This is part of the first section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Indonesia
Having just settled into the ways of the Indonesians it was time to start all over again adjusting to the language, bureaucracy, roads, drivers and people of a different country. If it all sounds like hard work, don't travel. It is this constant change that makes travelling as interesting as it is.
The bike arrived on time and without damage at the Pinang wharf. Unloading was the same as loading, riding it up and over the gunnel of the boat. I had a couple of spectators, apart from the usual hundred or so locals. Two Dutch motorbike riders heading for Sumatra. The unloading of the bike was easier with the tide at the right level. Customs here were very efficient and courteous, allowing me access to the wharf and delivery of the bike within a couple of hours. Whilst they were uncertain with the carnet, they processed it without problems. I tried for the rest of the day to obtain people (third party person) insurance for the motorcycle but it seemed impossible to obtain and I decided to risk riding without it.
Pinang seems to be the congregating point for overland motorcycle travellers. Travelling generally from Europe and leaving in Autumn they seem to arrive in Pinang around late March to early April. There were nine people on eight bikes at a dinner just prior to my arrival. I had the opportunity to meet two Dutch round the world motorcycle (RTW) travellers heading for Indonesia. One had come via Russia, Japan and Thailand while the other had come the more traditional route through Iran and India. Whilst still in Malaysia I met a further seven RTW travellers on five motorbikes. These were to be the only RTW motorcycle travellers I met during six months of travel and all within two weeks.
On a trip around the island, nice windy road, the biggest cultural shock was that the bike here didn't draw a crowd nor did people find the need to touch and sit on the bike. This was a pleasant difference to Indonesia where I was unable to leave the bike uncovered for fear of unintended but real over loving damage from people wanting to touch, fiddle and sit.
Roads and freeways as good as home, and motorcycles are allowed on toll ways free. The North, South road from Thailand to Singapore is a superb toll way (not exciting for motorcycles) and needing to cover distances quickly to Kuala Lumpur was a dream. I was on my way to Singapore to see my wife for the first time in two months.
Kuala Lumpur was the first stop on the way south and getting lost here was easy. After trying to find a place in the city for an hour going round and round one way streets I finally gave up and hailed a taxi. Which I followed to the accommodation. The taxi driver thought it weird leading a Harley through the city.
The bike had not been serviced since Darwin in Australia and was now crying out for an oil change and grease. Apart from an oil weep around the regulator connection it was a standard service. It was great to see the Harley dealer in Kuala Lumpur, not having one in Indonesia. The service here was excellent and the per hour labour charges extremely cheap by Australian standards. Hospitality overwhelming again. This all seems part of the Harley family or H.O.G. club hospitality. The management invited visiting Harley representatives from the USA and myself to lunch and dinner with a floor show followed the next day with a ride around the local area.
Off to Singapore and again the freeway was excellent. Customs, no hassles and really polite and efficient as only the Singaporese can be. This is a planned city. Very little traffic, because of the tender system to get a vehicle permit, and the cost of restricted city driving. My wife arrived at the airport toting a rear tire ($100 cheaper in Aust. than Asia) and will be travelling with me for four weeks and the rest is personal. Again a warm welcome from the Harley dealer here. Friendly staff and club members. The whole of Asia seems very welcoming.
Asia has this annual super bike event based on Sturgis. (A super bike is just a large motorcycle) It is a ride to Phuket in Thailand from all over Asia. Affectionately called Phurgis. The bulk of riders start in Singapore joining up with riders from Hong Kong (who have shipped their motorcycles to Singapore for the event) and joining other riders from Malaysia along the way. It is a 3000 km round trip taking a week including three days of partying.
The border crossing into Malaysia with 50 Harleys and into Thailand with 100 Harleys was a dream. Paperwork almost non existent with such a large force. They ride hard on the freeways at 140 km/hr but are more sedate on twisty roads. There seems to be no pattern to the riding, just join a group and go. If you want to go faster or slower ride on your own or join another group. Everyone then meets at the pre arranged stops for fuel or lunch. Nice and casual. Hurtling through traffic in Thailand at 120 km/hr gets the adrenaline running and indeed a few accidents occurred.
Welcome dinner, partying and events similar to Australia with wet T-shirt, slow race, and horizontal bungie. Plenty of donated prizes especially booze. The sponsoring dealers and hotel owners seemed to pick up the bill on almost all the meals and booze. A different story to back home. As you can expect we had a great time of which I remember very little. It seemed an endless shifting of venue, food, drink, ride, food, drink, ride.
