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Ride Tales Post your ride reports for a weekend ride or around the world. Please make the first words of the title WHERE the ride is. Please do NOT just post a link to your site. For a link, see Get a Link.
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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  #1141  
Old 15 Aug 2016
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aaaand... the next hurdle

We successfully get ourselves stamped into Singapore with minimal hassle. Now we have to temporarily import our bikes into the country. We park the motorcycles and walk into the customs office.

I had done so much research on how to get our motorcycles into Malaysia from Thailand. I knew all the paperwork we had to have, all the forms that needed to be completed. But inexplicably, I had done absolutely no work into finding about the Malaysia->Singapore border crossing. Maybe it was because of our packed schedule, maybe laziness. But this lack of preparation was going to bite us in the ass.

The customs lady asked for our motorcycle registration papers. I brought out our Thai green books.

She looked at the squiggly Thai writing and shook her head, "I can't read this".

No problem, I presented her with the official Thai translated document in English. She nodded her head.

Then she asked for our International Circulation Permit. I was thankful we didn't blow past the Thai/Malay border like so many travelers do. I presented her with the proper paper. She nodded her head. We were doing very well so far.

And then she asked for a Carnet de Passage. uhhhhh, whut? We don't need one if we are a Thai vehicle? I challenged her, and she conferred with a colleague. Nope, I was correct. No CdP required for Thai vehicles, just like Malay-registered vehicles. It was just easier for their administration if we had one. *phew*

She asked for insurance. I brought out the Thai policy. She shook her head. Insufficient coverage. She asked for our Malaysian insurance. I brought that out as well. I was making it rain documentation. Everything she asked for I had. I felt like I was winning a video game, with all of our paperwork scattered over her desk an inch thick.

She studied the Malaysian insurance. Still insufficient coverage. We would have to buy Singaporean insurance. Ok, no problem. "How much?" I asked. $47 Singaporean. Each. For a minimum two week period. That's about $47 CDN. Wow, that's steep. That's like almost $4 a day to ride around Singapore! *IF* we stayed for two weeks, which we weren't planning to.

At this point, I really wanted to win this little game that we'd started. I just wanted to get in at any cost. We were soooo close.

"Do you take Visa?"
"No. Only cash."
"Ok. Malaysian Ringgit?"
"No. Only Singaporean dollars."
"US Dollars? Euros? Canadian?"
"No. Only Singaporean dollars."

ARGHHHH!!!! I had everything but that. Where were we going to get Singaporean dollars? We hadn't even entered the country. We were caught in a Catch-22.

I've read a lot of SE Asia motorcycle ride reports. Many riders have *come* from Singapore, but I have not heard of one single moto-traveler that has successfully *ENTERED* Singapore because of the stringent documentation requirements. We were so close! And now we were going to be denied entry despite having *ALL* the paperwork except for Singaporean currency.

So frustrating.

The customs lady had an idea. We could ask other travelers crossing the border to exchange our Malaysian currency for SGD. So Neda went out begging at the border. $95 is a lot of money and she had to ask two different motorists who were going in and out of the customs office, but thankfully we were barely able to scrape together the needed Singaporean cash.


YESSSSSS!!!! We are in!
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  #1142  
Old 15 Aug 2016
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Our ordeal wasn't over. Now that we were all officially in the country, us and our bikes, we were told that we had to purchase an electronic toll device that automatically deducted from an account that we had to set up with the road tax people. Okay, we set up an account and got a "credit card", now where do we buy or rent the device that mounts on our bike?

The customs lady told us because it was a weekend, the place that sold the toll transponders was closed.

Seriously? We just jumped through a million hoops and begged for SGD from passerbys to get into the country and now we're not allowed to drive on the roads? I couldn't believe it. This totally sucks.

There was a bit of a silver lining. The transponder store might be closed on weekends, but so were the gantries that communicated with the transponders. The roads were toll-free during non-business hours, so we could at least make it to my cousin's place this evening. However from tomorrow (Monday) morning on, we were forbidden to ride the roads until after rush hour.

We paid all that money for Singaporean insurance and we were only allowed to ride at night...

SMH.


Racing through the toll-free Singaporean highway. Did we just pay $100 in insurance premiums for this one quick jaunt?

