Archive for the ‘Malaysia’ Category

Swapping bikes for beaches

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

(Em) At the end of our little road trip from Kuala Lumpur across the Malaysian Peninsula with Henry, we arrived in Kuantan on the east coast at lunchtime. Henry had parked up at the Hyatt (very flash) where he was having an afternoon meeting but his appointment wasn’t until 2pm so we sat down for cup of tea at the beachside veranda café (trying, but in all probability, failing to blend in!) It was exciting to see the sea and know that the next day we’d be sailing out to a tropical island for a few days… However, Henry then received a call that threatened to put a big spanner in the works – it was his colleague from Crown Relo who was currently being told by customs at Port Klang that the crates with our bikes in wouldn’t be permitted on the ship because our carnets weren’t valid. What?! There must be some sort of mistake: the carnet is an all important document that acts as a temporary import/export for the bikes in each country and we knew for sure that they didn’t expire for at least a month. As it transpired, it was the entry stamp to Malaysia that customs had a problem with; apparently the counterfoils in each of our carnets hadn’t been signed and stamped correctly by the overseeing official when we’d entered the country two weeks previously. Again, what?! We really couldn’t believe it. The irony was that the Thai-Malaysia crossing had been our most straightforward and simple yet and, unlike most countries, customs had asked for the carnets themselves, seemingly 100% familiar with the procedure – at some borders James has to help border officials fill them in because they’re not sure what they are! (James: although this was clearly a customs mistake I couldn’t help but wonder whether this was something I should have picked up on – maybe we’re getting a bit blasé?!) From the sound of Henry’s conversation on the phone, things were not looking good – customs wouldn’t budge and were saying that we’d have to get the slips signed before they would release the bikes from the country.

We were stunned. After all the stress of sorting out the shipping over the previous ten days, we felt that our elation at having found the right agent at the last minute and just getting our bikes booked on the next sailing was now being mocked by the fates. The ramifications of this small oversight were pretty far-reaching: it would mean making our way back up to the border post where we’d entered Malaysia, a real pain, especially without the bikes to ride, and in doing so we would wave goodbye to our island getaway. (James: it wasn’t guaranteed that we wouldn’t have to un-crate our bikes and ride back up to the border!) Worse, the bikes would have to wait until the next sailing a week later when already we were really cutting it fine with the short period of time we’d given ourselves to do North America. The lack of cooperation by customs at the port was exasperating – all they had to do was ring up the border post where we’d come through and they’d be able to confirm we were legit as they would have the counterpart half of the form which is always retained by the border when you enter – but they refused. Henry’s colleague, Rudi, was doing everything he could to sort the situation out but we knew only too well how officious officials can be. By this time, Henry needed to go for his meeting so we gave Rudi our number and stayed put at the hotel, crossing fingers (and everything else!) that somehow the situation could be resolved. 

Several nerve-wracking hours and many phone calls later, Rudi – hero of the hour – rang once more, and this time with good news! We were on! With customs at the port still refusing to be proactive, Rudi had taken it upon himself to contact customs at the northern border who had agreed to fax a copy of the counterpart form down to Port Klang and luckily, the customs chief had finally accepted this as proof we weren’t faking. Phew! With that all sorted we were back on for a few days of island living, so we parted ways with Henry (who ended up having serious car problems on the way back to across to KL, poor thing!) and went to find a place to stay in Kuantan, ready to take a bus further down the coast to Mersing for the ferry across to Tioman Island the next morning. It wasn’t exactly ripe pickings, and I was pretty appalled by the state of the some of the places on offer at the cheaper end of the scale – stale, cobwebby rooms with dirty linen that the owners (in a similar state to the rooms) seemed to have no shame about as they happily showed me what was on offer. Perhaps our standards had risen again after staying at Andrew and Henry’s lovely homes! In the end, we got somewhere that, while still pretty grotty, at least had clean sheets and had seen the business end of a vacuum cleaner in the last decade. We went out for tom yam (fast becoming the new ‘noodle soup’ ) and when we checked our emails that evening, we were surprised and chuffed to discover that we’d won a travel photography competition we’d entered (and had forgotten about) with Nomad Tents – so thanks to Harry W. for putting us onto that one!!

