Day 18: Tanah Rata to Teluk Intan



After a day of hanging out in Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands we decided to hit the road and pass on all the tours to see the flowers.

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The ride DOWN has been one of the highlights of this trip. The temperature was nice and cool for most of the decent and the fresh smell from the jungle and farms was refreshing – from all the palm tree plantations we’ve been seeing so far.
We rolled for nearly 2 hours down to Tapah – definitely pay back for the big slog up hill 2 days before.
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Day 16: Ipoh to Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands)



Incline is my decline.

What started out as a seemingly cruisy ride up into the Cameron Highlands soon turned into some serious hard yakka.

10km south of Ipoh down Highway 1, after a great breakfast of roti and curry, we headed east along the A181.

After about 10-15km east or so I’d say we hit our first serious incline, dwarfing anything we had previously

rode up.

Unfortunately the problem of having to keep on pedalling up the mountains just didn’t go away.

For hours we battled those mountains with the hope that the next corner would reveal the “highlands” and some nice flat riding once again.

Well it didn’t. We eventually ran out of water and the heat was strangling.

Some guys were selling bamboo on the side of the street and were cool enough to go grab us some water from their supply up the road (i think from the water that was running off the mountain). I would have gone for that water earlier but after seeing the dead nappies in the creek the other day I decided against it.

The water powered us on a few more kilometres but it was just too hot.
I think by this point we’d made it about 2/3 of the way up the mountain – 30km from Kampung Raja.
Nick and I decided we’d best to try hitch a ride. So i stuck the thumb out and managed to get us onto the first truck that past.

Mr S (unfortunately I have forgot his name), was kind enough to tie up our bikes in the back of his truck and take us the 30km Kg Raja.

Mr S delivers the fresh produce from the farms in Cameron Highlands down to the markets in Ipoh. A great man who sounds like he’s had a pretty hard life – moved from India in the 1960’s to pick fruit for $1.20/day back then!

He even shouted us food at Kg Raja and wouldn’t let us pay – it nearly came down to a fisticuffs!

In Kg Raja the clouds opened up and bucketed down. For hours.

The place to stay in town was way out of our budget so we decided to brave the rain and cold (it’s very fresh up here!) and pedal on for 20-30 more km to Tanah Rata.

It’s very beautiful up here and another place in Malaysia that must be experience.
It almost feels like being in the alps up here.

Total KM: 90KM

Day 15: Georgetown to Ipoh

“hey Nick… how’s you going?”
“…I’m running on auto-pilot…”

Around 160km per day seems to be a limit we reach before weird things begin to happen.
Time slows down, your body starts to spasm, the bike shorts feel tighter than normal, your hands are now more numb than ever. And you can’t stop thinking about what weird fizzy drink you are going to buy when you arrive at the destination.

After a previous day of loafing around Georgetown eating everything to be seen we left Georgetown bright and early.
Crossing the bridge to Butterworth on the mainland was pretty simple. We’d heard you had to pay a toll to get onto the E1 but that doesn’t seem to happen until you get out of Butterworth.
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We stopped for a quick Nasi Lemak and checked the map. The E1 was the most direct route, but tolls are for sissies, there are lots of trucks, oh yeah and bikes aren’t allowed on the E1.
That solved that problem.
So we took Highway 1 all the way.
It worked out much better anyway as we were able to stop when ever we wanted.

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The ride was pretty great. After passing Butterworth there was a bit of a strong wind in our face as a storm seemed to brew above us. But we powered on, out rode the storm and then spent the rest of the day in bright sunshine with a nice cool breeze blowing from the side. Very lucky! This whole rainy season idea hasn’t really hit us, or if it has, it hasn’t been bad like everyone said it would be.

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So far in Malaysia we have had food at places where it’s a bit of a “choose your own adventure” style place. Lots of curries and things to choose from. Prices seem to range between 4-8RM per plate.

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We pressed on and passed through a mountain range that reminded me a little of what we road through back in Thailand just before getting to Nakhon Si Thammarat. It was now pretty hot and I was sweating heavy. So when I noticed nice stream falling from the mountains and running under a bridge I figured we should stop. Well it looked nice, there was a waterfall and cascading pools of water.

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Unfortunately the good swimming hole had a bunch of fishing lines dangling in it, and the other ones were deep enough to get your feet wet. Ahh and the one at the bottom had a family that had stopped to clean up their baby – leaving it’s shat-in nappy nicely positioned on a rock in the middle of the creek. Why do people litter?

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We reached Kuala Kangar – the point where the E1 toll-way goes directly to Ipoh, and Highway 1 splits and does a long detour around a mountain to eventually get to Ipoh. We stopped for a snack in Sungai Siput at a small outside Chinese cafe/restaurant. I managed to order 2 ‘dung lai cha’ (all that time in hong kong is really paying off…) and Nick somehow managed to order us a chicken-rice dish.

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I don’t know if it’s just the bike pants, but we are getting a lot of laughs and attention in Malaysia!

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After the snack, which I think was around the 160km mark for us today, we slugged on for another hour or so and pulled into iPoh.

