Sunday, May 24, 2009

Our bike story in The Star Weekender, 23rd May 2009

Hi all!
Just want to let you know that our bike tour story was published in the Star Weekender dated 23rd May, 2009 :o)


Happy reading :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The day after....Warning - post tour blues!!

Date : April 9th, 2009
Location : Langkawi island

Hi all!

Let me remind you that if you should ever decide to do a tour like we did, just be prepared for the post blues after!!

After spending 37 days straight on the road and suddenly, it is over is NO FUN!! For a while, I was left feeling a bit bereft and I didn't know what to do! !

Anyway, it did take me awhile to come back to earth and start living again hehehe....and my last post wasn't the happy ending that I would like to have and so before I forget my manners, I would like to do my "Academy Award" speech and say A BIG THANK YOU to ....

All our sponsors mainly Blue Water Sailing, Lim Thye Kiang Transport, Lufter, Powerbar, 99 Island Tours, Uphold Talent, Eko Megah, Sooi Hin bike shop, Seng Chye Trading, 99bikes Langkawi and Corezone who have supported us in one way or another in our bike tour!! We really appreciate your support throughout our tour and will never forget your generosity!

Friends and family who made us feel at home during our tour namely Tat, Cheah, Andrew, Ms. Yap & family, James & Jenny, Kok & Sylvia, Madzli and Razani! Thank you for everything!!!

The awesome and friendly people we met along the way! It just goes to show that there are still many great people out there who would be willing to open up their hearts and make us feel welcomed!!

The readers of my blog who have been giving me words of encouragement to continue writing until I finish it! Thank you for your support!!

And I am happy to leave you with this quote which is so true! "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with one step!"


Day 37 :Our last day! Gurun - Alor Star - Langkawi

Date : April 8th, 2009
Distance travelled : 45 km
Time taken : 2.30 hours

Good, it was already our last day of our tour! My, who would have thought that we would be cycling solo home on our last day of the tour!

We woke up at 6am because we decided to leave early to reach Kuala Kedah. Our sponsored ferry was leaving at 10.30am to Langkawi and we had to get there beforehand.

We went out and walked around to look for our breakfast but found out that no shops were opened yet since it was still early. Mak said that we should just ride out a bit further and there should be some stalls opened there. So we went back to our hotel, got our bikes and cycled to Gurun town. Within 5 minutes, we found some food stalls and stopped at one that had more choices :o)

After our breakfast, we cycled back to our hotel to get ready. As Mak was packing his wet clothes, he asked me to put my wet socks together with his. It was then I told him that it was best we went our separate ways. He was nonplussed at first but when he realised that I was serious, the grateful look on his face was enough to tell me that I did the right thing. He couldn't stop thanking me afterwards :o)

Of course he made me promised to cycle safely and to observe the traffic along the way and he asked me to let him know once I got home safely to Langkawi. Well, we'll see...hehehe

After packing up, we thanked each other for a great journey together and exchanged a hug and a pat on our backs for a job well done! We then pushed our bikes out of the hotel and slowly started our solo journey back....

At the traffic lights, I bid him farewell and turned right to Alor Star while he turned left and I didn't look back and continued on my journey until I nearly reached Kuala Kedah. That was when my friend, Anuar saw me cycling and he stopped his car and waited for me to pass. What a coincidence! He told me he wanted to hear all my stories before I went back to Langkawi! He said he had to settle some work related matters first but would meet up with me at the jetty in about 45 minutes.

Since I already missed the first sponsored ferry at 10.30am, my next ferry was at 1.30pm, it was great that I could chat with someone while waiting for my ferry :o) I told him about our adventures over lunch and by the time I finished, it was time to leave! Anuar sent me all the way to the ferry and we said our goodbyes and I was on my way back to Langkawi!

