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Photo by Mark Newton, Mexican camping

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Mark Newton,
Camping in the Mexican desert



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  #1096  
Old 29 Jun 2016
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The border crossing for us was pretty quick, but it's always the vehicles that take longer. Our Thai insurance that we received when we bought the motorcycles didn't cover Malaysia, so we stop at this booth right at the border.


Yes, that's how they spell "insurance" in Malay, Neda

And that's how you spell "lorry". And Taxi is spelled "teksi". Lots of English words are just transliterated into Malay. Three guesses what a "bas" is?


In order to be properly insured, you need to display a front license plate - even for motorcycles

The Insurans lady translates our rear license plate and makes stickers for us that conform to Malaysian rules.


Hey, my first sticker on my CRF! Adds 5hp!

We go to the customs office and get our bikes imported into Malaysia. There are numerous forms to submit, and in the end we received an International Circulation Permit - which is strange because we've been riding all around the world and never needed one of those before - as well as the official temporary import papers into Malaysia.

Whohooooo!!!! We are in Malaysia!
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  #1097  
Old 29 Jun 2016
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It feels pretty cool to come back to the place I grew up.... on motorcycles! There's so much I want to show Neda, but part of me is feeling just a tiny bit of trepidation - that I won't do the place justice. I left Malaysia shortly before my ninth birthday, so I only have childhood memories of this place. By contrast, Neda left Croatia when she was nineteen, so when she shows me around her home country, she is able to add so much more details and colour to her commentary.

The road from the border is boring, same scenery as Thailand. Still, Neda comes in over the communicator: "It's so nice being able to read the road signs again!" I reply, "You can read Malaysian?" She responded, "No, I meant the letters aren't in script anymore". "Oh yeah, so it is".

It seems like I am taking a lot of things for granted in Malaysia, not noticing the small things that Neda is. She asks me what certain words mean. I didn't really learn a lot of Malay before I left, but I teach her the basics - thank yous and greetings: "Selamat Pagi is good morning. The sign you read when we first came in, Selamat datang is welcome"

"Oh, so selamat is like from when we were in Morocco, the Arabic greeting Asallam Alaykum"

"Oh yeah, I never thought about that". Neda was pointing out things that were plain to see, but I just never put it together because of over-familiarity. I do the exact same things when she is teaching me Croatian. Interesting role-reversal.


We stop by a food centre at one of the gas stations. Our first Malaysian meal!

I was afraid that I wouldn't remember anything about Malaysia, but staring at the menu in this food stall, mental images starting flooding back reading the items. Perhaps the brain may not be that good at recall, but the stomach certainly is.

I ordered us some Mee Goreng, a noodle in a blend of oyster and soy sauce with lots of veggies and some chicken thrown in. It was delicious! And from a stall at a gas station too! I can't wait to try the food in the restaurants!!!


Just 150km south of the border, we cross the Penang Bridge into Georgetown


Can't believe we're in Malaysia!!! Going to do some serious exploring now! And by exploring, I mean eating...
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  #1098  
Old 1 Jul 2016
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/300.html



I'm not sure if I've ever been to Penang before. If I did, I was too young to remember it. I e-mailed my dad and he said he didn't know either, it was so long ago.


Remnants of British colonial-style architecture from when Malaysia was a colony

Most of what I know about Malaysia is from long after I left it, either from what my parents told me, or reading up about the country. I've only gained an interest in this in my adulthood. Growing up in Toronto, I had a pretty typical Canadian childhood - played ball hockey in the streets, learned to skate in the wintertime when they flooded the baseball diamond at school, saw Rush in concert like pretty much everyone else did.

We had immigrated to a very multicultural neighbourhood in the north-east of Toronto: Scarborough - what some people call the ghetto of the city. I didn't think so at the time. It was just home to me. The friends I hung around with were Jamaican, Indian, Romanian, Pakistani, Korean, etc. The extent of discussing our ethnicity was peering into each other's lunchboxes to see what our moms had packed for us. I remember there being a lot of rice in tupperware...


Eager to do more food explorations

So here I am, back where I came from, with a renewed interest in the history of this place.

