Originally published in Cycling Plus Malaysia
Down the Coast Down the Coast
We’re pretty lucky here in Malaysia with the numerous public holidays that we get. With another public holiday long weekend looming ahead, we did not want to miss out on an opportunity for a mini adventure. I had previously taken an oath to never again willingly subject myself to Malaysia’s epic public holiday traffic jams. Paired with keenness to avoid higher priced flight tickets; it was the motivation we needed to head off on bike touring holiday.
As it was my first cycle touring holiday in Malaysia, we decided that a two-night trip down to Malacca would be a good way to start. Our mini adventure would start in the carpark of Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) in Bandar Tasik Selatan. The start of many other adventures before ours, no doubt. Our plan was to leave our car at TBS, cycle down to Malacca and return to TBS by bus three days later.
The mission on day 1 was to ride approximately 110km to our accommodation in Teluk Kemang, Port Dickson. Making our way out of Bandar Tasik Selatan through heavy traffic was a painful early obstacle, which we were keen to overcome as quickly as possible. Some experience and confidence cycling in traffic is essential on this part of the trip.
Arriving at the gates of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s (UPM) campus was much welcomed respite. Riding across campus via its tree-lined streets and designated cycle lanes, was a treat. I can’t imagine why more university campuses locally don’t adopt the same ideas.
Putrajaya was our next stop. We were early enough to beat the tourist buses at some of Putrajaya’s sights. We were however in good company, with many other cyclists making the most of city’s peaceful streets. We had one more stop to make before our lunch break. Some friends were participating in a mountain bike race at Putrajaya Challenge Park (PCP) and we did not want to miss the opportunity to say hello. If you’re embarking on a similar trip, PCP is a good pit stop for refreshments, use its facilities and to watch both skateboarders and cyclists work on their moves. After wishing our friends luck in the race; we were off again on.
We arrived at a crossroads once we reached the border of Sepang and the greater district of Port Dickson. We were faced with two options for our journey into Port Dickson. Option 1 was the hard way; involving riding on more major roads before a long hill climb up notorious Bukit Pelanduk. Option 2 was admittedly; the more appealing option. This involved a ferry ride across Sungai Sepang, which bypassed the hill climb. The only trick was figuring out if the ferry was running over the public holiday. Finding out the ferry was out of service at the jetty itself would have meant a long unwanted detour back to the start of Option 1.
Whilst we debated our options near a petrol station, it dawned on us that we had seen a number of people with fishing gear come through. Local fishing enthusiasts would surely know the comings and going of the ferry. Cornering one of them to ask, confirmed what we needed to know. Excitedly we headed off towards the jetty. The roads from here were also becoming more pleasant, weaving through traditional villages dotted with coconut trees. We knew we were getting really close to the coast when we started to see mangroves.
One of the best things about cycle touring is that the simplest things can feel like an adventure or a treat. The ferry ride was definitely a memorable highlight from the trip.
Not long after our over water shortcut, we were on the coastal road heading towards Port Dickson. We were pleased to continue off the highway, through green rolling hills. We let out a whoop when we finally catch a glimpse of the waters of the Malacca Strait.
We arrive in the heart of Port Dickson’s tourist strip just before 5 pm, just in time for a well-deserved early dinner. With our bellies very full, a short ride to our accommodation was just right
We were able to start Day 2 at a more relaxed pace, with only around 70 odd kilometres to pedal to Malacca. We started the day with a leisurely stroll to beach closest to us, Pantai Purnama. The beach is popular with families as a spot for beachside camping; many were already up preparing breakfast and swimming already.
After a lazy start, we packed quickly and we were on the road again. The southbound stretch of the coastal road from Teluk Kemang is pure joy to cycle on. We were lucky to have good weather with the cooling sea breeze accompanying us most of the way. It didn’t take us long to cross the Malacca-Negeri Sembilan state boundary.
Turning off the main trunk road whenever possible to ride through village roads also paid off. We almost gate crashed a wedding, took rests on the beach and admired many photogenic “kampung houses”. As we approached Malacca city, we were sad to leave quieter streets and continue on busier trunk roads. We were however really excited to reach our final destination.
The roads and places we were riding through were busier, but the people no less friendly. Friendly locals we met along the way never failed to be curious on what we were up to. They were always either amused or very encouraging in response to our answer. We were very fortunate to run into Uncle Richard at a petrol station near Kelebang. Whilst Uncle Richard treated us like rock stars for embarking on a little cycling holiday; he was in fact the real star, having been a Malaysian national football player during the team’s heyday.
We headed straight for the Malacca City’s heritage centre upon reaching city limits. A’FAmosa was to be our finish line. If he had not known our way around, we simply had to follow the huge crowds headed the same way. Riding amongst the crowds and festivities of the heritage site was a memorable moment. The centre of Malacca’s Historic City is an assault to the senses; colourful and alive.
After taking some time to soak in the atmosphere, we make our way to our home for the night. I was looking forward to our accommodation located in a heritage-listed building. It did not disappoint. Cosy, full of curiosities, budget friendly and most importantly, bike friendly.
We were happy to leave our bikes safely stored at our accommodation as we explored what Malacca city had to offer. We had historical sites to explore, food both traditional and modern to try and people to watch.
One night in Malacca was not enough to experience it all. However, we had a bus to catch back to Bandar Tasik Selatan and day jobs to get back to. After a morning of exploring the city, we pedalled towards Melaka Sentral to catch our bus home. With our bikes safely stowed on the bus, we were happy to put our feet up for the ride home and fantasize about our next cycle tour.
Tips for a mini cycle touring adventure
For first timers, it’s ok to start small with a similarly modest itinerary We travelled light, opting to stay in inns rather than camp. We carried all our belongings for the trip in lightweight saddlebags and makeshift panniers Book accommodation in advance if travelling over the long weekend. Our Air BnB stay in Port Dickson is best not discussed and a misstep on our part. Our stay at the Voyager Guesthouse in Malacca was a treat Food is plentiful and cheap along the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia so you can again go light with what you can carry Touring is about the journey. Take your time and soak in the sights along the way Do not be intimidated by distances (within reason) you need to cover. Remember that you have most of the day to cover at your own pace Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are plenty of resources online requiring only skills to Google search for information such as GPS files of routes and gear guides. Groups on social media such as Malaysian Bicycle Touring Network are also a good resource
Travelling with your bike on buses.
Taking the bus if you’re short on time can be a good idea. Bus services between major cities are frequent, cheap and comfortable
Bike transportation policies on inter city coaches are non-existent and entirely to the discretion of the driver.
If possible, speak to the bus drivers first before purchasing your ticket If you’re prepared to negotiate or can afford to be flexible, it’s unlikely that you will be left hanging. We had to wait a few hours for a bus that was not full, but we were lucky enough to get on one with our bikes at no extra charge.
Your bike will need to be stowed in the luggage storage area of the bus. The handlebars need to be turned sideways, wheels taken off and secured to the bike frame for storage. Unlike the plane and some train travel, a bike box or bag is not necessary
Sights and Sounds Putrajaya Mosque and surrounds; a haven for recreational cyclists Sungai Sepang ferry crossing. Practical for the local community and fun for us travellers King’s Char Kway Teow, Jalan Pantai, Port Dickson Pantai Purnama, Port Dickson Malacca City heritage site Fresh onde onde Kedai Aku & Dia at Jalan Hang Kasturi, off Jonker Walk Kampung Morten Malay Heritage Village; a living museum AND cycling lanes. Mods Café on Jalan Tokong, excellent coffee and a perfect blend of old and new