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|11/18||Malaysia, Kota Bharu to Merang (Terengganu)
Today is Larry D's birthday so one of our early goals was to find him and give him the gift we got for him.
We were up at 5:30. It was raining. We packed our gear and went to breakfast looking for L&J. No luck. Good breakfast, though.
We loaded our gear on truck, got the bike from the basement and met in the front. There was a huge banner with best wishes for our journey from the hotel. (We've had a lot of "welcome banners," but this was our first "good-bye banner." Also, we found Larry, so we sang Happy Birthday and gave him his present. He was surprised!
It turned out that we were just in time to join a police escort out of town. And what an escort! We had police cars and motorcycles closing lanes and stopping traffic for us clear out of town. Then, when we hit the rural area, they just escorted us all the way to checkpoint (at about 65K).
At checkpoint, there were tents, chairs, drinks, food, coconuts, a steel band, and a big crowd waiting to greet us all. What a celebration!
We got on the bus at checkpoint. It was just too hot for Lisa to ride.
An aside: Yesterday when I talked about the housing, I may have been misleading. The predominant housing in the rural areas is small, unpainted, severely weathered, wood buildings with corrugated metal roofs on short pilings to keep them above the ground water. The predominant small town urban home is a small, unpainted, weathered, concrete block or stucco building. Both types are pretty open to allow breezes through. Of course, there are occasional exceptional upscale homes in both areas.
We arrived at the Sutra Beach Resort about 2 o'clock. As we drove in, we saw that they had a welcome banner over the entrance driveway. We parked, unloaded our bikes and gear, and walked in. We were greeted with cool washclothes and iced drinks.
This is really a nice resort! There is an open-air checkin counter and a cafe between the main entrance and a LARGE patio area around a LARGE pool that sits adjacent to the beach.
Many of the Odyssey riders jumped in the pool in their cycling outfits. Some were a bit more sedate and dug their suits out first. A few went into the ocean. All reported the water was GREAT!
We had to wait awhile for the room assignments. Lisa got a bite to eat. David sat in a lounge chair by the pool, looking out over the pool, the beach and the ocean at several small islands sitting in the beautiful turquoise water under big, puffy, white clouds, and read. After a while , Lisa took a swim in the pool. It was wondeful. The pefect combination of being able to swim, but feel like your on the beach.
We finally got a room at 7:15 -- and, because "something happened," there weren't enough rooms. So we got a roommate -- Diane from Seattle -- and a promise that a third bed and towel would be coming.
The room is right on the ocean. We have a picture window and a patio that looks out onto the ocean and the offshore islands. But, no CNN. Bummer!
David was able to get a quick shower before dinner. We all walked over to the patio for outdoor dinner at 7:45. (Why was dinner so late? 90% of the population is Muslim, and they pray from 7 to 7:30.) There was a lot of choices, but not very many good ones. One of the good ones was spit-roasted lamb.
After dinner we were greeted by the owner of the resort and then welcomed by a government official. His pitch was, of course, that we should come back next year as tourists, enjoy the touristy amenities (of which there are many) and spend money. We would agree that Thailand and Malaysia are probably great places to visit as tourists.
At 9, all three of us were back in the room, but no bed or towels. Lisa went out to see whar she could stir up. She came back after a few minutes with a promise of, "right away."
At 9:45, housekeeping finally arrived with a rollaway bed. It was more like a combination cheap hideabed and hammock.
We gave Diane one of the real beds. David took the rollaway.
We noticed an arrow painted on the ceiling of our room. We found out that most rooms have those arrows, pointing toward Mecca, so people know which direction to face when praying.
Love to all,
This is, indeed, a TROPICAL paradise -- with the accent on TROPICAL. We found out at lunch today that this resort is closing right after we leave. November is the start of the monsoon season for this part of Malaysia and most resorts and tour boat operations shut down for the season.
And we saw why. About five storms came through today and tonight. All had times of heavy blowing wind and rain. Right now, in fact, at ten o'clock at night, there is a fierce storm raging outside. The rain is blowing in off the ocean, across our patio, and beating on our sliding glass door.
