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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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  #1156  
Old 18 Aug 2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bucket1960 View Post
Excellent report & pics as always Gene
Thanks! Appreciate it!
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  #1157  
Old 23 Aug 2016
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/308.html



The gas station looks closed.

Our tiny CRF tanks are running out of fuel yet again and I hop off and try the doors to the convenience store attached to the station. Locked.

Strange, it's the middle of the day.

I cup my hands and peer through the glass. Two women in headscarves inside stare back at me and indicate that the pumps are working.

The gas station is open.

When we're finished topping up our tanks, I walk back to the booth and I have to deposit the money in a till that swings open to accept cash and swings shut so the operator inside can take the money - the kind that gas station attendents use at night in dangerous neighbourhoods.

I don't feel very safe.

We are entering the state of Kelantan. I've read that the crime rates here are high compared to the rest of the country. Also disproportionate are the drug usage and HIV+ rates. Some blame this state of moral decay to the proximity to Thailand, where the availability and culture of drugs and brothels contrast sharply to the strict Muslim code of conduct in this predominantly Malay state.

To combat this affront to their morality, the local government is trying to enforce harsher punishments under Sharia Law.


As we enter Kota Bharu, a huge sign tells us what we need to know about Sharia Law: No Wheelying.

The sign translates: "Guidelines for dignified young Kelantans". It advocates studies, prayer, modesty. Abstinence from drugs, partying, pre-marital relations... and wheelying.

A lot of states in Malaysia enforce Sharia Law under a dual-justice system. It applies only to Muslims and the penalties range from fines to jail-time. However, the state of Kelantan, which has one of the smallest non-Muslim populations (10%) in the country, has been pushing for harsher punishments, including amputations, stoning and death-sentences. This ancient Islamic system of penalties is called Hudud. State law and federal law clash, and Kelantan's push for Hudud has so far been vetoed by the federal government because these penalties go against the Malaysian constitution.

And No Wheelying is an attack on fun itself.
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  #1158  
Old 23 Aug 2016
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Kota Bahru is not a tourist attraction


We walk through a market which reminds me of the ones in Morocco


Vendors selling all sorts of trinkets and lotions


And copious amounts of fruit!
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  #1159  
Old 23 Aug 2016
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Everywhere we go, men and women congregrate in separate groups

Under Sharia Law, unrelated men and women are not allowed to co-mingle. I read about couples who were fined for riding a motorcycle together or sitting on a bench too closely. We went shopping for some food and in the grocery stores, there are separate queues for men and women. Even though we were exempt from these laws, we were very cautious not to show any public displays of affection. Then we saw some young couples holding hands in public - they looked local and may have been married, so we relaxed a little.


Handicraft Museum

Near the museum, we saw a lot of people eating on tables laid out in a seating area with buffet-style serving trays of food alongside. There weren't any signs to indicate this was a restaurant, no menus, and not even labels on the food. This was as local as you could get. None of the food looked remotely familiar, so we just grabbed a plate each and started spooning whatever looked appetizing.

No prices labelled, but as expected, the total at the cash register was very cheap (just a couple of dollars between the both of us).


The other tables were segregated into men-only or women-only. We dug into our food and realized we made the wrong choices...
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  #1160  
Old 23 Aug 2016
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Although non-Muslims are supposed to be unaffected by Sharia Law, there have been economic repercussions amongst the ethnic Chinese and Indian populations. Non-Muslim women working at hair salons are not allowed to cut the hair of Muslim men, which impacts their business. Inter-faith marriages are also affected, as well as the children of these unions.


Male shopowner selling women's clothing. Obviously not Muslim.


Groups of men congregate separately from the women
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  #1161  
Old 23 Aug 2016
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There are certain arts and crafts that originate from Kelantan. One thing I really want to see are the shadow puppet plays, called Wayang Kulit. Unfortunately we were here during the weekday and there were none scheduled, so we headed to another museum to see them on display.


These intricate puppets are made primarily of leather


A light shines behind them and they are manipulated using sticks or buffalo horns

While researching online, I found a modern Wayang Kulit company that made superhero puppets, like Superman and Batman! Cool! Unfortunately, their shop was closed.

The part of the government that is pushing for Hudud under Sharia Law also wants to ban Wayang Kulit because it has Hindu roots. That's very sad, because these shadow puppets are such an identifiable part of Malaysian culture, not just in Kelantan, but through the entire country.


These moon kites, called Wau Bulan, are also another one of Malaysian icons

A stylized version of the kite is even the logo of the national airline, Malaysian Airlines, and it's on the back of the 50 cent coin. It's one of the things I remember about growing up in Malaysia.


Neda finds a nice background for her smartphone


Happy Malay Art!
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  #1162  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/309.html



We're saying goodbye to Malaysia today.

While many travelers take the eastern overland border crossing from Bukit Banga, Malaysia to Ban Buketa, Thailand, we're taking a lesser known water crossing right at the shoreline.


Farewell, Malaysia! And thanks for all the food!

