February / March 2016
Some places are all about nature. About quiet peaceful scenery, singing birds or chattering monkeys. Other places are just all about the people you meet.
While we cycled past some nice beaches, lovely roads…
…and impressive bridges, the Malaysian East Coast was definitely all about the people. We had so many touching, heart warming and beautiful encounters which made cycling in this area incredibly awesome. So, get yourself some coffee or whatever your drink of choice is and settle in to meet some of our friends!
After getting out of Singapore and Johor Bahru’s traffic we arrived at the relatively quiet East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. There we stayed for three nights in Bob’s green paradise.
Bob is an amazingly generous person: He doesn’t cycle himself but still likes to invite cyclists over to his place and lets them stay for a few days. He is interested in a lot of topics and we talked about politics, the recent government scandal, nature, birds and the environment.
When I felt a cold coming down, he taught me to open my own coconut to drink the water which is a lot harder than it looks like! I loved watching the Hornbills enjoying the Papaya trees and also did some bicycle maintenance: The pulleys needed replacement:
I felt very accomplished after exchanging them. It was one more bicycle maintenance thing that is not hard to do. But if you’ve never done it, it takes some time to learn.
Apart from that we ate a crazy amount of food. Bob and his family spoiled us with food in regular intervals of about two hours which was almost too much even for us. Almost :). When we asked Bob why he hosts people, he said that he realized that a lot of people seem to be scared of Muslims. So with him being a Muslim he wants to get to know people and show that he’s not scary at all. It wasn’t the first time to hear an explanation like that but it still left me with mixed emotions: It makes me sad that someone feels compelled to do that and that there are people who have all kinds of prejudices against Muslims. Getting to experience Bob’s generosity and openness on the other hand is just something else. It is one more human connection that we made, one more friend, one more argument against fear of strangers and discrimination. Thank you so much for that, Bob!
Travellers welcome travellers
Further down the road we reached Mersing. We cycled past some camp sites and considered staying on one just because of the novelty of finding a camp site in Malaysia. But as we still wanted to check out the ferry schedule for the boat to Tioman on the next day we went into Mersing. Once there we weren’t quite sure what to do, asked at some hotels for prices and looked for more camp sites further on. It was already getting dark when we stopped at a house with a few guys sitting on the porch to ask for a place to set up our tent. And that’s how we met Raja, Arab, Mahmood and Jo.
They immediately invited us to stay with them, to share all their food, to have a shower, to wash our clothes and just about everything else we could ever need or want. I have no words for their impromptu generosity! We were pretty lucky in meeting them as the house was Raja’s home and all the others just come on a semi regular basis on weekends.
They had all previously lived and travelled in most parts of the world and completely understood what traveller’s need. For me that always gets very clear when someone offers you to do laundry ;). So we took a shower, got comfortable, talked and shared stories and discovered that we have similar ideas of travelling and living in places. And once again I was reminded why we travel the way we do. It is very unlikely that we would have met the guys in a hostel and I am so very glad that we stumbled upon them.
An impromptu bus ride to Kluang
In Mersing we also spontaneously decided to take Banghui up on her invitation to visit her in her hometown Kluang. We had previously met up with her in Singapore and as she is actually from Malaysia, she often goes back on weekends. As I wasn’t very keen on cycling the 100k back and forth we decided to just take the bus. It was a nice change of pace and I enjoyed the scenery from up above.
Meeting Banghui again was perfect: We got to meet her family, enjoyed cheese cake with her siblings, ate at a Chinese restaurant with the whole family, walked up a hill, talked a lot and got to know each other better.
After we had a yummy breakfast at the Kluang Railway station on the next day, she and her sister Jo-Ann even drove us back to Mersing as we missed the bus to get to our ferry in time. Thank you so much Banghui and family, we’re loved being able to just pop over and visit you!!
Rainy season in Tioman
Well, our time in Tioman doesn’t really fit the bill for this article but it was too nice not to include it. We loved being there in rainy season: Not many people, cheap prices and even if the water wasn’t very clear for snorkelling there is something about being in places in the off-season. The vibe is different somehow and I love it. Maybe you understand when you see these…
A night in Nenasi
After Tioman we stayed one more night at Raja’s place – this time in our hammock and a cot:
With the wind coming from the sea it was so comfortable! After that we cycled on…
… until we reached Nenasi when it got dark. A small village where we wanted to look for a place to camp. As the beach was rather busy we ended up asking at the local Chinese school. And we couldn’t have found a better place! After the guard allowed us to set up camp we washed ourselves in the bathrooms and then met Mei, one of the teachers.
She was so very kind and offered us a lot of her food and we talked for a long time about the school and our travels. There are a lot of Aboriginal children coming to this school and Mei invited us to come with her to visit them in their villages the next day. We would have loved to do that but unfortunately we had already arranged a couchsurfing stay for the next day. But still, it was very interesting to talk with Mei and we felt like staying in a camp site: A kitchen, bathrooms, grass to set up our tent – it was all there :).
Palatian days in Kuantan
“Welcome to my palace” – that’s what Stefani answered to my couchsurfing request. So we cycled to Kuantan, found her place easily and were warmly welcomed with cold water and muffins (a dream coming true after a day of cycling in hot Malaysia). Her house really did feel a bit like a palace – a lot of space and beautifully furnished. Stefani was awesome: Very warm, interested, a lot of stories of her life in different places to tell and one of those persons you immediately feel comfortable with. We enjoyed a few days of rest, getting things of our to-do-list done and having wonderful food and South-African-Cider – of all things! Thank you so much, Stefani!!
All the things in between
And then there are all the encounters in between that make cycle touring so special: We met many more people on the road, had long and short talks and it happened often that we wanted to pay for coffee or food and someone had already taken care of that. All in all it was a beautiful stretch to cycle and travel and the people really made all the difference. When I look at those pictures above, my heart opens up to those people who just opened their heart and home to us strangers. There really is so much beauty in this world if you want to see it.