Fortunately for us, Dan and Susie’s apartment is just a few blocks away from the terminus so after packing, repacking and then accounting for an unexpected nappy pit stop, we just about managed to make it in time for the 10am departure to Mersing, Malaysia.
The coach was all set to depart as we boarded bar a few stragglers busying themselves at the ticket desk for the few remaining spaces on board. As it so happens, a couple who we came to know over the next few days managed to secure the last two seats on the bus, though unbeknown to them the guy was to be travelling Transnational’s version of “Premium Economy” in that his 6ft 4in Australian bulk was to be wedged for three hours upon no more than a padded bench which sat slightly offset from our seats in the back row. I did not envy him.
As we departed, Singapore kissed us a lover’s goodbye as the roads became awash with our first tropical downpour. Mopeds and Motorcycles were parked-up and sheltering beneath expressway flyovers to avoid the torrent. Our bus ploughed its way prosaically onward towards the causeway that connects the Island City with the Malay Peninsular and the Southern commuter city of Johor Bahru.
Having travelled this route back in 2002 I was aware that the border formalities involved us disembarking the vehicle on the Singapore side, embarking once more to cross the causeway, disembarking at the Johor Bahru gateway with all luggage, filling in our immigration cards, having an x-ray of our bags and to prove we were now truly in the electronic age, providing an additional biometric scan of our fingerprints (The Boy was excused this, which given he has the attention span of a gnat with ADHD is probably a wise thing).
Rain continued to slow our progress through the suburbs of Johor Bahru, but once we hit the main East Coast road, the downpour eased and we made decent progress towards our destination of Mersing and an awaiting transfer across to the picture postcard promise of Pulau Tioman, a fair two hours off the coast via express boat.
The landscape, which I glimpsed only infrequently due to my overbearing tiredness, seemed to be a mélange of industrial suburb, then smaller Malay townships, then gradually more spaced Kampongs (the term for a Malay village) interspersed by the ubiquitous palm plantations.
With the A/C blasting, “The Boy” was for once not perspiring like a necromancer in a graveyard and by the time we reached the port town of Mersing he was refreshed, cooled, fed and ready for the Ferry.
The ferry jetty was a short but hot schlep across town, but again we were treated to a/c on the trip across and by the time we saw the peaks of Tioman climbing from the waters of the South China Sea, the weather had started to break and the sun was threatening to come out to play.
So, in summary, first leg of travelling complete, no damage done, boy alive, so far so good.
Let’s hope that the Swans have a similarly easy start to their life in the Premier League. With an away tie to Man City, I think that’s rather unlikely…