Around the world by bike
(2 494km - 51days)
26 December - Hat Yai – Malaysia border – Kuala Perlis - 110km
Immediately the difference was clearly visible, Buddhist monasteries were replaced with mosques and women go around fully clothed and always with a headscarf.
I felt that I was already in the jungle as it was hot, humid and wet! We headed straight for the coast to the small village of Kuala Perlis in the far North-Western corner of Malaysia, where one can get a ferry to the nearby island of Langkawi.
I was a bit shocked at the prices of things in Malaysia and the quality of the rooms! Ooo we were so spoilt in China and Thailand!
27-28 December - Kuala Perlis – Langkawi - By ferry (plus 26 k’s cycling)
At last we can take a break so it was straight to the nearest island. Wow, it was so scenic, straight out of out a tourist brochure, unfortunately so were the prices. We cycled a short way along the coast until we found a real beachy area, but once again it was pricy, touristy and not really what I had in mind. No beach hut, as I imagined, but unfortunately only a cheap room at a backpacker place way across the road from the beach.
29 December - Langkawi Island - 90km
I'd decided to take a break from traveling with Ernest, and this morning I packed up and moved on. I had a wonderful day cycling around the island but could not find any cheap accommodation. So I returned to Pantai Tengah, just up the road from where we'd stayed the previous two nights.
The local ATM was out of cash so I had to cycle all the way to the Airport (only 20km) to get some money before I could relax and settle in to Zackary’s. Accommodation was really hard to come by, as it was school holidays and the place was packed with Malay tourist from the big cities. The beach was also packed with people all swimming fully clothed.
30 December - Pantai Tengah Beach
There was quite a large Duty Free shop just down the road, selling cheap beer (not something you find in Malaysia) so most people bought their beers there and then sat around the pool talking nonsense.
I had a relaxing day on the beach and sat talking to the other guests all evening, I went for a late supper, to the Indian Restaurant on the corner with Kirin and Debbie and then it was back to Zackary for some more chatting.
31 December - Pantai Tengah Beach
I stayed on at Zackary as it was such a nice place and so were the people. I borrowed Neil and Emma’s notebook charger and was happy to see it was only my charger and not the laptop itself that was broken.
More beers were consumed as the evening went on. We sat around until midnight, wished each other happy New Year, and went on the wait for the partial eclipse of the moon which was only at around 3h00. So it was 5h00 before I went to bed.
1 January - Pantai Tengah Beach
Needless to say I slept until very late and then went looking for some spicy Indian food, which was quite easy with the local Indian shop just down the road. The Roti Canai was delicious but did little for my heavy head.
Back at Zachery’s the rest of the group looked no better and everyone was lying around the pool nursing headaches.
2 January - Pantai Tengah Beach, Langkawi – Alor Star - 72km
I was rather reluctant to leave the island as it was very relaxing but I packed my bike, had some coffee, and ate the leftover bread, so it was fairly late by the time I set off. It was 22km to the ferry port and although the ferry was to leave at 12.30 it was much later by the time we got away. Once on the road I followed the coast to Alor Setar which was much closer than expected. The road was scenic and flat with the coast on the one side and backwaters on the other side.
Once in Alor Setar I found a room, had a shower and rinsed my cycling clothes. I went looking for a map of Malaysia, still to no avail. I also tried to find a charger for my laptop but that was just as unsuccessful. Instead found some very interesting food. Wrapped in newspaper, some in a pyramid shape and others in a flat parcel. I had no idea what was inside, it turned out to be fried noodles and some very hot rice.
3 January - Alor Star – Georgetown, Penang Island - 130km
I felt remarkably energetic and took the small roads along the coast (or tried) as it is not a good idea to take small roads when you don’t have a map. I only went wrong a few times but nothing serious. I did however get caught in a very heavy downpour and got totally soaked. 10km down the road it abruptly stopped and even the road was bone dry.