When I reached Langkawi, it was a bit of an anti-climax because most of my friends didn't know that I was coming back on that day. The ones that did couldn't make it to greet me at the jetty. As I cycled home alone, all my earlier sense of euphoria faded and I felt a deep sense of emptiness welling inside me and it really wasn't the greatest feeling ever, I must say! Guess I was also tired and feeling out of sorts after being on the road for 37 days straight, and with a goal to meet each day and now that it was over, I felt lost for a moment!

Oh well, I guess it'll take me a few days to recover and be back to normal again.....

As for my partner in crime, I found out later that he reached Sg. Petani in about 1.15 hours :o)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Day 36 : Betong - Baling - Parit Panjang - Pekan Batu Lima - Jeniang - Pdg.Lembu - Gurun

Date : April 7th, 2009
Distance travelled : 93 km
Time taken : 5 hours

Morning! We woke up slightly later and went to look for breakfast. Mak asked around and found out that we could go to the market to try some of the local dishes there. We walked to the market which wasn't too far away from our hotel and went upstairs where the food stalls were. The market reminded me of our local markets back here in Malaysia, where downstairs they sold the wet food while the upstairs were mainly dry stuff and food.

There were so many local savouries to choose from and colourful too! You could really tell that there were a mixture of the Malaysian and Thai culture here. We picked some to try and went to a food stall where we ordered thai noodle soup to try. The food was delicious and Nick and Jo had an interesting time trying out the different varieties :o)

The many different type of thai savouries available to us!

You could tell how happy Mak was with that big grin on his face! This was his second home!

After that food tasting episode, Mak took us to another stall, famous for its fish porridge. It was really good! I've never tasted such good porridge before! It was really smooth and tasty and no fishy smell at all!! Normally, I'm not a much of a porridge fan but this was exceptional :o)

Totally filled up for now, we went back to our hotel to get ready for our long ride out. Before leaving Betong, we biked over to the tallest post box in the world! It was really huge and tall!! If you don't believe me, just take a look below....

Can you see how big this post box is? I'm like a tiny spot standing next to it!!!

The four muskeeters!! :o)

Part of Betong town...

Ok, now that we have taken some photos of the tallest post box in the world, we were ready to hit the road again! We said farewell to Amin (Mak's bike shop friend) as well who was there to bid us goodbye too.

Did I tell you that Betong was really hilly? Man, the hills you have to climb to get out of Betong.....:o) After passing through the immigration area, we stopped to take some pictures along the border. We have crossed the border again!

Malaya??? Wow, this is ancient history man!!

Mak, me and Nick at the border.....

The welcome to Betong sign....

Satisfied with our pictures, we headed back to Malaysia! Nick and Jo were heading off to Penang while we were aiming to reach Alor Star which was about 125km! Our plan was to stay one night in Alor Star with my friend Cheah before heading back to Langkawi but that all changed eventually....

The day was starting to get hot and sunny. It was going to be another HOT day for cycling!! After cycling for about an hour, we stopped by a small stall to get some cold drinks and snacks. According to our "tour leader", there will be a 5km uphill climb ahead to Baling and we had to mentally prepare ourselves for this challenge. So after that quick stop, we continued on and I decided to be the last one because I was just going to take my time riding up this "hill". After cycling for awhile, we were actually going downhill. I thought that maybe this was the initial pleasure before the torture! So I went on, trying to look for the other three....they must have been flying down the road!!

The more I rode, the more downhill I encountered and I thought, man...ain't this fun! The scenery was awesome too!! I was really having a good time but all the time, kept thinking there was a 5km hill ahead! As I was zooming past, I saw Mak waiting for me at the side of the road. That was nice of him to do that :o) I thought he was already cruising with the other two!

I told him that this place was really beautiful and I asked him where was the hill. He told me that he got it mixed up!! He was so used to climbing the hill from Sungai Petani to Betong that he forgot that we were heading the opposite direction! Yay!!! I wasn't complaining when I found out that I didn't have to climb another 5km uphill!! Instead, I was cruising down that hill!! It was pure enjoyment!! hehehe

The beautiful scenery begins....

Just cruising, baby!!

