Dad left before us to take up his posting in 1966, missing England winning the World Cup (not that I remember), to fly out to Malaya via Changi airport, Singapore.
The flight was in a plane called a Vickers Viscount and took a little over 36 hours to get to Singapore with stops for refuelling in Kuwait and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). We did the same route about 3 months after him, arriving in March 1966 to the monsoon season.
It was a culture shock to a 7 year old, my brother was two years older, to take off one day in England and land in sultry Singapore - we were so glad to have air-conditioning in the hotel, staying 3 days to see a bit of the island before catching a train to a little town called Kluang.
What I remembered most about the initial experience, was the smell of dried fish and spices and the first few months seemed to drag by and then it was as if you didn't notice it any more and the next 3 years passed by so quickly before it was time to leave.
Some of my favourite memories are :
- The swimming pool, where I learnt to swim and still have all my swimming badges I gained during the tour
- The flour had to be sifted for weevils, it wasn't possible to get all the insects out so I have swallowed a fair few of them though it seems to have done me no harm.
- Having a shower in the monsoon season, please I was only a child, warm rain and in minutes afterwards you would be dry again.
- Having the laundry coming back so starched you had to crack open a shirt to wear - trust me it wasn't pleasant wearing it.
- Having the most tremendous thunderstorms, it felt as though you were at the centre of hell
- Not having cold days, it was always hot or hotter or occasionally very wet and hot at the same time.
- Getting stung by Jelly fish - ouch!
- Having a too close encounter with a Cobra; which still gives me nightmares even now
- Visiting the Cameron Highlands for a break in the middle of Dad's tour
- Going to stay with my Amah, and her family while my parents visited my brother; they treated me as though I were one of the family - and I still love eating chinese cuisine with chopsticks.
- The smell of the Durian Fruit - yeuchhhh
- Walking through the rubber plantations which surrounded the houses
- The taste of fresh ripe pineapple, nothing like the ones which travel half way round the world to you, like heaven on earth.
- The smell of the marketplace, and the sounds of the malay language
- The friendliness of the people, who only a few years before were impacted by the communist activity.