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

Saturday, 3 November 2012

It's Only A Bloody Tyre


Wednesday, 17th October

A National Express coach - Newquay to London Heathrow

After the recent shocking increase in rail fares, we looked into cheaper alternatives to get up to London Heathrow from our home in the far southwest of England. National Express could do the job in more-or-less the same travel time .. but for half the cost of a First Great Western train from Cornwall - including a Heathrow Express train connection from Paddington to LHR.

We found the many bad reviews we researched on the Internet to be quite unfounded; National Express provides a first-class service straight to the Central Bus Station at LHR's Terminals 1 and 3. It's easy to connect, for free, to any other Terminal from there. With modern climate-controlled coaches, we would not hesitate to use this service again.

London to Kuala Lumpur: Qatar Airways via Doha. Probably one of the most remarkably unmemorable flights, ever. Nothing to criticise; and nothing outstanding to commend. I’ve already forgotten all about the flight. With this in mind, therefore ..

.. perhaps QA is the ‘perfect’ carrier.

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Talking of which, Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific (next month, December 2012) are the 16th and 17th respective airlines that we've travelled with since starting these escapades back in November 2006.

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Friday 19th

Kuala Lumpur. Young girls wearing their black and pastel-coloured hijabs. We're back in the World of Islam.

Curtains of cover allegedly to preserve their modesty, privacy, and morality.

And why not?!

Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is located some distance south of the city. We made the 57 kilometres (35-minute) journey from the airport to KL Sentral on the KLIA Transit train; referred to by Malaysians simply as 'the ERL' - Express Rail Link ..

.. an ultra modern electric-powered mass transit service that's emaculately well maintained.

Yep, it was a case of public transport all the way for us on this particular flying visit.

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And one of the main reasons why we returned to KL – was to deliver some essential parts for the bike: such as a replacement progressive-spring shock absorber; a Dutch-made Hyperpro unit, which is a rare piece of kit to come by in this part of the world.


A wonderful example of precision engineering, this new Hyperpro shock should solve the all-too-frequent ‘bottoming-out’ problem that we’ve been experiencing when riding over some of the rougher dirt roads in-and-around SE Asia (and Australia). There will be lots more of these challenging road & track surfaces ahead of us, that’s for sure.

Tailor-made and set-up to exactly cope with the combined weight of me, my pillion and our not inconsiderable amount of luggage. I’m looking forward to seeing how this unit performs once it’s been fitted.

Together with a new rear Continental ‘Escape’ tyre, which believe it or not, was temporarily confiscated by Customs at Heathrow Airport before departure.  "Never seen nuffink like it checked-in 'ere before Sir .. got to ha-h-hand it over for further inspection .. see."

"Gawd .. it's only a bloody tyre mate!"

Conti Escapes are my most favourite tyre of all - and practically impossible to acquire anywhere in Malaysia. And boy-oh-boy .. was I glad to see that tyre roll off the baggage carousel at KLIA?!

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Our lodgings throughout the long weekend stopover in KL was at the Matahari Lodge; a clean and friendly backpacker’s hostel located in a near perfect spot, close to the metro station (a 2-minute walk), opposite a bus stop, and next to a 7eleven shop .. right in the middle of Chinatown .. and

.. crowded with oriental restaurants, shops and markets. Quite perfect.

Anyone for Fried Frogs with Ginger?

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Sunday 21st

Final Race Day at the 2012 Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix (MotoGP) ..

.. and we snagged a cheap coach ride down to Sepang Circuit, Selangor ..

.. located just to the east and very near to Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The Yamaha Exhibition Stand.

Gimme Some Honey!

[Okay, so I'm a dreamer!]

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MotoGP Background

The premier MotoGP championship class (the BIG race); and the two other classes, the Moto2 and the new Moto3 championship classes. Find out more by clicking this link: MotoGP Basics

By arriving at the circuit early - about 10:30am - we secured a couple of superb grandstand seats in the middle of the back straight, just to the right of one of the big screens ..

.. and more-or-less opposite turns numbered 9 & 10


A snippet of video footage. Click-on the forward play arrow in the centre of the above frame to experience some of the afternoon's action.


Regretfully, but perhaps predictably, towards the end of the afternoon, dark thunderstorm clouds from the south blanketed the circuit; the temperature dropped at least 10°C ..  and it started to seriously p!ss down with rain, as is does so very often in the mid-late afternoon period during this, the Rainy Season.

