(3205 km - 66 days)
8 June Hat Yai, Thailand –Alor Setar, Malaysia - 105 km
It was an easy cycle of about 55 kilometres to the border and the crossing into Malaysia was effortless. I wish all border crossings were this smooth. Not only was it smooth, one automatically gets a 90-day stay. I love this country already. Another 60 kilometres down the road I cycled into Alor Setar, gateway to Langkawi, but I was not going there - I just wanted to find a room for the night.
No country is perfect; some are just closer to paradise than others. With the food in Malaysia being a good mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian, I was in my element and, therefore, placed it close to the top of the paradise list. I, unknowingly, found a room right next to the night market and was spoilt for choice! I scoffed down more than one Roti canai as they were a mere RM1 each. Yum, yum, yum.
9 June - Alor Setar – Penang
It was another smooth ride past many rice paddies and various temples. It was not very interesting, so I headed straight for Penang.
At Butterworth, I boarded the ferry (RM1.40 return), together with plenty of other motorbikes, to the island of Penang. A few minutes later, I arrived in popular Georgetown and went in search of accommodation (of which there was no shortage). I found a rather crappy room, but at least it had air-con and a window (bonus!). The guide book mentioned that Penang was known as ‘Pearl of the Orient' and that it conjured up romantic images of trishaws pedalling past Chinese shophouses with blue joss smoke and a sting of chilli in the air. They were not far wrong and it is a fascinating place to wander about. It is, however, best known for its street food of which there was no shortage. I was starving and headed straight for the nearest street vendor for my daily plate of Nasi Goreng.
10 June - Georgetown, Penang
Although the centre of Georgetown is today a UNESCO world heritage site, it remains a working town with Chinese shophouses where you can still see people going about their daily living. Trishaws pedal tourists around the maze of chaotic streets and narrow lanes, past British Raj– era architecture, strings of paper lanterns and retro-chic pubs, boutiques and cafes. Georgetown has it all. I headed straight for the famous street art, camera in hand. There is the most amazing street art dotted all over town, and it took me the best part of the day locating them.
11 June - Georgetown, Penang
I was not quite done with all there was to see, so I stayed one more day. The day revealed more street art and interesting things to see in the heart of the old town. I walked and walked, past the joss stick maker, the goldsmith, the garland makers and the food vendors. It truly was a maze of interesting things.
12 June - Georgetown – Taman Damai
I was not much in the mood for cycling but also did not feel like staying another day, and it was late by the time I boarded the ferry back to the mainland. No sooner was I on the road, or the drops started falling. In this part of the world motorcycles and scooters pull off the road when it starts raining. There are even special places made for this very purpose. I followed suit, pulled off and waited for the rain to pass. I was just a few kilometres down the road, and the heavens opened up again. What can a woman do but find a nice hotel, sit on the porch and watch the rain come down while drinking a tall Tiger.
13 June - Taman Damai – Taiping - 44 km
14 June - Taiping – Lumut - 95 km
I first had breakfast at McDonalds (it felt like I was back in the USA) and then continued along the road to Lumut, departure point for Pulau Pangkor. It was a short and easy ride, the rain stayed away and the previous night's rain brought cooler weather. It was around 30°C and although incredibly humid, it was a good day for cycling. Once I reached Lumut, it looked like such a lovely village that I took a room and stayed there instead of getting directly on the ferry to Pangkor Island.
15 June – Lumut
Off to the Mall I went the next morning! After shopping, I bought a photography magazine and had a coffee at Starbucks. I was nearly like an ordinary person :-) I should never have done that…… buying the magazine. I, now, not only want a new lens but subsequently discovered that taking pictures of animals at eye level and getting their eyes in focus is not as easy as they made it out to be. Anyhow, on my way back I stopped to take some pictures of the monkeys (in the manner which the magazine said one should) just to find that they (that's the monkeys) stole my water bottle off my bike…...bloody hell.
