Heading Inland

By Stephen Ewashkiw | May 25, 2014

14,415 km so far.

It’s about time we see a part of Malaysia that isn’t an island, so we are headed inland. To get off Penang we cycled over to the ferry dock, and rode onto an old-school car and passenger ferry.

Waiting for the ferry to Butterworth.

Waiting for the ferry to Butterworth.

Since most people also arrive on the island via this ferry, they only have you pay on the way here, which means our ride to the mainland was free. Add in the complementary espresso I got as a parting gift from Mugshot this morning and it’s starting off as a good day.

cyclist on ferry in penang

Cyclist watching Penang recede.

Our ride was fairly uneventful, as it took us along Highway 1 for almost the entire day. The road was recently paved, and often had a wide shoulder AND a lane for bikes and scooters, so while it was fairly boring, you’ll get no complaints from us.

Eating Our Way Through Malaysia

Nibong Tebal was a convenient town to stop in for lunch, but the hawker court had a distinct lack of vegetarian food. One of the women running a stall directed us out the back of the complex, assuring us we would find vegetarian food there. Skeptical, we followed her suggested route, and sure enough, there we saw a sign that said “vegetarian”.

The stall was making a selection of traditional Malay dishes, all with mock meat or tofu. Perfect! We had extremely good bowls of noodles, mine with curry sauce (Curry Mee) and Jane’s in a spicy soup broth (Hokkien Mee).

vegetarian food in malaysia

Veggie curry mee with tofu. Yum.

The staff and customers loved that two Canadian cyclists had found their little spot, and we did too.

Outside Taiping, our destination for the day, we took a turn off the highway, and rode through an oil palm plantation. If you are headed this way, check out our route below. The road starts off a bit rough, but gets better.

It was a nice break from the highway, and we enjoyed being in the midst of the plantation for a bit. The palm trees here are quite old, which means they are huge, and actually provide some shade.

Shade of the oil palm trees near Taiping.

Shade of the oil palm trees near Taiping.

We checked into the Cherry Inn, an immaculately clean hotel other cycle tourists have stayed at, and after washing up headed out for food.

I have never really heard anyone say that Malaysia is a great place for vegetarians, but it is. Pretty much everywhere we have been there has been at least one vegetarian restaurant to visit, and when we go to non-veggie places the staff are very helpful in showing us our eating options.

Tonight we headed to our second hawker court of the day. Hawker courts are food courts where independent food stalls are set up, with communal seating areas. The choice is amazing, with Thai, Chinese, Malay, and Western food, drink stalls, dessert stalls, and convenience stores.

We had read that the hawker court in Taiping had a vegetarian stall, so we wanted to check that out. We weren’t prepared for five vegetarian stalls, two vegan dessert stalls, and a fresh soya milk stall. What a plethora of choice!

Only one of the veggie stalls was busy, so we went there. It is the one near the soya milk stall if you happen to find yourself in Taiping.

Our veggie stall in the Taiping Hawker Court.

Our veggie stall in the Taiping Hawker Court.

We piled our plates with a selection of tasty looking dishes, and the proprietress weighed each plate by simply holding it in her hand and guesstimating the weight of the plate!

Cyclists' portion of veggie food in Taiping.

Cyclists’ portion of veggie food in Taiping.

The food was delicious, and our two plates of dinner cost RM11 (roughly $3.50). Amazing.

Drink in a bag, Taiping.

Drink in a bag, Taiping.

While most people claim Thailand has the best selection of food in Southeast Asia, so far my experience is that Malaysia is far superior. It could be that as vegetarians we missed out on a lot of Thai delights, or it could be down to many tourists not visiting Malaysia. Whatever the reason, I am not complaining.

Soundtrack: R.E.M. – Unplugged 1991-2001 The Complete Sessions | The American Life podcast  

Want to see the route map? View it on Ride With GPS.

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