For previous blog entries of our ride through NZ, Australia, South East Asia, China and Central Asia, click on the little arrows beside the dates in the Blog Archive below and use the scroll down menu.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Singapore to Penang - via the East Coast

Route: Singapore - Johor Bahru - Malacca - Kuala Lumpur - Maran - Kuantan - Cherating - Kuala Besut -Jeli - Gerik - Nibong Tebal-Penang-Kuala Kedah- Langkawi island

Distance cycled: 12,150 kms

Singapore by night

After the drama at Denpasar airport, we were relieved to land in Singapore on the morning of July 4th. We parked our weary bodies in a corner and Ben set to building up the bikes for the last time. We soon realised that we had left Bali far behind: no more smiles, hallo mee-stah or waving children for us. We were back amongst the rat racers in a big city but happy nonetheless. Thank goodness for Chuen. Having a warm showers host to stay with in a huge city like Singapore was a great help especially as when we arrived in Singapore we were still broke thanks to Barclays. Hungry, we got on our bikes and cycled 40 kms through the city to his house. The traffic was busy but the roads were wide and well-maintained and the driving seemed sane again after having spent the last month in Bali. And yes, Singapore is indeed spotlessly clean. Not a kit-kat wrapper in sight. We cycled along a coastal bike path towards the West of the island for around 16 kms and everyone we met spoke perfect English and Mandarin. We were welcomed at Chuen's by his mother who cooked us some delicious food. We then went to sleep in our private bedroom with ensuite bathroom for a few hours. We had looked forward to this moment since we stumbled off the plane. Well-fed and horizontal we could finally relax after a night of no sleep and no food followed by a sleep-deprived 40 km ride.

Durians - a smell similar to onions, custard and raw sewage

When we woke up a few hours later, Chuen was home and he took us out for dinner. The food here is amazing and not expensive. The next day, I managed to sort out our problem with Barclays and at last, had some cash. We took Chuen out for another meal, this time sampling barbequed stingray. Chuen drove us into town late at night and took us up to a roof terrace to take some photos of the spectacular array of neon which lit up the city. Chuen was a host in the true sense of the word and really looked after us. Thanks for everything.


But everyone loves them, including Ben

A typical Singapore restaurant

 Our first impressions of Singapore were that it seemed a bit on the sterile side and felt like a very controlled environment. Having said that there's probably as much crime there in a year as there is in Glasgow in 24 hours. It's a safe city where people can walk the streets at night at ease so the strict laws and policing aren't all bad news perhaps. We didn't know much about Singapore before we arrived. Infact we thought it was part of Malaysia not even realising it was it was an island and a completely separate country! It's the same size as our favourite Scottish island, Arran but has a huge population of 5 million.
New at Greggs - deep fried cuttlefish head on a stick

Okay, we won't be going in there then

Bear Grylls - what are you an animal or a part of an oven?

We left Chuen's and cycled 30 kms or so to the Malaysian border crossing. On the Malaysian side we cycled through the busy city of Johor Bahru, happy to be out of Singapore.Immediately the run down buildings and smiley faces of the Malaysians seemed much more up our strasse.The roads were busy and smog-filled but the drivers were considerate. We cycled through industrial, built-up areas but soon started enjoying the ride thanks to the support from the Malaysian public. We got too many beeps, cheers from passing cars and thumbs up to count. Although we didn't see too many people on bikes, it was clear that people loved what we we're doing. We camped wild on our first night by the side of the road without being disturbed. On our second night, we asked to sleep in a lady's garden and thankfully we chose the right house. Habsa fed and watered us and sent us on our way the next morning with a fried breakfast. I was relieved to discover that all the Indonesian I had learned was for the most part understood in Malaysia.

