Ride Overland With Kanchan & Nick

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May 14, 2012

From jungles to the highrises…From Taman Negara to Singapore

Finally we got ourselves to snap out of it and head to Taman Negara.  We wanted to be in Singapore for the weekend to visit one of Nick’s school buddies and other friends.  Taman Negara is a national park full of 130 million year old rainforest separated by the main town of Kuala Tahan  by a muddy brown river.  When we got there it seriously looked like a movie set out of Jurassic Park or some Amazon movie.  It took us some time to get there…our GPS kept on telling us that there wasn’t a road and no way to calculate directions.  This happens to us a lot!  Luckily Nick is super good at directions, maps etc.  If I was the navigator, we might still be in Nepal J I do help him plan the route by researching what’s good to see, scenic rides, lodging or camping.

We got to the park a little too late to see anything so we ate some crappy nasi goring (fried rice) and attempted to sleep in our crappy bungalow.  Our hut was like a jungle in itself—crazy huge spiders, weird frogs resembling leaves, and an endless array of other insects.  After surviving the night, we got up early and got a trekking map from the main office where we had purchased our permits to visit the park the day before. We figured we could go to the canopy walkway and may be do a little trekking.  The first part of the trail had a nice wooden platform to walk on over the sticky mud.  We found that the canopy walkway was closed and many pathways were also closed down due to construction.  We walked around for a few hours and decided to head back.  It was cool for the first hour but after that we realized we weren’t going to see any animals.  It was too close to civilization.  We had to walk to a resort to get through the park.  I’m pretty sure whatever’s living in the jungle comes out at night.  Happy to get showered and cleaned up after our sweaty attempt at walking the rainforest, we headed out along the east coast.  The weekend was approaching and we wanted to get to Singapore in the weekend to visit Nick’s old friend Vikram and his family.  Crazy how it works, whenever we want to camp we can’t find a decent beach but when we don’t intend on camping, amazing sites spring up every kilometer.   Before hitting Mersing, there are absolutely beautiful beaches and views to camp on.  We settled on a hotel since we figured we better try to look decent the next day since we were going to Singapore.

Basically other bikers told us we were crazy for wanting to go to SG on bike because of all the expenses.  Our answer to them was that we have to try stuff on our own even though they always seem to have the nerve to say “I told you so” in some form or another.  We figured that we’d try to get in and see for ourselves what kind of fees they asked for across the border.  Our friends in KL and SG gave us options to keep the bike in Malaysia if needed.  We had cut down distance the day before so it took us just 2 hours to get to Johor Baru (JB).  Getting on the right overpass to get to the border with JB and Woodlands was a little tough, it also started to rain which added to the ‘fun’.  Getting our passports stamped out was easy, you just roll up to the window in the bike line and get stamped out.  Customs was a bit more confusing.  We stopped in the motorcycle lane for ‘Goods to Declare’ and found no one.  I walked around and found an officer who was nice enough to take me to the motor vehicle customs office to get our carnet stamped out.  The office was surprisingly full of women in hijabs which was a welcome sight from the usual testosterone fest that goes on in customs offices.  It was a chill experience and we rolled up to the SG immigration, filled out a quick form and we had our visa on arrival for SG stamped in our passports.  Easy!  We got to customs and almost got our carnet stamped when the customs official raised his head up, stamp in hand, saying ‘Let me call someone to make sure’.  As we predicted he told us that we would have to pay $400 insurance (doesn’t matter if you’re in SG for a month or 2-3 days).  Not only that, we would have to leave the bike at customs and take a taxi to the office that would issue the insurance and assess Nick’s riding skills…because I guess a US drivers license, an international drivers permit and the fact that we were able to ride through India, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia was not enough.  We noticed hundreds of Malaysian license plates on scooters and bikes crossing in and out of SG.  We asked about their insurance.  The officials said ‘Well they are a part of the ASEAN pact’.  Okay….but does their Malaysian insurance cover anything that happens in SG?  ‘No, probably not.’ What the hell, what’s the point?!  We learned that Singaporeans play by the book, it’s black or white…which is a good thing and is probably why they’re doing so well.   We told the officials we didn’t want to take the bike through so one of the officials held on to our passports and hopped on his bicycle and escorted us out of SG.  First time to get escorted out of a country, I guess that day was going to come! And of course we had to do the whole stamping out of SG and stamping passports and carnet back in Malaysia (I had told my customs ladies I’d be back!)

Everyone kept telling us not to keep the bike in JB.  I guess they meant not to park in a public place or on the street.  During the day time the city seemed fine, probably gets shady at night.  Luckily we were able to park the bike at Alex’s friend’s place.  Kelvin had a nice house with a gate that we could safely park the bike in.  His neighbors were so sweet and invited us to sit with them and freshen up, they also called a cab for us to meet up Vikram close to the border.  Before the cab came we had to quickly put our weekend bag together.

Vikram picked us up and since we had gotten a bit late, we were stuck in the border traffic for almost 2 hours.   Eventually we got home and met his daughter Mihika and wife Gauri.  The weekend was full of fun meeting Vikram & Gauri’s friends at a house party and attending a party at a club with an amazing view of the harbor.  We had the opportunity of attending Mihika’s first swimming class which was a lot of fun to watch!  We also took a boat ride around the Clark’s Quay area (awesome concept!) and watched the light show in front of the Marina Bay Sands.  The last day we went to Sentosa Beach and had a fun afternoon riding around the luge track (of course my husband tried to run me off the track) and chillin by the beach.  Surprisingly, Nick is really good with kids!  This was the first time I’ve seen him interact with a little kid and I was impressed…who knew? Mihika grew to love Nick and it was too cute to watch.  It was great for us to get to know/catch up with Gauri, Vikram, and Mihika and we hope they can make it out to Texas!  We also really appreciate that they opened their house to us and showed us around despite Gauri being so far along in her pregnancy.  We can’t wait to hear some good news soon J

We had also been in touch with bikerettes, O’Ren and Nisha (http://www.bikerette.com/).  We met up at one of the posh malls to eat at Food Opera.  It was a food lovers paradise, every Asian cuisine you could think of is available there!  We talked forever and eventually got kicked out of the mall way after closing!  We moved our conversation to the parking garage and checked out O’Ren’s Pulsar that she and Nisha had done their Southeast Asian tour on.  She’s done some interesting things to the Pulsar, so check it out!  We had so much more to talk about but we figured we’d better get going since spending the night in the parking garage did not sound too appealing, but being Asian bikers we had a lot in common and it was great fun!  We missed out on meeting our friend Praful since he was out of town, but hopefully next time!

Thanks to our Singapore friends for all you did for us and for taking the time out to spend time with us!  We really appreciate it and please remember, you have a home in good ol’ Texas! 🙂

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