The road was fairly flat past very dense forests - it felt that I was in a real jungle. What a multi cultural society Malaysia is. I cycled past Buddhist temples, Chinese temples, Hindu temples (good to see old Ganesh again) and of course the ever present mosques.
Once I reached Butterworth it was easy to find the ferry to Penang Island. It was a fairly short ferry ride on a very packed and crowded ferry to Georgetown (the main town on the island). From the ferry Georgetown looked like a large city with lots of high-rise buildings. Just the short cycle from the jetty to a local hostel made me realize that there was more to Georgetown than high-rise building. Although Georgetown is a modern city the “old town” has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site and has therefore been preserved in its original state.
I found a fairly cheap room with loads of nearby foodstalls and feasted on both Indian and Chinese food.
Lo and behold, will Neil and Emma (whom I met at Zackary) not walk into the same hostel, we had a good old chat and it was real good to see them again.
4 January - Georgetown
What an interesting place Georgetown turned out to be. There were architectural styles from every corner of the earth, Indian, Chinese, Arab, Malay, Burmese and even Victorian, I even spotted a church or two. The most amazing was the Railway station, a beautiful Neo-classical style building, but without a railway line. What were they thinking? I explored the narrow alleys and interesting Indian and Chinese quarters, complete with the best Indian and Chinese food you can wish for. I even found my favorite Chinese steamed rise buns (not as good as the real thing in China though)
At last I found a charger for my notebook!! Now I could type away to my hearts delight again. Hopefully I’ll be better at keeping my diary up to date. I even got a new sim for my phone and can now be in touch with my family again, who are not all that good with the facebook thing.
5 January - Georgetown
It’s no wander they have declared Georgetown a UNESCO World Heritage site, as the old quarters with all its temples and alleys is a potpourri of nationalities, building styles and food. I spent one more day just wandering around the place and eating at all the roadside stalls in Little India and Little China.
While sitting in the sidewalk café of the hostel Ernest came cycling past but then proceeded to find a cheap room somewhere else.
6 January - Georgetown – Taiping - 115km
It was time to move on again and it was 9h00 by the time I got away. So I continued on over the bridge joining the island with the mainland. Wow, what a long bridge it was, easily 8km long, it must surely be one of the longest bridges in the world. I headed south past mangrove swamps and bird sanctuaries. It is so lush and densely forested that it feels all the time that one is in the jungle.
It struck me how different the mosques are from country to country; here they seem to be mostly yellow(ish) in color, while in other countries they seem to be mostly blue or green.
I got caught in the most severe of monsoon storms one can imagine, complete with lightning and roaring thunder. I took shelter at a roadside stall with just a rickety umbrella for cover. The lady proceeded to feed me endlessly while I waited for the worst of the storm to blow over. Once the storm subsided I continued with a rather full belly to Taiping. The people are just so nice, I asked a man on a motorbike where I could find accommodation for the night and he escorted me all the way to a local joint where I could get a room. At the hotel they were really helpful as well, and allowed me to use their washing machine to wash my dirty and wet clothes. I was surprised they even let me in as I was dripping pools of water all over there clean tiles!
7 January - Taiping to Ipoh - 88km
Another good day on the road, at least there were no thunderstorms like the previous day. The road was as scenic as anyone can which for, so I pedaled along quite happily. Although Malaysia is quite expensive (compared to what I have become used to in South East Asia), one can still find a cheap meal along the road.
I just had to look out for the places where the truck drivers take their meals and then I know there was a good cheap meal to be had. I spotted a few trucks all parked in front of a “Dhaba” so I pulled in. I had the best curried pineapple and rice ever.
The big meal I had along the way made me rather lazy and once I reached Ipoh, I found myself a room (very nice I must admit, with bath tub and all).
I was rather disappointed to discover that my notebook has finally packed up. I was so mad at this stupid thing that I went to the shop and bought a new one!!!
