MALAYSIA, ANOTHER CULTURE TO EXPERIENCE
PLACES TO GO
AND PEOPLE TO MEET.
A QUICK TRISHAW RIDE INTO THE OLD CHINESE QUARTER, MALACCA
TRADITIONAL HOUSES ARE
BUILT ON STILTS, VERY WISE WITH THE HEAVY MONSOON RAINS
TRADITIONAL HOUSES AS WE CLIMB
INTO THE CAMERON MOUNTAINS
RIDING THROUGH THE TEA
THE VIEW FROM THE HIGHEST VIEW POINT
THE MAJORITY OF THE POPULATION ARE MUSLIMS
WE ENJOY AN EGG ROTTI AND SAMBAL DIP
PASSING MANY MARKETS ...
AND RUBBER PLANTATIONS ON THE WAY TO THE COAST
NARROW DIRT ROADS TAKE US THROUGH SMALL COMMUNITES AND WE SEE A BIT OF
THE MALAYSIAN SLEEPY WAY OF LIFE CLOSE UP.
HAND PAINTING A BATIK
KEK LOK SI TEMPLE
HUGE HAND CARVED STONES ARE PLACED ON TOP OF EACH OTHER TO BUILD THE
A BUDDHIST MONK AT WORK
SO MUCH TO ABSORB IN THIS TEMPLE COMPLEX
ON THE ROAD AGAIN WE PASS RICE PADDIEs
good to be on our bike again and we (I) have decided to call it 'Jack'.
Simple I know and we did consider all sorts of names but a simple 'Jack'
seemed fitting so now as we head off into the blue yonder each morning
we can sing 'Hit the road Jack..." Anyway we 'hit the road' with
Jack and it wasn't long before we were riding in our first monsoonal thunderstorm.
It was a warm rain though and after the severe drought in Australia it
was quite pleasant. Our first stop for the night was Malacca, a city with
a rich and colourful past in maritime trading, ruled by the Portuguese,
Dutch, English, colonised by the Indians and Chinese and occupied by the
Japanese. As far as we are concerned its the varied delectable cuisine
that interest us, the challenge is deciding where to eat when you have
so many options.
SO MANY NEW FOODS TO TRY, THIS
IS A MALAY LAKSA
local hawkers have good food at ridiculously cheap prices, a meal can
set you back $2.00. Always look for a place where the locals hang out
and not the tourists. Seafood here is the best and a dessert called a
Cendol is delicious, made from coconut milk and caramelised palm sugar,
mmm. Unfortunately beer is expensive and wine prohibitive so we've become
tea totters. Who knows what damage we're doing to our heart and cholesterol
numbers, but we are trying to maintain a high intake of garlic. Hopefully
we'll be able to make up the deficit when we get to Thailand!!
Malacca is a bustling tourist town with many visitors from Singapore plus
it's on the 'gringo' trail. It does seem a little run down but the famous
Jonkers St. is the place to be with lots of eating places, antique sellers
and various stalls selling everything from exquisite crystals to massaging
devices. It is hot and steamy though even in the Malaysian winter but
we are acclimatising and coping. The city is also proud of it's heritage
with many museums. One that particularly impressed us was the Democratic
Museum. Sounds dull I know but the various political systems are well
described and Malaysia's political history simply explained.
Took one of the many trishaws for a short ride into town. A bit of fun
and a chance to give the legs a rest while we soak in the sights and atmosphere.
On the bike again today for a trip on the back roads heading north. Because
we were running late on the first day we had taken the freeway - always
a bit dull - and now we wanted to sample the 'real' Malaysia. The traffic
is quite heavy and we have to maintain our presence on the road as the
local drivers will try to 'push' us out of the way like they do to the
smaller bikes if they can. A stern wagging of the finger usually does
the trick. (Something I'm sure they're not used to).
