About

Here you will find articles on an ambitious plan to travel from Singapore to Morocco overland, i.e. without flying.

I will use buses and trains to travel through South East Asia, China, Mongolia, Russia, and Europe.

Read about The Plan So Far.

Location

Melaka (Malacca), Malaysia

Singapore to Melaka (Malacca), Malaysia by train

Written by Joshua Fuglsang on .

Tags

AsiaMalaysiaMelakaSingaporeTravel
Diesel powered Malaysian train pulled in to Tampin station
Diesel powered Malaysian train pulled in to Tampin station - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Introduction

The is an ac­count of my over­land jour­ney from Sin­ga­pore to Mela­ka (Malac­ca) us­ing lo­cal trans­port in March 2018. The jour­ney starts in Sin­ga­pore, cross­es the fa­mous Jo­hor-Sin­ga­pore cause­way, be­fore trav­el­ling through the Malay coun­try­side by the old diesel pow­ered trains. The jour­ney took most of the day, and is far more in­volved than catch­ing a pri­vate bus, but is en­joy­able and com­fort­able. Hap­py read­ing!

Singapore to Melaka

Long day to­day. Com­menced with an ear­ly start: a 5:30am alarm, break­ing the seren­i­ty of the messy dor­mi­to­ry. Soon I was up and rough­ly pack­ing my bag. I was out the door one hour lat­er; with a break­fast of toast smeared with sweet, ar­ti­fi­cial jam in my bel­ly; to pow­er me through the day. First thing was mak­ing the 30km stretch be­tween Chi­na­town on the south of Sin­ga­pore, to the cause­way on the north.

I got to the plat­form; but it was the wrong one! I quick­ly find the prop­er plat­form about one hun­dred me­tres away. A sil­ly mis­take. Luck­i­ly once I ar­rived the train was al­ready sit­ting there, with doors wide open beck­on­ing me on­wards. Some­thing was wrong; the train wasn’t mov­ing. I looked up at the screen and there was a mes­sage: “This train will stop here for a short while. We are sor­ry for the de­lay.”. The fa­mous­ly punc­tu­al MRT was im­po­lite­ly tardy. Just my luck. The train, sup­posed to take twen­ty min­utes in to­tal, was paus­ing for five min­utes at ev­ery stop and apol­o­gis­ing, and there were ten to fif­teen stops left to go! A young fam­i­ly op­po­site me is ar­gu­ing, blam­ing each oth­er for the de­lay, for what was an event im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict. Ob­vi­ous­ly they are at risk of miss­ing their con­nec­tion too.

An hour lat­er the train reach­es my stop, I am pre­pared, wait­ing by the im­pec­ca­bly clean doors of the Sin­ga­pore­an metro to open. They open and I burst through, rush­ing up the es­ca­la­tor to catch the next bus. I tap on and ex­hale a sigh of re­lief, its still pos­si­ble to catch the sched­uled train across the cause­way to­wards Malaysia. Too late I re­alise that the bus is go­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion. An­oth­er mis­take. In my haste I read on­ly the bus num­ber, and didn’t pay at­ten­tion to the di­rec­tion of trav­el. Five min­utes af­ter board­ing I press the stop but­ton, de­part from the bus, and cross to the oth­er side of the road to catch the bus go­ing in the cor­rect di­rec­tion. At the bus stop I scan the sign, it says that the bus I need to catch de­parts ev­ery ten to fif­teen min­utes. That is too slow! I will def­i­nite­ly miss my con­nect­ing train now, that’s a shame, I have just lost $5 SGD. Not the end of the world, but I was look­ing for­ward to catch­ing the fa­mous shut­tle train be­tween the two na­tions.

Entrance to the Woodlands Checkpoint
En­trance to the Wood­lands Check­point - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

The bus ar­rived at the check­point at 8:33am, my train de­part­ed three min­utes ago. Such a shame. I walk through the check­point and go through cus­toms. Film­ing part of the away, an im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cer in plain clothes stops me and says I can’t film and gets me to delete the files. Luck­i­ly I didn’t get a fine. Soon I am through cus­toms and board a bus cross­ing the cause­way. I missed the train but luck­i­ly a bus leaves ev­ery few min­utes. I tap on with my Sin­ga­pore­an metro pass for a fi­nal time, with just three dol­lars left of the card.