Three days later and we are off south, alone. Heading back to tour Malaysia. Pinang is the first stop and then over a well engineered mountain road, a most magnificent motorcycle road to Kota Baharu. This is my first real introduction to a fundamentalist Muslim area. There are separate checkouts for men and women in the supermarkets, staffed by men and women respectively. The billboard advertising the local movies has the women blanked out and the night food market closes for about 30 minutes for evening prayer. Naturally all the women are conservatively dressed and faces covered.
The food in Malaysia is a dream. The best of Asian, Chinese and Indian and at a good price. Most towns have a market place where food is available throughout the day and evening. The variety and names change so much that I have devised the point and shoot method of ordering food. You look at something you like and point. The person serving usually asks a variety of questions to all of which you have no idea what they are asking so just nod your head and smile. Normally you end up with a meal that is top of the range and a good size. Rarely is the meal not truly delicious and only once was one inedible. A great way to try all the different dishes. A dreadful way to order the same dish twice. One name I did remember is “ice champur”, shaved ice with flavours and spices. A refreshingly cold snack for a hot day.
Heading South now for Kuala Lipis we notice the enormous destruction of forests which are being replaced by palm oil plantations or rubber plantations. It is a shame for this area of Malaysia has had enormous diversity of plants. It seems the entire Malay Peninsula is being converted to a palm oil and rubber ecosystem. Standing out amongst this though is Taman Negara National Park. It is reached mainly by river boat. After leaving the motorbike safely (I hoped) with the boat operation, two hours later we were at the park. Plenty of walks but most impressive was the 450 metre suspension canopy walk between trees in top of the rain forest canopy. A rare opportunity to be at the canopy top looking eye level at the flora and fauna.
All the roads through Malaysia are adequate, even off the normal routes they seem pretty well maintained. The one onto Raub was no exception. Hill stations have always had great appeal to me since visiting so many in India three years ago. Frazers Hill, up in the mountains is cool, away from the heat of the plains. The road is a windy one way affair, with traffic alternating up or down changing every hour. A bit too ritzy for us so off to the Cameron Highlands. Another hill station with tea plantations and again a long windy road to the top at 1500 metres where we were greeted by heavy cold rain before finding accommodation. Here we walked through woodland forests in the cool days and dined on a variety of cuisines in the evening. Getting away from the plains heat giving us great energy.
What a let down, down into Kuala Lumpur The slight miss in the motorcycle when it is cold that developed a couple of days ago is getting worse. Cleaned and drained the carburettor which didn't seem to change much. I guess I will have to live with it for a while. When Kay first arrived we decided to participate in the ABC of touring competition that Harley runs each year. Collecting photos of Country, State and town signs with the motorcycle. It seemed to be a good way to get photos of us and the motorcycle and the possibility of winning a leather jacket as well as some smaller prizes. This developed into quite an obsession till we finally collected more points than last years winners. It took us to some unusual towns that we probably wouldn't have seen otherwise.
A friend whom I met at Phurgis had promised me his number plate from his Harley to add to my collection. I am endeavouring to find a number plate from a Harley in every country visited. No easy task. Even if you find a Harley it is hard to talk the guy into giving you his number plate.
Moving quickly now with only a few days before Kay flies out of Singapore back to Australia. Down to Melaka and across to Kuantan then up to a sleepy beachside tourist cottage at Cherating. Best food in Malaysia. I had octopus stuffed seasoned squid. Great seafood. Nice strolls along the sandy beaches morning and evening with many restaurants to eat in, in between. Two days of total relaxation before the dash to Singapore. The whole Western side of Malaysia seems to have moved into the 20th century being connected by the freeway but has left the Eastern seaboard back 100 years. Small villages and great scenery between beaches.
Singapore customs again with no problems other than they had no record of my leaving. Which rather confused them seeing I was arriving again, and to be welcomed by the heaviest downpour I have ever seen. Arriving at the hotel without a square inch of dry clothing. Kay left and I was on my own again, with a plan to travel North up the east coast into Thailand after a service on the motorcycle at the Harley dealer in Singapore. They did a great job removing all the caked on mud, from brake disks, collected on some bad roads and roadwork's as well as the usual service (40000 km). The rear base gasket just starting to weep oil now. A common problem with this model. It will have to wait till Bangkok as the shop here is very busy. Shouldn't be a problem.
Heading North to a waterfall near Kota Tinggi where the religious restrictions on dress became most apparent. The Chinese women and men were wearing conservative western swimming costumes but the Muslim women wore full ankle length clothing and a chador while the men wore long pants and a shirt. Both were enjoying themselves equally.
Not having given the motorcycle a good overhaul since Indonesia I felt a good clean wouldn't go astray. Two days again at Cherating cleaning and swimming and eating, before the last dash to the border at Rantau Pajang and into Thailand.
Move with me to Thailand or go to our next visit to Malaysia.
Story and photos copyright ©
Peter and Kay Forwood,