Singapore: the last metres of South East Asia!

Singapore: the last metres of South East Asia!

Travel period from 14-06-2023 to 20-06-2023

Singapore is the most expensive city in the world to live in (along with New York). With 5.5 million people living in a small area (58 times smaller than the Netherlands), it is also one of the most densely populated cities. Only Macau and Monaco have a higher population density. Singapore’s ambiguous nickname is ‘fine city’, where safety is paramount and every metre is planned in detail. And where meticulous laws keep everything in its place. From futuristic skyscrapers with impressive architecture to landscaped parks, colourful temples of different religions and fascinatingly vibrant neighbourhoods like Little India and Chinatown. By comparison, the Netherlands (our “densely populated” little country) has a population density of +/- 529 people per km2, while Singapore has +/- 8600 people per km2!

The busiest border crossing in the world!

There are 2 bridges connecting Malaysia and Singapore, where about 450,000 (!) people cross the border every day. The border we cross by bike is the Johor-Singapore Causeway, where no less than 350,000 people cross daily. We squeeze in between the hundreds of bikers and have to wait for a while, but we are still amazed at how smooth the whole spectacle is. And then we enter another world.

There are cycle paths, covered (?) footpaths and we see warning signs everywhere. No fishing, fine $1000′, ‘No smoking in the park, fine $2000’, ‘No chewing gum’ and even not flushing a public toilet can cost you dearly. But the water from the tap is safe to drink and the city centre is clean. One skyscraper is more imposing than the next, from the cruise ship in the sky to the 50-metre super-trees in the Gardens by the Bay nature park. The sky (literally) is the limit!

From the border to the city centre

We were told by other cyclists to follow the ‘Rail Corridor’ from the border into the city centre. This is a 24km long cycling and walking path along a former railway line. The Rail Corridor connects the various nature reserves in Singapore and serves as a crossing point for the animals that live there. The path is therefore unlit at night. As we reach the centre and take a photo, we are approached by a young physical education teacher and later by an older man. The young man cannot believe his eyes and ears and has dozens of questions about how we did certain things. The older passer-by joins us later and gives us an assignment: go to a certain skyscraper and admire the view of the city and the sea from there! We are not disappointed.

When we stand a few metres away from the Marina Bay Sands, the ‘ship in the sky’, we don’t know what we feel. Relief, amazement, joy, gratitude and bewilderment, what a bizarre place!


Camping is prohibited in Singapore. Only people who live in Singapore can camp for one night in certain places with a special permit. The first two nights we stay with Chris. Chris once cycled from Scotland to Australia. When he returned home, he couldn’t settle down and decided to move to Singapore permanently, where he has lived for several years now. He tells us about the sky-high property prices in Singapore. Almost 80% of the population lives in public housing, which is built, subsidised and managed by the Singapore government. Also, the certificate you need to buy just to drive a car in Singapore is over $100,000 for an average car. In addition, the purchase price of a car is much higher than elsewhere in the world. So driving is only for the very rich.

However, sitting around the corner in an Indian restaurant eating roti and lentil soup, Singapore starts to look more like the rest of Southeast Asia. Chinatown is teeming with people, chicken legs are on the menu and Chinese trading houses dominate the street scene. Further afield, in the bustling enclave of ‘Little India’, the smell of coriander is palpable and the colourful temples and shop fronts stand out. Singapore’s population is a mix of cultures and religions, but there is an atmosphere of hospitality and respect for one another.

After 2 nights with Chris we cycle much further north and find ourselves in a very different part of Singapore. Tonight we are staying with Hannah and Heiko. Hannah is a Singaporean and Heiko is from Germany. They cycled from Germany to Singapore a few years ago and now live here. In their small flat, the bikes are in the living room and a huge map of the world hangs on the wall, where many would put a TV. Heiko has made German flammenkuchen while Hannah talks about the project she volunteers for. They repair appliances, which enabled many of the children to get a second-hand laptop when Covid broke out.

A cardboard box and a special meeting

As we are catching a plane from Singapore in a few days, we need to find a box to pack the bikes in. We contact a number of bike shops, but most have limited space and often do not have boxes available. Hannah and Heiko suggest we try Green Basikal, which is on the other side of town. This bike shop specialises in travel bikes and is run by SK. After a short message, SK tells us that he has boxes and that we should definitely come by.

The next day we find ourselves in a building that houses hundreds of shops. We take the lift up to his small but fascinating workshop on the 2nd floor. The walls are covered with pictures of cyclists from all over the world. He invites us in for lunch and a beer and tells us that he cycled from Finland to Singapore years ago. And that his sister even cycled around the world alone for 3 years. So many stories and ideas to share. He gives us 2 big boxes which we fold up and strap to the back of the bike. On our way to a hostel in Chinatown where we spend our last night.

We spend the night in bunk beds in a large dormitory and seem to be the only ones there. Until another guest arrives in the middle of the night and starts chopping down trees. Eloy wakes up rather groggy, Audrey has barely noticed and is now resistant to falling trees.

No day is predictable…!

From the hostel we head for the airport. With the bike boxes on the back, we cycle along the coast on narrow cycle paths. The last stretch goes through a kind of Jurassic Park and we almost get attacked by dinosaurs 🦖.

When we arrive at the airport, we have to dismantle and pack the bikes. That’s when we realise that we forgot our sink back at the hostel. And since we use it every day to do the dishes, wash our clothes or wash ourselves, Eloy takes the metro back while Audrey starts disassembling the bikes. There is a bike cafe at the entrance to the airport, ideal for cleaning and packing everything. As drops of sweat drip from Audrey’s forehead, it is still over 30 degrees, an airport employee comes along. He cannot believe the distance we have covered on our bikes and comes back a few minutes later to ask if we can see an interview with an airport communications officer. A few minutes later Eloy arrives with the washbasin. As Audrey quickly rubs the grease and sweat off her face, she announces that someone is about to arrive for an interview and photo shoot. …. Perfect timing! (Planes are waiting anyway…) And so it happened. As a thank-you, we are invited to the cyclists’ café for some Nasi Lemak.

Miraculously, we manage to cycle 30 km to the airport, dismantle and pack the two bikes in time, reunite a forgotten washing machine with his family, give an interview, eat a full meal, AND take a shower before the plane leaves… Audrey is already dreaming about cheese. She missed that during the seven months in Southeast Asia. So we burst out laughing when Turkish Airlines serves a mini-cheeseboard during the flight. No way!

So much for the seven months we spent cycling through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore. Every day our mouths were open in wonder and amazement. We laughed, cried and, most of all, sweated a lot. The traditions, rituals and cultural festivals left a lasting impression, but even more so the people.

The journey is not over yet, but after reaching Singapore after 14 months of cycling we feel it’s important to thank so many people. Strangers and friends who helped, shared, gifted, waved, smiled, followed our story, gave advice, sent messages and opened their gardens, homes and hearts. You ALL make the world a better place by being a kind human. A choice you made ♡

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