Monday, March 14, 2011

Smuggling Booze Into Singapore

Way back when I was young and stupid (about one year ago) I made the bold and misguided decision to bring 3 bottles of Malaysian vodka through the Malaysia-Singapore border.  The mischievous act was not pre-meditated, at least not for any longer than the the waiting time at the border and, in hindsight, was probably a bad-idea.

The story begins in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; I had arranged to meet two good friends from home in the bustling Metropolis of K.L. and after a couple of nights of drinking and dancing we we're ready to head south to the city-state of Singapore.  The shockingly low prices of Southeast Asian liquor had me anticipating strolling into a Singaporean 7-11 and picking up some party sauce before heading out for the evening;  apparently I was ill informed.  One of my friends, who had travelled to Singapore in the past, informed me that the liquor prices in Singapore would be astronomical and that we would have to buy liquor in Malaysia we're we to maintain a healthy budget.  Following a quick internet search for "Singapore liquor allowance", my friends and I were on a bus en-route to Singapore, two of us (one friend is not a big drinker) with the maximum amount of Malaysian vodka that our research deemed allowable ).
Several hours had passed when we reached the border and were herded away from the bus and into the long lines of the Singaporean border control building.   Differing line strategies, resulted in me being in a separate cue from my two friends.  It was not until we were settled into our respective lineup that we noticed the numerous signs posted on the walls and pillars of the building stating that "No Alcohol is allowed to cross the Malaysia Singapore border." Further research upon our arrival in Singapore would prove that we had failed to notice that 1 litre of spirits is allowed at all crossings EXCEPT when entering from Malaysia.
As I waited in line and attempted to communicate a plan with my friends, two lines over, I contemplated my options.  I figured, either I declare my alcohol to the border patrol and they confiscate it, or.... I say nothing and if caught claim ignorance/stupidity and somehow failing to see the hundreds of signs.  As I neared the front of the line an X-ray machine came into view that everyone's baggage was to pass though.  With the added scrutiny of the baggage scanner my confidence dwindled.  Nearer now, I could see that my friends' line was moving faster than mine and  that they would be through before I was. New strategy: watch what my friend does, then decide.
I watched as my friend went through the motions of handing over his passport at the counter and having it returned, with a fresh stamp, after only a few seconds.  He then proceeded towards the scanner but before he reached it he made an abrupt turn and knocked at the door labelled "Declarations."
Still waiting in line, clearly I chose poorly, I watched as my friend spoke to a women for a few minutes and then was ushered towards the x-ray machine.   I was confused that they had not yet taken his alcohol and even more so when his bag passed through the machine without a blink for the X-ray operators.   He then picked up his bag and move out of sight.

Now what do I do.....After some long contemplation I came to a conclusion that went essentially as follows: "Fuck it, i'm going for it."
When my turn came I could feel my heart rate increasing, I began to wonder if they had those high-tech cameras that monitor people vital signs (I'm pretty sure those exist).  The regular border questions came and passed without incidence and before I knew it I was on the next challenge, the X-ray machine.
As I lined up for the X-ray machine I positioned my bag so that I would be able to lift it onto the machine with the side containing the alcohol on the bottom as if that would somehow fool the X-rays.   I placed my bag on the moving belt and took a large gulp as it slowly creeped out of site under the hanging rubber flaps.  As I walked through the adjacent metal-detecting doorway I waited for the sounds of the X-ray conveyor-belt coming to a halt before I would be thrown down and handcuffed.
As I walked through nothing happened; and then my bag emerged; and yet still nothing.  I picked up my bag from the belt and took a couple steps towards the exit, still nothing.  As I continued towards the exit-door I saw my friend standing with a customs officer, looking rather glum.  I proceeded right past them, out the door, and onto the bus as I let out a major sigh of relief.
My remaining friend and I did not have long to speculate as to what was happening with our third amigo as he boarded the bus shortly after.  He had decided to declare his liquor at the border and as a result it had been confiscated.
That night in Singapore I sipped on the finest of Malaysian Vodka (e.g. the cheapest) while my disgruntled friend busted open his budget on some of Singapore's highly taxed booze. I certainly do not recommend or encourage smuggling anything over any border and we're I to do it again I would have changed my actions, but hey, you only get to be young and stupid once.
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