Later that day we arrived in the historical town of Malacca which was a major trading port in Malaysia centuries ago and colonised by both the Dutch and Portuguese. The history in this place is enchanting and the buildings centuries old. We took a walk down Jonker Street, a lively part of town rammed with craft stalls, food, restaurants and open-air karaoke. They love their karaoke here and the streets are often filled with the sound of ear- piercingly shrill renditions of classic songs in Malay and Mandarin. Pure comedy to us, deadly serious to them. We stayed in a great little homestay in the old town, Malacca budget homestay, No 72 Lorong Hang Jebat.Ph: 012 3081720 for around 7 pounds for both of us per night. Malacca is notorious for being skelping hot and certainly was when we were there. We started behaving like a couple of gremlins reluctant to even set foot out the door.

Our next days cycle took us pretty near to Kuala Lumpur and we cycled into the night to test my newly-purchased lights. The ride lacked in good scenery but the roads were pretty good as were the drivers. We stuck the tent up in some bushes at the side of a lonely stretch of road. We settled down and drifted off to sleep. Then, in the middle of the night, every campers worst nightmare: footsteps outside the tent. We sat up and said hello. Nothing. We took a look outside. Nobody. Then, a few minutes later we heard dogs barking near the tent. We got out again and in the darkness, not far away, the dogs barking got louder and louder. We got back in the tent. We were both feeling very uneasy and decided that packing up and cycling into the night was better than spending the next few hours crapping it in the tent. So, armed with a couple of big sticks, we packed up in record time and cycled off into the night. It was only 3am and we soon realised that 3am was a lonely time to be out on the road. Crazy dogs chased us through little towns and it felt like the morning would never come. We stumbled upon a little all night cafe and had some nasi goreng and tea to pass the time. The locals were pretty shocked at our arrival. They had a good gawp but then got back on with their own lives after we'd exchanged smiles. Speaking Malaysian has also been a huge help to us. The people here are so impressed by a white person speaking their language and are both taken aback and respectful because of it.Speaking the language opens doors from you and sets you apart from other tourists.

Ben doesn't speak Mandarin
We arrived at KL international airport the next day and saw that the Sepang Formula 1 track was right next to it. We asked if we could have a look at the track. The guy at the gate gave us a visitor pass and before long we were sitting in the grandstand watching porsches, ferraris and lamborginis haring round the course at 150 mph. Unlike Ben, I've never been interested in F1 but the speed and deafening sound of these cars was amazing. These guys were only practising not racing for real but it was great pretty exciting stuff. We then made our way down to the airport, had a shower and rolled out our thermarests on some benches in a quiet corner of the airport. We had a good nights sleep in the airport which, by 10 o'clock at night had turned into a bit of a doss house. Bodies everywhere. We waited at the arrivals gate the next morning eager to spot 2 familiar faces. And then, out they popped.........................Stevie and Lucy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We had been looking forward to these 2 coming for months and at last here they were. The four of us would be spending the next 5 weeks together on the bikes, cycling the length of Malaysia and into Thailand. We were so happy to see some good friends from home and in the case of these two, it was the second time we'd seen them since leaving home. We spent New Year with them in NZ. My good friend Rachel had put us in touch with her Uncle in KL who was happy to put up all 4 of us and all our gear so we shoved all the gear in a taxi and headed to the city.

Nung and friend Wah - our first of many meals together

It didn't take long to see that Nung Wong was a great guy. My friend's heavy metal loving Uncle was an absolute legend and it didn't take long for the 5 of us to become good friends. Most of our time with Nung was spent in cafes and restaurants which suited us four hungry/greedy cyclists just fine. The food here is outstanding and we soon, with Nung's help, got to know the local dishes really well. We enjoyed late nights in cafes chatting, laughing and drinking sweet tea with condensed milk.The culinary highlight of our trip so far has been,without a doubt, Roti Canai(a sort of flaky naan bread dipped in curry sauce costing about 20p). It's not uncommon for the 4 of us to put away 3 or 4 of the buggars for breakfast. Most meals cost around 1 pound per person. We are very happy!

Stony path for very painful reflexology treatment

Nung drove us into town to take pictures of the very striking Petronas Towers. Like Singapore, KL is best viewed at night with the city coming to life in a dazzling array of lights. We made a human model of the Petronas Towers which we called simply,” Petronas Towers.”

