A month or so ago, when my tourist visa was about to expire, G and I decided to have it renewed and go out through Pengerang, Malaysia. It was supposed to be a quick lunch trip but we got more than that.
Not even that well known to locals, Pengerang is a small town at the southern tip of Johor, Malaysia. Only a 45 minute bumboat ride away from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal (far east!) in Singapore, you would think it will be somewhat similar to the (in)famous Johor Bahru, which looks like a less developed Singapore with malls et al. because of its proximity to the city-state. But it’s far cry from it.
There were only a few articles and write-ups about Pengarang, Malaysia for first-time visitors like us. Maybe we should have seen it as a ‘sign’ that there isn’t anything to see and do there but we still persisted on going as (1) the jump off point is from one of our favorite areas in SG, the Changi Village, and (2) it’s gonna be a new place for us. So off we went…
It’ll be a long wait for the bumboat at the Changi Point Ferry Terminal. You’re lucky if there’s a bumboat available and there are 12 of you waiting for a ride to Pengerang. If luck isn’t on your side then you would have to wait for the bumboat from Pengarang, AND wait for 11 others to board that boat with you if you’re not willing to pay for the head charge so you can leave immediately.
A tip from an uncle: leave Singapore at 7am on a weekend.
Bumboat costs S$10/person. The old, wooden bumboat still has it’s charm. I like it because it’s so un-Singapore.
We left Stemei (that’s the name of our house) at 10:30am, got on a bumboat only at half twelve, reached Pengerang, Malaysia at 1:30pm. We needed a good look at the ferry terminal so we would know where to go when it’s time to head back in the afternoon. We then got ourselves a taxi to the main town which is really just a street with a few shops selling fruits, housewares, cookies, a couple of hostels, restaurants, and a few others. The setting is kinda similar to that of the western cowboy towns you often see in movies, the only thing lacking are gunshots from two cowboys fighting at a nearby saloon and the occasional tumbleweed in the picture. We needed our money changed but there’s nobody manning the money changer even though it clearly says on their front door that they’re open. We tried our luck again after 15 minutes, went back and it’s still unmanned.
Cab fare costs 20 Ringgit (S$10) to the main town.
Since we came there for lunch, we decided to just make the most out of it and try to have a look at the restaurants. It’s full, yes, but there’s nothing new to what the restaurants offer that’s not being offered back in Singapore. Seafood stuff, chili crab, sotong (squid), prawn, and the works. We’re not at all tempted. We walked back and found a quieter eatery and order fried rice, crispy sotong, sweet and sour pork and cold drinks. We ended up paying S$30 which we think is too much (and there’s no bloody prices on the menu so they probably are just half guessing the prices) given the type of restaurant and even their serving size!
Since we already achieved what we came for, we immediately headed back to the ferry. Be wary though, there’s a shortage of cabs in the afternoon. There were no taxis at the town taxi terminal whereas there were lots of them when we arrived. Good thing one passed by and let us on.
The worst part of the trip was this: Upon reaching the ferry terminal, there was a long queue of people waiting for a bumboat. Almost everyone who went to Pengerang from Singapore that day were stranded because there were no more bumboats coming back from Singapore! There was a queue for passports (they group together the passports for the bumboats) but we were told by a bystander that there’s no bumboat left for the rest of us. They said that the last trip was 4pm, we were there at 3:15 but even if we were early, still a shortage of bumboats.
The Pengerang Ferry Terminal. It looks decent but you can tell from the lack of traffic that there’s not much going on in the area.
Options were: (1) Stay in the terminal and try your luck and wait for a bumboat; (2) head back into town or Desaru and spend the night there and leave first thing in the morning; (3) take a cab and go to the next ferry terminal which is an hour’s drive away and take the ferry back to Singapore. We were desperate to go back as it’s work day for G the following day so we took option 3.
Cab fare was 50 Ringgit because we got to share the cab with another couple and the ferry fee is 54 Ringgit. We reached Desaru Ferry Terminal at 5pm and had to wait for the ferry until 7pm. There’s not much in Desaru Ferry Terminal, not even a shop to buy stuff so the wait there was very boring. But at least they have regular ferries coming and going from Singapore (albeit higher fare) and we’re assured we get to reach home!
So we reached Changi Ferry Point, which we found out, is in the middle of nowhere. IT’S THE QUIETEST PART OF SINGAPORE THAT WE’VE EVER BEEN, just an occasional private car passing by and DEFINITELY NO CABS! We ended up walking the length of Changi Coast Road until we reached Changi Village (Yes! Changi Village!) and got on a bus for home.
What a long day! And we’re definitely not going back to Pengerang, Malaysia. Ever.