Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Cyclist in Malaysia
Alright, it’s time for us to hold our sun-beaten hands in the air. For the past few months we’ve been planning a secret trip back to the UK. Harriet’s big brother, Josh, was getting married to Kirsty (which we clearly couldn’t miss) and we wanted to surprise them and the rest of the family last weekend. Keeping our trip home a surprise has involved deception, spy craft, a mole on the inside and waking up to the James Bond theme tune for months. You might think that Matt has been in disguise for months, if not years, with his comedy glasses and funny nose, but that is just the way he looks.
To make our flight back we had to race down 800km of Malaysia to Singapore. First was a choice: east coast or west coast. The west coast boasted Kuala Lumpur, other larger cities and plenty of amenities. Whereas the east coast was more rural, with fewer amenities and a chance to get closer to Malaysian wildlife.
‘Pah - who needs amenities’ we thought, pointing the handlebars to the east coast.
How wrong we were.
We had withdrawn money at the border, but late one evening we discovered that we had spent almost all of it on essentials like double scoops of ice creams, artisan doughnuts and 7-11 slurpees. Being rural Malaysia we discovered that there were no ATMs for 50kms and we needed money to buy dinner. We were out of cash and low on food and water. Where were the amenities?!
In desperation we began scrabbling around for any loose change we could find and managed to scrape together around £2. This would buy us a few roadside roti canai (a tasty Malaysian flat bread), but leave us without any money for the morning.
We scoffed down our roti, counted our precious remaining coins and Matt asked for the bill. “It is not necessary, your bill was paid by that table”, the waiting staff replied, pointing to the table behind us. We immediately looked over at a Malaysian couple smiling at us. In our amazement we struggled to express our gratitude to the couple who couldn’t have known that we were almost out of cash (although our crusty cyclist chic outfits may have made us look like we were down on our luck). Who needs amenities when you’ve got such kind locals.
We were also looking forward to getting closer to Malaysian wildlife on the east coast, we just didn’t realise how close we would get. One night we slept 50 meters from the beach. The only thing stopping us accessing the beach was a gate with a big DANGER sign written in Malay. We saw the sign and rolled our eyes: if it’s that dangerous beyond the gate there would be more than a simple sign to deter foolhardy foreigners.
So we slipped passed the sign, got into the water and let the waves wash over our tired legs. It felt like calm, relaxing bliss and when we finally got out we were feeling Zen-like. The flip flops were on, a towel round each of our necks and we sauntered back towards the gate. Then we saw it. A flash of yellow belly and something darted into a pond below the mangroves. A trail of bubbles on the surface of the pond showed the predator’s path underwater. Then suddenly a five foot salt water crocodile mounted the bank opposite us. We looked at each other, gulped and then looked at the gate. Nothing screams PREY like two tourists in wet swimming costumes and flip flops. We tiptoed as quietly as possible to the gate and pulled it closed. Turns out that sign might have been important after all.
With near-misses behind us, we sped down to the skyscrapers of Singapore with big grins on our faces, slightly slack-jawed in disbelief about having cycled from Edinburgh to Singapore. The adventure keeps on giving.
This week’s highlights:
Up there with the highest of highlights has to be making it back for the Highland wedding🏴 Pedalling over the Malaysian-Singapore bridge one day and then blessing the Bride and Groom by drinking whisky from a Quaich and being flung around the ceilidh a few days later is quite the surrealist adventure. And we couldn’t have loved the juxtaposition more.
Whenever the cycling is hard or the rain comes down we remember the Greasy Spoon cafe (actual name) for sale for £8,000 on the Thai island of Ko Tao. Suddenly we are transported to an alternative, entrepreneurial beach island fantasy.
Stopping in a town called Merang which reminded Matt of his favourite Glasgow joke (A Glaswegian walks into a bakery, points at the shelf and asks ‘is that a doughnut or a meringue?’ The baker responses, ‘you’re right, it’s a doughnut’).
Celebrating Matt’s birthday on the road!
This week’s lowlights:
An extremely nasty infection between toes. We’ll spare you the graphic images but any sadists can message us for the before and after photos. Thank goodness for antibiotics🦶
We’ve been pretty lucky with the rain on this whole adventure but it caught up with us one day in Malaysia where it rained from dawn until dusk, coupled with Matt snapping a gear cable 10km from the end. That moment definitely made us think about hanging up the bikes to run the tropical island beach cafe!
After two weeks off the saddle, slinging a leg over the bikes in Indonesia has been a shock to the system. However we’re back on the road and can’t wait to cycle across Java to Bali. Please shout if you have any must-sees!
Bring on the coffee, volcanos and volcanos of coffee.