26 December - Hat Yai – Malaysia border – Kuala
Perlis - 110km
accomplished and not a day too soon!! It was only 60km to the
border where we crossed into Malaysia, got a 3 month visa at no
cost (I just love this country already).
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
surly be on of the most relaxing places to hang out. With its
little pool and communal area, guest kitchen and free coffee
everyone seems to sit around and hardly go anywhere.
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
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 first had some
coffee (man that little cooker element comes in handy). I also
still had one parcel of noodles left from the previous night
which I had for breakfast.
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
4 January -
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
5 January -
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
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.
Further along the
road I met another cyclist with a rather loaded bike. He (like
Ernest) seems to carry everything he will ever need in his
lifetime with him.
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
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
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 -
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
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
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
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
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
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 travelers
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
After a cup of
instant tea, I followed the road due east and what a fantastic
day it was. Flat, scenic, hardly any cars, and perfect weather.
There is not much more any cyclist can ask for.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
30 January -
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”.
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
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).
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
day. We met up with Penny and Keng, two Malaysians whom we met
in Iran nearly 2 years ago. They drove all the way down the road
looking for us and then proceeded to buy us lunch.
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 -
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 -
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
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
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.