Johor Bahru – Woodlands – Singapore

Thursday one week ago the last stage on mainland Asia was ahead of me. My host Josyee drove me early in the morning to the railway station of Johor Bahru. Unfortunately, all the trains in the morning were already fully booked out, as all the people were heading to work to Singapore. Hence, I had only the option to take the train at 10:30 and wait 4 hours at the train station. This brought me a bit into trouble, as I wanted to hike along the old railway tracks in Singapore and due to that reason I already started early, to escape the heat a bit. Fortunately, METAR and TAF from Changi Airport reported quite good weather to hike:

WSSS 110100Z 05004KT 330V070 6000 FEW018 FEW020TCU BKN150 29/26 Q1011 NOSIG

TAF AMD WSSS 110155Z 1102/1206 20005KT 9999 SCT020 TEMPO 1106/1109 3000 TSRA FEW012CB BKN015 TEMPO 1123/1202 3000 TSRA FEW012CB BKN015

The clouds are reported to be broken, which is good, so I don’t expect to be exposed directly to the sun. Only, in late afternoon there is a probability of thunderstorm and rain. And due to the small spread between temperature and dewpoint I can expect a high relative humidity, but that doesn’t surprise me at all.

My last train ride was with 5 minutes quite short, it just crosses the Strait of Johor along the Causeway and the tracks are shortly ending after Woodlands border control. The Malaysian border check is on the mainland side, whereas the Singapore border checkpoint is in Woodlands. After a few minutes everything was done and I could start my hike pretty late. Unfortunately, shortly after the Woodlands terminal the tracks were dismantled and the remaining embankment is now the green lung of Singapore crossing from North to South. How long the shuttle train from JB to Woodlands will ride is also questionable, because in 2024 a new direct MRT connection is proposed between the JB and Singapore. And probably after closing down the main railway station, the government of Singapore realised that it was a bad idea to have no longer any long distance connections. Hence, there is now a new standard gauge high-speed train between KL and Singapore in planning, but now it’s delayed from the Malaysian government.

As there are no longer any tracks, I hoped to walk along them. The first kilometre can in principle be walked, but is forbidden by law and the bushes are waist high. So in essence it’s pretty unpleasant to do so. As it was a long way anyway I decided just to walk along the street. After the official start, the old train track is really an oasis in the city. As it crosses only a few streets, there’s not much interaction with other means of transport. What’s still confusing me is that the Sun is already north of me, even as I didn’t cross the equator yet. But this is due to the spring in the northern hemisphere. As the sun is at noon noeth of you, your shadow is pointing southwards. This you’ve to realise for navigation purposes. At about half of the way I made a short excursion to Bukit Timah, the highest point of Singapore. As forecasted it started slightly to rain and there were some lightnings in the background, but they didn’t come close. Hence, everything super fine for me. After the detour I still had about 3 hours with daylight and thought, OK easy go, just walk along the embankment for the remaining 11 kilometres. Well…if you go into the mountains, you make a proper planning of your route, have at least 1 or 2 backup plans, just in case something is going wrong or the weather changes suddenly. But in the city, you think come on, it’s only a walk along old railway tracks, what should happen? Construction Works! Yes, the second half is dominated at the moment by construction works of a new water pipeline. Hence, after a few kilometres, I suddenly was standing on a street, with lots of traffic and needed to find a way to nevertheless reach my destination. There was in the beginning a temporary path, but also this ended suddenly and for a few metres the construction works was already finished, but the newly paved way was really bad. Now I was running really short on time in order to reach my destination in daylight. There is also a large construction at the old railway station, as this will become a new MRT station for the circle line.

Shortly before sunset I finally reached, after walking for more than 30 kilometres with my large backpack, the destination of my 72nd stage of traveling from Berlin to Singapore along the railway in the last 12 years (by chance, today, exactly one year ago, I started my travelling back in Berlin). There is also another traveller he took the train from London to Singapore in just 40 days. The travel distance in the first six months were longer than in the last six months. Especially in Russia I had one of my longest stages of my current travel.

