Singapore- Gettin In and Bikin’ Around

124.2 kilometers in 3 days

(1 day of futzing around buses and trucks, 1 day of futzing around Singapore)

2,552 kilometers SO FAR

This was what we were working towards- a park full of metaltrees!
This was what we were working towards- a park full of metaltrees!

Getting In:

Day 42- July 16,2015- Gelang Patah to Johor Bahru

85 kilometers (some by bus, some by durian delivery truck…)

Because we were coming from the west (Melakka) we figured it would be easiest to cross into Malaysia via their western border crossing at Tuas. The following is why that was a bad idea, but why we couldn’t have known until we tried.

The meal we thought would be our last in Malaysia. Roti Canai with eggs and iced coffees.
The meal we thought would be our last in Malaysia. Roti Canai with eggs and iced coffees.

We based ourselves outside of Gelang Patah which is collection of empty but hopeful suburbs and strip malls 15 kilometers from the Tuas border into Singapore. Since we were so close we took our time leaving in the morning, spent the last of our Malaysian ringgits on a really good breakfast, and started cycling. Gelang Patah is connected to the rest of Malaysia and Singapore by a massively confusing network of highways which is lined with even emptier, quiet suburbs and strip malls.

The highway that was marked "no bicycles". Surely they couldn't have meant us...
The highway that was marked “no bicycles”. Surely they couldn’t have meant us…

After winding around those highways we finally turned onto an on-ramp that had a pretty clear “no bicycles” sigh, but it was the only highway to the border. There was a good shoulder for us to ride on, and we were only 10 kilometers from the border, we had to push on.

We had read on multiple blogs that it was easy to take bicycles across the border- just follow the motorbikes. So we pulled up to the Malaysia exit window meant for motorbikes and were turned around.

“Bicycles aren’t allowed to cross this border. It’s not safe.”

This seemed ridiculous, we’d already biked 10 kilometers down a really stupid highway to get here, we weren’t about to get turned around. So he suggested we try to go with a bus. Fine. We biked down to the bus section. The bus crossing at that moment wouldn’t take us- this seemed like it was up to the driver’s discretion as the border officials fully approved this idea. At this point the immigration officers said we had two options. Either turn around and bike back into Malaysia or try to fit our bicycles into the back of a lorry. They had no problem letting us bike through, but the Singapore side is supposedly really strict and you can’t cross this border unless you’re in a vehicle.

Just our bikes waiting for  a truck to take us over to Singapore.
Just our bikes waiting for a truck to take us over to Singapore.

So we tried, as a last resort, the lorries. We met an immigration officer named Poo who helped us find a rickety truck full of durians that has agreed to take us and our bicycles in the back of his truck. Poo made it pretty clear that once we were in Singapore we were on our own. But his biggest concern was whether the strong stench of the durian would bother us.

Loading our bikes into the back of that kind durian truck that offered to take us.
Loading our bikes into the back of that kind durian truck that offered to take us.

We loaded everything into the truck and set off across the causeway to Singapore! This actually felt like it was working. And how perfect would it have been to arrive in Singapore in a truck full of its national fruit? Too perfect apparently…

Our bikes inside the durian truck.
Our bikes inside the durian truck.

Just before we finished crossing the bridge into Singapore the truck driver pulled over to the side of the road and opened the back. Apparently this is where we were supposed to get off. And while we appreciated his efforts we couldn’t help but think they’re a little half-assed. Still, at this point there was no way Singapore immigration would turn us around. It’d be less safe for us to cycle back into Malaysia than to just continue on into Singapore. Right?

Maybe not quite as welcoming as it looked...this was taken about 1 minute before we were turned back.
Maybe not quite as welcoming as it looked…this was taken about 1 minute before we were turned back.

Wrong.  A cross looking immigration officer has positioned himself to great us at the bottom of this bridge. And by great I mean promptly turn us away because there was no way they could accept bicycles through this border. He offered to “escort” us to the other side of the highway where he watched us bike back over that bridge to get an entrance stamp to Malaysia only twenty minutes after we got the departure stamp.