Back in my room I could just not believe what I had done. Spending all that money on a silly notebook, while I’m quite sure I could have had my old one fixed. I can’t even think of anything to justify my irresponsible spending spree!! Normally I’m quite good at that.
8 January - Ipoh – Tapah - 58km
I packed both notebooks, as I felt too bad to just dump the old one! So I had two of the darnned things, as if I didn’t have enough stuff in my bags already! Well, maybe I could give it to someone.
It was an unbelievably scenic day with a number of very ornate cave temples along the way. Soon I reached Tapah where I had to turn off to go to the Cameron Highlands. I understood that it was only about 60km to the Highlands, but as everyone had warned me that it was a steep uphill all the way, I decided to stay in Tapah for the night and start the climb in the morning.
9 January - Tapah – Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands) - 60km
What a super, super, stunning day it was. All though it was uphill all the way, nothing came of the serious climbing that people warned me about. It was supposed to be a 1000 meter climb but I’m not convinced of that. The road twisted and turned through dense forests and past waterfalls and vast tea plantations. Gorgeous! Well after reading the following I was at first a bit apprehensive about the route.
“The distance from Tapah to Ringlet is 51km. The hill becomes steeper gradually. While it is still rideable for the first 25km, it seems to be much steeper after Lata Iskandar and goes way up to Ringlet where you will go for a downhill before it turns into a nightmare by the time you pass by Habu. It is advisable that you arrive at Ringlet before 12 noon as it will take another 13km to Tanah Rata.
While it sounds easy to climb from Ringlet to Tanah Rata (as the distance is the mere 13km), do not get misguided as it has the steepest hills here. The journey will take a lot of cursing for the not-so-fit cyclist or my recommendation is - make sure you have a SOS contact just-in-case.”
Well it was nothing like that or the hills in China. From Ringlet to Tanah Rata took about an hour and a half and I made it to Tanah Rata in good time and arrived just before 15h00 and before the storm came in, so a good day all in all.
10 January - Tanah Rata
I had good intentions of going for a walk in the forest, but somehow I managed to do nothing all day long. Kang Lodge, where I stayed, was comfortable and reasonably priced so I hang around and managed to do nothing. I did, however, find out that there was a road via Gua Musang to Taman Negara National Park. My map did not show any roads so I did not know what to expect. I also heard that there was no water or food along the way and other people who'd cycled that route had to camp along the road. With no stove in my posession I loaded up with a loaf of bread, cheese slices and some peanut butter.
11 January - Tanah Rata – Gua Musang - 130km
I packed my loaf of bread, peanut butter and some biscuits and left Tanah Rata at around 10h00. I soon found myself on a nice smooth, wide road with a roomy shoulder. I couldn’t believe that it was not indicated on the map! The road was rather hilly with steep ups and downs about all day long. There was a rather nice downhill of about 10km long and I felt rather reckless, flying down the hill at a high speed. The rest of the day was spent crawling up hills at 6km/h and flying down at 50km/h.
The day was very scenic again with dense forests lining both sides of the road. Logging is alive and well here and all day long trucks loaded with huge logs could be seen along the road. So, maybe the forest won’t be there much longer. Maybe that’s why the road is not indicated on the map, maybe they don’t want people to see them chopping down the rain forest.
It was not as wild as I had expected, I did spot some nice potential campsites along the road, but it was a bit early for camping so I carried on until I reached Gua Musang. What a large town it was with hotels, shops etc, etc. I was at first a bit disappointed as I was all geared up for the wilderness (ha, ha, with my loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter)!! I did, however, enjoy the lovely hot shower in my room. The room was a bit pricy but came with TV and Wi-Fi, (sigh) what happened to the wilderness I envisaged?