Making our way to Tioman the next day was a simple affair – a three hour bus ride down to Mersing, a couple of hours wait, then the ferry over to the island. It was all a bit vague as to where we should disembark – despite having an open air deck, passengers were not permitted outside and were instead stuffed into the hold, making it impossible to know which beach we had arrived at. James and I elected to jump off at Salang beach at the top end of the island (our arrival only made obvious by a deck hand yelling the destination down the stairs) as from what we’d read, it seemed to have a good combination of amenities and solitude. We made our way down the pier with a handful of other backpackers and started to systematically work our way down the beach to check out accommodation options at the various chalet clusters. We’d taken a relaxed attitude towards booking – i.e. we hadn’t – but it soon became apparent that this could have been a major error. Everywhere was fully booked! Unbeknownst to us, we had arrived at a peak bank holiday weekend so all the world and his wife had pretty much reserved the whole island! Ah. Feeling a bit foolish, we continued in our quest, hopeful that there might be somewhere for that evening at least (it was Thursday), and were rewarded (sort of) at the penultimate resort on the beach: all their cheap end, basic chalets were full (40 ringits, or about £8) but they did have an air con chalet on the beach for 120 ringits! Oh well, there wasn’t much we could do and it was my birthday weekend (James: Emily doesn’t have birthdays anymore, she has birthday weekends! This could be a slippery slope….) so it gave us an excuse to splash out a bit!

The four days we spent on Tioman were great; very chilled and luckily, despite the ‘full to the brim’ accommodation, there really didn’t seem to be many people around. Tioman is a picture-perfect beach destination: hammocks swinging under the palms, soft pale sand, and the clearest, bluest water. The only problem was the damn sand flies. Pesky little buggers, they’re small and hard to spot so I was only made aware of their existence by the small red bites I noticed on my legs the first evening. Seasonal sandflies are well known in the area so I knew immediately was the tiny dots were from and was relieved that they appeared to be fairly innocuous. Oh how wrong I was – they worsened considerably over the following days and became an itchy, unsightly nightmare!! (James: they’re way worse than mosquitoes and last for several days! Not ideal.)Thank goodness after that first day on the beach, I elected to stay on the chalet deck, a hammock or in the water which served as sufficient damage limitation (I cannot say enough how horrible the bites are, and how plentiful when you don’t take precautions – back in KL the next week, we kept spotting sandfly victims with tens, almost hundreds, of weeping angry bites all over their legs!) Anyway, bites aside, it was a lovely break and a fantastic setting in which to celebrate my big three-oh. James surprised me with a bottle of white from the duty free shack and we supped it out of plastic cups whilst sitting on a rock watching the sunset. What more could a girl ask for?! (James:  I’m all class as you know –  the wine also served to soften the blow of moving out of nice chalet, and into a more shabby little hovel which had become available at the end of the beach to save some much needed money!)

Once back in KL, we were all set for our US visa interview at the American embassy, thoughtfully scheduled for 7.20 am on the Tuesday morning: we’d filled in the online applications, which had frustratingly kept freezing so had taken hours, and which asked all kinds of bizarre questions like ‘What tribe or clan do you belong to?’, ‘Have you ever committed genocide?’, and ‘Are you a spy?’ (well, let’s see, now you mention it…); obtained some over-priced ‘special US size’ passport pictures (we always carry a stash of standard ones with us but, oh no, if you’re coming to America you need to be on a 2 inch x 2 inch square or computer says no); gone to a Standard Chartered bank to pay $140 each (ouchio, especially when most Brits get in on a free visa-waiver); and booked our interview online using the code from our bank receipt. We also made sure we had all sorts of other documentation with us – bank statements, letters from employers, our carnets etc – as recommended on the website. Our booking form outlined the process step-by-step (30 minutes for security clearance, 45 minutes for finger printing…and so on) to an expected total of 2.5 hours – blimey, we thought, we are in for a real grilling!! As it turned out, it was indeed a long old stint at the embassy but most of it was spent waiting around. When we were finally called up to a booth for our ‘interview’, the guy simply said something along the lines of ‘What a cool trip! I have no problem granting you visas, enjoy the US’! (James:  After having spent so long giving my work and education history as well as listing the countries we’d been through I almost wanted more of a grilling – at least enough to make this all worthwhile!) And just as one final act of madness, rather than be asked to return to the embassy a few days later to pick up our passports complete with visa, we instead had to get them returned by courier and pick them up from the ‘depot’. Hence, two days later we could be found out in the middle of nowhere on an industrial estate 20 miles out of the city centre wandering around trying to find ‘Unit 8B’ or whatever it was! Still, we had our visas so a big weight had been lifted, that’s for sure (not much point our bikes currently being on a ship to Vancouver if we wouldn’t be allowed to use them!….)