We had no more Malaysian money, two new Malaysia stamps in our passport, and no idea how to get into this tiny island of a country. We found a bus that was willing to take us back to Johor Bahru- where the other entrance to Singapore is located. From there we figured we could find a bus that would take us and our bikes into Singapore since apparently we’re not cycling across. Johor Bahru is just as confusing as the town we started in. We cycle to the border crossing from Johor Bahru which seems identical to the other one we already failed at that day. It’s 5pm, there’s a ton of traffic, it was very hilly, and we don’t know if the border is even still open and have no reason to believe this is going to go any better than our last attempt to get into Singapore.

So instead of trying to cross that night and having to arrive in Singapore after dark we find a cheap dirty hotel, which was made even more miserable by the fact that we weren’t supposed to be sleeping in Malaysia that night. We were only 30 kilometers away from where we had started that day.

We fell asleep to the sounds of fireworks going off all over the city to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Day 43- July 17, 2015- Johor Bahru to Singapore (finally)

39.2 kilometers

We spent our night doing research on how to cycle into Singapore. We had obviously done this research before but clearly we had missed something. There were blogs of cyclists who had done it, even a video of what the crossing on a bicycle. All of this was from Johor Bahru. But the official Singapore immigration site made no distinction between the Tuas and Johor Bahru border. The point is- yesterday was not entirely our fault and we will continue to blame Singapore just a little bit.

Kiri sitting on a bus on the way to another Singapore border.
Kiri sitting on a bus on the way to another Singapore border.

We found a bus that would take us to the border. And it dropped us off almost exactly where we had turned around the day before. Only this time an immigration officer met us, and pointed us towards the motorbike section, assuring us that we could cycle into Singapore. Just to make sure we asked him a couple of times.

The lovely causeway connecting Malaysia to Singapore that we were allowed to use!
The lovely causeway connecting Malaysia to Singapore that we were allowed to use!

And sure enough after getting a stamp, and cycling across a bridge in a lane that had welcoming signs for motorbikes and bicycles, we were getting our passports stamped into Singapore. So it really was just that easy. But again, how were we supposed to know?

There are a few ironic things about this map:

  1. The route we originally attempted, you know, the one where we were turned back at the border, is actually longer than the alternative route that would have put us at the border we needed to be at to cross via bicycle.
  2. Just to recap- it should have taken no more than 48 kilometers to get into Singapore from Gelang Patah- it took us 124…..

DO NOT TRY TO BIKE THROUGH THE TUAS BORDER TO SINGAPORE!!!

 

DSC06144Cycling into Singapore is easy as long as you stay off the freeway and you really don’t want to be on the freeway. It is actually illegal to cycle on the freeway in Singapore, we found out later.  There are parkways and sidewalks and paths and the traffic is really respectful of cyclists. This is probably because for the first time in over a month we weren’t the only cyclists on the road.

Singapore skyline at dusk.
Singapore skyline at dusk.

We got to our hostel, got moved into our “pods” (read: cozy individual caves with reading lamps), and set out to explore Singapore.

The Merlion spitting into the bay!
The Merlion spitting into the bay!

That night we wandered through a garden full of real beautiful plants and artificial towering metal trees. We visited the Merlion- the symbol of Singapore that has the head of a lion and the body of a fish rendering it the most useless mystical creature I’ve ever heard of.

A free (and romantic) evening of jazz.
A free (and romantic) evening of jazz.

We stumbled upon a free jazz concert over the harbor as the sun was setting, and then ended up finding a good and cheap meal in Chinatown.

The Singapore skyline at night!
The Singapore skyline at night!

Day 43 and 44- July 18 and 19, 2015

Good incentive not to ride where they tell you not to.
Good incentive not to ride where they tell you not to.

Singapore is known for having a great network of cycling and running trails across the country/city. Since we had come here on bicycles we figured it would be a waste to not use them in this city.

Biking around a park on a Saturday- more like amateur hour with everyone out on the paths.
Biking around a park on a Saturday- more like amateur hour with everyone out on the paths.