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On the ouskirts of iPoh are some rocky outcrop/hills (can’t think of the right words to describe them – similar to what you get in Krabbi in Thailand) with some Chinese temples of some sort at the bottom with smaller temple-type buildings on the top.

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At this point we went to the closest cheapest place we could find (the Hotel Tokyo – 43RM/night) and crashed out.
Since checking in we have discovered that Ipoh is quite massive and there was probably much better deals to be had for 43RM. It’s a pretty run down old place – the toilet doesn’t flush and the “hot” shower dribbles.

Malaysia is a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. The Indian, Muslim, Chinese and Malay cultures all mixing in someway together is very cool to say the least.

It’s great to hear different language being spoken at the same time, and Malaysia definitely has a lot of different food to try out.

Total KM: 185km

Day 14: Georgetown (Penang Island)

Georgetown is colourful, saturated, friendly, multicultural and fantastic.
I think it’s definitely been one of the more enjoyable places on this journey so far!

Maybe it’s because it’s buzzing with many different people Indian, Muslim, Chinese, Malay, Nepalese and most likely countless others.

So much food! It’s the first real place where the mixture of culture is so outstanding.
We had breakfast at a dim sum place called “Old Winston”.

Due to it’s colonial history as a trading port (East India company days??) Georgetown is UNESCO heritage listed.

“forged from the mercantile and exchanges of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures and three successive European colonial powers for almost 500 years, each with its imprints on the architecture and urban form, technology and monumental art. Both towns show different stages of development and the successive changes over a long span of time and are thus complementary.” – http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1223

We spent the day cruising around taking photos, cleaning grease off my bicycle and eating roti, samosa and drinking cold milk tea.
The SD Guesthouse on “Love Lane” was a great place to stay – 25RM for a double. Free wifi too! Cool area in/near Chinatown full of hostels that were once shops/warehouses.

Great city, make sure you check it out if you are ever in Malaysia!

Total KM: 4 milk teas.

Day 13: Kuah (Langkawi Island) to Georgetown (Penang Island)

Not much to say about today, spent most of it waiting for the ferry from Langkawi to Penang – the 2pm was fully booked so had to wait until 5:15pm. Caught up on emails and drank milo from a box.

The ferry was about 75RM plus an extra 10-20RM for our bikes. The boat folks lashed the bikes onto the front of the ferry. I can’t really see where the extra RM went.
The journey took about 3 hours.

Total KM: ummm… should this be in knots?

Day 12: Pantai Cenang (Cenang Beach), Langkawi Island

Day 12 began with an attempt to ride from Kuah over to Pantai Cenang (a.k.a Cenang Beach).
I think I must have got up out of the wrong side of bed today, or maybe the humidity is just annoying.
An attempt to ride over in the morning just ended up being hot and frustrating, with the tray on the back of my bike finally giving way – the single bracket that joins the frame to the bar under the seat snapped!

Grabbed some breakfast at a local place for about 14RM (2 people inc. 2 milk teas) and I asked the gentleman who served us if he knew where i could get my bike fixed. He got his son to take us up the street and show us the place!

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2RM later I was back on the road thanks to the helpful guys at the local scooter/bike repair shop.

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The middle of the day was pretty hot and humid so just killed that off catching up on web based cool stuff and then hot back on our bikes around 4pm – was a little cooler.

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The ride over to Pantai Cenang must be about 20km or so maximum. It’s a really nice ride, a bit hilly but we were able to gun through it a bit without the weight of our bags to hold us back.
Good fun on the downhills

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We got to Pantai Cenang after about 45 minutes just as the sun was starting to head home.
It’s a pretty spectacular view here and a nice beach too. The sun continued to set and created one of those amazing ‘matte-painting’ style vistas that looked kinda fake. 🙂

It’s nice here, but maybe the kind of nice that you use when you talk about someone who is nice. Not cool. Not crazy. Not unbelievable. Just nice, & clean.
Nice place, but i’ve got no problem staying in Kuah for 40RM/night at the Hotel Asia.

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Leaving Pantai Cenang guess what happened?
NICHOLAS GOT A FLAT TYRE.
It was inevitable, funny we made it the whole was through Thailand without any troubles!
Fixed the tyre and rode back in the dark covered in grease – munching on millions of mosquitos on the way.

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Total KM: 40?

Day 11: Hat Yai (Thailand) to Langkawi Island (Malaysia)

I think since Nakhon Si Tammarat there has been a pretty gradual change in feel of “Thai-ness”.
The culture moves from predominately Buddhist to a mixture of both Muslim and Buddhist (and probably a bunch more).
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My love for kapow-moo and lahd-nah is now replaced with a love for roti and beef curries. Yummo!
Yep, it’s all about the food.

We left Hat Yai around 7am and rode pretty solidly until Sadao where it started to hammer down rain, and not friendly warm rain, COLD bone chillin rain. We killed a bit of time there and I asked Nicholas if he thought this part of Thailand seemed a little ‘less friendly’ than the previous places we’d been riding through.

