Week 2: West Coast of Malaysia

A post by Lucia

Day 8: Malacca to Port Dickson

After a restful two days off the bikes in Malacca, we were more than ready to get back on the bikes and get pedalling. We felt reinvigorated after our break. Raring to go, we enjoyed the hostel breakfast and set off at 0900.Just as we were turning the first corner from the hostel, we were greeted with a flurry of other cyclists going in the opposite direction to us. Happy, smiley faces beamed out at us. Ringing their bells they kept coming and coming… there were so many! Men, women, young adults, old folks all enthusiastically cycling together. It was a joy to see. We joined them for a couple of kilometres, and tried to ask them what they were a part of. From what we could gather, it was a Malacca cycling festival. They were all just so happy; asking us for selfies when we stopped and always smiling and saying hello to us. We couldn’t have asked for a more joyful start to our morning!

The best way to begin a long days cycle!

Sadly, we had to leave the cycling festival troop and head along another road out of the city. As it was a Sunday and fairly early, the roads were nice and quiet. Cycling along route 5 for a while, we tried to take a turning down what we thought was a quieter road. As it turned out, we were cycling into a Malaysian army camp! Luckily the guard on duty was very friendly and redirected us (back up a hill we had just flown down – unfortunately!).

The rest of today’s cycle was great; it did rain almost all day (or probably 4 hours out of the 4.5 hours of cycling we did!) but we didn’t let it dampen our spirits! We embraced the rain. It was still a nice warm temperature, so the rain was a refreshing change to the usual hot humidity we were used to so far. 

We stopped for our current favourite food for lunch: roti canai. This is a round flatbread which is an Indian influenced dish found in Malaysia; we love it! Adam’s eagle eye saw the small food stall on the side of the road as we turned a corner. As it was pouring with rain, they were sheltered under a gazebo. We pulled up and they kindly organised a table under some shelter out of the rain and two chairs. We ordered 4 roti (2 each) which came to 4 ringgit. In GBP that’s a grand total of 74p!  They serve roti with a spicy curry sauce on the side to dip in. It’s the best! The people were so friendly and happy; they asked for a selfie with us and it was photos all round. 

What genuine, friendly people.

The highlight of the day though was our second sighting of Malaysian monkeys. They were on the side of the road, rummaging for food out of a bin. There was a whole family of them. Even though the rain was relentless, we enjoyed standing and watching them in their natural habitat. 

We reached Port Dickson at about 4pm. We’ve cycled 86km today; our longest distance so far on our cycle tour together. Although there were a few little cheeky hills, it was still relatively flat but we both really enjoyed today’s ride. Tomorrow we’re planning on continuing up the coast to Klang. 

Day 9: Port Dickson to Klang

I think we have cycled on almost every possible type of road today! Leaving Port Dickson was quite busy, so we had the single lane congested road with no hard shoulder for a while. We were fueled with jam sandwiches which we made in our teeny, tiny hotel room that morning before we left. 

Eventually, we took a turn and began making our way through acres and acres of palm oil plantations. They went on for miles! Adam took out his drone and flew it up to see how far the plantations went. It was far! The road wasn’t unpleasant although it was busy with traffic; a few unexpected hills kept the journey from being too boring. We also both have a small Bluetooth speaker which we have attached to our handlebars. A little bit of music can help pump us up the hills and lift our spirits, and even more so, when we fly down the descents on the other side. 

We are starting to lose count of how many sightings of monkeys we have encountered. We had our closest yet today though: as we were coming to a set of traffic lights there was a barrel of monkeys bouncing towards us along the wall of a bridge. Seemingly brave, they edged closer – I think hoping for some treats from us. Disappointed, they soon scampered away. This is what I love about cycle touring; these chance encounters with wildlife, people, places and food that you would have missed, had you not been travelling by bike. 

I think the monkeys were hoping those bags were full of fruit for them!

Moving on, we started to cycle down a very busy road which was made extra difficult by a big plastic wall, separating the traffic from some building work on the side of the road. The route we had planned then headed towards the airport. These roads were better; although there were three lanes (basically a motorway) the traffic was thin.

