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.


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

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Well, I'm so tired of crying ..

 .. but I'm out on the road again

Canned Heat - On the Road Again - Released: 1968

Friday, 1st March

The bike collected from Sunny's place* and ridden the short distance to our hotel's parking lot the previous afternoon (Thu-28) - and still feeling knackered from the two days' long-haul travel - we decided to keep a spare day in hand, just for a bit more easy sightseeing in-and-around KL.

* I say more about Sunny Cycle at the bottom of this page.


13 km [8 mi] north of the city, in the Gombak district, are the Batu Caves; a sacred place of worship for Malaysia's Hindu community.

Komuter train fares of 2 ringgits [0.40p] each got us up there from Titiwangsa Station, located about 300m around the corner from our hotel.

When you arrive, the first sight that smacks you straight in the face is the Hindu golden statue of Lord Murugan; standing 140 ft (42.7 m) high, it is the tallest statue in Malaysia, and an impressive edifice.

The 400 million years old limestone-formed Batu Caves consist of three main caverns, plus a number of smaller ones. The biggest is called Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave.

This huge chamber is lit naturally by daylight from several holes in the ceiling 100 metres (330 ft) above.

To get up to Cathedral Cave - and its smaller annexes - you first have to climb 272 very steep concrete steps. We did it, in stages .. these being essential stops to take-in the views of the City behind and to the south, of course .. phew!

Another 50 ft [15 m] statue, of Lord Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God, stands at the back of a small temple close to Batu Cave's Komuter train station.

And so - Batu Caves. Done that - been there. As they say.


By late afternoon we were back at the hotel .. with a couple of cold Tiger beers in hand!


Saturday, 1st March

First day on the road:

Shortly after breakfast I topped-up the tank with 17 litres of RON95 petrol - at a cost of RM32.30* or GB£6.68 [US$10] - and headed northwest up into Highlands, for about a 100 km [63 mi] - a 2-hour ride - to the colonial resort of Fraser's Hill, at an altitude of 1,400 metres [4,500 ft] .. up and away from the stifling heat of the city.

*RM1.90 [0.40p] /litre. Subsidised by the Malaysian Government. Terima kasih [Thank you] to the Malay politicians - most excellent public servants! 

Fraser's Hill is named after Louis James Fraser, a Scotsman who prospected for gold in Australia, but eventually struck tin in Fraser's Hill instead during the 1890s.

Before you climb the last very twisty 8km [5 mi] narrow one-lane road known as the 'The Gap', you are confronted with an unmissable place name that has a certain similarity to the Hollywood Sign .. wouldn't you agree? .. which, for some perverted reason, made me immediately think of cocktail waitresses?

I rolled on the throttle in anticipation - and we zoomed up The Gap, in double quick time!

Now then, as we soon discovered - by 6:24pm that evening - there's not a whole lot going-on in Fraser's Hill .. which struck me as a place that retains a kind of weird mixed-up character.

More to the point, and sadly, there was not a bunny girl in sight.

This landmark (above) is the main number 1, and completely underwhelming attraction of the whole community .. I mean, of course, the Clock Tower on the village roundabout! Too much excitement at the end of the day. Our hotel, the Puncak Inn, is in the background. Most of the restaurants and shops are clustered around here, and second-home bungalows and other swanky residences dot the hills above and all around.

Not a bad place though if you're into golf. A ridiculous game, which goes without saying. The local 9-hole course, and the nearby 18-hole course at Jeriau, are big draws for city dwellers looking to escape the metropolis for a weekend in a cooler climate (c.17°C~25°C / 63°F~77°F.) Good for birdwatchers and hikers too. But for me, being more of a 'pub-type' sorta bloke .. well, let's face it, we were never going to spend more than a solitary night in Fraser's Hill.


Talking of pubs:

 'Oddball' .. even 'quirky' .. and equally arresting, so it strikes me, are the names of most British pubs.

Think of it, other bar owners around the world, so I'm discovering, are content to dub their drinking establishments with pedestrian names like, Harry's Place .. or Joe’s Bar.

But we Brits, hey! .. when we want to sup ale, we must find our way down to the Dog and Duck, the Goose and Firkin, the Fox and Hounds, the Red Lion, the Lamb and Flag, or the Rose and Crown. Almost any name will do, just so long as it is at least faintly absurd, unconnected with the name of the owner, and entirely lacking in any suggestion of drinking, conversing, and enjoying oneself! I don't think the rest of the world quite 'gets it' though ..

.. and frankly, [erm] if I'm really honest, neither do I.

Nevertheless, gotta love Great British Pub Names.

nuff said!


Sunday, 2nd

Fraser's Hill ~~> to Tanah Rata, into the heart of the Cameron Highlands, a region famous for its tea plantations and strawberry cheesecake. A 190 km [118 mi] north-northwesterly half day ride.

