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©Copyright 2015 Ronald Ritter & Sussan Evermore
The right of Ronald Ritter & Sussan Evermore to be identified as authors of this work has been asserted in accordance with Sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Acts 1988.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission from the above mentioned authors.
I was full of adventure and wanted to reach England by traveling the hippie trail overland from Australia. It was a time in history when young people defied convention and took their backpacks to see the world. In many ways it became a spiritual quest as I felt guided by a stranger in Singapore to travel to Nepal to meet, unknown to me at the time, The Little Buddha, Ossian MacLise.
I was the iconic, itinerant hippie traveller of the sixties and early seventies, working for a year or two then traveling for a year until I had enough money to go again.
My first foray into travel was the great flower power hippie overland route to England. Traveling by bus, train or plane I slowly made my way through Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey then onto England before returning to Europe and home to Australia.
Life on the road is exciting, exhausting and life changing. I recommend it for everyone before settling into a world of marriage, children and mortgage.
The enjoyment of this journey remained with me for the rest of my life and I became an itinerant traveler, always looking for the next adventure.
Singapore welcomes The Hippie Traveler
Why do we travel? The answers I believe are locked up in our spiritual self, an echo of our reincarnations on earth. We are still looking for the place that make us feel whole again. Haven't you ever been to a place you have never been before and said, this is where I feel at home. It defies understanding in our intellectual world of logical answers. It is a burr in the saddle that gives us an insatiable desire to see and experience the world. It was definitely not something put in my head by parents, friends or siblings. This was a lone wolf journey to find something that I didn't know existed and once found, I would never be the same again.
I was ignited from the simmering wanting to the fire of passion to explore every corner of this unusual blue planet. But this story starts with my arriving by plane from Jakarta to Singapore in 1972. Coming from a real third world country into the pseudo Asian first world was eye opening.
The first thing I saw at the airport was a poster showing the outline of a man's head, notifying the acceptable haircut style of short back and sides to comply with Singapore law. The authorities had their own barbers at the airport, on site!
While in Indonesia I had experienced the hot and humid climate, so my locks of long hair were already cut short for comfort. The airport authorities in Singapore welcomed me in but they couldn't change the fact that I was a happy hippie at heart.
I made my way by bus from the old Paya Lebar Airport in Singapore to China Town, planning to travel the long way overland to Europe so I wanted a cheap hotel room for the week. After a month traveling in Indonesia on buses and trains I was happy to see the modern world. Well, the Asian version of the modern world which was Singapore. I found a hotel room to fit my budget called The Old China Town Hotel and it was truly original. It was a grubby piece of pre-war construction that had seen much better days.
China Town was a neighbourhood of shabby buildings that once spoke of more prosperous days when wealthy Chinese constructed their traditional oriental buildings reminding them of an ancestry that existed in their hearts. At night the celebrations came and so did the excitement. Every large modern city has a China Town but this was the real deal, not a fabricated attempt to draw in the tourist dollar.
The streets and buildings were still pre Second World War vintage and during the day they basked in their quiet pleasure with their decaying facades awaiting the return of those who would restore them to their former glory but they never came.
The government eventually demolished the buildings and put up high rise apartment blocks. Unfortunately the China Town I remember no longer exists.
Around every corner of this tropical wonderland was a yearning to remain English. Relics of the British Colonial Raj graced the neighbourhood from a by-gone era. An English tradition of elegance is the old Raffles Hotel where legend tells a story of a tiger that once stopped high tea as it roamed amongst the petrified guests, terrifying the men playing billiards before disappearing into urban myth. I looked carefully up and down every corridor but there was no tigers just wealthy Singaporean businessmen trying to be English and me a happy hippie traveler.
I am remembering this special time, this world of China Town in Singapore that has passed into history. However, I have memories of other things beside old buildings and barbers.
In the evenings when the cooling tropical rain stopped drenching the narrow roads and lane ways was the time to come out and enjoy life with the Chinese families, old grandfathers with toothless smiles and round faced children making a lot of noise as they weaved like swirling fairy floss amongst the feet of the happy crowd. All had come to watch the traditional folk opera, stories of old China on the wooden stages set up in the streets of China Town. There were very few tourists that evening, so naturally I stood out in the crowd. It is not uncommon in foreign places to try and seek out our countrymen and this is when I spotted him. He was a tall, elegant, somewhat lanky well-dressed man who appeared to be of English origins. He seemed very out of place as I watched him before realising he was now making his way towards me.
As he stood in front of me, I realized he was towering over me. His appearance was very Peter O'Toole, the English actor who played Lawrence of Arabia. When he spoke, it was a soft southern Sussex Englishman's accent, a quiet direct voice, contained but somewhat distant as if coming through his own parallel universe to join me.
"And what brings you to this side of town?"
I said nothing even though the response was in my head, it didn't come out of my mouth. I was mesmerized by the presence of this man. What seemed like minutes was probably only seconds and I fumbled the words, "The street theatre." I can remember he was quiet and almost ghost like as he nodded showing a slight smile and left the way he came, like an apparition in this oriental theme park. At this age in life, nothing was strange or out of place. I was a sponge for life and I wanted to absorb all cultures and people as they passed through my growing world.
The moving throng of people was like a Chinese dragon, moving between alley ways and narrow streets as I joined them twisting and turning myself to watch everything happening around me. Then suddenly, without warning, I found myself in a large crowd which had stopped and I knew something was wrong, I had a troublesome feeling. I feared that I was somewhere I shouldn't be, people around me were very agitated, moving in one direction which felt like a train of unified anger rolling down the street and I was being pushed into the centre of it. Where were they going?
I had been in a number of anti-war Vietnam demonstrations back home in South Australia and I knew this wasn't good at all. I could hear people yelling, not that I understood a single word they were saying or really wanted to know. I felt corralled and looking for a way out, an exit and quickly. It was crazy, like the running of the bulls in Pamplona.
I knew that running may attract the police, army or whoever and I could get hurt. A sense of panic is a hard emotion to subdue and I was feeling it right now. Singapore was a very unforgiving place that wouldn't tolerate unruly behaviour, people expressing freedom or groups of individuals gathering to make any kind of statement. But it was happening and I shouldn't be here.
I started looking around desperately for an escape route when my eyes caught a glimpse of him, the tall willowy stature of my English Lord Jim reminding me of the character in the 1965 movie.
Where did he come from? I didn't notice him in the crowd or during the procession. It was the strangest thing as he appeared again from nowhere.