SINGAPORE - Swimming instructor and sports academy owner Jason Lin, 47, had been curious about cycling in Malaysia ever since he took up the sport seriously during the pandemic.
He had heard positive reviews from fellow cyclists about how they had been able to get close to nature, sample good food and explore different landscapes during their cycling trips prior to border closures.
"I want to explore new places in Malaysia rather than just cycling around our concrete island," said Mr Lin, who founded the 550-member SG RTI Cyclists Facebook group.
He is now making plans for a cycling trip to Johor with eight other cyclists in April.
Mr Lin is one of the many Singaporeans looking to head up north for leisure and sports once border restrictions between Singapore and Malaysia are largely removed next month.
Some are looking forward to tucking into Malaysian food again, while others are looking to make use of the favourable exchange rate.
The two bus operators that are currently running the vaccinated travel lane bus services between Singapore and Malaysia said they are anticipating high demand for cross-border bus services when border restrictions are eased from next month.
A Causeway Link spokesman said the firm is ready to recruit more drivers. The firm is also considering raising fares, but this is subject to approval by the authorities.
Transtar Travel managing director Elson Yap said: "We haven't heard anything from the regulators yet, but we are ready to hire up to 50 per cent more drivers and adjust trips accordingly."
From April 1, those who are fully vaccinated will be able to travel freely between the two countries by land without testing or quarantine. There will be no more pre-departure or on-arrival tests, a policy change that will significantly reduce costs and inconvenience for travellers.
The arrangement will apply to all categories of travellers and all modes of transport via the land border, including cross-border public buses such as service 170 that are being progressively restored.
Before Covid-19 struck, 415,000 people crossed the Woodlands Causeway and Tuas Second Link daily.
Like many other Singaporeans, Mr Lin used to regularly drive into Malaysia for meals, massages, shopping and staycations prior to the pandemic.
But he expressed some concerns about the pandemic's impact on crime in Johor Baru. With Singaporeans now set to return, he hopes authorities will look into the situation seriously.
"I heard that crime there is more rampant now, and even my friends in Johor Bahru are advising us not to go in unnecessarily," said Mr Lin.
Still, he is looking forward to organising more cycling trips to Malaysia for bigger groups after his initial trip next month. Other cyclists have also announced similar plans on various interest groups online.
Those who prefer the fairways are also making plans for golf trips to Malaysia now.
Mr Elvin Tan, 38, who is the administrator of the SG Golf Find Kaki Facebook group, said its members are excited and will be heading into Malaysia to play golf once border restrictions ease.
It had been hard to book slots at the golf courses in Singapore since the pandemic started, he said.
Mr Tan added that some members are also looking forward to the cheaper petrol prices in Johor. But some are concerned that many food and shopping haunts in Johor have closed in the past two years.
Meanwhile, other Singaporeans are eagerly looking forward to reunions with their relatives in Malaysia, without the hassle of testing and having to book designated flights or bus services.
Cleaner Rene Woo, 39, had been living with her Malaysian fiance and his parents in Johor prior to the pandemic. They used to commute to Singapore daily for work, but had to relocate here when borders between the two countries shut in March 2020.
The couple have not returned to their home in Johor since, in spite of the introduction of the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme. Ms Woo said VTL tickets were hard to get, and that she had wanted to avoid Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction tests as they made her giddy.
"I was stunned and unable to speak when I heard about the easing of border restrictions... I couldn't believe we are free to travel again like before," said Ms Woo.
"We miss our home and family, and we miss the long car trips to another city. Strangely enough, I miss his parents' nagging too."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.