So we spent an afternoon figuring out some of these trails and park connectors until we found ourselves at the south eastern shore sharing the really well-made trail with roller-bladers, other more serious cyclists, 4-person cycle-buggys, and kids on tricycles. It felt like we were just out for a ride in the park back in the States.

Finishing our day of cycling around Singapore in front of the prettier parts of the skyline.
Finishing our day of cycling around Singapore in front of the prettier parts of the skyline.
Singapore was getting ready to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The day we were there  they were putting on a  military show.
Singapore was getting ready to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The day we were there they were putting on a military show.

Another thing Singapore is known for is their Zoo. So the next day we had to get out there before we packed up to fly to Cambodia. And it lived up to it’s hype. Probably the highlight was the elephant show where the elephants shot water at the crowd through their trunks, stole their keepers hats, all lay down for a nap together, and then got up and bowed at the end. But all of it was pretty cool.

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Just an orangutan lazin' away the day at the zoo.
Just an orangutan lazin’ away the day at the zoo.
The happiest elephant I've ever seen- just look at that smile!
The happiest elephant I’ve ever seen- just look at that smile!

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And then it was time to leave. Singapore is more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia and we didn’t have the money to spend more than two full days there. We had eaten as cheaply as possible in Chinese food courts and had found the cheapest hostel we could. We spent a day riding our bikes around which is free. So we spent as little as we could. Still it was time to go.

Getting out:

Singapore was something of the end of the line for us. We had made it all the way down the peninsula and we still had two weeks of our trip left. Indonesia wasn’t a possibility since Bali’s airport was shut down because a volcano wouldn’t stop spewing ash that was interfering with the airplanes. So we bought plane tickets to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, figuring we could throw together a good 2-week cycling route there before heading back to Bangkok.

Carrying the bike boxes we got back to our hostel.
Carrying the bike boxes we got back to our hostel.

Flying with bicycles was a new thing to both of us. We hadn’t found a bike store in Singapore that could box our bikes in less than a week, and had only found one store that would give us bike boxes to do it ourselves. So for our last night we took over our hostels ground floor to almost entirely take apart our bikes so they could fit into the small bike boxes we had gotten from this store.

Kiri's bike- almost totally disassembled.
Kiri’s bike- almost totally disassembled.

We took handlebars off, kickstand off, rear rack and seat off. We removed the front stem, wheels, tires, and tubes from Kiri’s bike to force it into the smaller of the bike boxes, and even then it was a tight squeeze.

After three hours, covered in grease and sweat, the bikes were boxed, our bags were packed, and we were ready to fly!

Finishing boxing the bikes at 9pm- yes the headlamp was necessary.
Finishing boxing the bikes at 9pm- yes the headlamp was necessary.

Next stop: Cambodia!

Waiting at the Singapore airport with all our boxes!
Waiting at the Singapore airport with all our boxes!
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Last Week in Malaysia- Jerantut to Gelang Patah

486.5 kilometers in 5 days of cycling

2,427.8 kilometers so far!!!

Day 35- July 9, 2015- Jerantut to Temerloh

73 km

Just some more truck rolling through the countryside.
Just some more truck rolling through the countryside.

Cycling through the middle of Malaysia was definitely a different experience from cycling along the coast. We were glad we had chosen to leave the coast for our last week in Malaysia. The terrain was a little more varied with some rolling hills and the occasional jungle thrown in there, all surrounded by palm oil forests of course.

The chinese restaurants were also our only chance of finding beer in this country.
The Chinese restaurants were also our only chance of finding beer in this country.

Also now that we were further from the North we were noticing more diversity i.e. Chinese people who would keep their restaurants open all day. All of a sudden we didn’t have to rely on our hotel to give us breakfast and peanut butter and jelly by the side of the road for lunch. These previous staples were replaced by Chinese noodle soups and overly-sweetened tea.

Mike got his fourth flat tire on the same tire in about as many days today. We either weren’t changing them properly or he was getting really unlucky, but something wasn’t right. After some closer inspection we found that his rear tires treads were almost completely worn down. Any debris on the side of the highway could pierce through that, and they were. So we rolled into Temerloh looking for a bicycle shop. So far it had been easy to find bicycle shops in even the smallest towns in Malaysia and Temerloh was no exception. He got a new tire, a new tube, and we found a place to sleep. That tire got no more punctures for the rest of the trip.

 

The "Happy Homestay" we stayed at. And their probably "hopefully" inadvertent shout out to "The Shining"
The “Happy Homestay” we stayed at. And their probably “hopefully” inadvertent shout out to “The Shining”

That night we were taken out to dinner by a Malaysian guy who was studying at a university in London and was just home for the summer break to make some money. He took us to an apparently famous fish restaurant to break our fast, answered a couple of the questions about Malaysian and Muslim culture that we had after cycling here for two weeks. These are the kinds of interactions you get to have when the language barrier isn’t as much of an issue, which it isn’t in Malaysia.

Day 36- July 10, 2015- Temerloh to Bahau

95.5 km

Trucks carrying entire trees past us!
Trucks carrying entire trees past us!

This was one of those days where we had one road we could take, there were no other options that would have helped us avoid this pretty miserable stretch.

Palm oil being carried out of the forests.
Palm oil being carried out of the forests.

We spent the day cycling up and down seemingly endless rolling hills along a road that was made for one purpose – to connect palm oil plantations to the rest of Malaysia. We shared the road with trucks and lorys carrying huge logs and palm oil berries all day. It felt like with every new hill we climbed they just creeped closer and closer to us. It was a long, hot, exhausting day.

Cheesin' with the Malaysian cop who pulled us over for the photo op!
Cheesin’ with the Malaysian cop who pulled us over for the photo op!

The highlight of the day, and probably one of our top 5 highlights of Malaysia, happened around the middle of the day when a police car pulled Mike over, only because they wanted to take a picture with us! We doubt that they see many cyclists come through these parts.

Day 37- July 11, 2015- Bahau to Melakka

100 km

Kiri cycling past a herd of buffalo.
Kiri cycling past a herd of buffalo.

Today was more hills also, but this time they were going in our direction. 100 kilometer days go by much faster when you’re easily cruising downhill into your destination which also happens to be one of the coolest places you have stopped at in Malaysia.

Our last truck picture I promise!
Our last truck picture I promise!

The last 20 km before getting into Melaka were back to large 4 lane highway with lots of traffic. We found that if you just stick with the motorcyclists (are there are lots of them) the cars will respect your space. We rolled in, found a great guest house: Tony’s. It was right in the thick of the historical district and a perfect place to start our weekend off in Melaka!

Day 39 and 39- see SIDE TRIP TO MELAKKA

 

Day 40- July 14, 2015- Melaka to Batu Pahat

110 kilometers

A beautiful backroad that actually looked like it could take us somewhere...it didn't, we had to backtrack for 5k, but still worth it.
A beautiful backroad that actually looked like it could take us somewhere…it didn’t, we had to backtrack for 5k, but still worth it.

Our guest house in Melaka was known for its breakfasts cooked by the owner himself so we weren’t about to skip one of those, which gave us a later start time than we wanted. This day was another flat relatively uneventful day of cycling.

Rambutan trees that were lining road.
Rambutan trees that were lining road.

We cycled past tons of marshes and farmlands that had small paved footpaths winding through them. In the morning we took a couple of these that looked like they were going in direction we wanted them to go in, and so ended up doing an extra 10 kilometers of backtracking when they dropped us off in the middle of nowhere – typical Malaysia. Still today for the first time in Malaysia there were a couple of side roads that kept us off the highway, it was probably because of a higher density of people living along this part of the coast.

Kiri with our free rambutans that we had been gifted from a Malaysian guy on a motorbike.
Kiri with our free rambutans that we had been gifted from a Malaysian guy on a motorbike.

When we were on one of the country highways we got two free bushels of rambutans from a generous stranger on a motorbike. All in all, a really nice day.

Day 41- July 15, 2015- Batu Pahat to Gelang Patah

108 kilometers

A close up of what palm oil looks like straight off the tree.
A close up of what palm oil looks like straight off the tree.

