Archive for the ‘Cycling to Pontian, Johore, West Malaysia’ Category

Last minute adventures can be fun. The rush to plan, pack and most importantly convince friends to ride 100 kms or so into neighbouring West Malaysia for the weekend came up recently. Why Malaysia again? Why not, might be the easiest reply. Haven’t cycled down that country road since, well 1996. As expected that road has morphed into a 6 lane highway with irritating speed inhibiting strips (yeah right) that made it sound like we were being chased by a swarm of hornets.

A very late departure from home at 12 noon on a very wet Saturday meant our scheduled arrival at Pontian was going to be a dark one. 7.35 pm to be precise. As it was, we were waffling (undecided) whether to proceed or not the whole Saturday morning, as another La Nina deluge had flooded parts of Singapore a few hours earlier. It was a different story as we reached the causeway border at Johor State. The rain disappeared and our 102 km ride was in cool cloudy weather on semi dry roads. What a blessing.

The usual 500 car jam on the causeway into Jorhor

Now anyone familiar with this border will know that about 50,000 vehicles cross here daily and the motorcycle lane is a right place to blacken one’s lungs. Forget smoking, the carbon particles are thick and free here. We opted for the car lane with much less traffic building up and hoped that our 2 bikes will sort of make up for 4 wheeled transport. No such luck as we were duly frowned upon and escorted to a nice cosy office for some ‘counselling’ or at worst, a fine. Damn, not a good start.

The border police, were more than polite actually, and I half expected some hot coffee and biscuits than handcuffs.  No whys and wherefores, but actually light banter between 2 clueless officers who actually asked each other where the bicycle lane was. At least one of them was pretty. Apparently the first booth for motorcycles is also designated for bicycles, though there are no signs to confirm this. At least we know now, but this might change when I ride to Pontian again in say 2022.

Our 15 minute ‘detention’ in airconditioned comfort was way better than jostling in a grey haze for a possible 30 minutes, with 200 plus m/cycles. We can’t wait for the return journey. In case you’re wondering we were detained when leaving Singapore, and not whilst entering Malaysia. I always find the Malaysian customs and immigration a little less ‘uptight’ than their counterparts in Fortress Singapore.

Cookie cutter Malaysian highway

The town of Johor Bahru has developed at such a frantic pace that more roads are becoming wide laned highways and flyovers and bypasses are sprouting to channel traffic into yet another jam. After 25 kms of highway ‘bliss’ we turned off at Skudai town and rode due west towards Lima Kedai, Gelang Patah, Ulu Choh and Pekan Nanas. These were small hamlets and one horse towns which we so alluring well, way back in the 80’s and 90’s when we were cycling bikes with 5 and 6 speed gear clusters. Sadly the lush jungle, occasional monkey troop, wild boar attack, and shady rubber plantations that once lined the country roads here are long gone. In it’s place, housing, gas stations, factories, golf courses and more housing.

Halfway through the ride with Gunung (Mt) Pulai on the horizon

For us cyclists, there are 2 Shimano factories in Pekan Nanas, a town whose claim to fame are the large pineapple plantations in the countryside. Of  course, we were not allowed inside and could only gawk at some bikes and wheelsets from the locked  gates.

this kind of factory is thoroughly excusable 😉

After the usual pannier explosion

Close to Pontian our legs and lungs were fading, what with gas station snacks for lunch and too many a rest stop. The low evening light and cool winds made for a more comfortable ride  There are some undulating hills betweeen Gelang Patah and Ulu Choh (13 kms) which made the ride more challenging, but I’m sure during my next visit, they would all be flattened out. Pushing it to Pontian the final 15 kms, in the dark we finally made it to, where else but the Pontian Hotel, slightly overpriced, at RM$121, but with nice amenities and a string of seafood restaurants along the ink black swampy beach. Breakfast turned out to be surprisingly good too, and I did all cyclists proud by eating enough for 3 people.

Straits of Malacca at low tide

Shopping @ Leong Thong bikeshop, Pontian

Remnants of a wild west town perhaps ?

Pontian's art deco bus station

With too much pottering around town after breakfast, and getting some old school Made in Shanghai stainless steel bells at an old school bike shop, we wimped out and headed for the bus station at 10 am. 60 kms later and about RM$20 / US $6 poorer each, but aha 3 hours ahead of schedule, we found ourselves at Larkin, close to downtown  Johor Bahru and a few kms from the border. I had to plod another 35 kms more in Singapore before reaching home just in time to greet another July ‘dry season’ deluge.

Our bikes are tired, or are we lazy ?

From Pontian, if one is so inclined, you could ride up the length of western Peninsula Malaysia all the way up to Thailand and beyond.

Ciao !