Posts Tagged ‘Malaysia’


‘Hey! You’re the 3 people cycling from Europe to Australia to promote saving water and using less plastic bottles!’
We had stopped in a truckie’s stop in the palm oil plantations. ‘You’re on the radio.’ I have no idea where that all came from.
The now famous Europeans are living it up in a dormitory settlement ‘Home away from home,’ for the local aluminium smelter workers. Air-con, a canteen, a shower and a pub with pool and beer. This is the life!

Green desert outpost

Green desert outpost

Today we were caught unawares. The rolling hills through the Iban people’s lands with many long houses and lots of food and water opportunities was suddenly replaced with a freeway through endless palm oil plantations. Cycling through the undulating landscape in the blistering heat with no shade found us running out of water. There was only the occasional tin lean-to with a security guard and nothing else. A green, hot desert where once there was tropical forest. Google sattelite view is depressing. Rows and rows of orderly lines. Rows and rows forming blocks and blocks, covering the landscape from the hills to the shore, and one wide freeway, plied by palm oil trucks, snaking its way to infinity in the heat.

We were helped by a very kind man from South Africa, working at the South African magnesium smelter which is being built. Fleeing from South Africa for the safety of him and his family, we heard stories from South Africa to curdle the blood. We also heard about the magnesium smelter here, which will process South African raw materials using subsidised electricity from the Malaysian government. Situated in the middle of this hot, green desert, the smelter will join the aluminium smelter and the village made from air-conditioned container buildings for the workers.
Will and I enjoyed an evening in this place with a frontier atmosphere, dining on the canteen food, playing pool and drinking a beer in the air-conditioned bar. The night-time heat hits you like a hammer when you leave the air-conditioning, though. We asked ourselves, how did we cycle 100km in today’s 47C heat?

Pool in the miner's township

Pool in the miner’s township


Will and I have similar bodies regarding calorie and water requirements. In comparison Clement needs almost none of both. A lack of communications and an hour food stop resulted in everyone worrying about the other, and everyone being stressed. We covered some distance today, but it was a push.

The road

The road

We had an early morning tour of the garden of our lovely Iban friends in Tamin before setting off.

The jungle garden

The jungle garden

Yet again we have been welcomed by a lovely family in an Iban long house. They have been busily making balls from rice-flour which, we believe, can be used to make a rice alcoholic drink. These people have such lovely smiles and such warm hearts. I like the Iban people!

Rice balls

Rice balls

Iban family

Iban family


‘You cannot stay here. Someone has died.’ The guy jumped on the motorbike. ‘But follow me, there is another long house down the road.’ We are staying with a beautiful family in the centre of a long house – a house on stilts housing over 200 people – the ultimate of communal living.

The Iban family

The Iban family

It is a custom that noone is invited into the home for a month after someone has died. Also people selling goods are turned away. Keen to help us, though, we were taken to the next long house a kilometre down the road.

Each family in the long house has a section which is several rooms deep, and ends on an outside area, also on stilts, out the back. From there, you can gaze at the stars, and listen to the jungle sounds. Religious pictures and crosses adorn the walls in this Christian house. The family are Iban people – native people of Borneo. We were invited to join them in a meal of rice, chicken and delicious fish. Such hospitality.

Today I passed 31000km – at the crest of a hill. At the bottom I saw a perfect place to stop to take a picture. I had arrived in Nirvana – Nirvana crematorium.

31000km

31000km

We are back on the main road. It’s not too busy, but less inspiring than the beautiful road of the past days that meandered through the low-lying lands near the coast. Still, the main road let us cover more kilometres as the crow flies.


In Borneo you have heat, and you have rain. Today we had both. We also had our flat roads being replaced by an undulating landscape. And Clement passed 33333km, or, as Will puts it ‘tirty tree tousand tree hundred and tirty tree.’

On the road

On the road

Passing bird saliva factories is different now that we know what they are.

The bird saliva factory

The bird saliva factory

Today we are locked in to a garage, sheltered from the rain. We have lots of caged dogs and a caged monkey for company.


