Singapore to Kuantan was the start of our Asian cycling adventure. We took the back door route out of the city taking the passenger ferry to Pengerang. Travelling along roads with only light traffic we work our way up the east coast of Malaysia, taking in the famous lake - Tasik Chini along the way.
Our ride descriptions give an account of the ride that we completed. As part of the description we also provide links to Wikiloc or Google maps and elevation profiles based on mapping data available through the internet. The ride profiles are smoothed to give what in our opinion is a more beneficial view of the profile. We use paper maps, GPS and on line data to plan and conduct our rides. We are happy for you to use our descriptions, but be aware that we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided as situations surrounding any ride change over time.
Singapore to Kuantan - Singapore to Desaru Ride Profile
Today, the first day of our Singapore to Kuantan ride was a day of changing plans:
Singapore to Kuantan Plan A: There is only one road route for cyclists out of the city and that is over the busy bridge north to Johor Bahru. The alternative suggested by Lonely Planet is the ferry from Changi, in the north-east of the Island, to the south eastern Malaysia peninsular. The problem is there are two ferry points and two different ferries, one for cars and one for passengers. We would cycle from Cheun's house to the car ferry and then up to Kota Tinggi.
The car ferry runs four trips per day 7.30, 10.00, 17.00 and 19.30, the passenger ferry only runs once there are twelve passengers to travel. The only suitable ferry was the 10.00 but with a 40km ride to the port, the first half being straight through the City centre where we were likely to get lost we would be pushed for time so needed a new plan.
Singapore to Kuantan Plan B: We decided to get a taxi to East Park and then pick up the cycle track which runs all the way along the coast, around the airport and into Changi. The taxi arrived promptly and we were almost at the park when the heavens opened and it poured in typical Singapore style - torrential. Time for...
Singapore to Kuantan Plan C: The taxi dropped us at McDonald's, about 2km further along east park so that we could shelter from the rain and have breakfast while waiting for it to stop. After 90 minutes and no let up it was obvious we weren't going to get on that ferry.
Singapore to Kuantan Plan D: Once the rain abated we rode up to the Changi Ferry Terminal to get the passenger ferry instead. Arriving there it was obvious that this was in fact the car ferry terminal. It was all closed up and no-body around to ask. Then we spotted a man in the ticket booth eating sandwiches. He must have been the cleaner because he seemed very confused about when the next ferry was suggesting three different times before settling on 15.20. As it was only 10.30 we moved to...
Singapore to Kuantan Plan E: We continued up the cycle path to the other ferry port at Changi Point. This was definitely the passenger ferry. In the ticket hall we had to give our passports to the clerk and then wait until he had 12 passports before the ferry would leave. After waiting about 30 mins there were still only 10 passengers so we all agreed to each pay an extra S$2 fare to make up the 12 passenger total. We still weren't quite sure where the ferry went to but that just made it more exciting.
After 90 mins it docked at a small jetty right on the south-west tip if the Malaysian peninsular, about 50km further south than the car-ferry port. This meant a ride of about 80kms to get to Kota Tinggi and it was already 2pm, time for...
Singapore to Kuantan Plan F: There is a resort town called Desaru on the east coast about 35kms south of Kota Tinggi. Karen had spent some time checking out prices and reviews of the main hotels and they were all very expensive and got very poor reviews. The ride was mostly flat, through palm oil plantations and it was cloudy so pleasantly cool. We passed a couple of groups of weekend cyclists returning to Singapore and they waved and shouted to us enthusiastically.
Desaru was off our main Singapore to Kuantan ride and was place that wasn't a place - just five big self-contained resorts along the beach. After cycling past all of them we went into two asked prices. The first was quite shabby but the second had recently had a re-furb and was smart with clean rooms and helpful staff. At 60 pounds per night it was relatively expensive but we had a huge room with a settee and a small patio overlooking the pool for not much more than a good camp site in Australia. It was crowded with local tourists, about half Chinese and the rest Malaysian Muslims. Despite most places being dry, we could get a beer here.
Singapore to Kuantan - Desaru to Kota Tinggi Ride Profile
In the morning it was raining again but not heavily and it continued for most of the day. It was quite pleasant to ride in, keeping us cool but not making us wet. The Singapore to Kuantan road was busy with traffic but all the drivers were courteous, a lot of then pipped their horns and waved. All lorry drivers slowed down and gave us a wide berth, so different from Australia. There was not much to see, mostly more palm plantations. The road kill was significantly different, mostly monkeys with the odd huge lizard and some domestic dogs.
