Crossing borders

singaporeFlying with Airasia is cheap, but as a backpacker I wanted the very cheapest I could find. So I figured out that flying from the Johor Bahru airport in Malaysia is cheaper than flying from Singapore airport. Airasia even provided free bus travel from Singapore. Making my way to Johor Bahru from the center of Singapore proved a bit challenging and nerve-wracking.

My journey started well on time at the Queen Street bus station in Singapore. I had noticed a huge line of people in the previous days, so knew to account for some extra time. The busses don’t have appointed seats, so it’s first come first serve. It wasn’t too busy this time. At home I’d already printed my ticket, so I stepped into the bus. I received some mumbling from the driver but I didn’t get it until he pointed to a small shack. I had to exchange this ticket for another ticket.

On the table were little stacks of coins, the change. The man is quietly counting the coins while I am trying to contact him. Several people come between us, push come money in his direction and he gives them a stack of coins and a ticket. When I think I am going to miss the bus he looks up to me. A different guy walks into the bus to get a ticket from the bus driver which he gives to me. The bar code on my printout isn’t even scanned.

The bus is packed and there is no room for luggage. Embarrassed I put my bag on the seat next to me, hoping that nobody will need it. There are about two seats left when the bus departs. After driving through the hectic traffic for a while, the bus stops. Everyone gets hastily off the bus and I drag my bag with me, following all the people. Turns out we’re at the border of Singapore. I get a stamp and a smile from customs and have to look for the bus again. I now understand why people were in such a big hurry. When I arrive at the bus people are looking at me agitated and it looks like they’d prefer to drag my onto the bus so it can leave. When it does leave, I feel like not everyone has made it back.

Two minutes further we come to the border of Malaysia. It was way busier here. Again I received my stamped passport with a big smile. I wasn’t as lucky though. I had to transfer to a bus to the airport, one that only goes once per hour. I was relieved that I’d left Singapore early. I asked every bus that stopped if they were going to the airport and finally I found my bus. The other busses go to the airport too, but you have to pay for them. A special Airasia bus brings you for free.

The sky turns grey and heavy rain starts pouring on the Streets. Ten minutes later it is Sunny again. I see a lush green landscape. It seems to me this place knows many tropical rains. Eventually I arrived at the airport. It’s a bit of a hassle to come here, but it adds some stamps to your passport and another story to tell when you’re home.


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