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I found in Hat Yai, and en route to the border of Malaysia, people were more stand-offish and there weren’t the abundance of smiley Thai folks. We’re both not really sure why. We put it down to perhaps the recent murders and bombings that have been a big issue for the past few years. Anyway, it’s still very beautiful and the people are as well!
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End Mission 1.

Begin Mission 2.

We made it to Malaysia!

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1200km+ of pedalling along and who knows how many litre of water, sponsor, pepsi and other sugared drinks we are chilling on the island of Langkawi in upper west side Malaysia.

The border crossing was easy, took about 5 minutes to get out of Thailand – had to fill out the form – and about 5 minutes to get into Malaysia. The folks all laughed when we told them we were riding to Singapore, but then gave us props for riding all the way from Bangkok.
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It wasn’t too strange riding into another country, except that the E1 doesn’t have any space on the side of the lanes for cyclers/breakdowns/dead dogs to go. But we soon headed west on the 194 and made it to Kuala Perlis. It was a pretty slow but nice ride, countryside is picturesque like Thailand but in some ways maybe even more green – is that possible?
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Not a whole lot in Kuala Perlis except for some nice girls working at a cafe who helped us get lunch.
I realised that a few Bahasa Malay words sounded pretty damn close to the Bahasa Indonesia I learnt back in primary school and for a stint at Telopea Park high school. I can count from 1-10, say thankyou, ask how someone is, and what there name is. And sing some song about a hat on my head “topi saya bundar, bundar topi saya…..”
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The reason for riding to Kuala Perlis was to get the ferry to Langkawi island.
Ferry – 18RM (Malaysian Ringgit – roughly 10 times less a number than Thai Baht) per person plus 10RM per bicycle.
The reviews i read on the net said that Langkawi is a place for old people and that if you are 2 girls in their early 20’s you would be better off heading to Phuket. I figured both Nicholas and I aren’t girls in our early 20’s and i don’t think much of Phuket anyway.
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Oh yeah, Langkawi Island is TAX FREE. 1 Tiger beer – 1.8RM!

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So here we are, in a place called Kuah, staying at the Hotel Asia for 40RM a night, drinking a cheap beer and wondering where to wander through Malaysia.

Tomorrow the plan is to ride over to Pantai Centang (Centang beach) and see what that’s all about.1

Total KM: about 100km

Day 10: Singhanakon to Hat Yai

Short ride today from Singhanakon to Hat Yai. We passed over the Tinsulanonda bridge which crosses the massive Songkla lake – the massive lake that stretches at least 100km up the east coast of Thailand.

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The bridge stops halfway on an island called Ko Yo – not much here i think except for a giant reclining Buddha.

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An hour or so later we were in Hat Yai!

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This is quite a milestone for us. It means we have made it over 1000km and are very close to Malaysia.

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We got our bikes serviced a little – my gears were all out of wack. The folks at Hay Yai mountain bike were superb.

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The rest of the day we pretty much tried to chill out in the heat – some beers and lots of food again.

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Tomorrow – Malaysia!

Total km: 35km

Day 09: Nakhon Si Thammarat to Singhanakon

It’s funny, we keep making the same sort of mistake. Riding all day just to the end of the afternoon and then reach the destination only to find that place doesn’t have a cheapo hotel or ‘love shack’ to sleep in, so we must ride on to the next town.

But it’s cool, we haven’t had to crash out by the side of the road yet.

Terrific day of pedalling, got quite a fair distance covered. I think around 165km or so. The rest yesterday seems to have paid off and perhaps we are slowly getting used to riding. I say we, but I really mean me. I think Nicholas could do 200km a day easily.

Cows. Lots of cows. Lots of baby cows. Lots of different cows. Pretty much since Cha-am we’ve been riding past so many cows. Down this part of Thailand people seem to really love their cows and treat them like family.

We met some Police outside Hua Sai who were doing routine checks on passing vehicles – apparently there is a big ASEAN conference happening in Phuket. The Police were great, told us not to worry about any danger where we are going – just don’t go to the 3 provinces in the south east. They filled us up on water, coffee and redbull – cheers guys!

Something I haven’t seen in Thailand before – Wind Turbines!

The middle of the day was pretty hot, at least 35C i think. The riding was comfortable but with the ocean so close to the road it would have been a waste not to jump in. We ended up going for a swim at a beach that was part of a Wat.

We’ve done nearly 1000km so far and the bikes are making noises that need some attention. A local bike shop owner was kind enough to lube the chains on a bikes, for free. Made a huge differece, now we are back to being in stealth mode.

We stopped by Maharat Beach but it didn’t seem to have any place to stay so we rode on to Muang Ngam. This place is meant to be pretty well known, but it doesn’t really show it.
We got a bite to eat at a small store near the sea and realised the whole place was buzzing with thousands of flies! The restaurant owner packed us up with a large fan to try blow the flies away but they were just to strong and ended up eating most of Nick’s lunch.

20km or so later we found a ‘love shack’ style place at Singhanakon for 200baht – ended up being a reasonable place after a few beers.

Total km: 165+ km