But, again, I'm ahead of myself. Today was a lazy, relaxing day. We just "hung out" all day. Lunch in the covered open air restaurant, reading in our room, reading on the pool deck, wading and swimming in the South China Sea (VERY warm water-- even warmer than the pool), visiting while sitting on the covered patio, and watching the clouds and rain come and go during most of the day.
Tonight was a fabulous buffet dinner on the covered deck of the restaurant, followed by two hours of entertainment. We all received free sarongs from the resort, compliments of "Malaysia Tourism," and tonight was billed as a "Sarong Party." About half of the riders -- even men!-- wore them. Most who didn't (men and women) said they "didn't look good in them."
We both wore them. Lisa thought David was "cute," and David thought Lisa was "a knockout." David even danced with the entertainers in his.
All in all, it was a delightful, relaxing day. There was nothing much to do -- and we did it -- all day!
Love to all,
|11/20||Malaysia, Merang to Kijal
We woke up several times last night from the sounds of nature -- first the sounds of the blowing rain beating on the windows, then the roar of the waves breaking on the beach. Comfortable! Pleasant! Soothing!
Because of the time change coming into Malaysia, it doesn't get light until 7. Because of that, breakfast didn't start until 7. And in spite of that, we were on the road at 7:30.
The route today went down some highways and also some quiet back roads. The countryside hasn't changed. Still lots of coconut palms, standing water and weathered houses.
And the people are still very friendly -- lots of waves, smiles, thumbs up, hellos and good mornings . . . and lots of giggles as they see the tandem.
At 42K, the State of Terrenganu had a reception for us. There was a large tent fly set up on one side of the road with about fifty chairs (for the dignitaries) under it. On the other side were four large tent flys with a hundred chairs (for the riders) set up looking across the street at the other group. Also under those flys were refreshments.
At 10 o'clock, we were welcomed by some officials of the state. They were very impressed with our efforts and achievements, they wished us well on our travels through Terrenganu, and they wanted to see us come back next year without our bikes. Then the governor came across the street (in the pouring down rain) to greet us personally. Very nice!
Because of the heavy downpour, we opted to hitch a ride on our bus from there. Since we were wet, and the bus was air conditioned, we just about froze on the ride to checkpoint.
At checkpoint, we picked up the rest of the riders who were on our bus. The rain had set in as a steady, heavy downpour, so the riders there were really soaking wet.
We drove from there to our overnight hotel, the Awana Kijal Golf and Beach Resort -- truly a five star resort. We walked into a big, beautiful, SPACIOUS lobby with a HUGE atrium.
We walked around the atrium area. There was every amenity anyone could want in a resort -- lounges, restaurants and cafes all over, game rooms for children and adults, pubs, business center, lots and lots of decks, club house for golf and tennis, etc.
We walked around the complex. It is surrounded by a beautiful golf course, a driving range, several nice tennis courts, and a large, magnificent swimming pool that included an area for lap swimming with lane lines, an area for lounging and lazing, and an entirely separate but connected shallow area for kids, including a water-oriented playground. (Lisa went swimming as David went to the driving range.
When we finally got in our room, it was MAGNIFICENT! One of the nicest rooms we've ever stayed in ANYwhere.
To the left of the entry is a large, light and airy bathroom. In one corner is a very large shower room. In the other is a similarly large room with a toilet. Opposite the sink is a large, louvered, double-sided wardrobe.
The living area is beautifully decorated. Light oak tables and desk with black marble tops and green marble legs. A mirror over the desk with a green filigreed frame and partially covered with wide spaced louvered shutters and a portrait light on the wall above it. Next to the desk, is the refrigerator in an oak cabinet with a large screen, stereo TV on top.
Opposite is a very large and comfortable king-size bed under a beautiful, padded, oak framed, green headboard. The bed is, of course, bounded by two, marble topped, oak night stands with very smart reading lamps atop.
And in the corner, next to the windows overlooking the tennis courts and the golf course, under a large mirror, is a large, hourglass-shaped bathtub. The tub is framed in marble tile and set in a slightly sunken marble basin.
