I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.

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PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Another RWR leg concludes

Thursday, 5th July

The formalities surrounding the temporary export /import process for a foreign registered vehicle is something that I definitely would not want to tackle on my own .. even if I could speak the local lingos of Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) and Malaysian (Bahasa Malaysia) fluently, which, I can’t of course. Hell, it’s taken me three months living throughout the region just to learn how to communicate the basics (e.g. ‘Hello’ ‘Goodbye’ ‘Thank you’, etc.)

With this in mind, employing the services of shipping agents, on both sides of the Strait of Malacca, was always going to be an essential pre-requisite, for me in particular.

So let me introduce a man who is well known throughout the overland motorcycling community .. none other, than the infamous ..

.. Mr Lim

A Top Bloke, who knows exactly what’s what .. and how to go about getting a Kiwi motorbike, owned and ridden by a Brit, temporarily imported into his country from 250 km across the Strait. He should do, of course, especially with his 20 years of experience in the shipping-logistical business.

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A point of interest:

Negotiating the shipping costs during my visit at the Belawan-based (Indonesia) shipping agent, Mr Anan of PT Melda Jaya, could not start without offering him cash for 'coffee money' - a nice 'tip' in other words. It occurred to me that nowadays such negotiations will always start in such a manner. And this small favour money must be given and openly counted on his desk before any discussion about the actual shipping costs can commence.

It shouldn’t be this way, of course, but clearly one or two overland bikers, who passed through on the same route, using the same shipping agent, had been generous to Mr Anan within the recent past. Perhaps he/they are just generous by nature, who knows? .. but it has now set a precedent for the rest of us. What should be a voluntary payment, as all 'tipping' should be, has now turned into an expectation.

Thus any overlanders who intend to employ PT Melda Jaya as their shipping agent, I suggest you should now be prepared to hand over at least Rp 100,000 to Mr Anan .. plus another Rp 100,000 to the other office girls (2) as 'coffee money'.

Apart from this now mandatory initial hand-out, the costs of shipping a motorcycle across Malacca from Belawan, Sumatra, to ~~> Penang, Malaysia is (as at July 2012):
  • Belawan (departure) side, with PT Melda Jaya ... Rp 700,000 - about GB£50 (US$75)
  • Penang (arrival) side, with Cakra Enterprise ... Rm 400 - about GB£80 (US$125)
Therefore about GB£130 (US$200) all told, which can't be all bad - even if you include 'the tip' at the Belawan end.

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One aspect of the clearing process that did throw a significant spanner in the works is that Malay Customs officially stamped my carnet (the bike’s ‘passport’) into the country on Thursday-5th when I went to pick her up from the Butterworth dockyard. This both surprised and annoyed me, as I had been under the impression – obviously falsely – that Malaysia does not recognise the carnet system. But as it turns-out they do if you enter the country via a sea port. Bugger it! .. especially when taking into account the fact that my carnet’s currency expires at the end of August (2012); just over seven weeks’ time.

So I needed to re-think my strategy going forward .. toute-bloody-suite!

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With all the paperwork out of the way, we rode around the quaysides, 2-up on Mr Lim's little semi-automatic 110 cc motorbike, looking for the good ship Mitra Utama.

Almost without warning Mr Lim pointed to her .. "There's your boat"

.. and within a jiffy we were both walking up the gangplank, over the port-side bulwark and onto the wooden deck.

There was my girl .. looking good as ever; all tucked-up just inside, and under the bridge deck.

A sturdy warp rope tied securely under and around the bike's front and rear - and then the ship's onboard derrick crane did the rest ..

Up ..

.. across

and finally ..

.. down onto the quayside. In with the ignition key, turned with a smidgen of choke, and she fired-up in less than a second.

We're all safely over Malacca .. and back in business.

Then, almost imperceptively, the sky darkened. And it started to piss down with rain.

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With nowhere to go for at least the next 10-20 minutes, whilst we waited for the rainstorm to pass over, I expressed my concern to Mr Lim over the stamping of my carnet by the Malay Customs Authorities; for here I was, counting on no carnet entry stamp, especially taking into account that my carnet cover was fast approaching its expiry date.

As I needed to store the bike in Kuala Lumpur for a while, I was facing the problem of having a foreign registered vehicle temporarily in Malaysia, with no owner (me) present .. under cover of stamped in (but not stamped out) soon-to-expire carnet. What could be done?

Mr Lim 'hinted' - but did not expressly imply - that there might be a solution: See, although there is a requirement to stamp-in carnets when entering a Malaysian sea port - land border crossings are allegedly a bit more 'relaxed' about the whole carnet procedure.

Hmmm? .. that's an interesting point to know!

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It wasn't a difficult decision to make:

We'll ride up the main highway (E1) the following day (Friday-6th) and cross over into Thailand at the busy land crossing at Bukit Kayu Hitam Kedah, between Changloon – Sadao, with a fanfare and in a blaze of glory; and in the process ask the Malay Customs to stamp my carnet out before entering Thailand. They should oblige. They almost have no choice in the matter.