Eating is fun here. All along the road sides there are small eating places with a selection of various curries and vegetable dishes. You get a plate of rice then help yourself to the dishes on offer. The only problem is that although the rice is hot, most of the other things are only luke warm, worrying from a food poisoning perspective. Hopefully the generous addition of chilli stops the bugs. Tea is very popular here, usually served with sugar and condensed milk, a bit like a hot milk-shake.
Singapore to Kuantan - Kota Tinggi to Mersing Ride Profile
There was no accommodation between Kota Tinggi and Mersing so we had no choice but to do a long ride. Steve wouldn't get out of bed until 7.30am so we didn't hit the road till after 9.00am. Today was our first real taste of riding in the tropics as the sun shone all day and it got very hot. The road was undulating which made for a pleasant ride with a few hot slow up-hills but loads of fast, cooling downs.
Along the Singapore to Kuantan road we were passed by a long convoy of soldiers in various vehicles. They were all dressed in jungle fatigues with jungle painted faces and lots of guns. The convoy turned off towards the coast. About 15 minutes later a single tank went past and in hot pursuit was a jeep driven by some obviously more senior soldiers. They began waving and signalling to the soldier in the gun turret to turn around, they had gone the wrong way. Good job it wasn't a real battle.
At lunchtime we met another couple of touring cyclists. Eva and Mike are from Germany and have spent the last 9 months cycling through India, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. They were doing the same ride as us Singapore to Kuantan in reverse.
Later as we rode along the hard shoulder a man on a motorbike pulled up next to Steve and introduced himself. He was a policeman, on his way to work. He assured us that the police in Malaysia would assist us if we had any problems.
Singapore to Kuantan - Mersing to Rompin Ride Profile
Today's Singapore to Kuantan ride was flat all the way and it was very hot again. Turning off the main road we rode along a muddy river valley through the rainforest to the coast at Air Panan. The village consisted of a few scattered houses around a crossroads with sheep grazing at the sides of the unfenced roads. It was so like Goathland. There were some camp-sites here and a lovely beach in a quiet bay sheltered by the Seribuat Islands.
Travelling along the roads in Malaysia we are constantly surprised by the differing standards of care. The roadsides generally are perfectly manicured, with teams of workers cutting the grass with strimmers and picking up rubbish. We have seen a men washing the crash barriers on the roadside and even cleaning a bridge with buckets of water and brushes. But in the lay-bys and beaches the rubbish is awful and there are plastic bottles and disposable nappies everywhere.
At Endau we ate lunch in a Chinese restaurant, a delicious meal of fish, green cabbage and fried bean curd washed down with china tea. We spotted this garage over the road. The name clearly defines the customers dream of having his car repaired on time.
We could see a massive thunder storm developing over tho hills, rolling towards us with great streaks of lightening and had to seek shelter in another restaurant in Rompin and drink a couple of iced teas while the storm passed over.
There were two hotels in the centre of town, both of which were pretty seedy so we searched on the GPS and found an alternative, the Puteri Inn, which was better and also had a very good restaurant.
Singapore to Kuantan - Rompin to Pekan Ride Profile
Getting up early is becoming more normal for us in order to beat the heat of the day. Today started cloudy and cooler and thankfully remained that way for most of the day. As the ride was long and flat full sun would have been unbearable.
The people here are so friendly. They all want to say hello and ask you where you're from and where you are going. Frequently you'll see whole families sitting under shades selling vegetables or fruit. The menfolk are usually in the local cafes.
Motor bikes splutter by with one, two, three or even more people on board. On one occasion we even saw a guy with a large monkey sat in front of him taking in the World as it rode by. We weren't sure who was actually steering.
We are learning more about what to ask for when we stop at one of the roadside cafes (a rather grand word for a very basic eating shack. The ice lemon tea with little sugar is really refreshing whatever the time of day. It's really novel not knowing exactly what you are going to get to eat. There is no menu, just what they have that day. It is usually spicy (but not too hot) with rice or noodles and nearly always delicious. We are even getting used to eating rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After 90km on the Singapore to Kuantan road we arrived in Pekan and had planned to stay at the Chief's Rest house. This is a traditional wooden building on stilts with high loft ceilings. Unfortunately it was full. The alternative Melati Hotel also turned out to be full and we discovered that the Polo Championships were on in the town that week. After a quick look around the place we headed north towards Kuanatan on a busy dual carriageway and stopped at the Inderapura Lake Resort. Sounds grand doesn't it? It cost MR116 per night (about 22 pounds). It was basic. No restaurant, or even a cafe serving drinks. But it was clean and air conditioned.
