(written by Dave)
We slept in a bit as we had a short day planned to our Warmshower’s host in Nibong Tebal (David). We had spoken with him yesterday and he asked us to text him as we left as he would start riding towards us. After brekkie in the hotel we hit the road about 9AM. Forecast was for clouds and maybe some rain but it was sunny and warm already at that time. We had no trouble getting out of Taipang and were soon on highway 1 with a nice tailwind.
After about an hour and half, we met up with David. He had just pulled over for a rest. We would probably not have seen him or even stopped had it not been for his bicycle gloved hand. Being Malaysia day, everyone was out and about and even more friendly than normal. Lots of toots and waves. When David waved, I first thought it was just another person being friendly, then the glove registered and we figured it out.
It was only a short ride back to David’s house so he decided to take us on the scenic tour, showing us some things we might not see on our own. Our first stop was a Malaysia charcoal factory. Really just 10 large charcoal ovens surrounded by a managed mangrove forest. It was all pretty rustic but that’s how folks have been making charcoal for 1000s of years. All of the charcoal from this factory is exported to Japan. I’m sure it is quite prized and expensive in Tokyo. The basic process is to load up an oven with mangrove logs and then seal the door. For the next 30 days, the workers feed a fire through a small opening. The mangrove logs become charcoal, never really burning in the oven. Being a managed forest, the charcoal is sustainable.
Next stop was a coconut wine farm. Here there were many, fairly spread out, coconut trees, each with steps cut into the bark. The wine comes from the coconut flowers which they trim back to prevent from turning into fruit. The flowers drip into a small urn that is emptied twice a day by a guy who climbs up the tree. The climber guy was going up and down the trees near us, and brought us some fresh wine. It is generally fermented for about 24 hours and then only lasts for a short time – so you have to drink it right away. They sell it in shops, but also directly to people who pull off the road. Bring your own container or take one of their plastic bag containers. We tried it, it was ok but is perhaps an acquired taste.
Next they asked the climber guy to bring us some fresh coconuts to drink/eat. He climbed another tree, and brought back three coconuts. Using his sharp curved knife he hacked the tops off, stopping just before the final cut, then carefully cut this last bit with the hole facing up. Next you drink all the juice, no straw, just poor it in your mouth. Not as easy as it sounds as you can’t get your mouth around it very well. Finally, once empty, you give the coconut back to the knife guy, he cuts it in half, making a spoon out of a small wedge and you scrape off all of the insides, fresh coconut. Very tasty and healthy as well. No added sugar like the coconut we’d buy in the store.
David had a bit of a heat issue at the coconut farm and had to lay down in the shade. He told us to ride 20k up the road and he would get one of his friends from the farm to drive him ahead to our next stop – a fishing village and Chinese noodle shop for lunch. David used to work in the area so he knew everyone. We ordered three of his favourite (some sort of fish, noodle dish). Another one of those dishes that we probably would not have tried on our own but it was delicious.
We hung out in the noodle shop for the better part of 3 hours, mostly hearing stories from David’s many bicycle trips all over the world. He’s hosted some 500 folks here in Malaysia, meaning that he has no shortage of places to stay when travelling. He’s played connect the dots and in doing so collected some great stories as well. Eventually we had to head to his house so that we didn’t get caught in the dark. The holiday traffic was pretty heavy but the trip was an easy 20k as David knew all the short-cuts and back roads. At some point here we crossed the state line in to Pinang state. There was too much traffic for a group photo, all I managed was David and Nancy going up under the border sign.
David has been travelling so much the last few years that he’s actually sold his house. We are staying at an ‘apartment’ he’s rented in the centre of Nibong Tebal. It’s really a couple of rooms an older building with some shared amenities and the shower is a bucket and the toilet a Chinese style – very interesting to see how folks really live in the villages here. Nancy perhaps is struggling a bit with finding it quite as interesting as I am but she is being a good sport – hum… For dinner we had some Indian treats that David’s wife brought home with her.
We will head up to Penang tomorrow after we watch an Indian festival in the morning. Quite an interesting travel day….