I left my cousin’s place in Singapore heading onto Singapore’s perfect roads with their ubiquitous road signs and light traffic. Having plugged my route into Google maps I was planning on using Singapore’s western border with Malaysia at Tuas as it was closer and I couldn’t find any guidance online. I duly rode the 25kms out towards this border at a good pace on the smooth flat roads getting overtaken by the first cyclist I couldn’t keep up with since before central Asia. I didn’t stand much of a chance as his bike had gears too and about 30kg less weight.
Arriving at the border I was a little nervous as I had to ride on the expressway for a little bit on the approach but this wasn’t a problem in the end and I made it up to an ultra modern automatic border gates. I rode into a motorcycle lane and passed through a barrier and inserted my passport as instructed. Then the problems began as apparently I needed some sort of Autopass card to proceed and there was a barrier blocking my path. Peering round a border officer eventually came over and asked me what I was doing. It turns out bicycles are not allowed through here as it is expressway on both sides.
So they took me round the back and onto the road back into Singapore and told me I should try the border to the north of the city at Woodlands. This was a bit annoying as it meant I would have to cycle the 25km back into the centre and then up again meaning I had wasted about 2.5 hours and at this stage they hadn’t even been clear I would be able to cycle across this other border as the guards had mentioned a bus.
For the first time I was starting to miss India…there had not been many places I couldn’t go on my bicycle there and no stupid rules to protect my safety whatsoever it had seemed.
Grumbling wasn’t going to help unfortunately, so I rode off back the way I had come. I then headed towards the other border. I was quite confident of being able to ride across here, as I knew that Mark Beaumont had passed through Singapore on his round the world cycle and I was pretty sure he wouldn’t have taken a bus out of Singapore…
And in the end this was the case, though I did do it the hard way as I went through the route that was for people on foot taking a bus across. Getting my bike through the immigration gates was pretty tough and I got stopped by the police when I tried to cycle down the bus exit into the traffic. They had to ring someone to check it was OK for me to ride down the ten metre ramp… In the end, as I was there, they said I could and I headed off down the ramp and into the traffic stream to cross the bridge towards Malaysia and a new country.
Riding out into Malaysia I realised I wasn’t really sure which way to go. I didn’t have the internet and I had programmed the route in googlemaps on the basis I was entering Malaysia at the other border post. I had gotten used to cycling in places which only had one or two main roads or having internet on my phone to search for the right route.
This border came out into Johor, Malaysia’s second largest city and a tangle of highways and expressways heading towards unfamiliar places so I tried to ride in the general direction I wanted to go hoping I’d be able to find somewhere I could get a Malaysian SIM card. After a few wrong turns and a short but heavy tropical rain shower I finally found somewhere I could get connected and headed off from here more confident in the direction I should be taking. I also bought a map, which would be more useful when I was out of the tangle of roads in the city.
I still got a bit lost trying to find my way out of the urban area as unlike in India you can’t really ride the wrong way down highways when you take the wrong exit.
All in all, I rode about 60km in the wrong direction on my first day riding in South East Asia, I hoped this would not be the average.
The roads from Johor remained good and were in fact the equal of anything I’d ridden on during the trip. Which was lucky as I really wasn’t in the mood for bad roads at that point. It meant that the day wasn’t a write off and I made it some way into Malaysia.
I managed to find a cheapish hotel and some excellent food from a local food court. I got about 20 satay sticks and two plates of noodles for a couple of pounds.
The next day I continued on towards Melaka, which I was still hoping to make that day in spite of the previous days issues.
Riding along it was apparent that I was again in a completely different place from where I had ridden before. There were palm plantations to either side, with massive trees creating deep shadows and seemingly going on forever. It was impossible to tell though and they could have only gone on for a few hundred metres – there could have been whole towns hidden in there.
There were also a lot of mosques at intervals along the road, many of them were a lot prettier than mosques I had seen in other countries and of unusual designs.
As Malaysia’s state religion is Islam many of the women I saw were wearing shawls. This doesn’t seem to stop them doing sport though and after only a few days I’ve seen far more women playing football or other sports here than anywhere else…though they looked like they were baking.
I also bumped into another cycle tourist on the road for the first time in months. Sadly he was going in the opposite direction. He kindly gave me his maps of Thailand before he continued. Not long after as I eating some lunch I saw another cycle tourist steaming along also in the opposite direction. I assume he had heard from someone that there was another cyclist ahead and he was trying to catch up.
I managed to make it to Melaka that afternoon, I was planning on spending a day here to see the sights. Which I did.
There was a night market with delicious food:
and very public karaoke:
more interesting Islamic architecture:
the largest Chinese cemetery outside China:
And replica Malaysian palaces: