Wet twisties in Malaysia
It's another border crossing today and Peter escorts us down on his R1100RS. We say farewell and begin the procedures. Although there was a little to and froing both sets of officials were done in around 1.5 hours and that included insurance, police permits and carnet. Instead of headng south we tackle the road east to Kota Bharu. Winding roads through the forests culminating in a tropical downpour at Keroh. We found shelter in a hotel just as another down pour beings.
More mountains and twisties to Kota Bahru with the road flattening out closer to the coast. Accomodation at the Ideal Travellers Guest House was considerably more expensive than similar places in Thailand. In general, food and accomodation was more expensive in Malaysia. Most women here are dressed in long bright floral dresses (two pieces) with a coloured scarf wrapped tightly under the chin. No hair is exposed however, most wear makeup and are generally quite friendly. It is amazing how differently the Islamic law is interpreted through all the Moslem countries we have travelled.
Our travelling companion Connor who has been with us for a lot of our trip since Iran decided to return to the U.K. Being a qualified vet and the dilema over foot and mouth in England has swayed him enough to return. He departed for K.L. and last we heard the bike was in storage and he was back in England. His plans are to return in 3-4 months and continue onto Australia.
Plenty of rain in Kota Bahru had us delaying our departure down the east coast. Stopping several times at Marang, Kuala Dungan and Chendor we baulk at the high cost of accomodation for very ordinary rooms. Finally at Cherating a quiet beach area we park the bike at the Coconut Inn which has great little rustic chalets with shower and toilet at a reasonal price. Two nights here listening to the birds and the rain drops on an unlined tin roof. Very tropical.
Mersing is the gateway to many of the eastern islands and we arrive just as a thunder storm circles the city. Enjoy satay chicken sticks for dinner but agree the one we consumed in Bangkok were much better.
South towards Johor Bahru we investigate the ferry times to Changi on Singapore Island. The next was at 6.30pm, too late for us. Getting to this point we must have ridden through the heaviest rain on the peninsula. The sky was black and each drop felt like half a cup of water. Lucky it is warm rain.
Johor Bahru is the 2nd largest ciy in Malaysia and it has traffic to match. Basic accomodation was expensive but as this was the main crossing point to Singapore it could not be avoided. Motorcycle chaos as thousands of Malays cross the border each day to work. Arranging a legal entry was tedious but the officals were extremely helpful, advising us of all the do's and don'ts in Singapore. We parted with too many hard earned dollars for our short visit but hearing of the efficiency of Singaporean beauracrats made us do everthing correctly. Being a weekend we had no road tolls to pay although we still had to buy the 'toll card' to be legal. It's a souvenir now just like the excess number of parking tickets we had to buy.
Riding in Singapore was an orderly affair although a number of taxis 'carved' us up. Each country we visit has its own quirky ways of driving. Patience Ken, patience. The roads are clean and wide and the sign posting excellent. We still missed our turn off to Changi however and ended up riding into the real prison to find out where the Changi Prison Museum was situated. It was only 200mtrs down the road. With free entry we spent two hours reading the history of the fall of the island to the Japanese and the horrific treatment metred out to its occupants.
Cruising back to town we find accomodation at the Ah Chew Hotel parking the bike on the street with guarantees from the manager and the staff of the attached restaurant that all would be safe. Raffles Hotel was very close and we entertained ourselves wandering around this old colonial monument. Carol had a Singapore Sling and I had a pint of Guiness. Pure decadence as we munch our dry roasted nuts, throwing the shells onto the floor (this is the done thing here) of the world famous 'Long Bar'.
The Singapore Zoo was worth the visit with the orangutans providing us with the most enjoyment. The resident anaconder gave birth to 23 young ones that morning so she was looking decidedly loose around the middle.
Tackling the causeway border crossing back to Malaysia at 5pm on a Sunday with some 500-600 small motorcycles is front of us and a similar number behind us (and increasing) was not a good idea. We swelter as the line slowly shrinks towards the immigration booths. Stamped and processed the fun begins again. Checking to see if we owe any road tax and showing customs how to complete a carnet de passage. Amazing!! We reach our hotel after 7pm.
Exiting Johor Bahru we experience a misfire and roll to a stop. An ignition wire under the triple clamp has broken. Reaching Melaka in sunny weather was a first for many a days travel. We stayed at Robins Nest with the bike parked on the footpath below. The bike cover deters the lookers and touchers when we park under these conditions. Plenty of sight seeing at this old, now almost redundant port. Museums abound and the replica of the old Portugese sailing ship reminds us of the history that envelops the area. Our hosts at the Guest House cook up a great Malay feed and all the guests retire that night with a very contented look.
It is not far to K.L. so we decide on the long route, east towards Kuantan on highway 12 and then back west on highway 2. This is over 500kms and we were surprised on how easy we did the journey. There were plenty of winding roads through the mountains with highway 12 being lined entirely with palm tree oil plantations.
We stayed at the Sun Kong Hotel in Chinatown. It is always busy in Chinatowns and this one is no exception. We cruise the markets looking for bargains but most are items from Thailand where they are much cheaper. At Sunny Motorcycles we have our troublesome shock checked. The mechanic finds a loose swing arm and agrees to add more preload to the spring. Adding more nitrogen the next day the suspension and handling improves.
Our next stop north was the Cameron Highlands. Up there the weather is cool and damp and Tanah Rata (the village) has plenty of guest houses. We stumble into the Twin Pines and have an enjoyable two days mixing with travellers and sightseeing. High rise appartments and hotels grow out of the jungle and it disappoints us to see the overdevelopment. Returning down the twisty mountain road we reach the warm humid plains again and make a dash to Penang hoping to arrive before the inevitable afternoon thunder storm. Our haste was in vain as we collected a spike of steel deflating our rear tyre. Once again our patches would not bond to the asian tube so we replaced the tube.
In Georgetown, Penang we endeavour to ship our bike to Medan in Indonesia but the asking price exceeds our budget. We contact the Indonesian Consulate and photocopy their requirements to bring the bike in. Their rules are so far out of date but what can be done??
Sunday we left Penang and headed back to Melaka as we had information of a better and easier deal from that port. The deal is done and we depart for Dumai 25/4/01. We are on the passenger ferry and the bike is on a beaten up old cargo boat. Hope the pirates don't get her and it is a calm crossing. Indonesia here we come.
(for information concerning how we got into Indonesia see www.HorizonsUnlimited.com)
Shipping the bike can only be done on a cargo vessel. We were directed to an agent by the Customs Officer in Melaka who was very helpful.
Company name.............Jalinan Muara Enterprise, 865-1 Jalan Semabok,
75050 Melaka. H/P 012-6238438 Tel/Fax: 06-2921867. This office is located beside the ferry terminals.
Cost to ship the bike is 400RM Passenger Fares + Dep. Tax is 59RM each There will be charges on the other side but that will be negotiable. We will forward other info. connected to this once we have reached Indonesia. We have heard that entering through this port the Customs are 'very gentle' and only the Carnet is required. Not a letter of Invitation as was necessary in the past. Hope this is of help. There is a Peter looking for this info. on the BB but we have run out of time to post a reply.
Posted by Carol Duval at April 24, 2001 04:22 AM GMT