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Steve Thomas' own Tour de Langkawi, part two

By Steve Thomas

On tour in Malaysia, the eastern delights

Mystic Steve checks out the crystal ball from the bottom of his beer starved empty glass

After leaving the west coast the race takes the northern highway across the country, skimming narrowly beneath the Thai border. This will be an interesting stage.

After a few stages for the sprinters already, I figure this one will most likely end up that way too. But given the rolling terrain and the possibility of a strong headwind I think it'll be an aggressive stage, and there may well be a few splits in the field, leaving the stronger fast men at the head of affairs, maybe even a large breakaway group. Watch out for Mr O'Grady.

The two stages down the east coast will be frighteningly fast, and are sure to end up in mass sprints, which I figure will be well controlled by the Italian teams. Watch out for Panaria jerseys.

Round two of my personal Tour de Langkawi saw me defy convention and fly rebelliously against the wind, quite literally! Okay, so I had heard on the grapevine that the way to do the east coast of Malaysia was from north to south, so as to have the prevailing winds with you.

But, I'd only ever read guidebooks and reports of people doing it the opposite way around, and also for me it was logistically easier to go south - north. Umm, bum move that turned out to be! This was one ride I'd always wanted to take on. From what I had heard, it was a classic of Southeast Asian bike tours, and pan flat with it. What more could I ask for?

A hard life
Photo © Steve Thomas

Starting out from Kuantan, which is actually a stage start heading in the opposite direction, I headed northwards. I'd read about how quiet the roads were here, but in fact, like everywhere else in the world they aint quite what they used to be, though they were fine once I'd got away from the hubbub of the city. It wasn't too long before I realised that I was indeed heading in totally the wrong direction. The wind wasn't gale force, but certainly strong enough to kill the speed and make for a none too easy ride.

Even with this in mind I was somehow managing to rustle along at over 20mph, which after realising that I could do this into the wind, was about to become my east coast mission for the whole ride, a mission which saw me dodge traffic lights, jump motorbikes and near kill myself to keep up, but I did it!

Life is so tough
Photo © Steve Thomas

Two more factors that had to be included in the equation were

  • This was monsoon season, and in the afternoons monsoon rains poured down like crazy, and caused floods in many places, and,
  • Most of the ride takes place in Trengganau state, and the last section in Kelantan, both are staunchly religious, which means that there is not a whole lot of beer available.

Now this may not be a huge consideration for the racers, but for me it's an important factor in after ride recuperation! Thus, I made my first day's ride a short one, stopping off in the holiday retreat of Cherating to stock up camel style on amber nectar to fuel my next couple of days riding. Cherating is just one of a number of great east coast beach kampungs, which make for great places to stop off during east coast rides.

After sampling the chilled delights of Cherating, I decided to make the out of town beach hotel thing a must during the ride.Two long days of rolling roads, an untimely encounter with a monsoon, and an unpredicted bright pink sun tan were to see me through the rest of the east coast ride in fine style. I'd stopped to look for turtles and purchased some of the wildest shirts along the way, and in doing it my way I reckon I enjoyed it a whole load more than the riders will next week, there'll be no stop offs at beach side bars, and I bet not one of them will snap up a shirt as loud as mine either..

Moored boats
Photo © Steve Thomas

Later in the week I'll be heading west once more to take on the mighty beast of the east - Genting Highlands.

East coast must do's

  • Avoid monsoon season - late November till early February.
  • If at all possible ride north - south to have the wind with you.
  • Stay in smaller beach hotels along the way, they are cheaper and much friendlier.
  • Run for the beer as soon as you get into Pahang state!
  • If you have the time take a day out and visit Palau Redang, a beautiful island retreat.
  • Go looking for turtles, but do not expect to find them. There are not many around any more.
  • Stop off at some of the fishing kampungs along the way, the old painted fishing boats are quite something.
  • Look out for the batik craft shops along the way - and buy the loudest shirt possible.

Steve Thomas' own Tour de Langkawi

Part I - Oh island in the sun
Part II - On tour in Malaysia, the eastern delights
Part III - Mr T meets 'The Beast of the East'