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Selling Hashish in VIETNAM. Chapter 9 - Singapore

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We woke up around dawn. Lucky it did not rain that night. We packed our stuff and waded to the boats. It was decided that this is where we part. The pirates would head back to their home in Anambas, while the four of us would sail the AXARA to Singapore. 

We said our goodbyes and set sail. 

We were on course. Our location was about 2.5 degrees North and about 105 degrees East Longitude, about 160 miles (250 km) Northeast of Singapore. We could make Singapore in a day if the winds held, which is never a guarantee. In any case we were not in a hurry. Jim was against reaching Singapore after dark. Not that any of us had been to Singapore before. But, for whatever reason, Jim had this idea that we should sail directly Southwest to the coast of the Malaysian state of Johore before dark, and then sail south along the coast keeping the shore lights in sight and hit Singapore in daylight. 

We did exactly that, and more than two weeks after we had left Bangkok, we arrived in Singapore. 

Before we left Bangkok, a message had been sent to RSYC (Republic of Singapore Yacht Club) at Tanjong Rhu, that the AXARA, manned by the four of us was destined for Singapore and would arrive in Singapore around an approximate date, and we were more or less on schedule. There was a response from the RSYC giving AXARA permission to drop anchor at RSYC. A printout of the RSYC permission on Bangkok Sailing Club letterhead was with us. 

As we entered Singapore waters, a Singapore Coast Guard patrol boat hailed us. We pulled down the main sail and two coast guard patrolmen wearing guns boarded the AXARA. They checked our passports and read the RSYC permission, and made a thorough inspection of the boat. Finding everything in order, they escorted the AXARA to Tanjong Rhu. 

What if we had not been shipwrecked and had arrived in Singapore without a storm or pirates. Many kilograms of Hashish would have been on board, and the coast guard would have surely found it. There might have been a law against it, but I don’t know for sure. What I do remember is that Singapore was not as strict as it is now. The law in Singapore today is that if you are caught with more than 500 grams of Hashish or ganja, it is mandatory death sentence. The Judge has no discretion. 

I don’t remember for sure if there was any such law in Singapore then, but I do remember for sure that in 1973, smoking on SBS buses was allowed in Singapore. I used to live at O-KYO-THAO (Delta Circus), in the heart of the old city and used to take a bus to Chai Chee costing few cents and used to regularly smoke cigarettes (not Hashish) in the bus, on my way to work in the Rolleiflex Camera Company (which no longer exists) in Chai Chee. The premises are currently occupied by Singapore Post. 

In such a lax atmosphere, at that time, almost forty years ago, I doubt if Mr. Leak 0n You, the diktatur of Singapore since 1965, would have such a harsh law in place as it is today, where mere possession of 0.15 grams of Heroin / Cocaine and / or 500 grams of Ganja could get you the rope. 

In the event, we had no hashish on board and we were clean, the law notwithstanding. 

We dropped anchor at Tanjong Rhu and rowed in a dingy to the shore and went to the clubhouse. The coast guard patrolmen were also at the clubhouse with us. We made our entries in the club’s arrival register. 

RSYC immediately sent a message to Bangkok Sailing Club that the AXARA had safely docked in Singapore. 

Having satisfied themselves that everything was in order, the patrolmen went back to their boat and left. Then we sat in the club’s eating area and ordered food and Beer. 

What now? 

Our contracted journey was over. We were in Singapore. I originally wanted to sail across the Pacific. But having lived through the storm and Pirates, I wasn’t sure any more. Going east across the Pacific from Singapore, there were three possible routes. 

One was via north of Borneo, then the strait between Palawan island (Philippines) and Borneo, through the Sulu Sea and the Bohol Sea north of Mindana0 (second largest island of the Philippines) and out into the open Pacific. 

The second was via south of Borneo, then across the Makassar Strait between Borne0 and Sulawesi (Celebes), then across the Celebes Sea into the Open Pacific. 

The third was south of Borneo, south of Sulawesi (Celebes), north of Timor across the Arafura sea, south of Papua New Guinea, between the northern tip of Australia and the southern tip of Papua New Guinea into the open Pacific. 

All three routes were heavily infested with Pirates. My enthusiasm was reducing, storms notwithstanding. 

I was in two minds. One thing I was sure of is that the best job in India was waiting for me beginning 1st October 1973. I still had two months to drift around. But I didn’t have much munny, which was a problem. 

Janet and Janice were not sure about what they wanted to do. They said they wanted to explore the town first and then decide. Jim said he wanted to know if any of us wanted to continue. His objective was clear. He had to sail to Ceuta on the North African coast just south of Gibraltar, at the western end of Europe, while right now we were at the eastern end of Asia. He had thousands of miles to go. He had a destination and a schedule. 

