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 -
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
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.
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?
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.
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.