Malaysia | Singapore - Johor Bahru - Bahau - Chenor - Kuala Lipis - Tanah Rata | 20th May '15 to 31st May '15 | 8641km
Rolling into Chenor we were glad to be at end of a particular long swelteringly hot day. From the bridge, we could see tiny boats whizzing around in circles on the muddy brown water. As we got closer it became clear that some sort of celebration was in full swing and that the tiny village, which had been badly flooded last year, was buzzin'. Being as we only had a name to go by, we figured our chances of finding Tengku had lessened. Luckily, Tengku turned out to be running the show and, spotting us looking lost, dragged us into a welcome shady spot. As we attempted to justify why we were in such a grimy state, pointing at the sun, making pedalling motions with our hands and exaggeratedly wiping our foreheads, Tengku cut us off to explain that if we didn't follow him immediately, we'd miss the boat race final. Beforehand however, we would need to acquire some more appropriate dress. Tengku is ex UN Army and served in Serbia and Montenegro. He himself was looking particularly sharp in what he explained was traditional Malaysian warrior get up and wasted no time in bestowing the full works upon Luke. No sword though, just an extra shawl, and a crown. Unwittingly we had become guests of honour and were toured around each stall, from archery, pickled mangos, best decorated thing from the river decorated with things from the river, the local fire brigade and topped off with an awkward impromptu interview for local TV. Everyone wanted a photo, 'selfie' translating easily in most languages, of the least threatening Malaysian warrior ever and his misses. As the sun finally relented and the prize for jazziest scooter had been awarded, we reflected on a bonkers few hours, wondering if any of the other warriors had opted for the Rapha Pro Team bib shorts under their war dress. We think not.
We had torn ourselves away from the comfort and excellent company of Singapore, breathing fumes on the way out of Joho Bahru and wrestling with ancient trucks on a road we probably weren’t supposed to be on. We asked an inquisitive local how easy it was to find food. ‘this is Malaysia’, he said ‘there’s food everywhere!’. He wasn’t wrong, and it was also very much to our tastes! Monkeys and biggish lizards kicking about, snakes and scorpions on the roads. Extremely hot - 40 degrees and big stormy downpours, usually in the afternoon. Luke swore he wouldn’t get spd sandals but he's mentioned it several times... Generally extremely friendly people – we were bought noodles and ice tea by a Liverpool fan and even had a hotel room paid for.
We eventually left the endless palm oil plantations and climbed up to Tannah Rata. After over 9 hours in the saddle we arrived in the dark and bundled into a tiny hostel amidst the melee of Chinese 'boutique hotels'. We'd been looking forward to the Cameron Highlands, discovered by a Brit in 1885 and since made famous for it's tea plantations and, as it turns out, everything plantations. Highlights for us included the characterful ageing fleet of Landrovers that defy the law of physics to chug along puffing black smoke in to nostalgic British cyclists faces, the wonderfully cooler temperature at that altitude and the continued existence of cracking South Indian food. Lowlights were the humungous hotels crammed into any precarious space that wasn't filled with a polytunnel, polytunnels, the tour buses and general intensity of naff tourism. We could appreciate the scale of the production, but as a hyped up destination we left a bit disappointed, or maybe we just found the wrong bit.