‘My name is Angela. These are my three sisters Angie, Angelina and Angel. We sat on the floor of the family’s homely tin dwelling on the swampy plains as the mosquitos circled and the shiny rhinosceros beetle watched on from his perch on my pink pannier.

Our lovely friends

Our lovely friends

What an amazing, beautiful day. I laughed in joy as we cycled in the beautiful, yellow evening light, surrounded by the green of banana palms, dense foliage and beautiful tropical trees, some solitary and thin reaching up into the heavens. The sky was imposing and huge above us – a spectacular array of clouds fading through pink to grey and black as the sun slid below the Borneo horizon. Birds darted above – small black ones, and elegent long-necked white ones, flying up from their perches atop of cows on the side of the road. We were rescued from squatting on the verandah of an empty tin shed in the almost deserted marshy landscape by a car of smiles that had chased us down the road to invite us into their home. We followed them through the river delta plains as the last light faded and we arrived at their house.

Sunset

Sunset

‘What are these bird houses about?’ I asked. Dotted through the landscape are houses – 10 metres high surrounded by an orchestra of bird sounds. Birds dart in and out in a frenzy of activity in these man-made buildings. We are told they are for harvesting the nests constructed of the delicacy – bird saliva. The saliva is separated from the sticks and other building materials of the nest to make a white jelly which the Chinese use in drinks and soups. Costing several thousand ringgit per kilo, this is an expensive delicacy indeed.

We had a wonderful meal, and then gave gifts of personal post-cards – photos we printed of our travels. The Angel sisters and the family each chose a photo as we ‘brought the world to their home.’ It was a wonderful sharing experience.

The whole day was amazing – cycling on a flat, small road through the low-lying lands, crossing chocolate coloured meandering rivers on small car ferries. Monkeys jumped from tree to tree on the side of the road, and from our safe perch on a bridge, we watched a crocodile swim to the side of the river.

Beware of crocodiles

Beware of crocodiles

The river crossing

The river crossing

On the ferry

On the ferry

Through the banana trees

Through the banana trees

The beautiful sky

The beautiful sky

Evening cycling

Evening cycling


This is how it’s done. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed like I was in Sumatra, Will watched as we pulled up to a little village amid the banana trees and found a place to sleep. We spent the evening watching the locals playing baminton before having the hall to ourselves – except for the giant bugs buzzing into walls and the lights.
‘I don’t mind sleeping in bird shit,’ said Will as we decided on a place to set up the mosquito net. Nice one!

The road

The road

Thank-you my friends in Kuching. Thank-you Jammie for inviting us to stay in your place and spending time with us. A huge thanks to Akmal to come all the way from Kuala Lumpur for some special parts bike maintenance. And thank-you to the bike team in Kuching for putting the final touches on my new carbon drive set-up.
Kuching was also our place for getting a second 60-day Indonesian visa.
Finally, Kuching was reuniting with Will – an irregular Irishman I cycled with in Tajikistan. It’s been 17000km since we last cycled together. Back then we were together with Mark and Kim. This time we are a team of three – Clement, Will and me.

Our warm showers host Jammie

Our warm showers host Jammie

Akmal performing magic

Akmal performing magic

The bike team in Kuching

The bike team in Kuching

The new cycling team - Will, Clement and me

The new cycling team – Will, Clement and me


Using bottled water results in so much plastic waste that pollutes our planet. I try to avoid using bottled water. I also have panic fits of running out of water – I sweat a lot, and if I drink enough I get cramp and cannot go on. Today my panic attack overtook my common sense, creating one more piece of plastic rubbish for the planet.

When it is hot and humid and at low altitude (making it hotter), and when the road is constantly steep, I get cramp. I cannot drink enough water and electrolytes to replace what I am sweating out. In the backblocks, where there is not a village shop every few hundred metres, I can panic, needing to stock up on water when I see it. I have almost run out of water before, and not drinking enough will definitely result in cramp with this weather.
Cycling through the outskirts of the capital of Sarawak province, you can be sure there will be water to be had. I was not happy with only my emergency reserve water, and bought a bottle of water where there was no other drinking water. I regretted having done this – especially when Clement was able to fill up with water without creating extra plastic waste just 2km down the road. I will try to think more and not let panic attacks take over. Lesson learned.

