Thursday, July 17, 2014


May 11. Khoa Lanta Thailand to Kanger Malaysia. 378 km
We tried to get an early start. I was knew I was low on fuel and after a few km my E light came on. I thought for sure I would be able to make it to the mainland. I can usually get 50 km in a pinch. 5 km later the bike sputtered to a stop. When we stopped I smelled fuel. It turns out I must have kicked my fuel line from the front because it came disconnected. My remaining fuel had been dumped and evaporated. This was a good start to the day. About 200 meters down the road a local restaurant was selling glass bottles of benzine. Not ideal but it would work. We then backtracked to a small gas station and filled the tanks. I didn't want to risk running out of fuel 2 times in 1 day. We made it to the boarder about 4:30. Leaving Thailand was easy enough. In Malaysia, they gave me temp import papers. I asked about using my Carnet but they said "we don't do that". I thought for sure Malaysia was a Carnet country but who am I to argue with a customs officer. He said we needed to get insurance. The insurance office said "open from 9:00 till 6:00". At 5:05 we first knocked on the door and no one was working. We tried to ask around but no luck. The border closed at 6 and we were pushing the that time already. The customs guys were cool and make some phone calls. They sent us to the other border about 20 km away. They arranged for us to get insurance from a friend and do the import documents at the other border. If we went through Thailand it would be about 90 km. But in Malaysia, we rode over a quick mountain pass and we were there. We saw one of the most breathtaking views I've ever seen. The sun was setting and casting a very nice orange light over the landscape. The valley was flat with to large limestone mountain/rocks jetting up at least 800 meters. Since we were pressed for time, I didn't take a picture. We got our paperwork done after dark. We would ride another 30 or so km in the dark to find a hotel.

How the locals fill their scoots. 

Dry dock.

May 12. Kanger to Georgetown Penang, 204 km.
We tried to ride along the coast. But there was really no roads. There were roads. Nice gravel 2 tracks. But they were basically driveways. There were many irrigation rivers that we didn't know if we could cross when we got to them. Some had bridges, some didn't. In my time traveling I've gotten pretty good at reading a gravel road. Knowing the difference between a rode used for through traffic and a 1 way to a broken bridge can save hours of backtracking. In developing countries, the GPS maps usually don't catch up to construction or deconstruction for many years. So if you find yourself following only scooter tracks, its probably not the road to a bridge or ferry. Its the local's track to a fishing hole or drinking spot. So after turning around and backtracking 2 times we decided to get on the main road. By then we were close to Butterworth, a large city near Georgetown. It was a good time to burn motorway through the cities. There are now 2 bridges to Penang Island. A northern bridge and a southern bridge. The southern bridge was just recently opened and isn't even shown on google maps yet. We took the northern bridge this time because its closer to Georgetown. After searching a few different places, we found a decent guesthouse with AC and a private bathroom.

May 13. Georgetown.
Georgetown is a pretty cool city we discovered. It has a very interesting history and mix of people. There is a large population of Indian and Chinese. There is British influence still present because of it being a colony. There are Muslim, Buddhist and Christian people all living together. The food is amazing. Some of the best Tandoori chicken I've had in my life. I suppose when you mix all these different cultures together on an island, you are destine to get some good food as a result. Georgetown also has some very cool street art. Not graffiti. Actual art. Sculptures and paintings seem to line every small street of the old town. The buildings all seem like they are 200 years old. Some are falling apart and abandoned, but many have been refurbished into coffee shops and guest houses.

2 smoke love!

Perfect gift for all your girl friends. 

Cool door locks in the temple.


May 14. Georgetown to Banding/Temenggor Lake. 214 km.
We got rain soon after we got on the bike in the morning. Pulling off to sit under a gas station shelter seemed like the right decision. Soon it died down some. We took the long bridge leaving Georgetown to see what it was like. 24 km of bridge. I remember thinking "this would really suck in a big storm". Luckily we were between storms when we were doing the bridge. Storms on the left of me, storms on the right. I felt myself turning that throttle hard to make it across in time. Not that it helped any, but it made me feel better. In Malaysia, there is a motorcycle lane next to the motorway. Sometimes its just the shoulder and other times its a separate road. I didn't like riding in the motorcycle lane unless it was bypassing the toll booths. Which it always did. We got rained on some more in the afternoon so we pulled over for some curry. I guess its not really curry, but close. Some spices and vegetables in a sauce with chicken over rice. Its already prepared and sitting in a tray. You point at what you want. One of the beautiful things about street food. Pointing at what you want is way easier to communicate then looking at a menu you can't read. Near Temenggor lake, it started to rain very heavy. Within a few minutes we were soaked all the way through. Probably a good place to stop for the night. The desk thought it was funny when I asked them for a hair dryer. "Your lady friend ask for one 15 minutes ago".. "I know she did. We need 2.. Just because". They didn't question it and they gave me another hair dryer. Our stuff was still pretty wet in the morning but its quite impressive what a hair dryer will actually do.