12 January - Gua Musang – Kuala Lipis - 121km
Phew, another very hilly day!!! I pedaled as fast I could down the hills to try and make it up and over the next hill without having to gear right down, but alas, that did not work. With my loaded bike I just lost momentum as soon as I hit the slightest incline. Anyone watching must have thought, “what is that women on about?” At least no one can accuse me of not trying! Up and down I went and I encountered the mother of all hills half way to Kuala Lipis. In the space of 5km I saw 7 broken down trucks, indication of the severity of the gradient.
The road followed the boundary of the National Park so it was very scenic, complete with monkeys and small alligators (or whatever those things were). This was rainforest area and very humid, I sweated buckets slaving up the hills. Most of the forest along the road has, however, been cut down to make way for rubber and palm oil plantations.
I was rather happy to reach Kuala Lipis as my legs were starting to feel rather tired. I found a nice room (air con and all) and enjoyed a much needed shower. Definitely time to rinse the cycling clothes!! Then off to find some Roti Canai (roti with dhal and potato curry) or nasi goring (fried noodles).
13 January - Kuala Lipis – Jerantut - 61km
My map is useless!! I can just as well dump the silly thing. The distance between Kuala Lipis and Jerantut looked just a little shorter than the previous days, but (thankfully) it was only 61km. The hills were even steeper and more frequent that the previous days, but at least it was a short day. I took it easy and had some really good roti canai along the way. A stop like that always came with the same comments, “You’re alone?” normally asked in amazement. “How old are you” (even more amazement if you tell them) and “Where are you from”. Truck drivers stop and offer lifts and are just as astounded if one declines their offer. This day was no different and the truck driver assured me that he was going to Jerantut anyway and that there are many hills along the way. He could just not understand why I did not want to make use of his kind offer.
I arrived in Jerantut fairly early, found some nasi goring and then it was time to get some info on the national park.
14 January - Jerantut – Kuala Tahan - 71km
I changed my plans slightly, as I was going to leave my bike and bags in Jerantut and then take the river ferry to Kuala Tahan. There was however a good road going all the way to Kuala Tahan, so I did what I’m used to, and cycled there. I found that a lot easier as then I had all my stuff with me instead of packing a small day pack with just the necessary items.
I thought it would also give me the opportunity of cycling through the forest and experiencing it firsthand. Most of the way was, however, past palm oil plantations; I was a bit disappointed and could hardly conjure up any sympathy for a loaded logging truck that had careered off the road along the way. It was nevertheless a beautiful ride and closer to Kuala Tahan the real forest started appearing.
The Taman Negara forest is said to be over 130 million years old and I was eager to explore it. So upon arrival I booked myself on a night walk into the forest. Once again I was a little disappointed as the walk was along a walkway and could hardly be called a jungle. We are so spoiled in Africa where there are so many real wild places and so much wildlife!! I saw nothing that I could not have seen in my own garden at night back home. Well, that said, I must admit it was still rather nice just walking in the dark, listening to the night sounds and smelling the wet and damp forest.
15 January - Kuala Tahan (Taman Negara National Park)
I was rather tempted to do the 3-day trek into the inner jungle, but decided against it. Instead I packed my little day-pack with my peanut butter sandwiches, some water, and a raincoat, and set off map in hand to hand explore the jungle on my own.
I followed the touristy walkway for a while, but soon found myself alone heading up the mountain on a much less traveled route. The forest was dead quiet with just the occasional chirp if a cricket or the call of the colorful pheasants to remind me that I was not all alone. Needless to say it was extremely hot and humid but I continued up the mountain till I reached the top and had some lovely views of the surrounding forests.
I spent most of the day wandering around the dense forest until it was time to head back, catch the ferry back across the river, and find some food.
16 January - Kuala Tahan (Taman Negara National Park)
I managed to do absolutely nothing the entire day. What a pleasure. I played around with my photos (just to discover there was absolutely nothing good at all), ate, and sat around. In the process I came up with the idea to take the ferry boat back to Jerantut instead of cycling back the same way, and therefore still have a chance of doing the river trip. I booked the boat for 9am the next morning and was fairly happy that I did not have to back track the 70km to Jerantut, which is always such a drag.