16 June - Lumut
I packed up but then decided to stay! There was still no word of my new passport, and the best for me was to remain in Malaysia. In Malaysia, I can stay three months, after which all I have to do is cross the border into Singapore and come back again to stay another three months. Malaysia is not that expensive, and it is a good place to lay low. I'm running out of money and need to start thinking of making a bit of extra cash.
All I can think of right now is to make a few photo books, which I can sell online. To do that, I need to sit down and concentrate for a while - a whole new experience for me. This is of course not what I want, but it is the situation right now. Although this is not what I planned, it was the perfect place for me. I'm always happy to be in the tropics, and there's nowhere else I'd rather be.
I set off looking for a place to rent for a month, of which there was a surprisingly large amount for such a small place. Lumut suited me just fine; it was a little village on the water, close enough to the larger town of Seri Manjung to cycle there in a short time. As it was the departure point for the very touristy Pangkor Island, there were a lot of restaurants and bars. What more do I need? I splashed out a bit and got myself a rather nice studio apartment with a small balcony. It was a large apartment for a studio, and the complex had a huge pool that I had all to myself. It was Ramadan, and things were rather quiet. The staff was more than helpful and brought me a little table and chairs for the balcony. They did my laundry and even lent me one of their large laptops, which had a much larger screen.
17 June – 24 June - Lumut
I now had a completely new routine (as much as I can have a routine). In the morning, I went for a walk/run/shuffle/jog and then came back for a swim. If I want to continue with this routine, I would need a few things: number one, a pair of running shoes and number two, a pair of swimming goggles. I so much wanted to get back into running, but it is harder than expected, as my ankles are frail from years of no impact training. Whether I have the patience to persevere with such a slow start remains to be seen.
I worked on my photo books and finished four of them, which I thought was more than enough to test the market. Making them was the easy part, selling them is however far more difficult. In the meantime, I continued my morning jog and swim and was impressed that I did not push it too much but stuck to my planned route.
25 June – 5 July - Lumut
I do love the tropics, and in a way it was fun coming back from the shops and having to chase away the monkeys who wanted to grab my bags from me. I think it was a bit overzealous of me to rent the apartment for a month, as I'm already keen to get going again. There was not a lot to do.
I cycled to Marine Island where there was a scuba diving shop, but they were closed so I had to leave that for another day. Instead, I went to the Mall and had a facial. At the end of the Lumut beachfront is the Rahmat maritime museum, a Navy battleship, a fun place to explore. Even swimming requires some stretching nowadays - sigh. Taken that I have broken the shoulder twice (on this trip), it takes some special care. OMG, I'm busy using myself up!
6 July - Lumut
Three miles offshore from Lumut one can find the twin islands of Pangkor and Pangkor Laut, home to a multitude of fishing villages with traditional Malay houses. With the ferry ticket being only 10MYR (return), it is a favourite place for both backpackers and locals. I also joined the crowds and went to investigate the island.
7 July - Lumut - Bangkok
After months and months the passport saga continues. I eventually phoned the Embassy in Bangkok to get an update on the status of the application. I was informed that, seeing that I lost the passport, (as opposed to it being stolen) the application fee was double the original amount. Now it would have been very nice if someone informed me about that! The fee was ….. wait for it….only payable at the Embassy (like in the old days)!!
I threw a few things in my backpack and hopped on a bus to Bangkok.
8 July - Bangkok
Twenty four hours later, I arrived in one of my favourite cities. When in Bangkok, I often stay at Peachy Guesthouse, as it is cheap.
There the strangest thing happened…..next to the refuse bin I spotted a rather familiar bag. This bag belonged to Ernest - I know it very well. He must have been here not too long ago, and it seems that his panniers are also starting to fall apart.
What I find most fascinating is that the bag was next to the bin. There is no way in hell Ernest would have put that bag in the bin! He has come a long way with that bag and has fixed it meticulously, so he would have left it in a spiritual place, like an offering! Interesting, I must ask them where they found it.
9 July - Bangkok
First things first: I was off to the Embassy. Travelling around a foreign city is always exciting as one gets to use the local transport, just like everyone else. Any city where I can take a water taxi to get around gets a thumbs-up from me. First, I caught a river taxi and then the sky train to my destination. I paid the required fee and had the rest of the day to myself to wander around the shops.
