If I was to sum up Malaysia I would probably describe it as a sanatised Asia, and Georgetown, on Penang Island would be perhaps the most sanatised. Not as sanatised or westernised as Singapore, but a really nice place for someone to be introduced to Asia. With lots of food choices, easy to negotiate traffic, a wide range of accommodation options, and so much English spoken, there is not nearly the cultural shock that you might expect, dropping into perhaps Jakarta or some other Asian capital.
Malaysia is such a mixture of cultures, with Malay, Indian and Chinese traditions, foods, languages and religions all being practiced. You can visit Little India, or Chinatown, eat so many types of foods, or even stay reasonably western. They even offer Milo as an option in many resturants and roadside stalls.Today I even found a real bread shop,Yin's Sourdough Bakery and Cafe. Delicious sourdough bread. I smelt the hot, straight out of the oven loafs as I walked through the door, and started salivating. If you're in Georgetown, and especially if you're a western cyclist, check these guys out. YUMMY.
So I've been here a few days now, staying at the Pedal Inn, Steve and John are fantastic, and sorting out my Thailand visa, and getting Fiona serviced.
Getting Visas is always a laugh, and this time was no exception. I arrived on my bike on day 1, to be meet by a long unorganized queue, being misdirected by a couple of security guards. I needed a form to fill in, and was told to push into the front of the queue and ask for one. Everyone had to do this....push in. Then filled in the form, but it's 35°C in the shade, and I'm sweating....all over the form. Its now a very soggy piece of paper. Then it's to the back of the queue.
It's slow moving, and the Aussie guy behind me is complaining. He works in Thailand and has come down especially to renew his visa. This is the first time he's had to do it personally. In the past he's just bribed officials.
I meet a South African couple. They're also on a visa run from Thailand. What do they do there? Teach English. Oh my. I was having problems understanding their English, in fact I thought they were Swiss or German.
Another couple, young Austrian's, are on holiday, and moving north tomorrow. He was drinking Whiskey last night at the hostel, and is not well. She is not happy.
Then there was the young lady from Alabama. She's also been teaching English, but I could understand her. She's thinking about going somewhere else to teach, but thinks Poland or Russia, might be a bit cold for her hot Alabama blood. See, even standing in visa queues can be interesting.
While I was standing around in queues, Fiona was getting a makeover. New chain, new tyres, new brake pads, and a fantastic clean up. She's never been as clean since coming out of Kevin's pantry. Thank you CCI. HIGHLY recommend these guys cyclists, if you're passing through.
And I met Daniel. He had popped into the hostel to say Hi, and offered to take me for a ride today. Fantastic. I love taking these opportunities. I met him at the Botanical Gardens, and we rode Penang Hill . 5km of intense uphill to 833m. There were not that many riders taking up the challenge today, maybe it was the 35°C that was putting them off. When we stopped, for chats, I was dripping. I suggested to Daniel that this would be a great "Everesting" hill Craig, but he wasn't into it today. So we ground up, and up, and up. I was thinking of Fraser and Jerry, having fun like this on Bluff hill this week, but thought perhaps Bluff wasn't quite as hot. I was very glad not to have my 35kg panniers on board. We dodged a very big, black scorpion just 100m before the top, came over the brow of the summit to see.....hundreds of tourists. They had all come up on the railway, and were feasting in the restaurants, and taking photos of a very hot, hazy view. The downhill was awesome, if a little steep, and at speed the hairpins seemed a good deal tighter than when going up. Thanks heaps Daniel. Great ride. See you in Kathmandu on 23rd April, for some real hills.
Kathmandu, Llasa, Tibet, Everest Base Camp, the Friendship Highway. 1000km plus of the best cycling in the world. I'm really keen to do it all again, but I need a group to join me. I know many are considering joining me, but time is getting short. Please, register your interest with Geoff at Adventure South, and he will pass on all the latest details.