By bike through Malaysia Part 1: Kedah’s Paddy fields

Roberto cycles through Kedah's Paddy fields

Roberto cycles through Kedah’s Paddy fields

Through Kedah’s Paddy fields

Country: Malaysia

From Kepala Batas, Alor Setar to Kampung Dew

Lesson learned: It is possible (but not advisable) to cycle without showering for full 18 days

Laughed about: “Love you Mister Arrogant”

Most wonderful miracle: The secret bikepaths of Kedah

Food we ate: Seafood

Greatest challenge: Traffic and darkness in Perak

Days on the bike: 4

Kilometers cycled: 254.36

Average Kilometers per day: 63,59

Total Kilometers cycled till Kampung Dew: 13118.81

Total days travelled till Kampung Dew: 766


We enjoyed our time in Kepala Batas. Finally we were able to work a lot and spend time with our friends. But at the same time we missed the adventure. We wanted to be back on the bikes, camp in a field, feel the wind and not have a clue what he day would bring. Roberto had been walking without crutches for some days already when we started.

The UiTM students plan to travel to China and raised money for their travel

The UiTM students plan to travel to China and raised money for their travel

First we headed north to Arau in the state of Perlis, where the UiTM University invited us for a presentation. Arau was less than 40 Kilometers away, a great short trip to get back into the cycling rhythm after 2 months without cycling. The roads were quiet and the wind blew into our faces. I smiled. From the following day on we would be cycling south with tailwind then.

Picture time after the presentation

Picture time after the presentation

Our presentation went on well and many of the students asked questions and took pictures afterwards. At night the professor Yasser, who was a cyclist as well, took us out to have dinner with him and his sons Yafeeq and Yaqeef.

Wanwan and Tash want to travel by bike

Wanwan and Tash want to travel by bike

By the following morning, Wanwan and Tash, two of the students, came to visit us before we made our way. They were inspired to do a bike travel as well, but they were afraid it would be difficult to cycle with Hijab, find a place to pray and get Halal food along the way. I had never seen this problem before and was happy the girls asked so openly for our opinion and I think we could help them.

The Busana Azzahra team waved goodbye to us

The Busana Azzahra team waved goodbye to us

After breakfast we headed back to Kepala Batas with a stop at our friend Sharon’s bike shop in Jitra. We have met Sharon and her associate Wong when we were looking for a good bike shop and they were the only ones to sell quality things like bike panniers, saddle tubes and lights and also offer reparation. Most bike shops in Southern Thailand and Malaysia either offer parts or service. Sharon and Wong decided that they wanted to start a business exchange with us and we spent the entire afternoon in their shop. In the end both our bikes were better than new.

Sharon loves cycling. She will help us to promote Kedah's secret bike paths

Sharon loves cycling. She will help us to promote Kedah’s secret bike paths

We only cycled for another 15 kilometers to Alor Setar and spent another night at Apit’s place before we got going by the following noon. As usual it was hot and windy. We rode some 10 kilometers on the main road before we got into a small road through the fields.

The state of Kedah is full of paddy fields. It was harvesting season and many people were outdoors. Parallel to the canals that watered the fields, there were some narrow asphalted roads, too thin for cars and perfect for cyclists.

On the way to the mountain

On the way to the mountain

The network of those roads was wide, but there were no roadsigns or bike-maps, so we just stuck to the main canal, the most antique one, called Wan Muhammad Saman canal. It was finished in 1896 by Kedah’s chief minister Dato Wan Muhammad Saman Bin Wan Ismail. The canal measures 31 kilometers (Malaysia’s longest Aqueduct) and was built to boost its rice production. It connects Alor Setar, the catipal of Kedah, with the Gunung Jerai Mountain further south.

Between the Paddy fields and the historical canal

Between the Paddy fields and the historical canal

The wind blew softly, the sun shone hard and the bikes rolled fine. In my little home town I used to cycle to the neighbouring villages via the bike paths a lot and the flat countryside, the smell of cow dung, moist grass and a slight bit of salt in the wind reminded me of home. But thanks to the palm trees, rice fields and the 40°C heat I knew where I really was. Both our new chains made our pedalling much easier and we were happy to be back on those bikes once more. We had a long way to go and cycled fast. The new gel saddles that Selle Royal had sent us from Italy, were more than comfortable from the first moment on.

