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Route Planning Where to go, when, what are the interesting places to see
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  #1  
Old 22 Jul 2011
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Routes in Borneo, Sulawesi, Philippines etc. ?

I´ve done some travelling in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia in the past. But in Malaysia, only on the peninsular part. And in Indo, only some western parts (namely Sumatra, Java & Bali).

But Borneo, Sulawesi, all of Philippines, Maluku Islands, Papua, Papua New Guinea.............. there´s a huge number of islands, that are more or less like a "black hole" on my map! They don´t seem to be so much visited by overlanders either, especially if you compare to some other parts of Asia. For some years now, I´ve though about shipping my bike to Thailand or Western Malaysia, and exploring from there. Or buying a small bike or even a scooter from Thailand (Indo might also be a possibility). Or who knows, maybe even sending my bike to Philippines, or buying something from there, could be the way to go. I´ll have to research those options more.

I know it´ll probably take a lot of time to go to areas like this, but could even think about leaving the vehicle somewhere, and returning later on to continue. I´d try to stay at least 2-3 months at a time, and for me to arrange the time off from work, I´d need to do the trips starting around November-December each year.

So, what to do you do to get your bike to that region (I am under the impression, that there aren´t any ferries from Western Malaysia to Malaysian Borneo, for example)? From Java, (and it you´ve got plenty of time, as I´ve already noticed, their so-called timetables can be very flexible!!) you should probably be able to find some ferries going to most Indonesian islands, right? Those boat trips could be memorable, but I´d still probably do it that way, rather than freight the bike, if I can avoid that, because that´s guaranteed to wreck my nerves!

Pelni, who operates many longer boat routes in Indo, said they don´t transport bikes. Anyone have any idea, if that is negotiable (this is something, that made me think about a very small bike, as it might be easier to persuade them at the harbour)?? It´ll definitely be a setback, if bikes aren´t widely accepted into boats. Maybe it means only big bikes? And I know there´s nothing written in stone in that part of the world, either!

And a tougher one: are there any ´ferries´ or other boats, that one could use to move between Indonesia, Philippines, and possibly even Papua New Guinea (or maybe PNG could probably be best to do as a backpacker, so no bike – and in that case you could of course fly, too)?

I know that in some places, road conditions might be interesting, especially if there have been rains, and on some of the islands there practically aren´t any roads, so you move mostly by boat. And there´s still the paperwork side of things, especially with your vehicle, and that can naturally have a big
impact on your route-planning.

But just generally: if you were going to explore that region, had 2-3 months, aren´t even planning to try and see it all on one trip (and even if you´d perhaps prefer to start more on the ´easy´ side first, it doesn´t really matter, where you start, because it´ll all be uncharted territory for you), what would you do?



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  #2  
Old 22 Jul 2011
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Just my opinion, but I think the minuses of manhandling a big bike around that part of the world far outweigh the pluses. Unless you're the masochistic type, or maybe an attention seeker who thrives on the whole celebrity thing - an inevitable consequence of rocking up to a third world village on something worth more than a local house.

I know 99% of the locals ride bikes under 250cc simply because they can't afford anything else. But the other side of it is that they're far more practical in most situations and on most roads. Some of the scariest moments of my life have been riding big bikes on and off various boats, or over diabolical roads in SE Asia.

We've been hanging out near Penang for a while, and every time I take the Dakar out for a blast through the rice paddies, or some of the twisty mountain roads near Thailand, I think what a perfect bike this is for around here. A few weeks ago we did 1000ks into Thailand, and again the BMs were great. But for the places you're talking about, bikes like this are just a huge pain in the ass IMO.

By a cheap local 125. Who cares if it breaks down. Anyone can fix it. Who cares if some idiot in a Hilux totals it. At most you've blown a couple of grand. So what if the road turns to shit. Some of these little 125s are supreme off-road machines. And because they're much easier to ride, you're gonna have a lot more fun doing it.

