Having experienced the very orderly, beautiful, organised and clean Singapore I wasn’t expecting to much from Malaysia……how wrong was I ? Ok so it’s not quite as orderly or as clean, but what it lacks in that respect it more than makes up for with warmth, friendliness and hospitality ! We’d just crossed the causeway from Singapore into Malaysia having sorted our immigration and emigration and we couldn’t have cycled more than two hundred metres before the first toot of a horn and the wave of a hand out of the window. Shortly after that, a guy on a moped drew level with us and asked where we were going, after a brief conversation he welcomed us to Malaysia and pulled away. This sort of thing seemed to happen on a regular basis and after a while you start to get a bit blasé, we still appreciated the welcome and the tooting of horns though.
Our route from Singapore would take us up the west coast passing through places like Pontian, Batu Pahat, Muar and Mallaca. Our accommodation would always be in hotels and frankly has mainly been of reasonable quality and fairly cheap. My stand out hotel in the first week would be The Sunflower Express hotel in Pontian, the welcome was warm, the room was large and larger still when they upgraded us to the family room. They decided it would be better if we could keep our bikes in our room…certainly made us smile 😉 The Wi Fi worked, the shower was hot and the whole place was freshly decorated with large pictures of sunflowers on all the walls. Breakfast the following morning was also right up there, a good choice of food and decent coffee, set us up nicely. Our stay here also led me to start giving our hotels our own star rating, the Sunflower Express leads the way with 4 stars !! There have been one or two hotels along our route that have fallen well below this standard (as I write this I’m now in Thailand) but I’ll not embarrass them by telling tales here.
The road up the west coast is pretty much flat and very wet, either because your dripping with sweat or because it’s raining. When it rains it really throws it down, it’s warm though. The problem is that as soon as it stops raining it becomes really humid again and then you just sweat some more ! For most of the route we followed route 5 with a few other roads here and there, not to difficult to navigate. The scenery is mainly palm tree plantations, lots and lots of them, and most of them belong to Sime Darby, one of the largest company’s in Malaysia and also one of their biggest employers. As for tourist attractions…there aren’t any. Seriously, I expected Malaysia to be a bit like India with temples, palaces and ruins everywhere but it’s reality not like that at all. By the time we reached Mallaca on day 4 I’d hardly used my camera, in fact here are the photos from the first few days, not much to get excited about…
There were other things to get excited about though, “acts of random kindness” they just keep on coming ! On our ride from Muar to Mallaca we stopped at a small restaurant to get coffee and breakfast. The owner had studied in the UK and we struck up a conversation, telling him about our travels so far and what we were doing now. We ate rice and sambal and drank strong sweet coffee, they make it with condensed milk and plenty of Nescafé powder…it’s bloody addictive !! We tried to pay but he wouldn’t take any money, we tried to argue and eventually slipped a few Ringits into the charity bottle. Since then there have been numerous other “acts of random kindness”, here are just a few :-
Another small roadside restaurant, family run, the two teenage kids spoke some English and made an effort to speak to us, they helped us order and made us feel very welcome. We ate well and drank plenty of coffee before eventually asking for the bill. We were told in no uncertain terms that we wouldn’t be allowed to pay, makes you feel very humble !
Another roadside stop, this time just for some cold drinks and coffee, no food. A local guy, fairly old and it seemed not in the best of health arrived on a scooter. He nodded to us as he walked past us but we never made conversation with him, it didn’t stop him paying for our drinks though. I don’t know what possessed him to do so but again we were humbled by this display of generosity.
This is the last tale I’ll tell on this topic, Naomi and myself had cycled out of Kuala Lumpur to go and look at Batu caves. We arrived in a large car park surrounded by cafés and restaurants, we parked our bikes before climbing hundreds of steps to the cave. On our return a gentleman approached us and started asking what we were doing. Next thing we knew he’d invited us to breakfast, we followed him to a cafe and he proceeded to order us drinks and food. He’d studied in the UK, marine electrical engineering, he’d met his wife, a trainee nurse in the UK and was now involved in a business that supplies to the building trade. His name was Harcharan and he was a true gentleman, he paid for our food and drinks, wouldn’t take a penny and I hope he reads this blog just so he knows how much we appreciated his generosity !!
These stories will crop up again in later blogs but I’ve put them in here to illustrate just what a wonderful country this is, so friendly and welcoming.
Anyway it’s day four and we’d arrived in Mallaca, it’s an historic town and has been at various points occupied by the Dutch, Portuguese and British, I think it’s also been occupied by the Japanese at some point, so it has some history. We were staying close to the River Mallaca in the River Panoramic Guest House, basic but clean, tidy and with working Wi Fi !
As we didn’t have a day off here but had arrived fairly early we set about exploring as much as we could. First thing was to find a cold beer while we waited for our room to be readied. We took a stroll along the river until we found a little cafe and sat by the river watching the tourists on the water taxis.
Back at the guesthouse we showered quickly, dealt with email and Facebook and were soon heading to Jonker Walk, primarily China Town it was busy and full of tourists. We stopped at a busy little place called The Geographer to eat, interesting place in itself, it was a wreck before being lovingly restored and has since been in several commercials and films ! After a good lunch we continued our look at Mallaca, we passed by Mr Universe, Datuk Wira DR. Gan Boon Leong, the father of body builders in Malaysia, how could I leave him out !!
We exited China Town and came face to wheel so to speak, with these…
Having only a limited amount of time we took a tour, one hour of useful information, witty banter and good humour plus some photo opportunities. We stopped at St Paul Hill to take a look at A Formosa, the old Portuguese fort, the replica of a galleon in the harbour area, Little India, and a historic car, used at the time of independence.
All in all a useful and enlightening tour, it also gave us some ideas on how to navigate our way out of Mallaca in the morning. It also meant that we knew we could get a decent curry for dinner, oh how I’ve missed them !! We headed back to the guesthouse to chill out for a bit, I do mean chill out, air conditioning on full tilt while we read or used the Wi Fi until it was time to eat. Mallaca in the evening was even better than it was during the day, everything was lit up, including the Trishaws !! Naomi was so taken with the blinged trishaws that she purchased some lights of one of the owners, hoping to fit them to “the captain”. Dinner was good, or at least it had flavour something that we’d found lacking in Malaysian food up to now.
And so to bed, tomorrow brings new roads, more people we’ve not met yet, food we’ve not yet tried and roads we’ve yet to travel, Kuala Lumpur is only a few days away and my excitement builds the closer we get 😉
Take care and keep reading.