Land border reopens today: Woman who last saw her father alive 2 years ago finally returns to Johor, to visit his grave

Kartina Hashim (left) and view of the queue at Woodlands Checkpoint (right) towards BKE on April 1, 2022, at midnight.
PHOTO: Kartina Hashim, One Motoring

Last night, Singapore permanent resident Kartina Hashim and her husband turned up at Woodlands some two hours before the borders reopened at the stroke of midnight, all eager to travel to Johor Bahru to visit their family.

"I'm super excited. I can't wait to see my family. I don't know how to describe this feeling, but I think I'll cry after reaching home," said this 41-year-old in an interview with AsiaOne. 

By 10.50pm, more than 200 people, mainly Malaysians, were waiting patiently at Woodlands and hoping to beat the infamous congestion, reported the Straits Times.

For this couple, being kiasu (meaning afraid to lose in Hokkien) and doing some pre-planning certainly helped - once the borders reopened, it took them just 15 minutes to reach their destination, after clearing immigration and customs at both sides of the Causeway.

"I wasn't expecting it, but I'm very happy and satisfied with how smooth it was," she said, adding that tucking into a plate of prata for supper is next on the agenda. 

Kartina Hashim and her husband waiting in the car at the Causeway.
PHOTO: Kartina Hashim

The last time this administrative executive was in Malaysia was back in March 2020 when she returned home briefly to take care of her sick father.

He died in December that year but Kartina was unable to make that journey to Malaysia as borders between the two countries had closed.

Today, she can finally return to her hometown, this time to pay respects at his grave.

These jubilant motorbike riders at the Causeway were among the first to cross the border.
PHOTO: AsiaOne reader

From today, travellers like Kartina who are fully vaccinated can finally move freely between the two countries by land without testing or quarantine, a step-up from previous arrangements where only about 4,000 people were allowed to travel on designated vaccinated travel lane (VTL) buses daily.

Prior to Covid-19 times, some 415,000 people crossed the Woodlands Causeway and Tuas Second Link daily, according to the Straits Times. 

The Causeway on April 1, 2022 at 6am where the queue has abated since the rush at midnight.
PHOTO: One Motoring

Although Kartina had expected traffic to be abysmal at the Causeway today, the thought of postponing the trip to another day was simply out of the question.

"Since when is there no traffic jam on the Causeway? I'm already mentally and physically prepared for the worst," Kartina had said a day earlier, before making the journey to Woodlands last night.

Once back in Malaysia, she plans to stay there over the weekend but hasn't decided when she'll return to Singapore yet. 

Akhirnya setelah 2 tahun penantian.. Boleh sambut Ramadhan dengan keluarga.. Standby ni siap2 👇🥰 https://shope.ee/q3cjSRU5A

Posted by Sukan Star TV - sstv.my on Thursday, March 31, 2022

For many commuters like her, the reopening of the borders (video above), including the Woodlands Causeway, will mean braving Asia's busiest land crossing once again. 

Strangely enough, Kartina fondly reminisces being stuck on this land border, traffic jam and all. 

"I actually miss the feeling of rushing to avoid a traffic jam", she said, adding that she hopes to shuttle daily between Singapore and Malaysia – like how it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.

chingshijie@asiaone.com