Here, there and everywhere

140km Georgetown to Kuala Ketil

David arranging a tea break at the next townIt’s been an action packed few days, zigging and zagging all over a small corner of Malaysia with the country’s most famous bicycle tourist. Hardly anyone comes down Malaysia’s west coast without being caught by David. “I’ve got spies everywhere,” he said with a smile when we turned up at his home.

We’d heard of David the cyclist hunter and we’d also heard about his spies. Rather than risk being dragged off the main highway or from a nearby hotel, we decided to submit to voluntary kidnapping for a few days.

After all, if you have to be taken hostage, David makes it quite an agreeable form of torture. There’s no small quantity of food involved. He’s hosted nearly 200 people over the past five years and David is clearly accustomed to cyclists and their appetites. A new round of food appeared at least every two hours, with a different cuisine featuring every time. Malay. Indian. Chinese. We tried them all and used the calories to tackle the intimidating schedule David had set up for us.

Our 48-hours of fun started with a hike up Maxwell Hill, a retreat that you can only reach by navigating 90 steep switchbacks. The grade is never less than 10% – often more – and the result is a great view over the nearby city of Taiping and a refreshing climate, just what you’d expect at over 1,000 meters above sea level. Even keen cyclists aren’t so crazy to tackle something like that by bike. We took the jeep.

Next it was off to watch charcoal being made, taste some todi (an alcoholic drink made from the nectar of coconut flowers) and soak in a sauna. We weren’t done yet. We still had to visit a fishing village and see where the nests come from for the Chinese delicacy of bird’s nest soup. Then there was the stop to watch a bird catcher at work, a gentle ride through a village, drinks with the locals, a visit to a palm oil tree plantation and chicken curry at a friend’s house.

On the third night, David decided he was coming with us when we left on Friday. He was already planning a trip to Thailand and with his wife in Kuala Lumpur, David thought it was the perfect time to escape. With a sneaky grin, he told us he suffered far less nagging if he just packed his bags and snuck off, not unlike a teenager going to an all-night party.

Off we headed together towards his brother’s house and still the tour guide didn’t rest. We stopped at a temple to see priests preparing for ceremonies and watched men cutting down the nuts from palm trees that are pressed for their oil. Then it was lunch with a relative – another 10-course feast, this time served on banana leaves and tea in the afternoon.

A late deluge soaked us to the bone, just as we rolled into the home of David’s brother. Once dried off, we were entertained with tales of the time he met the leader of the Tamil Tigers and all the traditions and superstitions behind Indian weddings in Malaysia. The caste system is still alive and well – the son of a barber would never marry the daughter of a doctor – and the stars have to be read to determine the date of the wedding and the honeymoon. The ceremony might held one day but the couple might not be united until a few days later.

One thing we never expected to get when we arrived in Malaysia was a lesson in Tamil culture but we certainly felt more enlightened as we parted ways with David and his brother on Saturday morning. They shone a light on so many other aspects of Malaysia as well that we’d surely have missed if we just pedalled through so for that we send a big thank you!