When we started the day at 5 am, we certainly did not expect that we would be riding over 100 km. We had planned to ride to Pekan with a goal of arriving before noon. We were up at 5 am, at breakfast by 6:15, and on the road by 6:50. The sun was just rising, so it was light enough to see. We turned on our rear red lights to ensure that passing traffic would see us – but it was light enough that this wasn’t really necessary.
With the help of a tailwind and a temperature of only 22 degrees C, we moved along quickly for the first 43 km to Nenasi, where we stopped for our second breakfast and to pick up a couple of cans of cold beverages (one soya milk and one 100 Plus for each of us).
A side note on our beverage choices: soya milk and 100 Plus (an electrolye replacement drink like Gatorade) both come in three types of container – plastic bottle, tetra pack, and can. We debated which was the most environmentally friendly option and decided on cans. We see plastic bottles and tetra packs thrown on the ground along the sides of the road, but rarely see cans. Cans may not have a deposit, but they are still actively recycled. Aluminum is actually cheaper to recycle than it is to make, so it is always good business to recycle pop cans. Even when we toss our cans in the garbage, it is likely that someone will collect them for recycling. We hope that is the case anyway.
Shortly before noon, we met our second set of touring cyclists within 24 hours. This time it was Tim and Shannon from Singapore, doing a “short” tour (575-600 km) from Kota Bharu down the East Coast to Mersing. They told us that highway 3 north of Kuantan gets quite a bit busier, so we’ll keep an eye out for ways to detour off, and onto some quieter roads. We were the first touring cyclists they’ve seen, so it seems there aren’t too many cyclists out here at this time of year.
We arrived at Pekan at 12:45 with a temperature of 42 degrees in the sun. The temperature really climbed after 10:30 am. Unfortunately, the Chief’s Rest House, where we had planned to stay was full. We checked at another Inn in town, and it too was full. There might have been rooms at the two cheap hotels in town, but both places appeared to be dives without air conditioning. (The Lonely Planet said not to stay at one of them, and the other was right next door looking the same – we also had recommendations against them from several other cycle tourists). We decided to hop back on our bikes and seek out something further along. Pekan is only 40 km outside of Kuantan, a rather large city, so we hoped for more options along the way.
We are using a free GPS map for Malaysia and Singapore from http://www.malsingmaps.com, and it has proved very helpful at times, but never more so than in our search for lodging today. A quick search for waypoints of type “lodging”, and we found “The Indrapura Lake Resort” only 5 km up the road from Pekan. Their roadside signs were tiny, and we likely would have missed the place without the GPS. Our plan was to try for a room first, and if it was under 300 RG and it looked good we would splurge. If they did not have a room but they had a pool, we would ask to use it and hang out for a few hours until the temperature dropped a little, then ride on. The temperature was reading 44 degrees as we left Pekan – toasty!
Fortunately, they had a room available for 110 RG (weekend rate, the weekday rate was only 60 RG). It was clean and had A/C, so we grabbed it. We never did figure out what made it a “Resort”, since it had no pool or restaurant, and no swimming was allowed in the “lake” (which we would call a pond). It seems like a hotel to us, but that’s all we need. We were hot and tired after the early morning and long hot ride and with everything full in Pekan, we did not want to pass up an available room. There were two big grocery stores and several food stalls within walking distance, so we didn’t starve.
We has hoped to meet up with Kat and Mike again tonight, but with the Chief’s Rest House full, our plans of meeting fell apart. We hope they found a cool clean place for the night.