Into another world
January 7th, 2008
The night seems to go by faster than normal, and this is in a
way true, too; the time difference to our home country expands by
90 minutes during this 3-hour flight. There´s still about 1 hour
until sunrise, as the plane´s wheels touch down in Bangkok. The
huge Suvarnabhumi airport was opened a couple years ago, and its
name means ´Golden Land´. But the area where it was built, was
originally known as ´cobra-swamp´, and story goes so, that they
had to kill one million snakes from that area, before building the
facility could proceed! True or not, but now it is operational,
and is one of the largest air-traffic hubs in Asia. Also the older
Don Muang airport (which funnily has golf courses, that are still
being used, between its runways!) still operates, mostly handling
I go to the restroom, and the feeling of surprise is overwhelming!
I am amazed, how spotlessly clean it is, and there is even toilet
paper available! Many public toilets in India usually had very
different hygienic standards - but naturally this is also because
this facility is almost new.
We try to find out, where the bike could be picked up, but the
airport is absolutely huge, and we have had practically no sleep
last night. After walking around, and asking at some airline
counters, unsurprisingly with no success, we decide it will be
better to get some rest first. So we take a taxi to Pattaya, about
1,5 hours away. You only have to travel 5 minutes on the motorway
to notice, that cars look generally much newer and very different
to what you usually see in India. Also a great percentage of them
We would probably make our ´base´ closer to Suvarnabhumi, but my
friend Bengt "Hiko" Haikola, who is a very experienced motorcycle
traveller, and used to have his own dealership in Finland, happens
to live in Pattaya. I got my first taste of Asia, when I joined a
group of bikers put together by Hiko in 2005, and after that I
have been there several times touring Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
During these trips, I´ve also become familiar with a bunch of
Finnish guys, who spend most of Finland´s 5-6 month winter here.
There are many road workers, and some roof repairmen, and common
to them is the fact they do not have much work back home during
Hiko´s large knowledge-base was a big help even before our trip
even began, and from here we plan to enter areas that he knows
like the back of his hand. Hiko is married to Koo, a Thai, who has
a lovely 3-year old daughter Pum, and the family has recently
moved to another address in a quiet neighbourhood. There´s even a
sauna on the roof of the new house, and they warm it up on the
evening of our arrival. Many people, who either work or have
worked in the two-wheel business, happen to be present, and the
evening goes on almost until the morning. Especially the
milkshakes, beefed up with vodka, are a big hit in the wee hours!
A small break from travelling
Hiko has put up another group, that is to start off to Cambodia
just now, and they even postponed their start so that we could
join them. I am so sad to disappoint them, but having just arrived
from India, we just do not have the energy to go anywhere right
now! Our original plan was actually so, that we would go east from
Bangkok, cross into Cambodia, and then Laos (Vietnam is very tough
to get into with your own bike, even though I have lately heard it
can be possible, but the process looks a lot similar and almost as
expensive as China, so not a viable option for us!) From Laos,
which has some wonderful mountain regions, we´d continue to North
Thailand, which has some of the best curvy roads on Earth. But we
spent more time in India than we had planned, so if we want to
reach Australia before spring comes to Finland, and before we´ll
need to head back to work, it is now better not to make any such
I have actually done this route (Cambodia-Laos-North Thailand)
with Hiko in 2005, and also next year we were in the same region,
trying to enter Vietnam with 115 cc scooters (also called "chicken
chasers"!) from all possible international border stations. These
are all in many ways just amazing countries to visit, and they
would all be fully new to Anne, so I am very sorry, that she is
now going to miss them altogether. But may be it will be possible
for us to fly to Bangkok some time later, and then go ride them.
So, Hiko leads the way and the guys depart to Cambodia - I
actually go to say hi to them, as they are about to start off from
in front of Hiko´s house. Then we go (with Koo as our
Thai-speaking helper, which proves to be a great benefit!) back to
the airport, and into its massive cargo-area. Unlike Pakistan or
India, Thailand is not part of the carnet-system, so the bike will
be issued a special temporary import permit (T2-paper). This
allows the vehicle to remain in the country for 30 days, and it is
enforced by a conditional fine, which is in local currency, baht,
but it equals about 24.000 euros. The price of a new DL650 ABS in
Finland is about 10.500 euros!
I heard, that it should in fact be possible to keep the vehicle in
Thailand for up to 6 months, before the customs would really come
down hard on you - and there´s also the possibility to shortly
visit Cambodia or Malaysia with it, and get an extension of the
permit. But we do not plan to stay even 30 days now, so it
shouldn´t be a problem for us. In the papers, they mark the dates
as they are in the Buddhist calendar, and so it is now year 2551.
After 3-4 hours, as the hot sun is descending on this busy airport,
we are allowed to take the freight box (which, to our great relief,
HAS arrived, and also looks quite intact!) to the nearest gas
station, and with the help of some passers-by, we are able to lift
it by hand from the pick-up, and also to get it back into rideable
condition. If you´ve been to Thailand, you´ll know how friendly
people are - it is not called "the land of smiles" for nothing!
One guy, who is some sort of a mechanic, actually gets out his
full set of tools from his car, and help us out. A big thank you
goes out to him (as well as several others, who helped us in a
similar way during our trip!) We ride to Pattaya in the darkness
wearing just jeans and t-shirts, and it does get a bit chilly, but
we stop by the roadside stores a few times to warm up. Still it is
a very nice feeling to get the bike back on its wheels.
The V-Strom is taken to Yaw, a mechanic in South Pattaya that
Hiko often uses to maintain and fix his bikes, and we ask Yaw to
change oil, spark plugs, air filter and tyres, that we have been
carrying with us for over 2 months all the way from Thessaloniki,
about 13.600 kms on the road. These Michelin Anakee tyres are
actually still useable, even so that we decide we will not order a
new set of them, but we put our new ones on now, and take the used
ones to be carried in case of an emergency. It has been a drag to
take the new tyres off the bike almost every night (may be we were
just paranoid, but we usually felt not like keeping them on for
the night). Used tyres will be okay for us to just keep where they
are. You can find aftermarket parts from Pattaya, but for example
the oil filter, I want to use original Suzuki part, and these
would have to be ordered from Singapore. Luckily we took some of
these with us from Europe. The bike has worked remarkably well so
far, in different road conditions, and occasionally in high
temperatures. And often we´ve had no idea, what fuel it is exactly,
that we are using, and sometimes there´s been some engine knocking,
probably due to low-octane fuel, but even this can be avoided by
using the throttle a little differently.
