JOHOR BARU - He used to drive over to Johor Baru often to eat and buy his favourite pastries for his friends and family.
But because of the Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions on travel, Singaporean Jeremy Chua has been unable to do so for two years.
With the full opening of land borders between Singapore and Malaysia on Friday (April 1), Mr Chua seized the opportunity for quarantine- and testing-free travel and drove over to JB.
He was speaking to The Straits Times outside Hiap Joo Bakery in Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, where he was getting his pastry fix.
He said: "I'm very happy that the border has now opened. And now whenever I am having a craving for a coconut bun or banana cake, I can just drive over."
Mr Chua, a 32-year-old financial planner, who drove over to JB alone, said that while the border has opened, the crowds have yet to return.
"I notice the place is a lot more quiet since the last time I was here. A lot of shops were not open when I drove past this stretch. I hope everything will be back to normal in the next few months, with the opening of the borders."
While more than 33,000 travellers had crossed the Causeway and Second Link as at 5pm on Friday after the borders fully reopened, this is way below the 415,000 who used the land checkpoints daily before the pandemic.
Mr Jayden Wong, 26, and his girlfriend Denise Quek, 25, were in JB on Friday even though they had not planned to do so.
This was after they found out that the traffic into JB was not so bad. Mr Wong said: "It was our day off today, which coincided with the opening of the borders, so we made an impromptu decision to come."
The two, who are both Singapore public servants, said they plan to visit a supermarket to buy snacks and then get a massage before heading home for the day.
A Singaporean, who wanted to be known only as Mr Ramli, said he drove into JB at about 7am with a friend.
The 58-year-old private-hire car driver said he was there partly to check if going to JB was smooth-going, as he plans to take his wife along next week.
He said: "Most of the shops that I have visited before are still around. The only difference is that they are less crowded than before."
The exception was a car accessory shop, which he said was busy with many Singapore-registered cars parked outside it.
He added: "Malaysians I met today welcomed us back. Even at the shop where I bought my Malaysia SIM card, the shopkeeper told me that he hopes more of us can come as soon as possible."
For Mr Chua, the pastry shop is just the first stop on his culinary quest.
"Since I have a couple of hours left before I go home, I will drive around to see if the shops that I used to patronise are still around," he said as he took his leave, adding that there is a famous shop that sells abalone noodles not far away.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission is required for reproduction.