On the bus over the Johor-Singapore Causeway
On the bus over the Jo­hor-Sin­ga­pore Cause­way - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

The cause­way cross­ing is nice, very pris­tine; well looked af­ter, like most of the Sin­ga­pore­an in­fra­struc­ture. Af­ter just five min­utes the bus un­loads its pas­sen­gers on to Malaysian soil. I tap off and the screen flash­es at me, warn­ing me that I have gone in to neg­a­tive quo­ta. I dare say I will owe the Sin­ga­pore­an gov­ern­ment 30c for quite some time. They won’t no­tice the dif­fer­ence. I fol­low the signs to Malaysian im­mi­gra­tion, they stamp my pass­port, and let me through in to their coun­try. Malaysia, un­like many coun­tries in South East Asia, has a very friend­ly visa: three months of trav­el for free, with a visa on ar­rival. Ah, so good! If on­ly ev­ery coun­try was like this. They are se­ri­ous about de­vel­op­ing their tourism in­dus­try, it seems. Ex­haust­ed, I get a cof­fee while I wait for my next train to ar­rive: a five hour, lo­cal train from Jo­hor Bahru Sen­tral to Tampin, the near­est train stop to Mela­ka, my fi­nal des­ti­na­tion. It is now 9:10am and my next train is at 10:00am. I have some time to re­lax, en­joy my Kopi C, and write some notes in my jour­nal.

The Malaysian coun­try­side flash­es past my win­dow in a blur of lush green trop­i­cal for­est and pro­vin­cial town­ships. The view is beau­ti­ful from my seat on one of the last diesel-pow­ered trains in the coun­try, the rest hav­ing been up­grad­ed and re­placed with mod­ern elec­tric sys­tems. I while I way the time writ­ing; watch­ing In­di­an Jones; and chat­ting to a Malay man who fought next to Aus­tralians on the Malaysian penin­su­lar in WW2, a con­flict which lead to the loss of Sin­ga­pore to the Ja­pa­nese and the sub­ju­ga­tion for lo­cal pop­u­lace for three years.

First meal in Malaysia - Roti Canai!
First meal in Malaysia - Roti Canai! - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Five hours lat­er and I am in Tampin, the last sta­tion on the line. Un­for­tu­nate­ly there is no longer a con­nec­tion to Mela­ka, the old line like was de­stroyed in the war and nev­er re­built. So, I have to find lo­cal trans­port to the his­toric city. I ask a lo­cal and he de­scribes the way to the bus stop, it’s a twen­ty minute walk away. Walk­ing through the town I get many cu­ri­ous stares, to which I smile and nod. Pos­si­bly I am the on­ly trav­eller in the town. Soon I find the sta­tion con­course, and ask the lo­cal at­ten­dant when the next bus to Mela­ka is due. He says he doesn’t know, but it’ll prob­a­bly be here a lit­tle af­ter 4pm, it is now 3:40pm. I ask him if the shop across the road has good meals, he nods and says to watch out for a pur­ple bus. My first prop­er meal since 6:00am, a roti canai and a teh terek for less than $1.5, and a great in­tro­duc­tion to Malaysian eat­ing, roti canai be­ing one of the most fa­mous Malay dish­es.

The bus concourse in Tampin
The bus con­course in Tampin - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

The fi­nal bus of the day is a bright pur­ple bus filled with lo­cals. The wom­en wear­ing their tra­di­tion­al mus­lim hi­jab, the men wear­ing t-shirts, shorts and san­dals. All are watch­ing me in­tense­ly. I sit at the front of the bus on a seat with a sticky floor, com­plete­ly caked with what ap­pears to be ice cream. I pay it no mind, and watch the scenery as we drive through Malay streets and soon the Malay coun­try­side. Even­tu­al­ly the bus sets me down at Mela­ka Sen­tral, un­for­tu­nate­ly not so cen­tral be­ing five kilo­me­tres from the his­toric town. Tired, I de­cide to pay a taxi driv­er to car­ry me the fi­nal stretch of my jour­ney. In the front seat of the cab is a girl of five curled in the foetal po­si­tion, her moth­er, the cab driv­er, pays her some at­ten­tion through­out the trip. Soon the mod­ern build­ings of the Malay city make way for the his­toric colo­nial streets of the old town. Ex­haust­ed, I check in to the first back­pack­ers that I see, and re­lax.

Conclusion

Thanks for read­ing! If you en­joyed this ar­ti­cle, then please fol­low me on In­sta­gram and Twit­ter for re­al­time up­dates.

Four Days in Melaka

Lanterns in a Melaka Chinese Temple
Lanterns in a Mela­ka Chi­nese Tem­ple - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

In the next ar­ti­cle I spend four days in the his­toric colo­nial city Mela­ka. Read about it here here.

Tags

AsiaMalaysiaMelakaSingaporeTravel

About

Here you will find articles on an ambitious plan to travel from Singapore to Morocco overland, i.e. without flying.

I will use buses and trains to travel through South East Asia, China, Mongolia, Russia, and Europe.

Read about The Plan So Far.