ENDLESS HOSPITALITY IN MALAYSIA
We kept wandering what these huge, bold, noisy buildings were through Asia and they became more and more prevalent when we arrived in Malaysia. We eventually learnt that they are in fact giant birdhouses! They have been designed to coax the Swiftlets into safety where they will then construct tiny nests from solidified saliva. These nests are then stolen and used for human consumption. Bird nests are a highly prized commodity in Chinese culture and fetch staggering prices per kilo, anything up to 2,500USD! That is more than their weight in gold! The nests are cooked down to make bird nest soup.
We were trying our best to hug the coastline through the northern region of Penang, finding pleasant quiet roads and tracks through the fields. There were also quiet places to camp alongside the canals, though we were not impressed by the abysmal state of the water, it was so polluted it looked liked a toxic cauldron in places. We watched the locals throw their black waste bags down the river banks and sometimes set a small fire when the piles got over-loaded.. as the toxins from the smouldering plastics leeched into the fresh water supply, often locals quietly sat nearby, jovially fishing, probably for consumption.
On the first night in Malaysia we had crossed the border and climbed up an epic hill with numerous switchbacks and breathtaking views. As the road reached the summit, David spotted another super steep driveway that would take us that little bit higher. We could easily have not bothered, but when your welcomed with the view in the very top picture, you realise it is always worth that little extra effort! We were just deciding on the place for our tent when a few cars of local guys turned up. Typical lads, showing-off a bit, but they were OK, they insisted I took a photo of them anyway!
Since the moment we embraced this ambitious journey, we have received many messages from various people all around the world. One such person who followed us intently all the way to his home country of Malaysia is Alexander McNab, pictured here in the orange top. We were on our way into the city of Ipoh, concentrating on keeping pace along the busy highway, when a scooter tooted us from behind and pulled up. We were greeted by an exuberant guy, welcoming us as though we had already met and chatting away as though we were standing anywhere but the narrow hard-shoulder of a busy highway. This was Alexander! Alexander gave us directions to meet him in town and had organised for us to meet the entire family and also stay with his mother, aunty and brother-in-law that night. We had a superb evening, the family had such a great sense of humour and showed us extraordinary kindness, we truly have made lifelong friends with these wonderful people and couldn't feel more humbled.x
This is bless, an adorable man who flagged us down in his vehicle and insisted that he would like to treat us to lunch and also contact the local newspaper. Bless is an English teacher and puts much work into encouraging young people and adults to learn English. The following morning a local journalist interviewed us and we were featured in the Taiping newspaper!
We pulled up for our regular pitstop at the Seven Eleven (they have ice machines and COLD soft drinks on tap!) and a curious lady came out from her clothes shop nearby to say hello. I can not believe I do not have a note of her name, as we had so much in common! The lady disappeared and came back with real belgium chocolates that her friend had sent her from Austria. Even with extensive cocoa plantations in Malaysia, your hard-pressed to find good quality chocolate and this lady (who is a self-confessed chocolate-fiend, but only for the good stuff) had been stretching-out these little squares of scrumptiousness until the next chocolate box arrives. Only now, two greedy cyclists come by and in typical Malaysian style, she has her favourite chocolates bagged up as a gift for us, what a woman! I meant to pin the clothes shop on our map so that I could google her address and send her a brand new box of chocolates when we return to Europe.. I remember now why I didn't make note of this. In my temporary unconscious state whilst devouring these gorgeous chocolates, David disappeared. It was probably only 30 minutes before I found him several kilometres up the road, but it's long enough to get in a flap and ultimately, I didn't get a chance to pin this place. Damn.
There are not many cycle tourists that pass through Malaysia and do not meet or know about Akmal. His reputation has flourished partly due to his bike shop which specialises in cycle-touring, but mainly because this man is a wonderful host and a guy with a huge heart. Akmal has helped countless cyclists, be it with a bed for the night, local information or fixing up a broken bike. We stayed with Akmal for 3 nights, along with other cyclists and a swag of local workers. It was unfortunate that both he and us were so busy whilst in Kuala Lumpur, he is a fascinating guy with tremendous knowledge to share. Thanks for everything Akmal!
This picture and 'family ethos' absolutely sums up the vibrant and infectious Warmshowers family that we stayed with in Georgetown; Sherilyn, Sam, Isabelle and Adam. They were living in a wonderful stockroom conversion at the back of their family IT business and had turned what would normally be a somewhat 'dreary' space into a quirky, colourful and positive family home, with all their own wall art and furnishings to decorate the place. Another inspiring family that we have been so lucky to have stayed with.
After a fairly big day riding out of Kuala Lumpur, we were around 20km's from Port Dickson and wondering where we should camp. The man on the right came by in his van and pulled up in front of us. He asked if we would like a ride up the road as far as his house. We thought they may have a good place for us to put up our tent so decided to take up the offer. On the way there we stopped at a local street market and the guy bought us grass jelly drinks and roasted chickpeas in a cone. When we arrived at the house, we met his wife and kids who bought out cold squash and homemade curry puffs that had come straight out of the oven. His wife was a stewardess and unfortunately they had to leave shortly after to drive to the airport in Kuala Lumpur.. we're flying Malaysian airlines soon, maybe we'll run into her again!
The Orang Asli indigenous people hunt and harvest the rainforest resources for consumption and trade. Occasionally we would pass individuals selling a small selection of their harvest on the roadside.. We stopped at this particular hut curious to the fruits hanging from the roof. They turned out to be bamboo shoots, which unfortunately required substantial cooking. It would have been the perfect re-hydrating snack had they been ready to go, but with several kilometres still to go up hill, we were not up for carrying any extra's! You could also find sea coconuts, honey, strawberries and bananas.
Ice cold Milo is massive business in Malaysia, everyone drinks the stuff! However, this was the first time we came across a Milo dinosaur! It was a shame that the lady serving us was quite possibly the grumpiest person we met on this trip, but we still had great fun trying to eat the icy chocolate quicker than the over-flow plate catching the melting goodness could fill-up!
Ava & Chong invited us to stay at their home in Malacca, after hearing about us through Ava's sister who works with David's mother in Australia. We were treated like part of the family and loved every minute of it. Ava & Chong were determined to only send us on our way once we had experienced as many sides of Malaysian life as they could possibly share with us!
This is the bright, bubbly Pier from the Philippines. Pier helps look after the family home and is a fabulous cook too. One of the nights Pier cooked up a selection of traditional dishes from the Philippines, which is a first time for us. Thank you so much Pier, your a wonderful woman and we wish you all the very best.x
This is the fascinating city of Malacca, it's colourful history creating today's diverse and somewhat eclectic culture that attracts so many tourists today. Here you will find a strong presence of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European heritage, seen within the UNESCO protected architecture, the people of Malacca and especially the unique cuisine.
MALAYSIAN F1 GRAND PRIX
We originally met Susie & Ben on Cat Ba island, Vietnam when they were riding two motorbikes down the length of the country with their backpacks strapped to the back! We arranged to meet them again in Ho Chi Minh City where they bought weekend thickets for the F1 Kuala Lumpur for a steel of a price. Being on pushbikes, there was no guarantee we would make it to KL on time to join them, but luckily managed to blag our way into the best seats of the race track to join Susie & Ben for an awesome Grand Prix!
All gallery images are property of Nowhere2far.