As some of you may have already guessed, Sam won the debate (or at least Shanna conceded) and, despite the fact that we were coughing, blowing our noises and making far too many toilet stops, we set off for Malaysia.
A few hours, a couple of Vita-milks, a big bottle of drinking yoghurt and some freshly squeezed orange and pineapple juice's later and we we'd cycled across Singapore. Soon we were nearing the Singapore border checkpoint, and wondering just how, on our bicycles we were meant to get to the border. So far, despite the oppressive heat, the day had gone fairly smoothly, but now there didn't seem to an answer to just how we were meant to be able to get ourselves and our bicycles across the border.
Everywhere we looked there were signs for cars or trucks only, so we decided to ignore them and simply rode down one of the car lanes when suddenly a narrow lane lane appeared from out of nowhere. There was a small barrier separating the two lanes and traffic flying around us in every direction so we made a quick decision to jump the barrier, lifting our 40 and 50 kilo bikes over the wall, just missing the motor bikes flying around the corner. Where did all these guys come from I wondered aloud; we had barely seen any motor-bikes in Singapore until now... maybe they had all decided to converge upon this one particular lane at once...
Riding into the checkpoint we wondered if they'd let us through, but fortunately Singapore was happy to be rid of us bicycle riding types, and we were processed and sent on our way without question in less than a minute. Riding through narrow lanes we came to the bridge that joins Singapore to Malaysia and riding across we realised we were in a kind of no-mans land until we reached the Malaysian checkpoint, almost a kilometre away. Here they were a little more surprised to see two Caucasian travellers on bicycles with bags all over them and here also, but this time with a smile, we were quickly ushered through the checkpoint and into Malaysia. Interestingly no-one on either side was interested in checking our bags, which was great as it meant we didn't have to take them off our bikes.
In Malaysia we soon realised the motorbikes were back, and we were greeted as soon as we entered the country by a freshly (from what I could gather) smashed up bike on the side of the road. This is going to be fun I thought. However, we soon found to our pleasant surprise that most drivers in Malaysia are more aware of our presence than Singaporeans (who often don't seem to know you exist), and in particular the truck drivers gave us a pleasantly wide berth. After finding our way, buying maps and figuring out the road system it was getting late, so we began searching for a hotel room, the cheapest we could find. Sixty dollars ($20AU) later and we were carrying our bikes up three flights of stairs through a dimly lit mosquito infested room.
That night we had our first real Malaysian cuisine. After the meal we both decided that if all Malaysian food was going to be this good, we were going to enjoy riding 1200 plus k's to Thailand more than we could have ever imagined...
Today we had to wait for our bikes, and as we had told Arnaud that we would only be at his house for two nights we set about finding a route our of Singapore and a cheap hotel (cheap in Singapore is expensive for South East Asia) to put our things so that we could explore the city.
We found a budget priced hotel that was having a sale, payed the $50 Singapore dollars (around $40) stashed our bags (all ten) and set about exploring the city. By this time however it was just after 2pm, but fortunately our hotel wasn't too far from China town, which was much like the Aussie China town except that there were more markets, it was cheaper and there were a whole lot of Indian dudes there measuring us up for new suits, kind of an odd paradox I thought... Just when I thought we'd seen the last Indian suit maker in China town, up popped another Indian man selling T-shirts, and offering Sam a 'very cheap' suit, which for a moment, Shanna considered... lol.
It was then, just as we were getting into the Singaporean China town swing of things we saw a sign that said, 'Chicken Rice- $2.' Once inside we were strongly persuaded that we didn't really want the plain old chicken rice but that what we really wanted was one of the more exotic, and more expensive dishes on the menu. Needless to say we stuck to our guns and went cheap, and boy were we glad we did; the chicken was succulent and the rice was perfectly cooked, and just when we thought it couldn't get any better in Singapore for $2, out came the funky bowl of soupy stuff, which we poured over our rice before devouring it.
Next we were on to see the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which Shanna had seen in our street directory and thought sounded interesting. Who wouldn't want to see an old tooth? It was just around the corner and soon we arrived. We were glad to see it was free entry and we could enter even in our shorts, after Sam has pulled his down a little...
We enjoyed the continual chanting music, the overpowering smell of incense, the constant signs asking for donations and the promises that if we bought this or that our family would be blessed with prosperity. But what we didn't enjoy, was the lack of a tooth. Any tooth. There was not even a fake gold tooth, let alone a musty old relic. We'd been lured into this temple under a false premise.
After searching six levels to no avail, including the 'relic chamber' on the top floor, where a couple of monks sitting at a table had temporarily got our hopes up, it was time to go get to our bikes. We caught the train to the station nearest the bike shop, then walked for an hour, getting to the store just before it closed at 6:30pm. It was a short and fun 6km ride back to the hotel, flying past cars, buses and motor-bikes, we couldn't believe more people weren't doing it (Singaprorean's don't like to cycle as they believe they will be perceived as not having a car). After some local halal tucker, which we've already forgotten the name of, we went to bed debating whether or not to leave Singapore in the morning...
We arrived in Singapore in the mid-afternoon, relieved to once again be on dry land after a bumpy ride over a windblown ocean on a small ferry from Bintan.