Almost a week later, and after a Pattaya local newspaper
interviewed us about our trip, we leave this ´extreme city´ behind
us, and our V-Strom swallows up the Sukhumvit Road as we head to
Bangkok. Even though the Gulf of Thailand is quite narrow,
apparently there are no ferries across it, and going around it
would be a detour of 200-300 kms, so there´s no feasible option
but to try to find your way through this gigantic city. Bangkok
wasn´t originally located right by the sea, but has grown so that
it practically extends to the shoreline now. Unfortunately
motorcycles are not allowed to use its network of toll motorways,
and this rule is enforced, too, so you´ll need to find a ferry
across the Chao Praya-river. Coming from Pattaya, you´ll need to
turn left immediately after you spot the huge Erawan-statue, which
is a three-headed elephant the size of a 10-floor building, on the
right hand side.
City-riding, when the temperature in the shade is probably around
35C - with our black leather-suits on - is a bit hot to tell you
the truth, but we have no extra room on the bike to keep even our
jackets. And after South India, this isn´t exactly new. You just
need to keep a lot of breaks (preferably in the shade!) and drink
PLENTY of water every time. Many liters of water are consumed
every day, and you´ll also need to take care to gain back the salt,
that your body loses through sweating, so pure water will not be
enough. We find the ferry, and luckily we do not even get
thoroughly lost after it, as has happened to me before. We
actually find the main road south nicely, spending the night in
Cha-Am, a beach resort also popular with Finnish tourists, and
this is the top season. Early in the morning, we return to the
highway, and pass by Hua Hin´s long rows of skyscrapers looking to
the Gulf of Thailand. It is best to get on the road early, as the
heat is then not so intolerable during the first hours.
There is no doubt about the position of the King in Thailand. You
can see the bright yellow signs, flags and portraits of the royal
family almost everywhere on the road. Especially when entering a
city of any size, these will be greeting you. Even some falangs
(Thai word for ´foreigner´ of European descent) are known to have
been imprisoned, after they´ve made the mistake of publicly
criticizing this institution.
Thailand is also known as "the land of smiles", and I think there
must be some truth in this. Even my own mouth is getting close to
a wide grin inside my helmet, because traveling here seems so easy
and straightforward. I believe that after the more or less
constant chaos of India, it feels even more so! Here the main road
is in a much better condition - ok, it is also dead straight, and
so quite boring. But it does not meander through every little
village, it passes by the urban areas. There is also decidedly
less traffic here. In India, in many areas just 200 kms was enough
for a day, 300 was tough, and 400 kms we could not even do but a
few times. And this was like you´d just done an actual "Ironbutt"-ride!
In Thailand, you can easily multiply those numbers by at least two.
Asian "traffic rules" are of course the way to go here, too, and
traffic is left-handed, but generally it is not such a big chaos.
So probably for the first time after Iran, riding feels like
you´re on a holiday, when you are able to find your own space to
ride in. This was rarely possible in Pakistan or India - and even
in Iran they only needed 4-5 cars to make it a "traffic jam" -
mostly around us! Also we are able to keep a decent average speed,
which feels really good. Especially in India, there was always
some other road user within an arm´s reach, and you had to
anticipate their next possible move every second! When the road
goes through Thai cities, there are traffic lights, which are
obeyed surprisingly well. There´s plenty of space between the rows
of cars, and on a bike you´re free to take the "pole position",
before lights turn green, and then leave all the trucks and other
slower vehicles behind.
We pass through the narrow Isthmus of Kra, and for a while can
almost see to Myanmar, as we head southwest to the Andaman Sea
coast. For the night, we find a beautiful, wide and solitary beach,
where there are some bungalows made from bamboo built on a very
steep hill, offering stupendous views to watch the sun set into
the sea. There´s also a tavern, where we can get something to eat
without leaving the beach, and about 10 pm they close down
aggregate power, after which we are surrounded by almost total
darkness, with only the numerous sounds of the tropics coming from
all around us. I mean all around us - there´s quite a buzz also
inside our room, too, and I´m thankful there´s a decent mosquito
net provided (though we have also carried our own just in case).
Gecko lizards up to 30 cm long make funny noises, and run on the
walls and ceiling. I have a tough job trying to convince my travel
companion, who still has a big fear for all these small and larger
creatures, that they are actually quite harmless!
Evening view from a hotel balcony in Jomtien Beach, Pattaya. This
large tourist area is located on the shores of the Gulf of Thailand, a
couple of hours ride south from Bangkok.
Our bike back on its wheels, and ready to go forward! A Finnish friend
knew the people from a local newspaper in Pattaya, and they
interviewed us to make a story of our trip. This is from a related
photoshoot, that was done with the interview.
Hiko (riding the red Aprilia) and some Finnish friends are just about
to start off to Cambodia from in front of Hiko´s new house. They even
postponed their start so that we could join them, but unfortunately
India had been too stressful, so we needed to take some rest before we
A busy street view from a city between Pattaya and Bangkok.
Pattaya is on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, but if you want
to go to the extreme south of the country, you´ll need to get to the
Gulf´s west coast. And right there in the middle is Bangkok - a city
of almost 10 million, where you´re strictly NOT allowed to use the
fast tollways on a bike! Fortunately you can get direction from this ´Erawan-shrine´
- a giant 3-headed elephant statue - that´ll lead you to a small ferry
across the Chao Praya river.
Crossing the Chao Praya river; on the background, you can see the
bridge of one of the tollways, but 2-wheelers cannot use them, that´s
probably why the ferry was full of scoters. In the past I´ve really
got badly lost in the city after this crossing, but this time we were
lucky, and found the highway going south without any problems.
Large pictures of the Thai king, and the royal family, were very
Generally speaking, we had very few technical troubles with the DL650
during the whole 6-month trip. But we had extension pieces on our
mirrors, and one of them snapped off on a Thai highway heading south.
Surprisingly, even though the mirror fell off to the road at 120 kms
per hour, it wasn´t badly damaged, and because you really need the
righthand-mirror (in left-hand traffic of Thailand), we simply
attached it to the handguard with some duct-tape, before we could find
a workshop to fix it properly.
View to the Andaman Sea from a bungalow near Khao Lak. There was only
a very narrow gravel-road leading to the desolate huts, that were
built on a very steep hill on a jungle area.
The bungalows on a steep hill near Khao Lak.Ours is the highest one,
and it was tough to carry our luggage on very steep stairways!
Inside view of our bungalow near Khao Lak. A mosquito net is almost
mandatory here - and it´ll keep other little critters away from your
bed, too. There wasn´t any shortage of those, either, after electric
power was cut off for the night!