17 January - Kuala Tahan (Taman Negara National Park) – Jerantut - By boat (+20km from the boat jetty to town)
After a breakfast of fried noodles I was on the boat with loads of other travellers back to Jerantut. It was a most scenic ride through the dense forest back to the Tembeling boat jetty. Once there everyone around helped with the bike and bags to get it off the boat and up the stairs. People are just so nice, and then it was back on the hilly road to Jerantut.
In Jerantut I stocked up with some essentials i.e. coffee, noodles and soup. My stinginess made me buy the cheapest 3-in-1 coffee sachets they had. Back in my room, however, I discovered that it was not coffee at all but, wait for this……. tea! Have you ever heard of such a thing? Instant tea???? How much more instant can one get than a tea bag?? Well there I had it, powdered tea with milk and sugar!
18 January - Jerantut – Maran - 90km
I must have looked quite a sight, as even the village dogs took to their heels. One poor dog ran for its life and never looked back once until it was safely under the gate at its home.
It was a relatively short ride to Maran where I wanted to see a famous Hindu temple. Threatening clouds made me opt for accommodation in Maran (very expensive) on the golf course. What a view I had. Nothing came of the threatening clouds but it was still a good excuse for spending that much money on accommodation! At least there was a cheap Roti Canai shop around the corner where I could gorge myself.
19 January - Maran – Pekan - 110 km
I packed at leisure and tried to take some pictures of the birdlife on the golf course. People taking wildlife pictures must surely have Job’s patience, as after 5 min I gave up and rather stuck to what I’m used to.
Again the lush vegetation continued and I spotted a lot more life along the road that day, monkeys, ducks, birds etc, - even a few resorts, all looking very nice with wooden chalets and some even offer camping.
Malaysia is such a multi-cultural country, the day before was a distinctly Indian day with loads of Hindu temples and Indian food along the day. This day, however, was more a Chinese day with Chinese temples and Chinese food. I could not cycle past the steamed buns without stopping and bagging some for the road.
By the time I reached the east coast at Pekan I called it a day, as I could not see anything on my map in close proximity to Pekan. (The map is rather useless so that did not mean that there was nothing else in the area).
20 January - Pekan – Rompin - 117 km
The road hugged the coastline and from time to time I cycled along the coast and at other times through the forest. Again it was a day I felt that it was just me and the many troops of monkeys in the wet and watery jungle. I just love Malaysia.
I turned off the road to explore the beaches and found the most fantastic Beach and Golf Resort, beautiful, just a bit pricy for me. So it was back to the main road and on to Rompin, where I found cheaper accommodation. I was absolutely starving by the time I got there and went shopping. I was so hungry I could eat the spices and came away with a bag filled with foodstuff that no human being could possibly eat in one day. Apparently I thought I needed all that for supper!
21 January 2010 - Rompin – Mersing - 62 km
I knew it was going to be a short ride to Mersing, so I packed up slowly and lazily cycled south to Mersing. I stopped along the road for a bite to eat at a roadside eatery. I was quite sure that there was meat in that dish, but as Ernest was not there to eat it on my behalf I finished it off.
I soon reached Mersing but was too late for the ferry to Tioman Island, so I took a room, bought my ferry ticket (RM 35 one way) for the next day and relaxed.
22-24 January - Mersing – Tioman Island - By ferry
The ferry was not until 11h30, so it was a lazy start to the day. I got on the ferry (paid 10RM extra for the bike) and in less than 2 hours I was on the most idyllic island I could wish for. The ferry stopped at various locations on the island but I got off at Tekek, the main village. In no time I had a bungalow on the beach and could just sit and watch the waves roll up right to my doorstep.
It was out of season so I could negotiate a good rate for the room. It was rather quiet with very few visitors and therefore just me, the beach and my hammock - glorious.
