With Jeff met in Tadjikistan, we took the road to cross Malaysia from the south to the north, from Singapore to Thailand. As the wet season was coming, we chose to ride along the west coast, less rainy in theory. However, every day there were tropical showers.
Like in Singapore, three ethnic groups are living here: Chinese people, Indian people and Malaysian people who are this time the most part of the population and Muslim. Indian and Chinese people were imported by the British to exploit the natural resources of the country. Today the economy is mostly driven by the Chinese people who quickly transformed themselves in traders. Today, they are mainly in the big cities.
In the south, we crossed huge palm plantations. The small red berries that the trees produce are pressed to make oil. These trees provided a nice place to pitch our tent. Unfortunately, the rain often forced us to refuge in hotel.
On the road, we discovered very beautiful and colorful wooden houses. We would want to live there ! Thanks to Jeff, we tasted numerous drink sell in the caffs on the side of the road. The contact with locals is cordial but no more.
Fortunately, since we arrived on the peninsula, the haze disappeared. This unbreathable fog coming from Indonesia is due to intentional fires. The tropical forest is destroyed to plant palm oil trees. A real ecological disaster! This year, particularly dry, the fires were not controled, even the soil burned and the haze settled for several month on Singapore and Malaysia.
The first step was Malacca. This former colonial city formed with Singapore and Penang a British colony called the Straits Settlements. We visited a rich museum house of Peranakan, name given to the Chinese people settled in the Malaysian peninsula. Their customs were a mix of Chinese tradition and local habits.
Then we reached the capital city Kuala Lumpur not without difficulty, we get caught in a giant spaghetti dish of motorways. Even if there are some nice buildings, the density and the big buildings were not friendly. However we were lucky to visit the city center without cars. This Sunday morning, a bike ramble is organised. It does you good, from our arrival in the country, there is an incessant traffic on the road. In Malaysia, we had four punctures whereas it happened once in seven months. The side of the road were full of bits and pieces, including staples and nails !
North of the city, there is the biggest Hindu temple outside India. It is settled in a impressive high cave. A huge statue and hundreds of steps guard the entrance.
We moved away from the sea that we saw very few to climb mountains to the Cameron Highlands. There is the vegetable garden of Malaysia, the greenhouses are numerous. But we liked the tea plantations with their green color on the hills. At 1600 m above the sea level, we liked also the freshness of the evening.
After a wonderful way down, we arrived in Ipoh. Here Michael Warmshower surprisingly put us up in hotel. We spent two nice dinners with him and his wife to talk about bicycle travelling. Just retired, they planned a long bicycle trip.
To get the Thai visa, we reached with the ferryboat George Town on Penang island. It is again a former colonial city with nice typical houses. According to the age of their buildings, they have Chinese, English or modern influence. At the Thailand embassy, we met Florence and Yannick, a french couple who traveled in the long term. We get on and we followed them to a small trek on the wild part of the island.
The preview of the exhibition of Oneway, the Taiwanese prison guard, took place on the evening. He showed his drawings for Amnesty International. Our meeting was moving, we are touched by the engagement of this man. We learned that Malaysia is one of the rare countries in the world where the death penalty for drug traffic is still used. A boy arrested at 16 years old with 632 g of cannabis and sentenced to death is still waiting for his execution.
We left Penang for an other island, Langkawi. The journey is rough and Fanchon threw up. On this island, beers were tax-free. It changed from the mainland, the Malaysian government just increased taxes on alcohol. Bad news for the Chinese people! We found in this country a more radical Islam than we thought. Some mosques scream the whole prayer in their speakers on the Friday evening and it is common to see 8 years old girls wearing already the scarf.
A last crossing drove us on the mainland. In the north, landscapes were different. Green rice field were scattered with coconut trees and big rocks. No more palm oil trees but rubber trees where the latex is extracted.
At the beginning, we liked Malaysia. In this tropical area, we were surprised by the lush vegetation and charmed by the smile of people. However, the three weeks were a bit long. The real meetings were rare, the traffic dense and the landscapes not various.
After a last night in hotel, we crossed the border with Thailand on the 29th of November 2015.