27th October to 1st of November

Today, we’ll go to Seramban. It’s about 80km way according to Googlemaps. But in the end, we do 100km in the day. The ride is pleasant this morning, and we see the kilometres passing by smoothly. Like two days ago, the landscape is dominated by palm trees plantations, with some rubber trees plantations to break the monotony.

We take lunch some 30km from Seramban, so we’ll arrive soon. But the weather decided that it was too early. The sky becomes very dark, with thunders, lights, and wind. For sure it’s going to rain very soon. We take shelter under a bus stop (here in Malaysia, the bus stops are big enough to shelter easily our two bicycles and ourselves), and the rain starts to pour. After 1h30 of waiting, the rain still continues, although it is not as strong as at the beginning. And locals have told us that such a rain would last till the evening at least. So we have no choice but to continue to Seramban. We put on our “waterproof clothes”, i.e. rain jacket, plastic trousers and protection for the shoes. Now for sure, we are unstoppable. We cycle 1h30 more to reach our destination. Since it’s Sunday afternoon, there is quite a lot of traffic when we arrive to the city, given many people come back home after the weekend.

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Tonight, we sleep in Mohamad’s house, a friend of Kurt. He is a very enthusiastic cyclist.

At his house, we taste even more Malay typical food, such as a fermented fish conserved in salt, or a sauce made of chili and durian (it’s pretty funny, each component is hiding the other!). And finally we have a good internet connection so we can update our website, after one week of silence.

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Today, we go to Shah Alam, a city in the surroundings of Kuala Lumpur. It’s 70km to go there, but we will accept the proposition of Mohamad to bring us by car. No, the main reason is not that we are lazy, but 70km in urban area, with a lot of traffic, on big roads or highway is not very attractive. Nor very safe.

In fact, we stay most of the day in the house of Mohamad, to organize our things.

We leave the house in the middle of the afternoon, to go to the house of Roihan, the husband of Kurt. On the way, Mohammad stops by Putrajaya so that we can see this city. Putrajaya has been some 15 years ago to be the new centre of administrations in Malaysia. The reason for moving out of KL was the traffic: as the administrations were scattered in the city, to meet colleagues from other administration needed to cross the city, which implied a lot of hours lost in the traffic jams. The city looks very futuristic, with many skyscrapers, and noticeable bridges. We can have a good skyline of the city from the impressive Putrajaya International Convention Centre.

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Then we go to Shah Alam, in the West of KL, and after a small dinner, go to Roihan’s house. He lives in a beautiful bricks houses, currently with Kurt’s brother Hazizul. The houses in urban areas of Malaysia seem to always follow the same pattern:

  • A block consists in a single long building, of some 100m or 200m long and 20m wide.
  • There are like 15 houses inside this blocks, cut like slices in a Swiss roll cake.
  • Each house has a rectangular terrain, of some 20m long by 10m wide. There is a front porch, where it’s possible to park two cars, and a smaller rear patio
  • The houses have two stores, with generally the higher floor reserved for bedrooms.
  • This kind of house is for big family, generally the parents, children, and sometimes grandparents live inside altogether.

We saw this model of house in every place we slept, except in Segamat, where we were in the countryside.

Today we get up early, at 6h30. Roihan leaves in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur (KL), but far from the centre, like 50km. So we have to take the Comuter to go to the centre. It is the train, like the RER in Paris or Cercanías in Madrid. We have to get up so early in order to avoid the enormous traffic jams that block the whole city between 7h and 9h. We arrive in the main train station of KL around 9h. First, we go to buy the train ticket to go to the North of Malaysia in two days. Unfortunately, everything is sold out till the end of the week, due to the hindu holiday of Deepavali (in Malaysia, as there is an important Tamil community, some hindu holidays like Deepavali are public holidays for the whole country). Since it is not possible by train, we will buy a bus ticket. The main bus station in KL is Puduraya, not very far from here. They still have tickets for Kuala Perlis, near the border with Thailand, (although we’ll arrive in the middle of the night), and there is no restriction on bringing a bike apparently. We’ll have to talk with the driver.

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Now that we did the most important, we go to stroll in the Central Market. It’s like a big covered, full a small shops. Each shop has some typical handicrafts, from the Malay, Tamil or Chinese community. There are even some chocolate shops (who wants to try chocolate with durian?). We feel that we are now in a typical place for tourists. We stay in the café of this market quite a long time, to rest from the buzzling outside.

This afternoon, we continue our tour of KL by walking. We go to Masjid Jamek, a beautiful mosque unfortunately closed for refurbishing. They we walk past the square of the Independence, with its 100m high flag pole. We pass by the palace of the sultan. Another mosque, the National Mosque, Masjid Negara. We enter for free, and can enjoy the calm of the place. We can only hear the water splashing in the surroundings. There are always some men praying or resting in the fresh atmosphere of the praying room. A guide tries to convince us that islam is the most achieved religion and in fact revealed many scientific facts that we only know today! All is a question of interpreting correctly the Koran.

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Then, we go to the butterfly park. It’s like one giant cage, with nets all around, where we can walk. All the butterflies can fly freely in the park, go to eat the fruits, or sweet water prepared by the guards. There are dozens of species of butterflies, mostly the ones we can find in the peninsular Malaysia. There are also some aquariums with weird animals of Malaysia, a turtle with the nose of the pig, another one with a giant neck! and also a small collection of insects from Malaysia and all around the world. It was nice to have some nature in the middle of the city.