...But not all of them were exactly little! This gecko, that roamed
the walls of the bungalow with its friends during the night, was about
20-30 cms long.
Some dark memories
It is a beautiful, cloudless morning, quite typical to this
tropical region in the northern hemisphere during this time of the
year. It is also a bit more than 3 years - 1116 days to be exact -
when a huge earthquake rocked the sea bed near the island of
Sumatra. The ocean floor rose in a zone, that´s over 1000 kms
long, and this sent underway fast, lethal waves, known as tsunami,
that traveled across the Indian Ocean, and caused unbelievable
destruction when coming ashore thousands of kilometers away from
the quake´s epicenter. We arrive in Khao Lak, an area among the
worst hit in Thailand. Most of the less than 200 Finns, who
perished that day, died here.
You can still see some signs of the destruction in the area.
Nature has mostly recovered, but near the shoreline all buildings
are either new, or look thoroughly rebuilt. The waves had so much
power, that the entire coastline changed shape, and we find a road,
that just ´ends´ to the sea; it is actually cut diagonally, like
the rest of it has been cut away by a huge razorblade. After this
terrible incident, a tsunami warning system has been built, and
you can see the warning towers with their sirens, as well as
clearly marked evacuation routes everywhere in the area.
In fact I was quite close to experience this destruction
personally. I was in India, and had stayed in Pondicherry just 5
days before it happened. But by some strange fortune, I went to
Goa for Christmas. In Pondicherry, I had stayed in the ground
floor of a guesthouse right by the shoreline, and from my room
door, there was less than 20 meters to the Bay of Bengal.
Pondicherry is actually elevated a few meters above the sea level,
and has a sturdy wall of rocks in front of it, which I believe may
have sheltered the city a little. But nearby are many, many small
fishermen´s villages, which were right at the waterline and had no
protection whatsoever; more than 5000 people drowned there. The
tsunami also went around the southern tip of India like a whiplash,
and southern coasts of Kerala were also hit. I heard a claim, that
several hundred people had drowned in Calicut, which is just 600
kms south from Goa (and on the same west coast).
I probably saw some signs of this terrible incident myself, when I
walked in Goa´s Colva Beach late in the evening of December 26th.
In just minutes, the beach filled up with water, people were
forced to walk under the palm trees, and a few minutes later, it
was empty again. I believe this was no ordinary tide, more like
the whole ocean ´vibrating´ after this hugely powerful earthquake.
When I was a child, my father, who died in the summer of 2004, was
very interested in tsunamis, and he taught me very carefully, how
to spot the signs of these. I believe, that IF I had seen the
water recede, (like it did in Khao Lak - but this may not always
happen before the wave comes) because of my father I would have
known, what is going to happen, and I may have been able to seek
shelter in time. But naturally I cannot be certain of this.
Everybody always though my father was a bit crazy to be so
interested in tsunamis. But after December 26th 2004, and after
this greatest natural disaster of our time, I don´t think so many
people would say studying them is just a waste of time.
I´ve seen many documents from that day later on, and to me it
seems fully possible, that if people had known about the
mechanisms of this phenomenon, a lot fewer would have drowned (especially
in Thailand, were there were clear warning signs, a sudden surge
of water, followed by a quick recession of the shoreline, before
the lethal waves hit).
Now the warning system is operational, but I´m afraid it was
mostly built just so that tourists would be confident to return to
Thailand as soon as possible (which they have) and as time goes
on, the importance of it will be forgotten. This tsunami was
caused by the most powerful earthquake on the whole planet in 40
years, and if (or when) the next such quake will trigger a tsunami
of similar magnitude, it may well be, that people will once again
be taken by surprise.
In the Finnish newspapers this was often referred to as "the
tsunami destruction in Thailand", which is understandable, because
most of our victims died there. But we must keep in mind, that for
suffered even more because of this tragedy. Hundreds of thousands
of people perished there - and yet those less than 200 Finns, that
died in Thailand, got much more space in the media.
More things to find out
We continue south, but just before we are about to arrive to the
island of Phuket, we turn inland, and follow a very nice curvy
road with a perfect surface. This gets close to the best roads of
northern Thailand, which in my opinion are among the best on the
planet. All of the sudden, a big snake, probably almost 2 meters
long, wriggles very fast right into our riding line on an
extremely tight right-hand turn. The situation comes and goes
before there´s really any time to think. I really do not like to
ride over animals of any kind, but this fellow unfortunately
managed to appear at exactly the wrong moment, when it would only
have been possible to avoid it by going off the road.
We rest for a few days in Krabi after finding a hotel, that has
been opened just a day before our arrival, and they have a special
offer, so we get a nice brand new air-conditioned room for a bit
more than 10 euros. We make some side trips to the nearby places,
for example Ao Nang, which has a fabulous beach and mountains
rising straight up from the sea, but the downsides of mass tourism
also seem to be there, so we´ll rather stay in Krabi.
The most famous attractions, like Ko Phi Phi Island, would require
a boat ride, but the weather has gotten a bit rainy, especially in
the afternoon, so we skip these excursions. We do however make a
short trip on a ´longtail-boat´ to the mangrove forests near Krabi,
and visit a fish farming centre that floats on the water on large
Our journey continues south, to Pak Meng Beach, which is just as
beautiful as Krabi, but tourists are mostly from Thailand. We
spend some time on the internet cafes, trying to work out, how we
are going to get our motorcycle transported to Sumatra in
Indonesia. There is only the Straight of Melaka in between, but
ferry connections once again seem to be very rare, and good
information even tougher to find. It also seems very important to
pick the right port of entry, to get your vehicle into Indonesia.
Highway 4, which varies in width and condition, but does not have
too much traffic to cause delays, continues south on a very humid
(and hot!) morning. Some extremists have detonated bombs in the
nearby Yala province lately, but luckily we do not need to go
there, as we will head straight south from Hat Yai. After about
2100 kms in Thailand, the border with Malaysia is now ahead of us.
And unless there are some delays crossing the border, we are
planning to spend the next night on the island of Penang.
(to be continued)
Evening ride on the Pak Meng Beach, starting off to Malaysia
Khao Lak´s coastal areas were badly leveled off, and a large number of
people were killed by the tsunami waves, that came ashore on December
26th, 2004. After the catastrophe, a warning system has been built.
Here is a siren tower that belongs to the system. On the lower part of
the photo there´s a pole, with markings that right here, when the
tsunami struck, water level had risen to 5 meters.
Thai children on a bus at a fuel-stop. They were excited to see us!
Thai people, who are mainly Buddhist, often have ´houses for spirits´
similar to this one on their yard, where offerings are placed.