The next roads we cycled down were definitely the best of the day. Having looked closely at Google Maps, Adam found a very lovely, quiet road. Well, on the map it was marked as a footpath, but we hedged our bets and went for it anyway. It paid off. Many kms of tranquil, tarmacked roads through more palm oil plantations.  As there were no food stalls along here (as there were very few houses or people) we made ourselves banana and jam sandwiches for lunch (I call this a “jambana” sandwich). For pudding, we had a new fruit we hadn’t yet tried. We had our first experience of Dragon Fruit today (also known as ‘pitaya’). It almost looks like a small, pink pineapple with soft spikes and has bright purple flesh inside (although sometimes it can be white) with an abundance of small, black edible seeds. It tastes a little bit like kiwi, not overly sweet. We stopped for about 40 minutes.

Carbs and sugar – just what we need!

Soon after lunch, we found ourselves on an unexpected road. We made a turn into what looked like a very western, stylish, expensive housing estate, called ‘Eco Sanctuary’. It was extremely quiet and we soon discovered why: it was still being built. Eventually, the road came to a halt and we were faced with a security guard blocking the entrance to extensive building works. We ask politely if we could cycle through (we could see a path) but he said it was too dangerous. Dismayed, we set back and I resigned myself to cycling an extra 15km around to join the road which was literally 200m up that road which was blocked. However, Adam is not that easily dissuaded. He found a side street which bypassed the guard further up the road we wanted to get onto, and luckily there was a moped that must have got through as well which was making its way up the road we needed to be on. “Follow that moped!” Success! We made it out of the building site and onto the road we needed to be on. I was relieved we didn’t have to add another 15km onto our already longest day of cycling so far on this trip! 

That road pretty much led us straight to our final destination: Klang. As we cycled through we caught glimpses of the town; it seems nice. We cycled through what appeared to be the Indian district; this we could tell from the brightly coloured saris for sale in the shops and the smell of amazing Indian delicacies as we went by. As we cycled over the river, we saw the beautiful Masjid Bandar Diraja mosque, its golden roof glimmering in the evening sunlight.

Masjid Bandar Diraja Mosque, Klang

For our final road, google maps brought us through very cute, traditionally Malaysian streets where locals were enjoying their evening meals and children played football in bare feet on the grass. We checked into our hotel; the room is very comfortable. The best thing is the amazing, powerful shower – much needed after our 98km day! Smashing it. 

Day 10: Klang to Sabak

Today has been a grower; it began with pretty horrible, busy roads and ended with the same! However, the cycling sandwiched between those horrible busy roads was delightful. Although we have a lot of distance to cover between Singapore and the UK (our final destination), it’s important to us not to focus on how much distance we cover each day. We don’t want to become obsessed with how many km we travel each day; enjoying the journey is our upmost priority. That being said, we set ourselves a target of covering over 100km today to reach the town of Sabak. So far we have booked our accommodation a night or two before, using a website called Agoda. This means we have a rough route planned for the next day or two (this is also much cheaper than booking the hotel there and then as a walk in). This gives us a target each day to arrive at the destination of our hotel, and last night we decided it was time to do a long distance day.

It’s is, therefore, safe to say, I am writing this as one tired bicycle tourist! So, to save us all time, I’ll sum today up in highs and lows.

Highs

  • Breakfast in a Chinese eatery about 30 minutes into our day. Fluffy rice with chunky red meat (we think, and pray, it was beef!) in a gravy sauce. Hot, filling and packed with energy for the day ahead. The staff and other customers were so friendly.
  • Relief at finding a quieter road to cycle on after the very busy highway. Palm and coconut trees towered high on either side of the road, often bathing us with shade from their wide leaves which offered respite from the sun.
  • Banana and nutella sandwiches – the best snack for cyclists on the road. We are also still enjoying Dragon Fruit; we’ve decided it’s a grower – we enjoyed it more today.
  • Finding an even quieter road to cycle on more of a dirt cycle path through the jungle. Swinging monkeys on either side of us made this secrete route even more of a diamond find. 

Getting off the beaten path

  • Finally cycling alongside the sea! Well, the sea was very far out but we could see it from a distance and we stood on our first beach in S.E Asia. Adam enjoyed getting the drone out for some nice shots of the area. We saw hundreds of herons in this area; we love to watch them soaring through the sky. 

