Malaysia! Finally a new country! We have spent way too long in the countries that we managed to get familiarized with and crossing the border was a moment when we realized, that everything is new for us again. We passed the security checkpoint, got the stamps in our passports and cycled towards a jungle pass.
In Thailand we got used to the Buddhist temples, that were waiting for us every evening. In Malaysia, we had to learn again, where to find cheap or free accommodation. It did not take us a long to discover, that the prices in Malaysia are much higher than in Thailand and that we have to work hard to find the cheapest option available.
Camping in the tropics is a nightmare. Even though our inner tent is made entirely out of mesh, high temperatures and humidity at night make it almost impossible to rest.
One night, while searching for a cheap guesthouse on the outskirts of Butterworth, a family that just passed us by with their car stopped. The lady asked: are you looking for a place to spend the night? We looked at each other and replied, that we need to find an inexpensive guesthouse, preferably below 40 Ringgit. There is no such place around here – she replied. But you can stay in my kindergarten. Follow us!
It turned out, that a part of her house was a small pre-school teaching center that she owned. We could enjoy our dinner sitting at a lilliput table, luckily our beds (ThermARests) were not for children.
Malaysia is predominantly Muslim – over half of the population follows the path of Muhammad. The ancestors of the rest of the country are either Indian Hindu, or Chinese. This interesting mix of cultures results in a great variety of languages, architecture, dresses, and, most importantly for cyclists – cuisine.
Great thing about cycling in Malaysia is that one can start the day with Roti Channai (a kind of Indian oily pancakes served with a gravy), have fried bananas for a snack, a spicy, Chinese lunch and finish the day with a pizza.
After cycling on the South of Thailand we could immediately see, that the traffic in Malaysia was a bit heavier, roads worse and lacking side-lanes and the gas stations not as luxurious.
The land is mainly turned into fields and plantations, rice, palm oil and rubber is most common.
Our first major city to reach was Georgetown in Penang. To get to this UNESCO heritage site we had to take a ferry. What awaited us on the other side of the Strait of Malacca you will read in the next post!