Janet, Janice and me, had neither a schedule nor a destination, or even a place to stay. Jim gave us one week. We could stay on the AXARA for a week and make up our mind whether any of us wanted to sail west with him. 

After one week, Jim would put out the same Bangkok type ad in the Singapore STRAiTs TiMEs, the leading English newspaper in Southeast Asia at that time, looking for expense sharing crew for the AXARA. 

Moving around in Singapore was financially no problem for the other three. For one, they were from Dollar country and must have started from home with some Dollars. Plus they had made munny in Vietnam. Jim had made munny selling HASHiSH, while the girls had made munny selling their charms. 

I was the beggar here. Sure I had more munny than the US$100/- I started out from India with, since I had made some munny earning tips at the Express Hotel in Bangkok. But much of it had been spent in buying supplies for the voyage from Bangkok to Singapore. I imagine I would have had about US$150/- with me, hardly a princely sum. 

Besides, I had not yet visited my doctor sister in Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan state of Malaysia, at the Northeast corner of Malaysia, more than 500 miles away. That matter was still pending. In fact, the main objective of this trip (funded by my father) was to visit my sister which I had not done and was nowhere near doing. 

We did the regular tourist circuit in Singapore. Sometimes all four of us went together, sometimes only the girls and me, sometimes only Jim and me, minus the girls. We saw the fantastic Jurong Bird Park. We did Orchard Road. CKTang. Tivoli open air beer garden. Orchard Car Park after midnight. The food at Orchard Car Park was mind boggling – tongue boggling – whatever. Such food I had never eaten before. Sentosa island by boat. It was a training and camping ground for National Cervix recruits at that time. No cable car. Just a boat from Jardine Steps. 

But Singapore has only this much to offer. It is a cunt ree ten miles wide and twenty miles long. You stand on one end of the cunt ree and piss, the piss reaches the other end of the cunt ree. No big deal. How much can a small place like this offer? In less than four days we had ‘done’ Singapore, except for the food. Every hawker centre from Tuas to Changi and from Punggol to Jardine steps was, and still is, excellent, unique and exclusive in taste. The greatest attraction of Singapore is its food. You can never get enuff of it. 

I am an avid newspaper reader. I used to buy the Straits Times every day for five cents and read it from cover to cover. It had much information. 

In the event I decided to visit my sister in Kota Bharu. I told Jim that I would not be sailing with him anymore. The girls too were not interested in going west where Jim was headed. Indeed they had come from the west and had no plans to return right now. They had udder plans. 

Jim put an ad in the Straits Times and waited for responses. We were still living on the AXARA. Jim said we could live on the AXARA as long as there was space. We used to sleep on the deck. It was the cheapest way to live in Singapore at that time. Also the safest (from mosquitoes). The AXARA was moored so far away from shore that mosquitoes just couldn’t reach it. 

Jim got responses to his ad in the Straits Times. He finalized on two men, both had done some sailing, not idiot greenhorns like me and the girls. A crew of three experienced men could do it as well as four greenhorn idiots. This looked like serious business. I imagined the terms would have been the same as ours==EXPENSE SHARiNG. 

I wondered what they would do for sex. On our Bangkok – Singapore voyage, there was no shortage of sex: Two prime cunts and two prime dicks. Best sex balance in a voyage like ours. 

Money was never an issue for this Woodstock generated Hippie generation==the postwar baby-boom generation. The issue was: JUST DO IT. No wonder the catchline / punchline of some top shoe company (Reebok / Nike?) is: JUST DO IT! It was started by a Hippie generation baby boomer I am sure! 

I had found a sleeping place on Serangoon Road where one could sleep (on a mattress on the floor) in a dormitory for 80 cents. Shitting and other essentials included. This was pretty fair. There was a sprinkling of races: Indians, Anglo-Saxons (whites), Indonesians, Filipinos and others. Janet and Janice also decided to stay there. 

We were still living on the boat. My finances were getting low. Getting to my sister in Kota Bharu would not be a problem. I could go free by train from Singapore to Kota Bharu, because all the railways at that time were run by the Malaysian govt., and as the son of a Railway man, I was entitled to free, unlimited, first class travel anywhere on the Malayan Railway network. 

[All railway land in Singapore Including the entire track length and all wayside railway stations inside Singapore including Singapore Main Railway Station at Tanjong Pagar belonged to the Malayan Railway and hence to the Malaysian govt. Even today (2011), this land inside the Republic of Singapore belongs to the Malaysian govt. though currently there is a move afoot in Singapore to get this land back.] 

Jim fixed a departure date. This was somewhere early August 1973. We decided to have a party on board the AXARA the night before. The guys who were to sail with Jim were Bob and Ted, both Anglo-Saxon. For the party, Bob & Ted brought four females: One Malay, one Chinese, one Indian and one Anglo-Saxon==white. 

