“Singapore has too many unhappy people for my liking, went 24 hrs without seeing a smile:-).” Aunt Ann wasn’t impressed. She was being charitable. I just called the place down right fake. “It reminded me of Australia, big time!” I added.
I wasn’t here for pleasure. I had a social visa to get. Mr. Wahab’s man was waiting for me at Mac Donald’s at a table under an umbrella. A quick google. There were many happy customers with his service. “His contact man chain smokes and fills out your paper work at the table,” wrote one satisfied customer on the Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree. ” The turn around is one day for the social visa. Do it yourself, it will take three days.” I wasn’t prepared to pay for three nights in Singapore.
At first I wasn’t sure about Wahab. I had called him and said I couldn’t do visa today. It was a Friday. “I’m very busy, maybe Monday,” I said. After I checked his credentials, I called him back. “Sorry, I just had to check that you were legitimate. ”
“That’s ok,” Wahab answered, business like. “But you don’t have much time.” It was nearing midday. ” Get down to the Embassy in 15 minutes but don’t go inside!” he added.
I run by the scenario with the manager of hotel 81. “There are a few legitimate agents that pick up passports from hotels and get visa in the same day.” Wahab wouldn’t meet me at the hotel, which initially set the alarm bells off. He’s Indonesian, and seems to have great connections within the embassy walls. I am now skeptical. Only got five hours until the Embassy closes, but he’s promised to get me a social visa.
He runs through the paper work on the phone. He says I should be fine. He confirms what he says with an email. I email Wahab saying that I’d be at the embassy in 15 minutes.
I get out of Hotel 81 and hail a taxi. The driver, a Chinese Singaporean, is smiling and has seen quite a lot over the years. These are the Mandarins of Singapore that keep the tourists informed of what’s really going on. “Be quiet, ” he says, as we past the Prime Minister’s residence. “See those guards with machine guns?” No I didn’t, and I’m taking pictures out of the window. “They are guarding the Prime Minister’s father who is in town.”
We arrive at the Embassy. I don’t have a Singapore number and no credit on my Indonesian number. There were raves about Wahab’s service on Thorn Tree: “When he says he”ll meet you,” wrote one customer, “he’ll be there on the minute.”
I wait at the side exit, looking for my man. I ask a Singaporean , who is wearing a visitor card, if I can make a quick call on his phone to my agent. “I’ll pay for it, ” I tell him. No need, he says and makes the call to Wahab for me. “You haven’t entered the embassy yet?” he asks. Next he asks what am I wearing. “I’m in black, black shirt and pants.” I walk to the main entrance, and an Indian spots me and asks, “Are you VV?”
We go to his motorbike. He has his office in a box attached to the rear of his bike. “This photo is scanned, next time make it an original.” But you can use it, I ask him. I hand him over the paper work from my sponsor. All looks good.I then hand him S$160. He counts it. His Embassy contact, a Singaporean, is standing next to him to collect the documents. “Just tell Wahab what hotel you are staying at, and we’ll deliver it by 5.30 in the evening.”
I get a taxi back to my hotel. Another senior Chinese Singaporean gives me a run down of the city. ” We are multicultural. We have people from every nation, and can get on well together. There are over 500 000 permanent residents in Singapore. And we have over 27 000 taxis. ”
I’m tired. I get out of the taxi and my button pops on my pants. I need to walk home the 100 meters to my hotel. But my pants keep falling down. I’m near a prestigious school of fashion. I’m getting funny looks from the well dressed Singapore students. I’ll make it home. I’m cursing. ‘Ive got a cigarette dangling out of my mouth, and the signs of no smoking are all around me.
At 5.30, on the dot, my passport was delivered to my room. I was out at the time, in search of Red Bull.
Singapore is hard work. But with a bit of cash and an excellent contact things do get done promptly. And Mr Wahab certainly smoothed things out. You might not get a smile, but what does it matter. It’s Singapore after all.
- Good Way Hotel, Batam (farsidetravel.net)