What a place! Too bad we don't have a layover day HERE!
The dinner was laid out in the Ballroom. As we approached the wide stairway leading up to the ballroom, we were greeted by several of the staff who bid us welcome. Every few steps, on each side, there were ladies in fancy, traditional dress who sprinkled flower and herb seeds on us. At the top of the stairs were more greeters, backed up by traditional dancers and musicians. We felt like celebreties!
Malaysia is really trying to promote tourism, which is why we're geting the royal treatment.
Dinner was well-presented and really good. Lots of good foods.
After dinner, the hotel marketing manager gave out prizes to various riders. Truheart, Racer Bob and Walte were given trophies for being the first three in on the long ride today. Then Anita and Elbert were honored as the oldest woman and man on the ride.
Then a very special award was given to a rider, who shall remain anonymous in this journal, who rode her FIRST CENTURY! (that's 100 miles in one day, for anyone who may have forgotten)
Anyway, this rider is one who appears to be a bit overweight. She had had trouble with the biking early in the trip, for which she went home to get medical advice and to train more.
She rejoined the trip in D.C. She got on her bike every day and rode as long as she could. But, because of recurring back pain, it was very difficult for herto ride the whole day.
Several months ago, she was only able to ride about 20 miles before she had to sag, but she just kept on trying. Well, TODAY SHE DID THE WHOLE THING -- 100+ MILES -- AND SHE RECEIVED A WELL-DESERVED STANDING OVATION from all the riders for her achievement. It was a great moment.
Love to all,
We woke up early this morning to a steady, hard rain. As we were getting ready to leave, our phone rang. It was Lisa M. She was checking with everyone on our bus to see if they wanted to layover here. She found that the room rate would be only $40! (A resort like this would easily be five times as much in the US) If a majority agree, the bus and bike truck would stay behind, then leave early tomorrow and catch up with the other riders either at the next hotel or at tomorrow's checkpoint.
It didn't take us more than ten seconds to respond. YES!!! Count us in.
We had breakfast with Larry and Joan. They are riding because that was their mindset this morning, so they figured they'd just go ahead. We found that Dave and Mary Moulds and Bryan and Theresa are also riding.
The heavy rain hung in for most of the morning. Many riders stuck around for awhile hoping it would let up. And it finally did -- but only a little bit. Many riders left early in the heavy rain. The rest who were riding left later in the lighter rain.
We went back to our room and watched a movie on HBO. Very decadent to do that in the morning, but fun!
For most of the time during the day and the night, it rained, it poured, and, occasionally, it drizzled. Mostly it rained both harder and longer than I've ever seen.
Finally, during the afternoon, it stopped coming down. No sun ... but at least no rain. That gave Lisa the opening to go swimming.
And swim she did! First, for a half hour in the ocean. Splashing around, diving through waves, body surfing, and always coming up smiling. (I stood in the surf and watched. Ocean swimming is not my thing.)
Next Lisa went into the pool. She swam some laps, then stopped and visited with Catherine. Then she swam another lap or two, then chatted with Priscilla. Then swam another lap, then talked with Roma.
I was a stick-in-the-mud and just sat in a lawnchair, under a beach umbrella, through the off and on rain, and read.
Finally, all five of us went and sat in the covered hot tub for awhile. The women chatted, I read, and it started pouring again.
Throughout the day, I was making phone calls and sending e-mail's to get the New Zealand lodging and car rental set up. I left Lisa in the hot tub while I tried again to contact NovaRents (a car rental company in Northern Ireland that offers good rates on car rentals in New Zealand.)
We ended the day with a delicious dinner at the fine dining restaurant of the resort, Windows on the Sea. Of course our window looked out at the sea -- but it was so dark and rainy, we couldn't see anything.
Anita joined us at our table. She had already eaten but she sat and we had a nice visit while Lisa and I ate.
Love to all,
|11/22||Malaysia, Kijal to Kuala Rompin
Last night it thundered, lightninged and rained all night. This morning it was still dripping - raining - or pouring.
