18th of June 2019, Cléa celebrates her 28th anniversary, it’s raining loudly on Singapore and so we are waiting until the beginning of afternoon to “take off”. Or rather to pedal because here we are, it’s the big start on bicycles! Just the time to thank our Belgian hosts and we are on wheels to cross the City-State.
We first try to find bike paths, interrupted constantly by works, finally we choose a large north-south car axis. Faster, more reliable and relatively safe because Singaporeans drive properly. The country is tiny and we find ourself 4 hours later on the bridge of Johor Bahru, gateway to Malaysia. A real mess: a queue of endless trucks, uninterrupted motorcycles and finally a very basic border post. Not a word of customs, just a stamp for 3 months and it’s done!
A quick stopover in a hostel and we leave the next day to the North East. We pedal in a landscape made exclusively of palm trees, a sign that the oil so criticized in Europe continues to “drive the business”.
A coincidence, at the same time Sylvain reads “L’humanité en péril” by Fred Vargas. The subject is treated as well as many other human damages… Malaysia is the second largest producer of palm oil in the world and in front of our eyes, workers collect large bunches of fruit while we chain the hills below a good 37°C average.
In the afternoon, we arrive at our Warmshowers site: Bob, a 67-year-old man retired, offers a room, a shower, a fresh coconut and even a dinner for passing cyclists. We have the chance to meet Mikel, Basque, and Birgitt-Soren, Danish, long-term cyclists who go down to Singapore and tell us about their experience of the previous countries that we will soon visit: Vietnam, Thailand, etc.
June 20th, we follow the east coast to the north of Mersing. The landscape remains similar but the road becomes fuller of cars. We follow the thin strip of tar on the shoulder and everything is fine! In the evening we camp in a quite nice place, sheltered from the wind and rain by a pine forest, 10m from the China Sea.
The next day, still heading to the North, the vegetation evolves, the palm trees give way to coconut trees and mango trees appear around the houses. After 100km we reach Kekunang Tering Chalet, a pretty beachside guesthouse where cyclists are welcome. The night is very stormy and we end up installing the hammock under a carbet, the only way to stay dry! Mosquitoes kept us loyal company all night.
Kuantan and then Paka follow the next days, we are regularly greeted by passers-by and drivers and we enjoy the good food in the “warungs” on the roadside. We’ve got a sore butt, but we’re in high spirits! Not far from Paka, we visit a turtle sanctuary, sponsored by BP/Petronas Industries which operates a huge refinery a few kilometers away. Greenwashing is ridiculous…
On the 24th we reach the outskirts of Marang and Kuala Terengganu where a new Warmshowers, Abdul, welcomes us very generously. We openly discuss a thousand and one topics with him (religion, food, literature, cycling of course …) and so we have a great time!
Finally, after a stopover on the desert peninsula of Penarik, a chilly and humid night in our great double hammock, here we are in Kuala Besut. In one week, we have traveled a good part of the East Coast so we allow ourselves three days without bicycled on the Perhentian Islands before reaching Thailand!