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We are now in a part of the city full of parks and museums. We want to go to the planetarium, but it is already closed.

We meet Roihan and Hazizul at the National Mosque. Tonight, he brings us to the restaurant Songket, with live performance of typical Malay dances. It’s nice choregraphy, and the costumes are very colourful. After a small dinner here, we go for a small tour of KL by night. First, we go to see THE attraction of the city, the twin towers of Petronas. They are wonderfully lit, like a jewel raising to sky. All shiny silver and white. It looks quite unreal, and when you think that the antenna you see on top is half a kilometre up, you start feeling dizzy. Then, we go to the Kuala Lumpur Tower, a panoramic restaurant on top of a 400m high pole. Apparently, the view on the city is wonderful! we’ll believe that without checking, because the price of the entrance is quite high (15€ for teatime, 45€ for dinner time). This tour was quite intense, so we go for a second dinner to recover our minds (no, we are not hobbits, we just did not eat much in the first restaurant because the price was a little high). Roihan brings us to a small restaurant of Western food in the suburbs, that is generally totally full during weekends. It’s so good to feel some real cheese (parmiggiano), on the potatoes! The day has been very intense, so we go home quickly after.

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Today again, we get up at 6h30 to avoid the traffic jams. Roihan brings us to the train station. This morning we are meeting a teacher (cf next post for more details).

After the meeting, we do some shopping in the mall of the twin towers, and head back to the area we visited yesterday, to find a small restaurant to eat. Just after lunch, the rain starts to pour. So we have to take shelter under a porch, and wait one hour till the rain finishes. We go back to the museum area. We go to visit the Islamic Arts Museum. It is very interesting, with galleries about the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Meccah that all the Muslims must accomplish during their life), the architecture of mosques, the calligraphy,! . Unfortunately, as we entered late, we don’t have time to visit everything before the closing.

We then go back to the house: Roihan comes to pick us up at the train station he left us this morning. Tonight, we have a dinner just nearby the house, and then go to visit a wonderful mosque. The are some reflexions of blue light absolutely breathtaking.

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Today, we have to rest, the two last days have been absolutely crazy. We have a good sleep, till 9h. After a small breakfast and shopping nearby, we organize our things for leaving this afternoon.

As was to expect, we will not go to the bus station by bike, but by car. Hazizul managed to convince a relative to bring our bikes and paniers in a van, while Roihan brings us. During the journey, we meet the thunderstorm. A very strong rain, with many lightning. We see the impact of a lightning some 100m away.

They leave us at the National Mosque. We were thinking to go to some museum before taking the bus, but it’s quite late now. So we go directly to the bus station. The distance is short, like 1km, but with many highways, and single direction roads. It takes us at least 20 minutes, and many U-turns to arrive there. We meet again with Roihan and have a last dinner together. Then we go for the bus. The bus driver accepts without problem to carry our bikes. In fact, the bikes and paniers occupy more than half of baggage compartment of the bus, but nowadays people don’t carry many luggage, especially for a few days weekend like now.

The bus is very comfortable, with a lot more space that usually. There are like 25 seats in a normal size bus. We leave KL at 19h30. After a few stops for dinner or passengers to go down the bus, we arrive at our destination, in Kuala Perlis, at 2h30 am. Murshed comes to pick us up without hesitation although it’s the middle of the night. As he lives at some 20km, we will leave the bicycles in Kuala Perlis, and bring all the other things in the car. The safest place is the police station. They accept that we leave our bikes in the inside parking, with the scooters.

We got the contact of Murshed because he is the brother of Husaini’s girlfriend. And once again, we are very well received. Murshed just came back from France where he lived four years for his studies. So he is now fluent in French, and very eager to practice it. He is currently looking for a job in Perlis, to stay near his family.

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After breakfast, we get ready to continue our journey. Today we want to cross the border to Thailand. However, we discover that the laptop is missing! for sure it has been forgotten inside the bus, when we rushed to get out in the middle of the night. As none of the phone numbers of the company work, we go back to the Kuala Perlis station. We meet the bus on the way, with the same driver. Of course, the laptop is not here anymore, and the driver did not see anything. In the bus station, they tell us that they did not find anything, and they are not responsible for it.

For this trip, we really need a computer, so we will have to buy a new one soon. As Malaysia is cheaper than Thailand for electronic device, we decide to spend one day more here in Perlis, to find a new laptop without rushing. Murshed can host us one more night. The problem of losing the laptop was not the laptop itself, but the data inside. Fortunately, we do not lose any pictures nor important document. We regularly uploaded our original photos on Dropbox, so that relatives can download them in France, and store them (just in case!). And for the rest of important documents of the travel, it is also online, through Dropbox. In the end, Julien lost some personal data from before the trip but nothing dramatic.

In the city of Kangar, capital of the little state of Perlis where we are, we find several computer shops. We find a decent laptop for less than 300 euros (1100RM). It’s a little big, 14″, but much faster than the one we had before. Let’s hope it’ll last longer than the previous one. As we paid by credit card, we had to pay 3% more than the price. I don’t know if it was only because of the shop, or usual in Malaysia.

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After a small lunch, we go to pick up Murshed’s wife after work and go to her parents’ house, in the countryside. We see more rural landscapes, with paddy fields, and people working inside.

Then, we go for a typical dinner of Perlis, with a fish soup.