I mean, who would of thought to plan and hold a race meeting in the afernoon during the Rainy Season? Unbelievable!

We got absolutely soaked through making our way back to the coach park that day. Drenched so we were.  All good fun though [.. NOT!]

We really didn't need the air conditioning switched-on during the coach journey back to the city centre .. Brrrr! 

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Evening

That evening we made contact and hooked-up with a fellow overland biker and blogger - Mike Skinner, a Scotsman - for drinks and a bite to eat in one of the many local Chinatown-based restaurants. Mike has recently moved to KL to take-up a three-year professional job contract. He has already covered a lot of the ground that lies ahead of us, so we had plenty to talk about. You can read about Mike's travels by visiting his blog at this link.

Good luck in your new Malaysia-based life Mike .. and take good care of your equally new beautiful girlfriend ... ;-)

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Tuesday, 23rd October

Singapore

I’ve been to Singapore several times in the past, but only in transit as an air passenger .. anonymously passing through Changi International Airport, on the eastern side of this island nation; briefly stopping-over for just a few hours at a time, en route to/from England and the Antipodes.

This whistle-stop 10-day excursion to the region would, therefore, be the perfect opportunity to explore that enigmatic city-state, situated just offshore from the Malay Peninsula's southernmost tip.


We took a 5½ hour bus ride down to Singapore, via the E2 Highway - a motorway with which we are now quite familiar - courtesy of Transnasional Coaches at the value-for-money fare of RM 46.10 each (about GB£9.50 - or US$15)

The mid-journey 'comfort stops' offered strange-to-us food and refreshments that you would definitely not see within any British motorway service station.

Including freshly cooked peanuts

.. and various types of fruit, half of which we didn't even recognise.

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Breezing through the Malay and Singaporean Immigration Control Units, after around another half an hour the coach pulled-up in the City at Beach Road and we walked that last couple of kilometres to our lodgings, the Perak Hotel, again perfectly situated in the district of Little India.

Located along the Serangoon River, Little India is more commonly known as 'Tekka' in the local Tamil community.

Serangoon Road celebrating Deepavali, the Hindu festival of light

A myriad of bazaars, pubs & cafés, bargain stalls .. and chicken curry!

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Wednesday 24th

Touring around Singapore on a hop-on / hop-off bus is a feast for the eyes, with some of the most innovative and photogenic buildings imaginable. It's a truly cosmopolitan city, awash with wealth and prosperity. Here's the Central Business District:

Parorama – click for full view

Marina Bay Sands Resort:

.. an 'over-the-top' integrated resort fronting Marina Bay, the world's most expensive standalone casino (SGD 8 Billion), including a 2,500+ bedroom hotel.

A long distance profile shot.

The Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. Aluminium sunshades ornate the roof and reminded me of a durian fruit.

The lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum

Sensational, HUGE shoping malls

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The insurgence of modern metropolis hasn’t taken away from the City's traditional buildings and you can see both older colonial architecture and the very newest structures in one day.

Around midday we stopped at Raffles Hotel, one of the world's most famous hotels. First opened in 1887, it was named after Singapore's founder, Sir Stamford Raffles.

Must be lunchtime!

The hotel houses a tropical garden courtyard within its central area.

After browsing around Raffles Shop, which is a veritable Treasure Trove of gifts & momentos, we made our way to the Long Bar ..

.. where we just had to order a brace of Singapore Slings; aperitifs before our light lunch of posh burgers and home made french fries.

The traditional Slings were a cocktail of Gin, Bénédictine cherry, pineapple juice and soda water .. but I understand that nowadays the drinks are pre-mixed and blended using an automatic dispenser. They still taste good though .. :-) :-)

Help yourself to a handful of peanuts ..

.. and then simply throw the shells on the floor. How cool is that?

Two servings of gourmet burgers & hand-cut chips, washed down with Singapore Slings in the Long Bar at Raffles. Yours for SGD 105.95 (about GB£55 - or US$88)

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Thursday 25th

Sentosa Island

While it's only a short drive, train or cable car ride away from the city centre, the number of attractions packed onto this small resort island make Sentosa a day-long, or at least a great half-day destination.

The easiest way, and the most popular for kids, is to arrive there on the Sentosa Express; the monorail system that starts from Level 3 of VivoCity shopping mall, and has three stops along the island that hit all the main attractions, including Universal Studios and Siloso & Palawan beaches.

