Alor Setar to Kaki Bukit 73km
Kaki Bukit to La Ngu 75km
I've had a few firsts over the last couple of days. It started with sleeping in a bike shop. Zhl, however, does it every night. The family has only a very small house, so Zhl sleeps at the shop, with the Warmshowers guests. Suited me, and we got to chat. He taught me about the different grades of bike parts. He warned me about transgender toilets in Thailand. He related his experiences with dead monks when he was sleeping in a Temple in Thailand. And, he advised me on food choices and electrical adapters. He also told me why there were not many dogs and cats in his neighbourhood....Vietnamese immigrants ...they eat them.Then he went out to teach some of his mates how to tie lures for fishing this weekend. Then he guided me out of the city.
His dad is a warmshowers ambassador extreme. He keeps a diary of all their guests, 80 in two years, and follows their progress and blogs. Also an encyclopedia of knowledge. From him I learnt about the Kingdom of Yala, in SW Thailand, and why they want their independence. It all stems back to the British...... And the history of Aceh Indonesia. Thank you Gentlemen for being such great hosts.
So the plan was to slip over into Thailand today. But the scenery was amazing. Perhaps it was the rain....Fiona and I were getting wet, but the greens of the paddy fields, the rubber plantations, and even the palm oil trees was amazing. Perhaps the most stunning scenery that I've ridden through in Malaysia. There were loads of herons feeding in the paddy fields. You could just see white heads, until you made a noise, then they would all take flight. Impressive.
And wouldn't you know it.... I'm 40km from sleeping in a bike shop, and my left crank falls off....well it falls off the bike, but hangs on to my cleat. Hmmm. How do I get off the bike. I manage without making an idiot of myself, and with my superb knowledge of bike fixing, I manage to put it back on, and tighten everything up enough to keep on biking. Seems the Penang bike shop may have been slightly remiss....or I've got a new problem, and will have to keep checking the tightness of these bolts.
The dogs are scarey today. Zhl had advised me to find some pepper spray to combat their attacks. Might have to follow that advice. I'm looking for food, and call into a strip mall. The dogs are ferocious, and it doesn't matter what I yell at them they don't back off. Gets the adrenaline flowing that's for sure. Eventually a guy comes out of the restaurant and drags a couple of them away. So in appreciation, I eat at his shop. Sorta steamed muffins, with some unrecognisable meat in the middle. Hmmmm. Not yummy. Not appetizing. In fact I'm amazed I was able to keep them down. But there is nothing else available in the whole block of shops.
It looks like rain coming. Heavy rain. I ask about a hotel. Yes. There are two rooms available above one of the shops. By the time I've had a shower, the storm has struck, and it rains all night.....heavy rain.
It's still raining as Fiona and I head out in the morning. I'm soaked to the skin within 10 minutes. Fiona is no longer sparkling clean. And now we continue some firsts. First time in Asia wearing my raincoat. First time we've headed out and it's been raining. First serious hill with panniers since central Sumatra. First International border on land. First time cycling in Thailand. First time I've realized that Thailand doesn't work with the same alphabet as we do.
I thought I had been doing pretty well in Asia. I was handling the food. I was handling the language. I was recognizing signs, I was communicating. Now suddenly, I was in a brand new country. I had no Thai money. I've got no idea how much a Thai Baht is worth. I don't know what the time is, or whether I'd just crossed a time zone. I had no food. I was soaked to the skin. And I couldn't understand a word anyone was saying, nor read or make sense of any of the signage. Adventure......
The first ATM was broken, but being fixed. ...10minutes....but then it wouldn't accept my card. The second ATM didn't work either, but with some help from a couple of kids, we made it work. And I got to eat. And it wasn't too spicey. I had the fuel to get back on Fiona and ride to the next town, La Ngu. I'd never heard of it, but it was the next dot on the map. And when I had arrived, I had the challenge of translating unreadable signs to find a hotel.....
I love wandering around looking at foods in a new country, wondering what it is, what it's made of, and how spicy it might be. I'm not always really forward in trying these unknowns straight away, but they make for great photos, and plenty of thought. Maybe tomorrow I'll be brave enough to try some of them.