Since we were very delayed at the border, we had to rush to get to my cousin's place. No time to explore even though the toll gantries were turned off. I was happy that we had won the game of Get-Our-Bikes-Into-Singapore, but at what (literal) cost?

Singapore is tiny. About 50 kms from east to west and 25 kms from north to south. It was a quick ride to get to our destination. From what little we saw of the roads, they're very modern, clean and efficient. And not only compared to SE Asian countries, but they would rival any western country!

My cousin welcomed us into his house. We met his wife and his teenage son and once again, I couldn't help staring at a face that I only remember from over 35 years ago. After an evening of catching up, we retired to bed, exhausted but happy that we were able to ride into Singapore. The city awaits us tomorrow!
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  #1143  
Old 15 Aug 2016
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Because we weren't allow to ride our motorcycles during the weekends, my cousin's wife drove us into town the next morning

Walking down the main street, we felt a bit dejected. After all that effort and money getting our bikes into Singapore, we were basically backpackers in this country. Should we have left our bikes in Malaysia and took a taxi in? I don't know. it probably would have cost the same amount of money...


Too hot outside, we duck from one air-conditioned mall to another

Singapore is ritzy and expensive. On its sidewalks, citizens pace forward with an intense sense of purpose not seen in any other SE Asian country we've been to so far. Orchard Park is the street that many tourists visit. It is *THE* shopping mecca boasting fancy-brand stores selling super-expensive luxury products that we could never ever dream of purchasing.

We walked around for a couple of hours, watching the parade of Mercedes and BMWs file past us on the street and I got a sense of what the city state was all about. It seemed to be the perfect treadmill of commerce and consumerism, fueled by the desire for success and status. Nothing got in the way of this constant cycle. The city had a million rules and laws put in place to forbid littering, loitering, lounging... any kind of delinquency that would clog the forward motion of everyone's treadmill.


Strolling around the boardwalk along the Singapore river

We couldn't afford most of the restaurants in the downtown core, but ended up paying a princely sum for a couple of hamburgers. They were really good, but expensive...


"The River Merchants" a statue depicting the negotiations between European, Chinese and Malaysian traders while indigenous workers toil in the background.
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  #1144  
Old 15 Aug 2016
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Some huge reflective globes outside one of Singapore's famous museums


More fun with shiny balls

We like learning about the local culture, so we dropped into the Asian Civilizations Museum. We learned of the rich history of trading and commerce in Singapore. On display were the remains of a 9th century merchant ship called the Tang Shipwreck that had been discovered off the SE coast. It was a treasure trove of merchandise being sent to SE Asia and the Middle East from China. I was looking for the "Made in China" label underneath all of the dishes and ceramic bowls on display. No joke though... even back then China had mastered the art of mass production and was exporting wares to all corners of the known world!


Many armed Hindu god Shiva

We took the subway back to my cousin's place. The afternoon heat is unbearable even when on bikes, more so when you're a pedestrian walking to and from the bus station.
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  #1145  
Old 15 Aug 2016
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We've been in Singapore for two days and there's a dissatisfied feeling when we stare at our bikes sitting unused in the garage. All that money for two weeks of insurance and we're leaving in a couple of days time. We have to get our money's worth somehow...


So late one evening, long after all the toll gantries had turned off, we stole out into the night

The cool air was refreshing as we zoomed down past the lights of Orchard Park, its stores closed for the night and the sidewalks and roads empty of fast-striding people and expensive German sedans. We only share Singapore's streets with taxis tonight.


Singapore flyer Ferris wheel lit up at night

Not just an ordinary ferris wheel, each car is capable of holding a large dinner table and you're served a fancy meal with champagne overlooking the lights of the city. Opulent and quite expensive, I'm sure.


We rode out to a spot so we could see the Singapore skyline


Gardens by the Bay - Bay East Garden. Beautiful parks by the riverside


Getting our money's worth
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  #1146  
Old 15 Aug 2016
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It's a shame we were only allowed to ride at night. I think we would have seen a lot more of Singapore if we had gotten our toll transponders


We rode up the twisting road to Mount Faber Park, the second highest point in Singapore. Great view from up there.

