Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Doulos has arrived, the family is whole again!

We thought we might get to the harbour in time to see the MV Doulos arrive on Thursday, but in the event she sailed in before 9am and we didn't get there till nearer 10am. It would have been a lot of effort to have got up earlier, particularly for Richard, and as it was we didn't eat breakfast at the hotel before checking out, just had a quick coffee. The taxi driver didn't know where Vivo Centre was; it turned out to be a bit of the harbour right behind a brand new mall called Vivo Centre. We would not have thought Singapore would need yet more malls - there are hundreds! - but this one opened just a few weeks ago, so it looks even more clean and sparkling than all the other ones we've visited. The only sad thing about it is a rather tacky plastic 'snowman' sitting outside - yes, Christmas decorations are here already, including some featuring snow, in a country where the tenperature never gets below 20C.

It's a great port from the access point of view - just literally a few yards across the paving outside the mall sits the Doulos.

Importantly for Tim and me, there was a little cafe selling muffins and smoothies so we sat and had some breakfast while Richard went to look for Dan. He didn't have too much work that day, once they had berthed and checked the water, so he was able to show us around and spend time talking, which was great.

In between times we looked at the next-door Habour mall which had a McDonalds with free wireless networking.

There were also several other unsecured networks available. However as we've now learned that it's technically illegal to access another network, even if unsecured and doing nothing immoral, we prefer to use those we're officially allowed to use. There was a news article in a local newspaper yesterday about a 17-year-old Singaporean who has been arrested for unauthorised use of somebody's unsecured network. Apparently he's liable for a hefty fine and a jail sentence as well, which seems a bit extreme.

Richard and I have been given a very nice cabin, with a bed that folds away to make a sofa, coffee-making facilities, a fridge, a small shower-room, and a comfortable chair and cupboards. Almost like a small hotel room, and much bigger than we had expected. Tim's in one of the tiny cabins which has bunk beds and almost nothing more, sharing with other short-term visitors (one at a time of course!).

Food on the Doulos is much, much better than it used to be with plenty of salads and a fair amount of fruit too. Dan is very busy in his job as 'waterman' which involves a great deal more than just being responsible for the water - he also mends shoes, makes keys, and fulfils various other roles.

Every morning he has to take soundings in the water tanks, and yesterday he had an unexpected request to empty two tanks so they can be cleaned, which turned out to be quite a logic problem, and very time-consuming.

He has been able to take three days of break, having worked long hours for the last few weeks, and was keen to spend at least a couple of nights off the Doulos if possible so he wouldn't get paged at midnight for some emergency, as often happens apparently. We weren't sure if we could find anywhere at short notice (he couldn't confirm his leave dates until Friday) but having consulted our Lonely Planet guide and made a few phone calls, we were able to book a couple of nights into the Perak Lodge Hotel at the outskirts of Little India - slightly less expensive than Sloane Court, since an excellent cold breakfast is included, and rather more upmarket. The only slight disadvantage is that the rooms are smaller, though very comfortable (and equipped with coffee-making facilities and fridges). Oh, and there's free wireless internet in the rooms, as well as papers and even a few novels available to be borrowed.

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