(written by Nancy)
Up early at the Wong household this morning to finish packing and have breakfast with our hosts before we took off. The bikes packed up fairly quickly – we have left our tent and sleeping bags with Michael for the time being as we do not anticipate needing them in SE Asia. Thanks again to Michael and family – you made our stay in Singapore great (and cheers mate to Trevor).
We took off about 8:30 and made our way through Singapore to the ferry at Changi Village. It was about 20k from Michael’s house with lots of turns through neighbourhoods but thanks to Michael’s good advice and Dave’s good navigating we didn’t make any wrong turns. We got to the ferry terminal about 9:45 and put our passports in the ‘queue’ to wait for a ‘bum boat’. They only run the bum boats when they get 12 people but fortunately we only had to wait about 30 minutes to get the quota.
The boat was a little scary looking – a small wooden boat with benches on both sides to sit on with a low cover. The bikes were loaded on to the flat back of the boat – no railings at all, we just laid them down on the flat area and hoped that they wouldn’t roll off. I was a bit apprehensive about the ride given the state of the boat but it didn’t turn out too bad. The boat couldn’t go very fast and the water wasn’t too choppy – only a few waves splashed up over the back where the bikes were stored. It was about an hour ride so I was glad when we finally came up to the wharf on the Malaysia side.
We dragged the bikes off the boat and made our way to Malaysia immigration. No issues there – we got 90 day visas. It was quite hot by the time we got out of the immigration area so we got some cold drinks and had a snack before getting back on the bikes. Exciting to be in a new country but a bit daunting! We finally climbed back on the bikes and started riding away from the ferry terminal toward Sungai Rengit.
We rode right along the waters of the Singapore Strait for about 20k until we reached Sungai Rengit. The scenery is very tropical – lush with greenery. Lots of palm plants and rubber trees but also lots of wild growing areas. Right near the ferry terminal there is a WWII bunker – several pillboxes overgrown by vines. We passed through some small villages – there were several with buildings or shacks that looked like they might serve food but they did not appear to be open.
We also saw our first animals in Malaysia – monkeys! I spotted a couple sitting in the shade on the side of the road and yelled for Dave to stop. As we stopped they ran off, but then we realised there were lots of them running about in the trees just beyond the side of the road. Dave couldn’t quite get a picture of them as they all ran off when they noticed we had stopped. Given how many there were I am sure we will get another chance to get a picture.
We made our way into Sungai Rengit where we knew there were several hotels. This is the first town of any substance on the west coast after the ferry and we had gotten some information from another cyclist about the town, including a town map. Lots of cyclists from Singapore come out here to ride as the traffic is lighter than in Singapore. We rode into town and saw some other cyclists across the road so pulled over to see if they could give us some inside information on the town. Turns out they were on a day ride from Singapore but had stayed in the town several times and pointed us to a hotel just down the street that they said was fine. They also gave us their pick for a good seafood restaurant.
We headed over to the hotel and got a room on the 1st floor – nothing fancy but big enough to fit the bikes in and it has air-conditioning – an important amenity out here! Not too fun having to drag the bikes up stairs to the room but I think that is something we will have to get used to.
After unpacking a bit and getting showers we headed out to try to get a Malaysia sim card and to get something to eat. There was a phone shop right across the street from the hotel so we headed over there to see what we could get. After only a few communication difficulties we ended up with a sim card and an internet plan that should work for a bit. I think we can recharge the internet plan once we use of the data – it may take some figuring out but that seems to be what they were saying…. But, at least for the next 7 days we should have internet access if we can get mobile coverage. While we were in the shop buying the sim card it started to pour down rain – I am sure we will have lots of chances to get caught in the rain but it was nice to be off the bike when all that came down.
The seafood restaurant recommended by the other cyclists, the Jade Garden Seafood Garden, was just down the street so after the rain let up we walked down to get some lunch. On the way down there we passed by a young lady selling what turned out to be waffles. Hard for a hungry cyclist to go past a waffle so we got a freshly made waffle with peanut butter and jelly on it – yum! Another stop in a little store to pick up a drink (lots of new drinks to try!) and we were set.
The restaurant was a pretty wild place with all kinds of seafood dishes. Fortunately for us they had pictures so we picked a couple of dishes and sat back being entertained by the mayhem around us. Lobster seemed to be the dish of choice – plates and plates of lobster came out of the kitchen and many of the tables around us held mounds of lobster shells. We had a nice dish of prawns in a tasty sauce and dish of softshell crab, with rice and a tasty lime drink to quench the thirst. All very delicious though it was a bit spendy – almost as much as our room cost!
Thankfully there was a sink with soap at the restaurant so we could clean up a bit before we went to explore town a bit. It isn’t a big town so it didn’t take long to walk up and down the couple of streets that make up the main part of town. It was quite hot out so we headed back to the hotel to have a rest in the air-conditioned room – I suspect this might become a regular feature of our afternoons…
We are looking at our map now to figure out where to head to tomorrow. We will probably have fairly short days here compared to our Australian leg. Riding in the heat is pretty tough so we will have to see how it goes. The plan is to head up the east coast a bit before we cross over to the west coast and make our way to Penang to meet up with my sister Gretchen who is coming to visit in early September. By that time hopefully we will have figured out how to order a cup of coffee and get a good meal!