Cycling in Malaysia
Some call cycling in Malaysia madness. This is because of the tropical heat. But is it really madness? Is biking in Malaysia worth the effort or should you skip it? Most of my bike rides in the country were limited to the west coast.
So what are the attractions in Malaysia, what should you visit, what should you bring? What to expect? This page and the pages related to bicycling in Malaysia will help you choosing your best bike rides in the country.
Should you consider a tour through West Malaysia (East Malaysia is overseas: Sarawak and Sabah), you should easily be able to spend 3 weeks around the country.
General Info about Malaysia
In Malaysia, Saturday and Sunday are holidays which means the official offices and banks are in general closed. In major tourist areas as Penang, Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur and Malacca the Tourist Information office are sometimes open on Saturday and Sunday but always closed for lunch.
Banks are closed in the weekend but there are plenty of ATM's available, I use Maybank, as I find it the most reliable of all banks.
Malaysia is a Muslim country. For those who can not live without a beer, many restaurants and food courts server beer and other spirits, including during the Ramadan when the Malay restaurants will be closed at day time.
Malaysia is a tropical country. Protect yourself from dehydration and keep drinking. Wear a hat to protect your head.
Malaysia has several good bicycle shops. Kuala Lumpur and Penang are obvious choices while Langkawi's bicycle shop seems to have closed (sounds a little strange with Asia's major cycling race named after the island: Tour de Langkawi).
In many towns you will be able to find basic shops and in some others very good shops. Taiping, Ipoh, Klang, Malacca but even in small towns as Seri Manjung and Kampong Koh there are very good shops despite the fact there's not a lot of Malaysian cyclists.
Still Kuala Lumpur has the most decent shops, here is more about the Bicycle Shops in Kuala Lumpur.
The best shop in Penang (and the largest outside Kuala Lumpur is Lim Bicycle Station (Specialized), a 3 storey building completely dedicated to bicycles and repairs. My friend Mohd Faizal is the manager and if you need help with your bike, it's Mohd Faizal you need to talk to.
773, Jala Sultan Azlan Shah
The shop is not located in the George Town city center. Take the road to the airport and follow the direction to Bayan Lepas. When you pass the Nibong bus station, cross the junction and look for the police station, a few 100 meters further on the road on your right site (coming from the city). It's next door to the police station.
Malacca has good bike shops:
Should you come to Pulau Pangkor and in trouble, you will find my personal
favorite bicycle shop in Seri Manjung of Mr. Jamalludin Othman, an ex military
technician who loves bicycles and have what you need:
Traffic and safety
Outside the main cities cycling in Malaysia is usually fine. Many roads have little traffic and are very safe for cycling. I would not recommend to cycle in Kuala Lumpur or cycle to KLIA (I've done that, never more).
In some major cities, following the road signs might you direct to motorways (Klang was a serious problem for me). Be careful, get a provincial road map or use Google Maps to get the road numbers.
I have been cycling in Malaysia with Johan, an 8 years old boy who lives in Penang. We cycled Pangkor - Penang in 4 days, 250 km which was a great (and very safe) journey. Here is the full story.
Accommodation and food
Of all Asian countries I have cycled, Malaysia is relatively expensive. Still, you can find accommodation for as little as around $10-15, especially in Kuala Lumpur, Penang or Langkawi. Outside it might be harder. In general you can find hotels and home stays at at least every 50-70km distance although for homestays you might have to call first.
One of the pleasures of Malaysia is the food. With a mixed population of Malay, Chinese and Indians as the major groups (there are further Orang Asli, the original inhabitants of the Malaysian peninsula and people from all around the world).
Food seems a prime chat topic for all Malaysians. When you meet locals you will soon find yourself eating and drinking and talking about the local food.
And not for nothing. The mix of cultures have produced an excellent cuisine. For those who want to explore the Malaysian cooking, I can recommend Nazlina's cooking class in Penang.
Maps useful for cycling in Malaysia
Finding good maps in Malaysia can be difficult. Cycling in Malaysia requires a decent map. You can use Google maps and make print outs. These are by far the most reliable at the moment.
In some bookstores in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, you should be able to find Malaysia Travel Maps. I have a Northern Region and Selangor maps which are very good for cycling. In Penang you can find it at Queensbay Mall while in KL there are several other large malls where you can get it (Twin Towers should have them too).
Religions and Festivals
Although Malaysia is a Muslim country it is tolerant to other religions. While you are traveling in Malaysia it is very well possible you will join in one or another festival. The most spectacular are the Indian Thaipusam, Chinese New Year and the Chinese (Taoist) Nine Emperor Gods Festival.
I have written a more extensive page about the Malaysian festivals. Please see this page.
Here are some other links to Malaysian festivals:
Although Little Penang is not part of any religious festival, it does usually pay attention to such a festival.
The Little Penang Market is held every last Sunday of the month at Upper Penang Road near E&O hotel, Bay View and Cheong Fatt Mansions. Here is more about Little Penang Cultural Market.
Malaysia share overland bordercrossings with Thailand, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia (the last 2 in Sabah/Sarawak).
For cyclists to Malaysia the border crossings are:
In East Malaysia with Brunei (from Sarawak)
There is one official border with Indoneisa in Sarawak in Tebedu but as far as my knowledge goes you need to have a visa in advance to enter Kalimantan, Indonesia.
There are 2 railway crossings:
Several roads I have been cycling in Malaysia
Without claiming I have seen every road in Malaysia, I can say I have a fairly good view what Malaysia offers for bicycle touring.
All Malaysia related page:
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