We’ve heard the beaches on the east coast of Malaysia are prettier than the west.

  • Trying to capture the ever elusive monitor lizard on camera. They are so quick, whenever we catch a glimpse of one they’re gone before Adam has chance to snap a photo or video.

Adam just managed to capture a picture before this monitor lizard scuttled off.

  • Continuing happy, friendly waves and smiles from the local Malay people.

    Lows

  • Horrible, busy roads with no hard shoulder for many kms at the beginning and end of the day. Cars, trucks, scooters and lorries screeched past us, billowing their black fumes all over us as they glide past. Most of them gave us plenty of room, but not all. To make matters worse, we were blessed with a torrential downpour about 10 minutes after we set off for the day. Cycling on those roads, in that weather, made me consider, for the first time so far on this trip, if I really wanted to cycle today! I am so glad I carried on through the puddles and fumes. The rain finally cleared, the sun came out and blasted the rain away, and with Adam’s five-star navigational skills, we found ourselves on those amazing roads and paths. Every cloud…
  • All the rubbish that is just dumped in piles on the side of the road. Not just on the busy main roads, but in the beautiful, quiet country roads too – which really spoils it. Just as we had enjoyed watching some monkeys in the trees, we turned a corner and were faced with a mountain of rubbish. Although we have been told that other countries we are due to travel through, like Cambodia and India, are much worse…

I post quite a few stories on Instagram each day. You can even look back at them all in our Malaysia archive.

  • A sore bottom! (No pictures of that one!!) 

We have a comfortable and cheap hotel in Sabak, with the bikes carefully locked in a ‘VIP area’ (obviously not in much use!) Tomorrow we are doing slightly fewer km; we’re heading further up the west coast of Malaysia to a place called Sitiawan. In the last three days since we left Malacca, we have cycled a total of 298km. As I said, it’s not about the numbers/distances, but I must say, I am pretty proud of myself.

A happy bicycle tourist.

Day 11: Sabak to Sitiawan

Again, today has been a grower. After cycling over 200km in the past two days, we allowed ourselves a nice lie in and a slow start to the day. This meant that we didn’t start cycling until 12 midday. The sun was blisteringly hot, and we began our day with 50km along a boring, bland highway. Luckily it wasn’t too busy, but there were lots of road works. The combination of tiredness from yesterday, 30+ degrees temperature, a boring highway and just two small bananas for breakfast resulted in a little bit of a grumpy Lucia. We had said we would cycle for 30 minutes or so to get out of the city, and then find somewhere to sit down for a proper breakfast. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for 50km! There were just no food stalls on this long, barren stretch of highway.

Sometimes there’s no choice but to take the boring, busy roads.

Eventually, our route took us off Route 5 and we were on quieter roads through towns and villages. We found somewhere to stop for some deep fried bananas and a cold can of fizzy goodness. Just what we needed!

The rest of the day was much better. Adam navigated us through sleepy Malay villages and hamlets, through windy, dirt tracks and gravel paths. These are the roads (well, not all of them were roads!) that I love the most. Quiet, peaceful routes that really allow us to see the natural world: animals, plants, birds, as well as experience and get a real feel for rural Malaysia, where local people are just going about their normal day-to-day business, always having time to stop to wave and say hello. I’m so grateful to Adam for navigating and finding these routes for us to cycle through. 

A much better cycling route (although it is slower than the highway).

We stopped for some delicious dinner before we made it to our hotel in Sitiawan. It’s nice to come into our hotel room and not have to leave it to go out and find food. We need to discuss our next few days; we will either head north, carrying on further up the west coast of Malaysia to a place called Taiping. Or, we will head north east, going inland slightly to Ipoh – a former tin-mining town and apparently ‘a gateway to the Cameron Highlands or a way station en route to Penang’ (according to Lonely Planet). Which ever route we decide to take, adventure awaits…

A delicious meal in Sitiawan – chicken satay in Malaysia is the best! (I think I already mentioned this… well it’s worth a second mention!)

