A mini-break in Malacca

10 October 2019

In the past we have written pieces for other long-distance cyclists about some of our routes, either into and out of cities or through some remote parts of the world. Some of our writing may help them decide which route to take…or not as the case may be. I’d like to say that we will write about our wonderful routes into and out of Kuala Lumpur, but I can’t as they were both pretty crap in places. But I can definitely advise on some of the bits to avoid! We studied the maps long and hard before both entering and exiting KL and there doesn’t appear to be any ‘easy’ cycling route from the north west or to the south. Every big city is difficult, but the spaghetti junction that is the road system throughout and surrounding KL makes it particularly difficult for cyclists.

Saturday 5 October 19 – Kuala Lumpur – Seremban – 71km

Our apartment in KL was on the 16th floor (some nice views), which sounds like it would be a nightmare get-up for us to leave but actually it was very easy! We packed our bikes just outside the apartment, wheeled them to the lift and exited the building –  marvellous! The first 10km of our ride were actually okay, but after that we were onto the busy multi-lane roads we’d encountered on the way in. We stopped loads of times to see if there were alternative routes we’d missed and at one point left the main road only to find the new one was a construction site! We plodded on and kept our heads down until the roads started to quieten down, which they eventually did. In fact the final 10km were quite pleasant as most of the traffic must have been on the nearby expressway – it still didn’t warrant any photographs though!

At one point during the day a bunch of about a dozen cyclists passed us in the opposite direction. We think that they were part of a club out for a ride – what was unusual was that nearly all of them were riding folding bikes and at least 8 were the British-made Bromptons. Even in the U.K. these are expensive, so they were obviously wealthy cyclists!

Sunday 6 October 19 – Seremban to Malacca – 108km

Our strategic planning has been pretty good up to this point. We have been in Asia since 1 December last year when we landed in Delhi.  At the beginning of that period it didn’t really matter how far and how fast we rode each day, just so long as we didn’t dawdle too much and were generally going in the right direction we’d be okay. About 3 months ago we booked flights from Singapore to Perth, which gave us an exact date to aim for and the amount of time spent in the saddle became a bit more critical. When Martina had her accident near Nha Trang, Vietnam back in early August, we made the decision to take the train into and out of Bangkok to make up for the lost time while she recovered. And it appears that we took the train for just about the right amount of distance (and therefore time) because we’re now 11 days from flying to Australia and have the luxury of having a couple of days in hand.  We’d much rather have it this way around than having to make up time by doing big days on the road.

So, we’re off to Malacca where we will spend our days in hand having a 4-day mini-break! Malacca is in a great location for us as it’s only 3-day ride from Singapore, and from what we’ve heard it’s really nice too.

Anyway, on with the journey. We left Seremban and within 8km had found a nice country road to cycle on for a while that went through villages with traditional houses – quite unlike others we’ve seen on our trip. …..

Again we encountered more cyclists, but this time lots of them with numbers on their bikes, so they were on some kind of event….

We think that they were on a charity ride as many of them, how shall I put it, didn’t have the physique of race-fit athletes! About 4km down the road I realised that we should have turned off where the cyclists had been (they had distracted me!). We could have turned back, but decided that we could carry on to the coast and it would only add a few kilometres to our day. We then saw some Army guys in Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Armoured Personnel Carriers that were on an exercise along the road. I asked if I could take a picture but the head guy shook his hand, which we took as a ‘no’. A couple of minutes later some of the guys on foot sprang out of the verge at us with guns, which made us jump a bit, and I did manage to sneakily take this picture just as they were leaving…

At times, when we got to the coast, we could see the sea, although not the nicest beaches that we have been on recently.

Google Maps and my GPS showed that we could take the coastal road all the way to Malacca, but unfortunately for us neither of them knew about the Army camp that the road goes through! Needless to say we were turned back and had to detour 10km back and around, so our cycling day just seemed to get longer and longer. By the time we reached Malacca it was late, pretty hot and we were quite knackered having cycled 20km more than we’d expected.

We haven’t said much recently about the unsung heros of our travels – the many people who show small, but significant act of kindness to us during our days on the road. If we did mention them all we get nothing else written! But a lovely example is the guy in the picture below who was an attendant at the petrol station where we got a drink today. Not only did we have a lovely conversation (he had excellent English) but he brought two stools out for us to sit on whilst we chatted, as he said we must be very tired!

7 – 10 October 19 – Malacca

Both of us are in a bit of a funny mood at the moment and we can only really put this down to the fact that we are coming to the end of the Asia leg of our journey. It’s a bit of a weird thing – Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia were tough countries for us to cycle, but we enjoyed them all and the experience was great. India, Bangladesh and Myanmar were much harder and though it might sound strange, we almost hanker after the more difficult times because of the challenges. And when we look back now we actually feel prouder for travelling through them, even if it wasn’t always enjoyable at the time! Bizarre! We are also both feeling pretty exhausted, which is probably the psychological effect of knowing that we are coming to the end of over 10-months in Asia.

We weren’t that impressed with what we saw of Malacca on our way into town yesterday, as our route took us around the rather soulless outskirts of the centre. But after a day of meandering and as well as taking part in a walking tour we found that the centre of town was much nicer than we’d first thought. It is Malaysia’s oldest city and was once South East Asia’s greatest trading port.  It was first conquered by the Portuguese and taken from the local sultanate in 1511 and then over the years was ruled by the Dutch and then ceded to the British who were all attrached here to haggle, barter and make their fortunes.

