20 April –
Johor Bahru – Pontian Kecil – 60 km
overslept and only woke in my windowless room after 9h00. Not
that there was any hurry to go anywhere. It was humid and I was
completely drenched, way before I even started cycling. I
thought of taking a smaller road along the coast, but Malaysia
is developing at such a pace that what I thought would be a
small road turned out to be a highway!
There was not much
I could do about it but stay on the highway as I could not see
any small roads on my map. It was easy cycling all the way to
Pontian Kecil (where I have stayed previously) and even though I
did not look for it, I immediately spotted the cheap hotel where
I stayed before. I took a walk to the supermarket, bought some
food and other bits and pieces, and headed back to the coolness
of my air-conditioned room. Phew!!!
21 April Pontian Kevil – Batu
Pahat – 70 km
There was no doubt that I was now
back in the tropics. It must have been real hot, as no sooner
had I left, and a lady on a motorbike handed me a bag with an
ice-cold “100 plus”. It was highly appreciated, and it went down
rather well. Later in the day, a Malay man stopped and gave me a
bottle of water and even offered me a lift to Batu Pahat. He
must have thought me a real mad woman, cycling in the midday
heat and refusing a lift!
The previous night I contacted a
warmshowers host but did not get an answer so found an air-con
room at the Garden Hotel at a special price. Later that evening,
his email (which he sent the previous night already) came
through but by that time I was already showered and comfortably
ensconced in my room.
22 - 23 April Batu Phat – Malacca -
The price also included
breakfast, which came as a surprise. After a good plate of fried
rice, I made my way north to Malacca. I found plenty of
interesting roadside stalls to quench my thirst, and although it
was boiling hot I pulled my cap down low and soldiered on. Once
in Malacca, I headed for Ringo’s Foyer Guest House and
warmshower host, Howard. It is a real cool hostel where cycle
tourists can sleep on the roof terrace for free.
The next morning I went for a
little run along the river and saw Malacca from a whole new
perspective. It was a sweltering hot day, and I was happy for my
roof top spot where there were just the slightest of breezes.
24 April Malacca – Lukut 75 km
Again it was a day the high
humidity left me totally drenched before I even started cycling.
It was, however, easy cycling along the coast and I stopped for
breakfast at a fraction of the price in touristy Malacca. One
could tell it was another unusually hot day as even the Muslim
ladies were swimming – burka and all!!
I think seeing all those ladies
in their wet burkas was slightly too much for this conservative
society as no sooner had I left the coast and found a man
masturbating along the side of the road!
Once I reached Lukut, I was ready
for an air-con room. I found a homestay (not all that cheap),
but it was worth it just for the powerful air-con.
25 April - Lukut – Puchong – 80
I left earlier than usual and
headed for Peter’s place in Puchong. I was looking forward to
seeing Peter and his family again. Again it was easy riding,
half through palm oil plantations and half on a busy main road
past the Malaysian Grand Prix circuit and airport. I reached
Peter’s place early and was welcomed with a cold beer and a warm
pie! This was heaven to me as there is nothing I hate more than
a warm beer and a cold pie!
26 - 30 April/1 May - Puchong
Although the room I occupied
before was left to an Airbnb tenant, Peter put me up in an
apartment, and although unfurnished, it had a fridge and a bed
and was just perfect for my stay. I decided to fly to India to
collect the stuff I had “posted” while there in January. Seeing
that the parcel had never left Kochi Post Office and was still
there, it was best for me to go fetch it! As the box contained
all my “valuable” items, i.e. sleeping bag, tent, stove, etc.,
it was worth my while to go there to collect it. The price of
the flight tickets varied from day to day, and as the next cheap
ticket was only on May 2nd, I decided to wait the few days and
save some bucks.
There was very little for me to
do except go for a run in the mornings and take a walk to the
shops to get some food stuff.
Peter took me to the airport at
the ungodly hour of 3h00 in the morning as my flight to Kochi
was at 6h00. It was an uneventful 4-hour flight from Kuala
Lumpur, and I arrived in India at 7h00. I found a really nice
room at Kevin’s Homestay and went in search of my parcel, which
I found intact at the post office. The reason for the
non-sending was listed as two-fold. Firstly, the item was said
to contain “batteries” (maybe referring to the solar panel, but
can it store energy?) and secondly, the item was listed as
containing “powder”. Could that have been the instant noodles?
