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MALAYSIA

 (697km -  21days)

 

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Cycling Malaysia (with Janice) 2017

 

7 February Dumai, Indonesia – Port Dickson, Malaysia by boat

After a good Indonesian breakfast, I loaded the bicycle and cycled the few 100 metres to the ferry ticket office. I was far too early but cycled to the harbour anyway, checked in and waited for the Port Dickson ferry, which departed at 11h00. The weather came in, and it was a rough ride over the Straits of Malacca to Malaysia. The ferry rocked and rolled and could have been called the “pitch and puke” as seasick bags were in high demand.

 

We arrived in Malaysia at 15h00 but the hour time difference made it 16h00. The weather was rather stormy making for poor light as I headed out of town in the direction of Kuala Lumpur. I did not get very far, and once I spotted the Grandpa Hotel (here I have stayed before), I weakened at the thought of a nice dry and comfortable room. I was not going to make Peter’s place, so it made little difference whether I stayed here or further down the road. I took a walk to the Giant shopping mall, just across the road and was like a kid in a candy store! I did not buy anything, just looked at all the luxury items for sale. 

 

8 February – Port Dickson – Puchong – 81 km

My room rate included breakfast which consisted of fried rice with a fried egg and tea. It rained heavily during the night, and I was rather pleased to see that the rain had abated and although overcast it did not look much like rain. I hopped on the bike and cycled to the relatively short distance to Peter’s place in Puchong.

 

It was a pleasant ride on good roads (no potholes) through oil palm plantations and past the well-known Malaysian Grand Prix circuit. I passed fruit stalls and one of the largest solar farms I seen to date, well done Malaysia! I managed to get myself on the toll road and on two occasions sneaked past the toll booth without being spotted, making for a quick and easy ride.

 

Once at Peter’s place it felt like I was home and quickly settled in and it was so nice to see the Yoong family again. I was also just in time to join Peter to pick Janice up from the airport. Our planned cycle trip was becoming a reality, and after supper Janice spent the evening sorting out her panniers for our upcoming trip.

 

We turned in early as we planned on waking up at 2 a.m. in order to head up to the iconic Batu cave, Hindu temple and shire for the Thaipusam festival.

 

9 February Puchong – Batu Cave

We were immensely lucky to be in Malaysia during the 3-day Thaipusam festival and to be taken there by Peter. The festival is celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February).

 

It is a bizarre and colourful event as thousands of devotees start their procession to the cave in the early hours of the morning, carrying milk pots as offerings and piercing their bodies with spikes. On arrival, most will have their heads shaven and others will walk in a trance-like state with bodies pierced by spikes and hooks, accompanied by frantic drumming up the stairs to the temple. The place was packed and one could hardly move as hundreds of devotees made their way up the 272 stairs. What a fantastic experience it was.

 

10 February - Puchong

Off I went for my little run. I felt so much better as I have not run in a month and it was seriously good to be out on the road. Back at Peter’s place he was already waiting so we could go to the market after which we had a huge breakfast spread like only the Chinese can do. On our way back home, we stopped off at the local Indian temple dedicated to the snake goddess Nagaswari Amman. It is a temple like no other and is by far the most impressive and beautiful temple I have been to.

 

In the evening, Peter, Alice, Janice and myself went off to cycle around the lake in Putrajaya, something that is always immensely enjoyable and absolutely beautiful. Before returning home we once again stopped off for dinner. It was time to get back on the road soon or it felt that I was going to roll out of here.

 

11 February - Puchong

Janice and I were getting our things ready to leave the following day. We tested the bicycles by cycling to Tesco and got a few things we needed for the road. It was also the last day of the Chinese New Year (a week-long festival), and Peter arranged for a Hot Pot at his house. He invited the most fascinating and interesting people including two cyclists from South Korea, Lina and Siew, and their warm showers host, Rose, and two British on motorbikes, Maggie, Alice's cousin, Ginger, and her mother, my dear friend, Saras, whom I met a year ago, while cycling in Malaysia. What a great night, and so much food!!!

 

12 February - Puchong - The Kabins - 50 km

The time had come for my new cycling partner, Janice, and I to start our little adventure to Bangkok. Peter was kind enough to cycle with us to The Kabins and show us the back roads, and it was a pleasant ride; mostly along smaller roads past the remanence of the Chinese New Year festival. Janice did extremely well on the first day, and we reached The Kabins early.

 

Our reason for staying at The Kabins was mostly to have a luxury night on our first day and to experience container living. The Kabins consist of containers stuck on top of one another around a lovely swimming pool. The rooms are luxurious and fitted with everything one can need for a night, including a fridge, a kettle, coffee, tea, plenty of plugs, and air conditioning. It was boiling hot, and we wasted no time in jumping in the pool. There is nothing quite like having a large swimming pool all to yourself on a hot day. We spent the rest of the evening shooting the breeze on our little veranda.