I still had enough time to pop into the National Museum. To celebrate the 60th birthday of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the Fine Arts Department was hosting a special exhibition "Feminine Deities: Buddhism, Hinduism And Indigenous Cults In Thailand". Maybe they were not very well liked, as most of them were headless. I did, however, find some to have a particular beauty.
10 July – 11 July Bangkok
I decided to stay in Bangkok one more day as I was in no hurry to leave. I love the city and there is always something interesting going on.
After sunset, Khao San Road is the place to be; it is the heart of backpackerville, and it is here where you can be pierced, tattooed and dreadlocked, if you so wish. You can eat bugs, shop for jewellery and clothes (which I did) and buy fake ID's, driver's licenses, diving cards and even photographer's passes (I was tempted; just imagine what one can do with that!). Tonight, I even caught a cultural show. I love all forms of dancing, and I was transfixed. I have a real problem taking pictures of moving objects in low light, and I tried everything; manual, AV, auto…..all to no avail.
The idea of leaving Thailand without watching the national sport is quite unthinkable. Muay Thai is a sport like no other; you can, seemingly, use knees, elbows, shins, hands and feet! It is an intriguing sport, and the men are rather well built - that's enough reason for me to watch.
Finally, it was time to leave Bangkok and head back to Malaysia. This time I took the train, as it was far nicer than taking a bus. I love the way a tray table suddenly appears when they serve the food (tablecloth and all) and how they make the beds at night, reminding me of a long forgotten era. There is nothing quite like crawling in and falling asleep to the hypnotic clickety-clack of the wheels on the tracks. I love how the sound steadily increases, as the train gets up to speed. Pure magic!
12 July – 16 July - Lumut
I arrived back in Lumut, and it felt a bit like returning home. I had to smile at people saying: "Hi, hello, did you enjoy your holiday?" typically followed by "Have you eaten?"
17 July - Lumut – Sungai Besar - 107 km
Finally, my last day in Lumut arrived, and I was happy to pack up and continue south. I find it somewhat frustrating to cycle the same country twice, but there is nothing to do but wait for the new passport to arrive.
Not much happened along the way, so I continued until I reached Sungai Besar where I found a cheap hotel. It was an enjoyable evening as it was the festival of Eid, marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Here it is known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Many Malay families in Malaysia don new clothes in the same hue – men in loose shirts with trousers, and the women in full-length blouse and skirt combinations, mostly made of silk or silk-like material. It is, I understand, to signify unity.
18 July - Sungai Besar – Sekinchan - 25km
It was a short day as a stomach bug forced an early stop. I hardly took any pictures as I had other things to worry about. The rooms were more pricey than usual as the Eid festival was in full swing. It is very much a family and friends day where people visit family, asking for forgiveness of wrong doings in the past year, but mostly they seem to eat.
19 July - Sekinchan – Klang - 80 km
I first waited for the rain to pass, and it was already late by the time I got on the road. It was still drizzling when I left, but at least I felt better than the day before and the rain made for cooler weather. The road was incredibly busy, so I turned off and followed a smaller road running parallel to the main road. It was, as always, and enjoyable ride through farmlands and small villages.
20/21 July - Klang – Taman Pura Prima - 30 km
I headed slightly inland to visit Peter Yoong, a fellow cyclist and Warmshower host. I met Peter in Thailand on his tour of South East Asia. It was a short and easy ride to his place along the national highway where I found a separate motorbike lane, complete with its own road signs and all.
Along the way, I found these mushrooms. I wonder how many different kinds of mushrooms there are. I call these puffy mushrooms, some of them look alive and strangely alien.
I soon arrived at Peter’s place, and what a lovely family they were, they even had a cold beer for me.
The following morning we got some vegetables from the market after which Peter baked three pies. Did I pick the right warmshowers host, or what? That evening Ivan, another cyclist, arrived and Peter drove both of us to Kuala Lumpur so I could take pictures of the famous Petronas Twin Towers.