Yay!! I was just playing downhill all the way!! Gunung Inas in front...

When we reached Baling, Nick and Jo were waiting for us and we suggested that since it was already noon time, to stop and have our lunch before each of us went on our own way. We had noodles for lunch and Jo took a picture of the food so that she could use them later when she wants to order the same type of food in Penang! It was Mak's suggestion that they did that because it was what he did when he was in Vietnam. He couldn't speak their language, so he took the photos of the food he wanted to eat and showed the food stall guys what he wanted each time he went out for meals! Pretty smart of him :o)

Part of our lunch dish :o)

Well, after lunch, we hit the road again and cycled further up before we went on our separate ways. It was great having them around for the last two days and it felt kind of sad to say our goodbyes to them. We promised to keep in touch and update each other with regards to our adventures!!

So once again, it was back to us again! We really weren't sure how far we could go because Alor Star seemed a long, long way ahead still! The road we cycled on was more of rolling hills and so, the fun began!! We did the momentum thingy for awhile before we got too tired!!

As we were cycling, Mak who was ahead of me, saw a cow with a big bell around its neck just standing by the roadside a bit further ahead. I almost fell off my bike laughing at what he did next!! He swerved to the other side of the road and continued cycling on that side until he passed the cow! He only moved back to the right side of the road after a safe distance from the cow!! hahaha....I know I'm being mean but I just couldn't help it :o) After I cycled passed the cow without any " incident", he stopped and asked me "You weren't scared of the cow meh? It was so BIG!!" I just gave him a huge smile because I thought it was so refreshing to see that he was really opened and honest in admitting he was really scared of cows :o) Ok, ok, I do have my own fear of animals.....snakes for example!!

Lovely countryside roads :o)

Boy, if only it was this shady all the way to Alor Star!!!

Another glimpse of a beautiful scenery along the way :o)

After cycling in the hot sun for more than 2 hours, the weather started to change and it began to rain! We stopped by an empty food stall and decided to have some rest and some snacks while waiting for the rain to stop. It didn't really stop completely so with our faithful rainjackets on, we started riding again after waiting for about half an hour.

The rain continued to pour down on us and it got even heavier as we were heading towards Jeniang! We were thoroughly soaked but we had to go on because if we stopped for shelter, we would be freezing our hats off!! As we cycled towards Gurun, the real thunderstorm came upon us and I was literally singing in the rain!! It was so heavy that we couldn't see far with the strong wind blowing against us! It was like the heavens opened up and decided to dump water on us on our second last day of our tour!!

At one point, I decided to stop at a bus stop because I was getting hungry! I signaled to Mak, who was behind me to stop and have our buns from Betong. (Good thing I bought them!!) He told me that we have to stop in Gurun as he was suffering from heat loss and couldn't cycle anymore. It was also getting dark at 5.30pm. I was pretty amazed that you could get heat loss in Malaysia but apparently, some people do when cycling in the rain. His face was pretty pale and so was mine apparently but I was feeling alright :o) You see, I'd prefer cycling in the rain anytime compared to the scorching hot sun, even though some might deem it to be dangerous!! The best weather would be cool and cloudy hehehe....

We were a bit worried that we couldn't find a motel or a hotel in Gurun but when we passed one hotel signboard along the way, I told Mak that we should just go for it. It turned out to be a pretty new hotel and reasonably priced. After pushing our bikes into the corridor of the hotel, I told Mak to go and shower first since he was feeling cold. He told me that he would be fast and boy, was he fast! It took him all but 5 minutes to come out of the bathroom!! Amazing because if only you knew how much he loved having his shower, you would be amazed too hahaha.....

After our shower, we felt like human beings again :o) Since it was still pouring down, we decided to have a rest before going for dinner. During dinner, Mak made me go through all the places that we have cycled and wow, it was pretty long! It just hit us what an enormous task it was for us and that we actualy did it! We also realised that this was our last night of our tour and I felt really sad to have come to an end so soon!! I guess the saying "Time flies when you are having such a great time!" was true eh??

