Exactly 18 Months and 27,000km

1 October 2019

Friday 27 September 19 – Georgetown to Taiping – 87km

There might be a romantic misconception that we get up in the morning, eat breakfast, pack our bags, get on our bikes and ride through beautiful weather along a picturesque, winding road for a few hours to our destination. This does happen on occasion, but today wasn’t one of them! We headed down to the ferry port as early as we could and miraculously made it there just in time for the 7am sailing. It was when we got to the other side that our cycling day got difficult. The road system out of Butterworth was very confusing with loads of merging roads and complicated traffic systems. Factor in lots and lots of traffic lights into the equation and it made for very slow progress out of town. The rest of the day was mainly spent on a pretty unpleasant road with fairly heavy traffic for most of it. Unfortunately there are not many roads running south at this point, so this one was the pick of the bunch.

When we arrived at our destination of Taiping, our fortunes changed.  We had expected very little of the town, but were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. The town itself is full of the same type of shop houses which we saw in Georgetown, so it was interesting to walk through. On the edge of the town there is also a very nice park with lots of lakes nestled at the foot of some fairly big hills ……

We went for a walk through the town to the park and at one point went under some very very beautiful, and aptly named, Rain Trees….

 

We then went via a food court for dinner on the way home. Food courts here are not quite like the ones you might find in a mall back in the west. Quite a bit of this one was open-air and there’s was all sorts of things on offer. We opted for some dim sum of steamed sticky rice, pork, chicken and stews from this lady for dinner number one….(I would like to point out that all the food in this picture wasn’t for us!). Is this the biggest steamer in the world – there were at least five layers…

And we had a vegetable curry combination for dinner number two…

A very pleasant way to end a not-so-good cycling day!

Saturday 28 September 19 – Taiping to Sitiawan – 90km

We are on our way to Kuala Lumpur and should be there in a few days time, so the next couple of days can only be described as functional cycling. Although the road today was quite scenic in places, heavy traffic made the majority of our ride quite unpleasant. The middle 20km were definitely the nicest…

We have come to the conclusion that there is a lot of traffic in Malaysia and it is really  impacting our journey.  As it was Saturday we thought that the roads might be a bit quieter, but unfortunately not.  Along with the usual cars and trucks there were groups of scooters and motorcycles that looked like they were just out for a ride as it’s the weekend. Malaysia has a lot of boy racers and today was obviously the day to get out and about so as well as all the cars, trucks, scooters and motorcycles on the road we also saw groups of the same type of cars thunder past us. The general car of choice in Malaysia is Proton (manufactured here by the state-owned Proton company), which are quite rare in Europe… probably because they aren’t very good (in my opinion!). So, the boy racer car of choice is also the Proton, but to be honest I don’t think there’s much that can be done to a Proton that can make it any better really…..

 

Another thing we noticed today was with regards to peoples’ attitudes towards us – specifically children. We were cycling through one fairly rural area that we can’t imagine many (if any) westerners visit. Along our journey we passed a house where 5 young children were playing in a paddling pool. At least three of the children looked up as we passed, but then went immediately back to what they were doing. This is a very different response to our presence than we have seen in the rest of South East Asia. In Thailand and Vietnam the children would probably have waved and maybe shouted ‘hello’. In Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia there would have been almost hysterical waving, shouting, jumping up and down, etc. Plus if there had been any adults around they would have all been shouting too! It made us wonder what the difference is that made these Malaysian children react so differently and we have no answer to this!

Sunday 29 September 19 – Sitiawan to Sungai Besar – 90km

The not-so-interesting cycling continued today! To say that it was dull is a bit of an understatement. Once again though there was a load of traffic on the road and it was particularly hot and sweaty.  We did find some respite when we stopped a couple of times for a drink…

…oh, the glamour of our pit stops.  I do try to take Martina to all the nicest petrol stations! In Asia there are numerous energy and isotonic drinks available and we have found that Revive and 100 Plus are our favourites. Usually we will only have one bottle between us in the morning, but today we stopped twice so we had two (a one litre bottle and a 1.5 litre, which according to the information on the side of the bottles equated to 5 servings each!). Whether there is anything isotonic in them is debatable, but it’s nice to have a cold, sugary drink when it’s this hot. At the pit stop in the picture above we also had Oreo cookies and at the one before we had Snickers….our teeth are starting to dissolve at this rate!