22 July - Taman Pura Prima – Lukut - 115 km
Peter suggested I take the coastal route and a shortcut to Port Dickson; this was a good idea as the roads were far quieter and more scenic. Once I reached Pelek, I cut through the oil-palm plantations to the river where I found a small ferry to take me across the river. Once on the other side, it was a short ride to Lukut.
23/25 July - Lukut – Malacca - 100 km
It was another pleasant day on the road across large rivers and past green and lush swampy areas, just what one would expect of Malaysia. I arrived in Malacca in good time and went in search of the warmshower host. Howard runs a small guesthouse/hostel and cyclists can stay on the rooftop terrace for free.
Howard turned out to be the most generous and helpful person anyone can wish to meet. Coffee and tea is on the house, and the rooftop terrace is where everyone hangs out, as there is a nice fresh breeze.
The next day I took the bike for a service and wandered around the streets of old Malacca, now a UNESCO world heritage site.
It was easy to stay another day. Firstly, I did the free walking tour and then took my camera to the shop to be cleaned. On the way back to the hostel, I popped into the bonsai show and although I know nothing about bonsais, I thought they were magnificent.
26 July - Malacca – Batu Pahat - 88 km
Nothing much happened along the way, except that it started raining twice, and instead of getting soaked I found a place to pull off and hide until it was over.
27 July - Batu Pahat – Pontian Kecil - 77 km
It was an ordinary day on the road with plenty of interesting roadside stalls where I could fill my water bottle. I planned to stay at a warmshowers but there was some misunderstanding, so I found a hotel room. At the hotel, I was surprised to see them still using the abacus for making their calculations. What an interesting world it is.
28 July - Pontian Kecil – Kota Tinggi - 105 km
Most of the day was spent cycling along busy main roads and therefore not all that pleasant. Again, I got caught in the rain but it was all over very quickly. Once I reached Kota Tinggi, I had enough of the busy roads and found a room for the night. There was an interesting food court right next door to the hotel, so I had my fill of curry noodle soup.
29/30 July - Kota Tinggi – Mersing - 105 km
It was mostly up and down through the oil palm plantations but, all in all, an easy ride. In Mersing, I found a room at the very famous Embassy Hotel and decided to stay two nights. The following day I phoned the SA Embassy in Bangkok, just to check on the progress of the passport. The application was finally on Home Affairs’ system, and I hoped that from then on it would not be too long. I made use of the time to do my laundry and even had a pizza.
31 July - Mersing – Chalets Kampong Merchong - 96 km
I followed the coast for a while but then turned back onto Route 3 via Rompin. It was a sad sight to see workers clearing the natural forest for, what I think will be oil palm plantations. Further down the road they were burning the forest to make clearing easier, I guess.
I passed a large brick-built aviary. I think it is used for swiftlet farming, which they farm for edible bird’s nests. I understand that a kilogram of the white nest can cost up to US$2,000, and a kilogram of red nests can cost up to US$10,000; it sounds a very lucrative business.
I spotted some basic chalets next to the river and thought it a good place to stay for the night. The air was so thick with smoke from the fires that I secretly started planning on what to grab when push came to shove. Fortunately, a thunderstorm came to the rescue and calmed things down a bit. Phew, that was close.
1/2 August - Chalets Kampong Merchong – Kuantan - 111 km
Again, there were some interesting roadside stalls selling lemang, a delicacy of sticky rice baked in bamboo, and other nice looking stuff. It is a good thing I take pictures along the way as I sometimes think nothing happened until I look at the pictures. As someone once said: Travellers see more than they remember and remember more than they see. How true is that?
Kuantan was much larger than expected, but I found the Backpackers Hostel. They, unfortunately, had no space for the bicycle, so I went across the road to a budget hotel. The hotel was opposite the night market, and as I did not eat all day, I headed straight for the night market. Big mistake - it is not a place to go when hungry and I bought more than what was necessary.
That night I tried to fix my laptop’s touchpad but only managed to break the whole thing. The next morning I set off to the computer repair shop to have it fixed and also to reload Windows as the laptop was getting rather sluggish.
