Malay Peninsula

After several days relaxing in Bangkok, I finally set off cycling, headed south on to the Malay Peninsula. With my new saddle and shorts the bike was much more comfortable, and with the new wheels and drivetrain it was going faster too!

The roads in Thailand are world-class and flat, so I covered ground quickly. It was by now too warm to comfortably camp so, where possible, I tried to find somewhere to stay. The first night out of Bangkok I reached the resort town of Hue Hin, popular among Thai royalty. One could hardly move without passing a picture of the king.

Heading southeast, crossing to the other side of the peninsula, the flat landscape was mostly filled by palm oil plantations or rubber forests, the two products that make up a significant part of Thailand’s exports.

I spent a lot of time in 7-11s while I was in Thailand. They were ubiquitous – rare was the ten kilometre stretch without one. After cycling for hours in the hot, humid weather of South-East Asia, these air-conditioned oases were very welcome. The cheap toasted sandwiches were a boon too – at 40 Baht (£1) for two sausage and cheese toasties, I ate a lot of these.

Since there were so many 7-11s I generally stopped at those on my side of the road. On one occasion there was an unusual gap between the stores, and so I crossed the road. After a break there, I continued cycling – forgetting to cross back over. After about five kilometres I noticed that signposts were pointing to towns I’d already been through. Oops. I turned around and pedalled in the right direction.

I was generally lucky in finding accommodation at the end of the day, spending two nights in a row at cheap motels. Thankfully Thai motels often post their prices on signs outside, so I could ride along until I saw one reasonably priced. One night, though, I was in a particularly unpopulated area and had no choice but to wander off into a palm oil plantations and set up camp. There were so many mosquitoes around that I had to use the tent. This led to a quite unpleasant couple of hours of lying soaked in my own sweat while swarms of mosquitoes buzzed around outside. I resolved to continue trying to find cheap hotels while in South-East Asia!

Luckily I had only a short way to go the next day, to bring me to the town of Ao Nang. This area of Thailand is predominantly Muslim, and I saw many masjids along the way. Most women wore hijabs but, unlike Pakistan and Bangladesh (the last two strictly Muslim regions I visited), they were still to be seen out and about, and made up about half of the moped riders.

Arriving at Ao Nang was a sudden change from this conservative style as I reached a busy backpacker town. I dropped my bike at a hostel then took a boat to Railay beach, on a small peninsula not connected by road to the mainland. This is supposed to be one of the nicest beaches in the world. It was nice enough but I didn’t think it seemed that much better than the beaches back home. The water was a much more pleasant temperature though!

I continued on through the south of Thailand. There were a couple of small hills here, gaining perhaps 200m. By local standards this was a bit deal – signs warned of “STEEP MOUNTAIN.”

This supposed mountain did at least provide a bit of a break from the headwind I’d been riding to. After the “mountain,” I escaped the headwind by riding behind a motorcycle with an ice-cream sidecar.

A couple more days brought me to the border with Malaysia. The border process was very quick, and I was soon cycling away into another new country. I didn’t get a very good first impression. The last few countries have either had quiet roads or, in Thailand’s case, a wide hard shoulder. There was no shoulder here and busy traffic were passing at high speed, leaving little room.

These busy roads continued for most of Malaysia, and there weren’t any particular places I wanted to visit so for the most part I simply rode straight south toward Kuala Lumpur, the capital.

Malaysia is a Muslim country, visible in the fact that the majority of women wore the hijab. There were also lots of cats around, which often seems to be the case in Islamic countries. And, of course, there were mosques.

A frequent site on Malaysian roadsides were monkeys. Most days I saw several groups. A less pleasant example of wildlife was the corpse of a massive snake!

A difficult to spot monkey

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur and took a day to wander around the city. I quite liked it – and I don’t usually like cities that much. The two towers were particularly impressive.

Continuing south, I made my way toward Singapore. One hostel I stayed at was particularly memorable. Instead of private rooms, or a bunk bed in a dormitory, I booked a night in a “capsule” – it looked like something from a spaceship!

A couple days later, I reached Singapore. There was a visible change; it’s a far wealthier country. English is also one of the official languages, which makes things easier for me!

Approaching Singapore

I’d contacted a bike shop and ordered some tyres, so I made my way over there and collected those. Looking online, I found a shop which sold water filters. It was a strange place, a small room on the 3rd floor of an office building. It took me a while to find it but I managed in the end.

Jobs done, I made my way to the ferry port and booked myself onto a short ferry to Batam, a nearby Indonesian island. I checked into a hotel and took a day off here, having booked a ferry to take me to Java, Indonesia’s largest island.

Feb 19: 183 km.

Feb 20: 165 km

Feb 21: 167 km

Feb 22: 212 km

Feb 23: 59 km

Feb 24: 207 km

Feb 25: 189 km

Feb 26: 257 km

Feb 27: 205 km

Feb 29: 208 km

Mar 1: 153 km

Mar 2: 70 km