My last train on mainland Asia is ready for departure
Left Malaysia, Right Singapore, Water Pipelines infront, across the Strait of Johor
Shortly behind Woodlands border terminal…
…the tracks are ending at the moment…
…and on the embankment the bushes are grown waist height in the last 8 years.
The area is technically off limits in the “Fine City”
The remainings of the bridge, with the old embankment on the other side. Not a nice area to walk through.
But just turning around the grass was cut and it looks much nicer.
Somebody seemed to killed that snake, but I also saw a 2-3 metre long brown one alive, which was just escaping into the bushes. Hence, probably a good idea to skip the first kilometer through them.
The old railway tracks are still clearly recognisable
There are still some old bridges remaining
Detour to the highest point of Singapore
SCNR to do that boulder ๐Ÿ˜‰
The old railway station of Bukit Timah
The newly paved way after construction works…
…hence, I walked along some apartment blocks.
Unfortunately the second half of the old tracks…
…are under construction works at the moment
Finally arrived in time…
…no, the clock is no longer working…
…at the former main railway station of Singapore after almost one year of traveling.
Most of the shuttle trains are fully booked in the morning during working days
My train ticket

From Berlin to Singapore in 72 stages

Southernmost Point of Mainland Asia

One week ago my host and two of her siblings and me headed to the west coast of the peninsula of Malaysia. We went first to Kukup. After our breakfast we took a boat to the Kukup island, where one of the largest uninhabited mangrove forest of Malaysia is situated. The island itself is a national park and you can just walk around on a boardwalk. Therefore you’ll need to pay an entrance fee. My companions got a discount to the normal price, as they’re already retired. I instead, as foreigner, had to pay four times(!) the price of a Malay and almost 7 times the price for retired persons! You’re not just feeling scammed, no that’s already official discrimination. Nevertheless, the park was nice and we saw some really special animals. After walking around for some time, and taking lots of photos we went back to the mainland and for a walk through the “old” fisher village. Due to the tourism, mainly people from Malaysia and Singapore heading here, the stilt houses changed from wooden to concrete in the last two decades.

Afterwards we were heading for another 10 kilometres south, and hence again were entering another national park with the same price scheme. Now I finally arrived, after almost one year of travelling, at the southernmost point of mainland Asia. That’s my second southernmost point of a continent, after the one of Europe in Tarifa, Spain from where I started my last long distance cycle more than 5 years ago. And unfortunately the southernmost point of Australia, which is situated in the Wilsons Promontory National Park, I missed just by a few kilometres, as we were driving the whole day down from Tallanganta and just arrived shortly before sunset in the NP. Hence, no more time for a hiking trip. Well anyway after spotting all the ships at the narrowest and shallowest point of the Strait of Malacca, we went back to JB. On the way back we had a very tasty fish hotpot.

This was my last day in Malaysia. In essence I just travelled along the west coast. I skipped the beside Borneo also the central part of Malaysia with Taman Negara, which is supposed to be the oldest rainforest in the world, as well as the east cost. There the culture is, of what I was told, quite different. As more Malay are living there, the Islam is predominantly. And also the landscape differs, the mountains are more steep and the islands should be very beautiful for snorkeling and diving. On the west coast, the living is more modern and in the end all the towns and cities didn’t differ a lot. If you don’t appreciate the food, there’s nothing special and not much to see. For sure, you can always have a lot of beer and make party with other western tourist. But in essence you can do that in whole South-East Asia, no need to come to Malaysia, where the beer is much more expensive than in other countries. Even if they claim, that all ethnic groups, especially the Malay, Chinese and Tamil, as well as the tribes, are all equal. The Malay have secured privileges over other groups. And as we all know, once you have these privileges, you’re not willing to hive them back voluntarily. In essence, this prevents Malaysia also to sign several UN declaration on human rights, among others, also the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. So, this multi-ethnic society is also far from being conflict free.

