The Malaysia Meander

Malacca to Kuala Sungai Baru 48 km
Kuala Sungai Baru to Port Dickson 51
Port Dickson cab to Kuala Selangor NO CYCLING 150 km
Kuala Selangor to Sungai Besar 55
Sungai Besar to 10 km past Sabak 58
10 kms past Sabak on highway 5 to Teluk Batik 55

We are making our way slowly north on the bikes. We’re stopping frequently for rest days and site seeing and generally meandering our way towards Thailand.

On our way to Port Dickson, our second day out on the bikes, we met a man who had cycled from London. He was on his way to Hong Kong to celebrate Chinese New Year with his partner who lives there. He’d been on the road for about 8 months having ridden south from London and then overland where he could, including a large chunk of India. He described some tough rides and times and said he told himself if he had five bad days in a row he would stop. But that hadn’t happened yet.

The point is of course that when you are on a long trip there will be good days and bad days just as there are when you are at home. The thing is though, when you are on a bike and it all goes wrong it can be really uncomfortable. We’ve had some of that this trip: a couple of pretty hot days (over 34 and humid); a very rainy day which I think was worse especially along the highway with truck spray and big puddles in the shoulders of the road; I’ve had my ass pinched while I was cycling and this is the first time that has ever happened; I’ve had minor stomach trouble which was a bit of a drag on one of our rides.

But things do have a way of balancing out. The day of the rainstorm and the ass pinch we ended up at the Dorani Bayu Resort which turned out to be a very large room with a balcony sitting on stilts over the ocean. At low tide we were over a tidal mud flat and we watched all kinds of seabirds fishing for dinner – herons, great egrets, sandpipers. There was no restaurant but there was a road nearby with market and hawker stalls and we found some amazing chicken satay and the best peanut sauce I have ever had. The man who sold it to me was happy to see me as a repeat customer the next day (we took a rest day) and so gave me three skewers for free and an extra bag of peanut sauce. My hawker man and the many Malaysians who gave us thumbs up as we rode along did a lot to help me recover from my anger at the ass pincher.

We’ve cycled about 260 kilometres now, and we only have another 150 or so to go before we are finished cycling Malaysia. We’ve enjoyed many parts of it but expect we will prefer Thailand unless things have changed a lot in four years. The Malaysian countryside is not really set up for western tourists. The resorts cater to large groups of Malaysians. We discovered a lot of hotels and resorts that were clearly built to western standards but then allowed to decay because people don’t understand how to maintain them (or the need to perhaps). Restaurants are advertised but not open. Beer is not very available. We don’t mind when the price is right but occasionally, as we found in India, the prices are aimed at westerners but the level of service is just not there.

However, we have enjoyed the jungle…it is everywhere and ready to creep back in and take over all the development going on here. I enjoyed my trip to the nature reserve where we escaped the concrete jungle for a lovely green one where we were followed by monkeys high in the canopy and where we walked a boardwalk through the mangrove.

The development is for the most part ugly unfortunately. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing the jungle take over. Outside of KL where the architects try to outshine each other and have managed some iconic and unique buildings, the rest of the development here is based on the ugly North American strip mall model and big resorts that don’t have staff able to maintain them. Bye bye teak wood houses, hello mouldering in green gunk concrete.

We have not seen any western tourists outside of Malacca and Kuala Lumpur. Although we have seen a few other cyclists, we are still something of a novelty and people have fussed over us at roadside stalls and in the hotels along the way. The attention is nice and the people are friendly but we will be happier when we are not such a minority in a religious place. I swam today in my ‘burkini’ — it is a rule here although the management at this resort is trying so hard to be helpful here I’m sure they’d ignore complaints if I swam in my swimsuit (I would be the only woman not in a burkini though). It isn’t great to swim with clothes on but hey in France we are making women wear bathing suits so I guess I will respect the rules here even if I don’t agree with them. And I don’t agree with the restrictions on the burkini in France either.

All that being said it will be good to be in Thailand where religion isn’t such a dominating force.  As anyone who knows me already knows…I am not a fan of organized religion of any sort  — but I believe passionately that people should have the right to practise whatever religion it is that they believe in as long as church and state are separate.

So all in all, all is well. We are taking it very slowly…the most we’ve ridden on any day is 60 km. We are taking another long break once we get to Panang (probably two or three days to get there by bike) and then we are on the ferry to Langkawi which is our last stop in Malaysia.

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