The route: http://connect.garmin.com/dashboard?cid=2934136 112km , total 7533km
After several days of procrastination – extreme, even by our standards, the time had finally come for us to leave Penang behind (sniff). After a final breakfast of strong coffee, pillow soft roti and fragrant curry in our favourite chaotic restaurant in Little India, and a quick ferry ride we were back in real Malaysia pedalling the dusty road towards Taiping, a small and very Chinese town further east. Any initial excitement at being back on the bike dispelled early into the ride, the first without a working GPS, as we realised just how hard it is to navigate armed only with a map and compass (just like the olden days). The major highways were all smog and fast lorry filled thoroughfares to be avoided at all costs, so we were trying to stick to minor roads shown on our map. After about 30km the initially tarmacked road took us through several large and smelly rubbish dumps, before gradually petering out at a murky canal with signs warning of crocidiles – no chance of a DIY river crossing then. We had no choice but to retrace our tracks – all 20km of them. At which point we punctured. Aagh.
After consulting multiple maps/road signs/locals (most of whom spoke impeccable English), we eventually found the right road. The bad news was that even this “minor road” was a fast dual carriageway, the good news that even a disoriented goldfish would have been unable to get lost.
Arriving in Taiping far later than planned due to the extra 40km we had notched up, we toured some fairly decrepid hotels (including a characterful brothel/opium den)* before settling on a clean Chinese bed for the night. Finding the night market closed, we ate the last scrapings of curry in a Indian café who were about to close for the night – a decision we were to regret several hours later.