Around the world by bike
(644km - 7days)
3 January 2018 - Kuala Lumpur – Selangor – 87 km
After Linda left, there was no reason for me to stay in Kuala Lumpur. I took Linda’s bicycle to the bicycle shop to be boxed. Once done, they will phone Malaysia Post to collect it and send it to Pattaya. I left the necessary money with the owner to pay for the transport and boxing fees and hoped that all would work out fine. I opted for the slow post, which the post office told me would take two weeks to a month.
After leaving, I was surprised to find myself on a bicycle path, making for an easy escape out of the city centre. Kuala Lumpur is one of the easiest cities to cycle out of, as there are dedicated bicycle/motorcycle paths, complete with road signs and dedicated places to hide in case of heavy rain. That said, it all would have been just perfect if it was not for the closure of the motorbike lane due to roadworks.
I must have taken the wrong option as I landed myself on a busy freeway and found it nearly impossible to get off it. With a sigh of relief, I eventually found an exit and cycled past no fewer than three golf courses, each one more beautiful than the last. I was, by then, going in slightly the wrong direction, but the road led me over hills and through oil palm plantations with beautiful vistas of the surrounding area.
Eventually, I was on my intended path and called it a day at lovely Kuala Selangor, situated on the Selangor River, well known for its fireflies. I found a room and went looking for a new water heater (to boil water in a cup), as mine was broken, and a new mug as I thought I had left mine behind. I spent the rest of the day sorting out my panniers and eventually found my mug! It helps to be somewhat organised!!!
4 January – Kuala Selangor – Teluk Intan – 105 km
What an extraordinary day it turned out to be. It was a day of backroads, butterflies, beautiful flowers, friendly folk, and bike problems. Shortly after leaving, I found the crank arm on my bike wobbly and had to stop to tighten it, but had no Allen wrench that would fit. The owner of the house that I had stopped outside of came to help, and although he also did not have the right tool he used a spoon handle. I learn something new every day!
I turned off onto smaller roads, and it was a relaxed cycle through plantations and small villages, some with mosques and others with Chinese or Hindu temples. The butterflies and dragonflies were out in force, and swarmed around me as I slowly made my way north, dogging playful monkeys. I even stopped at a roadside stall for “Kari kambing” (curried goat); it reminded me of Jamaica.
I decided to follow the Perak River, a route I have never cycled before. My first town was Teluk Intan, and just as I pulled into town, the back hub of my bicycle gave in. Fortunately, I was right in front of a hotel. I booked in and then set off (pushing the bicycle) to look for a bike shop. Not that I had expected to find any, but a friendly restaurant owner took me to the local motorbike repairman. After doing his best, he had to admit that he could not fix it and that I needed a new hub. I thought it would be far easier to buy a whole new wheel than to try and fit a hub in this town, but it was already late, and most places were already closed. He promised to phone another bike shop in the morning to check on whether it had a wheel for me, and I returned to my hotel room as there was nothing more I could do. This, I must admit, was entirely my fault as I have had this problem for a long time and did nothing about it. I spent four days in Kuala Lumpur wandering the streets instead of looking for a bike shop to service my bicycle.
5 January - Teluk Intan
To make a long story short (which is clearly still a long story), I was up early, had coffee, and then took a short walk into the main part of town (about 2.5 kilometres) to find the very professional-looking JTC Bike Centre. It was, however, closed. The staff only arrived at around 10h00. I soon discovered that they were far too professional for me; they had no hub or wheel to suit my requirements, as I needed a 26" wheel with a V-brake. I then walked the 3 kilometres back to the motorbike shop here I had left my bicycle the previous night. However, the shop was closed and the owner of the mini-mart next door indicated “1 jam.” I was not sure if he meant in one hour or one o’clock.
In the meantime, I had a bowl of noodle soup that was delicious, paid my hotel room for another night (as I realized I was not getting out of town on this day), and on my return to the shop found that the owner had bought a set of new wheels (both front and back) complete with rim, spokes, and hub, since they were only available in a pair. I paid him for his expenses and indicated that I would return later. Now, I must tell you, all this happened without us actually speaking a single word. Ha-ha. My Basa Malay is nearly non-existent, and the owner clearly did not speak any English. Ready to roll again!