After all that palaver, we were ready for a another break! Well, not really, we’re not quite that pathetic but we did have almost a week before our flight to Melbourne (we were making the most of the time the bikes were spending ‘transpacific’ by visiting James’ family in Australia – it was after all, just round the corner…) and we knew that sticking around in Kuala Lumpur would no doubt prove expensive. There were  a few options: we could go back to Tioman (not an unappealing choice, and budget friendly if we went back to the cheap huts at the end of the beach), try another island (perhaps the Perhentians, further north of the east coast and somewhere I’d been before) or simply go across to the east coast but stay on the mainland. In the end, we went for the third option as it saved the cost of a ferry, and we found ourselves in Cherating, a beach resort town popular with the locals, but overlooked by international visitors. It turned out to be a great choice, not least because the accommodation (which I’d found recommended on the internet) was absolutely beautiful; raised wooden chalets set around a lake amidst lush green lawns and just a minute from the beach. There was a great little bar just up the beach (called ‘Don’t tell Mamma’ – love it!) where the super chilled barman served up freshly squeezed orange juice in big jars and, one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, there was a little black kitten that liked to go swimming in the sea!! We couldn’t believe our eyes! And that wasn’t the only cool creature around  – the area is famed for its large monitor lizards. We saw quite a few of them wandering about the grounds of our chalet and James caught some great shots by following the biggest into the undergrowth! We also had a troop of cheeky monkeys living in the trees above our chalet who seemed to revel in chucking fruit on to our roof – which had a tendency to scare the life out of me in the middle of the night!

Eventually, our time in Cherating drew to a close and we headed back to KL for the last time. We had a day to wander round (for James this meant one last visit to the huge Nikon shop in one of the many mega-malls for some obligatory drooling and sighing!…) before heading off to the airport  for the budget flight to Oz. We knew we hadn’t really done justice to Malaysia – it would have been great to have spent more time exploring the country on our bikes – but at least we’d sampled (a lot) of food and made some new friends! (And evolved from the cricketers tan to a more even spread!…) The journey to Australia was remarkably comfortable – maybe our standards have dropped, or maybe it was the difference from the usual mammoth flight time from the UK?! We were excited about the prospect of being ‘at home’ for a while after so long on the road but weren’t exactly looking forward to the weather – our warm tops were in our hand luggage for easy access as after thirteen months of almost constant heat, we knew we’d be in for a bit of shocker arriving in Melbourne in winter time!….

Photos here (a bike-free zone this time, sorry!)

All go in Kuala Lumpur!

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

(Em) Kuala Lumpur – what a cool city! And so bike friendly; no sooner had we hit the outskirts than we were getting waves and thumbs up from every man and his dog! Our first encounter with a super-friendly local occurred when we first arrived; we took an exit off the highway in what looked to be the direction of the Petronas Towers (without GPS or any pre-booked accommodation to head for, they seemed to be a good landmark) and suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a housing estate full of dead ends! We flagged down a passing people-carrier to ask for directions and the guy – wife and kids in tow – just told us to follow him, heading back into the centre of town (he no doubt lived on the estate and was almost home) and a good 20 minutes out of his way just to put us on the right track! The spirit of helping strangers is alive and well in KL. Of course, we stopped for some photos by the Petronas Towers (James geek fact: until 2004, they were the tallest buildings in the world, and still the tallest twin building at a tad under 452m or 1483ft but are not actually as tall as the Willis Tower, formally the Sears Tower, in Chicago as the Petronas Towers’ masts were considered design features and not just an ‘antenna on the roof’) and amused passers-by with our attempts to get the shot of the towers with the bikes by lying in the middle of the road! (James: one more reason why I need a wide-angle lens, damnit!…)

It took a while to locate somewhere to stay – the budget hotels were way out of our price range and even the hostels seemed extortionate in comparison with Thailand (plus we were a bit concerned about leaving the bikes out in the street). In the end, we found a pokey little room – no windows, paper thin walls, smelled of mothballs (James: to the point that we were getting headaches within minutes!) – in an Indian run hostel and charmed the flash hotel opposite into letting us put the bikes in their underground carpark. Result! We couldn’t take our bikes over to the shipping agent until Monday so our first day in town (Sunday) was used for admin and wandering about. Kuala Lumpur is a really happening city, modern like Bangkok but somehow a lot more European; I guess we got that sense from all the English language signs and trendy pubs, bars and shops. It’s busy but immaculately clean so quite a pleasure to explore on foot (although there aren’t many sidewalks –public transport is great but it’s not set up for the pedestrian!) In the evening, we managed to avoid the temptation of euro-food in the many cool looking bistros (there were Spanish tapas bars like you might see in London’s Spitalfields market, i.e. very trendy) and went for some good ole tom yam soup. Can’t go wrong!