We visited the fantastic ruins of St Paul’s church, which was built by the Portuguese on top of the only hill for miles around…

…Saint Francis Xavier, who was a Spanish Catholic missionary, came to South East Asia in the 1500s to spread the word of the bible and do loads of miraculous things for sick people. Unfortunately for him he died in China whilst on his mission and his body was brought to this church in Malacca. In the 1600s he was then shipped off to Goa where he remains to this day. What was amazing was that apparently his body hadn’t decomposed at all and so they chopped his right hand off to try to see why – and when they did his arm bled fresh blood – after being dead for nearly 60 years! His arm was put in a casket and to this day is still sent around the world (on a sort of tour!) so that people can marvel at his un-decomposed arm. A statue outside the church was sculpted in marble before his arm was chopped off and therefore had both hands in place. During a storm after his arm had been removed a branch from a nearby tree fell of and knocked the statue’s right hand off! Regardless of whether you believe all of this there were still really nice views of the town and the Malacca Strait from the top…

The centre of Malacca, known as the Jonker Street area, is a UNESCO world heritage site and reminded us  a bit of Penang. A little bit touristy, but with some really nice old buildings with mainly Dutch, Portuguese, British, Chinese and local Malay influenced architecture…

The Malacca River runs right through it and the riverside area is really pretty…

We met this guy who apparently was the father of Malay bodybuilding, though I think I’d give him a run for his money …and I don’t even go to the gym!

We visited the Malacca Straits Mosque which is built on stilts over the sea.  It was a really beautiful and calm place that was lovely to just hang around for an hour in a shady spot watching the waves..

The lovely lady in the picture below showed us around and gave us an overview of the Islamic faith, so it was an interesting visit too…

The food is Malacca has been amazing….probably among the best we have had on our trip.  These were two dishes we’d not tried before…

…and cost the equivalent of just £2. As we’d have already mentioned more than once, Malaysia is really great value for money!

During our walking tour we made friends with Adrian and Teresa, a couple from Spain and Portugal. We met up by accident at the same cafe after the tour, had a great Indian meal served on a banana leaf, and chatted about both our travelling adventures. It was definitely a four-way, free flowing, conversation which was just great and we really enjoyed their company…

We may be booking a trip to see them in Spain in the future!

Finally, we went to a traditional Malay village, Kampung Morten, which is still in the centre of Malacca, where we met Ibrihim…

Ibrihim opens his traditional house as a living museum to let tourists see how a traditional Malay family has lived for generations …

It was fascinating to look around, but the absolute star of the show was Ibrihim himself! He was so proud to show us (and some other visitors) around his family house it was brilliant! He also showed us his family tree where we found out that his grandfather has 565 descendants!

A few other nuggets of interesting information we picked up on our walking tour and during our stay in Malacca…

  • In Taiping, where we were about 10 days ago, they actually bet on whether it is going to rain or not during any one particular day and the actual time at which it will start. For someone that comes from the U.K. I think that is a great idea as we’re always talking about the weather!
  • Malaysia has 9 States that are controlled by sultans, who are royalty. It also has 4 areas which used to be controlled by the British that have governors (Malacca is one), who are not royal, but commoners. And Kuala Lumpur is the capital city which is governed separately. From the 9 royal sultans, a king is elected to run the country for 5 years at a time and then after 5 years a new king is chosen. This set up is unique in the world.
  • In addition to the king there’s also a prime minster, who does the day-to-day running of the country. The current PM is the oldest in the world at 94 years old and his wife is 93, though neither of them looks over 70!
  • Malaysia’s independence from the British was announced in Malacca in 1957 and then signed later in KL.
  • The Malaysian national flower is the Hibiscus and it grows naturally all over the place.
  • Malacca has the oldest religious churches, temples, mosques etc in Malaysia. As the Dutch were here there are some Protestant churches.  We visited a beautiful one in the centre of the town. And something new that we learned is that unlike in some other Christian denominations, Jesus doesn’t appear on the cross in a Protestant church because he has already ascended.
  • The Japanese invaded Malaysia in 1941 and their arrival marked the first battle of the war in the Pacific (a day before Pearl Harbour). The Japanese commandeered thousands of bicycles from the locals and used them to speed up their advance! The Japanese campaign on the Malay peninsula marked what was one of the British and Commonwealth countries worse defeats of World War II and ended with approximately 130,000 soldiers either being killed, wounded or captured.
  • The Chinese are now invading Malaysia! Firstly, with their many building projects that are ongoing just about everywhere, and secondly as tourists, as they are the number one visitors. Second to the Chinese as tourists are the Indians and there are relatively few westerners.
  • The wooden houses we have seen in the countryside can be physically moved. Instead of moving to another house the residents used to get the help of the local community (up to 300 people depending on the size of the house) to literally pick a house up and move it to a new location. Apparently this used to happen a lot when there was a local dispute between neighbours, but less so now as houses are made from bricks!

1 comment

  1. Comment by lani

    lani Reply 10 October 2019 at 8:58 pm

    thank you again for all the info, and the enjoyment of your journey. glad you continue to find pleasure in the explorations.

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