I can't really comment on the paperwork thing, other than to say we've used carnets all through this region. There's some garbage floating around these forums relating to Indonesia and carnets, but if you're determined to import your own bike you'll need one. Indo customs expect one, so you'll be at their mercy otherwise. But who knows if you're bringing in a Thai registered 125? You'll be a bit of novelty for sure, but I'm guessing the fee to import it will be a helluva lot lower than if it was a 1200GS.

As for hopping between islands, I was going to say do a search of the forums, but the search on this site is pretty bad so... yeah it's possible to go Java, Kalimanatan, Borneo, Sulawesi and Flores by vehicle ferry. Don't know about the rest. You can always negotiate bike transport on Pelni, even big bikes. It's simply a matter of finding the right guy to pay off. To give you a rough idea of price, a Pelni guy in Makassar (Sulawesi) offered to take our 2 BMs to Balikpapan (Kalimantan) for about 1 1/2 times the cost of the ferry tickets. But we didn't haggle very hard, and didn't end up going that way in the end. But we're talking Indo rupiahs, not euros, so it's not going to break you.

You could easily spend 2-3 months in any of places you mentioned. And you probably already know this, but I can only say that the slower you go, the more time you spend in any one spot, the more likely you are to get to know the locals, and the more rewarding your travels will be. And yes you're right, for better or worse, Indo boat trips sure are memorable

Cheers
Lucas
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  #3  
Old 22 Jul 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somemustard View Post

As for hopping between islands, I was going to say do a search of the forums, but the search on this site is pretty bad so...
We all agree. It's the same with most BB forums

Sorry, can't help with the question by the OP, but if you put the following into Google you might find some answers

site:horizonsunlimited.com indonesia ferry

(of course you can substitute other search criteria )

HTH
Chris
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  #4  
Old 22 Jul 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somemustard View Post
every time I take the Dakar out for a blast through the rice paddies, or some of the twisty mountain roads near Thailand, I think what a perfect bike this is for around here. A few weeks ago we did 1000ks into Thailand, and again the BMs were great. But for the places you're talking about, bikes like this are just a huge pain in the ass IMO.

By a cheap local 125. Who cares if it breaks down. Anyone can fix it. Who cares if some idiot in a Hilux totals it. At most you've blown a couple of grand. So what if the road turns to shit. Some of these little 125s are supreme off-road machines. And because they're much easier to ride, you're gonna have a lot more fun doing it.
Thanks for your comments! Yeah, I actually once had a 115cc Yamaha Nouvo in Thailand, and did some great tours to Cambodia & Laos with it (was actually with some friends, and trying to get into Vietnam, we tried real hard, too, but in the end the customs wouldn´t let us in!)...

And you´re right, you don´t really need a bigger bike for anything over there (unless you´re doing a long tour 2-up maybe). Small, lightweight local bikes have clear advantages in many places, and you´ll even find parts for them in every remote village!

A 125 bike or scooter from Indo might be my best choice, and that way I could probably get around the carnet-thing, too ... (or I don´t know yet, maybe Philippines could also be a possibility).

Seems very hard to find accurate info about the options to transport you & the bike across the seas in that region.. like the Pelni website, that lists newest departures in 2006!! Didn´t expect it to be like in Europe, though
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  #5  
Old 23 Jul 2011
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I believe beddhist maintains a spreadsheet of vehicle ferry schedules for Indonesia. Don't ask me where to find it though. I could probably tell you what days they go as of 2 years ago, but they may have changed by now. I think the key thing is that nearly all of them go at least once a week. Other than that it's a bit of a lottery.

Come to think of it, beddhist's girlfriend was on a Thai registered 250 coming through Indo, so maybe he can shed some light on the paperwork.

And just to clarify the Pelni thing - if you walk into a Pelni office they will flat out refuse to transport your bike. They're passenger only. But as I said, there are ways around that.

