Cycling to Singapore

About seven years ago I met Christine and Michael in Allgäu (Germany) when their Internet wasn’t working on Christmas Eve. When I mentioned that I was soon leaving to sail round the world, they mentioned that they live in Singapore and said “contact us when you get there.” So we did. And they invited us to pop over for the weekend. So we did. With the bikes.

We cycled along the highway and through the back streets of Johor Bahru until we found the immigration and customs facility at the Malaysian end of the causeway. There were extra lanes for motorbikes so we followed that until a sign said “foreigners and cycles here”. A friendly guy stamped us out of Malaysia and we followed the motorbikes across the causeway and in to the Singapore immigration. They were just as friendly and stamped us in to their country with a 90 day visa.

From the north of Singapore to our destination in the middle of the island we used no roads. We either followed cycle paths next to roads, bike paths that connect the various national parks or mountain bike trails. In the beginning everything was as we expected with perfect tarmac between a forest of residential skyscrapers. We stopped to buy a drink and the little shop in the residential area took neither Visa nor Malaysian money. I explained to Heidi that we could not buy a drink and a 73 year old Buddhist overheard me and gave us ten Singapore dollars as a present. The drinks were less than five so we tried returning five but he said “You need to eat as well. Keep it!” Welcome to Singapore.

The middle of the island. Immigration. Mountain biking. Our “coffee” saviour.

When we entered the park connector network the city disappeared and we entered “the jungle”. A few people but also monkeys and a few monitor lizards. It was strange to hear the city so near but be in the middle of a bamboo or rain forest. As we entered the “only for mountain biker” section we discovered why there is so much rain forest. After an incredible intro of thunder claps the rain started. We were soaking, the path was slippy and we couldn’t believe we were in the middle of Singapore. The monkeys were laughing at us.

We reached Christine and Michael’s house to be routed straight to the shower and then to a lunch prepared by their helper, Ganis. What a reception.

Green architecture off Orchard Road. Open air concert. The fall of Singapore. Coffee “at home”

We had agreed we were staying the weekend but then it became a long weekend stretching to Tuesday. They took us to an outdoor concert in the botanic gardens by Veronica Fusaro inclusive picnic, to the neighbors for a barbecue and a great evening and to Sentosa Island to walk the beach with the dogs.

We used the buses to reach Orchard Road and watch people spending loads of money on loads of stuff among stunning skyscrapers. We bought two coffees. We used the underground to visit the Fort Canning Hill where the kings of Singapore had their residence and later the British built their fort. Five days before, a new audiovisual display had started in the old British command bunker that focused on the fall of Singapore to the Japanese. It was very interesting and thought provoking but also disturbing.

The public transport is absolutely amazing. No tickets. Just tap on and off with your Visa card or whatever you have. The tapping is the payment but also supplies data about the load so that they can add transport as needed. Everything looks brand new and everything works. In the underground there are no drivers and a glass wall in every station with doors that align with the train and only open when a train is there. Totally safe. Wheelchairs can get everywhere and the information systems make everything self explanatory. You can own a car but only after you buy a hugely expensive permit that lasts ten years. We have seen how public transport should be but I don’t see Europe catching up while I am alive.

Our new friends in Singapore

We lived like kings with a constant stream of tasty meals and a selection of drinks. All we could do to repay so much kindness was cook a meal of Kässpatzen – a traditional Allgäu food – for our hosts and their neighbors on our last night.

On Tuesday we cycled back to Artemis. We took the non jungle route and didn’t get wet. Immigration was friendly again and the local drivers continued to treat us with respect and give us space as needed.

One of the locals watching us cycling past

Our route from Malaysia to Singapore is at AllTrails here. And here is the route back.

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