View from hotel

Also.. view from hotel. 

May 15. Banding to Gua Musang. 213 km.
The Mountains in Malaysia are great to ride in. I would say better then northern Thailand. Nice wide roads, not a lot of traffic and lush green forests. We found a nice waterfall and we tried to hike up to it. The trail "to the waterfall" was crazy. We there were ropes and chains to help climb because it was so steep. We made it quite far, but the heat and mosquitoes prevented us from reaching a better view of the waterfall then we had from a few km away. I had not a lot of Malaysian money left on me so I needed to change some. Normally I just pull from an ATM but it wasn't working for some reason. This is where American $100 stashed in the bike or luggage comes in handy. I had 2 crisp $100 bills from Cambodia left over. A western union place changed one and not the other because their machine kept denying one. No worries, $100 would get us far in this country. This made me worry though. Was one of the American bills I got in Cambodia fake? When I first got them from an ATM in Cambodia, I thought they were all fake. I had never seen hundos like this. Now I know they are new bills that were released in September or October.

Some sun in the morning

This is getting out of control. 

The waterfall we tried to get to. 

This guy was huge. Like 1" ball when rolled up. 

May 16. Gua Musang to Cameron Highlands. 149 km.
The road was much of the "same". Not a lot of traffic. Twisting through the hills of jungle and plantations. We went to a lavender and strawberry farm in Cameron Highlands. It was a tourist trap but the ice cream was amazing. We thought about leaving to get closer to Taman Nagara but the rain started early so we got a hotel.

Many green houses line the hills here. 
May 17. Cameron Highlands to Kuala Tahan/Taman Negara National Park. 265 km.
Cameron Higlands is an agracultural area in the hills. Its pretty far from any major cities and has become a very popular tourist area. The tea farms are interesting but I would rather be riding through the jungle. After we left Cameraon Highlands, the cars were few and far between. Just the way I like it. It was nice to stretch the legs of the ol girl on the long fast curves. As we got closer to Taman Nagara, we were riding through plantations. The palm plantations are everywhere in Malaysia. They harvest the fruit/nut/berry thing for palm oil. They are very beautiful to ride through so I don't complain.

Tea fields

New school tea harvesting.

Oldschool variant. 


Fun roads. Up, down, side to side. 

May 18. Taman Negara.
Taman Negara is probably the most well known National Park in Malaysia. There are a couple hotels and guesthouses in a small town on the river. In order to get to the park, you cross the river by boat. Neither of us had equipment for trekking, and I am never to stoked about being away from the motorcycle for to long. She wanted to get into the jungle to see some wild animals but I knew this place. I've seen these places before. A day trip will only show you a few birds, trees and bugs. Any big animals have moved back into the park to get away from the people. We decided the canopy walk would be a good thing for the morning. It was interesting but like any tourist place, not as cool as just wandering through a country on a bike.

not really trekking

More stuff that could hurt.
A little bit nervous about the heights.

Don't look down :P

Rain every afternoon.

May 19. Taman Negara to Kuala Lumpur. 246 km
In the morning before we left, we went on booking and found a very nice apartment in KL. For about $50 we had a very large, very new apartment on the 17th floor. Huge TV, washing machine and kitchen were all included. We had to backtrack about an hour before we headed south toward KL. Soon after we were burning up motorway. The last 30 or so km into KL it started to pour so we were completely soaked by the time we got there. But in the evening it cleared up and we had a nice sunset.

May 20 to 24. KL
We wanted to get a US visa for her. Traveling on the bike with 2 people was hard and if we were going to keep this relationship going, we though a road trip in the US this summer would be a good plan. We applied for a US visa on line and made a bank transfer for the fees. We set up a meeting in KL the next earliest date which was the 22nd. I was really getting excited to get back to the US for a few months. But this would also drastically change my trip. I did not know what would happen between us, but I didn't want it to end just yet. All I knew is traveling this way was not the way i like to travel. I dropped her off at the embassy around 8:30 and came back at 10:30 in time to see her walking out. I knew that look. They had turned her down. The conversation was like this.
"Why are you applying for a visa in KL rather than in Ukraine"..
"Well, I've been traveling for 3 months in Asia. Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and now Malaysia. My friend asked me to road trip through the US. I don't have to be back to Ukraine until August"
"This is not a good enough reason to apply here in KL. Denied."
Hey dude. I have about $2500 worth of reasons that its a good idea to apply in KL rather then flying back to Ukraine.
We talked a lot and we both knew what would happen next. The earliest flight was Saturday and she said she wanted to be on it. And that is that as they say.

Views from KL Tower

Another moto traveler. He was rebuilding his African Twin and decided to redo EVERYTHING. 