We took a short boat trip from Krabi to the neighbouring mangrove
bushes, and strangely shaped rocks.
A ´longtail-boat´ near Krabi.
This one-handed crab walked on a beach near Krabi. First we thought it
had somehow lost one arm, but there were several others like it nearby.
There was also a floating fish-hatchery near Krabi, where we saw, for
example, this spiky ballfish.
During the boat trip, we saw monkeys in the mangrove bushes, and our
captain even took us closer, to feed them with bananas.
Pak Meng Beach was a beautiful and quiet place, where visitors were
mostly from Thailand. Here the sun is about to drop into the Andaman
Malaysia (20th January – 4th February 2008)
Our last miles in Thailand seem to go by effortlessly. This may be
because our memories of constantly jammed Indian traffic are still
fresh. We can see the border station ahead of us, but we have to wait
a long time in the passport check queue. It is very hot outside,
probably close to 35°C in the shade, and humidity makes it feel even
hotter. With our leather-suits on, we need to keep drinking more or
less all the time.
There are a few big bikes, registered in Singapore, also waiting to
cross the border, and we talk to the riders, who look local, and say
they are now returning home from northern Thailand (by the way, if you
have never done North Thailand on a motorcycle, do it some time,
because the place is a heaven for bikers!) In general, big bikes are
rare in these countries, even though you can sometimes see them in
Thailand or Malaysia. We have not seen ONE V-Strom (other than ours of
course!) ever since we left western parts of Turkey a long time ago!
We leave the Thai temporary import permit that we got, when clearing
the bike out of Suvarnabhumi airport a couple of weeks ago, into one
of the customs offices. This paper had over 1 million baht (almost
24.000 euros) of conditional taxes & duties, that would have to be
paid in the case, that we do not take the bike out of Thailand within
30 days. Also worth noting, that this motorcycle costs about 10.500
euro new in Finland!
Once we are finished with Thailand, and get to proceed to the
Malaysian side, no-one seems to have any interest on the bike, only
our passports. But this country is a carnet-country (clearly listed on
our carnet, too) so we want to get the proper stamps on it, and that
way we can also prove, if necessary, that the bike has officially left
Thailand. Anne waits with the bike, and I go into a customs office,
and wander around for a long time, as the whole place looks empty.
Finally I stumble into a hot and stuffy office-room, where there is a
man in a uniform, watching British football from a TV. I give him the
carnet, and he puts the correct stamps into the right places on this
precious paper. He never says one word, only keeps watching the game
closely, and so nobody even comes outside to have a look at the bike,
or check its frame-number! Seemed very much like one could enter
Malaysia also without the carnet, but I cannot be sure, that this will
always be the case, and at every possible point of entry.
Then we are through with the border. Ahead of us is the seventh
country on this trip that neither of us has visited before. The
landscape looks flat, only a few tall palm trees grow between the
large cultivated fields, and to the east, there are some small hills.
The sun will be setting soon, and this is very close to the Equator,
so its movement once it gets closer to the horizon, will be very rapid.
There are some very tall thunder clouds on the eastern sky, which the
sun´s last rays paint in very dramatic colors of red, yellow and
Just by riding straight ahead, we get to the big highway, that
connects Singapore to South Thailand, a distance of 960 kilometers,
and it is known as ´Lebuhraya´ (lebuh means road in Malaysian language)
or ´North-South Tollway´. From the guidebooks, I imagined it would be
a six-lane highway, but maybe those, who wrote the books, have only
been on this road near the capital. But two lanes each way, when
there´s not much traffic, is still good, and also the surface probably
could not be better. Traffic in Malaysia is on the left, just like
Thailand, and although the habits of the road-users might not be
praised in our home country, especially after touring India for 7
weeks, riding here feels very relaxing and easy!
As its name suggests, this is a toll-road, but we´re glad to find out,
that bikes are exempt from the payments. The only demand in order to
skip the toll booths, is to fit your bike between narrow gates, which
lead to an equally narrow (but still paved!) ´bypass road´, that goes
to the other side of the toll gates. Our bike, with the aluminum
panniers, is some 104 centimeters wide, so we can make it just barely!
Also this is so near to the Equator, that the ´dry´ and the ´wet´
seasons are not so distinct, and hard rain showers are common
throughout the year. Underneath the bridges of the motorway, there are
special parking zones for 2-wheelers, that are signposted, and they
are outside the road barriers, which is very clever, because it makes
it a lot safer to wait there, until the rain stops. We have a small
break in one of the rest areas, and they are distinctly clean, even
more so than in Thailand. And especially compared to India, this seems
like a very tidy country.
The sun drops down into the Straight of Malacca, as we exit the main
road, and continue west to the shore. A 13-km long bridge, one of the
longest on the whole continent, takes us to the island of Penang. Its
Malaysian name, ´Pulau Pinang´, means ´betelnut island´, and this was
the first British colonial settlement on the Malaysian peninsula. The
island has a shape of a swimming turtle, and on its northeast corner
is its biggest city, Georgetown, with almost half a million people. It
was built primarily as a stopover for commercial ships doing their
long haul between Europe and China. The story goes, that captain
Francis Light, in the beginning of the 18th century, fired silver
coins from his cannons into the hills, to ensure that the workers, who
were doing the hard work of clearing up the near-impenetrable jungle
on the island, had a good motivation to do their job! Now, as we enter
the island under a moonlit sky, the road into Georgetown is lined with
huge blocks of flats, and its beach promenade is bursting with modern
Encounters in Penang
This island is called ´Malaysia in a nutshell´, and apparently that is
for a good reason. Even in Georgetown, you have the modern high-tech
casually mixing up with age-old traditions. This has always been on
the crossroads between China and India, and both have contributed to a
great extent to what is Malaysia today. Just a stone throw away from
the huge skyscrapers, there are large Chinese, Indian and Malay
districts, that look like they could be from the 1930´s. Almost half
of Penang´s population is in fact Chinese. Also in this melting pot of
cultures, you can see Buddhist and Hindu shrines, as well as mosques,
just half a block away from each other.
We find suitable accommodation from Georgetown´s Chinatown, where the
room costs about 8 euros per night (the currency is of course
Malaysian Ringgit), and there´s also a sheltered inner courtyard,
where we are allowed to push the bike through the busy bar area. There
it is very safe, and in fact it will stay almost next to the door of
our room! There´s a rock-band (well, sort of!) playing, and they are a
funny bunch, almost like an Asian version of the ´Spinal Tap´!
Especially their cover-versions of Neil Young are horrible, to be
honest, but apparently they are paid by beer on the house, and all in
all, they fit the decadent atmosphere of the bar perfectly!
