We are READY for the Pacific challenge!! Exit Singapore.
Day 2,081 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).
Singapore is famous – and nobody seems to know why?
Tactics and strategy are two terms which often confuse people. So let me simplify: the Saga’s strategy is to reach every country in the world in a single unbroken journey completely without flying. The Sagas tactics are the means to achieve that strategy – in a recent case: prolonging my stay in Singapore by an extra week in order to set up meetings with influential companies.
The more I see of our world the clearer it has become that we NEED to find a way of tolerating each other and live together on this planet in PEACE. I can’t believe that I had to wake up to read about war talks in regards to relations between USA and Iran? Two spectacular countries with so much to offer the world. Two countries with hold very different cultures in some aspects and identical in others. Two countries on opposite sides of the planet. Two countries which are literally full of people with families who like food, sports, entertainment, safety, smartphones, social media, music and just want to get by in life without too much trouble. I sometimes feel like I’m the only person on earth who has realized that we are twice as many people on earth compared to seventy years ago and that the planet has not become bigger. We have not discovered any new continents for a very long time and meanwhile it has become much easier to travel great distances. With the rise of smartphones and social media we are capable of sharing ideas, opinions and culture just by flicking our fingers across a screen. Seconds later that content can be read by ANYONE. If we cannot stay together on this planet then there is nowhere else to go. Dreaming of colonies on Mars or in orbit is just escapism and not a viable plan. “We are all on board the same boat”. It might as well be “we are all on the same planet”. Show me a country where everyone has three hearts, or two noses, maybe six arms or eight eyes? We are the same! Our differences are insignificant and not a cause for war. Paraphrasing from my favourite poem, which was written by Nordahl Grieg in 1936: “war is contempt for life, peace is creation”.
Bjarke and Kunjung's apartment on the 65th floor. My home in Singapore :)
Well, that’s also a way to start a blog :) But moving along now…I made the decision to stay an extra week in Singapore and it paid off. Today I have connections which I would otherwise not have had. I feel confident in regards to conquering the Pacific Ocean which was absolutely not the case last week. Last week I had this cloud above my head and a voice in my ear whispering: “this is going to take many years…maybe you will never accomplish it at all”. You might see a beautiful beach and think to yourself: “Wow! That looks amazing. I wish I was there”. I just see a change within my surroundings but my target is the same: find a way home through the remaining countries all without flying. I love everything else which the Saga has become: a positive promotion of every country, history’s greatest attempt to unify the Red Cross Red Crescent movement in a single journey, an inspiration to reach goals and not give up…but if you carve into the bone then the overall objective is the completion of mission impossible: every country in an unbroken journey without flying.
The Danish Seamans Church in Singapore has the travellers palm at its entrance.
Speaking at the Seamans Church. My 101st speaking engagement.
They said only a few might come. LOOK AT THIS! WOW!! Thank you all!! :)
Let me take you through the week. I personally think that Singapore is amazing! I know that I’m just a visitor and that I have not spent much time here. However objectively anyone would have to agree that: Singapore is clean, efficient, modern, there is beauty here, it’s very safe, there are no power shortages, the tap water is drinkable, there are a great deal of activities both at costs and for free, the passport is among the best in the world, the countries location is good for travel and there is a variety of good food at low costs. Locals will say that the cost of living is rising and that incomes are not able to keep up. Well, that is not a Singaporean problem and many have to deal with that under much worse conditions. It does not mean that it is a non-problem. However it is relative. Singapore has been an international trading centre for a few centuries and that has certainly helped in putting the country on the map. Today it is also a popular stopover destination for those who travel in the region. The airport is busy and Singapore Airlines is a popular choice for many. That also helps to put it on the map. Singapore’s reputation for being super clean had also proceeded the country. I heard that people who spit chewing gum on the streets of Singapore would be punished with extraordinary high fines long before I knew where Singapore was located. Singapore has become more lenient over the years but the authority remains and most people seem to follow the rules quite strictly. There is order in Singapore and I like that. Singapore is efficient and I like that too. The by now many people I have met have all been friendly and pleasant. The weather is good and there is plenty to look at. The air is clean and the city is walkable. Public transportation is efficient and inexpensive. Singapore: you are doing it right.
Jan and Ysabel invited me to join them at the aquarium with Peter and his wife Jez.