Panorama of Tea Plantations – click on the picture for full view

Being a primarily agricultural domain, there's an abundance of vegetable and fruit farms in the Cameron Highlands, which is also the leading producer of flowers in Malaysia. If it grows, can be eaten or smells and looks pretty, chances are you'll find it flourishing here in the Highlands.

Thousands of hectares are devoted to polythene greenhouse and cloche agribusiness ..

.. including hydrophonic farming.

Downtown Tanah Rata that afternoon and evening; we stopped for a couple of beers at a high street Chinese restaurant .. and perused the menu.

After about an hour or so an amiable Belgium fellow, called Thierry, came and sat with us .. and almost instantly we were exchanging yarns with each other. Much travelled Thierry was great company; he is indeed an enchanting man. By 10 o'clock that night, half p!ssed, we were all still laughing at one-another's stories .. and probably a few lies too. Just goes to prove, yet again, that you are never alone, or need be short of good companionship when you're on the road.

It was here that Ellen ate something - probably the fish or some dirty vegetable matter - infected with a nasty bacterium, which caused her to suffer a bout of very severe gastroenteritis by the following morning.The word 'liquitidity' took on a whole new meaning from here on after!


Monday, 4th

Anyway .. whatever, the next morning we swept and tumbled down the Highlands for 91 km [57 mi] .. from our altitude of 1,400 metres [4,500 ft] to sea level, like a rolling stone. It was a wonderful ride. The out-of-town scenery continued to remind me of the English Lake District on a perfect summer's day.

As you would expect, there are hundreds of stalls along the road selling local produce. But could we find a basic plate of fresh strawberries and cream to scoff? Could we bloody hell.

Going the PYO (pick your own) route was definitely out of the question, notwithstanding the many invitations to 'have a go' at this family-orientated activity. The stooping down for Ellen would have been downright dangerous .. especially for everyone within a 5 metre radius of her arsehole.  

Strawberry pavlova, strawberry & cinnamon torte, strawberry & vanilla cream sponge, strawberry & white chocolate mousse, strawberry & passion fruit meringue roulade. Not a problem.

Strawberry flavoured ice creams, yoghurts, jellies, donuts .. even coffee, and of course strawberry flavoured tea. Easy peasy.

I suppose we just didn’t look hard enough during the 2-hour journey down to Ipoh, despite making two or three stops along the way. Ellen’s face often taking-on a coincidental strawberry-coloured tone, even a bit empurpled from time-to-time; as I kept a keen eye out for a punnet or two; whilst she was ever eagle-eyed on, and continually sizing-up, the nearest roadside craphouse potential.

My pillion's fully clenched-up cheeks - both pairs of 'em mind you - and with a gritted determination to remain so, until we eventually reached the city of Ipoh where we quickly checked-in for an unusual but probably essential four nights stopover at the homely, and very friendly Hotel Station 18; one of the nicest budget hotels we've stayed at during our travels .. with excellent toiletorial facilities . Thank Gawd.

.. what a frantic day?!


Thursday, 7th

Holed-up in our burrow - albeit a nice air-conditioned one - for three days and nights waiting for Ellen’s recovery to gain traction; by day four (Thu-7th) I felt that I just had to get out-and-about for a few hours.

Around 30 km (18½ mi) south of our hotel, lies a system of caves called Gua Tempurung. They're quite impressive, so I had read during the dark winter evenings back home. Worthy of investigation .. surely? So after lunch I went solo to take a look. Not knowing quite what to expect, when I got there I soon discovered that there are four optional caving experiences available for any would-be spelunkers ready and willing:
  • Tour 1: Golden Flowstone (40 mins)
  • Tour 2: Top of the World (1 hr 45 mins)
  • Tour 3: Top of the World & Short River Adventure (2 hrs 30 mins)
  • Tour 4: Grand Tour (3 hrs 30 mins)
I made the wise decision of selecting the shortest one.

Gua Tempurung is a huge honeycombe cavern complex that meanders under the Gunung Gajah-Tempurung limestone hills, and runs from east to west for nearly 2 kilometres. In places the underground ceiling rises to a height of 120 metres (390+ ft).

The caverns are really quite beautiful and definitely worth visiting. Although I could never become a spelunker (potholer, caving enthusiast) myself - because on the one hand, I hate potholes; and on the other hand, the name puts me off .. especially with my deteriorating eyesight, I wouldn't want to make myself go blind prematurely!


 Kek Lok Tong (Cave of Great Happiness)

On the way back to the hotel I took a detour and made a quick reconnaissance of the Kek Lok Tong Buddhist Temple.  

The cave /temple houses impressive works of art ..

.. set amongst natural stalactites and rock formations.

.. with statues of Buddha in various forms (with man boobies), which provide a peaceful prayer site for Buddhist devotees.

Note: I'm a confirmed heathen .. but not entirely atheist, which is just one step too far.


To conclude this mid-Malay episode: After 97¾ hours, Ellen was starting to fart with just a bit more confidence, which was good to hear, as this was the signal that we could get back out on the road again.

