Happy Hari Raya day into Taiping (95/6800 ks)

(written by Dave)

We had a fantastic day of riding today.  We didn’t make it quite as far as we planned but this was OK as we found a hotel in Taiping.  After our booking issues on Pangkor Island, we’ve been calling hotels in Taiping for a few days only to find “no vacancy”.  With this in mind, we planned on a long ride to our Warmshower host in Nipong Tebal.  We ran into a couple other touring cyclists today (more on that later) who stayed overnight in Taiping and they encouraged us to have a look, not thinking all the rooms would be full – and they were right so we got to cut our ride short at just under 100k.  Fine by us not having to ride much past noon and into the afternoon heat.

We were up early, 4:45 to be exact.  We wanted to make the 6:30 ferry and by now have figured out that we can’t eat and pack in much less than an hour.  Today was no exception as we left the hotel at 6AM.  We had a short ride to the ferry and were a bit early.  The ferry didn’t actually depart until 6:40 – all the same, we both hate cutting those things too close so a few extra minutes spent on the dock were no issue.  We had to leave our bikes outside on the bow of the boat, as we did on the way over, but it was a smooth ride.  No tickets required on the return ride as they sell you a return ticket when you come from the mainland and they are certain that you rode over on the ferry – as it is the only way onto the island.  We left Lumut about 7:20 – certainly one of the earliest starts we’ve had on this trip.

Oh yeah, happy Hari Raya – today is a big day in the Muslim calendar.  The words “˜Hari Raya’ mean ‘day of celebration’, and it marks the end of their month of fasting, Ramadan.  For us the biggest impact of Hari Raya was the how this time of year affects the hotel rooms.  I don’t think either of us understood how important the day was until our ride today.  Parking lots at every mosque we passed, no matter how big or small, were overflowing with many cars and scooters.  As we had gotten an early start, we had both pre and post-services car rushes.  What was most interesting was seeing how fancy everyone was dressed.  The major of the folks attending the services were men (though not exclusively) and nearly all of them were in their best and brightest Islamic suit.  Picture matching silk pants and shirts, with some form of type of skirt-wrap (called a sampin) and a smart hat.  And we are not talking modest colours – many suits were very bright, even florescent.

We passed a number of mosques as events were breaking up.  Everyone was in a happy mood and we got more hello’s and waves than we do normally (which is a lot).  I wanted to get some photos but it felt just a little too voyeuristic.  I managed to snap one shot of a father and young daughter (below).  You’ll note that Dad’s suit is bright pink.  And yes, they were on a scooter.  And yes, mother and little baby were on the same scooter, they had just ducked into the gas station to pay for gas.

We were getting close to the turn off to Taiping and on a 4 lane road, with divider, when we heard a bicycle bell.  On the other side of the road was Tom.  Had he not dinged us, we would have missed him.  Not far behind was Anja.  She did not see or even hear us yelling at her.  By now, Tom was circling back.  I’m glad that Tom was alert as clearly, Nancy, Anja and I were all spacing out.  They have been on the road for 16 months and are heading to Sydney.  We are on almost the same path going the opposite direction.  We spent a good bit of time on the side of the road trading notes and contact details.  We gave them our Malaysian state maps that we no longer needed, as they did not really have much in the way of maps – it was great to be able to give them to another cyclist who could use them.  It is so nice to meet fellow bicycle tourists, not just for the route ahead info, but it just makes you feel connected to a bigger community.    While we meet a lot of nice people travelling, cyclists “get” what we are doing much more readily and touring cyclists really get it.  Quite funny this encounter, while brief, as it seemed that neither Nancy nor Anja wanted to part ways.  Is it possible to make a life long friend via 30 minutes on the side of the road?  I’m not sure, yet…  They even have us thinking about riding in southern China, as they said it was an absolutely great place to cycle, with lovely roads and great accommodation options.  Their story can be found at www.bybiketosydney.blogspot.com.  It’s only a shame that we weren’t going in the same direction as it would be great to ride with some other cyclists who have spent so long on the road.

So, based on encouragement for Tom and Anja, we decided to take the detour into Taiping.  As luck would have it, we found a hotel on the first try (Legend Inn – named after my nephew Mats perhaps :-).  They had a room and we decided to stop for the day so we do not overstay our welcome at our Warmshowers host.  Our room was not ready but we didn’t have to wait long and happened to meet another very nice man from Ipoh (Christopher).  He had lived in Japan and was teaching Japanese at a college near Ipoh.  Quite interesting, even if I couldn’t get Nancy to show off her Japanese.

The hotel is nice – much better than Pangkor Island (and much less expensive as well).  We are in room 308.  That would not normally be worth a post but today when we reached the floor we have two signs reading.

Rooms 301-311 : left turn arrow
Rooms 302-333 : right turn arrow

Figure that out.  Perhaps we were out in the sun for a bit too long today as we both sort of stood there not knowing which way to turn.  Eventually we took a punt and went right, and found the room.  I can hardly wait for Thailand where these same signs will be written in Thai script as well.

After showers and bit of a rest in the room, we headed out in search of lunch.  We feared that nothing would be open (think Christmas, in western country).  Never fear, the Chinese market near the hotel was going full speed.  We found a stall selling Char Kway Teow.  I think we could have eaten anything but all the same this was quite tasty.  We wandered a bit after the noodles, looking for a coffee shop with A/C.  It was cooler today due to overcast but by mid-afternoon even the clouds couldn’t keep the heat away.  We found a great great cake and coffee shop called La Promise.  See photo below, yes, that’s too many drinks for two of us but it was hot, we were still hungry and we couldn’t go past a real espresso!

After a bit of a rest in the hotel room we are off to find some dinner somewhere and hopefully have a restful sleep tonight.  Short day tomorrow to our Warmshower’s stay, looking forward to meeting our host and having a chance to learn a bit more about Malaysia from a local.

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6 thoughts on “Happy Hari Raya day into Taiping (95/6800 ks)

    • After 16 months I’m sure that they’ve worn through any bike clothes they may have started with. That means finding new kit on the road and bike clothes may be harder to find. She wore a helmet but took it off. Nancy never takes her helmet off – you never can be too safe :-) Actually, she hates putting it on wet and sweaty so she generally keeps it on until the end of the day’s riding. Tom wore a hat, rather than helmet – quite common for touring cyclist – to each his own.

  1. Love those neon outifts! And funny you should say “LEGEND” as the day before Mats left we were talking about you and how many sports you did and that you could have been a LEGEND in them all. Mats was amazed that you played football, baseball, soccer, tennis, golf, skiing, not to mention the mad skills you had in the neighborhood kick the can contests. Ironic, your ears must have been burning. Stay safe!

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