I stayed on the next day and did as little as possible, except for sipping a tax free beer and watching the ocean. By the 24th I got off my backside and walked (with Niklas and Benedikte whom I met on the ferry to Tioman) over the mountain to the other side of the island where we had a light lunch. It was a lovely walk through dense forests and past waterfalls - we even spotted a monkey or two.
25 January - Tiomand Island – Mersing (return ferry trip)
It was time to leave the island and get back to business. I’d e-mailed Ernest that I would be in Mersing on the 25th (he never got the message) so I thought I’d better get back there. Once again the ferry was to leave at 11h00 but it was much later by the time we left.
Arriving at Mersing I found Ernest at the ferry terminal (it was pure co-incidence that he was there at that time, saw the ferry arriving, and decided to wait and see if I was not perhaps one of the passengers). He was looking a bit worse for wear after a month traveling around Malaysia with hardly any money. I took pity and invited him to share a room where he could have a shower, do some laundry, and sleep on a bed. I went to get some t/a food (he ate like a horse), and I also got him a new saddle and a rear tyre for his bike (after the 3rd blow-out in as many weeks he couldn’t afford another tyre and had been cycling for 4 days on a tyre sewn up with fishing line).
26 January - Mersing
The previous day I’d already noticed that Ernest’s feet and ankles were unusually swollen (perhaps from malnutrition as he’d been living off rice for the past few weeks). This morning I thought it may be Elephantitus – and it got worse as the day progressed! I fed him multi-vitamins and all the take-away food I could find, including roti canai, to see if it would make him recover.
So, we decided to stay on in Mersing for the day, also so that Ernest could pay some attention to the bikes. I bought myself a new saddle as the old one had seen better days - hoping this was not going to be a pain in the butt!! I also needed to do some laundry and update my web site.
27 January - Mersing – Kota Tinggi - 95km
Ernest’s legs seemed much better, the swelling had gone down and he looked nearly normal again. It was a real slow start to the day but eventually we got underway, heading south towards Singapore. It was an undulating road past oil-palm plantations, with a few interesting bits and pieces along the way. We had to take shelter from the rain a few times which is always a good excuse for a sweet cup of tea from a roadside stall.
We found a real good hotel room for 32 Ringet with air-con and hot water. I was absolutely ravished as I’d had no breakfast and could not get down to the food stalls quickly enough. This was definitely a Chinese area as there was no roti canai to be had - only Chinese rice buns, and Chinese food, which I truly love.
My new saddle was fairly comfortable, but my backside was still sore, I guess it will take a while before it is completely ridden in.
28 January - Kota Tinggi – Kampong Rengit - 84km
Once again it as 11h00 by the time we left. We had to hide from the rain at the local bus and taxi stands a few times but the road was good and the weather very humid as usual. It was a leisurely cycle as there was no rush at all. We headed for the coast and in the process of looking for a nice camping spot we found ourselves in the seaside village of Rengit (with the help of a nice tail wind) where we opted for a room again – we’re getting so spoilt. Rengit is located at the south-eastern point of Malaysia close to Singapore where we planned to go the next morning.
Everything in Malaysia seemed oversized, including the bananas (called pisang, can you believe that) ants, and cockroaches. In fact there seems to be quite a few words that are similar to those in Afrikaans, including “pomelo” and “kampong” referring to a village. Then, on the other hand Malaysia also has a history of Dutch influence, so it’s maybe not that strange.
29 January - Rengit – Singapore - 55km
It was a short 17 km scenic cycle along the South China Sea coast to the ferry port. There we found that the regular big ferry doesn’t take bicycles, so we had to wait for the “bum boat” (it only leaves when there are 12 passengers aboard – but it was a lot cheaper than the ferry). The slow little boat took nearly an hour to cross the straits of Johor, and technically we arrived in Singapore just before we’d left Malaysia (there’s a time difference of one hour). All that was required for a 30 day stay in Singapore was a stamp in the passport.
