Sunday, September 03, 2006

Back to Singapore

The nice man at Mama's Chalets on Pulau Perhentian stopped our plan to go back to Terangganu and look for a bus South to Singapore or Johor Bahru. Instead he sold us a ticket from the town of Jerteh, not even mentioned in our guidebook, direct to Singapore on a business class bus. We took the last boat of the day at 16:00, which meant we got to hang out on the beach reading for most of the day. The boat was packed to the gunwhales with people and their stuff and got even more packed when it stopped at another beach after ours. The ride back was a lesson in pain as the water was slightly choppy and every time the boat raised up it would lodge itself in the small of my back. It wasn't helping that I began to want the toilet almost as soon as I boarded the boat. Constant smacking up and down on the waves does not help a full bladder.

At the jetty we were met by a very nice taxi driver organised by the guy at Mama's and off we were whisked to Jerteh, pausing to use the toilet on the way. Jerteh is a small city but we were happy to see a couple of Internet cafes across the way and therein, hopefully, some respite from the sun that was beaming straight into the bus station. It was not to be, however, as it was Friday, so everything in town was shut. We made do with a cup of tea on the night market that was assembling across from the bus station. The hours ticked by slowly until it was time for our bus, and apparently everyone elses as the station became incredibly busy. When the bus arrived we marvelled at the joys of business class. There were only 8 or 9 rows of seats on the coach, meaning a lot of leg and reclining room and we were given a bottle of water and some unidentifiable bread products.

Oddly for an overnight bus journey I did actually manage to get a bit of sleep. I kept closing my eyes and suddenly it was 2 hours later. Although the seats reclined a long way I was still left with a very big pain in my neck every couple of hours, which is most likely what was waking me up. We arrived into Johor Bahru as familiar landmarks from our last visit rolled past. At the Malaysian imigration post we left the bus and got stamped out of Malaysia before reboarding the bus. There was some kind of scuffle with a young English couple and the bus driver. Apparently Malaysian immigration were refusing to stamp him out because he had lost his departure card. The girl was in a flap that the bus was going to leave with all her stuff on and was kicking up quite some fuss. I don't think the driver would have left without his full complement of passengers, he just wanted to move the bus out of the main road. She was shouting, 'Don't you dare move this bus an inch, all my stuff is on it.' He didn't speak much English, so just shrugged his shoulders and moved the bus anyway. Eventually they sorted out their immigration hassles and reboarded for the very short journey over the causeway.

At Woodlands we had to jump off the bus again, this time with all our luggage, to clear immigration and customs before reboarding for the drive into Singapore. We caught an MRT into the city. In Bugis junction shopping mall, the MRT stop that we got off at, I marvelled at the splendour and cleanliness of the toilets. The toilet roll and the sinks that worked. We ate some breakfast at the food court and went to check in at New 7th Storey Hotel, the place we'd stayed at previously. I'd heard some dodgy things about them, but they'd been fine with us last time so we went back there. We were happy when the guy gave us a returners room rate.

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