14,278 km so far.
Riding out of Alor Setar this morning, we couldn’t miss the fact that we are in a new country. The Malaysia we’ve seen so far is tidier, more modern, and more Western than Thailand by a long shot.
All of the signs are written in the Latin alphabet, and many are in English, so I couldn’t stop myself from reading everything as we rode along this morning. I am even learning a bit of Malay. I already know these words: taxi is taksi; pharmacy is farmasi; postcode is poskod; jetty is jeti; complex is kompleks; school bus is bas sekolah; and bicycle is basikal.
Also, all of the wats have been replaced by mosques. Mosques and mosques and mosques. Since nearly everyone here is Muslim, that only makes sense. Still, we must have passed 8 soaring minarets in the 10 kilometres between the city and the ferry port.
Hopping To The Island
Yep, even after our failure yesterday to secure a boat to Langkawi, we’ve decided to have another crack at the can this morning.
Upon arriving at the ferry port, we spotted no rude “no bikes” signs hanging up, and no one telling us to get lost. Just a nice lady at the ticket desk who sold us our tickets and charged us 15 RM each for our bikes. Then all we had to do was wait for the ferry.
Because these ferries are passenger-only, no cars, we couldn’t roll our bikes on. We had to heave them across the gap between the dock and the boat, where a nice ferry man lay them on their sides and tied them up. Then we were ushered inside the ferry with all the other passengers. I’d much rather have spent the ride out on the deck, in the fresh air, but there’s not much you can do.
On the other side, we discovered that Stephen’s bike had been slightly mangled by the ferry ride, since that nice young man had laid it down right on the rear derailleur. Kids, if you notice your bike being placed on the wrong side like this, always say something!
At any rate, we stopped by a small bike shop in Kuah town, where the owner, Jay, got things running smoothly again. We’re still worried the derailleur might be bent, which would mean having to get it replaced in Kuala Lumpur, since there’s not much you can do to fix a bent derailleur.
The ride across the island to the popular beach town of Pantai Cenang was spectacular. The road winds around the seaside, undulating up and down into the thick lush jungle. We listened attentively to all the exotic bird calls we’ve never heard before, and joked that some of them were obviously monkeys.
Stephen even started making some monkey calls of his own.
And then, all of a sudden, there was a family of real monkeys by the side of the road. These were not half-tame Lopburi-style monkeys, but the real wild thing. As soon as we approached, they scattered into the canopy of the jungle, swinging from hanging branches, and climbing along the power lines, leaving me with just this terrible picture.
We’re Not In Cambodia Anymore
Pantai Cenang is not the most inspiring destination. The town is crowded with cafes and unloved guesthouses, and pretty empty at this time of year.
Even so, we had a terrible time finding a decent room at a decent price. The cheap ones were dirty and filled with mosquitos and other creatures, while the expensive ones were only a little better.
After spending more than two hours riding up and down the main strip, investigating guesthouse after guesthouse, we finally settled for a decent place at a highly inflated price. A similar place in Cambodia would have been $20 tops, but here, it is $50.
$50 per night seems outrageous to us, and once again, we are reminded what a hard time we’re going to have adjusting to Western prices when we get back to the “real” world.
Our cabin has the advantage of being right on the beach, which is astoundingly beautiful.
It is also full of people, which is a rare sight for us. We’d hate to see this place in high season.
Addendum to the post: We had both been feeling a little coldy as we rode around town this evening, and by nightfall, we were feeling worse. Stephen has got a sore throat and a runny nose, while I got a full-blown case of food poisoning. Another frustrating incident, because we have shared all of our food equally over the last 48 hours, and therefore have no idea what might have caused it.
Luckily, the plan for tomorrow was to sit and do nothing, so in my weakened state, I’ll have no problem complying. ♥