We were torn. We're nearing the end of the Odyssey, so we want to ride . . . but it's lousy biking weather . . . relatively uncomfortable and relatively unsafe for bicycles on the highways.
What to do??
We opted not to bicycle due to the safety issue. (We heard that several riders fell yesterday when they rode through what they thought were puddles, but actually were potholes covered with water.) So, we loaded our gear and our bike on the bus and truck and headed up the road along with some forty other safe and sane-minded cyclists.
The countryside is much the same as it has been for the last several days except for all the flooding. The nonstop rain has put a lot of the land under water.
Which reminds me, we learned something new about Muslim beliefs. Muslims (about 90% of the population) bury their dead in flood plains. So, today, Muslim cemeteries will be under water. Chinese (about 10%), on the other hand, bury their dead on high ground.
A few other things we learned are: The low income people (who qualify for fixed rent government housing) make from 350 to 1000 Ringet per month. Middle income (the majority of the people) make between 1,000 and 10,000 Ringet per month. What's that equal to in U.S.$$? Well, there are 3.8 Ringets to the dollar, so the low income range is approximately $100 to $260 per month for the poorer people, and $260+ to $2600 for most. Quite a range.)
As we drove up the road, we spotted a "check" board at the driveway to a resort -- but it wasn't the one on the DRG. We drove in and found that the original hotel didn't have enough rooms for Odyssey, so they moved to this one -- but SOME people will have to be shuttled to the original hotel because the new one wasn't big enough -- but no one knew yet who was where.
It was about 1 o'clock, and, since TK&A didn't have the rooms assigned yet, we had lunch. When we finished, we found out that the riders in this new hotel would be bunked three to a room while those assigned to the other (original) hotel will be four to a room -- and we were in the other hotel with Dick (Denver) and Barb (Portland).
We rode in our bus the 11K to our hotel. We arrived after 3:30. We got one key for the four of us and went to check out our room. It was pretty large. It looked out on the pool. But there was only one, king size bed and no towels.
Well, we reported it several times before we shuttled to dinner at the other hotel. When we returned at 8 o'clock, the conditions hadn't changed.
Back to the desk. Complain, complain. I even suggested perhaps they should just give us another room but they claimed not to have any. They said they would bring in two straw mattresses. We said that really wouldn't do, but they kind of had all the cards, so we acquiesced.
About 9, two folding cots (like tables) arrived, each with a thin, straw mattress. Since Dick and Barb earlier said they would take the roll-aways, it was their call. They accepted them, so we were finally set.
Earlier, while we were waiting for the beds and towels, Lisa and I decided to go for a swim. The resort had a very large (not as large as the last one but still very large by American hotel standards) lap pool. It rained and poured the whole time we were out there.
After dinner and the beds fiasco, we talked awhile with Dick and Barb. We found out that Dick is a veterinarian so we pumped him for his thoughts on which dogs would make good pets for two working people who lived in a condo.
He gave us some things to think about, then we went to sleep.
Love to all,
|11/23||Malaysia, Kualan Rumpkin to Mersing
As dawn broke this morning, we found it to be muggy and solid overcast. We decided to cycle "if" the rain stays up until after breakfast. It did, so we rode.
The DRG's for today and tomorrow were combined to make today a 200+K day and tomorrow a 50K day. Our bus group made a unilateral decision (unknown to us or Dick and Barbara) NOT to meet at checkpoint per the usual procedure, but for the people on the bus to "use their common sense" and to pickup somewhere around 80 to 90 K.
That's not a bad idea, but it was not communicated to everyone. Sooooo, we waited at checkpoint for awhile. We heard rumors that the pickup point had been moved and were fortunate that Helen came by about then. She confirmed the decision. (She blamed TK&A for having their checkpoint "too soon".)
The ride was mostly through remote, rolling hills on a highway with no shoulders and a lot of construction. It was not as bad as it may sound, though. We sped along at a good clip and had a nice ride.
The weather was spotty. The overcast turned to a light rain within a half an hour. Then a heavy rain set in, then it almost cleared as the overcast thinned. Finally, though it stayed overcast, there was no rain for the rest of the afternoon.