The Chinese in Malaysia date back several hundred years, the "first wave" settling in the south of the country back in the 1500s. Today, they make up the largest of the "ethnic" population, 30% of Malaysians are of Chinese descent, 10% are of Indian descent, while the largest group, 50% are native Malays.


Teoh Kongsi clanhouse
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  #1099  
Old 1 Jul 2016
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We're exploring Georgetown, which is the capital of the state of Penang. There are more Chinese in this state, percentage-wise, than anywhere else in Malaysia. These were the original settlers, they were sea-traders and came through the ports in Penang and Malacca. Everywhere you walk, there are signs in Chinese, and red lanterns hanging above.


Teh Tarik is the national drink of Malaysia. Tarik means "pull": Pulled Tea.

I introduce Neda to teh tarik, and we are both immediately addicted to the copious amounts of sugar they put into this drink. You can order it hot, but we prefer it served in ice. When you drink teh tarik, you can feel your teeth start to rot from all the sugar. So goooood.....!


Shopping for more sweets


Georgetown, like most cities, is pretty modern. But we like walking around the old city to see all the historical buildings.
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  #1100  
Old 1 Jul 2016
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One of the most extravagant Chinese buildings is the temple of the Khoo Kongsi (the Khoo Clanhouse)

Clans play a very important part of the Chinese culture. Ancestor worship is part of the religion, and the family village or temple is a much venerated site. The Khoo clan (not related to the Klux) was the largest in the country and their ancestral home was here in Georgetown.


The Chinese are pretty much the Targaryens of Asia


...that one time when the whole clan went to see the Ozzy Osbourne concert...
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  #1101  
Old 1 Jul 2016
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Lots of beautiful details in the temple


Hundreds of gold placards with names of deceased family members decorate the inside

All of this is merely academic, though. These weren't my ancestors. In fact, the tour of these clanhouses was researched and organized by Neda. She's the one who told me most of the above!

My family didn't come to Malaysia until much later, they settled in different parts of the country. I was looking forward to meeting up with my elder relatives to find out more about our own history.
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  #1102  
Old 1 Jul 2016
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After sightseeing, we went out to grab a late lunch. Penang is well-known for its cuisine. We searched online for "best restaurant in Penang" and found one that looked good. I was looking forward to try all of my favorites from childhood.

We were seated and given menus. I scanned the items, looking for something familiar. Nothing.

I called the waitress and asked them, "Any Char Kway Teow?" She frowned and shook her head. "Laksa? Mee Goreng? Satay?"

The waitress looked equal parts confused and irate. She told me off: "That is hawker food. We are a restaurant, we don't serve that here. If you want to eat that kind of food, you have to go to the hawker centre". She pointed down the street.

I gave Neda an apologetic look. The waitress still had her arm outstretched and finger pointing out. She was no longer telling us the direction of the food stalls, she was pointing at us to get out...

We slinked out of the restaurant. I was deflated. I was going to show my bride all the fine Malaysian cuisine from my youth and I was just told that all of it was street food. It was like going to a Michelin-starred restaurant and trying to order a hot dog and a bag of peanuts. I felt so embarrassed...


So we go to the hawker centre... and you know what? We had a *GREAT* meal! And it was cheap! So screw you, fancy restaurants of Penang!

Laksa is one of my mom's favorite foods. It's a spicy noodle soup, but in Penang, they serve it with tamarind and fish, so it's a bit more sour than regular laksa. We also ordered some popiah which is like Malaysian spring rolls, it's wrapped in crepes instead of flaky egg pastry. While mawing down on all this delicious food, I had absolutely no regrets about leaving the pricey restaurant. Give me my hot dogs and peanuts any day, all day!


Walking around the old town is a popular tourist activity


But if you don't feel in the mood to sweat it out on the pavement, plenty of rickshaws available to ferry you about


Some of the rickshaws are done up quite fancy. If you still don't want to sweat in the heat, you can take a "teksi"
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  #1103  
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Interesting stuff walking around Georgetown




The fancy part of the old town


Walking around the newly renovated parts of Nagore Square, lots of restaurants and swanky cafes here
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  #1104  
Old 3 Jul 2016
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/301.html



Aside from the food, the old town in Georgetown is also known for its murals, some of which are interactive. The most famous are the ones done in 2012 by Lithuanian artist Edward Zacharevic, who now resides in Penang.


