Thursday, June 25, 2009

Driving Like a Singaporean

Two months ago, this little road map meant diddly to me. I thought Singapore was too small to need a map to navigate it. Oh how silly I was.

Now, my very life depends on this bad boy several days a week.

I'm a very nervous driver when I am somewhere unknown. My best friend Melissa and I have gotten lost in some pretty sketchy places when we didn't know where we were going. Now that I'm older and wiser-ish, I check, re-check and triple check all roads and exits to all destinations unknown.

In Singapore though, good friggin' luck with that plan. The street names alone squash your intentions in an instant. For example, there is an Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1. There's also an Ang Mo Kio Avenue 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12. So essentially, there's 11 streets all with the same name, but with a different number. Then, to get you all the more confused, there's Ang Mo Kio Street 11, 12, 13, 21, 22, 23, 24, 31, 32, 41, 42, 43, 44, 51, 52, 53, 54, 61, 62, 63, 64 and 65. And we haven't even gotten to the highways yet.

For such a small island, you'd think there'd only be a couple major highways.

P-sha, right.

There are nine. Nine! And their names are great for getting lost too. They are: KPE, SLE, TPE, AYE, BKE, CTE, ECP, KJE and the PIE. Don't those sound like a fun way to give someone directions? Yeah, if you hate that person.

My first day of driving consisted of someone telling me "Ok, take the KPE tunnel towards the TPE. Then, you gotta go towards the SLE. When you get there, you exit on Yishun. Then you should be able to find it from there."

Right-o buddy. When I end up in the jungle, I'll give you a call.

The acronyms of the expressways actually stand for longer names (i.e. The TPE is the Tampines Expressway), but the signs on the road use the acronyms. Even better, the signs don't even tell you which direction you're going. They strictly adhere to the acronyms. They say TPE(SLE). I thought, is this secret code or something? Later I found out that it meant you're going onto the TPE in the direction of the SLE. Great sign for a girl who had no idea if the SLE was the direction she wanted to go. Can't we just say TPE North?

OH, and Singapore loves U-turns. In the States, when you turn onto a road, you get a choice. Right or Left. In Singapore, you do not choose. You go in the only direction you're allowed to go and if it's not the direction you want, you find a place to make a U-turn and pray that there's a sign that allows it.

It's confusing. Although, with all that being said, I have NEVER gotten lost. Never. It's amazing. Seriously, 75 percent of the turns and merges I make in Singapore traffic are a guess. Somehow though, I've always guessed correctly. I've even driven through the crowded streets of downtown and through the shopping district. That even impresses Aaron. These streets look like a maze in Google Earth. It's a huge accomplishment for a self-proclaimed "non-driver".

Yet, ask me how I did it and I couldn't tell you. I think it's just good driving karma. And it's due to run out at any minute.

(Oh and I forgot to mention -- I'm driving on the wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the car.)

1 comment:

Finn said...

Hey Meg,

Love your blog. I think your blog should be known to Singaporeans about a perspective from a very insightful and very interesting foreigner.

Just to let you know that map that you showed is a bit outdated and the transport system has changed quite a lot so yeah...