We completed our cycle along the west coast of Malaysia on 30th January and have since been touring southern Thailand. This country is the Land of Smiles; from the moment we entered the locals were calling out 'Hello' after us & cheering us on our way. We have watched & experienced so many new things it is impossible to capture it all in photos or even remember to write it out in words, despite our million photos or textual summaries.
We cycled through Malaysia at about 90km per day. The roads were dead flat; the weather - hot & humid; & the mosquitos - plenty. We spent the first 4 days in Port Dickson to acclimatise & deal with the jet lag. The first part of our trip was along main roads with heavy traffic, so not altogether enjoyable due to the fumes, speedy vehicles & crazy drivers who used the bicycle/hard shoulder lane to overtake slower vehicles. Even though we were cycling parallel & close to the sea on the map, we never actually saw the sea during our rides. We did however pass through several palm tree plantations, small Muslim, Chinese & Indian villages, mosques, Chinese & Hindu temples, and hundreds of traditional Malaysian brightly-coloured raised houses, & also stopped at the occasional petrol station for a coke & chocolate. We were cycling with the sun on our backs, direction ‘headwind’, sometimes through a shower of refreshing rain but otherwise burning our necks & calves; a little bit challenging, but mainly fun, of course.
We spent our second week on Pangkor Island at a beach chilling for a couple of days, before riding along more enjoyable quieter roads through jungle-like terrain, with monkeys jumping from palm tree to palm tree above our heads. We waved passed & also caught up with other touring cyclists along the way, as well as honked our horns at the local kids, dogs, snakes & fat lizards. We also met with some Malaysian friends who took us out around town to sample the local delicacies such as stingray & oyster omelette. We tasted a range of the Malaysian food & fruit from street corners; our daily breakfast consisted either Indian or Chinese style roti, omelette & chai tea with super sweet condensed milk.
We spent our entire third week on Penang Island as we had to wait for the Chinese New Year celebrations to end so we could get a visa for Thailand. We therefore chose to explore the only beach on this island, Batu Ferringhi, where the sea was impossible to swim in; not only was it filled with Jellyfish both large & minuscule, but there were several boats, water-scooters & inflatable bananas hovering all over the place - even occasionally over a lone swimmer. We visited a national jungle park, spending half a day walking over trees & rocks to Monkey Beach; might sound great, but 2 hours & 3 litres of sweat later we found the usual at this place; water scooters, dirty water & no monkeys. So after a short cycle up to see a dam we returned to the people-packed beach, where the locals asked for photos with us & stared at us whenever we walk passed. We spent the following day cycling through the island, cycling to a height of 207m from where a pack of 8 dogs heard us and sprinted after us, shortly after which I had my first puncture right at the start of a grateful descent. Thankfully the dogs didn't run too far from their home and we found a quiet place to fix the wheel before cycling on. We also spent a few days in Georgetown; a UNESCO protected world heritage site with pretty colonial shop-houses, colourful Chinese temples hidden amongst towering apartment blocks and unfortunately also crowds of backpackers & ladies who sell themselves to the night. The cheaper guesthouses here were strangely windowless, so we had to search through over 20 of them to find one with daylight!
After we got our visa for Thailand we caught a ferry over to Langkawi and spent a day cycling through rubber tree plantations to another Monkey Beach in the north. This time a pack of monkeys surprised us; I went to guard the bicycles yet another monkey was heading for our bag of bananas, which lay next to Sertx who was peacefully lying asleep in the sun. The monkey grabbed the bag, jumped over Sertx & made a run for it before he realised what happened. Sertx managed to get the bag back and ran into the sea with the remaining bananas. I thankfully got some great shots of the monkeys.
Here in Thailand we've seen water dragons, snakes, massive spiders, chickens, hundreds of friendlier dogs and a few cats jump out in front of our bikes. We've cycled up & down all types of terrain, from sand, to loose rock, red dusty mud paths & melting hot main-road black asphalt. We've cycled through a billion rubber tree plantations, seen how pineapples, mangos, papaya & cucumbers grow; watched how locals cut coconuts from palm trees using mega long bamboo cutters; seen colourful fisherman boats & watched the locals dry out their caught fish & squid on mile-long nets supported by bamboo-structures. We've cycled alongside young kids who drive scooters who often just look back smile surprisingly at us; we've even seen dogs getting the front seat on the scooters! We've cycled by and spent time on the most amazing white-sand beaches; some with few tourists, others without tourists. We have also already spent a week on a Thai island, Koh Tao, which is over-populated with tourists, but has some great dive sites around. I got to complete my Dive Leader course & Sertx got to ride a scooter around the island to find some quieter beaches.
We are currently cycling up the east coast of Thailand from Chumphon to Bangkok, exploring the fisherman villages, visiting dog rescue centres, discovering the Swedish community here, passing several colourful Wats, and watching the waves of the sea whilst we cycle along the quieter paths & routes through the country. We are enjoying it tremendously and wish the road/aka mud-paths would never end!