Our shipping agent was located quite a way out of the centre of town but we’d printed off a map of the location so it was all good. Or not. What we hadn’t prepared for is the complete lack of any logic whatsoever when it came to signage on the city’s main road network. (James: It’s not only the signs, if you miss a junction you can’t just ride down to the next one and turn around – the next one simply turns off and sends you miles further out of your way with NO option to EVER turn round!) I don’t think we’ve had a more frustrating navigational experience on the whole trip than the complete nightmare that was finding the right road out of the city that morning!… And as the projected forty-five minute journey got closer to two hours, we really started to panic: in order to get our crates on the end of week sailing, Henry at Crown Relo had really wanted the bikes in on Friday but had extended the deadline so long as we got to the warehouse first thing Monday morning… it was now fast approaching Monday lunchtime! Eventually, having been helped by two taxi drivers and an ever-patient Henry on the phone (he confirmed that the road system was almost legendary for its crapness of design!), we made it to the industrial estate that housed Crown Relo’s office and warehouse. It was quite different from Suraj’s little shipping company office in Kathmandu, that’s for sure! We rode the bikes up into the huge warehouse space, which was chock full of crates but extremely organised and utterly spic and span, and set about taking the front wheels off so the bikes could be measured up for crating. It would take a while for the carpenters to make up the crates and we were quite happy to sit on the grass in the sunshine but Henry had other plans and took us out for lunch! An unexpected treat, not least because it meant we got to try Chinese marmite chicken for the first time!

The crates turned up around four and it was nearly 8pm by the time our bikes were all packed up – these things always take longer that you imagine, even with a team of six (yes, six!) guys helping us. We felt bad to have kept everyone late as a result of our cock up trying to find the place that morning but far from being resentful, Henry (James: who as management had had no reason to stay at work beyond 6pm and even less to stick around for us!) then gave us a lift to the station (we were now bike-less of course) and even offered for us to stay at his house the following evening! What a legend! Our plan had been to head to the east coast the following day for some beach action on Tioman Island (our US visa interview appointment – yes, really – wasn’t scheduled until the beginning of the following week) but Henry was offering up an even better plan; to stay and his and then get a lift across the country with him the next day as he was driving over for a meeting anyway. Perfect! So the next evening found we found ourselves in the surreal, but wonderful, scenario of sitting down with Henry, his delightful wife Maz and entertaining son Jake to a slap up meal complete with steak and fantastic red wine at their local – which happened to be an ex-pat bar/club run by a South African fellow cricketer (James: Henry is a cricket nut so most things for him seem to involve cricket to one degree or another!) and came complete with Olympic sized pool – before scoffing blue cheese and port in front of a movie at their home! We felt thoroughly spoiled, which indeed we were, and were really pleased to have made such lovely friends; not something either of us had expected to come out of our shipping experience! (James: All we can say is if you’re looking to ship ANYTHING out of Malaysia, Crown Relo are where you want to be, although we should add, that dinner and hospitality are very much NOT part of the ‘standard’ service! We were just incredibly lucky! Thanks once again Henry and family!) Needless to say, we slept (er, passed out?) like logs that night – we’ve become complete lightweights on the trip so beer, wine and port pretty much finished us off! We were also relieved to have the bike shipment sorted and, with our US visa interviews not until the following week, we were looking forward to some beach time for the next few days….

Click here for photos.

Living it up in Penang!

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

(Emily) ‘Welcome to Malaysia’ was emblazoned in big bold letters as we crossed the border, and welcome is certainly what we felt! Customs was a breeze and while James was inside getting the carnets done, I chatted with one of the border guards who taught us a few useful phrases – this is how we usually get some initial familiarity with a few key words in the language of a new country, there never seems to be time beforehand (James: it also helps to ‘warm up’ moody officials – all part of our cross-border charm offensive)!  The border post deposited us straight out onto the highway and immediately it was clear that Malaysia is significantly more developed than rural Thailand; big cars and sports bikes flashed past us and things just looked more streamlined and planned out. Also, being a former British colony, we could quickly identify elements of this heritage in the propensity of English language signs and road names. The sky had been looking pretty thunderous all morning and on the way down to Penang, we got hit by a few very heavy showers – it comes straight down in this part of the world, no messing about (James: quite literally, it’s like something out of film. You can ride along in clear dry air, and up ahead you’ll see a wall of water through which you can nothing. You get closer and closer to it and because there is not a breath of air, you can pretty much ride right up to it, stop, get off and stand and wait twenty metres away without feeling a drop!) But the Malays have a great system to help bikers caught in wet weather; under each bridge, of which there are many, there are special sections marked out where mopeds and motorcycles can pull into gaps in the barriers to seek refuge from downpours. We were extremely grateful for this facility, especially after the third or fourth shower! We also loved the fact that at each toll station, motorcycles (who don’t have to pay) are diverted round on their own little narrow route through the undergrowth at the side of the highway. It didn’t seem entirely necessary – there’s always room past one of the end toll booths – but we enjoyed the novelty factor!