6 January – Teluk Intan – Taiping – 130 km
It was a misty morning as I headed out of Teluk Intan across the Perak River. Monkeys darted across the road while others were sitting in tree-tops, clutching their young protectively. I followed the river for about 50 kilometres, past lakes and small communities of rustic homes on stilts. Past banana plantations and rice fields. After the previous night’s rain, farmers where preparing the rice fields while flocks of egrets were hanging around waiting for an easy meal.
I took a shortcut over the hills, past large areas of oil palm plantations and past the Ulu Recreational forest. The scenery was sublime. I watched the mist swirling around the higher peaks, wondering if I was going to get caught in the rain. I never did get caught and my fears of having to cross the mountains looming in the distance also never materialised. All making for a very good day of cycling.
I arrived in Taiping in good time and found (what I believe to be) the cheapest room in Taiping. The Peking Hotel was built in 1929, and I don’t think any maintenance work has been done since. The building has an interesting history and is believed to have been the residence of a wealthy Taiping businessman. It was later used by the Taiping Rubber Association. During the Japanese Occupation from 1941 – 1945, the building became the headquarters of the notorious Kempeitai.
I was happy with my cheap room, as it was a ground floor room, and I could push my bicycle right into the room. I had a quick shower, rinsed my clothes and then set off looking for dim sum, which I found on a side street. There are few things I like more than sitting at a sidewalk café behind huge steaming baskets of dim sum and ordering plate after plate! Back in my room, I worked on my laptop until I realised it was 2h00 in the morning.
7 January – Taiping - Sungai Petani – 125 km
With the sun peeking over the highlands I cycled out of Taiping. It was a beautiful Sunday morning, and I encountered many cyclists, out for a Sunday morning ride. Like the previous day, I tried to take shortcuts and alternative routes, something that inevitably, comes with stunning vistas and sudden dead ends.
I cycled past indigenous forests where monkeys swung from branch to branch, and bright blue birds chirped from the treetops. Albeit a bit undulating, it was a stunning ride. I love the smell of damp soil and rotting leaves. I followed small roads over rickety bridges, past mosques, and Hindu temples. Eventually, my little road turned into a dusty dirt road, and I had to backtrack to the main road. I pulled into a roadside hotel just as a storm rolled in, a good thing as well as soon it started bucketing down. My lack of sleep from the previous night made for a good night’s rest.
8 January – Sungai Petani – Changlun - 100 km
Some evenings I’m just not hungry, with the result I don’t eat enough and then pay the price the following day. That was exactly what happened the previous night, and with heavy legs, I left Sungai Petani and headed for the Thai/Malaysian border.
Along the way, I contacted the bike shop where I left the bicycle for boxing and sending, just to check on the process and to my horror discovered that they have not boxed it as yet. I did not want to leave the country without a tracking number from the post office. I got a 2-month Thai visa in Penang, and I did not want to use it, for two reasons. One, it is expensive and a single entry only, and two, I’m running out of pages in my passport and don’t want to waste the four that are left on running back and forth to Malaysia. Best I sort things out before crossing the border, and if need be, I can bus back to KL to make sure all is in order. What a pain - it’s always best to do things yourself.
Another strange thing that happened was the hotel where I wanted to check in, did not want to rent me a room! Have you ever? I think the reason may be that rooms are for men/Muslims only. They did not say that outright but told me that I could not bring the bicycle inside and that I could not leave it outside and that I could not lock it to the pipes as the pipes may break. The reason was clearly not the bike. It’s their hotel, and they can allow whoever they want. I do, however, feel that they should be honest and say so on the door, instead of wasting my time with trivial excuses. I should have given him a boob-flash as I left, hahaha!
9 January – Changlun, Malaysia – Rattaphum, Thailand – 97 km
I left late as I did not hear anything from the bike shop and I was unsure if I should continue. Eventually, I packed up and cycled to the border. The Hat Yai border is not a nice border to use as it is always busy and they always give one a lot of hassle (i.e. I had to go to the bank and draw 20 000 baht and show them - what a pain).
After the whole rigmarole, I stopped for a late breakfast and then continued along the road. I had no specific destination in mind and, as the weather was favourable, I ambled along, making the best of the good weather.
When I spotted what looked like a village, I thought it a good place to stay for the night even though it was still early. I did not see any other village on the map, and as I found a good room for 300 baht, I was happy to stay there for the night.