My first taste of Asia only seemed to whet my appetite, so I booked a bus ticket on Delima Express and headed north of the border to Malacca in southern Malaysia. Linking the two countries is the Johor-Singapore Causeway, which crosses the Straits of Johor. On the way we transitioned through two immigration facilities, one exiting Singapore and one entering Malaysia. We had to disembark, go through customs and immigration and then get back on the bus at each site.
Prior to leaving Singapore, I was a bit leery of the bus journey. I had heard so many stories about how long and arduous the rides were in Asia. They are always described as being cramped, uncomfortable and exceedingly bumpy. However, surprisingly, the bus was in extremely good condition. Most importantly, the air conditioning worked and blew cold air. It also wasn’t full by any means so all the passengers could spread out. The seats were cushioned and the windows allowed for a nice view of passing scenery.
When I arrived at Melaka Sentral, a large bus terminal, I exchanged what little Singaporean dollars I had for Malaysian ringgit. I also tried to withdraw money from an ATM but wasn’t able to get anything. I tried another bank’s ATM but got the same result. This worried me a bit because it was the first time that I experienced being cashless. I guess I should’ve exchanged some money in Singapore, but I didn’t think it would be such a problem.
In the depot, I walked back and forth on the platform searching for the right bus company and route number. There were about 23 bays being used by different bus companies, and I wasn’t sure which area I should wait in. There were no signs or placards and different companies seemed to use the same bays. I don’t know if there were assigned bays or if it was first come first served. In any case, it was just baffling to me.
As I waited, I noticed that there were mostly men at the depot. Men definitely outnumbered women, 50 to 1, and I felt a little conspicuous traveling alone and carrying a huge backpack and daypack. Everything slowly got more Asian and less western the farther north I went. The language was predominantly Malay and people seemed to speak less English here.
As time ticked on, I began to get a little restless. What if there were no buses going my way? What if they were there, but I missed them because I couldn’t understand the language? All this fretting was for nothing though, because after waiting for an hour my bus rolled up. It reminded me of one of those large, metal contraptions from the 1960s, all rusted and squeaking but still moseying along.
I quickly hopped on and took up two seats – one for me, one for my bag. All the other passengers squeezed on and some even hung off the step. There was no A/C onboard and we were squeezed in like sardines. Now this is the kind of bus I was anticipating in Asia, but I was just glad to be on my way.
The ticket man boarded and collected our money. I have no idea what he was shouting (probably something like “hurry up and pay”). Everyone else seemed to give the same amount so I guess my online research was correct. I rode the bus for about 10 minutes and got off at Ocean Mall. After trying another ATM that didn’t work, I left the mall and headed for my hostel. The roads were a little confusing, but I eventually found my way after stopping to ask for directions at 7-11. After such a long journey, I was happy to get settled in.