A popular activity for tourists is to walk around the town to find all the murals. Or you can take a rickshaw...
This one is titled, "Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat" by ASA



The locations of all the murals are documented on the Internet, but we preferred just asking around. More interactive that way...
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  #1105  
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Not all of the murals are done by Zacharevic. This one is. Titled, "Kids on Bicycle"


"I want Pau" by WK Setor.

Pau is a steamed bun made with white, sweet dough that is stuffed with savoury meats or sweet fillings. My favorite is Pau Kaya, the kaya filling is made with coconut, eggs and pandan leaves and is also used as a spread for toast in the mornings. I got some for Neda and now she's hooked too. It's so good, no wonder these kids are reaching out for some as Neda rides away with her kaya-filled buns!


"Feed the Stray" by Kenji Chai
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  #1106  
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"Lion Dance"


"Children on the Swing" by Louis Gan. Similar style to Zacharevic's mural


Zacharevic's "Old Motorcycle" is his most famous.
It's also one of Penang's unofficial icons
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  #1107  
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Neda liked it a lot, so...


"The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This" by ASA (Artists for Stray Animals)

I think they should have named it, "Fists of Furry!". The organization Artists for Stray Animals painted a series of murals called 101 Lost Kittens, and this one above is one of them. They did it to raise awareness for sheltering stray animals. Even though I find the messaging a bit confusing, it seems to be a purrmanent fixture.


Some other artwork found around town

There are also lots of examples of steel rod sculptures (upper right in the collage) bent into a 2D picture, as well as minion-themed murals. Also, more from the 101 Lost Kittens art project.
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  #1108  
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"Little Boy with Pet Dinosaur" by Ernest Zacharevic

This mural is right beside the boy on the old motorcycle painting. I read that someone graffitied the dinosaur behind Zacharevic's motorcycle to make it look like the boy was fleeing the monster by bike. And then Zacharevic thought it would be funny to add the leash and the boy holding onto it as payback!


More Minion murals. Too much!


I thought the ladies inside added a nice touch to the photo
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  #1109  
Old 5 Jul 2016
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"Ipoh. I like the way that word sounds. Ipoh. It just feels good rolling off the tongue."

If you think that's something I would say, you're right. But I didn't say that. Neda was reading off the road signs as we were riding away from Penang and she made this proclamation over the communicator. That's weird. Normally I'm the one that's captivated by foreign words... but Ipoh is not foreign to me. It's where my uncle lives and we're dropping in for a visit this afternoon!

It's a short roadway drive from Penang to the neighbouring state, Ipoh. Even though we leave ourselves plenty of time in the morning to beat the traffic and the heat, we are instantly one hour late for meeting up with my uncle. Malaysia is in a different timezone than Thailand! We spent two days in Georgetown without even realizing that.

A frantic couple of hours later and we are only 45 minutes late as we pull up to the address my uncle sent me. It's a huge house with an even bigger carport. I peer in through the gates at the covered forms of several obviously antique cars. Are we in the right place?


Yes! My uncle saved us a spot in amongst his stable of antique and classic cars

The last time I saw my uncle was when Neda and I got married, 12 years ago. Back then I was a big car nut, so I think he remembers me from that time. We had a great time catching up, talking cars and I was eager to see what was under the covers in the garage.


This is his pride and joy, a 1954 MG TF, in British Racing Green

He belongs to an antique car club and every month, they all go out for a ride in the roads around Ipoh. He offered to take me around the corner to pick up some food for the day.
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  #1110  
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My uncle is 83 years old and still sharp as tack and very active

Although I last saw him 12 years ago, it really has been over 35 years since I saw him regularly when I lived here. Since all that time has passed, he is now almost the same age as my grandfather (his father) from when I remembered him in my childhood. Although he doesn't look exactly like him, so many things about my uncle remind me of him.


When you're in an antique British racing car, you get a lot of attention!


My grandfather was very good with people and knew everyone. His eldest son is exactly the same!
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