Thursday, April 21, 2005

Off to Malaysia

Somewhere back in India the idea of cycling had entered my head, I had talked to George in Honey Valley about cycling and he had told me I could do a ten day circle in Thailand, this sounded interesting. Somewhere along the line this idea got stuck in my head and then I stumbled across I immediately had a read about cycling up the east coast of Malaysia, now this sounded more like it! After my final hellish train journey in India the idea was firmly lodged in the brain, so when I reached Singapore and stumbled across a bike-shop, I had a keen look around. I had a chat with the shop owner who had actually done the same trip I was thinking about, so recommended a hybrid (kinda of a cross between a racer and mountain bike, fairly skinny tyres no suspension, but solid enough not to buckle on a few potholes hopefully) I thought about it for a few days and finally caved in. Later that night I went out for a meal and it turned out that one guy owns a custom made Cannondale, another had done all sorts of touring, another couple cycled the length of Britain on a tandem, and here was I with the grand plan of cycling up the coast of Malaysia knowing erm... not much about bikes except the wheels on the bike go round and round.

After nearly two false starts I was finally on my way. The first attempt failed in an unglorious manner. I had footered about too much with strapping the bags on the bikes and adjusting then re-adjusting, also I quickly checked the footy scores that morning and ended up reading about Rangers getting beat at home by Dundee Utd, pffft. I turned up about 15 minutes before the ferry was due to depart, only to be informed I should of turned up 1 hour before departures to clear immigrations. Oh well there is always tomorrow. Tomorrow however ended up a non-starter as my watch alarm failed to go off. It has been a bit flaky since part of the face fell off whilst cycling in Singapore, still I like this watch(when it works properly though) and it glows in the dark!

After a quick perusal of the ferry timetables and my maps I quickly changed plan and saw that I could still catch a 12:00 ferry, although to a different port than I had earlier attended, so flexible in mind if not in body I cycled down to the ferry terminal, which incidentally was 5km closer to the hostel.

After passing through immigrations safely (I had suddenly recalled saying I was staying for 14days in Singapore I had stayed longer). I later looked and saw I had been issued with a 30day visa.

I went onboard the craft that would be taking me to Malaysia, an enclosed ferry. It swayed and bounced in the swell at the jetty. I tried to ignore it and watch the television, even though I had no idea what was being said. I'm not sure if watching TV is recommended for seasickness but it took my mind off the rocking.

After passing through customs at the other side where they gave me a 3 month visa, I was officialy underway! By the time I had got my bike and stuff together the other 3 passengers had already cleared customs, must be one of the quickest immigration departments in the world! As this ferry is primarily used to shuttle customers to the Sebana Cove resort from Singapore, I had to negiotate my way out of the resort. I had my first decision to make, left or right, left or right. Right! Wrong. I asked a security guard where the road went and he said somewhere that was familiar from looking at the maps, I went a few metres and then decided to actually check the map, good job it was familiar but in the wrong direction, after a quick 180 degree turn the watchman waved goodbye and I was off in the right direction. I came to a roundabout, with no signs, but not to worry on road was blocked off, another only went 10meters leaving the path through the golf course. This road seemed to be only used by golf carts and the occasional curious monkey watching me. I was soon to learn that peoples percpetions do not alll match, a popular cycling website had said that there were no hills, however I had stumbled across a few others who had disagreed. They were right, I came to my first hill, a sign said it was 8.2 degrees it felt more like 45 degrees after practising in Singapore were there is approximately one small hill (Canning Hill was the only one I came across).

I puffed my way to the top and got at least to whizz down the other side for a bit, after a few more km's I came to a sign showing I was at least going in the right directions, no more mishaps for the rest of the ride. I found a chalet, got a small discount and relaxed. My first day biking was over. It did seem like I was the only person staying at the resort though, still nice place to sit and watch the world go by! A short walk away I got some Malay food, nearly choking on the peppers and guzzling my orange juice. I went back to the chalet and had a good kip, although I had only gone a touch over twenty km's I was exhausted, too much nervous excitement for one day, but I came through it okay.

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