In Penang, we were very lucky to have been offered a place to stay with James’s brother Ben’s wife Jo’s (got that?!) cousin (James: our cousin-in-law?). Andrew lives in Bukit Mertajam in mainland Penang and we were surprised and extremely gratified to be given exclusive use of his flash bachelor pad while he went and stayed with family down the road! And Andrew’s generosity didn’t end there… He’s a self-confessed car nut and has a whole network of like-minded auto enthusiasts all over the city. The very next day, he led us down to a local garage where his friends gave the bikes a thorough going over (this was after we’d come out of the house to find Andrew hosing our grubby motos down on the forecourt!) This mini-service turned out to be just as well as we knew that James’s rear brake pads were on their last legs, but more fortuitously, one of the bolts that hold his exhaust on was apparently about to fall off! The guys at the garage sorted these issues (btw thanks Dad for bringing the spare brake pads when you came out to Thailand) and gave the bikes a general sprottle. They even wrapped some heatproof bandage around our exhausts (Andrew insisted on this after seeing James’s pink right leg from riding the sort distance to the garage in shorts!) And for all this we were charged the ridonkulous fee of just 30 ringits, which equates to about £6!

Our ever-obliging host also made it his personal business to drive us around to see various sights in Penang while we were there.  Near Georgetown, we visited the Penang Clan jetties (a UNESCO world heritage site),which is a cluster of residential  piers on stilts that extend up to 80 metres out into the sea and are remnants of what was once a larger network of villages. Originally, each jetty was associated with a particular Chinese clan and those who shared the surname settled as neighbours; today the precariously appointed homes (some of which are surprisingly spacious) along each particular pier still house residents with a common surname. (Apart from ‘Mixed Surname Jetty’ – for all the odd stragglers, perhaps?!) While we were in the area, we also had a stroll around the star-shaped Fort Cornwallis – located on the point where Sir Francis Light first landed on Penang and thus began the colonisation of the island. There isn’t a whole lot to see nowadays but James and Andrew liked the cannons (boys, eh!) Later in the week, we visited the ‘military museum’, formerly a British forces training camp but used during the occupation by the Japanese in the WW2 as a prisoner of war camp (James: and one in which we believe my grandfather was held after being captured). There wasn’t much to see, as slightly bizarrely, those who run the camp have decided to make it dual purpose so it remains part museum and historical record, and part paintball centre! There were just old building left without much in the way of  any information to speak of so we left remembering it mostly for being perhaps the most mosquito ridden place we’d yet been to! Definitely not a place to spend years as a prisoner! We also took a gentle climb up a forest trail (lush rainforest is literally right on your doorstep even though Penang is a major city) replete with cooling fresh water pools and some very cheeky monkeys. (James: Although there’s only so far you can walk up hill when it’s 40 degrees and about 90% humidity!)

So, as you can see, Andrew was more than a bit of a star. And I haven’t even got to the best bit yet: during our ten days in Penang, he ensured that we sampled a whole smorgasbord of tasty local cuisine (James: and you know how we like our food!)which, due to the melting pot of cultures in Malaysia, comprised of Chinese, Thai, Indian, Indonesia, Malaysian or a fusion of food from different nationalities (even the British Isles gets a look in – chicken in Guinness anyone?! It was delicious, as was marmite chicken!) Finding places to try all these dishes with a local’s insight was just awesome – thanks Andrew! A particular favourite was guay chap (James: the spelling might be a little off…),  a rich duck soup just bursting with flavour,  plus James was rather taken with asam laksa, a sour but spicy little soup number. And let’s not forget the little breakfast parcels of rice with sambal that Andrew would bring over for us in the morning. It’s fair to say we were well and truly spoilt! Our time in Penang coincided with our first wedding anniversary (always good to still be on your honeymoon when that comes around!) and we somewhat lowered the gastronomic tone by consuming a bottle of wine and a bar of Dairy Milk in front of a movie that night – ah, the romance!