We go for a walk in the moonlight along Lebuh Chulia, where the
guesthouse is located, and it looks like a typical Asian
backpacker-street full of small, cheap and very basic accommodations,
small cafes and restaurants, shops and net-cafes. You can, however,
distinct the place from Thailand, for example, as this is a Muslim
country, so you do not see the suspicious-looking massage parlours, or
scantily clad single women on the streets.
Returning to the guesthouse, the reception has a message for us, left
by three Australians, who had seen us on our bike before, and wanted
to meet. Shortly we stumble into them at the bar, and two men,
Kristian and Liam, are riding overland from the UK to Australia. At
the moment, they are joined by Sarah, Kristian´s girlfriend, who has
taken some time off from her work to be able to travel with the guys.
Kristian and Liam have bought two Honda Transalp 600´s from the UK -
each bike cost less than 1000 pounds - and they set off on their trip
at the end of May, 2007, means that they have now travelled for about
8 months. They rode from Europe to Russia, and then Kazakhstan, China,
Pakistan, India and Nepal. After that they came to the same conclusion
as we did, that Burma is not do-able on your own vehicle, so the bikes
were freighted by air from Kathmandu to Bangkok. The two Transalps do
look a bit beaten up, but it is a fact they have made it this far. And
since none of us currently have any vehicle insurance whatsoever,
their risk is definitely much lower than ours.
The same problem again – how to proceed?
Penang is quite small, and easily ridden around on a day with a
motorcycle. The beaches aren't much to rave about – Langkawi a bit
closer to the Thai border would probably be a better destination, if
you´re looking for that. But our priority at the moment is to decide
the best way onwards from Malaysia. The country consists of Peninsular
Malaysia (also known as Western Malaysia) and the northern parts of
the island of Borneo, from where it is possible to cross into
Indonesia by land. But this huge island is largely road-less territory,
and transport is by air or by boats on rivers. Another obstacle with
that option is that there are no regular ferries from Western Malaysia
going that way, so getting the bike into Borneo would mean freighting
it once again, by air or by sea.
We are aware, that there is a regular shipping line operated by
Perkins Shipping from Singapore to Darwin in Australia´s Northern
Territory. This is not a ferry line, though, it´s a cargo line for
goods & vehicles, and does not take passengers. The sailing of the
bike would take a couple of weeks, and it would be possible for us to
go to Indonesia as backpackers, and then fly to Darwin to meet the
bike. After a while we decide, that our plan is to use Perkins, but
not from Singapore. The ships make a stopover in East Timor´s capital
Dili, and we plan to ride all the way there. In order to do this, we
need to find out, how to get our bike to the big Indonesian islands of
Sumatra or Java.
Sumatra is not far from Peninsular Malaysia, in fact it is so close,
that even when designing big tanker ships, the term ´Malaccamax´ is
used. It means the biggest possible ship that can sail through the
Straight of Malacca, which is only 25 meters deep at its shallowest
point. One would think, that there are lots and lots of boats sailing
across. And in fact there are, but often these vessels are not
passenger ferries (like the ones we have in Europe). Actually a ´ro-ro´
passenger ferry connection – just what we are looking for – was opened
between Penang and Sumatra just a couple of years ago, but it has
already been put to hold. Also the information that you get from
guidebooks or the web, is incomplete for a motorcyclists´ needs. It
would suggest, that there are many ´ferryboats´, but this word may or
may not mean a real ferry (that has a car deck). Probably does not
matter much for backpackers, but if you have a vehicle, then it could
be a different story. Maybe in the future, as this kind of travel
seems to get more popular, the information about these will also be
Many different options
I send messages with Hiko, and he tells me he once transported a bike
on the deck of a fast passenger-boat from Malacca in Malaysia to Dumai
in Sumatra. It sounds plausible, that if you went to the port to talk
to the captain of the ship, you might be able to negotiate taking the
bike into the boat. But also some helpers at both ends of the journey
would probably need to earn a little something, to lift the bike to
and from the boat, as there most likely would not be any lifting
device available. This option, however, turns out to be
unrecommendable, as I go to the net, and into a travellers forum,
where there is usually quite accurate information. The province, where
Dumai is located, has been plaqued by smuggling recently, and because
of this, even the transport of fully legal goods has become extremely
complicated. Travellers have been sent (by public transport) to
faraway cities to apply for permits, that they should not need, and
have had to bribe their way through the customs. Does not sound very
Kristian and Liam ask us to join them, as they go to the Cakra
Shipping office near the harbour. We sit down and drink some tea with
mr. Lim, the boss of this Chinese company. The Aussies plan to freight
their two Transalps into Sumatra using Cakra Shipping, who operate
small cargo boats, that are normally loaded mostly with bags
containing onions. But because of the lack of ferries, they have
recently made a little business on the side, transporting overlanders
motorcycles across the Straight of Malacca. At the office, we also
meet Michael, a relaxed German biker, who has now toured all around
Southeast Asia for almost 1,5 years, and his KLR650 is currently being
transported from Sumatra to Penang by this same company. They charge
about 60 euros for one bike, and they demand, that all bikes taken
into Indonesia go with a carnet (which is not a problem for us,
because we all have it). They are also adamant, that the ships will
not take passengers, and so they will need to take another transport
to meet up with their bikes.
Tour to the south
It is good to know, that there is at least one clear route to Sumatra,
but we intend to find out, if there are other options, and get to know
a little more of Peninsular Malaysia in the process. The ferryboat
from Penang is free (the other way it costs something small) and once
we get back to the big Lebuhraya, we can keep 130 kms per hour
constant travel speed. The humid air, at about +30 Celsius temperature,
or even a bit higher, flows around us, but does not bring much cooling
to the inside of our leather suits. Some may wonder, why we do not put
them into our side cases, but there is simply no space! When we take a
break, it is necessary to seek a place, that offers some shadow from
the oppressive sun, and drink as much water as you´re able. As a
person, who has lived most of his life in Finland, it is a strange
feeling to be riding in midwinter, and especially to do so in this
humid heat. Our home country usually has snow and ice in January, even
daytime temperatures are below zero, and it can drop down to –35°C (luckily
that´s not very common, except in the northern part of the country!)
Before Ipoh, the road climbs onto beautiful hills, and it also gets
deliciously curvy, even though it is still fast! But we have so much
load on board the bike, that it is best to forget about very high
speeds on the corners. Besides, there are many trucks going very
slowly up the hills, and cars that pass them, often block your way.
Still, we are able to leave the heavy traffic behind, and riding is
quite pleasant, when the road paintings zip past underneath us.