So was it worth all the effort bringing our bikes into the country? Singapore is not a motorcycle destination. It's entirely urban and crowded with not a lot of curvy roads to take your bike through. The minimum two weeks of insurance is expensive and overkill, I can't see spending more than one week in this tiny place.

We spent the last day with my cousin and family in town and in the evening we had another visitor call on us to take us out to dinner!


Debbie and Zhehong are local bikers

They took us out to the kind of food we like to eat: hawker food at the Newton Food Centre!

They are also fellow travelers who are planning a Round-The-World adventure of their own. We had lots to talk about over satay and they showed us a different side of Singapore than the one most tourists see. So nice meeting local riders! We wish them well on their future travels.
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  #1147  
Old 15 Aug 2016
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Hi to both of you,
Ohmmy and I were in Singapore at the end of July for 4 nights
The evening light show at the Gardens by the Bay was great to see.
I even did the Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel.
We did the thing with the Shiny Balls too
Great place

Stay safe

Wayne
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  #1148  
Old 16 Aug 2016
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Excellent report & pics as always Gene
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  #1149  
Old 18 Aug 2016
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/307.html



We crept out of Singapore in the dark.

Because it was a weekday, the toll gantries would turn on at 7:30AM and we would need to leave the country before then, otherwise we'd face a stiff fine for riding without a transponder. We had also heard that motorists crossing the border would have their gas tanks checked. If you left Singapore with less than 3/4s of a tank, they would fine you for trying to get cheap gas across the border. We heard it only applied to Singaporean vehicles, but we filled up their expensive gas the night before just in case.

The country is muy loco with all their rules. My cousin told me that when people ask him to describe Singapore, he replies, "It's a Fine country. They'll Fine you for this, and they'll Fine you for that..."

Traffic was light on the way out. We passed under the last gantry around 7AM, lots of time to spare. By contrast, on the other side of the highway there was a thick stream of Malaysian vehicles inching their way into Singapore. These were the frontier workers, who took advantage of high-paying Singaporean jobs while living in lower-cost Malaysia. It was a familiar sight. We've seen it in the towns between Italy and Switzerland, Croatia and Italy, etc.

No drama at the border. Our paperwork was entirely in order and I made sure not to take any pictures this time. And no gas tank check either. Damn it.


An hour outside of Johor Bahru and the city dissolves into a thick forest of palm trees

Because we left so early, the temperature is still fairly cool and the mists hung in the air between the trees, the morning sun peeking through the leaves in soft shafts of light. A very pleasant ride.


Neda is happy to trade in the urban jungle for a real one
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  #1150  
Old 18 Aug 2016
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The plan is to ride up the east coast of Malaysia to see a different side of the country. There are a lot of beaches and resorts on this side. We want to see how they compare to Thailand's beaches.


We reach Mersing shortly before noon. And it's unbearably hot once again


At a gas stop, I spy the familiar markings of the swastika in front of a Hindu temple

It's a bit unusual, because most of the 10% Indian population in Malaysia live on the west coast, just like the Chinese. The east coast is predominantly Malay. I talk to a local who's interested in our bikes at the gas station while Neda ducks into the air-conditioned 7-11 to escape the heat.


Crossing the bridge at Endau
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  #1151  
Old 18 Aug 2016
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A constant reminder that more Muslims live on this side of Malaysia are the proliferation of mosques on the side of the road


There are so many mosques, and we stop at the ones that are the most eye-catching to take a picture. Some of them are beautiful!

By mid-day, we've made it as far as Pahang, about 350kms from Singapore. It's a respectable distance given the butt-destroying seats on our CRFs and the soaring temperatures of the early afternoon. We check into a hotel and crank the air-conditioning.

We're not sure where we're going the next day, so we do a bit of Internet research to try to find a nice resort to lay low for a few days.

What we find is disheartening. Everything is so bloody expensive. Nearly twice the price of Thai resorts. That's crazy. We're not paying that much for a Malaysian beach. It's probably not even as nice as Thailand...

So there's a change in our plans. The ride up the coast has been sooo straight and boring so far. If we're not heading to a beach-side resort, let's head inland to where the mountains will provide some twisty roads for us to play on!

