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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 38: 1 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysAt 2.15 in the morning, after two hours in Singapore, all is cleared for our departure and we are at Clifford Pier, boarding a small but sturdy launch called Carnival which sweeps me in a curve past the prosperous, boomtown skyline - the Oriental Hotel and the Westin Raffles, which they tell me is the tallest hotel in the world. But at the pier itself I have seen some litter and a drunk or two - neither of which I thought were allowed on the streets of the city.

2.45 a.m. Hurrying past all manner of ships in the harbour. First the section they call Smuggler's Corner, where the smaller, less conspicuous boats come and go with surreptitious cargoes, then out between the cruise ships, festooned with lights, past a surveillance ship with two bulbous deck structures, and in among a crowd of cargo vessels riding at anchor. Then voices are raised, the engine tone deepens and sputters and ahead of us is a sheer wall of steel, rising forty feet above our heads. This is the Neptune Diamond. We've made it.

Climb aboard, up a 30-step ladder at ten past three. Met by a Singaporean officer who takes me upstairs to meet the captain who turns out to be a reassuring Geordie, Norman Tuddenham. His wife Pat, who's Scottish, is in her dressing gown. She fusses around us - showing us our cabins and offering us chicken salad and Tiger beer. My cabin is enormous after the Susak. The whole ship is enormous after the Susak. It carries 2000 more containers than the Susak and travels twice as fast. There is a lift to carry us the six floors from the deck to our quarters. To transfer from a Yugoslav 'tramp service' (as Ivan once described his ship) to a Japanese-built, Singaporean-owned, British-captained 35,000 tonner between midnight and three in the morning in an unknown foreign port is overloading a sensory system already full of rum and Zlatorog, but as I fall asleep I can feel the throb of the engines and I know we're moving round the world again - and that's really all that matters.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 38
  • Date: 1 November
  • Country/sea: Singapore
  • Place: Singapore
  • Book page no: 125

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