 

13 February The Kabins – Kuala Selangor – 25 km

We left our fancy accommodations at a leisurely pace and ambled along the coast on what looked like a road. The road petered out from time to time, requiring us to push the bikes on occasion. It was, however, a lovely back road through oil palm plantations with just the monkeys and the odd motorbike to keep us company. So much happens on any given day when cycle touring that at times, one forgets all the things you saw along the way. Good thing I have a camera.

 

We passed two weddings, and what a beautiful sight. The wedding outfits were exquisite, and I believe they don’t only have one but change into different costumes two or three times. We passed creeks where fishing boats were lined up waiting to go to sea and temples where joss sticks were burning slowly, sending their heavenly smell to the spirits.

 

We reached Kuala Selangor early and booked into the Melawati Hotel, after which we took a walk up the historic hill of Bukit Malawati with its monkeys, cannons, and other interesting things. Bukit Malawati was the administrative centre and stronghold of the Selangor Sultanate in the late 18th and early 19th century. A heavily fortified fort, built from 1782 to 1826, once stood on the summit of the hill, with the purpose of helping residents defend themselves against the Dutch. The fort fell to the Dutch in 1784, but what makes this fort so historic is that it was the first time a fort was recaptured by a local sultan from a foreign power.

 

I did not feel well and went back to the room to rest while Janice cycled to the nearby nature park. Later we grabbed a bite to eat at the local restaurant and ran into the Korean couple we met at Peter’s place. We invited them to join us on a trip to see the fireflies. It was a lovely evening, and we were amazed at the thousands of fireflies. I don't think anyone expected that there would be so many of them.

 

14 February - Kuala Selangor – Sungai Besar – 60 km

We continued on our country coastal road of the previous day, past heaps of oil palm fruits and iguanas lazing in the sun. We passed small fishing villages where fishing boats lay 4-deep waiting for the tide to come in.

 

The day turned out a frustrating one as Janice had a puncture, which was no problem at all, but it was not your normal flat tyre as the hole was on the inside of the tube, meaning on the rim side. This type of puncture could only be caused by the rough edges spoke holes or spokes working their way through the rim into the tube. We tried to file the edges of the holes down, taped them up, fixed the tube and were on our way again. It all lasted about 200 meters before the tyre went flat again. Again, we went through the same process and this time it lasted.

 

We continued to Pantai Redang where we stopped at the wishing tree for a photo or two. One is supposed to buy ribbons from the nearby temple and throw them into the tree while making a wish. I don’t know if it was our lack of following suit but shortly after leaving Janice had a flat tyre again. We, yet again, went through the same process but this time none of our patches wanted to stick. We tried 4 or 5 times until our patches ran out. There was not much we could do but grab the wheel and on the back of a motorbike head for the nearest motorbike repair shop. Fortunately, they had a new bicycle tube and in no time at all we were on our way again. This time the tube held all the way to Sungai Besar where we met a very friendly Malay man who is an avid cyclist. He showed us to a local hotel and bought us a meal and a drink. He was also kind enough to drive us around to the local bike shops looking for rim-tape, patches and new glue as we suspected our glue to be on the old side.

 

15 February - Sungai Besar – Melintang Hotel - 50 km

Raja was waiting for us outside the hotel as he wanted to join us to make a video. It was about 9h00 by the time we left, and we followed back roads, as has become the norm. We had loads of fun along the way while Raja was trying to make a video of our cycling. Along the way, we stopped for a coconut shake and met Wim and Monique from the Netherlands going in the opposite direction. They have been cycling in Southeast Asia for the past 17 years. Each year, they come to cycle for two months, after which they return home again. Raja left us and followed them back to Sungai Besar.

 

Janice and I continued through coconut palm plantations, often stopping to inspect what we found interesting, one thing being the kapok tree with its fluffy seed pods, mostly used as stuffing for mattresses, pillows, and soft toys. I also believe that, in the folklore of Trinidad and Tobago, the story goes that a carpenter carved seven rooms in a kapok tree, after which he tricked the devil (or demon of death by the name of Bazil) to enter and then locked him in the tree. People believe that he still lives in the tree.

 

Our small road soon came to an end, and, fortunately, there was a ferry to give us a lift across the river. Up the road from the river crossing, we found a conventionally located hotel, which left us with 70 kilometres to Lumut the following morning, making for a perfect overnight stop.

 

16 February — Melintang Hotel — Pangkor Island — 74 km

We followed the main road as I did not want to go meandering too much, seeing that it was going to be Janice's longest day cycling since leaving Kuala Lumpur. I expected it to be a rather dull day, but, as always, it turned out to be yet another lovely ride. The weather was hot but perfect.

