It is a curiosity that the Malaysian train system has a station in Singapore. Originally a majestic building in downtown Singapore, politics dictated that it be moved as close to Malaysia as possible. So now there is a station on the Singapore side of the causeway and another on the Malaysian side - about 15 minutes apart by train. The difference is that fares cost double from the Singapore side - the same number in a different currency.
The obvious thing to do for one with some Scottish ancestry is to start a journey from Johor Bahru. So I booked the 8:30 morning train. In hindsight it is a fairly simple exercise to rock up to the Singapore Queen St Bus Terminal at 6:15 am, get the express bus to Johor Bahru, go through Singapore immigration, back on the bus, through Malaysian immigration and walk though the same complex to the attached train station with oodles of time to spare. I managed to make it more adventurous than that.
Not trusting that I would get to the train on time, I decided to stay overnight in a cheap home stay in Johor Bahru. The home stay is the traditional Malaysian guest house, literally a stay in a home. I kind of memorised the map to get there in my head and took a copy of the directions in Malaysian-English.
I got the first part right and got to the Queen St bus terminal, even got a bus there to save the walk. Sunday and big queues for the Express bus. Not liking queues I was eyeing up the 170 local bus that no one else bothered with. But the very attractive Chinese girl in front of me persuaded of the express benefits of our particular bus queue. Eventually we get on the bus and approach the causeway within half an hour. Through the Singapore immigration and back on to an even more crowded bus.
Then through Malaysian immigration. From there it is a simple walk to the central plaza and station. However I see a sign to the buses. Down I go and see our bus, this time ... very ... uncrowded. Driver tells me we're going to Lakin Bus Terminal. Oh yeah, I can get a local bus from there. I soon figured it was a mistake but what the hell I'm committed now. We go way past where I want to go to the kind of bus station I remember from my 20's with associated odours and sounds of local food markets. With my basic pidgin-Bahasa coming back to me from my youth I soon ascertained I was not getting a bus to where I wanted to go. So I ended up getting one back to JB Sentral - the same plaza complex I had unwittingly left behind.
From JB Sentral it is about a 15-20 minute walk to the home stay. I added to the adventure my misinterpreting the directions and doubling that time, complete with back pack and high-20's temperatures. I eventually found myself walking up the right road on the outskirts of town looking for the last turnoff but not sure if it was ahead or behind me. Two things occurred to me - 1. It is no wonder I travel alone; and 2. This is not a good look when I am supposedly navigating myself across 2 continents and I've only just started.
Dark by now, I spied a street restaurant and sat down to some dinner and make an attempt to get directions through the language barrier. Eating my Nasi Goreng (fried rice), watching Rafael Nadal warming up to beat some unfortunate at Wimbledon and drinking my "Ice Tea" that had somehow morphed into a hot coffee - I glanced at the corner street sign. Had a closer look. Walked over to check. Just the road I was looking for. Success at last!
Jomi's homestay was very simple and traditional and took me back to the Asia that I travelled through in my early 20's. Only myself and a Malaysian man in the small dorm-style area. I was only sorry I didn't get there earlier to savour the experience.
Normally I avoid taxis but next morning I was only too glad to wave down a taxi for the 5 Ringgit ride to the station.