We fill up at a modern petrol station, and find out, that this country
has probably the cheapest fuel so far on the whole trip. As our DL650
uses roughly about 5 liters per 100 kilometers, petrol in Malaysia for
this same distance costs less than 2,50 euros!
Shortly afterwards, we turn to a smaller road which heads towards Kota
Bharu, and begin to climb higher on the mountains. The road has a very
good surface, and it curves wildly through the jungle, that looks
almost impenetrable. You often see short glimpses of beautiful
mountain scenery, but you never really get to see it, as the jungle
comes so close to the road, that it obstructs the view. There are long
lianas hanging from the trees, and many leaves in the undergrowth are
the size of a man – they make you feel like you´re an ant! The road is
actually great, and would be real fun on a sportbike – but also
dangerous fun, because the curves are very sharp, and often there are
some fallen branches, leaves, small rocks, or pieces of mud lying
right there on your riding line, so you have to change it quickly. And
with the load that we have on board – and the ´far from ideal´ stock
suspension – we simply need to go very slow, as the center stand
touches the ground, if I try to lean any harder into the turn.
But that doesn´t mean riding this road is boring, because the scenery
is actually very nice. And also it has been funny to notice, how you
get used to the weight. You learn to anticipate, at what speed you can
enter the corner, and how much lean angle you can use, and also modify
these, if you see that the corner is bumpy, or there is something
ahead, that you´ll need to avoid. In general, and even though the
weight needs to be kept in mind all the time, the bike remains quite
rideable. I don´t think many other 650cc bikes, with this much load on
board, would do that.
Relaxing on the mountains
The road gets even narrower and curvier, and now the sun is just about
to set (which it does VERY fast in these latitudes!) but we just make
it in the last remaining light to Tanah Rata, a small town that is
actually the center of this mountain area. It looks a bit messy and
gloomy (reminds us of some of the hill stations in India), but here
about 1,5 kilometers above sea level, the temperatures are comfortably
cooler, so there´s no need to look for a room with air-conditioning.
After unpacking our stuff into the room of one of the guesthouses (where
they allow us to push the bike into a very safe place in their
backyard), we walk to the center to find something to eat. Apparently
we´re not the only ones, who have this same thing in mind: there are
few streetlights, and in our flashlight´s beam we notice the huge
spider webs, that are hanging between the trees. Also the 8-legged
creatures, who have made these, are to be found in some sheltered
spots, waiting for their prey to get caught. They are also quite
amazing in size. Some of the webs are between the street and the
walkway, so if you were coming from a funny night out at the bar, it
would be easy to make a small ´detour´, and walk straight into the
During the night, heavy rain makes a drumming sound on the tin roof of
our accommodation, but as day breaks, the sky is also starting to
clear up. We spend a lazy day here on the Cameron Highlands area,
where temperature does not usually climb to over 20 C, but on the
other hand, it seldom drops to below 10 C. There are large tea
plantations, with the bushes barbered orderly, and in a similar
fashion as we have already seen in India. There are also some
waterfalls, and opportunities to go hiking, but even though the
mountain scenery is beautiful, in our opinion it does not really match
the hill stations in South India.
Jim Thompson was an American, who helped the Thai silk industry to
rise after WWII, and was also regarded as the most famous Westerner in
Asia at the time, also came here to spend holiday in 1967, and while
walking in the hills, he mysteriously disappeared without a trace.
There was never any confirmation about his destiny. As we start off
again, and head further south on the Titiwangsa-mountains, we stumble
on a large group of Malaysian bikers, who are in fact a motorcycle
club. They are making a weekend-ride from Kota Bharu. We do not have
many common words, as they speak as little English as we do Bahasa
Malaysia. But the guys, who mostly seem to ride large custom-bikes,
though some have street-bikes, are almost bursting with excitement, as
they see our fully-loaded "Continental-tourer". We take many group
photos with them, and they also give us their club sign as a gift (in
fact we still have it!)
The road coming down from the mountains, like the one, that took us up
there, is ever so curvy, it is like a plate full of noodles. The
temperature and humidity also go up, as altitude drops, and you can
really feel you´re in the tropics again. We get back on the motorway,
and pass by the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Close to it in the south is
KLIA (the international airport – and in fact our bike has already
been there, because it changed planes here, when shipping it from
Chennai to Bangkok). And also close by is the world-famous Sepang
racing circuit, which obviously has a public track day today, and we
see many smaller and bigger sportbikes, with riders in tight
leather-suits, heading that way. This would be a normal sight in
Europe, but after spending several months on the road without seeing
any big bikes (ok, we may have seen a few in Thailand!), it feels
We keep heading south, and in the afternoon it just gets hotter. Big
thunder clouds are forming in the sky, and it looks to rain here and
there (when it rains, it rains VERY hard for a while, and this is why
they even have these shelters for bikers built under the bridges!)
There are also massive oil palm plantations as far as the eye can see
on both sides of the motorway. We pass by some areas, where it has
rained just a few minutes before, and as the sun hits the tarmac again,
it makes the water evaporate so quickly there is a sort of ´steam´
rising from the wet surface. But luckily we do not actually get any
Just before darkness we arrive in Johor Bahru (or JB), and spend a
long time searching for a hotel, which would have a safe parking
opportunity for the bike. In fact the one we finally decide to go to,
does not really fit the bill, but at least there is a police-station
right next to it, so we just use the cover and our extra locks, and
then hope for the best! This is the southernmost city on the Malaysian
Peninsula (and I believe also continental Asia – Singapore doesn´t
count, because it is on an island), located just over 1 degree north
latitude from the Equator. So it´s no wonder that air-conditioning in
the room is almost mandatory, if you want to be able to get some sleep.
Unfortunately those AC-devices are often sort of "on/off", so it is
either very hot or very cold in the room, and you risk getting the flu.
Also, unless there is a central system for AC, they are usually
annoyingly loud, so you´ll need to wear earplugs. From our window, we
can see the lights of Singapore on the other side of a narrow sound.
We also look for a boat from Johor Bahru, but soon it becomes clear,
that the only option from there would take us to the Riau Archipelago
just in front of Singapore. It does belong to Indonesia, but it would
not solve our problem, because then we would need to figure out, how
to proceed from there. Port Klang and Port Dixon, both near KL, have
some connections going to Sumatra. But when you read in a guidebook,
or on the web, that there is a "ferry", it usually refers to any boat,
that can carry people. Very seldom is it mentioned separately, if the
service is a "car ferry", that has the possibility to transport
vehicles, and this is naturally what we´re after. It soon becomes
obvious, that the only connection, that we are sure of regards the
bike, is the Cakra onion cargo boat in Penang.