 

We crossed a multitude of rivers, from small streams to large and wide ones that could accommodate large ships slowly putting upstream. We passed Chinese temples and Hindu shrines, and we nibbled on snacks from food stalls along the road. Most fascinating was a bird seller who showed us a pigeon with curly feathers—how very odd.

 

Just before Lumut, we popped into a camera store, and Janice bought herself an 18-200mm lens, perfect for travelling. Once in Lumut, we caught a ferry to the island of Pangkor and found a room (albeit expensive) at the Sea View Inn. It was a lovely place right on the beach, and we paid for two nights, which would give us a well-deserved day of leisure.

 

Pangkor Island

We woke to a beautiful morning and I donned my running shoes and went for a little jog along the coast. Back at our accommodation, it was straight into the pool before we sat down for a complimentary breakfast. We did our laundry and then hired a scooter to explore the island.

 

We stopped off at the remains of an old Dutch fort as well as the sacred rock. The rock comes with an interesting story. It is said that a Dutch dignitary’s child mysteriously disappeared during the Dutch occupation. Rumours of a tiger attack were spread by some, while others claimed that angry Malays took the child in hopes of ridding Pangkor of the Dutch. The rock is inscribed with an image of a tiger with a child in its mouth (if you use your imagination) as well as the symbols of the Dutch East India Company.  

 

We rode all the way around the island (or as much as the road allowed). It only took about two hours as it is a small island measuring approximately eight kilometres. Although a well-known resort island it remains a fishing village where the main income is still fishing or fishing related business. Another interesting stop was at the blowfish-man who makes all kinds of interesting things from dried blowfishes. He said that the blowfishes are caught by accident in fishing traps and as they are already dead he uses them for his art. He makes hats, clocks, lampshades and all kinds of other interesting ornaments.

 

17-18 February - Pangkor Island – Pantai Remis - 55 km

I first went for a little run and then a quick swim again after which we had breakfast and loaded up the bikes. It was a short ride to the ferry where we boarded the ferry for Lumut. We had a few technical problems which we wanted to sort out before leaving.

 

We cycled back to the camera store where Janice bought her lens and traded it for another one as the one we bought two days ago was not completely compatible with her camera. Then we cycled around town looking for a mobile phone repair shop as Janice’s phone packed up. We were unable to find someone to repair her phone and in the end, it was best to buy another one. It was 15h00 by the time we left giving us just enough time to cycle to the nearby plantain Remis.

 

It was an easy ride across many rivers again and past the ever-present spirit houses and shrines. We stopped for sugarcane juice and watched the lady at the stall make curry puffs after which we bought a few and were on our way again. We found a lovely room at Pantai Hotel. Later we walked out to the food stalls of which there were plenty and were faced with a whole array of choices. Eventually, I settled with a soup loaded with all kind of things and Janice had a whole bag of interesting fried goodies. The rest of the evening was spent setting up Janice’s new phone, which sounds easier said than done.

 

19 February Pantai Remis – Taiping – 54 km

The morning was pleasantly fresh and overcast after the previous night’s rain. Our days were starting to take on a comfortable rhythm as we ambled along at a leisurely pace past, what has by now become, the familiar sights of dense palm plantations overgrown by moss and ferns, past heaps of coconut husks guarded over by spirit houses, and past roadside stalls selling interesting eats at dirt cheap prices. As always, we passed a multitude of rivers and mosques all making a pretty picture against a bright blue sky.

 

We passed tiny fishing “kampungs” where dogs barked and a rooster crowed, indicating that this was their territory. Friendly residents shouted “hallo’s” from behind banana plants, all wanting to know where we were from. We stopped for refreshments at Trong Leisure Farm & Resort, a pleasant enough place to spend an hour or so. They also had chalets right on the dam that looked like a nice place to spend a night. We, however, continued to Taiping, which we reached early and found a room at the Casavilla Hotel. That evening, we took ourselves off to the local zoo where one can walk around after dark. It's an unusual feeling walking around in the dark while listening to the chewing and snorting of the animals.

 

20-22 February - Taiping – Penang - 90 km

We were up early in anticipation of a long day on the road. From Taiping to Butterworth, we followed the main road, something that never makes for exciting riding, but it was the shortest way to get to Penang. Janice put her head down and hardly ever stopped; she kept a steady pace all the way to Butterworth, where we boarded the ferry to the island of Penang.

 

It was Janice's longest ride of our tour. She claims that it was also her longest ride in the past ten years, but she did extremely well. We arrived in Penang at around 15h00 and found a cheap hotel. Janice, although dead tired, still had the energy to walk around this amazing place with all its intersecting food and street art. In the process, we ran into Lina and Jihoon, the two cyclists from South Korea. What a small world it is!