Through the fields back to the main road

Through the fields back to the main road

When we left Kedah and got into our second state, Perak, the traffic changed. First the motorbike lane disappeared, then there were more and more buildings and hardly any lanterns to light the street and finally the traffic increased so much that some cars passed by us so close that I was afraid they would hit my handlebar and kick me off my bike. We hurried to make use of the little daylight that was still left and did not stop for dinner until it was completely dark. I raised my saddle so the small saddle light would be visible with all my baggage on the rack. If we could not see anything then at least we wanted to be visible. If only we had a strong front light. But our new lights were on the way to Singapore, nearly 1000 kilometers away from us, and we would have to live without them for now.

If only there were some signs or maps!

If only there were some signs or maps!

We spent the night 92 Kilometers further south with Aris, his brother and the family. While we stayed with Aris in his home near Butterworth, a Malaysian cyclist was cycling through Germany, staying at Aris’ brother’s place in Bremen. Aris’ brother Lepat was another old friend of mine and so the circle was complete.

We watched “Kampung Girl” (Village girl) and “Love you Mister Arrogant” in Malay and played with the kids before we went to sleep.

Computer lessons - I wonder who teaches who?

Computer lessons – I wonder who teaches who?

By the following morning we got back into the crazy traffic – and immediately got lost. The first thing I did was to buy a map of the country, while Roberto asked some people for directions. A nice man sent us back on our track, but in order to reach it, we would have to cycle on the highway and cross two lanes of it.

It was not as scary as our first highway experience near Thessaloniki, Greece, but yet we were more than happy to leave the many lanes behind us.

If only we could completely stay off the highways!

If only we could completely stay off the highways!

We stopped for lunch in one of those many buffet-restaurants where you get a plate with rice and fill it with fish, meat, vegetables, eggs of all kind, curries and whatever you may feel like. It wasn’t even 5 € for a lot of cold drinks and two plates with so much seafood that it would fill two hungry cyclists. We repaired the second flat tyre before we continued. For we had to squeeze to a think line on the side of the street, we were not really able to avoid cables, truck tyres and glass on the road and had to pull sharp metal cable rests out of our tyres every now and then.

Another cyclist! We would have nearly missed Beto from Mexico.

Another cyclist! We would have nearly missed Beto from Mexico.

After one minute we reached a new state – Perak – and immediately the motorbike lane was back. Another minute later we saw another cyclist on the side of the street. It was Beto, another Mexican cyclist, who we had tried to meet along the way. He cycled up north and we had barely done 50 Kilometers south today. Since he was not is such a hurry as we were, he decided to turn around and accompany us for some 20-30 Kilometers, so we could get to know each other. It was the first time that we had cycled together with somebody for more than 10 Kilometers and we all were very excited. I was glad we did not take longer to repair the flat tyre, for we could have easily missed each other.

Yes we got that entire house for ourselves - well, we were the only humans inside.

Yes we got that entire house for ourselves – well, we were the only humans inside.

We found shelter in a very very old homestay. I think nobody but some mice had spent the night there in years. Though they had found the house before we did, we had to live with their company – same about the cockroaches and the funny little animals in the toilet and the washing water.

Perak offers a motorbike lane wide enough for two people

Perak offers a motorbike lane wide enough for two people

Beto was excited to hear about our less extreme but yet inspiring way of travel and we could not get enough of his stories about his ride with a very extreme cyclist who only ate once a day and did not shower for 18 – yes, that is right, eighteen full days.

After breakfast we continued separately again, Beto headed back North, pedalling the same 30 Kilometers for the third time and we continued south.

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  1. Hector says:

    How long has Beto been cycling?

    • admin admin says:

      Hello Héctor,
      that is a good question. I think it must have been about a month or two when we met. But I am sure he will be on the road for quite some time.
      All the best,

  2. achmat says:

    hi Annika
    I love your spirit. I plan to ride Malaysia on my motorbike. I don’t have the legs to pedals like you guys. I am more interested in riding the paddy fields and miss the big cities. I know it would be costly but I am saving still. I want to take my bike over and then ride as far as I can and then possibly leave it there and return home to work for more leave and then return there again to continue. any advice. or would you say take a bicycle.

    • Hey Hey Achmat,

      I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time! In the end if you stick to the countyside and avoid the big towns, it may not even be as costly of a trip as you had thought. Especially if you bring a tent.
      I’ll be looking forward to hear how your motorbike ride was! Keep us updated 🙂


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