How is that for bi0-diversity? 

During the time we were moored at the RSYC in Tanjong Rhu, we had made some friends. Jim let it be known that he was sailing out, headed west. Some local members of the RSYC decided to join our party. As the numbers grew, it was evident that we could not have a party of that size aboard the AXARA. The locals had an alternative: Southern islands – Sisters Islands. 

These are a few small islands belonging to Singapore, maybe a kilometer south of Sentosa. Nobody goes there (at least at that time in 1973) except Chinese Singaporean pilgrims for the 7th month and 9th month 0beisances. 

In the event, the party was brilliant. Every brand of booze was there. Even Ganja and Hashish were available. Some of the cream of Singapore society would have been there. It takes a lot of financial muscle to own an ocean going yacht moored at RSYC in Tnjong Rhu. There were five or six yachts and about 30-35 people, females outnumbering males. Age varied from 25 to 55. 

This party was different from the orgy at Paradise atoll in the Ambanas islands a week ago. These people were rich. There was much food and drink. There was music. Loud, battery operated music systems were the rage. There was much dancing. There was no open fucking as in Paradise atoll. These were leading citizens of Singapore in 1973. They don’t do such things openly, but people did disappear into the bushes with each other’s wives. 

I myself had some drink and also smoked much hashish. I also took one woman into a bush. But I cannot remember who. It was 40 years ago. But my heart was not into it like it was in paradise atoll. I was feeling sentimental. 

I looked for Janet and Janice. They were forlorn, sitting by the fire. 

Everybody else was dancing, eating or squeezing. 

I sat with Janet & Janice. We talked. They were feeling sentimental too. What a voyage it had been! The storm! The shipwreck! The US Army camp near Ca Mau. The VietCong attack on camp. The girls selling their charms for cash, while Jim and I were SELLiNG HASHiSH in ViETNAM in 1973. 

What a journey it had been! 

The party lasted till dawn when it started raining. Everybody got to their boats and headed for Tanjong Rhu. So did the AXARA. 

At the clubhouse, the locals said their goodbyes and left in their Porsches and Jaguars. Six of us were on the AXARA still moored at RSYC: Jim, Janet, Janice, me, and Ted & Bob. 

Jim and the other two rigged up the AXARA and were ready to set sail. We took the dingy and rowed to the clubhouse. Jim had to record his departure record in the register. I can clearly remember what he wrote: 

Name of Vessel : AXARA. 

Name of Master: Jim Taylor. 

Crew: Male: Ted Morgan and Bob Hayes (both US citizens). 

Proposed Destination: Colombo, Ceylon- (4350 miles). 

Expected date of arrival in Colombo: 15 November 1973. 

Of course Jim could stop on the way on both sides of the Straits of Malacca (Melaka). He could stop at any place on the northern coast of Sumatra (Indonesia) or the west coast of Malaya. But then, for sailing boats, a few weeks or even a month behind schedule is no big deal. He could also stop at Great Nicobar (India) bang on his route, but there was no known sailing club or yacht club there at that time, so Nicobar could not be written as a proposed destination. 

Unless the AXARA stopped anywhere before Colombo, it would be lost to this world for three months. 

Bob and Ted got into the dingy to row back to the AXARA. Raising his hand, Jim asked them to wait. He came to me. From under his shirt he pulled out the same dirty plastic bag which he had thrown under the bilge pump when the pirates attacked us. He took out ten US$100/- bills and pressed them into my palm and said, “It has been weighing on my mind, that you had been weighing and dispensing HASHiSH IN ViETNAM, and I must give weightage to that work”. He hugged me, then Janet and Janice, and walked into the dingy without looking back. The dingy rowed out to the AXARA. We stood on the wharf and waved to the departing trio. 

FUCK ! This was too heart wrenching. Somebody who had been with us through the most intense fortnight in our lives is literally fading away into oblivion. Janet and Janice must have been feeling the same too. 

I suddenly felt a sense of void such as I had never felt before. Nor since. The AXARA had been home to us for better than two weeks: A home which almost drowned; A home which went into the Vietnam War; A home which was attacked by pirates; A home from where the girls got kidnapped; A home which brought us together again. And now the home had gone away from us – forever. 

I had left my home in India. The girls had left theirs, so had Jim. Everybody leaves home sometime or other. But this was exactly the opposite: We were rooted on firm land while our home left us – literally. 

We stood on the shore for almost eternity. We saw the dingy reach the AXARA. The three boarded her and got about their business. They pulled up the anchor, hoisted the mainsail. The AXARA eased out of the mooring and headed out to sea. 

We kept gazing at it for an hour, or two, or three. We couldn’t take our eyes off the AXARA till it disappeared over the horizon. 

We made our way to Serangoon Road and checked into the “eighty-cents-a-day” dormitory.

 

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