Initially, Mak had always planned to come back with me to Langkawi before cycling back to Sg. Petani but since he had to go back to Sg. Petani to attend to a personal matter rather importantly, he asked whether I could ride back alone to Alor Star while he cycled back to Sg. Petani since Gurun was like a midway point between Alor Star and Sg. Petani. I told him that since he promised he would send me back to Langkawi first, I would expect him to keep his word. As usual, being the gentleman that he was, he agreed to send me back before heading home the next day.

That night, I got to thinking it would definitely make more sense for him to cycle back from Gurun which was only 25km now rather than cycle back tomorrow from Alor Star which was about 70km away without having much rest since he was already tight for time. Besides, having cycled for over 2,600km, both of us were already pretty tired of cycling and I could understand that he would want to go home using the shorter way. I could cycle 45km to Alor Star alone and that wouldn't be a problem for me.

So with that in mind, I went to sleep and I would let him know of my decision tomorrow.....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Day 35 : Gerik - Pengkalan Hulu - Betong, Thailand

Date : April 6th, 2009
Distance travelled : 67 km
Time taken : 4.15 hours

Betong, here we come! That must have been on Mak's mind when we started out this morning! He was so excited to go back to his "second home" :o) Boy, the number of times our friend has cycled from Sungai Petani to Betong makes you wonder why he loved that place so much! Hmm...was it the Thai girls?? hehehe....No. it was more of the Thai massage that he enjoys and the food!

So happy was he that we gave him the lead :o) hmmm....

The weather was beautifully cool when we started our journey out of Gerik town. Having four bikers with panniers did bring some attention to us while we were riding out :o) We came to a junction and turned left and headed towards the rolling hills. Boy, rolling hills again?? I noticed that the signboard didn't say Pengkalan Hulu but Mak said we were supposed to follow Sungai Petani.....oh, ok boss!

The scenery on the way out was just simply awesome!! You wouldn't believe that it was in Malaysia!! After cycling for about 8km, we stopped and Mak decided to ask for reconfirmation to Pengkalan Hulu. And guess what?? We were on the wrong road!! Hahaha....Apparently, we should have just went straight after the junction!!

We really didn't mind though because the scenery just took our breath away! Maybe that was the reason why we went in wrong direction the first place!!

All raring to go!!

On our way out of Gerik town...

Beautiful road!!

Mak decided to play camera man for this ride :o)

Now, tell me if this doesn't take away your breath??

Simply awesome!

Too good a picture to pass up!!

So we turned back and started cycling towards the junction again :o) Mak oh Mak!! :o) Once we turned left into the right direction, the scenery changed and we definitely preferred the earlier road!

The road shoulders began to widen which made it easier for us to ride as we could talk along the way. From the road signs on the road, Pengkalan Hulu was about 40km which seemed pretty reasonable for us to reach. The roads were partly flat and partly rolling. The sun began to shine brightly down on us and soon, we could feel the heat!!

Alright everyone, detour!!
Ahh....we are back at the junction again :o)

Nice looking kampung house...

Nick with his bright yellow panniers...

... and Jo, the pink and grey lady with her red panniers!

We did a pit stop after cycling for about an hour and had a cold drink and some snacks. We continued on our journey, expecting the roads to be relatively flat along the way to Pengkalan Hulu but boy, were we in a for HUGE surprise!! We did stop and ask for directions, just to be on the safe side. The guy just said.."oh, after this hill, it should be downhill all the way!" Hmm...which hill was he referring to???

We hit the first hill and thought that was it but when we came downhill and cycled on in the hot sun, we could see one mother of a hill coming up!!! When I said mother of a hill, I really meant MOTHER of a hill!!!! Too bad we didn't stop to take a photo to show you how STEEP and LONG and WINDING it was!!!!

Initially, we thought it looked worse than it really was but NO! it got even more challenging as we turned the corner! There came a time where vehicles had to engage first gear and dragging their vehicles up!! It was now when I could see how Mak used his mental powers to stay on the bike and continued pedalling right up to the peak without even stopping! It was right smack in the 12 noon with the sun blazing down on us, full blast!