Day 12: Sitiawan to Pangkor Island

So… we did neither of those two options mentioned above! After some discussion that evening, we decided on a third option: a short cycle from Sitiawan to Lamut, where we caught a small ferry to the petite island of Pangkor. After four days cycling a total distance of 380km, we were ready for a bit of a rest. So, rather than beasting it up to Taiping or Ipoh, we decided to cycle to the ferry port, catch the boat across and find somewhere to chill out and camp that evening. So we classed this day as an ‘active rest day’: a little bit of cycling but a lot of resting at, what we hoped to find, a beautiful beach. 

It was a short cycle to Lamut, with a disappointing stop off at Tesco to buy some snacks. Yes, Malaysia also has Tesco’s – it’s hard to describe as it looks the same as the UK ones but it feels very different inside. We found the jetty easily and, after paying 14 ringgits each for the ferry ticket, plus 5 ringgits each for our bikes to go on, we were sailing across to the picturesque island. 

Excited for Pangkor Island.

Pangkor is touristy, but from what we’ve heard, nowhere near as touristy as Penang or Langkawi (two other popular Malaysian islands). The ferry was short, maybe 15-20 minutes, and most tourists embark at the second stop (the first stop is mostly for locals as there is a lot of local fishing done from the island). The island is small, with an area of 18 km², so we decided to cycle around the island (little did I know, it was rather hilly! If I had known this, I may have protested…) 

There is only one main route around the island, so from the ferry, we decided to head west and find somewhere for lunch. We found a busy ‘buffet’ style Malaysian eatery and filled our plates for £5.42. Thoroughly stuffed, we set off again to search of a quiet beach but with some shops or restaurants nearby so we could replenish drinks and get food later. Unfortunately, the roads did not complement our full bellies, and the steepest hills we’ve yet encountered awaited us. As I endeavoured to ‘zig zag’ – a method Adam advocates to lessen the severity of the hills – my rice and chicken and everything else I had just consumed sloshed and squirmed in my stomach… not pleasant! I had to get off and push, mainly to avoid throwing my lunch back up again!

Luckily, after a short time, we found what we were looking for. After cycling past empty food stalls, restaurants and bars (presumably which would open later, in the evening) we cycled right to the very end of Coral Beach, to the Lin Je Kong temple. Upon arrival, Adam politely asked a man working in the temple if we would be allowed to camp below the temple overlooking the beach and sea. He said it wasn’t a problem. Bingo! We had found our little bit of paradise.

Not a bad first camping spot in Malaysia

We spent the rest of the day relaxing on our first beautiful beach in S.E Asia. We swam in the sea which was so warm and enticing. Snoozing in hammocks made from old fishing nets, we revelled in the quiet tranquillity of our environment. 

A little snooze went down a treat!

 

These are Adam’s legs… honest!

 

Beautiful views from Coral Beach, Pangkor

 

Camping on the west coast of Pangkor enabled us to view the epic sunset.

 

I love this photograph; this mother monkey and her baby were just sat on a branch, right near where we camped.

With the tent set up and our sleeping quarters squared, we even enjoyed a shower at the temple. Conveniently, there were showers (basins with fresh rain water and buckets to decant the cold but refreshing water over your head!) and toilets, which made our first camping experience of the trip a little more comfortable. We enjoyed dinner on the beach; the food was delicious but as it is a touristy area, slightly more expensive than we are accustomed to in Malaysia. (£11.59 for two meals and two drinks). 

Our first night camping was OK; Adam’s inflatable roll mat got a puncture, but luckily it comes with a puncture repair kit, so he managed to fix it and re-inflate it. Our tent has a detachable rain cover, so when it’s dry you can remove the rain cover and it’s much more breathable and cool. This is much needed in the humidity of Malaysia. Unfortunately, it rained heavily in the night so we had to sleep with the rain cover on, which made the tent almost unbearably hot. Luckily it’s a three-man tent so we had plenty of room and just slept in our silk liners. Even though we had permission from the temple to sleep there, I still felt a tad nervous that someone might come along (even though it was a very remote area). This is just something I am going to have to get used to! 

