9. The next day we rode a bus through the mountains back to Kuala Lumpur. We spent a day and half there … long enough to get our mail, do some wash, repack our things, go to the movies, eat a couple of western meals, and finish seeing the national museum.
Did we ever hit the jackpot in KL. We received five letters from the states, one from our Manila maid’s sister, and one from Mr. Hernandez, Peggy’s former principal. It was good to catch up on all of the news from home. From time to time during our trip we also heard from Mr. Hernandez and other people we knew in the Philippines. In this way we kept up with some of the news there.
The next morning we took off by bicycles again, up the main route north (which is along the western side of the country). We only went 12 or 13 miles, to a small national park (Templer Park.) We spent most of the afternoon walking in the park, enjoying greenery, flowers, butterflies, a waterfall, and birds. We had to stop in shelters a couple of times because of rain. A Chinese family who ran a brand new restaurant near the park offered us a room for the night. (We asked to sleep on the cement floor underneath the restaurant, and they offered us a room.) We didn’t know then how long it would take us to reach Penang (which had the only American Express office between KL and Bangkok
10. Taiping, Perak. The three days we spent in the Cameron Highlands (“a-change-of-air station”) was really like vacation time. We lived a life of luxury. We ate in a restaurant, and Peggy made no pretense of trying to keep up with the laundry. We just hiked, read, slept, and ate. Even bathing was special: we bathed with the first hot water since Singapore. (Bathing all over the country was done in much the same way. Water was run … or collected … in a large container. A smaller container was used to dip the water, which was then poured over the body.) Being able to have hot water in the mountains was especially nice because using cold water when the air was cold would’ve been a shocking experience.
We left the mountains late in the morning. It was our third day there. When we got below we ate a quick lunch, retrieved our bicycles from a police station (where we left them), loaded the bikes, and set out on our way. We only went to the next town, about 12 miles away. We checked into a hotel, and Peggy strung a clothesline around the room and did a big wash. (Because it was the rainy season, getting clothes dry over night could be quite a problem. Fortunately, most of the hotel rooms had big ceiling fans. If the fan were left on all night, the clothes would usually dry.)
We managed to get an early start the next morning. We left the main north-south road and headed for a particular part of the coast, where according to our literature the beaches were especially nice. That was an eventful day. Our route involved making turns every few miles, most of which were not well marked, at least not for the villages we needed. But I kept referring to a road map and asking directions when we weren’t sure, and we never got lost. For one stretch we went several miles by dirt road, in the middle of which was a small river, which we had to cross by ferry.
We knew that the route we were following had a washed out bridge, causing cars to have to cross the river about 10 miles further north. We were told however that a sampon (a particular type of boat) which carried people back and forth could also take our bikes across. When we reached the riverbank, it was shortly after 2:00 p.m., and there were gobs of school children waiting to cross. As soon as the sampon hit the shore, the children began rushing on; but there were too many for one load. We looked at the crowding children and at our heavily loaded bikes and discussed riding up to the other bridge. But the fact that it would take us three hours to ride 10 miles up the river and 10 miles back down again, made us give the sampon a try. We took the heaviest basket off the back of my bicycle. Somehow, with the help of the men who ran the sampon, we managed to get on, not fall off while crossing, and safely unload on the other side. That ride certainly made our afternoon exciting, but Peggy thought that she could do without any more sampon rides balancing a bicycle.
We didn’t know how far we rode that day, but about 15 miles from our destination … a good two hours ride … we decided we couldn’t make it any further. We rode through the town where we were; but there were no hotels, and it looked as if no one was going to invite us to stay with them. So we went to the Methodist Church, told them our problem, and we were warmly welcomed. They (a lady minister and an adopted daughter) gave us a place to stay and fed us dinner and breakfast.
The next day was Sunday. The only service in the church where we were staying was in Chinese, so we headed for the next town, seven miles away. We missed most of the service there because we were told 8:30 instead of 8:00. But the minister and his wife invited us for coffee afterwards. (The parsonage was just behind the church.) There was to be a Malay wedding next door that afternoon, so we were invited to stay and watch. So we unloaded our bikes and made a quick trip to the beach toward which we had been heading, getting back in time to eat some of the Malay food that was being served for the wedding. We missed the actual ceremony that made the couple husband and wife. But Peggy was able to take several pictures of the bride and groom and their relatives.
Monday morning the minister (Rev. Tang), his wife and two children (who called us antie and uncle), Peggy, and I took a boat ride to a nearby island with a really beautiful beach. On Tuesday we planned to move on, but it was our anniversary, and we didn’t feel like tackling the long ride necessary before the next stop. It didn’t take much to persuade us to stay. Mrs. Tang even baked a cake for us, and Peggy got to make spaghetti, which was a big success. The next day was still spent with the Tangs because a friend of theirs whom we met on Monday offered to take us to Ipoh that afternoon. (It was a big city, which we had decided to skip.) Finally Thursday, we left Ipoh, riding more than 60 miles to Taiping, where we stayed again with another Methodist minister and his wife. Rev. Tang arranged everything, something that continued while we were in Malaysia. We never had to ask, and out of fear of insulting someone, we were afraid to say no. We had never seen such hospitality before, but the same kind of hospitality continued as long as we were in South East Asia.
Peggy and Randy Ford