You Are Viewing Malaysia

Rolling with the cabbages

Posted November 12th, 2008

135km Gua Musang to Tanah Rata

Andrew and the hillsFirst, a confession. Today we were rescued by a vegetable truck. Yes, a vegetable truck. So we didn’t actually cycle all that distance. We got halfway and put up the white flag. Now that we’ve bared our souls, here’s what happened…

The day actually started quite well, with a top notch breakfast of rice, topped with a multitude of curries. Squid, chicken, mutton. Delicious! We can hear ‘eewwwww’ sounds out there at the thought of squid curry to start the day instead of cornflakes but the Malaysians do a fine squid curry and we didn’t intend to pass up a chance at another serving.

Stomachs full, we stopped at the market for emergency provisions in case we needed to camp and headed out. We knew the last part of the day would entail a few climbs but we were hoping for easier times at the beginning. It wasn’t to be and we barely got past the first junction when not one but three killer climbs presented themselves.

We weren’t even sure we were on the right road – it didn’t match our map at all – and more mountains were ahead so we stopped at a cafe for verification. “Cameron Highlands?” we said to the men sipping their tea. They burst into laughter with a look that said yes, but are you crazy? Their hands started moving in all kinds of wild up and down motions that only mean one thing: there are big hills ahead.

At least we were going the right way. “No problem,” we said confidently, smiling as we rode off. It wasn’t a problem for the first 30km or so. There was even a brief shady stretch through palm oil plantations but sometime around noon and a few dozen hills later we hit a wall. (more…)

Where the wild things are

Posted November 11th, 2008

329km Kuala Ketil to Gua Musang

“Elephant dung!”

Elephant dung! AmazingFriedel spotted the coconut-sized balls first and we both screeched to a halt by the side of the road for a closer look. It was definitely elephant poo and it was as near as we got to the elusive giant of the jungle.

Many signs warn motorists to be careful of elephants on the East-West highway running between Malaysia’s two coasts but we didn’t see so much as a tip of a trunk emerging from the bushes. Only the elephant’s mess told us he’d been here not long ago, although whether it was the night before or a week before, we weren’t sure.

We kept our eyes peeled for elephants throughout our jungle crossing. Every rustle of the branches sent our heads swinging round, hoping to catch a glance of a grey tail going into the lush green hills but without luck. When rain forced us to camp near a mountain peak, we thought we might hear elephants during the night but our sleep in the jungle was strangely quiet, apart from the hum of the generator running the nearby mobile phone mast. (more…)

Here, there and everywhere

Posted November 7th, 2008

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. (more…)

Two nights in Penang

Posted November 3rd, 2008

26km Langkawi Island to Penang Island

Another offering to the spiritsIt was with some reluctance that we left Langkawi Island. Such relaxing spots quickly become addictive and we had the feeling that if we didn’t force ourselves to make a move soon, we just might spend our whole month there. So, it was off to Penang by ferry, just over two hours away, past beautiful islands that also called to us. “Come spend a week,” they said. If only…

Arriving at the dock in Penang couldn’t have been more of a change from Langkawi. Out went the quiet beach and in came a bustling city. We pushed our way through the crowds of taxi touts and ventured into the streets for our first taste of Malaysian traffic. It’s definitely a bit crazier than gentle Thailand. No one uses their horns but the drivers are revved up an extra level and we know we’ll have to be on our toes navigating this country’s cities.

Once on the streets, the hunt was on for a hotel. We tried one, then another and the result was the same. Clean rooms but windowless boxes of rooms and rather expensive at that. Only after a little more searching did we find a room – still a windowless box but this time quite cheap so we threw our stuff in the barely-big-enough-to-walk-around-the-bed space and headed out to explore. (more…)

Lazy island days

Posted November 1st, 2008

Bikes unloaded into MalaysiaThis post is for all of you in the northern hemisphere, feeling the onset of winter. Here we are on a beautiful, tropical island in a great guesthouse, with friendly staff and guests, a kitchen to cook our meals and the beach just five minutes walk away. The cost? A measly $10 a night with all the free coffee, tea and wireless internet you can grab.

Yes, our introduction to Malaysia has been a good one and we’re tempted to just stay on Langkawi Island for our whole month in the country. We won’t though, honest. Okay, we’ve put our roots down for a few days longer than planned but we are getting out of our chairs soon to pedal from west to east across the peninsula and through the Cameron Highlands to the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Honest.

The only scary part of getting here was the boat ride. Well, the journey itself was fine, it was watching the boat’s crew lift our bicycles over a foot gap between the pier and the vessel, with a large drop to the harbour below inbetween. We breathed a big sigh of relief when our bikes didn’t go plunging into the water.