Current location : Gattières, France (Google map)
Last entry date : 08/Sep/08
Just itching to cross the line… into Malaysia
12/Jul/08 to 22/Aug/08
Exactly 3 months since the start of my journey from France east across Asia, here I am like a kid with a big smile starring down the Malaysia’s northern Bukit Kayu Hitam border checkpoint some 50mtrs away. A big welcome sign “Visit Malaysia 2007” is still proudly displayed above the 4 lane passage. No other signs like sudden Thai military coup d’etat or protest of any sort were visible at the border, so I knew I was going in. 12/Jul/08, a sunny Saturday afternoon, I rolled head high into Malaysia. Dah Sampai !!
17 countries and 15000kms later, Malaysia marks the halfway point of the trip, the end of my 1st leg. Getting here turned out to be a much tougher challenge than I imagined. Quite pleased to have zip passed the times when there were strong crosswinds, boom-boom thunderstorms, sandstorms, desert heat, the cold, etc. So, how was it like facing the constant treat of rockfalls and landslides at any time along the Karakoram Highway ?? As I rode across the border it was hard to contain the great satisfaction I’ve just earned myself – for having arrived at this mark. My iron horse, Kuda, deserved a pat, and he got a couple (for good behavior).
Unlike the previous countries, this time it does felt a bit like “balik kampung” (Malay term for “going home”). The surprised Malaysian customs officers gave their “Eh, boleh lah” comments – meaning “Thumbs up”. Gone is the anxiety of the “unknown” that usually surround me as I enter a new country. Family members, friends and supporters in Malaysia who have been following this “crazy trip” (as they called it – saying its radical by going it alone) were waiting. This time I have been offered places to stay across the country, speaks the language, missed the “teh tarik” and food !! Its nice to be back.
At Bukit Kayu Hitam, Ismail Dahali who had cheered me along this trip, greeted my arrival like a long lost friend. His wife had prepared a plate full of fried Cempedak (a tasty local fruit) and dinner. We talked into the evening. The next morning, the excellent North South Highway took me into Butterworth where my good friends since LSU Univ. days, Thiam and Michelle, were waiting to welcome me. And so it was like that, great welcome and reception by all the Kua family members (Peter, Christina, Micheal, Cecelia, Nancy + their children), friends (some I’ve not seen last 20 years) and supporters I was able to meet further south in Kuala Lumpur, Segamat, Johor Bahru, etc. To others I was unable to meet in Malaysia & Singapore, my apologies, hope we can catch up next time.
There were still a couple of serious stuff left to do before getting “lost” in this homecoming. (A) To get the bike serviced by an authorized BMW workshop. It’s a locked-in high-tech computer testing these days. This was done thanks to BMW Auto Bavaria Penang and its bike chief Mr Lim BK who readily “sponsored” the 20K service for me. And rightly so Mr Lim – the BMW F650GS Dakar is a great adventure bike and a great ride so far !!. (B) Wind down mentally from the trip mindset. But … putting the feet back onto the ground to adapt anew to the grind of the system was easier said than done.
A week later, Lydia and the kids flew in to Singapore from France, followed by Jade & Cedric a few days later. Spot on as planned, me waiting at the airport. The family is re-united again. We headed off to Southern Thailand, to Phuket for holidays as this was a beautiful part of a nice country I passed through. The trip’s 1st leg loop is complete, well … almost.
I clocked up less kilometers (but more stops) in Malaysia than in the other countries, partly because its uncomfortable to ride in this hot and humid tropical climate with my protective biking outfit on. I wished it was possible to avoid its heavy thunderstorm rain every 100km (meaning my expensive riding outfits are not worth the purchase since they have lost their waterproof properties after only 3 months). Your boots smell, said my brother.
Malaysia is modern multiracial country which the Malays, Chinese and Indians races co-habit quite well together. The people here are blessed with food, everywhere. The choices of food readily available here is embarrassing. Its easy to find something to eat 24hrs a day. Can’t deny the great food here has allowed me to gain back the few kilos lost along the route. In this hot and humid country, its seems quite a reflex to take refuge inside huge air-conditioned shopping malls to do shopping which are amongst the best in the region. The family prefer both the food and the shopping – just like the Malaysians, of course.
Lydia had brought her crash helmet along from France. That provided an excuse for a couple of days of back-on-the-saddle wind-in-the-face ride and camp up on my favorite mountain Gunong Ledang in Johor with local riders Solomon and his brother Chris (both supporters of “bybike2malaysia”!!). Many years ago, I did try to track up to the peak but never made it, this time I did (with a little help from Kuda, of course)! Never too late to decide to do something, I guess.
On 20/Aug, I prepared the bike for lay-up over the next 4 months at my sister’s home in Johor Bahru. We’re flying back to Gattières, France. My 2nd leg trip to Indochina, Indonesia and Australia is rescheduled to early January 2009. That’s looking to be just as exciting – dirt roads, jungles, islands, smelly boots, etc. Sorry Henry, I will have to tell you later when I expect to be in your backyard Melbourne !!
A word of Thanks to all Visitors
Finally, to all of you who have followed or passed a few hits on this website – thanks for your visits, comments and the encouragements. I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos, reading some of the postings, or …maybe even thinking to get out to one of these places one day ?? Honestly, when I was on the road I was encouraged by your visits. That’s because out there its sooo… not easy to trick a tired brain to write a post, to locate or sit in internet cafes, manage slow internet upload, etc, etc. (by the way, its just as true even after this trip ie hard to write when no longer out there, I mean). So thank you again for your visits.
Please check back now and then for updates to this website before the next SE Asia / Australia outing starting Jan 2009. Or, if you wish to be informed automatically of any updates, you can do so by simply clicking onto the small “Subscribe to the latest news” RSS flux icon at the bottom of the website.