Then we'll go on a 155 km [96 mi] anti-clockwise loop around southern Thailand, stopping overnight in the city of Hat Yai; then re-enter Malaysia the following day (Saturday-7th) through the minor border crossing at Wang Prajan (Satun Province) in Thailand's Thaleban National Park. The subject of a carnet might never even be mentioned at this secondary border crossing. Indeed, I suspect (read: 'hope') that the border officials will not know too much at all about the carnet process.

If all this fails, then we will still have three whole working days the following week to get my current carnet time limit extending for another 12 months .. at some considerable cost and hassle, no doubt!

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Friday, 6th

First stage completed successfully. Carnet stamped out by Malay Customs at Bukit Kayu Hitam Kedah

.. and we make the unexpected trip into Thailand.

What a different culture, language, even alphabet, we couldn't help but notice. The Muslim predominence we experienced throughout Indonesia and Malaysia is overwhelmingly replaced by Buddhism. Indeed, according to the last census (2000) nearly 95% of Thais are Buddhists*

* Source: Wikipedia




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Outside our hotel room in Hat Yai, I replaced the Indonesian 'courtesy' flag sticker with a Malaysian one; hoping to maybe win a bit more favour with the Malay border officials!

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Saturday, 7th

[morning]

YAY! .. it worked! We were back into Malaysia via the obscure border crossing at Wang Prajan - where the subject of carnet stamping was never discussed - with a stamped-in, and a stamped out carnet. Mission accomplished!


Bombing back down the main Malay E1 highway. And WHAT a fabulous road network they have in Malaysia. The main highways are nearly all toll roads .. except that motorcycles go free on these too. A very civilised approach, I must say!

By 2 o'clock in the afternoon on Sunday-8th we were on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, our final destination of this particular southeast Asian trip.

Feeling relieved and relaxed .. the usual celebrations followed. In short, by nightfall we were both fissed as parts!

Glad to be back in the World of Islam. Nothing to fear here, believe me. But a pork pie with chips for supper would have been nice!

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Monday  9th & Tuesday 10th

Bike servicing and temporary storage sorted, we turned into ordinary tourists .. and did all the usual touristy stuff in-and-around the centre of Kuala Lumpur.

KL can be overwhelming for first-time visitors like us .. with so much to see and do.

Standing atop the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, the 421-metre-high KL Tower is, at present, the world's fifth tallest structure. Officially known as 'Menara KL' - This was the first iconic city landmark we visited.

I think that I/we've already 'done' our fair shair of world towers, e.g:
  • Centrepoint Tower, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  • CN Tower, Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Sky Tower, Auckland, New Zealand
  • Eifel Tower, Paris, France
  • Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
  • Empire State Building, Manhattan Island, New York City, NY USA
  • World Trade Centre (before 9/11), Manhattan Island, New York City, NY USA.
And now we have the The Shard Tower to look forward to seeing and visiting in London.

By the way, did I ever mention that I can't stand heights?!

The view from the observation deck, looking across to the Petronas Towers.

Next, The Twin Towers just mentioned (above). Very impressive.

Underneath the Towers, there's a whole world of shopping opportunities; a MASSIVE shopping mall complex ..

.. complete with an M&S store, that has an end-of-season sale going on. It's home-from-home!

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We met-up with the lovely and lively Nor during our time in KL, who was introduced to us by mutual Weymouth-based biker friends, Sheonagh & Pat, otherwise affectionately known throughout the overland biking community as, 'The Dusty Old Bags'.

Nor took us around the Golden Triangle (China Town) area of KL ..

.. and introduced us to her local biker friends. Good times, lovely company.

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The Petronas Twin Towers are perhaps even more impressive during the hours of darkness (.. up until >12-midnight, at which time the illumination is switched off.)

Our enduring memory of Kuala Lumpur .. and a fitting note on which to end this chapter of my 'Right Way Round' once-in-a-lifetime story.

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link → Malaysia and Thailand

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Conclusion:

For all the instability that this part of the world is renowned for, it's mostly remarkably and amazingly tranquil - Indonesia's chaotic traffic scene excluded, of course! The volcanic eruptions and tsumanis simply didn't occur .. and we made it through - yet again - unharmed; fitter and healthier than when we left England precisely two months ago.

We're alive and kicking - and looking forward to going back to the UK, but just can't wait to get back here to Malaysia later in the year - sometime during either October, or December (or both).

But for now the time has arrived, once again, to return home to another glorious English monsoon summer .. floods an' all! And time once again to rest my head on that old familiar pillow.

With the London Olympic Games now just around the corner, where the youth of the world will shortly assemble .. what an exciting time awaits us when we get back to our wonderful country of Great Britain. Beyond Gold. The whole planet will be watching our capital city host this international spectacle of sport. I hope we can pull it off.

London .. Inspire a Generation!

Meanwhile, thank you for visiting my blog .. and sharing some more of my private thoughts.

Until next time...

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