Sungai Besar, our destination, is a small town where we were lucky enough to find a reasonable hotel (with one of the smallest rooms we’ve stayed in) and numerous places to eat. We’d seen roti carnai on menus before and having no idea what it was we decided to try it  and discovered that it’s like a paratha you’d get in India. Really nice, as a starter, though the spicy sauces they came with were at the top end of our pain threshold…

 

Monday 30 September 19 – Sungai Besar to Ijok – 78km

To avoid another day on a busy main road we took a secondary road today, which paralleled the main road all the way to Kuala Selangor about 45km down the coast. It was all rather pleasant and made a really nice change from the past couple of days.

From there we managed to find another secondary road all the way to Ijok (sounds like saying yes to a Scotsman…as in “aye jock”!), our end destination, although our exit from Kuala Selangor literally took us through the middle of a market which had been set up on the road! However in the process of making our way through the market we spotted some guys making something that looked like a cross between a crepe and a crumpet, which was filled with peanuts, sweet corn (as in on-the-cob) and some other unidentifiable sweet stuff. We bought two and ate them whilst sat next to the stalls. They must have been big as we couldn’t finish them and kept the remains for later! Cake watch isn’t exactly back on track but we are getting our daily sugar dose…!

Sort of nice, but a bit claggy and could do with a cup of tea to wash it down!

The rest of the ride took us along unbelievably straight roads and through palm plantations which we assume are grown for palm oil. Again it was much more preferable than the busy main road and only added a few kilometres to our day.

Ijok was chosen as it puts us within 50km of the centre of Kuala Lumpur. There was only one option for accommodation (obviously not many people stop here!) of which we had low expectations as we’d read the pretty average reviews. Though it was on the main road the guesthouse was definitely better than the reviews, and we had a room at the back so it wasn’t noisy at all as we had feared… so from now one we’re going everywhere with low expectations so that we can be pleasantly surprised!

Tuesday 1 October 19 – Ijok to Kuala Lumpur – 48km

An easy departure from our hotel as our bikes were in our room so we could pack them there and the lift was big enough that we could take them down fully-loaded! We knew that our ride would be along a busy road and it turned out to be as expected as well as some some awkward road construction and bad road surfaces in the first 15 km. As ever when coming into a big city the traffic got steadily busier and less pleasant for us cyclists.  The traffic was really fast and we were definitely uncomfortable for the next 15-20km-or-so as we ended up on a 3-lane highway (think M25 at rush hour!).  There’s rarely a nice way to cycle into a big city and though we stopped a few times to recheck if there was an alternative route we found that we just had to keep on going. Passing junctions was the worst part as cars wanting to leave and join the main road would get quite close to us. Fortunately unlike in Istanbul, Delhi and Mumbai, the drivers here  were very considerate to two, slightly scared, cyclists, so it could have been worse!

Then, all of a sudden, we were off the nightmare road and riding underneath the flyovers on much quieter roads. There was still quite a bit of traffic to contend with, but it was much more manageable and as we’d neared the centre the traffic subsided even more…

From the nightmare 10km before it became a pleasant ride to our AirBnB apartment. The security guard needed a bit of persuading to let us take our bikes up to the 16th floor, where our accommodation was, but we got there in the end and found a small, but perfectly good place to stay. We had lunch, chilled, watched a monster thunderstorm, had dinner in a great local cafe across the road and retired for the day – job well done!

Today we passed 27,000km and it was also our 18 months on-the-road anniversary. This means that we have pedalled exactly 1,500km per month, which equates to 938 miles. According to Google it’s 874 miles (1,407km) from Land’s End to John o’Groats by road, so we have cycled the equivalent of that plus 60 miles every month for the last 18 months. But we don’t intend to celebrate just yet as we still have at least 500km to go to Singapore.

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