|Singapore meets Malaysia|
Riding into Singapore via the Johor Singapore Causeway has always fascinated Claudine. In operation since 1923, this 1 km long Causeway sees more than 250,000 commuters daily. While the Second Link Bridge also connects Malaysia to Singapore, only the Causeway is accessible to cyclists. Quoted as one of the busiest border crossings in the world and comparable to the USA-Mexican border, the secret to a hassle free crossing is to avoid the rush hour traffic!
It is with this view in mind that we decided on an 8 pm crossing into Singapore, a formidable yet enticing adventure for some of us. Meeting downtown, we parked our cars outside the JB post office, built in 1963. While the post office has gone through many facelifts, the cast iron post boxes still remain outside, at the far right.
Bernie was completely flustered when Claudine greeted him. Having reminded everyone to bring their lights, he had accidentally left his' at home! Thankfully, Andy had brought extras for he had put his car into drive mode, all ready to rush home!
Riding out, Bernie led us to Jalan Ibrahim. Passing by OCBC bank, we started to keep right. Where the road forks, we ignored the left turn to Jalan Wong Ah Fook. Instead, we took the extreme right which runs up the flyover.
At the busy intersection ahead, we went straight across to Jalan Tanjung Puteri. Here, we rode past Grand Bluewave Hotel before taking the slip road to Jalan Lingkaran Dalam. We kept left until we reached the entrance to the CIQ. Taking the motorlane, we went in and got our passports stamped with no issues!
Things starts to get tricky as we headed out to the Causeway. We have been reminded to be cautious of the metal gratings which could trap our wheels, more so the narrow roadbike wheels which typically runs 23-25mm. Gliding down from the Malaysian CIQ to the Causeway, the ride was bumpy as we rolled through the gaps on the road where the concrete beams meet each other. The speeding motorcycles though respectfully gave us a good margin on the narrow motor lane.
Grinding to a stop on the Singapore side, Claudine flicked out her phone to take photos. Bernie had clarified that photos are allowed but not inside the Singapore CIQ. However, the auxiliary policeman on duty was not happy when our camera pointed towards the CIQ. Sadly, we had to delete those shots!
When the long line of lorries going into Malaysia had crossed, our lane was reopened. We were at the head of the line but cowered when the motorcycles revved their engines to pack the entrance to the CIQ. Fearing a possible skin rub, we allowed them to clear the lane before joining them.
Entering the CIQ, we were baffled with signs that said manual and automated. When in doubt, we chose the manual lanes. Queuing up behind the motorcycles, we noticed the lanes on the right cleared quickly. Upon Andy's suggestion, we carried our bikes over the dividers but soon returned red faced!
The automated lanes were meant for people with employment passes that were synced to their passports. Hence, the reader reads the thumb prints on the passports. However, for full clearance, the autopass card is required for payment of vehicle entry pass. Bicycles though, enter for free!
Riding out of the CIQ we kept right. The left lane leads to BKE which is an expressway not accessible to bicycles. We slowly steered to our extreme right, then turn right at the traffic lights into Woodlands Road. Immediately, traffic quietened down!
We rode along the industrial area before turning right at the T-junction. Right ahead was Kranji MRT, our initial intended destination. We had planned this ride with Joho Foldies in mind but upon their lukewarm response, had switched to "all bikes", doing away with MRT rides.
Here on, it was a perpetual straight road starting from Woodlands Road to Upper Bukit Timah Road. Along the way, we passed Kranji War Memorial and the MRT depot.
Somewhere along this straight road, Bernie crossed over when the lights were green. Following behind, Claudine saw the lights turn yellow then red! As she got safely across, a warning horn blared loudly behind! Oblivious to the colour changes, Maggie was third! She braked hard on time to avoid collision!!!
It was awhile before we finally turned left to Dunearn Road. By this time, Andy had taken over the lead as Bernie had never come by this way. Andy led us on the left turn to Adam Road, then steered into a petrol kiosk. Grinning sheepishly, he now turned the tables on VT who flicked out his phone to check Google maps!
