The causeways are always jammed - both Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints linking us to Malaysia's borders, and many cars on the road have Singapore license plates. Be it rain or shine, be it late hours or weekends, let there be political unrest and widespread diseases- nothing deters Singaporeans from crossing the borders. Why?
1. A Short Getaway
Having been confined in the tiny little red dot we call Singapore (and our home) for most of the times, a weekend or public holiday is the perfect time for a very short getaway and flee the hustle of city life. Where else could be more convenient than our very own neighbor - accessible by just a couple of hours' drive? It's no wonder that Singaporeans are flocking over for leisure once they are sick of our own malls and restaurants. Some people even plan a short hotel stay for a night or two.
Like, really? Singaporeans are foodies, sure, hence the notion of food-hunting across the causeway does not fail to appeal.
Whether one chooses to eat the famous "Lok-lok" - skewers of food one may order from street-side carts and then dip into a pot of gravy (shared by everyone) to eat, or prefer the "more authentic" Bak Kut Teh, wanton noodles, Zi Char (stir-fried seafood or meat dishes at coffeeshops) or durians, it is a food paradise.
I had a casual dinner at their Causeway Bay Hong Kong Restaurant @ City Square Mall the other day - BBQ wanton noodles with Iced Horlicks, and Szechuan Beef Hor Fun soup with Iced Plum Juice, for just RM30++ for two (converted to SGD, its $15.00!). So, besides offering a wide array of traditional food dishes, the food across the border is very affordable too. No wonder Singaporeans are flocking over here to satiate their food cravings.
There are many shopping malls here, such as KSL, City Square, Holiday Plaza, Pelangi Mall, The Store and Jusco, inviting us to shop till we drop.
Besides offering local brand names and items that cannot be found in Singapore's malls, the merchandise and groceries in Johor Bahru are cheaper too. Hence, it is really not surprising to hear people coming in here to replenish their household items, contact lens solutions, cigarettes etc.
Does the title of this paragraph sound familiar? Ha! Yes, getting your petrol here is definitely cheaper (by nearly half the price!), hence some Singaporeans come in here just to fill up their petrol tanks, get a car wash and then drive out afterwards. There are some who even rock / shake their cars a little so that more petrol may flow in - and I feel that is a very ugly behavior.
5. Recreational Activities
Others come in here for manicure, pedicure, hair services, massages, golf, movies and Karaoke (KTV) because it is a lot less expensive after currency exchange.
I have tried most of the above activities, and yes, if the facilities are good, up to date and cheaper indeed, why not? It would be more fun especially if there is a group of people (family or friends) heading in to enjoy together.
6. Looking for Things that cannot be found in Singapore
Don't laugh, this is not funny at all. There are indeed a number of items that cannot be found in Singapore at all or anymore, hence one could gladly cross the border in hunt for them. If found, of course Johor Bahru would be the next venue for topping up on these items unfound in Singapore.
Of course, some people may buy chewing gums or pirated DVDs there, who knows?
7. Consulting TCM
I know of a couple of very popular Chinese Physicians based in Johor Bahru, hence some Singaporeans drive in to consult , visit and replenish their Chinese medical supplies. No, the fees these physicians charge are not low, but apparently their formulae work, so that's what matters.
8. Visiting Families or Friends
Many Singaporeans have Malaysian relatives and friends, some whom reside in Johor Bahru - so near! Hence it is uncommon to see locals driving or taking public transport in, just to visit their friends and relatives for some good old catching up or attending weddings / celebrations etc.
Why not? Many Malaysians in Johor Bahru are warm, hospitable people and stay in huge landed houses. Hence they welcome guests and visitors very readily - a trip or two there would warrant good home-cooked food and very friendly reception. One could also get some cultural infusion done through such a visit.
That sums up my investigations / findings of why Singaporeans enjoy driving across the Causeway into the wombs of Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Are you one of them too? :)