Around the world by bike
(40km - 6days)
13 April 2016 – Cape Town, South Africa – Singapore (by plane)
Although I did not get to see everyone I wanted to and did not do all the things I planned, it was time to say goodbye to friends and family, and I left lovely Cape Town for the long flight to Singapore via Dubai and Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The flight was not too bad, as long haul flights go, except that I had a 6-hour layover in Colombo. Interestingly enough, it was Tamil New Year and a public holiday in Sri Lanka, with the result that there was free fruit, tea and coconut milk rice-cakes for anyone who so wished. I must say, the rice cakes were lovely, especially since they were served with a very potent chilli paste.
14 April - Singapore
I finally arrived in Singapore, drew some expensive Singapore dollars from the ATM, bought a SIM card for my phone, and hailed a taxi to the Tree in Lodge Hostel, a well-known hostel amongst cycle tourers. SK, the owner of the hostel, cycled from Finland to Singapore a few years back and had been hosting cyclists from around the globe ever since. I was impressed that he waited up for me at that ungodly hour and was ready to help me carry my bicycle and bags inside.
It was nearly midday by the time I woke and I headed down the well-organised streets and suburbs to Chinatown, where I found Chinatown to still be Chinatown. Albeit squeaky clean, there was the usual abundance of delicious food and strange dried items—from seahorses to flying lizards. I loved the way that the old Chinese shophouses had been renovated and were still in use, making a colourful picture against a backdrop of modern skyscrapers. With a stomach full of pork pau and dim sum, I headed back to the hostel to assemble the bike and to get things a bit more organised for my trip, as it was not going to happen on its own.
I woke to a roommate announcing that there was a free tour of the parliament house; I quickly downed a cup of coffee, and off I went. Once again, it was an enjoyable day of fascinating history, jaw-dropping architecture, and delicious eats. I walked and walked, along the banks of the Singapore River, past fascinating pieces of art, past tourists sitting at riverside restaurants, and past locals rushing to and from work. Later, I headed back to the hostel, thinking of picking up the tripod and heading out for a few night shots. Things did not quite work out that way, as at the hostel I started talking to the other cyclists, two more cyclists arrived, we had a few beers, and in the end, it was a rather social evening.
17 - 18 April
I was warming to Singapore and stayed two more days. Firstly, I looked for a new laptop, as mine was slowly packing up (in the end I decided against it). After sunset, I took a walk to the waterfront and took a few very poor hand-held shots of the laser show. Why is it that I never have the tripod when I need it?
19 April Singapore – Johor Bahru, Malaysia 40 km
It was the last day for most of my roommates in the Tree in Lodge Hostel. We had coffee, chatted, and said goodbye, after which everyone headed off in their own direction. I headed for the Woodlands checkpoint, following the map that SK (the owner of the hostel) sent me. Seven kilometres from the border, SK waited for me along the road and we had a cold drink together.
Once again, I must say the staff of the Tree in Lodge Hostel is awesome and go out of their way to help. Thanks, guys!
I crossed the border into Malaysia at the busiest (and most organised) border-crossing I have ever come across. Malaysia is now starting to feel like home! Although it was rather early and I had hardly cycled, I decided to stay in Johor Bahru as I have never stayed there before. I found myself a room and then went in search of the usual (an ATM and a SIM card). Johor Bahru is fast changing—from a seedy border town to a rather hip and modern city. Unfortunately, the lovely old quarters seemed to be losing its character as the old shophouses were making way for new malls and shopping centres.
I, fortunately, found a room in an area where there were still plenty of typical eateries, where toothless men sat smoking and playing board games while sipping tea or Tiger beer. I grabbed myself a mutton curry and rice - I must admit that the Malays know how to cook a decent mutton curry.