The route: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/198597462 (147km; total 7421km)
The chat: After an introduction to the fast highways of Malaysia yesterday, the first 100km of the road were blissfully and unexpectedly quiet – though without a functioning GPS, we realised how time consuming asking for directions is. Having solicited opinions from a group (of men, always) and reached a consensus as to which is the right road, one then has to answer the standard questions – where to, where from, how much the bike costs, how did you get the bike here – before you know it half an hour has passed.
Anyway the route comes thoroughly recommended – basically keep the coast to your right after you get to Kuala Perlis, veering inland only to cross the frequent muddy dykes flowing into the ocean, and you won’t go wrong.
We’d read on a fellow bike tourist’s blog that a boat could be chartered to cross a wide estuary at Tanjung Dewal, thereby shortening a very long ride to merely a long ride. We are delighted to report this service is still operational, and for the princely sum of 15R ($5) we were ferried across to a beach full of weekending Malysians (women in headscarves, men in long trousers – no exceptions).
Thereafter, although we had 120km in our legs, the 30km or so to Butterworth (bizarrely unsigned until the last 10km) flew by, and we rolled onto the ferry in a herd of bemused motorbikers just as the sun was setting.
We knew we were going to love Georgetown the moment the ferry docked – all colonial buildings, the streets buzzing with markets and food stalls. A cock-up at the guesthouse we’d booked meant ‘our’ room was taken, but the owners to their credit found us another nearby hotel and covered the cost difference – thanks guys, v.professional!
After a quick turnaround we hit (not so) Little India for the last day of a food and cultural festival. All of the Indian restaurants had street stalls and were churning out curries, and knocking together rotis and chappatis with dazzling speed. We got stuck in, needless to say. The evening was completed with a sweaty breathless game of Kabadi played on the street by off duty restaurant staff to a soundtrack of banging Bollywood tunes. It as as if we’d been teleported to Mumbai – no complaints there, then.