Petronas Towers

Nung did so much for us and nothing was too much trouble for him. We got him an AC/DC t-shirt to go with his tattoo before leaving. Nung Wong, we salute you.

During our time in KL we also got to see our friend Emily from NZ who was working in Singapore and Lucy's sister Sally. We had a good night out on the town and stayed in a great little guest house. I say guest house, it's more like a squat: rammed with backpackers, delapidated, lively and oozing with character. What's more, the price is right: 15 RM per person per night. You can find “Le Village' on Jalan H.S Lee in China Town. Don't pass it by if you're in KL.
Lucy figured that if you put 3 fingers in your mouth vertically then smile it looks like you're having a great time on camera
Nibbly feet fish

China town - KL

Some drunks

Killing 2 1/2 hours in KL train station while Sally waits for her ticket with a fashion show:


After our break at Nung's, it was time to get back to work so we loaded up our bikes and set off. We were now 4 and so happy to be sharing part of our journey with our lovely friends. After a goodbye Roti Canai breakfast with Nung, he escorted us to the road to KL city centre. There was a lane for motorbikes separate from the cars all the way into town. Like cycling out of most big cities, leaving KL was a bit hairy but after an hour or so we were out of the worst of it. Being 4 riders instead of 2 definetely helped. The drivers had no choice but to take notice of us now. We arrived at a toll booth on the expressway and pitched our tent at the side of the road in as quite a corner as we could find. At last, we were on our way again.

We were eased into our first nights wild camping by the arrival of Nung who had brought us a take-away! What a man. We slept well on our first night, woke up early and set off to the East Coast.

Our first day saw us tackle an 18 km hill climb up into the Genting Highlands. As it was their first day, we expected Stevie and Lucy to find it tough. Far from it. We couldn't shake them off! Every time we looked in our mirrors they were right on our tails. We completed the climb in an impressive time and made it clear that we were both hugely impressed by their fitness. And of course, what goes up........... As usual we flew past traffic on the way down reaching 60 and 70 km/h.We did a 100 km day and stayed in a hotel room in Karak with two double beds for around a tenner all in.

Stevie on the phone tae his maw
The next day we did really good mileage again and Stevie and Lucy took to slipstreaming like ducks to water. Before long, we had a fast efficient method of cycling going on, drafting each other and taking turns to lead at the front. They were both really fast at the front: Roti Canai power at breakfast. We had certainly sped up since these two turned up and were now reaching average speeds of around 25 km/h. We soon realised that these two were ideal travelling companions: fit, fast, easy-going, adventurous and most importantly great company. We stayed in the town of Maran in a little chalet. I went out to find some booze, a rare treat for us nowadays and came back with some thai whisky. I soon discovered though that buying alcohol in non-tourist areas of a muslim country is a bit embarassing to say the least. I cringed as the shopkeeper screamed across the busy shop that I wanted whisky. Embarassed and feeling slightly ashamed I left with a bottle of Thai song. Ironically, I don't even like whisky.

Band photo outside chalet in Maran

We reached the East Coast by the 4th day and were all pretty pleased with our progress. Peninsular Malaysia is narrow but we had still done well to get there in 4 days.In Kuantan, we paid a visit to JBS bike shop, No 4J,4K,4L Jalan Besar, Kuantan Ph: 09 514 9966. The lovely Syazwan helped us out by lending Ben the tools to service Stevie's bottom bracket. We set off in full working order.

Ben services Stevie's bottom bracket


It was great to get to the coast again and we spent the night camped on a busy beach outside a 24 hour McDonalds and KFC. I chortled when I realised I could pick up McDonalds wi-fi from the comfort of our tent without having to even look at a Big Mac. As usual, the staring and tittering was incessant. Wherever we go, especially in the countryside, we stand out like sore thumbs. Ben and I are mostly used to it now but when feeling tired or sensitive it can still feel intrusive and annoying. Lucy took it in her stride and Stevie just couldn't believe how blatant it was. Ah, welcome to our world. It'll get worse for us as we reach countries like India so best just accept it. People are just interested, there's certainly no ill intention.
You should try SPD's, those boots are crap for cycling

We spent the next morning at Telok Chempadek outside McDonalds using their wi-fi. Also, if you buy a cup of tea or coffee in the morning, you can get free refills ALL DAY. We were there for 5 hours taking advantage of the free beverages and internet, drying out our pants and socks in the sun and charging all our electrical appliances. If it had been back home, they'd have kicked us out after cup of tea number 5 but being Malaysia no-one gave two hoots.

