(written by Dave)
Our hotel was quiet overnight, no ants to greet us in the morning at least – a nice change from yesterday. We were awoken by at least two mosque loud speakers and their 5:30 AM call to prayers. Being on the fourth floor, we were right at speaker height. Not having grown up with this tradition, it’s a weird feeling to wake up to the strange melodic callings. At least here they only go on long enough at 5:30 to wake us partially. Again today, when we got up later, we both could only vaguely remember being woken.
We packed up and headed down the road before brekkie at 8AM. Research told us that there was an Oldtown White Coffee on the way out of town so we headed there for sustenance. We are getting pretty familiar with the menu and could almost call it comfort food at this point. We both get eggs on toast and a white coffee (no sugar). Neither are quite like we are used in Australia but close enough and better than having roti canai everyday.
We had a very short ride today as we only needed to reach Tapah, the town before the big climb into the Cameron Highlands. The route took us on a number of scenic secondary roads, many lined with rice paddies. We’ve seen a lot of rice dishes here in Malaysia but had heard that Malaysia was a net rice importer. Still, we expected to find some rice grown here given the seemingly perfect conditions. Probably like bananas, rice takes more effort and/or is less profitable than palm oil. At any rate, today was rice paddy day for sure.
We arrived in Tapah and rode straight to the hotel we were aiming for without issue. It was too early to check in so we wandered town and found an Indian restaurant. Coffees and roti canai made for a fine morning tea. The roti cook was going great guns – it is always nice to get your roti right off the hot grill – which is what we received today.
Having killed an hour, we went back to the hotel to check it. It is far from flash. We didn’t bother to check the room as there are only a couple of hotels in this small town and all looked the same. Our friends at Lonely Planet listed this one as the nicest but it is all relative. We would probably not describe it as nice but it has contributed to our new hotel star rating system. We’ve previously mentioned that a hotel would lose a star if the shower was not separated from the toilet and/or rest of bathroom. As you can see in the photo below, had it not been for this hotel, I would have never put the following on the ratings list: “shower head not directly over toilet”. This hotel fails two quality checks, one for the non-segregated shower and one for the shower directly over toilet.
(maybe we are missing the point – perhaps this is a new hyper efficient bathroom that they’ve come up with here in Malaysia – do two jobs at once. Think about it…)
We cleaned up best we could and headed out for lunch. We didn’t have to go far because the nice folks running the hotel also run a pretty good Chinese restaurant on the ground floor. We sat down, pointed at a tasty looking dish the gentleman next us was eating and soon we were revitalised. After lunch we wandered the nearby streets, bought some supplies and a large jug of water.
The room was hot and not all that clean but finding no coffee shop or any place else to hang out, we settled in here for the afternoon. We know that not every day on a trip like this will be perfect, so we distracted ourselves looking at the route ahead. Eventually I grew restless and went to scope out the dinner options. Many of the places that were open during the day seemed to be closed or closing. There was a Ramadan open air market that looked interesting. I came back and convinced Nancy that the food would be safe and we went back for some takeaway dinner (they have no seating areas). Back at the room, everything tasted good, and seemed pretty safe – we watched everything being cooked so that should improve our odds. The Ramli burger, suggested by Michael Wong, was quite delicious. So long as we don’t have any stomach “issues”, I’ll be a hero as there was more than enough food to fuel tomorrow’s climb. If either of us has problems, no predictions for what state I’ll find myself!
So tomorrow is the day. We’ve heard so much about the climb to Cameron Highlands we now just need to get out and do it. It is the “queen stage” finish for the tour of Langkawi (big bike race here in Malaysia) and we’ve heard of touring cyclist who made it pretty easy to those who bailed and hitched a ride. With an early start and some 6400 ks in our legs in the last 4 months, I’m sure we’ll be fine. So long as the market stall food doesn’t kill us. Check back tomorrow for an update.