3 August - Kuantan – Kerteh - 97 km
Some mornings I laugh out loud as I cycle down the road - the joy of moving on and the freedom is sometimes overwhelming. Then I must admit I normally have this feeling on the downhill. Although there were many interesting places to stop along the way, I did not feel much like stopping so continued until I reached Kerteh. There was not much in conservative Kerteh, not even a beer to be found anywhere. There was, however, a good enough bed for the night and that was all I needed.
4/5 August - Kerteh – Kuala Terengganu - 117 km
Once again it was a pleasant and easy ride past plenty of fishing villages and across large rivers, just to remind me that I was still in the tropics. Once I reached Terengganu, I was starving and, after I found a room, I headed straight for the small but pretty Chinatown. I was lucky to find a room at the Seaview Hotel which, of course, had no sea view, but it had a ground floor room where I could push the bike right into the room.
I handed my laundry in and headed back to Chinatown where I found more 3D street art/murals. I liked it as it is hard to tell where the real thing ends and the painting starts.
Chinatown is always an interesting place to visit; it is full of colour with charming and delicious food stalls. The markets are packed with unfamiliar merchandise and strange smells, all making for a fascinating visit.
6 August - Kuala Terengganu – Kuala Besut - 109 km
It was a slow day as I was into a slight wind and every now and then I thought it was going to rain, but fortunately that never happened. The road was pan flat and hugged the coast. The coast was dotted with small islands, the most famous of these islands are the Perhentian Islands, and that was exactly where I was heading.
Once in Kuala Besut, I found a room for the night and headed out to look for food. Fortunately, as soon as the sun started going down, the food stalls came out, and there was plenty to choose from. Good thing too, as I did not eat all day and was starving.
7/9 August - Kuala Besut – Perhentian Islands - By ferry
It was time to hit the islands. I left the bicycle at the hotel and took the ferry to one of the nearby islands. The ferry stopped at various places but I got off at Longbeach which is known for its budget accommodation and cheap diving. I found a dorm room at Oh La La at a very reasonable price. I booked a dive for the following morning and spent the rest of the day snorkelling at the end of the beach.
The following morning we took a boat to a pinnacle about 20 minutes boat ride away, and although the visibility was not fantastic it was a wonderful dive with loads of life on the reef. That night I and the other two girls in the dorm went for a bit to eat at the beach and I must admit the food was wonderful. The following morning I went out diving again and got back just in time to hop onto the ferry back to the mainland. Once on the mainland, I went back to the hotel where I left the bike and decided to stay the night, as it was already fairly late in the day.
10 August - Kuala Besut – Kuala Terengganu - 112 km
It was a strange day, as soon after I left a motorbike pulled up next to me and would the man not grab my boob!!! I let rip with some profanities and gave him the middle finger but by that time he was gone already. He most likely would not have understood “Jou ma se moer!” but it made me feel better.
To make up for it, a friendly local stopped and offered me a lift to Terengganu. According to him it was too far to cycle there in one day. I only had about 50 kilometres to go, and it was still early in the day. I declined his offer, thanked him for his kindness and with faith in humanity restored, I continued in the direction of Terengganu where I arrived in good time. I stopped in Chinatown, picked up a takeaway fried noodles and a beer and headed for the Sea View Hotel without the sea view.
11 August - Kuala Terengganu – Dundun - 94 km
I passed many roadside stalls selling satar-skewered chicken wrapped in a banana leaves and cooked on a smoky charcoal grill. At one of these stalls I realized I was wearing odd shoes (LOL!!!) and that for someone who only has two pairs of shoes; give me strength! I rode into the wind all day and soon it started raining – not much to do but take cover.
The rain stopped, and I cycled on to Dundun where there were plenty of places to stay along the beachfront. They were all rather expensive for such a small place, and in the end I decided on one, but it was a big mistake as the room was expensive and the quality poor! It was easily the worst room I have had to date in Malaysia.
