Anyway, to continue our journey. We got to Kuala Lumpur about noon. We were told that the YMCA would be cheap, but we had no idea where to look for it. KL was a city of 450,000 then … much smaller than Manila or Singapore but certainly too large to just ride around hunting for the YMCA. We stopped and I went into a shop to see if I could get us located and call the Y. Eventually I came out with a fellow who was willing to lead us with his jeep. That involved navigating a huge viaduct, where we thought every highway in the whole nation came together. Somehow we got to the Y, but the room was $18 (Malay) a night. So we set out to find a cheaper one.
About a block away were two Chinese hotels, both of which had double rooms for $5 (Malay). That was more than we wanted to pay, but we figured that in the city we wouldn’t do any better. The place where we stayed gave us a bargain by giving us a room with a bath. This was our home for the next five nights. We soon noticed that all sorts of suspicious looking females were coming and going, but we didn’t bother them and they didn’t bother us.
The experience on the viaduct scared Peggy so much (she was almost run over by a motorcycle) that she wanted to leave the bikes behind when we went out to explore the city. But I got my way, and we learned how to navigate KL by bicycle. The first couple of days we carried our bikes down a long fight of steep stairs in order to avoid the viaduct, but we soon learned another way around it. We discovered that many of the major streets had wide sidewalks intended for bicycles. The curbs had driveway-like places for bikes (called curb cuts in America). They even had traffic lights for bikes: when they turned green, they had a picture of a bike showing. There were so many bikes around that motorists knew how to watch out for them, and 9 out of 10 cars seemed to be a bug, making passing on the highway much easier.
I was really enjoying the food in Malaysia, and Peggy was learning to like it. We ate some Chinese food, which wasn’t usually very spicy. We especially enjoyed their soups, in which the vegetables were still crunchy. Both Malay and Indian foods were very hot and spicy for Peggy. A favorite Malay dish of ours was satay and consisted of small pieces of chicken or mutton on a stick and barbecued. It was supposed to be eaten with a spicy peanut sauce, but Peggy liked it without the sauce.
Many of our meals were Indian. One of our favorites was murtaba, made with onions, mutton, sometimes hot peppers … all cooked together inside a pie-crust affair on a hot griddle. The crust was thin and usually crisp. The Indians didn’t eat as much rice as did Malays or Filipinos. They varied rice with bread (we didn’t then know the real word for it. In India or before then, we learned the bread was called chapati.). It was something like the crust of murtaba, but it wasn’t crisp. Small pieces were torn off and used to pick up pieces of meat or vegetable dishes.
5. When we left KL we crossed the country to the East Coast. Since the center of the country was all mountains, we rode a bus most of the way, with our bikes on top. We were shocked to have to pay $4.25 (Malay) a piece for the bikes (the passenger fare was $5), but we didn’t think we could make 165 miles over mountains on our own leg power. At some point, on top of a mountains we got off the bus and were riding our bicycles, and passed a sign pointing the way to see tapirs, when we heard Neil Armstrong had just stepped onto the moon.
5. East Coast, Kuantan. It was 236 miles to the northern most town (Kota Bharu) on this side of the country. We planned to work our way up, stopping whenever people were friendly or there was a town we particularly liked. (Along the way we rode along the ocean, stayed at a palm oil plantation, and watched a man harvest coconuts using a monkey. Instead of the man the monkey climbed the trees and shook the coconuts free.) A lot of craftwork (weaving and silver work) was done on this side, and people were extra friendly.
From the north we thought we’d take a train south that went through the jungle and through the center of the country. If it weren’t too expensive, we wanted to stop in a national park where we thought we could bike through the jungle and watch wild animals from a blind. We planned to eventually end up back in KL to check for mail and apply for visas to Thailand. We weren’t sure how long it would take us to get back there.
Randy and Peggy Ford