Blue steel

Telok Chempedak beach

We got 40 kms up the road to the funny little town of Cherating.We each got our own chalet(very cheap) and stayed there for 3 days. There's very little to do here which is ideal if you're looking for some relaxation. It was nice to be with other tourists again. However, then we started to realise: the French were at it again. Not content with colonising Australia's Northern Territory and killing Princess Diana they were now taking over Malaysia. Je plaisante bien sur, j'aime la France!

Our little chalet in Cherating

We found the best restaurant ever and ate in it just about every meal. In Lucy, I have found someone who likes eating and talking about how much she likes eating what she is eating as much as me. Honestly, the food is so good. I think I'd be suicidal if I had to go back to eating value beans, tinned tuna and instant noodles like we were in Australia. A bit of graffitti on a rest area wall in Oz summed it up, 'Please Sarah, no more tinned tuna”. I know how you feel mate.

Monkey madness

In Cherating we bore witness to a spectacle you don't see too often. A monkey nursing a kitten. Yes, this bizarre sight was the talk of Cherating. The kitten in question was barely a week old and the monkey had kidnapped it and was trying to raise it as his own. No-one could help the kitten though as defensive monkeys aren't easy to catch. We tried to reason with the monkey saying “Listen mate I'm not being funny or anything but do you realise that's a cat not a monkey”. He wouldn't have it. In seriousness, we felt sorry for them both. The monkey looked so, so sad and was clinging on to the kitten as though it was all he had in the world. It was a pitiful sight really. There are a lot of stray animals in Malaysia but for the most part they are a lot healthier than the Bali dogs and cats. There are far more cats than dogs here and they are all surprisingly friendly and affectionate. Little creatures come in and out of our lives every day, leaving us when they get a better offer.

Team Roti Canai stop for another well-earned rest

That's right, Osama Laden seafood right next door to Saddam Hussien's fruit stall

In Cherating,we had the pleasure of meeting Round the World cyclist David Munusamy. David's daughter stopped us on the street explaining that we had to meet her father. It all soon became clear when we heard about David's cycling endeavours. He had taken up cycling a few years ago in an attempt to beat ill-health and his passion for it had grown from there. He had cycled thousands of miles all over the world and had visited many countries by bicycle. However, the thing that impressed us most was his involvement in Warm Showers. He had hosted over 200 cyclists on the site and had helped many others he had met in passing. We went out for dinner with David and his children that night and promised to look him up if we headed over to Penang. David can be contacted at Have a look at his website

David and family

Yes, we are very cute

We left Cherating and did another big day on the bikes enjoying delicious food along the way and stopping every 40 kms or so for a cold drink from a garage. As we cycled along everyone smiled and cheered us on. The Malaysians are super-friendly. We love them. Stevie commented, “You wouldn't get this kind of reaction if you were cycling through Clydebank”. We cycled past a mosque which was blaring out the daily prayers. Stevie said “That boy's shouting on the tannoy again”. Stevie, like most Scots(ahem) is hilarious without even trying and has stunned us with his linguistic skills changing “Terima Kasih”,(thankyou) to “Tiramisu” for ease of pronunciation. Gaun yersel Stevie.