That evening it was pouring with rain and we were hungry. We decided to get a taxi to one of the better restaurants we had passed on the main road. At reception were two young men. They were a bit perplexed by our request, as if getting a taxi was extremely unusual. One of them scuffled in a book and rang a number. After a long conversation in Malay he put the phone down and said "no taxi". Accepting we would have to walk, and with the rain still pouring down, we asked to borrow an umbrella but the two in the stand were both broken beyond usefulness. Once the rain lessened we walked to the food stalls at the end of the road and had a good meal. The locals were fascinated by us and the girls serving the food were giggling and constantly peeping at us.
Singapore to Kuantan - Pekan to Tasik Chini Ride Profile
Today we turned inland off the main Singapore to Kuantan route to visit Lake Chini which was recommended by Lonely Planet. After riding back into Pekan to get cash and supplies we rode up the Sungai Pahang valley, through small farms and villages with small pockets of rainforest, many of which were being cleared to be replaced with palms.
At lunchtime we sampled the local delicacy of river fish cooked in a fermented durian sauce. We won't be trying it again. We were 'done' in this restaurant, being charged MR40 for our meal, (usually MR12). That will teach us to ask the price first.
Turning south out of the river valley the road began to climb up into the low hills. There was a thunder storm brewing so we hurried to complete the last 10km. After a long slow climb to the top of a hill the rain started to fall. We sped down the other side to Kampung Gumum and arrived at 'Rajan Jones Guest House' just in time to shelter from the really heavy rain.
The guest house is a traditional type long house with 10 simple rooms with just a mattress, mosquito net and a fan.
Its owner, Rajan, speaks good English and charges just RM30 (6 pounds) each for half board. The meals, cooked by his wife, were delicious and ample. The village, described in LP as 'flower filled', disappointed us as there was so much rubbish everywhere and the lake side had broken and dilapidated picnic tables with more rubbish floating in the water.
The saving grace was that we were sharing the accommodation with two interesting couples. Alexander and Andre are German and are travelling RTW on motorbikes.
Francoise and Jean-Claude are French and using public transport to explore Asia. We had a very relaxing two days with them all, exchanging stories and helpful advice.
On the Saturday we hoped to be able to go on a jungle trek with Rajan. He advised to leave it till Sunday as the heavy rain the day before would mean problems fending off the leeches. Instead we took a boat ride around the lake and up the river with F and JC. As we walked down to take the boat, we were accompanied by the pack of dogs from the guest house and surrounding houses. They had adopted us as part of their pack and they waited for us until we came back.
The lake is renowned for its lillys which were just coming into flower.
Later we headed across the lake to a small traditional village.
The houses are basic and stood in stark contrast to the new community toilet block just constructed.
There was a small shack selling local crafts where we got the chance to pin Jean Claude to a target with a blowpipe.
Walking back up from the lake, we stopped at the village shop. It was difficult to find, in a non de-script building with a Buddhist altar in the doorway. We bought water from "the fridge" and beer, which is stored surreptitiously in a cupboard, (presumably to avoid insulting the majority Muslim population of the village). We bought their whole stock, 5 small cans of "probably the best lager in the World".
Rajan promised to take us all on a jungle trek the next day as long as no more rain fell. Unfortunately it poured again overnight so we were out of that place, leaving the leeches to feast on someone else.
Singapore to Kuantan - Tasik Chini to Kuantan Ride Profile
After the climb up the hill out of Gumum the rest of the Singapore to Kuantan ride was on the flat. At the first town, Paluh, there was a bakery and cafe where a man was making 'roti canai', a thin naan type bread, pulled out thin and wrapped around a raw egg then cooked on a hot plate and served with a curry dipping sauce - delicious.
The first 20km was along quiet roads but soon we hit the busy 12 road. There were lots of lorries which threw diesel fumes and dust all over us to combine with the sweat and sun-tan lotion into a revolting grey coating. The busy road had no hard shoulder so the riding was tense and tiring.
Turning onto the P2 the traffic was just as heavy but it was a dual carriageway and had a shoulder. for most of the way. Because it was Sunday a lot of the small roadside cafes were closed so we pushed on into Kuantan and found a Chinese where we had a great meal as well as a couple of celebratory beers.
Kuantan is a busy city where the car is king. It is difficult to get across the busy roads with few pedestrian crossings. There is a large mosque in the centre which looks beautiful at night with its minarets illuminated. We stayed at the Classic Hotel which was clean, had good quality bed linen and a big bathroom as well as a view over the river. The breakfast wasn't bad either.
For our evening meal we went to one of the outdoor food courts. As usual in these type of places there were several cats and a family of young kittens. One of them had some type of bilateral hip displacement (the nurse wrote this) which meant that it could only walk on its front paws. It was surprisingly adept at scuttling over the floor. The meal was spent feeding most of Karen's food to the cats and discussing methods of humanely ending the life of the little kitten, but we didn't have the courage to carry it through.
New! CommentsHave your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.