Cycling to Pangkor: It was 40 years ago ... - Taking my life for a ride - CycleBlaze

June 23, 2015

Cycling to Pangkor: It was 40 years ago ...

It wasn't far from Banting to my Warm Showers host, only 18 km. I guess I could have cycled it all in one day, but I was ready to call it quits by the time I got to Banting and I didn't want to show up on my first Warm Showers host a day early, and the bridge over the river did look formidable.

It wasn't, but such is the advantage of starting fresh next day.

My Warm Showers host was a delightful human being and experienced touring cyclist. He lives close to the airport, so gets quite a few cyclists looking for a night's lodging. It seems he always says yes. He put me up for the night, showed great hospitality and helped me route plan the next few days cycling. With his assurance, I took on the ride through Klang and out into the countryside towards Lumut the next day. It wasn't the most salubrious ride, but I survived the traffic, ending up in the tourist town of Kuala Selangor - about 70 km down the road. I thought it a good effort considering the careful riding required to get out of Klang in one piece.

Her name is Yuki. She stole my heart...
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He's the dog who ate my sandal...
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There was one short moment there where I thought to myself that maybe perhaps I would have been better off cycling the summer in Europe. I had just done a good stretch of about 30 km in the mid day tropical sun and was dismounting to take a well earned break, stepping straight into a fresh pile of dog shit, feral mangy streetdog shit. The locals in the food stall tactfully ignored my situation as I staggered about doing the foot scraping in the tall grass routine. A couple of km down the road I found a closed shop that conveniently had left a bucket of water and scrub brush out the front. Hey, it could have happened in Europe, too, I reckon.

Will you have chilli flakes with that order, sir?
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It took another two days cycling, about 150 km, to get Lumut, the last 60 km was a food and water free stretch of head down and pedal, as everything was shut down for Ramadan. I did find a small hole in the wall shop that was open. As I recall there wasn't much on offer: a few brooms, dried Maggi noodles, water and ice cream. I did partake in two of the offerings.

40 years ago I spent some time on Pangkor Island, just a short ferry ride from Lumut. Everyone told me it would have changed greatly in that time, but truth is I can't remember much from the previous visit. There was a lot of walking involved back then, there is a road all the way round the island now. Beyond the main tourist beach, it was mostly jungle and a few empty sandy beaches. Now there are resorts and cheap tourist traps literally all the way round the island and even an exclusive resort or two on the small neighbouring island... So yeah, I guess it's changed a fair bit, but I still have a soft spot for it.

Instead of cycling around searching for cheap accommodation, I took a room in a guest house in the fishing village, literally only a few paces from where the ferry first docks. Good decision. Pangkor Guesthouse, highly recommended.

My hosts. I rolled up on the bike. They fed me, gave me special "kung fu" Chinese tea, we had a great conversation... and then they asked me if I wanted a room. My kind of people.
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Fishing village street view, from out front of the guesthouse
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It's a working fishing village, with only a few low key guest houses. It wakes up early and goes to bed early. I just potter about watching and interacting with the locals. I did do a circuit of the island. The best part? Pedalling and pushing (the road is silly steep in a couple of bits) the stretches of jungle between the tourist traps. I took photos of monkeys; the pedalling tourist was the highpoint of their week, I am certain. And photos of the old accommodation place my wife and I stayed at 40 years ago, waiting for American Express to refund our stolen travellers cheques. Hey, Carl Malden told us not to leave home without them.

Fishing villages have lots of fishing boats.
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And ropes...
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From here I'm cycling to Penang - should take a couple of days. From there I'm contemplating taking the ferry to Langkowie Island and then it's a short boat ride to Thailand.

There are numerous roadside shrines throughout the village
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24/7 house spirit shrine...
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Swallow houses. I'm noticing them everywhere now. Whole multi-story complexes devoted to swallows for bird nest harvesting. This one was atop the local dried fish business.
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Hornbill. I was excited to glimpse one flying through the jungle and then when I got back to the fishing village, here's one sitting on the powerlines downing a big fruit snack.
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