A First in History: An Empty Malaysia-Singapore Causeway?!

Hey everyone!

The Johor-Singapore Causeway is a perennial link between Singapore and Malaysia, and is known to be one of the world’s busiest border crossings. Situated in Woodlands (on the most northern end of Singapore), it is known to Singaporeans simply as the “Causeway”. However, a worldwide pandemic has literally stopped countries from functioning properly and causing lockdowns. As such, the Causeway closed down on 18 March 2020, effectively preventing anyone from travelling to and from Singapore. We took the opportunity to visit the Causeway shortly after it had closed, and we were treated to a sight never seen before in history.

It is estimated that about 350,000 people cross the checkpoint every day, and for various reasons; many Malaysians work in Singapore but prefer to stay with their families in Johor, and would have to wake up very early just to queue up at the immigration customs to come into Singapore. For Singaporeans, it is often an opportunity to get away from the bustling city life, to engage in feasting (Johor has many cuisines to tuck oneself into!) and shopping as well.

As such, when the Malaysia lockdown was announced, people were naturally worried for the situation, as many commuted to Singapore on a daily basis for work. On the other hand, Malaysians who lived in Singapore also wished to return to their home. As a result, the day before the lockdown was to begin, the Causeway saw massive queues and jams.

After the closure of the immigration customs, the Causeway was an eerie, strangely empty crossing, and this had never happened in its history. However, it was not completely shut down as imagined, as critical supplies would continue to move between both countries.

Given this historic moment, we decided to head down to Woodlands (in the north of Singapore) to try and catch a glimpse ourselves. We had our trusty Fujifilm GFX50R, the Mamiya RB67 with modified CB67 (Polaroid) back, and a camera which we have not yet featured on our website until now, a modified Kodak No. 2A Folding Autographic Brownie (“Kodak Brownie“), which is able to shoot Fujifilm Instax Wide film. Let’s carry on with our journey below!

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The road leading to the Woodlands Checkpoint was eerily empty. On a weekend, cars would be filling this road leading to the customs.

We had to search for a public housing flat that was high enough and which had the perfect view of the Causeway. On our first try, we found it!

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It was quite a sight, seeing the empty Causeway (left). Normally, the roads would have been full of cars passing to and fro.

 

 

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Taken with the Kodak Brownie. We note that instax photos (monochrome in this case) taken with the Kodak Brownie tend to have a softer tone to it.
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The modified Kodak Brownie in all its glory! The interesting thing is that the Kodak Brownie uses the “US aperture system”, so we have had to translate that into the modern aperture. For example, “f/4” on the Kodak Brownie is actually f/8 on modern aperture settings.
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Taken with the Mamiya RB67. This was with an expired batch of Polaroid film, so the colours were blue-ish.
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Taken with the Mamiya RB67. Another public housing flat in the distance; beyond, the Straits of Johor.

We decided to walk around the neighbourhood and see if we could capture a different perspective of the Causeway. Our findings were surprising, to say the least!

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Stray cats were easy to spot, as they lounged about near void decks, perhaps seeking sustenance from humans passing by.
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Pigeons: a very common bird found in Singapore urban estates; these creatures are fearless and would charge when they see food lying about!
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And the most surprising of the lot… wild monkeys cheekily perched on rooftops, seeking some sort of savoury treat!
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As you can see, these really fearless creatures would climb into corridors and are known to be quite “hand-sy”, grabbing food at a moment’s notice!
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Taken with the Kodak Brownie.
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Some young kids were excitedly watching the monkeys as they scampered about, deftly climbing the walls and railing.
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Taken with the Kodak Brownie; tried to catch Damian but he moved away a bit quickly!
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More stray cats! This time, we spotted several seeking refuge near/on some public chairs.

At this time, it suddenly rained, so we proceeded to the nearest housing flat and went upstairs to the highest floor. Lo and behold, it started pouring!

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The pouring rain seemed to provide a different frame of mind regarding the closure of the Causeway, as if the weather had chased all the cars away.
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Thankfully, the rain subsided quickly, and the waters stilled for a moment. We were able to see the reflection of the opposing towering blocks clearly!
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Eventually we got down, to witness the sunrays peeking through the cloudy sky. In the background, the Woodlands Checkpoint.
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Taken with the Mamiya RB67; as this red frame Polaroid film was also expired, the blue-ish tones mixed with the bright orange sunset to produce a pink/purple effect on the image!

Since we were in Woodlands, we decided to visit the nearby Woodlands Jetty, which is part of the Woodlands Waterfront Park! From the jetty, we were able to see parts of Johor, and is in fact the nearest point to our neighbours.

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We arrived at the right time, with this beautiful sunset greeting as, as the golden rays fell over the Causeway.
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The Woodlands Jetty stretches quite a distance, and you can find many people taking a stroll in the evenings.
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Taken with the Mamiya RB 67. The black lines on the right side of the Polaroid is due to the slightly incompatible fit of the modified CB70 back, which will have appeared in all Polaroid film taken with the Mamiya RB67. 
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Taken with the Mamiya RB67; despite the shortcomings as mentioned above, the Mamiya RB67 is the perfect camera for capturing objects in isolation, such as this float.
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Fishing is a popular pasttime for Singaporeans living near the coastal regions, and the jetty is no different! We saw several people hoisting their fishing rods about, looking for a spot to let down their lines.
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Taken with the Mamiya RB67; a slightly crooked view of the golden rays as the sun set.
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The sunset was stunning; unfortunately a light drizzle forced us to leave and seek shelter, but as they say, the best sunsets always come after the rain!

With the current pandemic affecting the entire world, we can only hope and pray that in time, we will start to see life return to normal. For now, we made do with quite a remarkable sight: a virtually empty Causeway, with no one allowed to pass through it.

Separately, since 7 April 2020, Singapore has instituted a “soft lockdown”, restricting movement of Singaporeans, closing most workplaces and all recreational sites. We are affected by these measures, and therefore most of our entries from April onwards will be dated i.e. not actually occurring before or near the time when they are actually posted/updated. We also urge all Singaporeans to stay safe and abide by these measures, as they are key to minimising the impact of the virus. To everyone else from abroad, we too urge that you stay safe and do your part in containing the spread of this contagious virus.

Till next time,

Damianwithsandra

 

 

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