Malaysia II – Asia’s diversity in one country

Km 12012Padangbai, Indonesia

GAMBANG – LANGAWI

  • After the Vipassana meditation we take the bus to Kuantan together with Thara, an Indian Malaysian. We talk for hours. The 26-year old tells us a lot about Malaysia and about a young generation who doesn’t want to hear the story about the seperation of the ethnic groups. Thara, for example, speaks 7 (!) languages: 2 Indian dialects, 3 Chinese dialects, Malaysian and English. He is so wonderfully easy-going and open-minded and the first Indian in Malaysia with whom we really get into contact with.

  • After a couple of days in Kuantan, we slowly start to hitchhike back to Langkawi (to our bicycles). Many different people take us. From each person we can learn something and each person gives us an impression so that our picture of the country becomes more and more differentiated.

  • A couple days later we arrive in Alor Setar (for the second time). Jean and Kenny have invited us to celebrate „aid il fitri“ together with them, their kids (Jojo & Haley) and their Muslim friends. It’s the end of the Ramadan fasting month, also named „hari raya“ (big day). So together we attend two „hari raya open houses“. One time small and familial, another time there are many guests, but each time there is a lot of food.

Alor Setar

guests at a “hari raya open house”

LANGKAWI II

  • Three weeks do we stay with Jeff in Langkawi (one of the many reasons is that we are waiting for a parcel). Instead of usually six dogs, Jeff is currently caring for 10 to 11 dogs. The house is full and the house work a full time job. During the next weeks we repair the roof, cut trees, build two tables, renew the fence, shower the dogs, etc… Besides all that: our own chaos (washing, choosing the new route, contact hosts, taking care of the bikes).

  • Now and then we make an excursion: seeing the sunset from the highest mountain again, caving (crawling through small caves), going to a beautiful beach and hot springs, hiking together with Jean and Kenny (our hosts from Alor Setar) to a hidden waterfall with a deep pond to swim in and on the way back we have to wade through a hip-deep river.

  • A sad event was saving a small, black baby dog. Jeff received a call from one of his customers (pet sitting). They had seen an injured puppy. Without breakfast we jump into the car and indeed find a skinny baby dog. He was tied to a tree. The rusty chain had entered into his skin since he had grown over time. We untie the little one who is looking afraid, wrap him into a towel and bring him to Jeff’s house. None of the surrounding house owners (rather rich neighbourhood) is admitting to have done it. The wound caused by the iron chain is 2 centimetres deep. How can one let this happen? How can one just turn away? A neighbour tells us that she was afraid to touch the dog (but sometimes fed him). Why didn’t she call the animal shelter (which she knows of!)? Are people so distracted by their lives that they cannot take responsibility within 10 meters around their house? Don’t they feel the duty to look what is out there and to get involved? Does the problem seem so unsolvable (solution: look up the number of the animal shelter and call). Besides that, it was a Chinese neighbourhood. With the Muslim Malay the astonishment might have been minimally smaller. In Islamic teachings dogs come right below the pigs (and are not even supposed to be touched when wet).

  • Anyhow, the puppy is doing better each day. We clean the wound, pet and feed. At first he is frightened and hiding. But with time passing, he becomes more and more friendly and trusting, plays with the other three puppies and follows us tail waggingly.

vegetarian monkeys live right next to Jeff's house

vegetarian monkeys live right next to Jeff’s house

TEMERLOH – SINGAPORE

  • We say a hearty good-bye to Jeff and take the ferry to Kuala Kedah. The next morning a bus brings us to Temerloh – a town in the middle of nowhere. From there a beautiful and quiet path leads to the coast.

  • One highlight: we search for protection from the rain and hide under a porch. It rains heavily and Rahima steps onto her patio, only says „wait wait“ to then come back with two cups of hot coffee. A lonely house in the middle of the nature, the heavy rain and we are protected and drink coffee with an open-hearted woman who says „Just call me matshi“ (Malay for auntie). She says (referring to our journey) phrases like „I support you 100%!“ or „Enjoy, lah!“ We decline her invitation to stay over night (still to early during the day) and will regret that later as we are turned down twice: first at a school, then at a restaurant. We do find an abandoned hut with a rain-proof roof though – luckily, because it is raining much.

  • The next morning we continue. In a cheap restaurant along the road we eat an extra huge portion. During the day we can collect rambutans and pick litchis – delicious! In the afternoon it begins to rain again and we stand under a bus stop somewhere. The hospital behind it is already closed. After a while of waiting Alex sees a man inside the hospital area and walks towards him to ask if we can sleep under the roof of the car park. Hafiz doesn’t hesitate long and says: „You can stay at my place.“ He would be leaving anyway to have dinner with his mum. As he shows us his flat he points to some unwashed dishes and says the medieval sentence: „Sorry, I am still single!“ We take that with humor and are just thankful for this little refuge, for the shower and the water boiler (and of course we do the dishes, too).