 

The following day was spent organising our visas for Thailand, doing laundry, and walking around Georgetown, marvelling at all of the street art.

 

23 February Penang – Pantai Merdeka – 43 km

We left at leisure, boarded the ferry to the mainland, and continued our way north. At first, we had no option but to follow the main road, but as soon as we had a change, we turned off onto a smaller road, making for far better riding. Along the way, we met a very friendly man who invited us to tea. He had been to South Africa, and we chatted about Cape Town and all the things he saw and did while there.

 

Along the way, it started raining and although not cold, we were soaked to the bone, and there was, therefore, little chance of taking pictures or admiring the scenery. Once we reached Pantai Merdeka, we found a rather pricey room at the Pantai Merdeka Resort, but at least we could dry our clothes, as it seemed that the rain had set in good and solid without any sign of lighting up. We had a pleasant meal at the restaurant, and for once Janice could order a 'non-spicy' meal, something that is nearly non-existent in this part of the world.

 

24 February Pantai Merdeka – Langkawi – 80 km

After breakfast (included in the room price), we cycled to the waterfront looking for a boat to give us a lift across the river. While waiting for the boat to make its appearance, we watched the kids play games in the sand and made friends with the local cats; all the cats here seem to have kinky tails; it must be a genetic thing.

 

Fortunately, the boat arrived and saved us cycling a long way around to the main road. We found the most beautiful coastal road past the tiny fishing villages, farmlands with scrawny looking cows and lush forests with beautiful mountains in the distance. It was a pure pleasure cycling along; sometimes we had no idea if our little path would come to an abrupt halt or change into a muddy pond. Fortunately, it was only necessary to backtrack once.

 

After about 60 kilometres, we reached Kuala Kedah where we also found a ferry to Langkawi Island. We were just in time for the 15h00 ferry. We bought our tickets, and we also had to purchase one for the cycles. It was a comfortable sail to Langkawi, and once there, we first had to take the obligatory photo at the eagle and then cycled the 22 kilometres to Cenang Beach.

 

Janice found us a really good room, with air-conditioning, a refrigerator, and a swimming pool. Not bad for 75 Ringgit in Langkawi. Although Janice was tired and sunburned, we walked down the main road looking for a local restaurant, something that was not all that easy to find in touristy Langkawi.

 

25-26 February – Langkawi

We spent the day on Langkawi Island with what felt like a million tourists. We braved the crowds and joined a tour of the mangroves, which turned out to be more of a tourist trap than anything else. We got herded into a minivan that drove at breakneck speed to the other side of the island where we, once again, were herded to a waiting boat. We got the distinct feeling that we were part of the tourist conveyor belt! The boat took off at high speed, and the beautiful scenery became one big blur as we sped past high cliffs and mangrove swamps, then eventually came to a halt at a beautiful cave. However, there were too many boats lined up to go through. Then, off we went in a spray of water to the bat cave. We were given 30 minutes to look at the cave, which was so busy that we had to line up to go inside. Again, we sped off, this time to a floating restaurant, where we were given 40 minutes to look at fish in a pond and to order expensive fish, if we wished. Off we went again. By this time, everyone in the boat laughed at just how ridiculous the trip had become, but we had to be back at 13h00, as the next trip started at 14h00. I was sad that it was all so rushed, as it was a stunning area, with clear blue/green water and stunning limestone carats. Eagles soared above us while monkeys played in the mangroves, and if I'd had a canoe, I could have easily spent an entire day there.

 

The following day we packed up but Janice noticed a flat tyre on her back wheel and once again it was a puncture on the inside of the tube (the rim side). Again, like the first time, we were unable to fix the puncture. There was not much one could do but find a bicycle shop and buy a new tube. By the time all was done, we decided to stay another night and what a good idea it was. We spent a relaxing day on the island, we swam in the lukewarm ocean and that evening we took a walk to the beach and watched a beautiful sunset.

 

27 February Langkawi, Malaysia – Satun, Thailand – 35 km

The ferry to Satun was only at 13h00 and there was no rush to pack up. I first went for a run and then had a quick dip in the pool before we packed up. It was a quick and easy 22 kilometres to the ferry terminal.

 

We checked out of Malaysia and an hour later we arrived in Thailand. It was a hassle-free entry into Thailand and we cycled the 12 kilometres to Satun town in the rain. Once in the town of Satun, we drew Thai Bhat, bought a new Thai SIM card for the phone, and then went in search of a room which we found at the Pinnacle Wangmai Satun Hotel. Quite a name for such an ordinary hotel.

 

We took a walk to a large market, just down the road, and I was once again surprised at all the food that was on sale, from bugs to sushi, it was all there.

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