6&7/5/16. Looking at the map revealed that cycling to KL would be tough. There was a town within easy reach but after that there were two stretches of 70-80 km with nothing very much. While Christine was feeling better she was not convinced that she could manage that sort of distance in a day in this heat so we decided to take the train!
When we asked about taking bikes on the train we were told that folding bikes were OK but anything larger depended on the conductor on the day – not a reassuring answer. Still, we decided to risk it and lashed out £11 each on first class tickets (double the second class fare) for the 8 hour trip. We had hoped to replicate what we had done in Korea a couple of years ago and get on the platform well in advance to dismantle the bikes in plenty of time and present a fait accompli to the conductor. However, we were not allowed onto the platform until about 20 minutes before departure and, when we took the lift rather than the escalator like all the other passengers, passengers found ourselves in passport control for travelling to Singapore. With us standing around looking lost, a policeman eventually escorted us past the passport desks, through a door and into another lift which took us to the right platform.
By now time was pressing and, of course, the bikes refused to co-operate in coming to pieces easily (more haste, less speed!). With Christine moving the multitude of bags down the carriage to our seats and then taking wheels as they came free, Stephen eventually carried the second bike onto the train “whole” and dismantled it on board just before the train started moving. He was somewhat disconcerted that it pulled out with the door still open but we found that this was the norm (despite the signs warning of fines for opening the doors while the train is moving).
It took an hour or so for the conductor to appear and he was completely unconcerned about the bikes so we settled back to catch up on our podcast listening and watch Malaysia go by.
For the first half of the journey the view was almost entirely of palm oil plantations with little natural vegetation and only 4 or 5 small towns where the train stopped. As we neared KL the countryside became marginally more varied with a few smallholdings and more built up areas but still vast swathes of palm oil trees. Worrying from an environmental perspective.
Arriving in KL was less traumatic thankfully and we were soon ensconced in our hotel near the station (with the help of a man who, after we asked for directions, led us to it on his motorbike and disappeared before we could show our appreciation). A quick meal in the nearby shopping mall food court was followed by an early bed – travelling is hard work!
Saturday was spent wandering slowly around KL. We visited 2 Buddhist temples (pyromaniacs’ heaven – fire and smoke everywhere!) and a Hindu temple, a covered market full of tourist “tat” and a street market in Chinatown with an hour of “cool down” in a low tax, Seattle based coffee emporium.
All the while we were considering what to do next.
Christine in particular, but Stephen as well, was suffering in the heat. It has cooled down a touch, to 33 or 34°, but it is still very humid and Christine feels that she really cannot face cycling here. As a result we have decided to “bale” from SE Asia (for now – we are fascinated by the place but it is just not “cycling country” and fully intend to return). Plan B is to move to Japan (before it heats up too much) and then go to Europe for “high summer” before hitting the UK in September. We have an unmissable event in Somerset on 30 September – Christine’s sister, Lynn, is getting married!
We’ll keep you posted.