Well, as for the three of us....I had to stop once because the sun was burning on my arms and I had to put on the armsocks as well as to take a breather! There wasn't even any shelter we could take!! As I stopped by a small shade, I could see Nick slowly pushing his bike up! He said he would push faster than pedalling up this steep hill! Not far behind him, Jo was catching up on her bike! Kudos to her for continuing to pedal on until where we stopped. They said that the hills from the Jeli - Gerik route were nothing compared to this hill and I agreed WHOLEHEARTEDLY!! I was just glad that I had two days' rest before!!!

So once again, we were on our bikes trying to reach the never ending peak! Once I hit the peak, I yelled out to the other two "Downhill all the way!!!!!!" and there I went!!! Man, that was so much fun after that crazy hill! Mak was nowhere insight and I was wondering did he just cycle all the way through when I heard a bell ringing from the left. I cycled further up and turned left and I could see Mak was resting in the shade with just his singlet on :o)

I told him "Man, that was a crazy hill and you didn't even stop once! You are really, really strong!" He told me he just thought of the hill as a flat road and just moved on! My hats off to you, my dear boy!!

Next, Nick was passing by and we rang our bells to let him know where we were and lastly, Jo came by. We took a much needed rest and we realised that we actually stopped by a sugarcane stall. The owner was just setting up his stall when we came by. The cold drink looked so inviting that we just couldn't resist to have some! All the more so since our two new friends have never drank sugarcane before :o)

Mak, waiting anxiously for the sugarcane drinks!!

Man, the cold drink really tasted soooo goooooddddd!!!

After the reviving cold sugarcane drinks and snacks, we started our journey again. We were hoping that it will be downhill all the way to Pengkalan Hulu but nah, no such luck! It was still rolling hills all the way!! When we finally reached Pengkalan Hulu, Mak was really happy as this was his "place" and he took us to a nearby restaurant where we had our lunch and some rest.

Since Betong was just about 8km away, we took our time and besides, it was way too hot to cycle! When we finally decided to move, we were all getting sleepy in the hot afternoon!! Time to hit the road again and within an hour, we should reach Betong and have a well deserved massage!!

We went through the immigration without any problems and before we knew it, we were in Betong! My first time there!! We had to cycle about 5km into town and I must say Betong was a very interesting town. It wasn't as crazy as Hatyai or Satun and it had a system. You could see that the Chinese influence here is very strong.

When we reached the town area, Mak volunteered to go look for a cheap hotel and he found one nearby. We had a pretty "nice" time lugging our bikes into the lift. People in the hotel were very friendly and helpful. Once we were in our rooms, we planned to have some rest before going out for a massage and food :o)

After showering and resting for about an hour, we walked out to see the town. Mak knew the owner of a bike shop nearby and so we went to visit him. I could see Mak was really happy to be here!! It was really heartwarming to see him in this way :o)

We went for a massage after the bike shop and well, the massage was interesting, especially so when our legs were sore from cycling!!! Nick and Jo were experiencing thai massage for the first time and they had a memorable experience hehehe....

Later, after our massage, we went looking for food and since it was going to pour anytime soon, we quickly found a restaurant which served Chinese food as well as Thai cuisine. Mak took the liberty of ordering for us since this was his territory and we had one of the better tasting tomyam here :o) Surprisingly, our foreign friends could take the spiciness :o)

We also walked around the clock tower that night before dinner and took some pictures of it. Too bad it wasn't too clear. What really amazed me were the birds that were just sitting on the phone wire all around the clock tower! Both Nick and I had some bird droppings on us before we decided against walking around there!!

Well, all in all, it had been an amazing day especially that hill! We were really happy to be here in Betong but at the same time, I was feeling a bit melancholy as we were about to finish our tour soon while our new friends had another month more to go.......

Betong clock tower at night....