The Malaysian customs at Pengkalan Kubor was simple. A quick stamp on our passports and they didn't seem to care at all about exporting out our Thai bikes. *shrug* Cool.


A French farewell out of Malaysia into Thailand
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  #1163  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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Waiting for the tiny ferry to take us into Thailand


The aforementioned tiny ferry. It's such a short crossing, you can see Thailand just across the mouth of the Golok River


You pay for the tickets right on the ferry. By the time the ticket lady collects payment, it's time to disembark

Entering Thailand was much more difficult than leaving Malaysia. There were long lineups at the immigration control, and when it came our turn, the official behind the glass scrutinized every page. He was checking all of our stamps to see how many times we've entered and left Thailand, because the government is trying to crack down on Border Runners who illegally live and work in the country, but leave and enter the country indefinitely on Tourist Visa runs without getting a proper work visa.

I was a bit nervous because we had already done a visa run to Laos a couple of months before. But we didn't fit the pattern of someone doing an overnight visa run to return to work in Thailand the next day.

We're stamped into the country and the next step is getting our Thai bikes into Thailand. Which seems easier than it sounds...
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  #1164  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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In Thailand, we are greeted by Red Tape and Goats

Leaving Thailand, it was impossible to find someone to export our bikes out of the country. The Thai officials there kept waving us out of the border zone: "Go! Go! Go!" But I had done the research beforehand and knew that we needed an export document. It's a bit of a backwards system, because Thailand allows Thai vehicles to be out of the country for 30 days only. If your vehicle stays out longer, you get fined on the way back in.

Thankfully we had persisted and found someone to stamp our export document on our way out of the country. Because the officials that were so scarce on the way out were waiting for us on the way back in.

I think the customs guard was surprised we had all of the proper forms... I'm sure many many travelers just blow past the border on the way out. He checked the dates on our export document, International Drivers Permits, license plates, Greenbooks, everything, and seemed satisfied that all was in order.


Welcome back to Thailand!

Over the communicator, I proclaim to Neda, "We're home!" But the minute I said that, the words sounded hollow. We had just spent nearly three weeks with family, enjoying their company and hospitality. And now we were back in a country where we didn't know anyone, didn't know the language, and couldn't even read the writing...

It's making us rethink where we should be calling home. Thailand is cheap, we love the food, the weather is nice all year round, and the standard of living is safe and comfortable. But are those the only criteria for choosing a place to settle? These are things we realy need to think about for the future.
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  #1165  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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Thailand is familiar though. After spending months in the country, we get how they drive on the roads, which shops to go to to get stuff, and how things are done here. We really feel like we've gotten the hang of the country.


We're reversing the route we took out of Thailand. Which meant another stay in the same place in Hat Yai


On-The-Road Meals at familiar food stalls


Neda hides from the hot afternoon sun while I feed the stray dogs some scraps
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  #1166  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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Our final destination is the island of Phuket. We've heard so much about this place, some good, but mostly bad. But we wanted to check it out for ourselves.

We were prepared for a tourist ghetto hell, but upon crossing the Sa Phan Sarasin bridge into the island, we were very surprised at how manicured everything is. Phuket is one of the top tourist destinations and I guess this is where all the foreign dollars go. We're staying in a nice hotel on Kata Beach, which is on the south-west side, so we see a lot of the island on the way down from the top.

It's so developed here. Some parts of Phuket remind me of Oahu, Hawaii. It's probably the most western place in Thailand that we've visited. And so many farangs too! Most look like they live here, and not like they're tourists.


Farangs on scooters, a familiar island sight in Thailand

We're both exhausted. The heat has wiped Neda out and while we have booked this place just off the beach for over a week, we don't venture out onto the sands. Not even once. Imagine that, visiting Phuket and not even seeing the beach?

Every day, we hide in our air-conditioned room and wait for the sun to descend to a comfortable level just above the horizon. Then we venture out to the food stalls and the markets to get some cheap eats.


Evenings are the only time we experience Phuket


Food markets spring up on Mondays and Thursdays so we take a break from the stalls to try something different

It's difficult to find good food in Phuket. And we tried. Every place on the main strip is terrible tourist fare. Overpriced and not very tasty. Also, Neda walked into a convenience store, bought a few drinks and the Thai checkout girl smiled and said to her, "Spasibo!"

Huh? Was that Russian? How did she know Neda was slavic?

Then we noticed... all the signs are in Russian! Apparently Russians make up a sizeable chunk of the tourists who visit this place. We had heard that the Thai government is having problems with Russians taking over all the businesses in Phuket. Now that we were tuned into it, we heard Russian being spoken and Russian signs everywhere. How random!


SlavicNeda patrols the aisles looking for borsht and vodka
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  #1167  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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We're hot and tired. Being in Phuket is kind of a waste since we're not going to any beaches.

I think we're done here.

Not just Phuket. Or Thailand. I think we're done with SE Asia.

The weather is getting good in Europe, so we're going to ditch the dirtbikes and hop on a plane back to our BMWs.

