Monks To Muslims

By Stephen Ewashkiw | May 17, 2014

14,232 km so far.

We left behind the saffron robed monks of Thailand today and entered the first Muslim country we have travelled in since our trip through the Middle East back in 2006.

Malaysia is the 21st country of our bicycle trip, and is also the second last country we will bike through before we take an indefinite break from cycle touring.

Not Meant To Be

After we finally found our way to the slightly hidden Thai/Malay border crossing, we crossed into Malaysia (the entire crossing took about 10 minutes) and were soon riding through a beautiful landscape, with rolling hills and karst mountains.

Gorgeous karst landscape in Malaysia.

Gorgeous karst landscape in Malaysia.

A group of Malay cyclists caught up with us and we had a nice chat. One of them is riding to Chiang Mai in a few weeks, so I gave him a card for the blog so he could check out some of the routes we took.

bike touring in Malaysia

A few minutes after we crossed the border, these friendly Malaysian road cyclists came up for a chat.

They also gave us some useful, but unfortunate, news. The ferry we were planning to catch to take us to Langkawi island no longer takes bicycles. We had read about other cyclists doing this trip not more than two months ago, so were surprised and disappointed.

karsts in malaysia

Karsts and rice near Kuala Perlis.

We headed to the ferry terminal in Kuala Perlis anyway, hoping they had the wrong information, but sadly they didn’t.

The hourly ferry has nasty signs up saying “no bicycles or scooters”, and they told us in no uncertain terms we couldn’t take our bikes. There is, however, a once daily ferry that takes cars and bikes, but it had left 45 minutes earlier, when we were sitting having a mediocre lunch in Kangar. Had we known, we could have been there in plenty of time to catch it.

Cyclists, if you are coming this way, the Ro-Ro ferry leaves at 1pm on Saturday and 2pm on Sunday. I don’t know their Monday to Friday schedule. You can find the Ro-Ro office in a car park on your left as you enter the ferry terminal area, just before you reach the huge mosque by the ferry terminal.

Onward Ho

We really wanted to get to the island today, since it promises turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, but it just wasn’t going to happen. Our choice then was to stay at the crappy hotel at the jetty, where the staff were downright rude when Jane went in to look at a room, or ride another 45 km to Alor Setar, where we might be able to catch a different ferry tomorrow.

We opted to ride.

Malaysian Countryside

As we usually do, we chose to stay off the highway for most of the ride south, and instead followed a smaller road that hugged the coastline, providing beautiful views across the Strait of Malacca. To our left were rice fields being prepared for a new season, with farmers hard at work turning over the wet land, sowing rice seeds, and burning last season’s chaff.

Mixed in amongst this scenery were countless mosques, and every few hours the call to prayer was sung out across the fields.

Our hotel in Alor Setar has a Kenny Rogers Roasters on the ground floor, and we thought we might have to try and cobble together a vegetarian meal from their menu. Neither of us had ever seen a Kenny Rogers Roasters before, we’d only heard about it in a Beastie Boys song. It sure was an unexpected restaurant to find in the middle of Malaysia.

We were quite surprised to discover that there are several vegetarian restaurants in town. We can’t figure out why, but they all seem to be Chinese Buddhist.

Maybe all the Chinese Buddhists who actually follow the Buddha’s teaching to not harm any sentient being all moved to Malaysia. In China they seemed to relish eating meat. Whatever the reason, we were happy that a few minutes from our hotel we found delicious veggie food.

We are planning to head to the ferry dock outside town tomorrow morning and try our luck taking the boat from here to Langkawi, or to use its official name, Langkawi, The Jewel Of Kedah. Fingers crossed…

Soundtrack: Jeff Tweedy, Live At Largo 19/12/2013 | A.C. Newman, Shut Down The Streets | A.C. Newman, Get Guilty | A.C. Newman, The Slow Wonder  

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


  1. Pingback: Bike Touring Malaysia: Everything you Need to Know for an Amazing Adventure | My Five Acres. Travel. Adventure. Yoga.

  2. Comment by eddy

    eddy May 21, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    It is a great thing happen in my life if I can enjoy cycling like u.

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen May 21, 2014 at 11:05 pm

      Hi Eddy. Glad you are reading along. It is a great adventure, and I hope our blog can help inspire you to take your own trip one day. Another useful website is – they are two of the people that inspired us to take our trip.

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen May 21, 2014 at 7:39 am

      Thanks for the link. I remember the scene of Jerry in bed, but that is all from that episode, and lots of people have mentioned it since we stopped by Kenny’s place…

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