Bruno and Patrizia from Switzerland, also cycling round the world

Ben puts the camera's zoom facility to its best use

Leaving Cherating, we cycled 40 kms up the road to swim in the clear waters at Kemasik beach. We jumped back on the bikes and cycled up near Dungun on the coast. We planned to put the tent up on the beach there but a lot of people had seen us and there were no shops or houses nearby. Our philosophy with wild camping is, you are safest in a place with a lot of people or hiding where no-one will find you. We usually go for the second option. So we went in search of a more well-hidden camp site. We passed a little guest house on a beautiful, quiet stretch of road near Dungun. Stevie and Lucy treated us to a night in the guest house. They have been so good to us since they arrived. We're glad we called in as we had the pleasure of meeting Hasim, a wonderful man who helps neuter, worm and feed all the stray cats in the area. Any money he makes from the guest house goes towards helping them. We spent a great night there playing with the cats. We fell in love with one kitten in particular who Hasim said had just arrived. Before we left Hasim announced he was calling the cat “Glasgow” in our honour. Hasim lives at Bidara Bay, 2225 Jalan Pantai, 23050 Dungun, ph: 019 2182581. If you want a nice stay in a quiet little cottage by the sea then give him a call.


The lovely Hasim

We found teddy on the road and now he's going for the ride of his life

The next night we camped in a garden by the beach and as usual, had to deal with everyone staring at us. It wasn't a great nights camp and was one of the hottest so far but it was free. We ate in the nearby Restoran as local diners stared in disbelief. Lucy and I soon realised that the state of Terengganu we were now in was a stricter Islam area and although no-one said anything to us and everyone was lovely as usual, we started covering up our knees and shoulders when we went in to a restaurant. It's alright for the boys, they can parade around in their budgie smuggler lycra shorts till their hearts content but not us girls.

The next day we enjoyed a beautiful ride on a quiet country lane by the sea for the first couple of hours. It was so enjoyable and we were disappointed when we were spat back out onto the main road. We did a big day of 120 kms that day to reach Kuala Besut where we would be parting company with Stevie and Lucy for a few days. It was a hard day for us all as we were all needing a bit of a rest but we pushed on. For roughly 40 mins we had an impromptu training session, maintaining an average speed of around 32 kms/h. We puffed and panted over the handlebars but kept it going for a while. It was a great workout. We collapsed in yet another Petronas garage forecourt and enjoyed cold cokes, fanta and Ben's favourite, soya milk in a can. If I do say so myself, we look pretty damn cool with the 4 of us cycling in a peloton especially when we are going fast. The reaction we get from people is great and the kids just go mad when they see us. It's really great cycling here. Malaysia is a wonderful country and Malaysian people, gentle, friendly and positive.

A floating mosque

And so we arrived in the rather run down town of Kuala Besut where once again we squeezed all 4 of us into a small and very cheap hotel room. We spent the night together and in the morning Lucy and Stevie went off to Perhentian island which by all accounts is tropical paradise, full stop. We were sorely tempted to join them but felt it was right for us to carry on cycling back to the West Coast. It's always healthy to have a little break from each other when you're travelling with friends too. So we said our goodbyes and arranged to meet again in a few days when Lucy and Stevie had taken the bus back to the West Coast. Our cycling adventure with those two would continue up the East Coast of Malaysia into Thailand.

Once again we manage to squeeze the 4 of us into a tiny hotel room

Gateway to Paradise - but we chose to slog it over the hills with the tigers

Then it was just the two of us again. We missed those two but were happy to discover that we were perfectly content just the two of us still. The next few days riding were tough but the scenery was stunning. We left Kuala Besut late in the day and got 30 kms out of town. We asked to camp behind the Shell petrol station and the bemused workers agreed watching in disbelief as we got set up. We slept okay although the tent was like a sweat lodge.

The next day we set off to Jeli and started our massive climb into the mountains. We climbed steadily for several hours until we reached an abandoned Rest and Recreation area. It was truly bizarre. It was a big abandoned building with little separate rooms which had a locking door. We cleaned out one of the rooms, set up the mozzie sheet, had some noodles then tried to get to sleep. Ben, as usual was unphased but it was a bit spooky I have to admit. Cars came and went in the night which kept me slightly on edge but in the end sleep prevailed. To be honest, it was an ideal set up. We were right in the middle of the jungle, Taman Negara national park. Tigers and elephants roam in these woods but despite warning signs you are unlikely to have the privilige of coming across them. It kept us on our toes mind you. So, as I said, having the building to stay in was great as sleeping in the jungle wasn't really an option.