Our 15 year old boatman operating the boat of it’s father
Floating fish farms…the conditions on these a quite bad. To large fishes in too small cages
Mangrove forest where the roots of the trees can be as tall as almost 7 metres
A fish which can also survive on muddy land…I think it was called mudpicker?!?
A blue crab with just one large claw. If the large claw is lost during e.g. a fight, then the small claw grows to large and the other got rebuilt. Hence, the large claw can be either left or right
Above the mangrove forest…the mountains in the background belonging already to Indonesia
A kingfisher…don’t look to all that garbage
Me, Josyee and her two siblings at Kukup island
Only a few houses are made from wood in the old fisher village
Energy transport (LPG) in the small alleys
Maybe the Deutsche Bank should switch over to Art, probably it would be more successful than in investment banking
The fruits of the palm oil tree, from which eventually palm oil is made of
Finally I arrived at the southernmost point of mainland asia, just about 1 degree north of the equator

Bouldering in Johor Bahru

One week ago in the morning I was invited by my host Josyee for breakfast. With two of her brothers and one sister we drove to the old town of Johor Bahru. In a local restaurant, which is regularly attended by one of her brothers, we got some typical breakfast. And I had a nice conversation with them. In the afternoon my host, one of her brothers and me went to Paradigm Mall. They’ve never been there, so they went for a walk around, while I was heading again to the Camp5 boulder gym. I’ve to say, I didn’t like that gym too much. Most of the routes were set for small people. Hence, it was literally harder for me to climb them, but it still was fun, if I could finish one of them. This was also confirmed by one of the route setters I was talking with. We exchanged our experiences of rock climbing in Tonsai and spontaneously invited me to do some lead climbing afterwards. But after 3 hours in the gym, I was really exhausted and my two companions were also waiting for me.

Entrance to the boulder and climbing gym
That was one of the routes which were not set up for tall people
There’s also an ice scating area in the mall
My host Josyee on the right and two of her brothers

Tampin – Johor Bahru

Monday morning one week ago I headed back with the bus to Tampin for my last long distance train ride – for the time being, the same way as I came. So I first took the city bus to the central bus station. I had luck, as after just a few minutes one bus stopped and I had a ride. Due to my experience on my way to Malacca I started early…I guessed. After my arrival at the central bus station I still had almost 4 hours time. But then I waited…and waited…and waited, until after 90 minutes a bus approached. I was happy to take this one…almost 2.5 hours to go. Still fine. Well, then we arrived a town after about about one hour, which was only 13 kilometres away from Tampin. Oh cool, maybe I even can have some lunch. Once, we departed there was some traffic jam and the bus…suddenly…made a U-turn. What the hell is going on now. So we turned back to the bus station in that town, and nothing happened. Time is passing by. Then suddenly we have to change the bus. Luckily this bus didn’t make any stop in between and we arrived at Tapin just about 10 minutes before my train was supposed to leave. As the next train is supposed to leave about 10 hours later, I really hurry up to get finally the train station. So in total it took me 5 hours for just about 40 kilometres. Not surprisingly, that the public transport is not very popular here.

With the train we passed again several palm oil plantations. The people in Malaysia are not very happy that the EU are facing out “bio-fuel” derived from palm oil. Yes for sure, I understand, you don’t have any business any more. And it’s supposed “only” because rainforest is chopped off in order to create palm oil plantations. And the other argument is: “If there would be gold, you also would chop the jungle.” Well OK, let’s try to sort things out. It’s not “only”, it’s the main reason. Because if there is almost the same amount of CO2 emitted, when burning down the rainforest as saved afterwards with the palm oil derived fuel, then this kind of “bio-fuel” is not supposed to be a mean of CO2 mitigation. If you sum up, you’re not reducing a lot of CO2 compared to fossil fuel. So in essence, only “bio-fuels” with at least a CO2 mitigation of at least 60-70% are allowed in the future. Which makes absolutely sense, in order to really mitigate anthropologic CO2. Yes I know, there will be disruptions to some sectors, but for sure there will be much more opportunities in other ones. If you want to change something, you can’t stick to old things.

My last intercity train is ready for departure
No idea who engineered this crossbar…at least it’s not optimised for tall persons
Again the well known palm oil trees
The old tracks are dismantled beside the new electrified double track
South of the Gemas the double track is still under construction
The days of this railway station are counted
Sunset in Malaysia
Finally arrived in the new railway station of Johor Bahru
My train ticket

City tour Malacca

Sunday one week ago I went for a walk through the old town of Malacca, which is supposed to be a UNESCO world heritage site. Hence, plenty of tourists are around, but for sure only in the UNESCO area, and prices easily double. I’ve the impression that everyone just wants to go to the World heritage sites, make plenty of pictures for Instagram or WeChat, and drive afterwards as fast as possible home. Probably they don’t realise that this is nowadays a holy shit tourist attraction, at that there is almost no longer any difference between such a site and an artificial entertainment park. You might don’t know the town, but the adjacent Strait of Malacca which is supposed to be the busiest sailing route on earth, as 25% of the worldwide traded goods, including almost all oil for China, are sailed through this strait, which makes it a bottleneck for the world economics. That’s why China would prefer to build the Kra Canal, cutting through Thailand. But the current Thai military dictator, รครคhm sorry now officially Thai government, doesn’t have any interest to do so.

First I went off the UNESCO area to get some lunch, yeah it’s pretty cheap outside this, before I looked for the location of the old railway station. Yes there was a branch line to Malacca until WWII, but the Japanese troops dismantled it and used the material for the death railway line. Afterwards I visited an old wooden stilt house. It was built from the mayor of this small area, almost 100 years ago and is still inhabited by its descendants. The old man will explain to you the whole family story, and makes sure you’re not leaving, before you left a donation ๐Ÿ˜…. When I was waiting the TV channel Al Jazeera was just waiting outside. For my way back I wanted to use the monorail, but unfortunately I had to realise, that this is not a means of locomotion as it’s operating on a closed circle loop with just one stop. In essence you’re going nowhere and just spending a lot of money. So…another tourist trap.

Malacca was the finish of the 2nd stage of this year’s “Tour de Langkawi” bicycle race. So I went in the afternoon to the finish, but had no glue when the cyclists will arrive. I’ve never attended such an event before. In the end I was just watching for about 90 minutes the preparations. Which finally included the arrival of all the officials, don’t expect that these are as athletic as the riders, at some I was surprised they could get out of the small car by their own. The finish was pretty short. In just a few seconds you’ll see the sprinting riders coming, passing by, and finally arrive in the finish which was just 50 metres behind me.

That was for decades the tallest building in Malacca. Please don’t look at the sign…the taxi driver was really busy ๐Ÿ˜‰
The old track of the former branch line
At the location of the former railway station is now an abandoned hotel…
…and behind are some buildings with interesting stair cases
The quarter is outside the UNESCO area and still has original old stilt houses
No means of locomotion
The last few kilometres of the Tour de Langkawi are through the old city
Sprinting to the finish…ne idea who won, but the atmosphere was quite nice. More people in the finish than I expected
That’s supposed the oldest church in South East Asia from the beginning of the 16th century
View to the Strait of Malacca
Former residence of the governor
The Stadthuys is the oldest Dutch building in Asia
The British clocktower
Some old tractors from fieldwork were also in display
Another church in the old town which is still in service
The old chines quarter, or street, is now a tourist attraction on weekends evenings
And these rick shaws not only have colourful lights, but make also awful music. No idea about the price, but can’t expect that there will be a nice experience