The route: Langu (Thailand) to Kangar (Malaysia) : our GPS decided to take the day off but about 110km (7274km total) http://connect.garmin.com/course/1652542
We were reluctant to leave town this morning – mainly due to the incredible hospitality, scenery, food and all round fun we have experienced while in Thailand, but also due to the ongoing torrential rain. Hunger forced us out by 10am and we set off sadly for the border, diverting to a 7-11 to bid an emotional farewell to their own brand banana bread. We have eaten a disgusting amount of these during the last month (at least 2 a day), so it was a tearful break up – I’m fairly certain I have never felt so attached to a generic convenience store before.
Drying our (slightly banana smelling) tears, we wove our way through forests to the Thai -Malay border. Our day got a LOT better on arriving at the immigration hut – having psyched ourselves up for the usual bribe demands- 2hour waiting game-charade, we expected the worst when a dapperly dressed Thai guard jumped out of the hut. After a brief conversation about our travels he disappeared back into the hut, emerging seconds later with a large carrier bag packed full of tropical fruit and bottles of water for us. He then ushered us to some chairs for a rest while he sorted out our passports, visas, and then proceeded to change our remaining Thai bahts to Malay ringits money for a better rate than we could have managed – what a legend. Singha – if you read this – you win our vote for best border guard in the world.
The ride into Malaysia was beautiful – climbing up lush forested hills before descending past copious amounts of Mosques and cafes to urban civilisation. During the ride it became apparent that drivers go much faster in Malaysia, but they are also enthusiastically verbal when seeing a tandem for the first time – we had almost continuous “hellowhereyoufrom” and cheers the whole way. We stopped for the night in the first town we came to (Kangar) at 7pm and started a protracted game of “find a bed”. It was during the next 2 hours that we experienced 3 unpleasant shocks:
1. We were naively eager to find out what sort of room $12 could buy you in Malaysia – it turns out not much. Unless you are a cockroach lover, in which case, a lot. After a dispiriting tour of Kangar’s budget hotels we settled on the only one which cost under $20 – and ended up rueing the decision until 3am that night as we squashed insects in our bed/sweated on the plastic mattress/listened to boy racers on some kind of Kangar 24hr Grand Prix. Bad.
2. Our bike had had a small tumble that day – while stationary. On opening our panniers that night we realised the laptop had borne the brunt of the fall and had cracked into a thousand pieces. Very bad.
3. Recovering from the above 2 shocks, we headed out into town (population 50,000) to find dinner at 9pm. Nothing. Not even a little street side shack – every restaurant and cafe was shut. We eventually found a 24/7 Halal KFC – as our first taste of Malaysian cuisine it was not promising.