There were not many new sights. Lots more "Wesson" palms -- that is, palm trees grown for their oil for cooking. A fair amount of logging. Lots more kids sitting in small, weathered houses who would wave and shout "hello" as we rode by. Lots of forests. We even saw several monkeys sitting along the side the road.
The bus was at 90K, the original end of day. We hopped on it there. It turned out to be a good decision. Though the route was good (rolling hills and big curves -- great for tandems) most of the rest of the way was on a narrow highway with no shoulders and lots of traffic. And much of it was under construction, so we would have been riding on wet, muddy, rough, baserock. Not fun!
Our overnight stop tonight is at the Desaru Golden Beach Hotel. ANOTHER nice beach resort. Our room is in one of the "villas" overlooking the woods next to the ocean. It's a very pleasant "executive" room with a king-size bed to sleep in and a balcony to sit on.
Tomorrow, a short ride to the ferry that takes us into Singapore. Then another short ride to our hotel by the airport.
Love to all,
|11/24||Mersing + Malaysia to Singapore
Woke up at 5:30 this morning to hear another downpour outside. What to do on this, our second to last riding day of the Odyssey? (Our last until Dec. 31.) Our first thought, of course, was . . . no riding today. But, just in case, we dressed in the Odyssey Rose Bowl outfits. (First day and last day, you know.)
At breakfast we learned that, coming into Singapore, there are 197 riders still on the Odyssey. The final count for the $3,000 Odyssey Supplement is 57 riders. They will have 14 staff members supporting them.
By the time we finished breakfast, it had stopped raining and was just overcast . . . so we decided to ride.
On the way out of the resort we were greeted by a dozen or so monkeys. (They were looking for a handout, but they were cute!.)
The weather was HOT and HUMID! We felt like we were riding in a sauna! For the first hour we kept being hit by large drops of water. Normally we would think it was rain, but today, I think it was just the water vapor in the air condensing into big fat drops.
We got to the ferry about 9, in time to catch the 9:30 ferry. But our hard ride to make it by 9 was for naught. The ferry was delayed until after 10 while they processed paperwork -- probably for Odyssey.
The forty-five minute ferry ride was calm and uneventful. We landed at Singapore about 10:50. A short ride brought us to the very fancy Le Meridian Changi Hotel.
I exchanged our remaining Malaysian Ringets for Singapore Dollars (about 1.7 to the U.S. Dollar) while Lisa chatted with other riders. Then I picked up our airline tickets and a local map.
We walked down the road through the neighboring shopping area looking for an ATM and a restaurant. We bought Lisa a watch to replace the one she lost at the pool one day last week.
She had a hard time choosing between a more dressy watch and a pink sport watch. She chose the dressy one -- but later went back and got the sport model, too. (Watches are a good value here -- and you can bargain.)
We had lunch at a sidewalk cafe. We chatted with Susan Weider (Indiana) and Susan Ireton (North Carolina) over lunch. They were a kick!
Then we walked back to the hotel and got our room. The hotel, the lobby and the room are all pretty high class. (It would be at least $200 a night in San Francisco.)
After lunch we collected our gear from the lobby, then I watched a movie while Lisa went out for her second watch. When Lisa returned, we walked over to the ocean for a final dip into the warm waters of the South China Sea.
Last night was the big "end-of-Odyssey" dinner and party. The dinner was what we've come to expect lately -- simply great!
Then the party after was a blast!! The highlight was the fashion show. It was a real kick. A lot of straight fashions, and a lot of tongue-in-cheek acts. One was Cammy and Bobbie as "sisters" in the same style but different color dresses. (Bobbie wore a long, dark wig.) Another was Rod doing a strip tease. His final outfit was a two-piece bikini made of dollar bills taped together to cover the (real and imagined) vital parts. And the coup-de-gras was look-alikes Ben, Jim and Charlie doing a bump and grind routine -- wearing ONLY their Odyssey helmets . . . .
Saying last goodbys to those that are leaving was difficult. We finally got to bed at midnight.
Love to all,
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