Kunjung is a SPECTACULAR singer and entertainer! I heard her perform onboard the "Royal Albatros".
She's a lot of fun too! Kind of crazy ;) Kunjung is working hard while studying at the same time. Amazing!
I have met more people the past week than I could possible mention. Well I could mention everyone but it would turn this entry into a phone book. Networking is the name of the game if you are attempting to reach every country in the world and I have done my fair share. As an example I know Jan from when we first met in Kenya and now that he lives in Singapore he introduced me to Peter, who then offered me a free stay at the iconic Marina Sands Bay hotel. Two nights in fact. What a generous contribution! Peter had received the stay as a gift but didn’t intend on using it as he and his wife both live in Singapore anyway. Now do I need to stay at such a hotel for the overall completion of the Saga? No certainly not – however it did generate some additional content for the social media which people seem to enjoy. The social media of the Saga has for years been growing steadily and that in turn does open up doors for the Saga in various ways. Especially by contributing with additional contacts. Until recently I thought that the Sagas social media was important for the projects overall completion. However now I’m not so sure? I’ll get back to that.
Peter is friends with Jan and arranged for me to speak at DS Norden last week, where he works.
Peter met me at the hotel and checked me in. I need to stress that I am very grateful!! Especially as the following will sound strange to most of you. For a moment I considered turning down Peter’s gift. I have a lot of work on my plate. Meetings, phone calls, networking, emails, research etc. My friends Bjarke and Kunjung have set me up in their luxury apartment in which I have my own room, my own bathroom, fast Wi-Fi, ideal conditions to sit and work and I even have access to a rooftop Jacuzzi (which I have not used) and a great gym (which I have used). So essentially I had to consider how I would benefit from such an otherwise precious gift as a two night stay at a luxury hotel? It would costs me a couple of hours in packing and transferring to and from the apartment to the hotel. Breakfast at the hotel goes for $55 so that is well out of my budget and I would not be able to share the experience with anyone which takes away a lot of the pleasure. It is bizarre isn’t it? Christopher McCandless aka “Alexander Supertramp” is famously quoted for writing the following into a book a few weeks before his life ended: “happiness is only real when shared”. I spoke to my fiancée and together we agreed that the hotel stay would present an experience which in the long run would be worthwhile. The famous Infinity Pool on the roof was already on my list of things to visit and on either side of the hotel there are daily (free) shows which I also had my sights set on.
My five minutes in the infinity pool very early in the morning. It's the stuff you should share with someone and not do alone.
Personally I have a great deal of things which I would like to do in Singapore but I frankly don’t know if I have the time? I began the week hoping to set up several meeting but not knowing when they would take place or if they would take place at all? I left Kunjung in her apartment where she, as the previous week, had been busy studying. I then checked into the hote,l sat down and thought: now what? Then I opened my laptop and began working. ‘Gardens by the Bay’ is directly across the road from the hotel and every night they perform a sound and light show which I almost missed. I arrived right on time for the show which lasted for about fifteen minutes. It was good and worthwhile. On the opposite side of the hotel you’ll find Marina Bay and the following evening I arrived to the “Spectra” light and water show just as it began. I made a video for you (click here) and that show blew my mind!! The video will be far from as good as reality but it will give you some idea. Within my life I’ve been to both Vegas and Dubai where I have seen their fountain shows and in my opinion THIS was better! The second it ended I turned around and headed back to my room and continued working through my list of obligations.
Ee Thai and I met up again and visited the "Jewel" at the airport.
The Jewel is worth seeing if you're at the airport. And its just barely worth the drive from the city if you also catch the light and sound show. It opened in March 2019.
