Malaysia, Alor Star,Yan, Sungai Pethani, George Town – Evrim and Elif Yiğit Tour Journals, October 19, 2011
Our main concern, which was to cross the border was handled pretty easily. They stamped our passports without any questions and gave us permission to stay for 90 days. At first, Malaysia was a huge obscurity for us. We neither knew about the currency, nor planned how much we were going to spend. We just walked into the country and began riding our bikes. First impression was that the roads here were better than Thailand. Of course that didn’t last long. Only first 30km was fancied up for show and unrolled as a red carpet before us. Rest of the roads were tolerable, which was ten times better than the roads in Turkey. Cycling isn’t as common as in Thailand but widespread motorcycle utilization formed the roads and a separate lane has been spared for bikes and motorbikes. And if you’d like, you can ride your bike even on the highway. Because there are separate lanes for bikes and motorcycles even on the highways. The sole advantage of the roads here is that they’re more shady, trees along the road are taller and the roads are narrower so both sides of the road remains under their shadows. Which allows you to have a more pleasant ride.
After proceeding for 30km in Malaysia, we want to withdraw cash from a bank. Only problem is that we don’t know how much TL equals to how much RM. Even if the bank had been closed, employees inside help us to learn the € (Euro) equivalent of Malaysia RM from the internet. Thus we acquire the money to manage us for a couple of days. Our first settlement is a town called Alor Star. Somehow town names here reminds me of cowboy movies. Alor Star is quite a cosy town but the social life I mentioned at length is nearly down to zero over here. We search for people’s whereabouts for a long time. We just encounter crowds in cars transporting one way to another. At last we come to a square where a bunch of teenagers got together across a mosque. As people around notice us, they begin to stare quite attentively. As we understand, social life here consists of staying in a park in the evenings, looking at the mosque as eating sunflower seeds and stare at the people passing by. As we’re going back to the hotel, we discover a place of Chinese. I guess this is the only place one could drink beer. We sit there and drink the most expensive beer of our tour so far and rest a little. Here if you want to buy beer from a market, you have to pay between 6-9TL. Think about it, it’s triple of what we pay normally. But don’t immediately say that it’s very expensive in Malaysia; if you want to buy a liter of oil here it’s only 0.95RM which equals to only 0.5TL. I don’t know how much it’s currently in Turkey but I guess we cannot but a liter for 0.5TL. Thailand was a little more expensive. I guess it was 35 baht for a liter which equals to 2TL. I just wanted to inform you about the prices a bit. We share a beer with sorrow as we decide to end our journey in Malaysia soon and go back to the hotel to rest for the next day.
Next day we take a look at the ocean and collect some sea shells. After that, we go parallel to the ocean and reach to a national park with a big waterfall. The waterfall over there -which I forgot the name of, I’m writing about a couple of days before so some things get lost- can be seen from a long distance and it falls from so high that you have a hard time to see its top edge. We just go near a river. In order to see the waterfall, you have to trek for 3 hours. So we give up the trekking idea, rest a little and watch the off-road race’s award ceremonies which’s final was held today. Around 7:00pm, as all people go away, we set up our tents in a comfortable zone and go to sleep. Next morning we pick up our stuff and reach to a town 50km away. Here’s our 2nd big town in Malaysia and it gives us a chance to get to know Malaysian people. Here Chinese and Malaysian folks has different lifestyles than each other. Two different cultures seem to have learnt to live among each other. Muslims over here have exaggerated a little more compared to us. People on the streets are all dressed up as they’re going to a mosque. But Muslim people here suppress the females less than us. As an influence of Thailand, female domination endures here as well a little. As a male, you can speak with women as you’d like. I don’t ever forget that one time I had to get a picture taken in our country, in a town on the south side. I neither didn’t have anywhere to put my camera on, nor anyone to take a picture of me. Suddenly two girls came up. I requested them to take a picture of mine. They didn’t even listen to what I said and ran away. I’m sure that they were scared of me and supposed that I’d do something really bad. I was quite angry with myself as well, for supposing myself still in Thailand.
Let’s get back to Malaysia; here it’s not possible for me to encounter an incident like the one I experienced in Turkey. And this isn’t because I’m a foreigner. Here men and women are equally social. There aren’t destitute women as “My husband knows”. Maybe because of this we started to like Malaysia and decided to prolong our trip a little more which we’d chosen to keep it short. Next day we get on the road to George Town which we don’t know anything about. I guess this is one of the most pleasant places we’ve been. It’s an island and connected to the mainland via a bridge of 13.5km which’s said to be the world’s 3rd longest bridge. I guess it’s possible to ride our bikes on this bridge but I cannot decide whether to do so going back to the mainland. Somehow it doesn’t sound very appealing to me. We stay in George Town for two days. Our settlement is a very cosy Guest House and there’s a Malaysian biker who enjoys giving us information. He’d come here from Kuala Lumpur by bike and even if that’s his first bike tour, he knows a lot about the neighborhood. The part of the town we stayed in consists only of old houses and it makes me feel as if I’m inside a movie. All buildings around me has 2-3 floors and all are constructed with similar successful labor effort. Habitants of İzmir can imagine a town comprised of Levantine houses and none other buildings to ruin the view. As these buildings were painted colorful and adding the beautiful manual wood labour, all forms a magnificent town. In the evening we wander around a little and decide to spend time in the hotel. The entrance of our hotel resembles more a cafe. You can sit here and drink something you brought from outside or a cup of coffee from the hotel. In a quite and calm street, with the accompany of the monsoonal rain, in a warm weather, the pleasure of drinking your coffee and resting your feet is unique. I guess Elif hasn’t prepared herself for it yet but after 2 days we’ll stay in a place called Cameron Highland with an altitude of 1600m. I guess the first challenging stage of our tour will be over there. I feel lucky about my bike’s gears. Compared to my previous bike, it has lower gear combinations. Elif has the same bike as my previous one. I guess if I take some of her loads, the weight I’ll have to carry to the edge will increase up to around 120km including myself. In this case we’ll have a chance to rest in Cameron Highlands after we’ve worn to a frazzle. But as Ahmet Mumcu mentioned, I guess it’s one of the places that must be seen in Malaysia.
That’s all I’ll share for now. I guess we’ll have a chance to shoot lots of colorful scenes in a different culture in Malaysia. I hope you’ll enjoy the photos and experiences
George Town, Malaysia.