From the ferry port to the city centre we followed a very scenic cycle path through parkland and along the coast. We spotted some fantastic camping along the way, but unfortunately it is not for foreigners. We continued on to the city centre but took a wrong turn and found ourselves in an expressway tunnel somewhere under the city. The traffic police was quick to spot us and load us up on their truck, dropping us somewhere else away from the forbidden routes (they strictly follow the many rules, and we were lucky not to be fined). With all this shunting back and forth we had no idea where we were, but eventually found the suburb of Little India. Gosh, how expensive things were!! We searched and searched for a cheap room but there was none to be had, and by 20h00 we had to settle for the cheapest overpriced room we could find.
By that time I was starving and could not wait to get some food from the Indian restaurant downstairs. Price did not matter, I just had to find food urgently.
30 January - Singapore
We walked around the city, but at 6 SA Rand to the Singapore dollar things are far too expensive for us. Electronic items are also not as cheap as expected and I’m sure one can find things even cheaper in Malaysia. The city is large and modern to such an extent that I thought it to be rather soulless, just another big, busy city with a busy harbor, airport, shopping malls and boulevards. High rise buildings dominate the skyline and even Little India seemed far more organized than the original “Big India”.
The Singaporeans are busy people who always seem to be in a hurry, of course, with all the electronic devices one can imagine stuck to their ears. There was no shortage of designer stores and fancy eateries which we could only stare at through the windows. Around just about every corner one can find Mc Donalds, KFC, and 7-Eleven.
I felt that Singapore is overrated and way too expensive, so it was time to get out of there in a hurry (i.e. the following day), making this the shortest time I’ve spent in any country.
31 January - Singapore – Pontian Kecil -103km
After a rather costly 2-day excursion to Singapore, we beat a hasty retreat back to Malaysia. It was an easy route through the suburbs, and we made it to the North of the island in good time. It was a Sunday morning and therefore lots of cyclists along the road, all wanting to have a little chat on the move – one guy even thought we could do the 250 plus k’s to Melaka that day (perhaps he overestimated his pace, or, more likely, he’s never been to Melaka).
The border crossing between Singapore and Malaysia is easily the largest, most sophisticated, and busy immigration check point I have come across so far.
We cycled through the city of Johor Bahru on the Malaysian side and along the Straits of Johor on our way North to Kuala Lumpur. Soon we found ourselves back along the West Coast of Malaysia, what a relief. In the seaside town of Pontian Kecil we found a room and bunked down for the night.
1 February - Pontian Kecil – Batu Pahat - 81km
When we reached Batu Pahat they were waiting for us and took us to Penny’s sisters flat where we could stay. It was a rather up-market flat (referred to as a “condo” around here), with all the mod cons and a soft bed and hot shower - we felt like the king and queen of Malaysia. That evening they took us out again to a real “steam boat” restaurant. There one can sit around a steaming pot of soup and cook your own food, nearly like a fondue, but instead of cheese it’s soup.
2-3 February - Batu Pahat
There is just no end to these people’s generosity. We were fed and taken to the local bike shop and temple; we literally had to refuse to eat anymore! In no time at all, however, it was dinner time again and we ate and drank again!
We also stayed the following day lying on the sofa and watched movies, all things I haven’t done in past 3 years.
4 February - Batu Pahat – Malacca - 108 km
Penny decided to cycle with us to Melaka and arrived early morning on her brother-in-law’s bike and dressed like a pro. We set off at a leisurely pace. Although the road was flat it was still a hell of a long way for a non-cyclist. Penny hung in there and cycled all the way to Melaka, she is now officially known as the Iron Lady! Keng (who is currently at flying school in Melaka) cycled out to Muar to meet us (about 30km out) on a strange looking bike he borrowed from a friend. On our way back he started cramping and we had to stop at the local clinic for some rubbing cream – it must have been real good stuff because it took him the rest of the way.