Ee Thei and I had Sambal Stingray - because you do when you're in Singapore ;)
So what I am trying to say is that if I had time to do something I wanted and still had the energy – then I would do it. Otherwise I just did what I had to do and moved forward as best I could. That is the reality of this project. It is no more fun than life is for anyone else on average. This is the path I chose and I am fine with that. But it is strange to have so many people envy me without knowing the reality of what this project really is. Social media is a big fat lie in most cases. The colours are not that bright in reality across most accounts. People are not that beautiful in most cases. Only crazy people smile ALL THE TIME ;) Writing that actually made me smile :) Social media is a snapshot of something which is really just a window to what someone wants to show you. Real life is all that stuff around your screen. Even this blog is only what I share with you. Do you think I tell you everything here? ;)
Maersk is that big Danish shipping company which has been a friend of the Saga for several years and they did not let me down here in Singapore. Maersk introduced me to Swire Shipping. Swire Shipping is the brand name for a liner shipping services operated by The China Navigation Company Pte Ltd (CNCo). With Swire on my side the task of visiting all the Pacific island nations could be possible. Without their support…? I set up a meeting and made my preparations. Then I showed up ready to explain why a multipurpose shipping service established in 1883, which operates between more than 130 ports in Asia, the Pacific Islands, Australia, New Zealand, North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Indian Sub-Continent, should help the Saga? Well as it turned out they had made the decision even before our meeting: they were going to support the Saga!! And it did not at all seem like the Saga’s social media played any large role within that decision. Swire was onboard because they like the Saga!! They like what we are doing with this project and how far we have come!!
Thank you so much guys! Looking forward to this collaboration! :)
I simply couldn’t believe it! The excitement was real as I was shown around the office and being introduced. It did not take long before we began working out which nations I should visit in which order. And how many of the countries Swire would be able to get me too. The logistics began to take a life on its own and it felt surreal to have that kind of support all of a sudden! The black cloud above my head was blown away as I stood there and tried to comprehend what was the new reality: mission impossible was becoming possible! Thank you so much!! It means so much to me that you have my back on this! Looking forward to working with you on the last leg of the Saga! :)
A few days before meeting Swire I actually had a rather crazy experience. Singapore has a travellers club called SG Travel Cafe and that’s where you’ll find Singapore’s most well-travelled locals. Red, a great guy who has been following the Saga for some time, invited me to join two presentations, respectively by Keiran and Brian from the club. Unfortunately Red had a flat tyre just minutes before reaching me so our first stop had to be at a nearby workshop which was marked on google maps. Unfortunately there was no workshop on that location when we arrived? We wanted to change the tyre ourselves but red didn’t have a jack in the car. I suggested I could contact some guys in a nearby van to see if they had a jack? When I approached the window I saw that there were three men inside the van who all turned out to work for DHL. They were delighted to help and for a while took over the entire tyre change for us. The spare tyre was on in a matter of no time and we said farewell to the exceptionally helpful guys. Now tell me that a stranger isn’t a friend you’ve never met before? Unfortunately the spare tyre was also flat so after the change we drove very carefully ahead while trying to reach a gas station. But suddenly the spare tyre began acting up.
We stopped the car and took a look at it only to see that it was completely shredded!!! Crazy!! At this point Red just called a fellow traveller from the club and asked for him to pick me up and bring me to the “Travel Café”, which is held at a members home every second Friday of the month. We eventually made it to our destination and the presentations were great! Everyone was really nice and passionate about travel. Singapore’s passport is among the best in the world so they had some severely well-travelled people present.
Listening to Keiran at the SG Travel Cafe gathering.
I also got to meet Lars from the Danish Travellers Club whom I’ve known for years but only met for the first time as he coincidentally passed through Singapore on his way on other adventures. A brilliant evening all together!!
Having a beer with Lars "LT" before he took off to Indonesia.
The Singapore Red Cross are celebrating their 70th anniversary this year!! That’s a really big deal!! We are talking about SEVENTY years of humanitarian action alleviating the suffering of the most vulnerable people in Singapore as well as in many countries abroad. Respect!!
I met some of the kindest people at their HQ where we talked about all the areas in which they are involved:
health aid, transport aid, blood donor recruitment, Red Cross home for the disabled, Red Cross Youth, elder aid, family life aid, community first aid, international services and the Singapore Red Cross Academy which conducts courses in first aid, humanitarian law and humanitarian aid to prepare communities for emergencies! They are amazing!
The Singapore Red Cross also combats loneliness. It’s a real problem which is not uncommon in wealthy countries. In fact loneliness is a problem which the Danish Red Cross deals with back home in Denmark. In Singapore 41,000 seniors live alone, without anyone to turn too. The Red Cross is there for them! The Red Cross movement began in 1863 and has now spread all around the world to nearly every country (191) and I encourage you to donate, volunteer or in other ways support the humanitarian efforts and alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable people. You matter and so do your actions.