The parcel was returned due to security reasons, and they did
not refund me the postage.
With all my goodies safely back
in my possession, I went in search of my favorite steamed momo
It was off season, and Kochi
looked slightly forlorn in the depressing heat. Most of the
tourists had gone, and long-term tenants had already left in
search of cooler climates elsewhere.
“What you still doing here?”
someone asked, clearly indicating that the tourist season was
over. Even the fishing boats were in the port and looked sadly
abandoned in the midday heat. Fishermen, half lying, half
sitting, were lethargically watching the flies crawling over
their meager catch. The normal colourful clothes now looked
faded as they slowly flapped in the breeze. How very different
it all seemed in comparison to the high season. Even with the
heat and humidity, I still liked India. Maybe it’s the madness,
the contrast, the craziness of it all. I stood looking at the
incredible amount of plastic pollution on the shore, and when I
turned around and saw that someone was knitting a cover from the
branches of the tree behind me, I thought, "This is India".
3 - 4 May - Kochi
A free day in Kochi gave me time
to explore, even though I did not feel much like exploring in
the heat. I did, however, buy a suitcase to put all my stuff in,
as lugging a huge box around proved to be rather difficult.
Then it was off to the local
washing area, where laundry still gets done by hand in large
concrete tubs, then wrung out and hung on a twisted rope line,
no pegs needed. All items are neatly ironed, the old fashioned
way, with large cast-iron irons filled with coals. How nothing
gets lost is another of India’s many mysteries.
Again, it was the contrast in
India that left me speechless. In this very polluted country, it
is, at the same time, also a very green world. The clothesline
(made of coconut husk) is not only green, and replaces nylon
rope, but it is also considered one of the strongest. The line
is twisted, and corners of the laundry are slipped into the
twists, making pegs unnecessary. How very clever!
With everything done, it was time
to head back to Malaysia. My flight was only at 23h30, so I had
loads of time to kill. Just before 19h00, I headed down the road
to catch the 19h00 bus to the airport. At 80 rupees, it was
worth it, compared to 1,200 rupees for a taxi. But this is
India, and not all went smoothly! Soon after we left, we were
refunded our 80 rupees and told the bus was broken, and we had
to make another plan. In the process, I met Bianca, from
Switzerland, who was also on the bus and bound for the same
flight as me. There was nothing left to do but hail a tuk-tuk,
and off we went in our air-con Ferrari in bumper to bumper
traffic, making it just in time for our 11h30 flight! There is
never a dull moment in India.
5 May - Puchong, Malaysia
AirAsia is a budget airline and
by that I mean BUDGET! There is not even a glass of water for
free, the mere fact that it was not a paid-toilet came as a
surprise. I’m not complaining, just saying! We did, however,
land smoothly and I took the train to Putrajaya Central where
Peter picked me up and dropped me at the condo. I caught a few
winks as I lost a few hours and then slowly started getting my
stuff ready to leave again. That night a most spectacular storm
broke over Puchong and what a spectacle it was!
6 May - Puchong
The morning was fresh after the
previous night’s storm, and I headed out on my morning jog, past
municipal workers mowing the lawn, leaving a freshly cut grass
smell hanging in the air. Past the lake and the new MRT still
under construction, past the lady selling the fried snacks, and
I was enjoying the familiarity of what has become my morning
jog. It was my last day in Puchong, and I did my laundry and
packed my few belongings, finding that I now suddenly had a
whole lot of stuff I did not have before.
7 May - Puchong to Kuala Selangor
– 73 km
I went for breakfast with Peter
and Alice and knew I was going to miss them terribly. It was,
however, time to move on, and as always, I was happy to be on
the bicycle again. I soon found the back roads, which by now I
knew existed, and slowly made my way to Selangor. Just off the
main road, I found The Melawati Ria Hotel at a very reasonable
price and was happy for the cool of my tiny air-con room. In the
hotel lobby, I met Saras, a teacher from Puchong, who promptly
invited me to come with them to see the fireflies. I had a quick
shower, and off we went. It was bucketing down with rain, but
still we took the tiny rowboat and had some real good sightings
8 May - Kuala Selangor
I heard that there was a fair
amount to see in Selangor, so I put on my running shoes and
headed out the door. First, I went to the nearby small Nature
Park. It was not for the fainthearted, mosquito-wise, and I had
to step up the pace a bit. I dragged my weary body up Bukit
Malawati, a small hill where once stood a fort, captured by the
Dutch in 1867 and recaptured by the Sultan in 1873. The only
remains are part of a retaining wall, some cannons, a poisoned
well, a 200-year-old Angsana tree, and a bedrock that some
people believe was used for beheading traitors but most likely
was utilised by the Sultan only as a lookout over his
stronghold. All made for a rather interesting run, although
there was more sightseeing than running.