But also the Chinese New Year is very close. Almost half of the
population in Penang is Chinese, so the island will practically shut
down, and also the onion boats will be on hold for over 2 weeks. We
will need to get the bike on board their last sailing before this
event, and that is about to depart in just a few days. Even though we
can already see the lights of Singapore from our hotel room window,
right now it will be the best to skip a visit there, and head quickly
north. It does feel a bit weird to return exactly the same way as we
came, but what can you do.
You would think, that spending half a year on the road, you would have
a lot of time to spend here and there. In fact if we had decided to
ship the bike and fly home from Singapore, for example, then this
would be true. But if we desire to reach Australia, then it is better
to keep moving, and even if there´s no real rush, being stuck here for
over 2 weeks until the boat traffic resumes, does not sound good.
Wonders of Asia
We do take a 2 night-stop in the capital Kuala Lumpur, a city of about
2 million, and it feels somehow nicer than the enormous Bangkok – not
to even mention the gigantic, and chaotic, metropolises of India!
Typical for Malaysia, the city is quite clean, and perhaps a bit
surprisingly, its traffic isn´t too bad either. We only need to stop a
couple of times to read the map, and ask the way from the friendly
passers-by, and eventually find our way to a suburb, that is full of
small backpacker-guesthouses. In this urban environment, however, it
is not easy to find a place, that would have a safe parking for the
bike (another thing, that the net and the guidebooks usually know very
little about!) After a thorough search of several options, we decide
to go to one, that has a steel gate, which is kept closed (but not
locked or guarded) during the night. We use an extra disc-lock, and a
wire lock that we strap around a thick water pipe, and then finally
put our bike cover on top of the whole thing. Then it´s just hoping
for the best!
In case you´re wondering, why we are so sensitive about this, I remind,
that all the way after crossing the border into Pakistan, our bike has
been completely uninsured. There was practically no coverage available,
that would be valid outside the Green Card-countries. Only in Thailand
we took a compulsory 3rd party insurance, but if this thing gets
stolen, we would not get any compensation. And of course it would also
mean that our trip (or at least travelling this way) would come to a
premature end. I do not think that the risk is particularly big here,
in fact I think it will be higher in any big city in Europe or the US,
for example. But in the cities I believe the possibility of theft is
usually higher than in rural areas.
Downstairs from our 2nd floor guesthouse, there is a barber shop,
where I can get my appearance cleaned up a little bit after more than
3 months on the road. This is done by a hairdresser, who (to be a male)
looks a lot like a female, with ´her´ clothing and lots of make-up.
They´re called ´ladyboys´, and while I don´t know, where exactly the
idea comes from, this kind of behaviour is actually quite common in
Southeast Asia. No-one really (except the tourists maybe!) takes a
second look, if someone walks down the street dressed up like this.
After dark, we take the ´sky train´, that moves on an elevated rail
above the streets of central KL. Even the center of the city appears
to be quite safe to walk around after dark. From the nearest station,
there is only a 10-minute walk to the base of the most famous landmark
of the city, that can actually be seen from quite a distance away. It
is surprising that the Petronas twin towers were only completed 10
years ago, because they are already such an undisputed symbol of this
city. During the evening, it is easy to see why, though: the two
450-metre giants are illuminated from top to bottom, some light is
even reflected to the sky above, and it really looks like something
out of a science-fiction movie. But I would not even dare to guess,
how large the electric bill is!
There would also be another great ´light show´ on offer about 50 kms
away in Kampung Kuantan, where huge swaths of fireflies, that glow in
a pulsed pattern, could be seen above the Selangor River.
Unfortunately the evening gets rainy, so we think it´ll be better to
give that a miss, because it is highly unlikely, that they would be
visible right now. Feeding ourselves is no problem, as there are
entire streets full of small eateries offering tasty choices from all
over Asia, and prices are very low. Mouth-watering smells from Malay,
Chinese, Indian, Thai, Indonesian, and many many other specialities is
thick in the air.
During breakfast, we meet up with a guy, that I´ve met on the web at a
traveller´s website (www.horizonsunlimited.com). His name is Osama
Radzi, and he was born in India, where he has lived a long time,
before moving to Malaysia. The bearded Muslim guy rides with a scooter,
while in KL, but he´s also done several longer trips with his Honda
Dominator 650. We are sorry, that we cannot stay longer now, but we
ask him to take us to a few big electronics shops that are nearby. I
think about updating my laptop, as the prices are much lower than in
Europe, but finally decide it´ll be too risky to carry it with us all
the way. And also the warranty might not be valid in Europe. But we
buy a 16GB USB-stick (new at the time), where we can keep copies of
all our trip photos. And then he escorts us to the place, where the
motorway starts, and by waving his hand, wishes us good luck on our
Back and forth we go...
Half a day on the fast Lebuhraya motorway takes us back to Penang, and
we go to the already familiar guesthouse run by the Chinese on Chulia
street. The place has seen better days, but it is within walking
distance to the harbour, which is practical right now. In the
courtyard, the same laid-back group of rockers keeps playing exactly
the same few covers, that they played, when we were here last time (apparently
those 4-5 songs are the only ones they know). Especially Neil Young´s
"Heart of Gold" sounds hair-rising, but funny!
Earlier I took Michael, the German biker-guy to Butterworth (on the ´mainland´-side)
to get his bike, which had been transported from Sumatra by Cakra
Shipping, so the route is familiar to me now, when I go and take the
V-Strom to be shipped the other way. Unlike the last freighting from
Chennai, the bike does not need to be crated this time (and that saves
a lot of work!) All our lockable bags are attached into their carriers,
and they´re full of our riding gear. I leave our trusty travel
companion into a large warehouse, that smells very intensely of onions
and bird droppings. The boss, Mr. Lim, tells me, that they are going
to load the onion sacks into the boat first, and then use a high crane
to lift the bike on top. The ship, ´M/S Lestari´ is only about 15-20
meters long, and at about 10 PM, it is supposed to sail for Sumatra. I
walk to the transport ferry, that takes me back to the island, and try
not to think too much, how many things can possibly go wrong here!
One problem is that the onion boat is scheduled to reach Belawan on
Friday, and Indonesian customs will already be closed at that time. So
our first chance to clear it at the harbour would be next Monday.