New shoes. Metzeler Enduro 3 Sahara rear. Metzaler Karoo T in front.
May 25. KL to Georgetown. 365 km.
Flying solo again. The bike feels light. She has new oil and new tires. She sounds different. She sounds happy. I missed this girl. I think she missed me. I burned motorway to Georgetown. I had contacted a Mr. Lim about shipping the bike to Indo. Apparently Penang is one of the only places to ship the bike to Indo. There is no ferry. Only a vegitable boat. Some people call it "the onion boat". I was not sad about going back to Georgetown. Many times returning to a place I've been when I am traveling does not feel right. Osh, Irktusk, Tokyo, Phnom Pen, and now Georgetown felt right. I was looking forward to some "hostel living" and meeting some new people. Traveling with a partner is amazing. I don't have to explain the benefits. But when you travel alone, you meet more people. You find other travelers with great experiences. I'm not saying every backpacker in a hostel is super interesting. A fair amount of them are not. But even talking with the 21 year old who is headed to an island for the sole purpose of doing magic mushrooms has its benefits. It emphasizes why we ride motorcycles. To escape the BS.
I got some rain on the way to Penang but it cleared up by the time I hit the long bridge. This time I rode in the motorcycle lane. It felt funny riding between walls only 10 feet wide. I was passing cars that were on the main road. Once on the island I made my way back to the same hotel I had stayed in a few weeks before. This time it was a mistake.

May 26 to 30. Georgetown.
My first night at the guesthouse, I got a rash similar to one I had in Georgetown a few weeks earlier. Before, we thought it was the laundry detergent that they washed my cloths in. Now I thought it might be an allergic reaction to the sheets. Later we would find out it was bedbugs. This is the first time on this trip and 2nd time in my life I got bit by these little feckers. The first time was at the Prescott Rally in Arizona at a Holiday Inn. The hotel denied it and blamed it on something else. The first night in the guesthouse, I took a shower, then stat in the lobby for a few hours using the computer. I got bitten sitting in the wooden chairs. Later they found some in my room so I moved rooms. I washed everything. After that, I was sitting down stairs and I felt something on my leg. A bug. Just then another one bit my knee. I ran upstairs and got naked in front of a mirror. There was one more on my back. This one was full of blood. I showered and washed those cloths. Time to leave this place. After I left, there was no problem. I didn't know they could live in wooden furniture.. but they can. A few days of benadryl cleared me up and now I'm back to normal.
I had a good time exploring the city again. I was craving some good goat. It had been a long time since I had some good "mutton". In India, mutton is goat. So don't order mutton if you are expecting lamb. A place called Kapitan had some amazing red curry mutton that was best accompanied by a butter garlic naan. I would return to this place 3 more times. It really is hard to beat good goat. Especially when it is tender enough to pull apart with your fingers.
I met with Mr. Lim on Tuesday to go over paperwork. I showed him my Carnet and temp import. He asked why Malaysia did not stamp my Carnet. I said I didn't know. I asked them but they said no. He thought it might cause problems down the road. On Wednesday I met at his shop again and I followed him to the ferry. We rode the ferry to Butterworth. In Butterworth it was a short skip to the ship yard. They were unloading the vegitable boat when we got there. We waited about 2 hours before they could load my bike. Then Mr. Lim gave me a ride back to the ferry and I went back to my Hostel.
I met a could from France who were traveling in a VW bus with a Subaru engine in it. He and I chatted over some beers outside my hostel. It was closing and we were not ready to sleep so we walked to another hostel/restaurant/bar down the street. We walked in and I hear "Is your name Noah?" I recognized this guy. Turns I went to college with him in Montana. He was a childhood friend's room mate. He was not in my study and a year younger, but we had spent many a nights playing beer pong. His name was on the tip of my tongue when he said "Its Lars". This is not the first time I've randomly bumped into someone I knew. This is actually very common when you meet people traveling to see them again. This was the first time I randomly met someone I knew from US. There wasn't any beer pong that night, but it did get late.

Ever y day I walked by this guys shop, he was painting blinds. 

This guy was always building something new. 

Asian tourist lining up for a picture with the street art. This was everywhere. 
Mr. Lim.

Following Mr. Lim to the shipyard involved a ferry. 

Loading her onto the boat.

Sweet ride from France

Their website here

I flew out at 6 on Saturday so around 2 we went to get mutton one last time with Lars and his girl. I packed up my stuff and got a taxi to the airport. At the airport I realized I didn't pack my camelback. This had been with me since the 2nd day when I bought it at a army surplus store in San Diego. I had grown quite fond of it. I was already in the long check in line so there was nothing I could do. I sent an email to Lars to ask for it, but he said they didn't see it. Oh well. I guess my kit is lighter now. The flight was quick and our flight path was just an arc. Welcome to Indonesia. Country number 40.

Amazing "mutton"

This guy!

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