Work, work, work, work, work, work. Where is Rihanna when you need her?!?
The Pacific Ocean! It’s that big blue nearly empty spot on our spinning planet. Vast distances separate the few tiny island nations which nobody in their right mind would try to reach without flying. I was told that if I had the support of Swire and Pacific International Lines (PIL) then there would not be much that would be impossible in the Pacific. I had a meeting scheduled with PIL which is incidentally the name of my fiancées twin sister (Pil) who always bakes delicious cookies for me which my fiancée brings along when she visits. Good stuff! But in Singapore PIL is not a kind cookie baking sister. It is one of the largest ship-owners in Southeast Asia and one of the top ten containership operators in the world. PIL offers services in more than 500 locations in 100 countries around the world with a fleet of 128 ships and a cargo carrying capacity of 420,039 TEU (twenty foot containers). PIL was incorporated in Singapore in 1967 and amazingly the company’s 101 year old founder, Mr. Chang Yun Chung, still visits the firm’s Singapore headquarters daily to run through its operations and check in with every department.
Man oh man!! We've got this one!! Thank you PIL! This is going to be great! :)
Well guess what? The almost exact scenario repeated itself. PIL had made a decision to back the Saga before the meeting began. They had looked at my collaboration proposal, the Sagas website and social media, and they were delighted to tell me that I could count on their full support! I simply could not believe it!! In a week I had gone from looking at the remaining twenty countries, realizing that I would only be able to reach five of them on my own…to having the world’s strongest support backing me in the Pacific Ocean! I am overwhelmingly grateful and dangerously optimistic for what is to come. With support like this IT CAN BE DONE! Thank you :)
Blowing the budget! Sometimes you have too. Cheers! ;)
This called for celebration! On my list of things to do was the infamous Singapore Sling which has been served at Raffles Hotel since the 1920s. Originally I had thought to stay away as I found it to be an overwhelmingly touristic ordeal which I did not want to take part in. Furthermore I simply did not have the time. However I then discovered that the Raffles long bar used to be the “haunt of movie stars, authors, journalists and adventurers”. Well how could I not go after hearing that? I certainly consider myself an adventurer and my name belongs on the endless list of people who have ventured there. The bar has been newly renovated and I’m sure that they got that done as soon as humanly possible as the Singapore Sling is a massive income for them. They sell around 400 on a slow day and 700 on a good day. A Singapore Sling will costs you SGD 33 which is around $24 USD – so a good day will earn them $17,000 USD! The hotel itself is still undergoing renovations on its second year. Apparently they closed the bar down for four months during renovation. That is 4 x 30 x 17,000 which comes to a loss of TWO MILLION US DOLLARS!! However they opened a replica bar across the street for the four months so there was no real loss ;)
I also managed to sit down with Lars from Swire for lunch. Good man! :)
Well, that’s kind of all for this time. I’ve taken up running again now that the air is again clean. It has been good to get back out there and Singapore is well suited for running. I have met so many amazing people in the past few days and I would like to thank them all. Keep in mind that the Saga is a people project and that nobody would be able to reach every country on their own. Let me round this one up by saying that Wednesday morning I woke up before 06:00am and headed up to the Infinity Pool hoping to have it for myself. No chance! Plenty of people were up there already but I got in and took the mandatory selfies. Then I had my instant-soup-breakfast which I bought at 7eleven and got ready to check out of Marina Bay Sands. I went to PIL for my meeting which went really well! So after that I headed over to Raffles Hotel, sat down at the long bar and had my Singapore Sling. Afterwards I walked over to Maxwell’s Hawker’s Centre and had a Laksa soup. Then I made it back to Bjarke and Kunjung’s apartment on the 65th floor and worked for a few hours. At 7pm I met with Rupesh (Maersk Managing Director) and his family for dinner. Afterwards Rupesh had invited some 25-30 friends to stop by and I did a private living room Saga talk for about 90 minutes. Then we made some selfies and took group photo. Afterwards I sat with Rupesh and his family and talked for a while before getting into a taxi and heading back to the apartment on the 65th floor. Finally I ended my day by scheduling social media for the following day and replied to the most important emails before going to bed around 02:00am.
Welcome to the Saga where a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before, and we just keep on keeping on ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - a day should have 25 hours!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga