There is no rail service from Melaka as in Wolrd War Two the Japanese tore up the tracks from the area to use for the Burma railway. Melaka had long lost its economic importance after centuries of European rule; no one cared to relay the track after the Japanese were defeated. So there are coaches instead. The ride is supposed to take just under 5 hours. The price is 17 ringgit. Still cheap.
The sky is a flat grey – almost a photographer’s favorite 18%. We leave more or less on time, with only 4 passengers on board. The AC is classic too much, ezpecially as its cool enough outsde.
The road so far is the same I came down on from KL, so we are evidently cuttting inland. We leave the freeway in what I think is Pusat, which is where the train came through. The coach unexpectedly (for me) pullled into a restaurant/cafe. ‘All off – 20 minute break!’ the driver calls out. Great!
After the break, we are back on the freeway again. Same superlative standard, same slenter trees lining the roadsides, same rolling hills of palms to the horizon. This must be the main freeway from Singapore north, through KL and on. There’s plenty of vehicles, but as volume goes the traffic is quite light, and there are fewer trucks than I would expect to see. Is that because the rail service is better/cheaper, truckers prefer not paying tolls or because the trade is local or simply isn’t there? I don’t know. But it isn’t like India, that’s for sure.
At Kudai we exit the freeway again and on the normal maind road, which is still an excellent six lane highway. Here there is more traffic – mostly cars though but there are more trucks too. And plenty of coaches, which must still be the principal way of getting around long distance.
Eventually we arrive in Johor Bahru, the city facing Singapore Island. Low hills, buildings half hisden amongst the green, contruction sites and long malls of commercial operations mixed in with spacious residential housing.
Shortly afterwards we are at the border crossing and going through Malaysian customs. The delightful thing is that, on the sidewalk before going up to the somewhat worn offices of the customs house, is a long line of people selling absolutely delicious looking snacks. Is this a good sign or one where they calculate you must wait hours to get through the controls. Well the control was quick (no queue!) I rejoin the bus.
We cross the same causeway I saw on the way up. At this hour there is no queue of traffic. I see a glowering building on the right, looking for all the world like some high tech sentinel. Sure enough, its Woodlands, road version. A cold grey place with its glassy towers angled so it looks to be on constant alert. The architects must have had fun designing a 21st century castle of dark steel bars and tinted windows. It certainly chillls the spirit.
Long queues (separate for each booth), trainee control guard, old ladies with incomplete data. Usual luck. 30 minutes later I’m through.
Well its a grey day in Singapore too, with the occasional droplet trickling down. Hope it clears for the weekend…