Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Sorry for the big gap folks, but we were a little shattered after Indonesia.

Mon 28/09
KLIA is pretty much state of the art as far as airports go; most big public buildings and infrastructure here are. New arrivals are dealt with efficiently, and promptly regurgitated into KL.

The ferry terminal at Port Klang isn’t like that. After surviving the bedlam of the Dumai ferry, we’re taken and lined up on the dock in rows, like a bunch of asylum seekers awaiting processing. An hour passes. The Indos don’t do queues, and after several manage to sneak up a few places, one of the immigration officials busts a young guy and sends him to the back like a naughty school boy. Ironic applause follows.

Dumai to Port Klang is only about 150ks, but by the time all this bullshit is over the trip has taken 10hrs. Followed by another hour to KL. Miraculously, on the train into the city the Indos are all incredibly well behaved, even managing the whole hour without lighting up. We figure its the threat of actually being caught and fined.

Tue 29/09 – 2/10

KL was always going to be one big todo list for us:

Pickup the bikes from the shipping agent. Check.
Grovel to the cops for some free parking. Check.
Put together a shopping list for the bikes. Check. They sound awful. Check.
Find somewhere else to stay that doesn’t resemble a Black Hole Of Calcutta. Check.
Do an interview for the New Straits Times. Check.
Find out Padang has had a big earthquake. Huh?

Its pretty spooky seeing a city completely devastated after having stayed there the week before. We count ourselves lucky.

Check out an apartment for rent. Check.

This isn’t part of the plan, but parking in KL is a massive pain in the ass.

Sat 3/10
A zero bedroom apartment sounds – well is - a little pokey it has to be said, however after 8 months of cheap hotel rooms the place feels enormous. Its also pretty cute, fully furnished, and fully our own space.

For the next two weeks we fully investigate the isles of Tescos, stocking up on essential items like beer, bread, butter, jam, eggs, beer, milk, muesli, nibblies, baked beans and beer.

Shop. Eat. Repeat.

The apartment comes with a lame internet connection which blocks p2p, but we catch up on old episodes of things like Top Gear on youtube instead. Sheer lookshary.

Oh yeah, half that time is also spent sorting out the bikes. Buying new stuff for them, fixing them, chasing parts and tools and non-existent packages from Canada for them, and generally just worrying about them. At times like this the doubts start creeping in again and we wonder whether we’d be better off without them.

Sat 17/10 – 20/10
Pushing the doubts aside, we hit the road for Melaka, leaving the normality and predictability of the apartment for god knows what. Our bums need conditioning after a few weeks off, but new tires, sprockets and chains have transformed the bikes.

All the guide books say of Melaka “Droves of visitors are lured to this port city, where they are quickly steeped in an intoxicating multicultural world of heritage architecture and the alluring aromas of distinctive local cooking... blah blah blah...” or some such bollocks. The reality is that the character of the unbelievably world heritage listed Melaka has been ruined by years of land reclamation and modernisation projects. The few historic buildings left are populated by rockabilly guitarists and other touristy sideshow touts. “Lima ringitt. Lima ringitt. Come and get your photo with the iguana. Five ringitt.”

The kuay teow is pretty good though, and somehow, twice, we’re treated to it gratis. A happy – ok drunk – Indian guy is celebrating the Deepavali holiday weekend from inside a little warung and just wants to share his good mood. We seem to attract people like this. We’re not sure why. We’re not complaining.

To give Melaka a proper go, we try some of the beaches out of town, but they’re pretty average, a bit public, and Ann gets stared at quite a lot.

Megaliths are always interesting though. Well ok, they’re really just lumps of rock sticking up out of the ground, but we find them interesting. No one seems to know much about the local ones, but a bit of googling reveals that some date back thousands of years.

Da’ud back at the guesthouse is looking a bit like a megalith himself after too many years in the business and we get the feeling he’s looking for a good offer from a couple of orang putihs to run the place for a while. Maybe if we liked Melaka we’d be tempted.

Wed 21/10 – 22/10
Instead we cross the peninsula to the east coast and Mersing, a sleepy town which serves as a jumping off point to Tioman Island. Most tourists tolerate places like this for a night, while transiting to or from the island. Perversely, we like it. In fact we like small town Malaysia full stop. And if the guide books gloss over it, all the better. Small town Malaysia is generally full of character, full of life, and full of friendly small town people who seem to have the time to stop and chat.

North of town the beaches aren’t too bad either and are, unlike Tioman, tourist free.

Sat 23/10
The spell is broken in Rompin, where we find it slightly disconcerting to sit down in a restaurant, and while waiting for breakfast, realise there are posters of Osama Bin Laden lining the walls. That’s Osama The Hero, not Osama The Most Wanted by the way. Like protestants who’ve walked into a Northern Ireland pub only to find Gerry Adams plastered all over the walls, we suddenly realise we might well be in the wrong place. Maybe they’re just taking the piss out of all the Americans who come here for the sailfish action.

People say the east coast, especially the northeast, is the most Muslim region, the most Malay region in Malaysia. It certainly seems poor, and the way people look and act here reminds us of Indonesia, so maybe they’re right. Needless to say its not our favourite part of the country.

The restaurant serves up a pretty decent roti telur though. Which is just as well, because strangely we’ve become hooked on the stuff. Its a very thin bread mixed through with egg, cooked on a hotplate and served up with bowls of curry or dahl. Just add coffee for a complete breakfast. Breakfast is such a pain in the ass if you’ve got to go hunting for something you like, but all the Malay and Indian places do roti, so at least there’s some predictability to life on the road. And yes, you did read that correctly viewers. Curry for breakfast. Mm mmmm.

Sun 24/10

Monsoon season is approaching, so Kuantan is going to be our last stop before heading back west towards KL. Its kind of a nothing city, with a main beach jointly owned by KFC and McDonalds. The locals don’t seem to know what to do with beaches anyway, and just seem to wander up and down the sand fully clothed in the midday sun. They’re obviously more interested in what’s for lunch. Actually, truth be told, most Malaysians are. A Malay remarked to us the other day that they’re probably the only race of people who’ll talk about what’s on for dinner, while eating lunch.

Tomorrow we’ll leave the east coast for Taman Negara, Malaysia’s oldest national park. Ann’s knee is a lot better these days, so a bit of rainforest might be nice for a change...

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