Updated: Dec 29, 2021
When you live in Singapore, Malaysia is never far away. On free weekends I made a few trips to Malaysia and visited places like Malacca and Johor Bahru. Getting across the border is unpredictable as there may be long queues and at times it can take a few hours to actually get across. So when we first visited Malaysia we weren't that well prepared, taking a MRT to Woodlands station was easy, then getting into the border control was easy as well, but then ... chaos ... no clear signs of where you have to queue for what kind of ID, everyone seems to just wait and wait and you hope you 're in the right lane for your personal type of ID and crossing. During rush hour times it can take up to 3 hours of waiting before you actually make it to the border control agent. Then they check you and you can finally go downstairs to the bus. The bus will bring you to the other side of the bridge and from then you 're on your own! My rental car was waiting for me just outside the border control building and immediately I noticed that we arrived in a different world. Singapore is very clean, tidy and controlled, Johor Bahru is not! It's more or less what you would expect from an Asian city in cheap countries. JB is not a capital, nor is it a touristic highlight, most people don't even stay overnight in JB, nor did we on our first trip. We simply took control of our rental car and drove off to the highways of Malaysia. Driving in Malaysia is surprisingly easy as my GPS on the iPhone (maps.me) could tell us just about exactly where I needed to go, the highways are also very clean and well maintained, there is a tax for driving on the highways and it's best to buy a highway card at the first tax station, this card can be recharges when needed and works automatic with every tax station you pass.
The first time we went to Malacca which is about 3 hours driving from JB, this old colonial city has more or less remained authentic troughout the years so the old colonial style is still present this day. Just a bit north of Malacca is Cape Rachado, a place riddles with history from the Portuguese period, the Dutch battles and the British rule.
The lighthouse on top of the Cape gives a very impressive view over the surrounding seas. There has been a Portuguese lighthouse and a Dutch lighthouse on this location but the current lighthouse was built in 1863 under British rule. The walk up to the cape goes trough the jungle surrounding the area and don't be surprised to find all sorts of monkies jumping around you. We were only 3 days in the area but Malacca is a place you can stay for much longer than that.
Johor Bahru ... for Singaporeans it's the gateway to Malaysia, cheap living compared to Singapore and more relaxed laws. The city is more noisy, chaotic and dirty in some areas compared to very clean and organised Singapore. Lots of Malaysians actualy live here and work in Singapore, they cross the border every day to get to their Singapore jobs. The difference in wages and prices of living make sure that Malaysians working in Singapore can support their families and at the same time rent a small apartment in JB. This makes JB to the bordercity it is today. We went there for a weekend for cheap shopping and also visiting this place a bit, one of the must see places is the Hindu Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple. Overall this place is a perfect stop to get out of Singapore for a weekend on a low budget.