However, the morning had different plans for us:


While packing to head out, I notice the support bracket for my rack has cracked. Exactly like Neda's did in Thailand.

Definitely a design failure. I hope our Hondas are better made than these racks.
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  #1152  
Old 18 Aug 2016
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Because this has happened to us before, we know exactly what to do. We are going to bypass all the Honda dealerships and the motorcycle stores. They were going to be of no help.

We rode down the street and looked for some kind of shop. No luck, but a garage pointed us to a mechanic next door. I walked past a rusty car in a state of repair and called out to the back. This guy came out to take a look at my broken rack. He had a cigarette stuck to the bottom of his lip which moved up and down when he spoke Malay to me. I don't speak Malay so I was hypnotized by the motion of his cigarette. I broke off my stare long enough to point out the broken bracket. With a nod he disappears into the shop and brings out:


Ummmm... I don't think...

He turns off the blowtorch immediately. The cigarette muttered something in Malay and then proclaimed, "Aluminum".

Exactly.

So back to the drawing board.


Literally. He traced out the bracket with paper and pencil and drew a new bracket

The ash grew longer on his cigarette but never left his mouth as he twisted and formed the metal. Cool! He was going to build me a new bracket just like the Thai metal shop had done for Neda.


Nope. He just built a brace...

Because the crack hadn't bent the two halves of the broken bracket, they still contacted each other and provided support. As long as the two halves didn't slip, the rack was still stable. So the mechanic built an aluminum brace and screwed it to the two halves like a cast.

Not as elegant as Neda's fabricated iron bracket, but it did the job. I asked him how much. He pulled a price out of the air: 20 Ringgit, which is $8 CAD. That was pretty expensive compared to the $5 CAD for Neda's custom bracket! I don't think I paid more than $25 CAD for the whole rack itself! But it really highlighted how cheap Thailand is compared to every other SE Asian country.

Well, we got our minor problem solved, and didn't have to spend a lot of time on it. I thanked the long burnt end of cigarette ash at the end of his face: "Terima Kasih!" And we're back on the road!
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  #1153  
Old 18 Aug 2016
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Just outside of Pahang, we rode by this very interesting Hindu temple


Neda has had enough of the heat. "You go and take pictures. I'm going to stay right here in the shade..."


Inside the temple, everyone had the same idea. Afternoon siesta.

This is the Sri Marathandavar Bala Dhandayuthapani Alayam temple. This is one of the holiest temples in Malaysia and we just stumbled onto it by accident. Marathandavar means "deity of the tree".


Sure enough, in the centre of the temple is a thick tree adorned with yellow pieces of cloth

Legend has it that in the late 1800s, a road was being built from Kuala Lumpur to Pahang. Many trees were felled to make way for this road, but one tree in particular, a Radruksha tree, started to bleed when it was cut. Workers saw it as a holy sign and preserved the tree for worship. Today, that tree is gone, but a replica was erected in the temple and devotees write down their prayers on yellow strips of cloth and pin them to the tree, like prayer flags.
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  #1154  
Old 18 Aug 2016
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We didn't make it that far today. Jerantut is only 180 kms away from Pahang

The motorcycle repairs and the sight-seeing delayed our headway into the mountains and we stopped for the night in Jerantut. A non-descript town except for a line of colourful shops and stalls in the tourist centre. It attracted our eye and we looked for a place to eat.


Roti for dinner. I *LOVE* Malaysian food! And Teh Tarik, of course...


After dinner, we go for a walk around town. More mosques.
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  #1155  
Old 18 Aug 2016
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The next day, there are no motorcycle repairs to undertake. No border officials to ply. No beach-side resorts to rip us off. Only mountain roads.


Twist (the throttle) and Shout!

Really, this is the essence of our trip. Sure, we stop a lot to sample the local culture, but at the end of the day it's always about the riding. We've done too many straight roads and too many highways and city streets lately. It feels good to get back to curvy roads again.


As we head north, the landscape changes and tall limestone formations once again rise up around us


Lunchtime at some random town along the way


And they had the best BBQ chicken for a random food stop! I don't think I've had a bad meal in Malaysia yet.

We're entering a part of Malaysia that I've heard a lot of warnings about. But we're going to explore anyway...
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