Traditional houses are built on stilts with brightly coloured tiled steps
and we took a couple of narrow inroads through small communities to take
a closer look. These people are friendly and wave as we pass by as if
they were expecting us, all number of beasts take flight in our path as
we weave past the debris. Hard to get a cup of coffee though and we eventually
stopped, in desperation, at a roadside stall and had what amounted to
a hot black liquid. Feeling a bit peckish, we'd had no breakfast, we risked
a rotti and curry sambal dip. Mmmm.
Up early for what we thought would be a 4 or 5 hour run up into the Cameron
Highlands. Squeezing all our gear into the bike though delayed us as we
still haven't got our packing down pat. We headed north on the smaller
roads enjoying the bustle of morning life and I enjoyed taking photos
of all the road side action. Some places had just recently had huge monsoon
downpours and water lapped on the stilts of the traditional homes. The
pace though was slow and we were only averaging about 60kph so after lunch
we reluctantly took the freeway past Kuala Lumpur and north. Our bike
has a big fuel tank (33 litres) and we thought we would be OK for fuel
but we must have gone about 150km and the 'low fuel' warning had been
on for some time before we came across a road house . This 'road house'
(city) was a little different to the ones in Australia and there were
literally hundreds of cars and two servos. Traditional food stalls were
available but also KFC, Dunking Donuts and Baskin Robins as well as the
usual local hawkers. This was obviously the place to be and we got the
impression that it really didn't matter where you had intended going,
this was your one stop shop.
With a full tank of fuel, at around 0.60 cents a litre (what joy) we turned
left and into the mountains that are the Cameron Highlands. A very pleasant
ride through twisting winding roads, surrounded by dense jungle, all spoilt
a little by the heavy traffic emitting choking fumes into our faces. As
we climbed the temperature dropped and by the time we got to Tana Rata
it was a comfortable 24 degrees C. We got our first glimpse of the Tea
plantations on the way up, the hills look like they are draped with corduroy
just like the Lonely Planet description. It was 5.00pm though and we had
left Malacca at 9.00 so it had been a longer day than I had planned, but
the Fathers Guest House where we had booked was comfortable enough and
we slept soundly.
We planned to hit all the tourist spots in the area and the first stop
was the highest mountain lookout followed by morning tea and scones at
one of the tea plantations. All this could easily have gone to poo as
the first thing we did instead was take just one wrong turning and when
the road crumbled into a muddy path Haydn, determined to put the bike
to the test, pushed on. A close call with a tractor coming in the opposite
direction, just missing Haydn's foot, convinced us that we should go back.
We had our tea and scones though and rode around through stunning scenery
until the skies opened and then took refuge in an Internet place with
broadband. Not always easy to find here, but it was great to upload the
new site at long last.
The day started off well, a good total repack of the bike and some egg
rotti bread for breakfast.$2.50 with orange juice. (we're really getting
into this Indian cuisine in preparation for our next trip!!) Sailing through
more jungle we descended back to sea level on an impressive new road cut
through the mountains. This is a road made for the motorcycle with a good
surface and hundreds of great curves. Passing Ipoh we headed for the island
of Penang, renowned for it's food and sandy beaches.
Penang is joined to the mainland by a long bridge which disgorged us into
busy Georgetown traffic. It was early afternoon, the temperature 33 degrees
C and the humidity about 99.99% and we were stuck in bumper to bumper
traffic. These conditions sap one's energy and we were keen to ride the
coastal roads and find somewhere to stay. Our guide book recommended Miss
Lou's guest house in Teluk Bahang, ''if you're looking to get off the
beaten path Teluk Bahang is a sleepy Malay fishing village. Set amongst
a fruit orchard this is the kind of place where you can put down roots
and watch the days drip by like molasses". Sounds like our kind of
spot but we found Miss Lou opposite the rubbish dump... our guide book
author may have been smoking something interesting when she wrote about
this guest house though Teluk Bahang was somewhat sleepy. Miss Lou must
have been 90 in the shade and definitely needed a helping hand, her screeching
voice let us know that "if toilet get dirty she get very angry".
The thing I have discovered about travel is to always have a backup plan.
