Two of the easiest countries for cycle touring would have to be Malaysia and Thailand. The people are incredibly friendly, the terrain along the coastlines is mostly flat with excellent roads, and the variety food options make it easy to take a break from cycling – especially when meals occupy a large portion of your thoughts. Accommodation is very affordable, making these two countries some of the cheapest to cycle through.
We were on our last section of Malaysia, incorporating two of Malaysia’s most well-known islands: Penang and LangKawi, as well as looking forward to a week-long Christmas break.
Malaysia has seen a boom in street art in the last ten years, with both commissioned and non-commissioned works showing up in many of the major cities. Our first glimpse of these murals was in Sasaran, a tiny traditional fishing village of only 4,000 people, yet holds an impressive international art festival, now in it’s third edition. Our favorite was ‘Catch and Release’ – a little boy’s ‘big catch’ proving a little too big for him.
Usually thought of as a quick stop between Kuala Lumpur and Penang, Ipoh is quietly coming up the ranks as a tourist destination in its own right. Little laneways with historic shophouses, classic Malay dishes with serious reputations to uphold and tiny vintage cafes popping up, Ipoh is steadily establishing a firm foothold in charisma and confidence. Of course Malaysians and Chinese tourists have long known about the regional specialities of Malaysia’s 19th century tin mining town, but it will be hard to keep this a local secret for long.
One of the things we wanted to see were monkeys up close and personal. We had actually seen the most common type, the macaques, quite a few times as we had been riding along, but they would disappear as soon as we stopped. We wanted to see them closer to their jungle environment, not the crazy hostile ones chasing screaming Chinese tourists on the steps of the Batu Caves.
Marking roughly the halfway point of our Malaysia ride we veered inland towards the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Most major cities are a pain to navigate into; traffic jams, highways and a billion pedestrians but this was one of the easiest rides we had.
We spent a few nights in Melaka (or Melacca). Melaka has a fascinating centuries-old history that swamps its actual dimensions. A tiny port city; its position was central to bustling trade with Indonesia, India, and the Middle East in the 14th century.
From November through February the Malaysian monsoon season is full swing. With roughs seas and endless rain the east coast and its nearby islands are virtually shut down. The west coast also gets it’s fair share of rain but it is said to be a little less hostile, so we decided to take the west coast roads to end at the very top of Malaysia.
Twenty kilometres were all it took to cycle from one side of Singapore to the other. The roads were busy but there were plenty of shared paths for us to jump on. It was hard to pull away from the amazing hospitality from Suyin’s family and the daily food comas but we had a flight booked in Bangkok and needed to ride up the coasts of both Malaysia and Thailand to get there.