So, you may be wondering why we hung around Penang for so long. Well aside from the great time we were having with Andrew, really it was because our goal was to arrange the shipping of our bikes from Malaysia over to Canada while we were somewhere cheap (free – even better!) with decent internet access. We just didn’t bank on it taking over a week! I must have sent out quote requests to at least forty shipping agents and slowly but surely, they started to trickle back but there were days of endless dialogue back and forth about crate dimensions and optional services  and so on and so forth. What did become clear within a few days was that shipping by air was pretty much out of the question; as much as we wanted to get the bikes across the Pacific in the shortest possible time in order to get maximum touring time in the states, £4000+ (yes, really!) just wasn’t viable (and that wasn’t including our own tickets). So, half way through the week we did a bit of an about turn and started looking into sea freighting instead. To us, this was a far less desirable option: aside from the time issue, we’d just heard so many horror stories about horrendous delays or bribery at the port of destination. Still, it didn’t look like we had much choice, and at least we were shipping to Canada, more of a known entity. When we started getting yet more extortionate quotes and, worse, projections of  35 day sailing times that wouldn’t even be leaving port for several weeks, I began to get rather concerned. Maybe America was going to have to be ‘another trip for another day’ – at this rate we’d barely have time to cross the states and, more importantly, only a fistful of dollars left with which to do it.

Eventually though, we struck lucky and were in a position where we had three viable options: Andrew’s friend who works in shipping (James: Andrew, seemed to know everybody in Penang!), a freight forwarder who two fellow bikers had recently used out of Kuala Lumpur, and an agent with a company called Crown Relo (much more big scale) who seemed to know what he was talking about, gave prompt replies to my queries and had some flexibility on rates depending on what we required. Naturally, it was a Friday afternoon near the close of business when things really came to a head and we were making frantic calls to all three parties trying to get a final quote so we could make our decision. Our bikes are our babies, remember  – putting them on a random ship and hoping they turn up where you want them to is not something to be taken lightly! (James: shipping by sea can also be a pretty torrid affair. Unlike air freight where the bike goes on a set flight and arrives hours later, the shipping world is far murkier. You’re never sure if your ‘low priority’ crate is onboard, whether it was unloaded at another port en route etc, so the estimated sailing and arrival times tend to be best case scenario. A good example is Fabian, who you’ll hopefully remember from China and Pakistan. He shipped his bike from the same port at new year. His projected sailing time to South America was 4 weeks so he spent them backpacking in Indonesia. Upon his arrival he went to get hid bikes but they weren’t there. In the end, he waiting 2 months in Argentina before he got his beloved bike back!) In the end, with the other two faffing about a bit and time running out (it was minutes before 5pm when they’d all be going home for the weekend), we went with Henry at Crown Relo. Henry, who it turned out was a Brit, (no bad thing as it means less room for losses in translation when agreeing details and fees!) was confident that as long as we got down to Kuala Lumpur by Monday to do the paperwork and crate up the bikes in good time, the bikes could sail on the Friday. Suddenly, it all seemed very real!

So, after abusing Andrew’s hospitality for well over one week, we prepared to leave for Kuala Lumpur. Andrew was gracious to the last, welcoming us back should we need a cheap place to kill some time once the bikes had gone, and as we rode off, we felt very lucky to have received such generous hospitality. Thanks Andrew! Our plan for the day was to head into the Cameron Highlands, an area of outstanding natural beauty famous for its old British colonial tea plantations, and stay there for one night en route to KL. However, those pesky storm clouds were at it again. We had to pull in at service stations and moto-shelters several times along the way to avoid heavy rain (at one point pulling in a tad late and getting absolutely drenched), and as we neared the turn of for the Highlands, it was clear that the miserable weather would pretty much render this scenic route pointless if we were cold and wet and not even able to see our surroundings! It was a shame to pass by – we were all too aware that we’d hardly ridden in Malaysia at all yet and the bikes would soon be nested in their crates, not to see the light of day again until they reached Vancouver – but we’re not gluttons for punishment! So we pressed on towards the capital and, typically, the sun came out in full force by early afternoon. We knew that KL was going to be busy and manic but once we saw the glimmer of skyscrapers in the distance and caught our first glimpse of the enormous Petronas Towers, we couldn’t help but feel rather excited!….

For photos click here.