We picked up a really ugly suitcase for cheap in one of the tourist malls. I think it was so cheap because it was such an ugly colour. We just need it for one trip back to Croatia, so we didn't want to spend too much. The only problem was how to get it back to the hotel... Well, not a problem if you have have bungie cords:


I got a lot of funny looks riding down the streets of Phuket with this thing strapped behind me

Next, we found somewhere to stash our bikes. We're not completely done with SE Asia yet. There are still some countries we haven't visited, so because we own these bikes we're going to keep them here so we have some wheels to come back to as a Plan B if we ever get caught out by winter because we travel so slow.

We're moto-snowbirds now!


Making sure we disconnect the batteries. Not sure if they'll still be good next winter though...


Bye bye, bikes. Europe, here we come!!!
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  #1168  
Old 31 Aug 2016
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/310.html

It's been a while since I've posted up a video. So to say goodbye (for now) to Thailand, here's a little retrospective of the places we saw and the things we did!

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  #1169  
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The border official at Zagreb Airport glances at our European passports and pushes them back to us, unstamped.

And just like that, we're done with Border Runs and foreign embassy visa applications. This is what home is supposed to feel like, isn't it? Not being kicked out of the country every 90 days and begging to be let back in the next day?

We've slept in fits and bursts for the last 36 hours. In airport terminals and shivering on the benches of the cold outdoor bus terminal, waiting for the morning run to Pula.

On the bus, I stare out the window as the early morning sun hits the terra-cotta roofs of Istria's small villages along the coast of the Adriatic Sea. What a change from Lanna temples, searing temperatures, Buddha statues, high humidity and Islamic mosques! Not exactly Culture Shock, more of a Culture Jolt.

We are staying in Medulin again. This time Iva is helping us out with yet another Culture Jolt - the prices for rentals in Istria have skyrocketed because tourist season has officially kicked off here and we're unable to afford a place to sleep in while we pick up our bikes and prepare for our European tour (part III). So she's graciously offered us her apartment to stay in, while she moves in with her mom. That really helps us out a lot.

It's so expensive here and now, compared to Thailand.
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  #1170  
Old 2 Sep 2016
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The next day, we're giddy with anticipation as we throw open the barn doors to be reunited with our bikes

We never really bonded with the Honda dirtbikes. They were too small and uncomfortable, and they couldn't carry any luggage at all. Neda is beaming as she quickly threw off the covers to reveal her F650GS. "My baby! I've missed you so much!", she proudly exclaims.


The next hour we spent hooking up our batteries and stacking all our RTW luggage on the back of our patient mules

We wheel the bikes outside. Before we thumb the starter motors, we nervously whisper small prayers. We've had really bad luck with drained batteries all throughout our trip. We finally got wise to disconnecting the terminals before storing them and this time, we've even splashed out on trickle chargers and Iva has been maintaining our batteries all winter long for us in her apartment.

There should be no drama this time round.


Will they start? Or will we be catching the bus back to Medulin?

The moment of truth: Neda's bike starts up with a small cough and starts chugging away healthily. My bike is more middle-aged (mileage-wise) and turns over less exuberantly. And then it dies almost immediately. I closed my eyes and thumbed the starter again. More pleading under my breath, "please... please... please..."

*BRRROOOOM*! But its vital signs are faint. The engine chugs along with a sickly air and settles to a tentative idle: Brm... Brm... Brm... It sounds like the crankshaft is revolving at vinyl record speeds. 33 1/3 rpm. It's as if I can count each individual Brm and I fear touching the throttle will kill the engine. And in my mind, this death will be punctuated by the cartoon sound of a needle scratching the vinyl.

We let my bike idle for a couple of minutes until the revs rise and sound more confident. I goose the throttle and after six long months of hibernation, my GS roars to life. SHE'S ALIVE!!! WAHOOOOOO!!!

I'm very happy. But this exhilaration will be short-lived.

We suit up to head back to Medulin, but as soon as I put my leg over the seat and try to lift it off the side-stand I notice something horribly wrong. Somebody must have broken into the garage and tampered with my motorcycle. Because it feels like someone has been feeding it a steady diet of potato chips, KFC chicken, hamburgers, pizza and high-sugar drinks every single day while we've been away. It's so friggin' heavy!!!!

We ride off and I'm wobbling all over the place because the weight of the bike+luggage is so heavy and high up on the motorcycle. If feels like I'm trying to ride while balancing a bowling ball on top of a broomstick. And to do all this, while trying to remember to stay on the *right* side of the road, after so long in SE Asia.

I've owned this bike for over 10 years. I've personally put over 200,000 kms on it. And now because we've gotten used to booting around on 100lb dirtbikes for the last half year, I feel like I've never ridden this motorcycle before in my life. I'm scared to death I'll drop it.

I radio Neda, "I don't think I can ride this thing. It's too heavy".

Neda's voice is just as shaky as mine. "Me too."

We wobble back the 7 kms to Medulin. At every stoplight, I put both feet out like a newbie rider, unsure about which side it'll lean towards.

This sucks.
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