12/13 August - Dungun – Cherating - 86 km
Cherating was a lovely fishing village along the coast. In the days before there was direct transport from the highlands to the Perhentian Islands, travellers used to stop here for a bit of R&R. Nowadays, very few travellers stop in Cherating and in a way it has a bit of a sad feel to it. There are loads of accommodation but hardly anyone there, making for bargain rooms to be found. I stayed the following day as well, as I did my laundry and just lazed about.
14 August - Cherating – Pekan - 90 km
I spent the night in Pekan, which turned out to be a rather interesting place. Not only is it where the Sungai Pahang (the longest river in Peninsular Malaysia) ends, but it also has rows of old Chinese shophouses which makes for interesting photos.
Back in my room I debated where to go next. As the monsoon season will soon start here, I'm drawn back to India where the monsoon season is now coming to an end. I have not cycled Bangladesh and thought it would be nice to explore a new country for a change. I may just fly there, as getting the Myanmar visa and permits for cycling through Myanmar to India again sounded like too much trouble to me.
15 August - Pekan – Rompin - 94 km
Another easy day along the coast. I took time for a few selfies, none of which came out as expected. I had word from the embassy in Bangkok telling me that my passport was sent to Bangkok instead of to Cape Town, as I stated. It was already in the diplomatic bag and was to arrive in Bangkok on 17 August. I had my doubts if that was so, but I had to wait and see. If so, I could either have it couriered to me in Malaysia or I could go back to Bangkok and collect it there myself; that is if the Thai border control will let me in with my near full passport.
16 August - Rompin – Mersing - 66 km
It was not far to Mersing, so I did not bother having breakfast; I just got on the road and headed south. I turned off as soon as I could and followed the coastal road which was much nicer than the main road. I stopped for coffee and just enjoyed the view. In Mersing I again found a room at the Embassy Hotel for MR55 - that is a really good deal as it has hot water, air-con and TV.
My trusted laptop finally gave up on me, which I’m very sad about. I could still use it, but the screen went all purple and shaky. I guess it was just a matter of time before it packed up completely.
17 August - Mersing – Kluang - 90 km
It would have been a really nice day if only the road were slightly wider. It was way too narrow to my liking, and the multitude of trucks did not make it any easier. The road ran mostly through oil palm plantations but also partly through a natural forest.
I spotted a rather distressed looking monkey along the road side…..and then I saw it, her little one was knocked down in the road. The poor mother looked completely stressed and disoriented. It was so sad.
18 August - Kluang – Muar - 108 km
The 17th came and went, and still no news of the passport. Sigh! I assume that the passport was not in the diplomatic bag as promised. It was an uneventful day as I cycled to Muar. Muar was a larger than expected town, but I did not walk around much as I felt a bit tired.
I contacted Peter and told him I was on my way to his place, bought some food and returned to my room to catch up on world news as I had a TV in my room. I had a long chat with the man at the reception desk, and what surprised me most is that most people in Malaysia can speak up to six languages. Mostly Malay, English, Cantonese and Mandarin and various other dialects.
19 August - Muar – Port Dickson - 126 km
I pushed on to Port Dickson as I had already cycled this section just a few weeks ago. Once in Port Jackson, I camped along the beach and what a view I had. I sat watching the sunset and then took a walk to the nearby restaurant to get some food.
20 August - Port Dickson – Puchong - 90 km
No day comes without a few surprises and this morning was no different. I woke to a massive storm and I had to hold down my tent to prevent it from blowing away. It came bucketing down, and I feared I put my tent too close to the water’s edge. Fortunately, the water never came quite that high and soon the rain subsided and I could pack up my wet tent. Dripping wet I set off in the direction of Puchong where I planned to stay at Peter’s place for a few days or at least until my new passport arrived.
21/25 August - Puchong
I spent the day doing hardly anything, just enjoying Peter and his family’s company. I also met Carolina from Brazil, who was also staying at Peter’s place and helping him with his garden. She was a lovely lady full of energy and continually looking for something to do, whereas I just sat there doing nothing. At least I did my laundry, which was actually done by Peter (LOL). Carolina was from HelpX, a wonderful concept whereby members get the opportunity to stay with locals for free, in exchange for helping them with whatever they need help with.