  • The days „on the road“ go well and we have countless small, positive experiences. From people who just smile at us, wave or say something motivating. Some people even hand gifts over to us, want to do us good. Already in the first village after Temerloh (hari raya) cookies are offered to us, later Rahima invites us for coffee and cookies, in a restaurant we cannot stay overnight, but rambutans are handed over to us, when I want to buy some bananas the woman doesn’t let me pay. A van with a couple craftsmen drives next to us and hands us fruits (Dokong) and corn through the window, another hotel guest gives us some pizza. Later as we fill up our water bottles a man gives us a bottle of chlorophyll extract which is supposed to good for the body and the energy… all this enriches, stimulates, lightens us…

  • While travelling someone just needs to have some time, the adventures come by themselves. The passed days were definitely positive, harmonious, but still comparingly quiet (in terms of bigger highlights). But then a day was to come fully packed with stories and experiences.

  • We wake up in a Chinese temple, pack our things and after about 2 kilometres Alex has a flat tire. Almost 10.000 kilometres did we cycle without any single flat tire. And now this is the third one within the last 2.000 kilometres. Each time it is a break in the valve. Nothing has entered through the Schwalbe tires. We had already used the two spare tubes and had looked for new ones afterwards, but we hadn’t found any until then. Alex hitchhikes back to Mersing. Baka and his wife drive him right in front of the bicycle store. The mechanic doesn’t have the right size, so they try with a tube for racing bikes. After one hour (record time!) Alex is standing in front of me again. Mammut and his wife Ram had taken him on his way back. They get off the car as they see me and watch Alex putting the front tire back in. In excellent English they present us a little story (as we asked about the be-aware-of-elephants signs):

  • As a child, so Mammut remembers, there were many elephants along this road. Sometimes they were sleeping in the middle of the street (because they like the warm asphalt). Honking could scare them and make them become dangerous and that’s why the cars were waiting patiently (1-2 hours) until the animal was ready to leave again.
    Organizing a spare tube: experience number 1 for the day.

  • We are still organising ourselves, when a touring cyclist passes us – but he doesn’t stop. Later we catch up with him, while he is dozing at the side of the street. Ghafar is Malay and wants to cycle around Malaysia-Peninsula. The 72-year old (!) man is very fit and jumps on his bicycle. Together we ride for a while, but he is much faster than I am and I could not see him anymore. During lunchtime we meet again and the aged sportsman decides to come with us to Sedili Besar, because he doesn’t know the place. This time we stick together until Alex has a flat tire again. The idea of the mechanic lasted 50km! Good enough! Suddenly Ghafar lives up, takes the tube out of Alex’s hands and repairs it very quickly and vividly. A funny grandfather-companion. Later we learn, that he printed „Adventure Daddy 72“ on the back of his T-shirt. This Adventure Daddy is our second experience of the day.

  • Looking for a place to sleep: the cycling grandfather has a tent as well – just in case. During a long period we don’t really understand what is happening. We cycle to the beach, then we leave again – it keeps getting darker. Only later during dinner in a restaurant Ghafar explains that he didn’t trust the „youngsters“ at the beach. We just accept the destiny, follow Ghafar and his stile to find a place to sleep. We accept that he is talking to many different people (at this time we normally would have been in the tent for quite a while already). Long story short: Alex has a flat tire again – this time only 10 km after the reparation. The helpful restaurant’s owner Bai calls a friend. Just a little bit later he stands in front of us. We put Alex’s bicycle and Ghafar into the car and follow the old Mercedes. Bob is our angel – we couldn’t have wished for a better person to meet. He keeps apologizing that all his rooms are already taken by his visiting family. He had already hosted cyclists twice before and they were sleeping in the treehouse boat (see picture). We receive a roof with electricity, a toilet and a shower, a second dinner and a lot of warmth.

  • Bob is so amazingly companionable, keeps smiling and teases his Chinese wife. He is hurt when he hears about the propaganda against Muslims on TV. The problem: The Islam, just like other religions as well, is abused. No religion allows/teaches to kill. But despite all the seriousness of the subject, he keeps smiling, the kind-hearted man keeps laughing out loud. Tired we sink into our beds, what a day! We found a sleeping spot: experience number 3 for today!

  • Three days later we are already standing at the ferryport to Singapore. Goodbye, Malaysia. It was lovely with you!

Here you find recent PICTURES and the ROUTE we took (just click on the respective word)!

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