Our bed for the night in the abandoned rest area

We had a choice of rooms

The stunning views in Taman Negara National Park

Elephants crossing 500m ahead - not a sign you see often

We cycled through the state of Kelantan, the most strict Muslim state in Malaysia. This place definetely had a different feel to it and before long I was covering my head with a buff as well as my cycle-short clad legs when I entered a restaurant. It was a quick transit for us through this state and although everyone was lovely, we were glad to enter Kedah where attitudes were a bit more relaxed.

Of all the little animals we meet, this one seemed to have had the toughest time in his short life

The climbing continued the next day, up and up. However with high altitude comes stunning mountain views and cooler weather. The support we got from the drivers up here was even better than usual. They appreciated the effort it takes to climb to such heights. Thanks everybody.

What goes up.............................

Hey handsome
A friendly man gives us 2 durians and some rambutans

We did another big 100 km + day the next day to arrive in the town of Gerik. Being in the jungle, we got soaked in several torrential downpours and the rain was so heavy we couldn't see a thing in front of us. It was a stunning ride with some seriously tough climbs but then of course, amazing downhills. In Gerik, after 2 sleep deprived nights in the tent, I felt I needed a hotel and things just fell into place. We asked a friendly looking man about a cheap hotel. Without hesitation, he summoned his friend who was passing by in his car. We followed him 1km into town and stopped outside the Roma hotel. This kind, elderly gentleman struggled upstairs, spoke to the hotelier in Malay then said the price was 20 RM(4 quid). We were delighted. Later that night there was a knock at the door and the same man, Jaffar, took us out for dinner. We chatted to him in Malay and wished him well before he dropped us back at the hotel. Next morning, he came and took us out for breakfast. Can you guess what we had? That's right......Roti Canai.

Jaffar - a true gentleman

We stay in some pretty classy hotels

We set off again with a long day ahead of us. We had decided to go to Nibung Tebal, South of Penang to visit David. It was a bit of a detour but as it turned out, David's company and hospitality was worth the effort. We headed South to Lawin before turning into the A6. By 3pm we still had another 90 kms to do. It was a steep, gruelling climb over the mountains before whizzing downhill towards Kubu Gajah. We jumped onto the hard shoulder of the Expressway for 5kms, which is completely illegal but saved us 30 kms or so. We got off at Bandar Baharu and arrived at Nibung Tebal in the dark. 140 kms including a big mountain climb. Not bad at all. We had done so well the past few days but were feeling it now. We needed a rest.

We were happy to see David again and dropped our stuff off at his house before going out to meet his friends for a beer. What a great bunch. We were made most welcome and everyone made it clear that they respected my efforts to speak their language. These guys were all of Indian descent but had lived in Malaysia all their lives. It was clear though that they still held on to Indian culture and spoke Tamil, Malay and English We had a lovely night and a few too many Tiger beers.

Coconut wine time

David took us to an Indian ceremony, the photos and videos speak for themselves. An amazing experience

Hooks were inserted into the backs of two young men who had volunteered to go through this important ritual

Although we were clearly the only white people there and in a tiny village, we were made to feel most welcome

Ironically, it is us who stood out far more than the guy with the spear through his face

Back at David's we looked at photo albums and diaries of all the cycle tourists he has hosted over the years. It was hugely inspiring. David is one of life's great men and hugely respected and well-known by many. He made a huge effort to show us places of interest in the area taking us to a ceramic factory to watch clay pots being made, a dragon fruit farm, a fish market and his friends coconut plantation to sample some coconut wine.He is a wonderful man who we feel priviliged to have met and tomorrow he will cycle up to Penang with us before we part company. I have a feeling though that it won't be the last time we see each other. David, thankyou. The help you provide for travelling cyclists is amazing and you are exactly what Warm Showers and other such organisations are all about. The Malaysian government have even recognised David's efforts and have given a well-deserved award for promoting tourism in Malaysia.