It turned out, Adams Food Center, our rendezvous with YC, Frankie and Rina was just at the intersection where we had taken the left turn! As it was a busy road, we decided to carry our bikes up a pedestrian walkway and down the other side!
Arriving at the food court, YC was already halfway through his Teh Tarik. Frankie and Rina were just arriving. Deciding on our supper, we sat down and chatted close to an hour before pushing off for Orchard Road.
An hour to midnight, YC took us on the most unpresumptuous tour. He led us through the National University of Singapore campus at Bukit Timah, wound our way through their law faculty and sports complex; then skirted around the Botanical Gardens. Then, he took us to Nassim Road to ogle over the Russian, Phillipines and Japan embassies before arriving at the intersection with Orchard Road.
It seemed, YC had choreographed the ride to perfection. Riding on Orchard Road, he strategically stopped at the Thai Embassy. Thereafter, he veered to the right where the road intersects with Paterson road. Surprised, we followed to realize he wanted to give us a photo op with a Christmas tree directly opposite Tangs!
Continuing on Orchard Road, he showed us how to push our bicycles to the center when the lights turned red. All ready, we rode across to Paragon when traffic starts to move.
Orchard Road on foot takes forever to walk but on a bike, we breezed through it within minutes. We were slightly disappointed when the Christmas decorations ended but new sights awaited. Travelling on Bras Basah Road, we glimpsed the 1939 architecture of Cathay cinema. The sights continue to entice with many colonial architectures before we screeched to yet another stop at Singapore's Art Museum. Here, Frankie and Rina had to leave us in a hurry when he received a frantic call from his wife that their littlest son's finger was caught at the door hinge!!!
Bidding them goodbye with a small prayer that all will be well, our group unanimously agreed to continue further to Marina Bay and Gardens by the Bay. We continued along Bras Basah Road, passing by old charms like Chijmes and Raffles Hotel.
Crossing over to Raffles Blvd, buildings began to take a modern twist. Hypnotized by The Eye aka Singapore Flyer, we followed it to the end before turning right onto Helix Bridge. As a true Malaysian, the first thing that caught Claudine's eye before anything else was the Maybank building that stood amongst the skylines of Fullerton Hotel and Merlion.
YC took us on the walkabout then to Gardens by the Bay before ending at Marina Bay Sands to use their toilet. The doors to the shopping mall was open even past midnight. Many toilets were closed for cleaning at that hour hence we ended up walking down a floor and passing by the entrance to the casino.
Waiting for the rest, we observed the cleaning in progress of the mall's water feature. Cleaners were sweeping heaps and heaps of coins thrown in for good luck with their hands while a supervisor looked on! We wondered how they will split the day's profits?
Heading home, YC led us to the center of Suntec City, then Rochor Road before Bukit Timah Road. We passed the famous Newton food center which was still lighted past midnight! He bid us farewell at Balmoral Plaza.
On our own again, Bernie led us on Bukit Timah Road all the way back to Upper Bukit Timah Road. Again, we passed by Bukit Timah Shopping Center and the famed Beauty World. We reconnect to Woodlands Road again, the lead passing from Bernie to Andy to Claudine and surprisingly, Mr Lim!!! Meanwhile, Suzie and VT dutifully took sweeper duty throughout the night!
Back at Woodlands Checkpoint, we went on the car lane instead. Maggie had another near miss when her shoe lace was caught on her crank. Suzie who had always been her guardian angel helped to untangle the laces while the cars behind waited patiently.
At the end of the car lane, we veered to the motorlane on the left. Taking our helmets off which is the required regulation at the CIQ, we passed immigration easily. Thereon, we crossed Tambak Johor, the other lesser known name for the Causeway, climbed the ramp to the CIQ and finally stamped our return.
Back on Malaysian soil, we heaved a sigh of relieve. It is always good to come home to our beloved country. It had been quite an adventure especially the daunting border crossings. As for the few of us who did it together, we now share a kindred spirit!!!