The days slipped by unnoticed. At least I organised for my passport (which was still in South Africa) to be sent to me in Malaysia. Surprisingly, my laptop came back to life and seemed to be working just fine.
It also turned out to be the Hungry Ghost festival. In ancient Chinese folk culture, people believe this to be a month of ghosts. It is believed that the gates of hell are thrown open, releasing hungry ghosts to wander the earth in search of food. Food was put out for the ghosts and loads of paper money. Houses, cars, mobile phones, etc., were burnt (just in case they needed those things - LOL). Even paper shoes were left outside so they didn’t have to walk barefoot. These ghosts are unfortunate souls that became hungry ghosts due to some evil committed by them in their former lives. It appears that some of these deeds include drinking, gambling, smoking, etc., as there were a large amount of these items put out for the hungry ghosts. If this is so, I am doomed to become a hungry ghost.
We paid a visit to the nearby Hindu temple. It is a brand new one; in fact, they were still busy building parts of it. Hindu temples are so elaborately decorated that I don’t know where to start when it comes to taking pictures. The architecture is simply breathtaking, and workers are brought in from India to do the job.
Although these temples are places of worship, it is interesting to note that the Hindu Monk Swami Vivekananda taught that temples are simply a means of reaching God, not an end. “Man is to become divine by realizing the divine. Idols or temples, or churches or books, are only the supports, the help of his spiritual childhood.” ― Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works
27 August - Puchong
Today we went looking for the alleged haunted house of Puchong. The house is located on a hill in the suburb of Taman Tenaga. The story goes that the house was once owned by a wealthy Chinese businessman that went bankrupt. Apparently, he and his entire family committed suicide but there are many different versions of the story. Some even say that they were murdered by an unknown psychopath killer that still lives in the walls of the house. The house was left to ruins in fear of the souls that still live in the house.
I read that Bomohs (Malaysian witch doctors) have used the house for their practices. Stories of Pontianaks (female vampire ghosts) taking up residence in the house is also popular. There are reports of people seeing lights being turned on and off, even though power and water have been cut off from the house for years. As can be expected, there are also reports of people hearing the screams of children and, of cause, the sighting of shadowy figures. We found the house but no ghosts; just thousands of mosquitoes!
28 August – 2 September - Puchong
At long last I received my passport and was more than happy that I could finally move on again. The question was where to go. As I thought of going to India and Bangladesh and needed a visa for both countries, I decided to apply for them in Kuala Lumpur. It was a weekend, and the coming Monday was a holiday so it was Tuesday before I could go to the Bangladesh Embassy. Peter drove me there just to find that they only issue visas to Malays.
I did not feel like waiting and driving all the way into Kuala Lumpur again for the Indian visa, so decided to cycle north to Bangkok and apply for them there.
3 September - Puchong – Sekinchan - 110 km
I was sad to leave Peter and his family but was happy to be back on the road again. As suggested by Peter, I followed the smaller road along the coast, which turned out great and much better than the main road. This was more my kind of cycling - a quiet road along the coast with just a few monkeys and the odd monitor lizard.
4 September - Sekinchan – Sitiawan - 127 km
Before leaving, I stopped for a roti canai but was hardly 10 kilometres down the road before I had to do a Gaviscon stop. Chilies, as I should know by now, are not such a good idea for breakfast. I returned to my little coastal road of the previous day and continued past small fishing villages and lovely-looking resorts with cabins on stilts over the water. I weaved my way through the palm plantations until I reached a ferry that could take me across the river.
The smoke haze was not getting any better; in fact, it seemed to be getting worse. According to the local newspaper the causes of the current haze is due to forest burning, smoke from factories, vehicle emissions, and open burning. It can't be healthy. Not much happened after I crossed the river, so I pushed on to Sitiawan.