Unlike yesterday this day kept us on the highway the entire trip. It was a long day, we started later than we wanted to, and couldn’t really afford to waste time back tracking on backroads. This last stretch of Malaysia was different than the other parts we had cycled in. We were going through large beautiful suburbs filled with massive houses that connected larger port towns. There was clearly some money down here. After all, we were getting closer and closer to Singapore, and we figured since Singapore is such a small and expensive country it would only make sense for people to live in and commute from cheaper Malaysia.

Another shot of an early-evening market we rolled by and got our first dinner at.
Another shot of an early-evening market we rolled by and got our first dinner at.

We arrived in Gelang Patah around dusk hoping to find some hodgepodge of a city with a few cheap guesthouses. Instead we found a series of new developments that were probably going to be the sprawl of Singapore in the next few years. We almost didn’t have enough money for one of the few hotels in the area and had to bargain to get them to let us share a single room for a slightly reduced price. This cheap bargaining mindset might not have been the one we wanted to enter Singapore with, but hey, what are you gonna do?

Side Trip- Taman Negara

July 6, 7, 8, 2015

DSC05819We left our bicycles at the NKS travel agency in Jerantut and took their one hour shuttle to Kuala Tehan. We had briefly considered cycling the 50 kilometers to the park entrance, but after seeing the steep hills, sharp turns, and massive trucks, we were pretty thankful we had paid the 15 RMs to take a bus.

The road on the way from Jerantut to Teman Negara- even though you're biking to the most amazing jungle you have to go through a scene from the Lorax to get there.
The road on the way from Jerantut to Taman Negara- even though you’re biking to the most amazing jungle you have to go through a scene from the Lorax to get there.

We showed up without any hotel reservation and found the Teresek View Hotel that had air conditioned rooms for 75 RM per night. And after showing up in the late afternoon and carrying our bags up and down the hills in Kuala Tehan we were pretty positive we needed air conditioning. However, the nighttime air in the forest does cool down quite a bit and a room with a good fan probably would have been sufficient too.

Kuala Tehan- after a large storm and flooding in December 2013 a lot of the town ended up getting wiped out and was still being rebuilt when we got there.
Kuala Tehan- after a large storm and flooding in December 2013 a lot of the town ended up getting wiped out and was still being rebuilt when we got there.
The boats that take you across the river for 1 Malaysian Ringgit ($0.3)
The boats that take you across the river for 1 Malaysian Ringgit ($0.3)

The next day we took the 1RM transfer boat from Kuala Tehan across the river to the park headquarters. We bought our park pass which was apparently good for entry to the park any time in the next month. We then hiked in along the manicured boardwalk until we got to the canopy walkway, which was truly amazing (worth the extra 5RM per person). You walk between a series of approximately ten trees in the elevated jungle canopy, it’s really an incredible experience. A few hundred meters of the old canopy walk had been closed because of massive flooding that had come through the park in December 2014, but the section that is still open is wonderful.

A piece of the jungle canopy walk.
A piece of the jungle canopy walk.
Jungle Canopy Walkway
Jungle Canopy Walkway
More of the jungle canopy walkway- easily the coolest part of the trip!!
More of the jungle canopy walkway- easily the coolest part of the trip!!

We then hiked up Bukit Teresek which rewarded us with a great and slightly hazy view of the park from the top. There are two trails that can get you up the hill. One trail- if you are coming from the canopy walk, has boardwalk steps that lead you most of the way up the hill. The other trail which we took down is much more rustic with nothing more than roots and trees and a rope lining the path to get you up and down the mountain.

The somewhat hazy view from the top of Bukit Teresek.
The somewhat hazy view from the top of Bukit Teresek.

That night we did a night jungle trek, which you do have to do with a guide. Our guide made it very clear that we probably wouldn’t be seeing any large wildlife but if we paid attention we would see some very cool insects. There were a lot of other groups doing their night hikes at the same time so the goal of being “silent” to be immersed in the sounds of the jungle was never really achieved. Still it was a pretty cool experience being in that jungle at night.