We arrived in Melaka old town and although Penny was tired and terribly sunburned she was still in high spirits. Keng, who knows the place like the back of his hand, took us to an Indian restaurant which served some of the best Indian food I have eaten in a long time. Thanks Keng!!!
5 February - Malacca
We walked around colorful Melaka and visited some of the historic sites. Melaka is a blend of Portuguese, Dutch and Chinese architecture. The town is especially colourful at this time of year as everyone is frantically preparing for the Chinese New Year. Houses are being scrubbed and cleaned and new decorations put up. The streets and shops are adorned with red Chinese lanterns, dragons and lion heads. The shops are stocked with all kinds of interesting foodstuff, especially for the New Year when food seems to be at the centre of the celebrations.
6 February - Malacca – Port Dickson - 84 km
It was time to load the bikes and leave our friends and our luxury life behind. We followed the coastal road, but lost it from time to time. Just before Port Dickson we spotted a wonderful campsite. It was on the coast with lots of trees, a toilet and shower and it was free!! Paradise. This euphoria did however not last long. I got attacked by fire ants and came out in huge lumps burning and itching like crazy. My feet, hands, under arms burnt like it was on fire!! I did the equivalent of a bad break dance, moaned and groaned while sweating profusely and at the same time having cold shivers. Wow that was a scary experience. Fortunately Ernest still had some anti histamine tablets (which he’s carried with him this entire trip) and after an hour or so things started calming down.
7 February - Port Dickson – Banting - 109 km
It was once again 11h00 by the time we left our campsite. So it was another short day on the road, with plenty of small fishing villages along the way. Once or twice we had to hide from the rain and it was therefore late by the time we reached Banting. We took the first room we could find just to be attacked by bed bugs, what next???
8 February - Banting – Kuala Lumpur - 67 km
I expected to battle through heavy traffic into the city, but not only was it a shorter ride than expected, we also found ourselves on a dedicated bicycle / motorcycle path leading right into the city centre. The path followed the freeway and came complete with its own road signs. What a pleasure that was, now tell me why can Cape Town not have something like this.
We headed straight for China Town where there was said to be cheap accommodation to be had. Soon we had a room, not to pricey, central and clean. No bed bugs this time.
9 February - Kuala Lumpur
It was time to apply for our Indonesian visas, so early morning we were off to the embassy, using the KL Monorail for most of the way. Unfortunately I only got one month instead of the two I was expecting, but apparently one can extend it once over there. It was extremely expensive at 170 RM for the visa - at least it was quick and I could pick my visa up the same day. Ernest could not enter the embassy to apply for a visa, as he was wearing shorts (not allowed).
10-11 February - Kuala Lumpur – Port Dickson - 95km
It was another easy and short day on the road as we biked back to Malacca. Once we reached our previous campsite just outside Port Dickson we pulled in and set up our tents under the trees next to the beach. It was still fairly early but the memory of a shower made up our minds for us.
I was fairly content just sitting and watching the sun set over the Straits of Malacca. This time I was careful about where I put my tent as my experience with the fire ants from a few days before were still fresh in my memory. It was boiling hot even after sunset and my tent was like a sauna. Shortly after I lay down I felt a damp spray and thought it had started raining, but to my horror I discovered that it was the camp’s tomcat that had sprayed through the door netting onto my head!! Don’t laugh it’s not funny.
12-14 February - Port Dickson – Malacca - 82km
It was another fairly short day as we biked into Malacca. It seemed to be getting hotter all the time, and we sweated buckets. The dorm we found at the Sama Sama annex was however well ventilated and spacious and came complete with mosquito nets, what a pleasure.
The following day was Chinese New Year, and what a colorful time it is with thousands of red lanterns decorating the streets and houses in Chinatown where we stayed. Firecrackers went off until late in the night but still did not come close to an Indian cricket match!! The alleys were packed with people and stalls and one could sample all kinds of food to you hearts delight. I’m into the curry noodle soup lately and just can’t get enough of it.