Today we met up with Will who I cycled with in Tajikistan and Krygyzstan. Its been 16000km since I last saw him. It’ll be good to have a third member to the team in Borneo and Sulawesi.

The new cycling team - me, Clement and Will

The new cycling team – me, Clement and Will

Thanks Jammie for the great and relaxed hospitality. We are looking forward to a lovely evening and time with you here in Kuching!


Almost a week in Singapore visiting a friend and waiting for my Indonesian visa gives me time to make my next video. The trip from Bangkok to Singapore was beautiful – cycling in tropical paradise. I hope you like the video! 🙂


Today we crossed the border into Singapore and were transported into another world. After sleeping under an open gazebo amongst the coconut trees in Malaysia, the slick malls, the orderly streets and the astronomical prices of Singapore make me feel I have entered another planet – another planet removed from the mother nature that supports us.

100 euro flowers

100 euro flowers

Travelling with Clement, my daily expenditure has descreased by a factor of 3. At the same time, I feel like my experiences have increased by a factor of 3. Less chocolate milk and ice-creams from 7-eleven and more local food from the tiny street stalls. No more hotels and more camping wherever the universe provides. Our camping spots are infinitely nicer that a sterile hotel room, and looking for a camp leads to more contact with the locals, and a closer feeling to mother nature that supports us, and every living creature and plant on the planet.

Eating the coconut

Eating the coconut

We pick coconuts (also from ant-infested trees – that was quite an exciting experience), we find drinking water that is not in plastic bottles – reversing the bad habit I have got into since entering Laos. We eat more fruit – also over-ripe fruit that people wanted to throw away. My last days in Malaysia I was spending about USD7 per day – and Clement even much less.

In Singapore we spent 2 day’s budget on passport photos. Clement lived off the cost of the Indonesian visa fees for one whole month in Burma. In the slick, shiny shopping mall in Singapore, we saw the most expensive flowers I have seen in my whole life. I think the very modest 100 (actually 87) euro bunch of flowers is about a factor 15 more than in Germany, and would have cost even less in the Netherlands. This place breathes money and wealth which feels so foreign now. Expensive cars, designer clothes, an air-conditioned universe. This world is no longer mine. Return me to the high mountain pass in China with just me, the mountains, the rocks and the wind. I feel closer to nature there – the nature that supports us all.

Singapore also means meeting up with Penelope – a very good friend from my university days in Australia. In horror, we realised it was exactly 27 years ago that we first met. Most of the people I have been cycling with in the last year were not born then. Singapore means amazing talks, reminiscing about the past, passionately discussing the present, and thinking about the future – including my future life and job in Australia.

In Singapore, I also talked to kids at Penelope’s children’s school. I love talking to kids, hearing their ideas, and feeling their passion. And its fascinating talking with kids living in such different places about their thoughts on sustainability. Comparing to the kids I spoke to in India, I am reminded that Singapore is, indeed, a very different place.

Oh. By the way, I passed 27000km in Singapore.

We will be in Singapore for quite a while during the Chinese New Year celebrations, waiting for our Indonesian visa. I am looking forward to relaxing and talking.


With the Chinese New Year holiday coming up, we realised we needed to be in Singapore as early as possible to arrange things while everything is open. This meant head down, along the straight main road. A perfect time to start my Indonesian language course. Nama saya Matthew. Saya oran Australia – or German – or Dutch. I’m not sure. ☺

Our lovely host Acid and his friends

Our lovely host Acid and his friends

We had a lovely farewell breakfast with Acid and two other cycling friends before heading on towards Singapore. Our final resting place is in amongst the banana and coconut palms in a little gazebo in front of a house. It comes complete with electricity and shower.. ☺

Shower

Shower

Near our house

Near our house