Cycling to Penang with David

David cycled 40 kms with us to Butterworth where we took a 20 minute boat ride to Penang island. When we arrived in Georgetown, we were pleasantly surprised to find a busy, vibrant, multi-cultural town. We cycled through bustling streets and lanes savouring the sounds, sights and smells of chinese, indian and malaysian shops and restaurants. The place was buzzing and we instantly loved it. We had lunch with David and said our goodbyes as he cycled back home. Penang was also the place where team Roti Canai would be reunited. We met up with Stevie and Lucy and had a great day catching up on each others news since we had left them almost a week ago. Those two had found a black market bar importing alcohol from the duty-free island of Langkawi so we continued our catching up over a few 50p beers. We wandered round the streets sampling much of the local fare and spent most of our time in Little India. There is a huge indian population here and after spending time in Penang and with David and his indian friends, we've both got a real taste for India and can't wait to explore this amazing country.

Wilson on the boat to Penang, smile widening by the day

Bye David

Georgetown - just amazing

If you are looking for a great place to stay in Penang try the Travellers Lodge on Muntri Street. Ideal for cyclists as they have spacious rooms on the ground floor that you can wheel your bikes straight into. They also offer free wireless, hot showers, cable TV and all for the meagre sum of 22 Ringitts. The travellers Lodge has a great atmosphere where travellers meet and exchange stories and it is spotlessly clean.

Stevie and Lucy took a ferry from Penang straight to Langkawi while we cycled 110 kms North to the Port of Kuala Kedah to get a cheaper ferry to Langkawi. We disembarked and cycled 25 kms to Cenang beach to meet Stevie and Lucy. We crammed the four of us into a tiny room at Shirin's guest house. The next morning we headed off to watch the Mountain bike championships, which was our reason for coming to the island in the first place, It was a great course and similar to XC courses back home. To be honest though, it made us sad to be watching the race and not taking part. We tried to enter but were unable to hire a bike as there's no shop on the island. We both thought we'd have done pretty well especially as many of the riders were walking the technical sections. Damn, we miss mountain biking. We could have just drowned our sorrows by getting tanked up on duty-free beer and staggering around in the way of the riders. "oh, sorry mate" but instead focused on supporting the riders, whipping the other spectators into a frenzy. By the end of the race everyone was cheering and shouting in Malay, Mandarin and English. Stevie, Ben and I sat ourselves at the best technical downhill part and watched the chaos ensue. It was a good race and we noticed that the riders here(male and female) were far less testosterone filled than at the SXC. Very polite. We saw only one very unsporting rider who just refused to get out of the way of a faster rider coming through. Stevie soon put him in his place shouting, "You're no gonnae win anyway". You tell him Stevie.

And they're off

As the winner of the male elite came through, the chequered flag came out the guy was surrounded by photographers and journalists. This race was obviously a big deal in Malaysia and the winner, an Australian looked pretty stunned by the attention.

The man himself

After the race we went back to Cenang beach and enjoyed lounging on the beach, swimming and drinking beer at 40p a can. It was a good break and our final stop in Malaysia a we prepared to take the ferry to Satun at the Thai border.
Cenang beach

Some lovely girls who came to talk to us on the beach

Many people from Saudi and the UAE enjoy a holiday here. Stevie and Lucy saw a woman jet skiing in attire shown in the picture above

Cenang beach - it's a hard life right enough

And so our Malaysian adveture is over. We cannot say enough good things about  this country. The people are wonderful and we will remember the constant support from drivers and passers-by as we zoomed through little towns and villages throughout the country. The Malaysians like the Balinese are big smilers and to their credit, seem to be completely fair and honest. We never felt like anyone ripped us off in Malaysia. The amount of English spoken here makes the country a lot easier to travel in than many other Asian countries but people appreciate immensely any efforts to speak Malay. The drivers here were considerate and careful and the roads always had a good hard shoulder to ride in.And of course, let's not forget the wonderful food. Man, these guys know how to cook.Despite some warnings, we always felt safe in Malaysia

And what happened next..............? Well, we don't know as we haven't done it yet. Stay tuned as we cycle up through Thailand. Thanks to all our friends and family for their constant support especially Ben's Dad Paul without whom our trip would be 10 times more difficult.