A walking stick we found on our night trek.
A walking stick we found on our night trek.
The parks resident tapir who comes over to reception every night for fruit.
The parks resident tapir who comes over to reception every night for fruit.

The next day we hiked around in the park in the morning. We mostly retraced our steps from the previous day since there aren’t that many trails you can take with only a couple of hours. I mentioned the flooding from December 2014 that hurt the canopy walk, it also wiped out a couple of the trails that are closer to the park entrance. These still haven’t been restored yet.

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In the afternoon we caught the public bus back to Jerantut. It was only 7RM per person and got us there in an hour. This has to be the cheapest way to get into and out of the park.
After spending a week cycling through industry and palm forest hell it was really refreshing to get a glimpse of what the old Malaysia used to look like- the dense rainforest filled with the lively sounds of the wildlife it’s protecting. I would recommend any traveler in Malaysia take the time to go and I would recommend doing it on your own since it’s an easy place to visit without a tour company.

The "largest grassland in Teman Negara". A little different from the grasslands in Tanzania.
The “largest grassland in Taman Negara”. A little different from the grasslands in Tanzania.

Logistics-
There are tons of places that offer to organize tours and treks through Taman Negara. While these seemed reasonably priced we also knew that we could visit this national park on our own, save some money, and have a totally free itinerary once we got into the park. The only downside to organizing your trip on your own is that you can only go so far into the park without a guide and you really won’t be able to do any multi-day trekking.

You can enter the park via bus (public or private) or you can arrange with a company to take a boat which is more expensive but is supposed to be beautiful.

Accommodation- Kuala Tehan is filled with a range of accommodation from cheap hostels to larger hotels. We didn’t need to make a reservation and there were plenty of rooms available.

Food- along the river there are at least 7 floating restaurants that all serve similar food- rice, noodles, meat, burgers, smoothies. The prices are reasonable and the food is tasty.

Other things to consider- the jungle is full of leeches! We didn’t see any on our first day but after it rained that evening the leeches came out the next day. They don’t hurt they just suck, literally! Other than that the major paths closer to the park entrance are marked with elevated walkways and are easy to navigate.

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Into Central Malaysia: Kuantan to Jerantut

169.1 total kilometers in 2 days of cycling

1,951.3 kilometers so far

Day 29- July 3, 2015- rest day in Kuantan

 

The map of the Kuantan mini zoo.
The map of the Kuantan mini zoo.

Still not convinced we wanted to continue cycling in Malaysia we decided to take a day in Kuantan to figure out what our next move would be. And to visit the mini-zoo and beach.

 

Gibbon island- where the happy gibbons swing in circles at the mini zoo.
Gibbon island- where the happy gibbons swing in circles at the mini zoo.

The Kuantan mini-zoo is an awesome place! They’ve got a couple of great exhibits featuring porcupines and geese and ostriches and an island for gibbons. It’s cute, quiet, and free! Right next to the zoo is some sort of bicycle playground. ‘ series of tiny roads with tiny fake traffic lights and traffic circles that you can zoom around in on your bike. Then we made it over to the beach where they’ve got a couple of restaurants set up and a walkway that takes you around some cliffs over to another beach. It was beautiful and the perfect rest day.

The beach outside of Kuantan.
The beach outside of Kuantan.

To our surprise there were a couple of restaurants that were open in Kuantan. We were able to get breakfast and pick up some sandwiches to take with us to the beach. This was also where we started seeing more Chinese people who seem to be responsible for keeping the non-Muslim population fed during Ramadan.

The bicycle playground next to the mini zoo where you can bike around tiny roads and tiny traffic circles made just for you- NO TRUCKS!
The bicycle playground next to the mini zoo where you can bike around tiny roads and tiny traffic circles made just for you- NO TRUCKS!