Beat the crowds and visit Universal Studios as soon as most of the rides and shops open at 10:00am.

What a great place for kids of all ages, including a couple of old farts like us two.

Although Ellen was 'up for it' .. I decided to spectate the rides from terra firma. I like to keep my blood flowing in the same direction!

There are loads of attractions to visit and experience within the confines of the Universal Studios Park, including 'The Lost World'

'Ancient Egypt' ..

'Madagascar' .. 'Sci-Fi City' .. 'Far Far Away'

.. the list goes on.

By mid-afternoon we ended-up on the Silosa Beachfront; home to the hottest volleyball action, along with the coolest open-air bars anywhere around Singapore.

Siloso Beach .. for big kids (read adults!) - highly recommended .. safe as houses too ..

.. and so it shoud be; after all, it's a designed-from-scratch, man-made beach, created using imported sand from Indonesia. Coconut trees were planted at an angle to simulate the appearance of those that grow naturally from nuts washed ashore. If you knock hard on some of the boulders, you can hear that they're hollow (.. but we're not supposed to know all about that!)

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Friday 26th

Final day - at Singapore Zoo

I've been to a few zoos around the world in my time .. and this is the best one. Singapore Zoo is a real class act - offering great photo opportunities, set in a lush tropical background; it's an absolutely perfect venue for kids under (say) 12 years old.

There are good presentations for children where co-operative animals - apes and seals etc - join in the performance .. for a snack reward, of course.

I was surprised, and delighted, that there were not too many mosquitos or insects around. The animals looked good. Overall a fantastic zoo.

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Evening

A final taxi ride to the impressive Terminal 3 at Changi, which first became operational in January 2008.

A last look around before our departure at 21:20.

We'll be back in the region again - Kuala Lumpur - landing at KLIA via Hong Kong, courtesy of Cathay Pacific, around early breakfast time on Saturday, December 29th. Can't wait to return.

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Until next time - early January (2013) ...

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UPDATE - as at 30 December 2012:

Events here in England have very sadly taken a turn for the worse. My dear mother (83), who has not been well for some time, is now very poorly indeed. Bedridden, unable to eat or communicate properly, she is now gravely ill.With this in mind, I could not bring myself to leave home at this difficult time for the family, which needs me here in Cornwall for the immediate future.

Our airline carrier (Cathay Pacific) required at least 24 hours notice to amend our flight tickets. Therefore on Boxing Day I took the decision to re-arrange our departure date from the 27th December to Tuesday-26 February. Not that far away, but no doubt this will allow enough time for matters to sort themselves out.

LOGISTICS: We had already pre-arranged 60-day double entry visas with the Royal Thai Consulate in Birmingham, which are good for entry into the Kingdom of Thailand up until 29 May 2013, so no issues on the visa front. Moreover, the climate (i.e. rainfall, humidity etc.) in the regions of SE Asian that we're planning on travelling through - Thailand, Laos, Cambodia - will still be within our ‘comfort zone’ until around about that same time (middle-end of May), so no foreseeble problems on the climate front either.

The deluxe accommodation – New Year’s Eve in the Genting Highlands (just to spoil ourselves) – and the 11-12 January get-together – the HU Travellers Meeting up in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand – that we had reserved and organised to attend have been cancelled/forfeited and abandoned.
    
SUMMARY: The revised plan is that we will definitely be back in Kuala Lumpur at the end of February whatever happens, leaving from London-Heathrow on Feb-26, even if this is just for another *flying visit* to sort out the bike’s safekeeping.

All very dissapointing to say the least, but I am sure that I have made the right decision.

Such is life.

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UPDATE - as at 12 January 3013:

My dear mother (Pat Hooper) sadly passed away, peacefully, on Monday-7th at 2:15pm. Link to Obituary

Clearly, I made the right decision to stay at home. Thank goodness. Had we left England on December-27th as originally planned, we would probably have travelled as far north as Prachuap Khiri Khan (PKK) or Kanchanaburi up in Thailand, where, on receiving the news of my mum's passing, we would straightaway have made a bee-line into Bangkok (BKK) in order to catch the first available return flight to London.

REVISED PLANS: We are now definitely leaving for Kuala Lumpur on February-26th - so we will be back in KL at breakfast time on Thursday morning, February-28th. The ride will therefore recommence on Friday, March-1st.

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Death is Nothing at All

Death is nothing at all. It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort,
without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near,
just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!"

Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918, Canon of St Paul's Cathedral

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