Anne´s father has flown to Krabi to spend a few weeks holiday there,
so we decide to go there, and meet up with him. That means taking a
very early minivan-bus back to Thailand. We wait for a change of
vehicle in the afternoon heat in Hat Yai, and the whole journey ends
up taking almost 10 hours. Not the most comfortable way of travel I
must say, and I do not envy the backpackers, who have to use these to
get around. Besides, some of the drivers were really crazy, when there
were some thunderstorms on our way, and they did not slow down at all,
even when visibility was really poor, and there was a lot of water on
the road. Tickets, on the other hand, were very cheap.
We spend a few lazy days at a nice hotel in Krabi, doing not much at
all (we do go to a nice boat-trip to the neighboring waterways and
mangroves with Anne´s father, though). And soon it is time to make our
butts sore again, and reverse the 9+ hour minivan-trip back to Penang.
More days to spend
We have made one mistake, and have not double-checked, when the
passenger-boat to Sumatra operates. So, contrary to our guidebook´s
information (and also the info on the window of the ticket agency), at
the moment there is no boat on Monday. It would be possible to fly,
but planes land at Medan, and that´s some distance from Belawan, so
once again it becomes clear, that we would be there after customs
office is closed. So we decide to spend one more extra day in Penang,
and all the time the thought of our trusty steed (and our luggage, and
our gear) being currently all alone in some small port town in
Indonesia, becomes more and more exciting!
The morning of February 4th, and finally there is a lot of movement in
the harbour office, when everyone is trying to buy their tickets (paid
in Malaysian ringgit & worth about 20 euros each) from the same
counter at the same time. Surprisingly, when we go to passport control,
people can actually queue! After 8 o´clock, we sit on a large
fast-boat that looks like something you´d see in Miami Vice, only it
is big enough to carry several hundred people. Inside there are large
areas full of aeroplane-type seats, and the space is air-conditioned,
but still a little bit smelly and stuffy. The boat already moves fast,
as it passes under the Penang Bridge, and then sets course southwest
to the open sea.
I go to the deck to watch, as Malaysia is left behind. It was a nice
experience, even though we did not get to see a whole lot of it. Very
soon the Malaysian coastline disappears into the thick curtain of
humidity. Indonesia, that will be one of the, if not THE most exotic
and enchanting countries on the whole trip, and a place, that neither
of us would skip at any price, is going to stay behind the horizon for
only a few more hours.
(To be continued)
A fast passenger-boat took us from Penang to Belawan in Indonesia.
On the lower edge of the immigration card, there is a chilling reminder, that Malaysia
has the death penalty for drug smugglers.
Our bike inside the Chinese-owned guesthouse in Penang´s Chinatown.
The door to the room where we stayed in, can be seen on the right
View from the street to our guesthouse in Georgetown.
At our guesthouse in Penang, there was a rock-band, that didn´t appear
to be very close to their international breakthrough, but they were a
funny bunch, and they always had the same 2-3 "fans", who watched them
You can do it on a bicycle, too, as is proved by a German named Anne.
We never met her, but her bicycle was stored in our guesthouse, as she
was elsewhere. She had been on tour since May 2002!
Taking a walk along Lebuh Chulia in Georgetown.
The Kapitan Keeling mosque in Georgetown, located right next to the
Hindu shrines of Little India.
Penang has a strong cultural influence from China. Eating with chopsticks
requires a little practising!
In Georgetown, high skyscrapers mixed with old colonial or other
We went to visit the Indonesian embassy in Georgetown, Penang, using
this cycle -rickshaw or ´trishaw´.
Georgetown´s seafront, when the tide is out.
A Hindu celebration cut off an entire street in Georgetown. One of the
participants was wearing this weird (and quite large) hat!
On a ride around the island of Penang, the sun has just set into the
Straight of Malacca.
Having something to eat with Michael (on the left), a German biker
that we also met in Penang. He was coming from Indonesia, and had been
travelling alone for 18 months.
The view over Georgetown from Penang Hill, right after the sun has
gone down. Peninsular Malaysia is on the left, on the other side of
A funicular railway took visitors up the Penang Hill on a very steep
incline. A change of trains is needed about half-way up. On top of the
hill, the older version of the train was on show.
In Georgetown, we met these two Australian bikers, Liam (on the left)
and Kristian, who had been travelling about 8 months going home from
the UK riding two Honda Transalps.
Liam´s bike had taken a few hits along their +20.000 kms journey, but
both machines were still running okay. They had cost less than 1000
The two Aussies, Liam (ahead) and Kristian leaving the Cakra office.
Notice the sheepskin in Kristian is sitting on! The street view is
very typical of the older parts of Georgetown.
On the street in Penang, we suddenly came across these ´tribesmen´...
...and they were carrying some colourful vases hanging on long poles, and
had really strange-looking decorations on their faces!
Leaving Penang, taking the short ferry line to Butterworth, which is
on the mainland.
Contrary to Thai, the Malay language has the same alphabet as we do...
but we still aren´t able to understand a whole lot of it!
Two-wheelers could skip the road tolls on the big motorway, by fitting
themselves past the toll booths along a narrow bypass road like this
A really fantastic road, fully comparable to the best roads in North
Thailand, climbed up to the Cameron Highlands.
Street view from Tanah Rata on the Cameron Highlands. The town was
surprisingly dirty and gloomy for this country, and somehow reminded
us of the hill stations in India.
A strange-looking creature has flown onto a flower in Tanah Rata.
Sometimes in the Cameron Highlands, it was hard to believe we are in
Malaysia! Except for the left-hand traffic, this could well be from
Central Europe, for example.
Near Tanah Rata, we met a Malaysian motorbike-club on the road. These
guys were more than a little excited to see us, and a bike from
Tea bushes, that are cut by the gatherers several times each month, on
the Cameron Highlands area.
The roads in the Cameron Highlands have a good surface, and they are
From our hotel window in Johor Bahru, we could see the lights of
Singapore across the water. The queue to the immigration can be seen
at the extreme left of the photo.
Having arrived in Kuala Lumpur, and taking a short stop at a park near
the Petronas towers, Anne looking at a guidebook for a place to stay
The Petronas twin towers, especially when lit up during the dark,
could be seen almost everywhere in Kuala Lumpur, and they were one of
the most extraordinary sights on the whole journey.
The twin towers are almost 450 meters high.
Having breakfast in the form of (Indian) ´dosai´ at a street-kitchen
before departing Kuala Lumpur for Penang.
In KL, we stayed in a very small guesthouse, that is on the upstairs
of this photo. Here our friend Osama is checking out our travel bike.
Penang was full of these round red lanterns, as the Chinese New Year
Having some tasty Indian food at a street bar in Georgetown. Prices
were very cheap. And no, we didn´t always eat Indian food, while in
Malaysia – there were many other great choices, too!