We decided that we didn’t want to give up on Malaysia yet, especially after this unexpected gem of a day. We figured that we had hit a bad patch of days through industry and destruction, so Instead of sticking to the east coast all the way through Malaysia we would turn inland in hopes of better fortune. We had been wanting to see the famous rainforest national park Teman Negara, so we decided to cycle there and then head south to the south-western coast of Malaysia. It sounded more promising than the potential the find more of the same painful industry and trucks along the coast.

Day 30- July 4, 2015- Kuantan to Maran

88.5 kilometers

The road cycling out of Kuantan. No shoulder but not a bad place to cycle.
The road cycling out of Kuantan. No shoulder but not a bad place to cycle.

This was our first day cycling inland, which was a much-needed break from the same coastline. Today was back to highway cycling, but the scenery was a bit different – mostly rolling hills either covered with lovely forests or endless miles of palm oil plantations. At first glance these plantations are beautiful they’re this luscious shade of green that carpets the hills. But once you spend days cycling past them and realize its just monoculture that is taking over the landscape it loses all of that appeal.

Mike changing one of his MANY flat tires.
Mike changing one of his MANY flat tires.

Mike got two flat tires today – both on the rear wheel. Combined with a stomach ache, this didn’t seem like the most promising of days. We still didn’t have any good tire patches, just weak useless ones that leaked. Plus we were heading towards a town that we had heard had NO hotels. So it should have made sense for us to stop when we passed a town that had a hotel right next to a tire shop that was 15 kilometers away from our destination, but we pushed on to Maran.

The welcome sign into Maran- welcome signs across Malaysia seemed to include over-sized fruit bowls.
The welcome sign into Maran- welcome signs across Malaysia seemed to include over-sized fruit bowls.

After biking in circles around the town that is actually pretty big, we had confirmed that there was no hotel. As the day turned into evening and the Ramadan bazaars began to bustle, we were not only homeless, but also concerned that anyone running a hotel would soon be joining the crowds to find food. Some shopkeepers had told us that there were chalets to rent, but we just couldn’t seem to figure out where they were talking about. We eventually found a string of chalets next to the Maran Hill Golf Resort, but there was no one around to help us- not too surprising.

The Maran Hill Golf Resort conveniently located at the TOP of the tallest hill in Maran.
The Maran Hill Golf Resort conveniently located at the TOP of the tallest hill in Maran.

Our last hope was to hike up a pretty steep hill towards the unkept and deserted golf course to try to see if anyone was in the one building at the top – obviously not our first choice at the end of the day. But it was our only choice, and although inconveniently located we had to check since this was our last resort before we hung up Mike’s hammock and squeezed into it for the night.

 

The chalet we were so lucky to get in Maran.
The chalet we were so lucky to get in Maran.

Turns out the reception for those chalets everyone was talking about was conveniently located at the top of that hill, and we found ourselves sleeping in the only accommodation available in Maran.

Day 31- July 5, 2015- Maran to Jerantut

80.6 kilometers

Really beautiful downhill cycling through the jungles of central Malaysia.
Really beautiful downhill cycling through the jungles of central Malaysia.

The day started out beautifully. After climbing through some rolling hills the previous day, we got rewarded with a morning of coasting downhill through luscious shady jungle forests and ended up at a beautiful Hindu temple we got off at to explore.

The hindu temple hidden just outside of Maran.
The hindu temple hidden just outside of Maran.

The afternoon wasn’t quite as pleasant as the highway continues through, you guessed it, more palm plantations. It was an uncovered hot afternoon of highway cycling, but we ended up yet again in a beautiful town.

The park where we enjoyed our fast breaking meal in Jerantut.
The park where we enjoyed our fast breaking meal in Jerantut.

 

After collecting some food from the evening bazaar, we found a great park where we enjoyed our Ramadan fast-breaking dinner with the rest of the town. It seemed like we were finally doing something right and figured out how to cycle during Ramadan without being miserable. However, Jerantut was our jumping off point to a big tourist draw in Malaysia, Teman Negara, where Ramadan would no longer be an issue.

The sign posted in our hotel showing the conservative Muslim-appropriate dress code- nothing too "seksi".
The sign posted in our hotel showing the conservative Muslim-appropriate dress code- nothing too “seksi”.