan managed to reach out to his friend Peter at DS Norden, who was happy to host me for a motivational talk at their office.
BOOM! DS Norden number 98. Great team spirit – thanks for having me!
BOOM!! Blue Water Shipping number 99. Just like coming home! – thanks for everything!
BOOM!!! MAERSK SINGAPORE NUMBER 100!! Officially making me a motivational speaker! Click HERE or on image to watch the video! :)
Well, the talk number 100 emboldened me to call myself a ‘motivational speaker’. Don’t you think that’s fair enough? I mean we are talking 100 talks across 54 different countries. Doesn’t that qualify me? So now I’m a: Modern Viking, Motivational speaker, Extreme traveller, Red Cross Ambassador, Explorer, Keeper of promises and a man who with your help has found a way to reach 183 countries in a single unbroken journey completely without flying. Not too shabby – hey ;)
I’m officially a WILDLIFE HERO! Because I went to Singapore Zoo today and 50 cents of the admission ticket goes towards wildlife conservation efforts in the region. And that makes me a wildlife hero (it’s on my ticket). Seriously though: I heard that Singapore Zoo should be among the very best in the world and then I just couldn’t stay away. I had to make time for it. Especially given how much I love visiting zoos. Singapore Zoo lived up to the hype. It’s almost a zoo in a botanical garden / forest and some of the trees were within them self magnificent to observe. At times I felt so immersed in the plants, animals, smells and sounds that I might as well have been what was on display. I got to see both a Komodo Dragon as well as Proboscis Monkeys which were a first for me. However I am in the region now so it makes sense.
I know I’m repeating myself from last week. However I am fascinated by the thought that the world is opening up to such a degree that more and more people will be capable of reaching every country. I think there is no doubt that it will be a far more common achievement in the future. Funds can be raised on online platforms and a fan base can be built up even before people embark on the global challenge. Tips are readily available on the internet for all the best places and ways to achieve visas. Flights are abundant and cheap. Visas are generally getting easier to achieve. There is less war on this planet than ever before. I’m sure the exclusive club of people who have achieved a visit to every country will see rapid growth. And simultaneously it seems like it will only get harder to do it without flying. Should I ever complete the Saga then the achievement might stand alone for many years to come. Have you noticed how completing a full marathon used to be amazing and now it seems more universal. So more and more people are challenging themselves with completing an Ironman. An Ironman is a lot of swimming followed by a lot of cycling followed by a full marathon!! Both a marathon and an Ironman are incredible achievements but obviously one is more demanding than the other. People are going more extreme I think…
A little bit of Singapore from above.
I watched ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ together with my fiancée while we were in Cambodia. It’s a good and entertaining movie about the filthy rich society of Singapore. It centred on an incredibly wealthy Chinese family which settled in Singapore in the 19th century. Some of it was actually filmed in Malaysia passing that off as Singapore. So Hollywood makes a movie like that and then the sheepish population which this world seems to be made of instantaneously begins to believe that everyone in Singapore is rich. That is not at all the case. The middleclass is as usual the larger part of the package and there are lower income groups too. In Singapore you have a “China Town”. I had to giggle when I first saw it as I would think that all of Singapore is “China Town” ;) It’s a fair point with the Chinese Singaporeans representing 76.2% (2015) of the country's citizens. It is noticeable in terms of food and customs across this city state. Did you know that there are only three city states in the world? The others are Monaco and the Vatican. The Chinese have been coming to what is today known as Singapore for at least a thousand years. But hundreds of years ago they would only have found small settlements with a few hundred people. The huge influx of Chinese migrants began heading to Singapore in the 1820s and 1830s.
I got to meet up with Ee Thai who's a super interesting guy from Singapore. We've been following each other on Instagram for years. Check him out :)
I don’t have much else to say for now. I guess that it is enough anyway. I have decided to prolong my stay in Singapore with another week as I seek to set up some meeting with potential future partners and collaborators that could be vital for completing the Saga’s remaining twenty countries. It is a VERY nice place to be! People here a friendly, the food is good, there is much to look at and plenty to do. I’ve been running three times since I arrived and I really wouldn’t mind living here. It appears to be a really nice country.
Hanging out with KJ :)
After a few days at Kamilla’s place I was invited to come and stay at Bjarke and KJ’s place on the 65th floor! Bjarke had to leave for Taiwan so I was left alone with his beautiful wife KJ. Do you see a pattern forming here? ;) KJ is super energetic and originally from Indonesia. She’s done some acting and still performs as a singer. I haven’t had the chance to hear her sing but I bet that she is talented. She is currently up to her eyeballs in completing her childhood studies and guidance and counselling education, which she hopes to finish in about a month. So I don’t get to see her much. She smiles and then vanishes into her “cave” where she keeps some late nights. It suits me well as I have a lot on my plate as it is. How fortunate I am sometimes…I could be trying to deliver the Saga from a noisy $13 USD hostel.
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Thank you :)
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Once Upon A Saga