Day 13: Pangkor Island to Taiping

We awoke early, packed up and after another rain-water shower and some nutella sandwiches (ever the healthy bicycle tourists) we set off to continue the short cycle around the perimeter of Pangkor island. This was a really stunning cycle, through the jungle basically. We heard all sorts of birds, monkeys and even saw a scorpion sauntering across the road. It was incredibly hilly and windy though, some of the steepest gradients even Adam has encountered. Ever the beast, Adam cycled up all of them. I, on the other hand, tried my best but even at that early morning hour, I had to get off and push (even that was a struggle!) Luckily it wasn’t many kms and we were back at the other side of the island, at the jetty ready to get the ferry back to peninsula Malaysia. 

The ferry back to Lamut was hassle free, although we had to pay another 3 ringgits per bike for them to be loaded. The tickets we had bought yesterday for 14 ringgits each were return tickets. Unfortunately, Adam was having some issues with a puncture in his front inner tube, so we had to spend some time whilst he put another patch on. From Lamut, we could either cycle back on ourselves to Sitiawan to continue north up the west coast, or we could catch another small boat across the river. We headed to the docks and fortunately found a kind Malay gentleman who took us, all our bags and our bikes across the river for 20 ringgits. 

The jetty across the river from Lamut

Across the other side, we cycled through some lovely, rural, quiet roads until we reached the busier road of route 60. This isn’t as busy as route 5 which would have led us to Ipoh, if we had decided to go there, but it was still fairly busy. However, for the most part, it did have a good hard shoulder to cycle on. The bluetooth speakers came on and I listened to some tunes, Adam listened to podcasts, and we cycled our way north to Taiping.

Upon arrival at the Sojourn Beds & Cafe hostel, we almost instantaneously decided to stay an extra night and have a proper rest day the next day. It is such a comfortable hostel; our room is spacious, good air con, the decor of the hotel is attractive and there was a warm welcoming from the staff who work here. It’s clean and cosy, a really pleasant place to relax for a day.  

Day 14: Rest day in Taiping

Taiping is nicknamed ‘The Rain Town’, and for good reason! As I type this, a torrential deluge of rain pelts the ground with all its might. Luckily for us, we had all morning of beautiful sunshine (don’t forget the extreme heat and humidity!) So we are enjoying our rest day of two halves. After enjoying our free breakfast (jam on toast and coffee for Lucia, water for Adam [he doesn’t do hot drinks]), we did some jobs: washing lots of our clothes by hand in our ‘Sea to Summit’ collapsible ‘Kitchen Sink’ which I put into the sink in the toilet, and airing out our tent from our temple camp. 

We then went into full tourist mode for the rest of the morning. We visited Taiping Lake Gardens: a public park with Angsana trees and a lotus pond, which was established in 1880 on the site of an old tin mine. We decided to bypass Taiping zoo – although it is the oldest zoo in Malaysia and breeds endangered species such as the Malayan tiger – we are not huge fans of zoos or animals in cages. We also visited Taiping War Cemetery; this is the final resting place for Allied personnel who were killed during World War II. 

Taiping War Cemetery

 

Commonwealth soldiers were posted to Malaysia during the Japanese invasion.

We made it back to the hostel just in time before the storm, and so the second half of this afternoon has been spent with some bike maintenance and then complete chill time (a.k.a writing this blog [Lucia] and photo/video editing [Adam]). These rests days are really important so that we don’t feel too worn out and we just need time to recover from the miles covered, do all those little jobs and not forgetting the most important bit, really enjoying the country we have the privilege to be staying in currently.

So that’s week 2 done! Time is flying; I can’t believe we have been two weeks on the road already. Here are some stats:

KM cycled so far: 755.24km

Elevation cycled so far: 2,533m

Hours and minutes spent cycling so far: 42 hours and 44 minutes

Our next ‘port of call’ is Penang Island. And then before we know it, we will be entering our next country: Thailand. So we need to do some visa preparations on Penang Island. Who knows, maybe this time next week I will be sending my next blog post out from country number three!

Till next week, 

Lucia xx

2 comments

This is a really, really good read Lu. Love it…… it enables me to feel as though I’m watching your journey and at the same time learning what it’s like in the real Malaysia. It’s only been 2 weeks and I miss you a lot already…. but this softens the blow 😊 xxx

Fantastic blog post, you guys making me jealous 🙂

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