Cycle Touring in Malaysia
We cycled up the west coast of the Malaysian peninsula. Malaysia is made up of Malay, Chinese and Indian people, and the delicious cuisine you find, most definitely reflects those three cultures and influences!
Our time in Malaysia was something of a whirlwind as we had a deadline to get to Penang. The roads are mostly flat, good quality and easy to cycle. We hugged the coast as we cycled, seeing plenty of nice beaches, although we didn't have time to stop at any of them really. Away from the beaches, the roads are lined with palm trees, literally for miles and miles. Palm oil plantations are big business here and much of the native trees and ancient forests are being destroyed in order to plants palms.
The biggest challenge in Malaysia was the heat and humidity. We cycled in April and it was so hot. We were getting up before sunrise and on the road by 5am most days in order to avoid the heat. By 11am it was scorching and we would need to stop and find shade. Around 3pm the rain would arrive and cool things down for an hour. We would then continue for another hour or two before stopping for the day. I struggled to stay hydrated and suffered with big headaches every day, to the point that I was adding sugar and salt to my water to try and combat the heat. Chris didn't find it so bad and I guess everyone copes differently in high and low temperatures.
The food in Malaysia is great in terms of choice and variety of flavour. Many food stalls run a buffet at lunchtime meaning you can load your plate up with all kinds of things and pay for what you take. It's all good value and some of the smaller places were very kind and insisted on giving us bananas and free top ups of ice tea when we stopped to eat at their place.
The people are more reserved than the Indonesians and harder to get to know, but friendly once you sit for a while. The language is Bhasa, almost the same as Indonesia, so we were able to communicate on a basic level which helped a lot. The Muslim culture is strong here and in some places people were a little wary of us, however smiling goes a long way. One day we were caught in a thunderstorm and stopped to take cover from the heavy downpour, a small group of men nearby invited us over to sit with them and a few minutes later one of them produed two bags of warm sweet tea for us, were we soaked and the tea was very welcome. Lovely little guestures like this happened a lot in Malaysia.
Camping was not too difficult, although a very hot and sweaty affair, with mosquitoes for company every evening. We camped in amongst the palm trees on several occasions, and later found out that palm plantations are full of snakes, however we never saw any. We also camped on the beach which was fine, providing you don't mind lots of visitors coming to see who you are and asking to ride your bike! The larger towns have nice hotels and guesthouses, often Chinese run and most were very helpful with the bikes and let us bring them inside.
I found cycling in Malaysia tough due to the heat, and overall it was less enjoyable than other countries, however Chris really enjoyed it, so don't be put off. I would like to go back with a bit more time to explore, and visit the east coast - give Malaysia a second chance!
Johor Bahor - Melaka - Port Dickson - Klang - Sitiwan - Taiping - Penang
- Lunchtime buffets & food in general
- Flat, long, straight roads
- Kind people
- Amazing sunsets and sunrises
- Chinatown in Melaka
- Kei lok Si Temple, Penang
- Sitiawan to Taiping
- Palm trees, palm trees and more palm trees!
- Snakes and spiders
- The heat and humidity, staying hydrated is a real challenge
- Navigating out of Johor Bahor!
Liz and Chris cycle touring in Malaysia photos from April 2010.
Chinatown and the old colonial town in Melaka. Food delights of Penang.