9 May - Kuala Selangor -
Melintang - 75 km
The road was already baking in
the sun by the time I left. I filled up with water and went in
search of the back roads, of which I found plenty. I love these
small back roads through the palm plantations, as they are
quiet, with hardly any traffic, just the occasional small
kampung and playful monkeys darting across the road.
I found it interesting that the
Silvered Leaf monkeys are born with orange fur while the adults
are black in colour. Apparently, the fur does not change colour
until three to five months after birth. The young are cared for
by females communally and are not weaned for 18 months, even
though the biological mother stops lactating after just 12
months. How fascinating!
I stopped in Pantai Redang and
parked under the wishing tree; entangled with red ribbons, it
made for an interesting photo. To make a wish, one throws a red
ribbon, knotted on both ends with coins, into the tree. I made a
wish, but as I did not buy a ribbon and just threw one that was
lying on the ground, I'm not sure if my wish will come true.
I continued across many rivers,
jam-packed with fishing boats, past ornate Hindu temples and
small villages, until I reached Melintang. It was nearly 16h00,
and the usual food stalls were already in full swing. As I had
not eaten all day, the smells drifting across the road from
these stalls were enough to make me call it a day and look for a
room. I then devoured a whole plate of noodles with boiled eggs!
10 May - Melintang – Sitiawan –
It was a rather uneventful
stretch as there were no convenient small roads to follow. Under
normal circumstances, I would not have stopped in Sitiawan was
it not for the fact that I discovered that I left my laptop
charger in my hotel room in Kuala Selangor. I found a hotel room
with the hope to purchase one in Sitiawan, as it was quite a
large town. To my shock and horror, I soon discovered that there
was no charger available for my brand new laptop. How on earth
do they launch a new laptop without providing the necessary
support?? All my ranting and raving did not make one iota of
difference, and it was, most certainly, not going to make one
fall out of the sky!
I phoned the hotel in Kuala
Selangor to ask if they have found it but the answer was
negative. Later I called again and asked them to re-check the
room, and when I phoned back half hour later they confirmed that
they have found the charger!! I was doing my happy dance!
Normally, this would be the happy ending to the story, but the
saga continued as there was no direct bus back to Kuala Selangor
and I was reluctant to cycle the 140 km back and return the same
way the next day.
The only bus option was Setiawan
- Kuala Lumper – Klang – Kuala Selangor, a 2-day overnight
journey and the same way back again. Phew, I’m exhausted just
saying it! I decided to sleep on it.
11 May - Setiawan
I packed a small bag of necessary
items and headed out the door, ready for my long bus ride, but
on second thoughts turned back and decided to take the very
costly taxi option. At 500 Malaysian Ringgit (App. $125) it was
nearly the price of the laptop but on the positive side, I could
go to Kuala Selangor and back in a morning. For someone who
hardly has any money this was maybe not the best option but I
did it anyway and went there and back in no time at all. I am
now the proud owner of (I’m sure) the most expensive laptop
charger in Malaysia.
12 May - Setiawan – Taiping - 90
“How old are you?” and “You must
be very strong!” are just some of the typical remarks I hear
around this part of the world. I must look like crap, but then,
on second thought, I am starting to resemble Daisy de Melker. I
generally reply that what I’m doing is nothing, seeing that
there are women in their own country who give birth naturally!
Now, that is strong and brave, if you ask me. I’m merely
pedaling a bicycle—there is no comparison!
It was a short cycling day, but
there was no need to push on to Panang, which was another 80
kilometres down the road. Along the way, I met two Belgian
cyclists who were nearing the end of their year-long cycle
journey from Belgium to Singapore. They looked fit, lean, and
tanned—but most of all, happy. Those are signs that
cycle-touring must be good, for one. Although they were looking
forward to seeing their children and grandchildren again, I’m
sure they will also miss their life on the road. We chatted for
a while and then continued on our respective ways again.
I pulled into Taiping, thinking
that I might give the zoo at night another try, this time with a
tripod, but it started raining before it even got dark, so
nothing came of my nightly visit to the zoo.