By the way, on her behalf I did apologise, unreservedly, to the management of Hotel Station 18. 
Don't ask!


Friday, 8th

Friday mid-morning saw us scooting up the main E1 highway for 260 km [162 mi], all in the midday sun of around 30°C. Ellen, still not 100% fit - and after spending four days in a 17°C air-conditioned hotel room - well, the 3½-hour ride was almost too much for her.

When we finally arrived in the northern Malay city of Jitra she was ready to pass out. Fortunately our good friend Nor, who lives in Jitra, came to the rescue and ferried Ellen for the last 3-4 km by car to her suburban home. Just in time perhaps.

Friday evening

Dinner with the lovely Nor in an open gazebo-covered downtown Jitra restaurant.


Saturday, 9th

Out-and-about around the cities of Jitra and Alor Star (or Setar), kicking-off the start of the day - well, by around mid-morning actually - with our breakfast that started off like this:

.. and ended-up on the plate looking like this [below], called 'Roti Canai' of Indian origin - with sweet strong coffee on the side - but why the ice cubes?:

Well, it was about time for one or two more food pictures, eh?!


We then made our way across to the Muzium Padi (Rice Museum) in Alor Star, which is a museum that's considered a great icon to the state of Kedah, especially as the region is known as the rice bowl of Malaysia. The museum provides a great insight into the history of rice production in these parts.

Up in the Dome there's a 360° revolving platform where you can admire a truly beautiful diorama and mural that was completed by 60 North Koreans artists. It really is a fantastic piece of artwork. The above picture is just a very limited aspect, but it actually extends all the way around you.

As you can see, the management had me out working in next to no time!

The museum provides wonderful value to the whole community and is not a tourist trap. It is also an educational facility.

On our way to the exit steps scores, maybe hundreds, of young kids from one of the local Muslim Schools turned-up for a guided tour.

Make that thousands of 'em. All tickled-pink to see a couple of westerners frequenting the establishment.

A late lunch of barbecued fresh corn, which is even more tasty with a thin spread of mayonnaise so I discovered.

We finished-up, quite knackered from the intense heat of the day, taking-in the view of one of the local fishing ports. I don't think much has changed around here for these fisher folk in decades.


Tomorrow, Sunday 10th March, we'll make our way up to the Malaysia/Thailand border. It will be 'interesting' - if that's the right word - to see just how we get on with the Malay border officials. I will explain just why I'm a little apprehensive about this particular crossing in my next posting, which should be in about a week's time, depending if I can access a decent internet connection at that time.

Thailand here we come .. I hope!

 Post Script 

I mentioned above that Sunny Oh and his sons and family at Sunny Cycle, in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur, provided us with a truly magnificent service. I shall elaborate a little further about this, if I may:

  • Firstly, they provided temporary storage for the Transalp. This was originally supposed to be for no more than around three months or so; but when my dear mother’s health took a turn for the worse, which meant we had to delay our return to KL - for quite a bit longer actually - Sunny did not hesitate to extend the storage time facility .. for as long it took.

      • Second, they fitted the rear Continental 'Escape' tyre that I delivered last October (2012); replaced the inner tube and balanced the wheel, then  got rid of all the old worn-out rubber.
          • They changed the crankcase lubricant. I supplied the filter, but they provided the engine oil. They also dealt with the disposal of the waste stuff for me.
            • They replaced the air filter, which is a bit of a bugger to get to, with it being tucked-down under the fuel tank an'all. No way is that a 10-15 minute job.

            • In Laos and Cambodia it is illegal to ride a motorcycle with your headlight switched on during the daytime. 
            As the Transalp's headlight was always permanently 'on' (manufactured that way), Sunny & Co wire-in a handlebar-mounted rocker switch, which now means I can turn the headlight on and off whenever I want.

              • They changed the standard Honda rear shock absorber for a new custom made Hyperpro shock, which I also delivered to their workshop back in October. This by the way, is proving to be a really nice modification.
              • They fixed the back brake light which has not worked at all since leaving Australia back in August 2011.
                • The left-hand rear indicator flashing light had been somewhat erratic since I dropped the beast on its LH side in Sumatra back in June 2012. They fixed this problem too.
                  • Before I rode away on Feb-28, they even offered to give the bike a quick wash down for me. I declined, as they had already done enough.

                    And all for a price that I won’t disclose here and now, as perhaps this would be unfair to Sunny & Co. But take my word for it; what they charged didn’t make much of a dent in my travel budget. Moreover, all the personnel at Sunny Cycle are friendly, professional and extremely efficient at what they do. Fixing - motorcycles - properly.  To Sunny Oh and Family: please come and set-up shop in England. Show the overcharging rabble where I live, who purport and hold-out to be motorcycle mechanics; well, you just show ‘em the way it really should be done. Believe me, when the word gets around – you will make a fortune.


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