5 September - Sitiawan – Taiping - 90 km
I did not follow any back road, as the road I was on ran along the coast. Although it drizzled from time to time, it never rained all that hard with the result that I carried on without too many stops. I reached Taiping just after midday and was starving, as I never had an opportunity to stop for breakfast. I cycled into the city center which looked quite nice.
I also found that the zoo was open at night so after sunset I took a walk there to see what a zoo looks like at night. The zoo was dimly lit, resembling a full moon. I thought it quite magical wandering around listening to the sounds of the night and smelling the damp forest. There was a lot of grunting, stomping and chewing going on. Just as I was wondering what I will do if a crocodile suddenly jumped at me, a deer bounced out from behind a bush, giving me the fright of my life.
6 September - Taiping – Penang - 101 km
A quick breakfast and I was on my way. Again, I took the smaller roads and although slightly further, it was far more pleasant. Malaysia is so modern that one can easily forget just how tropical it is. I crossed numerous rivers, all jam-packed with fishing boats of all shapes and sizes. Finally, I arrived in Butterworth where I boarded the ferry for the short crossing to Penang. Although there is a bridge, the ferry is very popular for both cars and motorbikes.
I was pleased to be back in Penang with its historic district and interesting street food and street art. I found a room and went in search of a visa agent. Most people, me included, only get a 2-week visa when crossing a land border into Thailand. One can, however, easily get a 3-month visa beforehand but it costs RM150. As I still wanted to apply for an Indian and Bangladesh visa in Bangkok it was worth my while to get the 3-month visa.
There were loads of places offering visa services and I handed my passport over to them to do the necessary.
7 September - Penang
I could only get the visa the following day so I had a relaxing day. I finally got around to starting a new blog as I could not access my old blog even though I know the password, email and username. The problem lies in the fact that I don’t have a phone for them to send me a verification code. What a load of crap!
In any event, I finally gave up trying and started a new blog; it is identical to the website, but some people prefer reading the blog. That kept me more than busy as the last update was way back in the Philippines in 2013! I only went out to get food and then I was back at it again.
8 September - Penang
I worked and worked on the blog, desperately trying to finish it before leaving Malaysia. At around midday I collected my passport and then it was back to the computer again. After sunset, I took a walk to take some pictures and found that the town was buzzing with the Hungry Ghost festival. The festival lasts for about 2 weeks during the month of June/July (Chinese calendar).
Not everyone celebrates the festival at the same time and while in some places it was already finished, others only just started. In Penang, huge joss sticks were burning, food stalls were everywhere, and live performances made for a very festive atmosphere.
9 September - Penang
I woke to pouring rain and thought of waiting a while, but the rain never stopped. In the meantime, I met some real interesting people at the Love Lane Inn hostel. No less than 5 of them were travelling by motorbike! A French guy was travelling on an Australian “Postie”. The Indian chap was on a larger bike and so was the French couple. The Australian was travelling on local bikes, buying and selling them when it gets too costly to take them across the border. In the end, I stayed and had a couple of beers with the other travellers.
10 September - Penang – Guran - 110 km
I finally left and tried to follow the back roads. It drizzled on and off during the day but nothing too bad. Once I reached Pantai Merdeka, I was hoping to find a ferry to take me across the river. There was, however, nothing and even after asking around I could not find anyone to give me a lift across the river. There was not much I could do but head back the way I came and onto the main road.
I stayed on the main road until I reached Guran where I found accommodation and food and that was all I needed.
11 September - Guran, Malaysia – Sadao Border Post, Thailand - 105 km
It was a good day on the road, the rain was gone and I had blue skies all day long. I found a small road flush next to the main road, which made for easy cycling. The rain of the previous two days made for flooded rice paddies and fresh air and the countryside looked lush and green as I headed for the border.
The border crossing into Thailand was surprisingly troublesome. Firstly, I now had two passports (the old one and the new one) and secondly, Thailand seems to be getting more and more full of nonsense. They wanted to see cash money and a return ticket. Off I went to the bank to draw money, which satisfied the lady, and after explaining that I’m by bicycle they fortunately did not insist on a ticket out of the country. After all that it was already fairly late and I decided to stay in Sadao for the night.