One thing to be aware of also if you're trying to map out a rough plan, is that vehicle ferries and Pelni usually follow completely separate routes.
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  #6  
Old 23 Jul 2011
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Indonesia

I was in Sulawesi a couple of years ago backpacking/researching for Rough Guides, and spent most of the bus journeys longing for my bike - a lot of the roads, especially in the south of the island, are surprisingly good, though other traffic on them is not!

Can't add much to what has already been said about ferries, other than that there are companies other than Pelni operating on certain routes. As has been mentioned everyone there drives wee scooters, however I did meet a local guy, based in Java, who organises tours on BMW 1200GS. Not what you want, but he may be able to give you some info on how best to get bikes between islands - I have his card at home so will post the info when I'm back in a few days (feel free to PM me if you haven't heard, it's been a busy few weeks!).

Hope that helps.

Laura
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  #7  
Old 26 Jul 2011
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^ Ok thanks, sounds very interesting!

And yes, I´ve thought so many times in Asian traffic (especially in India and Indonesia!) that I do NOT envy the backpackers, who´ll need to trust their lives in the hands of the crazy local bus and car drivers.

Probably not the safest thing to do to ride a motorcycle in those countries, either, but at least there are a few ´survival tactics´, that you can use. When you´re sitting on a bus or a pick-up, all you can do is pray.. and that´s just what I did, when I saw them make their passes on blind curves, with other heavy vehicles coming straight at them!!

Following a long-distance bus in India for a while (doing about 100kph in very heavy traffic) was among the craziest experiences, that I have ever had!
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Old 26 Jul 2011
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Originally Posted by pecha72 View Post
Following a long-distance bus in India for a while (doing about 100kph in very heavy traffic) was among the craziest experiences, that I have ever had!
Hehe, we did quite a bit of that on Java, and while we grew to really hate the bus drivers, I've gotta admit it was pretty hilarious sometimes watching them barrelling down the road towards us, traffic scattering in all directions. That said, there were times I just wanted to drag one out the front door and beat the living shit of him. All part of the fun I guess
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  #9  
Old 24 Oct 2011
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Local bikes in Indo

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Originally Posted by pecha72 View Post
Thanks for your comments! Yeah, I actually once had a 115cc Yamaha Nouvo in Thailand, and did some great tours to Cambodia & Laos with it (was actually with some friends, and trying to get into Vietnam, we tried real hard, too, but in the end the customs wouldn´t let us in!)...
I can add some info to this. Having taking a BMW to Borneo previously and regretted it, I am also looking at options for using a local bike. One problem that foreigners face in Indo is that you can't own bike without a residency permit. I'm fortunate that some local friends are willing to be the proxy owner for me.

There are no bikes commercially available in Indo that are bigger than 250cc. In fact anything bigger than 150cc is rare. Bikes 150cc and less are mostly made in India, Thailand or elsewhere in S-E Asia and cost about $2k. Anything bigger is made mostly in Japan and cost a *lot*. Example: Kawasaki KLX250 costs about $7,500.

I'm looking at either a Yamaha LC135 (5 speed manual clutch) or Suzuki Raider 150 (aka Satria) which is a 6 speed manual clutch. The Yammie is EFI which is not so good if you are a expecting to fill up outside of cities, so the Suzuki looks the goods. For me the availability of chunky tyres is the make-or-break issue as I will be hitting the logging roads, but local riders tackle pretty bad roads with normal city tyres.

Lack of suspension travel is probably the biggest problem with scooters - it means they are badly affected by potholes (of which there are about a billion!). I had a confy ride at say 40 kmh on the BMW where locals were carefully weaving around the holes at about 20 kmh.

Re ferries, the info about Pelni is likely not useful to you, since they don't have RO-RO. You can get your bikes carried as freight, meaning it has to be hoisted on and off, with the associated costs and delays.
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  #10  
Old 29 Oct 2011
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Kalimantan from Java no problem

Hi Pecha72,

You can get your bike to Pontianak, Kalimantan from Semarang in Java, the ferries (PT Dharma Lautan Utama) schedule only comes out close to the end of the month.