It doesn't matter when you formulate the backup plan so long as you have
one. One look at the guest house and I initiated my backup plan and we
backtracked to Batu Ferringhi and found a quaint guest house right on
the beach front. The huge front balcony was perfect to watch beach activity
and look for monkeys in the trees. Shalini's Guest-house was the kind
of place where you can "put down roots and watch the days drip by
Day one on the island took us away from the touristy hustle and bustle
and up into the jungle interior and across to remote sandy beaches and
fishing villages on the east and south coastline. We got an early start
as the prayer chants broadcast from the local Mosque woke us up. Again
we take several narrow dirt roads through small communities and see life
close up. There is the smell of incense as the Muslims practice daily
rituals and prayers to bless their homes and a flutter of feathers as
the multi coloured cock escapes our wheels. The trick is to find out where
you are on the map when you re-enter a decent size road, my sense of direction
is pathetic but fortunately Haydn's guesses are usually spot on. We had
a late tasty seafood meal overlooking some 'interesting' low tide mud
flats but head for home as clouds gather in the afternoon. Just enough
time to stop at a local batik factory where the guide disappears when
I swing into full teacher mode and I'm now sure Haydn can't wait to get
home to make his own batik!!! Got back in enough time to watch the huge
monsoon rain drops hit the road as we watch from our balcony.
Visiting Temples was planned for day two on the island, there was the
Snake temple with venomous snakes moving around the Alter and the Kek
Lok Si temple. The later is built on top of a hill and is the largest
Buddhist Temple in Malaysia, again the guide book did not prepare us for
this massive and impressive structure that took all morning to explore.
The Golden Buddha will stand under a 120 metre structure. it is still
being constructed and we were able to marvel at the construction. Huge
hand carved rings of stone are sent from China and laid one upon the other
to make up the individual scenes on each of the supporting columns. The
Buddha too is from China and made of brass. How they got it into position
is should be one of the wonders of the world.
We had our tastiest Penang Laksa meal yet in the market place below the
Temple. A fun eating place where we were entertained by a very talented
Karaoke singer. We stayed for some time and kept ordering dishes to video
the cook in action.
Got up early this morning prepared for a big day. Firstly we had to take
in some of Georgetown, the Indian and Chinese sectors. Quaint enough but
not that much to write home about, so we navigated our way to the bridge
linking the mainland with Penang Island. This is a busy crossing of nearly
10km with 4 lane traffic. I was more than a little apprehensive about
finding the right way when we left the bridge. The map I had was, well
lets just say, not very comprehensive or accurate and I needed to reinstate
my status as the number one GPS. Fortunately all went well and we were
soon winging our way past endless rice paddies as we made our way north
towards Thailand on the smaller back roads enjoying rural Malaysian daily
A stop for cheap fuel just before the border and again we're impressed
with the helpfulness of the local people. A simple request for directions
at the servo had 4 staff members trying to help out in the best English
they could muster. A few kays before the border and we pulled over to
get some duty free. Here we were also able to buy Thai motorcycle insurance.
(About $12.00 for 2 months). The border crossing on the Malaysian side
was simple with just a stamp in the passport and no check of the motorcycle
papers and on the Thai side they also have these motorcycle specific lanes
and we just rode through. Stopped for a quick stamp at the immigration
booth and we were in. But... we remembered a similar thing happening in
Mexico where 50km later we were turned back at a road block so I insisted
we return to the crossing and check it out. Sure enough we needed to either
use the carnét which would allow us to keep the bike in Thailand
for 6 months, or fill out a temporary import permit. Haydn wanted to prove
that you didn't need a Carnét in SE Asia so we elected to use the
permit which gives us just one month. Tourists only get a one month visa
anyway so we would need to exit Thailand and then re-enter to renew our
visas so we'll re-new the temporary import permit for the bike then as
are great here, fuel is cheap, people friendly and helpful and scenery
interesting. A good choice of foods but whatch out for all the fried stuff.
We have thoroughly enjoyed travel through Malaysia and look forward to
spending more time here on our return trip down and around the east coast
after the monsoons.
Next page will take you on to Thailand.