13 May - Taiping –
Penang - 98 km
I was late in leaving, as I had
not fallen asleep until the early hours of the morning.
Fortunately, it was an overcast day, making for easy riding all
the way to Penang. Not that I was not sweating buckets; it was
still incredibly humid, but at least I was not under the
I pulled into Penang thinking
that it was going to be a quick in and out, just to arrange for
a Thailand visa. I did not realise it was a Friday, and that
meant waiting until Monday to hand in the passport and hopefully
get it back the following day, making it Wednesday before I got
out of there. In the meantime, I found myself a cheap room at
the Love Lane Inn. The room itself was rather bare-bones, with
just a mattress on the floor (no “bathroom inside” this time,
hahaha). The price, however, reflected the lack of amenities.
I could hardly wait for the
famous street food to get under way as I was (as usual)
ravenous. I headed for my, by now, favourite food stand and
gulped down a whole host of exotic eats. I made a copy of the
passport (which I will need for the visa application) and then
headed back to my mattress on the floor.
Next morning it was on with the
running shoes and off to explore by foot, down the road to the
water’s edge, along the promenade, past the old fort and past a
host of old colonial buildings, some renovated and some still
waiting in line.
I hesitate to call what I
do"running”. I’m only chugging along with a grimace, gasping for
air, arms flailing wildly. With all that effort I should be
moving at quite a pace, but in reality, I’m hardly moving at
all. It is quite extraordinary how others can make it look so
easy! Drenched with perspiration, I returned to my mattress,
just to find that there was no water to shower due to a broken
pipe. I packed up and went around the corner to another, and
much better joint for the same price. At least now I had a bed,
bedside table, writing table and two chairs, as well as a
“shower inside” but toilet still outside, hahaha!
After my morning run, I met up
with Rickee Lee, a native of Penang and fellow cycle tourer. We
went for breakfast and chatted away about all kinds of things.
It's amazing; the awesome people I meet along the way!
On Monday morning, I took the bus
to the snake temple situated on the outskirts of town. The
temple itself is quite old and was constructed in 1850 by a
Buddhist monk. I was surprised to find that the snakes were not
in cages but were slithering everywhere. I had to tread rather
carefully as these pit vipers were everywhere. I took a few
pictures and made a hasty retreat.
Finally, Tuesday arrived, and I
picked up my passport with a new Thailand visa (valid for two
months) and was ready to roll again.
18 May - Penang – Alor Setar
- 103 km
I have just about had enough of
all this the negativity in Southeast Asia, and if one more
person tells me I’m too old to cycle, I’m going to fucking punch
them in the face! I know, I look old for my age, but, Christ,
I’m not 100 years old! All this “How old ARE you?” said with a
lifting of the eyebrows are starting to get on my tits.
Alternatively, I guess, I can just don a burka! One could swear
the right to ride a bicycle here is strictly reserved for the
under 25s! That’s my little rant over for the day.
I did not get away until after
9h00, but it was easy cycling and the weather a pleasant
30–33°C. I stayed on the main road and once again passed a
multitude of roadside stalls selling interesting food and
drinks. There was also no shortage of huge aviaries (for the
lack of a better word) that are used for farming swiftlet nests.
The edible nests are made of solidified saliva and are used in
soups; it's still a very popular, albeit expensive, dish.
The rainy season is on its way
and many of the rice paddies were being prepared for planting.
It is such a labour-intensive job that I’m starting to
appreciate every grain. I reached Alor Setar (that became Alor
Star along the way) in good time and found the Comfort Hotel,
which must be the cheapest in town. The room had no “bathroom
inside” this time, but the bicycle could be inside and the
communal bathrooms were at least clean looking. The night market
was just behind the hotel, and I did not just have one dish but
19 May - Alor Setar, Malaysia –
Hat Yai, Thailand - 106 km
Ha, not a single “How old ARE
you?” today. I think they could see I had this aura
saying…….”don’t even think about it!”. Hahahaha. I cycled the 60
kilometres to the border and crossed into Thailand, easy-peasy!
I did my usual SIM card/draw money thing, and then cycled a
further 57 kilometres to Hat Yai. I found a host of cheap hotels
around the railway station - I picked the Park Hotel that turned
out quite reasonable at 350 Thai Baht (less than $10) for a
large room with wi-fi and bathroom.