PT. Dharma Lautan Utama | armada pelayaran nasional

Use google translate if you have snags.

Mr Lim's onion barge (Cakra Shipping) is also running from Penang(Malaysia) to Belawan (Sumatra)

I'm in Kuching at the moment and heading to Kota Kinabalu, plans are to get from the east coast to Sulawesi, no idea yet how thats going to happen, I'll just cross that bridge (sea) when I come to it.

As for bikes, smaller ones are more handy and much less hassle on the dodgy roads of Indonesia. Much easier to pick up when you drop them :-) the main issue is comfort and the kit carrying capability of it. I'd happily swop the GSA for a 125 but to carry my kit would be impossible. Travel as light as poss and enjoy.

The blogs well behind due to a crash in Sumatra but it might give you a heads up somewhere, or maybe the links page of all the other bikers we've met on route. GSA World Tour . Com

Hope that helps a little,

John
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  #11  
Old 29 Oct 2011
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Originally Posted by pecha72 View Post
...if you were going to explore that region, had 2-3 months, ... what would you do?
Although I agree with the others who have suggested that using a 'big bike' would not be a good idea, I don't think I would want to do such a trip on one of the 125cc or 150cc 'weed-whackers with wheels' that the locals use. Keep in mind that the locals don't do long distance touring on those things, they use them in their own villages.

I think a dirt bike with good size panniers in the 400 to 650 cc range would be an appropriate choice. You want something with fairly large size wheels (not to mention fairly sturdy wheels), and sufficient power to carry you and your kit. The limiting factor at the upper end of the size range will be how easily you can manhandle the bike on and off of ferries. There's also a certain safety benefit in the conspicuity that comes from riding something different than the other 1,000 bikes that are within arm's reach of you at any time - the locals will be unlikely to mistake you for one of them, and will probably give you a slightly wider berth in traffic.

Michael
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  #12  
Old 29 Oct 2011
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Probably true about the wider berth. But at least the 115 scooter I had in Thailand turned out to be a surprisingly good choice for Cambodia and Laos. I don´t know how comparable it really is, but I´m not kidding if I say we did some pretty bad roads with them, too. And while it wasn´t the rainy season then, it is good to keep in mind, that locals do ride them year round.

I´m not saying it´d be the best choice for deep sand or mud, in fact it´s quite far from that. But generally it handled just about everything I asked of it. On good roads it could do 115-120 kms on the clock all day. I remember I often thought, that hell, when riding 1-up, this tiny machine can do almost everything that a bigger bike could (for me, and for that region I mean!)

Another big bonus was, that they could be fixed just about anywhere, even the smallest villages had tyres and even parts for them (the wheels often needed some servicing, with spokes coming off or even rims bent). And it was dirt cheap to buy and own. When you factor in the many boat-trips that you´re likely to do in the region discussed here, and how big an advantage will a small, lightweight bike have, I may well go for a local bike. I also remember seeing some 150-180cc Honda Tiger bikes (not scooters) in Sumatra and Java, and they looked pretty well made. Something like that could also be worth a look.
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Old 8 Jul 2012
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I just found this today and as we are currently in Indonesia it sums up my feelings completely. I had some really nasty thoughts about those murderous bus drivers and some real dreams about their demise.

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Originally Posted by somemustard View Post
Hehe, we did quite a bit of that on Java, and while we grew to really hate the bus drivers,... That said, there were times I just wanted to drag one out the front door and beat the living shit of him. All part of the fun I guess
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Old 8 Jul 2012
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Good advice! Wish I read this before shipping my big ass bike to Indo. Would have been cheaper and easier with a local bike!

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Just my opinion, but I think the minuses of manhandling a big bike around that part of the world far outweigh the pluses. Unless you're the masochistic type, or maybe an attention seeker
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