Johor, for all its shabbiness, was a happy place.
Every second person you met worked in Singapore, legal or illegally.
It’s a cashed up little town.
‘We cross the causeway to take their money then do most of the fun stuff here.’
Fun stuff? I could just imagine.
On the other hand, the Singaporeans come over here for shopping.
‘They’ll buy up big on things like coffee and chocolates, and take it back to their little secure dwellings. ‘
To understand Singapore, was to understand Johor.
That much I knew. And every Johorian will tell you the same.
‘They think they are using us, but it’s the other way around,’ said one of my cafe buddies, a Malay who worked as a cleaner at Changi Airport.
He continued to enlighten me.
‘We earn the top Singapore dollars and get three times as mileage in our own country.’
He said buying anything in Singapore was bad form.
There was some good working logic in that argument.
‘Go down and check out the land reclamation project, the code name for ‘The Other Singapore’,’ said Mustafa. Not only was he as dodgy as hell, he was doing his best to get my Ringgits with his superb milky tea and Indian cuisine.
It was only two hundred meters out from the original coastline when I was here last.
‘It’s nearly 500 meters now,’ he says, ‘or about 50 meters short of the line that divides the two countries on the Strait of Johor.’
The cheeky buggers, I thought. Maybe this was Malaysia’s warped answer to the long Woodland Jetty in Singapore that faced Malaysia like an accusation. Inferiority complexes are expressed in many ways in Asia.
‘The Sultan has backed this new city,’ informs Mustafa. ‘He said if he can’t get Singapore back, he’ll build his own.’
See what I mean?
Saudi-backed funding? I asked
‘Of course,’ he says. ‘The King didn’t visit Johor just to buy a petrochemical company.’
Singapore is fucked then if this is true.
‘It’s the Sultan’s aim,’ he says. ‘He’s even inviting all the Chinese from Singapore over to Johor. He says they’ll be better treated than under any Mandarin dictatorship. ‘
Singapore was doubly fucked.
I was liking the Sultan of Johor more and more.
Mustafa went on.
‘Johor is the fastest growing Malaysian city. Many Singaporeans are jumping ship and buying up here.’
Johor the shabby now the beacon of Asian modernism.
I could see it creeping that way very fast.
‘We also have even cheaper labor here,’ he continues, saying it’s ‘another incentive for Singaporeans to invest without the worry of the Nanny State taking their cut.’
Oh the Nanny State, I said, as I inhaled deeply on a cigarette inside his shit hole restaurant that comfortably lived up to its reputation.
‘You can’t do that shit in Singapore, can you?’
That’s the Johor’s drawcard, I said, as I threw another butt on his dirty floor, not even bothering to put it out with the toe of my foot.
Mustafa said he use to be a taxi driver in Singapore.
Now he’s a Jahorian and Paki to boot. He gives me that look to watch myself. He must have been speaking to Abdul.
‘The demand for cheap labor feeding Singapore construction sites was too lucrative,’ he says. ‘So I left my brother Abdul over the causeway to take care of transporting them.’
And I bet you cut those holes in the fences, on both entrances to the causeway?
‘For a dumb white tourist, you know a thing or two.’
Now let’s not go there, I said.
There are no secrets in Johor. It has got that ‘we do things our own way’ feel to it. Singapore should be worried.’They are,’ said Mustafa. ‘Johor isn’t a copy of Singapore. We’ll never let any Mandarins get in the way of our Muslim pleasures.’
The Indonesian whores were out in force tonight, and so were the Thai and Vietnamese women of the night. Meldrum Street was booming with drunken Singaporean Indians and circumspect Chinese Singaporeans who were carousing the street bars.
The friendly owner of the world’s dirtiest toilet says at least the Singaporeans know they won’t be fucked over in Johor like they are in Batam, Singapore’s ‘whore’ island in Indonesia, a 45 minutes ferry ride.
Only if they don’t act the maggot, I said.
Johor prided itself on its sense of fairness and the cheaper whores thanks to the dodgy Chinese Malaysians, the fixers of the ‘other’ businesses that Singaporeans are famed for using.
Mustafa says by the time they put in piers on the land reclamation project, ‘you’ll be able to throw a fishing line over to Singapore.’
It’s a metaphor the Sultan is certainly following.
‘The Singaporeans smell money,’ he says. ‘When they found out that the King of Saudi Arabia threw in a few billion US for the ‘Other Singapore’ project,’ many of the loyal Mandarins jumped ship.’
It’s exciting times for Johor.
I wonder what Singapore’s response will be?
‘They’ll just keep their heads in the sand,’ speculates Mustafa. ‘By the time they realize what has happened, it will be too late. The only traffic on the causeway will be coming from Singapore.’
And who has invested the other US 3.5 billion for ‘The Other Singapore’?
‘Najib, of course,’ he says, winking at my clever question. ‘Everyone knows he wants to out do Mahathir’s Twin Towers. This project is the only thing that both the Sultan and he agrees upon, to screw the Singaporeans over at their own game.’
I’m getting this off my chest. My cock’s bigger than both Najib and Mahathir’s.
Mustafa goes quiet. It’s a long pause as if he’s buying some time to process what I’ve just said.
To help him along, I say it’s s a pissing contest.
‘You are very good,’ he repeats, ‘ A pissing contest, you are very good.’
I’ll take credit for that, I said. And your conversation shined some light on some dark corners.
‘No no,’ he says, ‘the dark corners are in Kuala Lumper.’ I knew exactly what he meant.
And the next tee tarek is on you, I say as I excuse myself to take a slash in the word’s dirtiest toilet. Even the blue neon light couldn’t disguise the rancid smell of piss. But I’m not going to hold that against Mustafa.