On the road again

March 8th, 2009 by scott and becky

2h45min, 50 km, Max Temp 42 deg C

We are on the road again. It seems like forever since the last time we were really riding, and yet once we were on the bikes, it felt like only yesterday we were crossing southern Italy. It is definitely hotter here, and much more humid, but so far we are surviving the heat.

We were glad to have scoped out the path out to Changi Village, as we were able to find a route that involved much less traffic (both pedestrian and car). At one point on the cycling path, we ran into Raymond on his tadpole trike again. We had met him when we were out riding on Thursday, but this time we actually introduced ourselves. His first comment was “you guys are still here?” Most cycling tourists don’t stay in Singapore for more than two to three days, and Raymond thought we were leaving when we met him the last time.

It took us less than 2 hours to ride the 33 km out to the ferry. There were so many tents and people at Changi Beach that Becky did not even recognize that we had arrived!

The ferry we took over to Pengerang is called a “bumboat”. Upon arrival at the ferry terminal, we told the receptionist that we wanted the boat to Pengerang. Once enough people arrive (12 people) the boat leaves. We waited an hour and it was not looking promising, but the boat left anyways with only 4 passengers. There were many people waiting at Pengerang, so the boat needed to make the run regardless of the number of passengers in Singapore.

The boat was pretty small (about 35 feet long). We were a little nervous about Scott’s bike, as it was just place lying down on the stern. Becky’s bike was placed inside the cabin, so there were no worries about it. It turned out to not be an issue, as even when the boat rocked over the wake of other passing boats, the bike did not budge.

When we arrived in Malaysia (after about an hour long boat ride), we were greeted by a female customs officer wearing hijab. She was very friendly and welcoming. Becky was immediately concerned about the skimpiness of her clothing (cycling shorts and short sleeve T-shirt).

Once out of customs, we ran into a large group of cyclists from Singapore. Becky was happy to see several female cyclists in standard cycling garb (lycra shorts and short sleeve cycling jerseys). She was afraid that she would have to adjust her riding outfit. That being said, it appears that the heat and sun will encourage her to wear long sleeve shirts and capris that protect the tops of her thighs from the sun.

One difference we immediately noticed between Malaysia and the Middle East was the number of women driving scooters. More specifically, the number of women wearing hijab and riding scooters. We also noticed that the women were quite outgoing and waved and smiled at us as we rode by. We also notice many people greeting us with “hello” as we rode by various small houses – amusingly it was often the adults shouting rather than the kids!

So far, we have found the Malaysians to be very friendly. People here are much less likely to speak English than Singapore, and we have found restaurants that do not have menus – something that will pose a challenge for us as our journey continues. For tonight, we were happy to find a nice seafood restaurant. The owners seemed to be of Chinese ancestry, and the food was close to what we would consider Chinese. We enjoyed a wonderful meal of steamed prawns, fried baby squid (the whole squid – eyeballs and all), veggies, and rice. We think we paid a “tourist rate” as the meal was more expensive than we anticipated and likely more than many locals could afford, but we quite enjoyed it. (Even with the tourist tax, it was still under $30 CAD – much cheaper than an equivalent meal in Singapore). Overall, we had a great first day in Malaysia, and are both very happy to be back on the bikes after our long hiatus.

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