I am posting now from Calgary. First a few photos from the first part of Malaysia (Georgetown and Fraser’s Hill) that I was unable to add in my last post.
From Fraser’s Hill
Feb28-Mar 11 Fraser’s Hill to Singapore
It took seven bike days and one tourist day in Melaka to get from Fraser’s Hill to Singapore. I had the time so I did not push my riding days at all. Generally I rode from 7:00 am when the first light hit the road to between 11:00 and 1:00, depending on how far I had to go to get to a place to stay. My shortest day was 50 km, the longest a bit over 100 km, generally it was around 80 km. The five days in Singapore to finish this trip were bike free, but I walked a lot every day.
I have learned how to handle the heat/humidity while cycling. The best hour is the first hour when it is coolest and before the sun actually rises. The one downside is that invariably there is a rush hour going on and the traffic might be the worst of my riding day. In the next hour some days I fought the sun as it rose as I was riding south and often east.
Sometimes the traffic would lessen a bit, after that first hour, particularly if there was no major town close by and I could ease off and enjoy the morning. As the morning progressed I would stop frequently for drinks of some sort or just water I was carrying. There are many bus shelters that are nice to stop at. As it got hotter I just stopped more frequently. Heavy traffic also affected the amount I would stop, as if it is stressful and I push harder. I have learned that as my attention begins to wander I find a place to stop and rest. Heavy traffic occurred about half of my ride. The roads were not as good as in Thailand as road-side shoulders were hit and miss and there is a fair amount of rough patching of the road surface. The cars, trucks and motor bike drivers I shared the road with were great. I never heard anyone honk or show any displeasure with me. I had to be most cognisant of the motor bikes as they whiz by in and out of my space, which is a little ½ metre strip sometimes with a white road edge line. Generally motorbikes go faster than the cars and pass the cars on both sides, cutting into the space I would like.
Each day I would ride for that first hour and then stop for a breakfast at either a convenience store or a roadside restaurant. I think every one of these restaurants I stopped at was a Malay place, where I had a fried rice mix, (nasi Goreng), or coconut rice with some vegies or meat, that would be in a pot that I could look at and take the amount I wanted. I also had roti a lot and enjoyed it but I don’t think it is really that good for you. I always chose a place with quite a few people. They are all outdoors places covered with an awning and the cooking is outside as well.
One nice coffee place I stopped for a mid-morning break was run by two young girls, just out of high school. They had a waffle iron on the counter so I asked for some, but that meant a longer stop than if I had just bought the nice looking biscuits they were also selling. And so we had a long talk about their school and what they were doing. They managed to get my blog address from me, so they might be able to read this and see their picture. Mind you they took many selfies with me and Friday.
The best road section I had was the first hour and a half out of Fraser’s Hill. In those 35 km I dropped 1000m on hundreds of switch-backs. My brakes were on almost the whole way. It was cool and so peaceful in the deep jungle, birds singing the whole way. On that stretch I met two cars. Most of the way to Singapore I had moderate hills. I think one day was almost flat but generally there would be frequent hills that could get me down into my lower gears. In effect the first three days got me around Kuala Lumpur. In those days I was always within 100 km of KL as the crow flies but I do think I missed most of the heavy traffic a city like that creates.
The most interesting place I stayed was a “home-stay” owned by a Chinese-Malay who is a high-end cook. He has travelled the world cooking and consulting about food. His place, a multi-year retirement project, is deep in the jungle. He picked me up in the closest town in his 4×4 and then dropped me back on the road in the morning. His place, all made of found materials, was a study. No AC, but lots of fans. He uses lots of mosaics and wood. A tower on top of everything is all mosaics. He is also into bonsai and bees. Hard to describe all that went on here. We ate gourmet, both dinner and breakfast. Neat experience.
Melaka was a nice break. Back in the tourist world with lots of food choices, and some interesting history. In Malaysia I had beer twice, in Georgetown and in Melaka. I did see a few westerners in Melaka but I think the vast majority of tourists are Chinese from Singapore. I spent my day off walking around in the morning, but in the heat of the day I sat in coffee houses and read.
The next four days riding were going to get me to Johor Bahru, a large Malaysian city across the narrow Johor Strait that forms the border between Malaysia and the Island country of Singapore. Johor is by far the biggest city I encountered on this leg and as such I was on big busy roads as I came in around 11:00. I had trouble getting off of the big roads and into the section of town where I wanted to find a hotel. In this flailing around I managed to get myself into a long line, with no exits, of motor bikes on their way to Singapore. The next thing I knew my passport was stamped and I was on the bridge across to Singapore. Once through the customs there (not easy) I had another 25 km into the centre where it took some meandering (Malaysian Sim doesn’t work) to find the YMCA where I am finishing off my trip. So, a bit longer day than planned and an extra day in Singapore.
Singapore is such a change from Thailand and Malaysia. Modern, clean and expensive. I am enjoying the change (not the cost). It is also much greener with extensive parks than I had imagined. It was easy to find a bike box for Bike Friday and my only other business was to ensure my flights were still on.
I stayed at the YMCA which is centrally located and so I was able to walk almost everywhere I went. It felt so nice not to be out on the road at the crack of the day. For my whole trip, until I got to Singapore I was out before the sun was up to start cycling or to look for birds. In Singapore I was still up at the same time, but on some days I just sat with coffee after breakfast and read for a while.
One day I was looking for a specific book and I bumped into an interesting guy in a used book store. He had heard me asking for the book and told me that he had seen it at the book store in Takashimaya, a large Japanese department store on Orchard Road. I wasn’t quite sure where it was and so he took me. We used the subway, which was the only public transport form I used here. On our trip across town and during a coffee we had together we shared experiences. He is a dancer and a jeweler. He was wearing curly plastic ornaments in his ears. At 56 he has been around, He has worked in Denmark and Greenland teaching Inuit, to give an example. He also talked about the development of Singapore as he has experienced the whole of its existence since Independence. I spent a few hours in the Singapore History museum to further flesh out my understanding.
I ate well, walked in parks and among sky-scrapers, added a few birds to my Thailand-Malaya collection, and just enjoyed the relaxing days before my flight home. The Corona Virus issue was handled there by hand-sanitizers in stores and restaurants that you were expected to use and by getting your temperature scanned when you entered many buildings.
I had finally succumbed to constant outside heat/inside AC by getting a chest cold a couple days before Singapore so I am in self-isolation trying (without much success) to get tested here in Calgary. Other than that. Good trip. I might do a post to share some of my birds when I get them organized. Til then…