Now that we knew Sam's spoke was broken there was no way he could ride it with all the gear. So how we would get out of the ferry terminal? We'd arranged to stay for two nights at the home of a Frenchman working in Singapore - Arnaud - who we contacted through Couchsurfing. We had his phone number and address and planned to go to his house for the afternoon, and take the bikes to the shop in the morning.
Outside the terminal we considered the MRT train system, but the nearest station was about 6km away and Sam couldn't ride his bike. Maybe we could get a taxi to take Sam and his bike and gear to MRT station and Shanna could ride? Then we saw bigger taxis, vans, that had a sign saying they would take you anywhere for $40 (about Aus $30). Shanna talked Sam into taking this easy option straight to Arnaud's place.
On the way Shanna tried calling Arnaud to make sure he was home. The last email we had from him had his phone number so we could call when we arrived. It took some work, because we only had an Indonesian SIM card and needed to work out how to call a Singaporian number. Then once we worked it out the phone was off. We arrived at the address, a secure apartment complex, and tried his buzzer. No-one home.
We sat outside for the next three hours. Shanna went to some shops around the corner to try a pay phone... but his phone was definitely off. Shanna rode her bike around trying to find an internet cafe to check our couchsurfing messages, but couldn't find one. Eventually at 5.30 we got a text to say he was on his way home from work.
We were still trying to recover from our illnesses and felt pretty tired, so when after a short chat Arnaud went to meet friends for squash, we opted to just walk around the corner to the local food court for some dinner (after Sam was able to finally relieve himself of some rather unpleasant pressure in his bowels...) , rather than trying to make our way to the city. After a 'western' meal of fish and chips and rice and chicken we went back to the place for a swim. Arnaud had explained that his complex had a pool, but we weren't prepared for four pools! Including a big 30m lap pool. It was a beautiful complex and we felt like we were swimming at a resort.
Before 10 we decided to head up for an early night. Arnaud came home and we talked some more. He showed us some photos from his many travels and we talked about Indonesia (which is, of course, the only place we'd been).
In the morning we had a little sleep in, before tackling the idea of taking the bikes to the bike shop. The shop was on the other side of the country, about 25km away. But luckily Arnaud lived near the MRT and the shop was not too far from a station. The plan was to take the bikes (in order to avoid Sam having to ride with 2 broken spokes), then catch the train to the city for the afternoon. So at about 10am we gingerly rode less than 1km to the station and bought our tickets. As we were wheeling the bikes through the gate we were stopped - no bikes allowed on the MRT. We talked to them, explained our situation with the wheel being broken, but there was no relenting. Bikes were not allowed, ever, under any circumstances.
Outside the station we talked about our options. A taxi was an expense we didn't need, but we had no idea which way to ride. We needed a map. On our way to finding a map Shanna somehow lost Sam and 40 mins was wasted as we waited in different locations for the other to 'turn up'. Once we were happily reunited, Sam went to buy a map. He returned with a street directory and a man named Tiow who had lived near Perth for 10 years and so could speak to us in wonderful English. Another 30 minutes or so passed as we tried to work out the best way to get there, avoiding the highways. Eventually, armed with a map and directions, we rode off in the searing sun towards the bike shop on the other side of the country.
When we finally found the address they'd given us in an email we couldn't find it. We rode up and down the street, before eventually being told by a security guard that they'd moved. But, apparently it was nearby, just behind this street. After another 30 mins of riding around we called the shop and got the new address. We looked it up in our street directory and finally made it there. At 2pm. By the time we talked to them and left instructions for the bike it was 3pm. Time was seemed to be slipping through our fingers.
When we missed out on going to the waterpark at Surabaya we reassured ourselves that we would go to the one in Singapore. Our street directory funnily enough came with a two-for-one voucher for the waterpark, plus it was in the same part of the country as where we were, so it seemed that we could easily go there for the afternoon, instead of the city. Plus the waterpark was only open in the afternoons, and we had to pick up our bikes the next afternoon so couldn't go the next day. Wild Wild Wet was a small park compared to the ones on the Gold Coast, but we had fun.
The experience was somewhat marred though by the fact that Sam got scrapes under his arm from one of the floating tubes, and as the afternoon went on they became swolen and worsened in pain. By the time we were eating dinner he was in a lot of pain so Shanna went to a small pharmacy-type store to see about some cream. They said it was probably a friction burn and recommended aloe vera. Shanna was VERY sunburnt from the day so aloe vera seemed to solve both problems. But when Sam put it on the pain became excrutiating. It was all he could do not to scream out. Shanna pulled a bottle of water from the bag and Sam splashed it on. The pain subsided enough to make it tolerable, but now it was really swollen and he needed real cream. Back at the chemist we found a suitable one without the help of the assistants.
The train ride home was long and cold. Shanna was coughing and kept blowing snot out of her nose. Sam was in pain and his stomach was playing up again. Despite wanting to just sleep, we put a load of washing on (the washing machine was a luxury Arnaud insisted we take advantage of) and chatted some more with our friendly and interesting host. Around midnight we fell into bed, exhausted.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia