Ride Overland With Kanchan & Nick

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May 8, 2012

Langkawi, Penang, Cameron Highlands

To get to Langkawai we had to take a ferry, but we couldn’t take the bike.  We left the bike in Alor Setar and boarded a cramped, freezing ferry to the island.  We had heard a lot about Langkawai, people raved and raved about it.  When we got there it was a real let down.  The area with the budget guesthouses was a long street of crappiness. I guess most people go there for the tax-free beer.  And let me tell you, beer is expensive in Malaysia!  Actually alcohol is expensive in Malaysia!  $7 for a beer.  So you can imagine we had to hold off on any drinks for our time there.  After renting a scooter on the other side of the island we found a place in an overpriced wooden shack.  The weather was cloudy, the shops, beachfront, restaurants…lackluster…so we chilled in our guest house most of the time.  The next day we decided we’d get up early, see the island and then head out of Langkawai.  On the northwestern side we found some nice jungle, better beaches and good scenery.  But still…not pull enough for us to stay or come again.  I think the Thai Andaman coast is much more worthwhile!  Unforunately we had to stay another day in Alor Setar.

Very soon we would have to turn our sights to shipping the bike to Indonesia.  During our time in Langkawai, we did some research and found that most bikers and overlanders traveling by suv/car would load their vehicle for $100 onto Mr. Lim’s ‘onion’ boat (literally a vegetable boat) in Penang and dock in Belawan.  Mr. Lim had to abandon this service due to pressure from the Indonesia side wanting a piece of the money.  Basically this posed a huge speed bump in our plans and for anyone else wanting to get to Indonesia with their vehicle.  There is the option of crating the bike but we heard horror stories of leaving the bike to Indonesia authorities and getting it out of customs was excruciating.  We were in touch with a German couple, Sascha and Kirsten.  They told us what they had heard about a shipper out of Port Klang that would allow the bike to get on a passenger ferry.  We didn’t think we’d be shipping just yet so we headed on to Penang.

Penang is an island off the mainland that we crossed to by bridge.  We headed for the old part of town that has buildings and shop fronts that make up a UNESCO site.  First we went to the oldest gurudawara in Penang since we hadn’t in a while!  It started construction in 1901 by Sikhs who were brought as police by the British.  The old part of town is Chinatown that fades into Little India or something in between!  It happened to be Vesak Day when we got there which is the birth of Buddha, and the next day was Thaiapusam, which is a Hindu festival celebrated by Tamils.  As you walk through the area you hear Namaz from the mosques, the pooja bell at a tiny mandir, and the scent of huge incense sticks being burned at the Buddhist temple.  So many different cultures and religions living amongst each other!  That’s what makes Malaysia.  But it seems like most people stick inside their community.  Penang is known for its food but there was only one cuisine that we ate!  It had been a really long time since we had some good chicken.  Like I mean a kabab or something.  While we were riding through the streets to find a guest house we passed Kapitan’s and it was stuck in our minds.  The few days we were there we ate at Kapitan’s like nobodys business.  We had the tandoori chicken thali, the biriyani, the iced rose milk, and their badam milk.  Their chicken was amazing and the iced rose milk was just plain heavenly on a hot day.  Sight-seeing wise we rode around the entire island and saw the temples, jungles, and beaches.

It had been super hot so we wanted to head to cooler places so we decided to head towards the Cameron Highlands.  Before that, we just wanted to stop by Mr. Lim’s shipping office in Penang to hear the news for ourselves.  Mr. Lim was not in but another man at the office was super helpful and gave us the downlow and a quote for about RM 1400 to crate and ship the bike to Belawan, Indonesia.  We decided to explore other options once we finish touring around and get to Port Klang (near KL).  The ride to Cameron Highlands was a good one and the cool change in air felt amazing after being in the heat for the past 3 months.  The road was nice and curvy, there wasn’t too much traffic, and it was a bright sunny day.  Soon we started to see many farms and greenhouses growing fruit.  There are also tea gardens in the area so we were excited to finally see that after hitting the dry, winter season in Darjeeling, India.  On the way we passed through a town called Kampung Raja where we literally saw 100s upon 100s of Land Rovers.  Some were rusted and crappy as hell while others had been painted, stickered and modified.  Nick was in Land Rover heaven and started to miss his orange beast from home.  We found a guest house in Tanah Rata that had cheap rooms with shared bathrooms.  This would be our third experience with shared bathrooms and would soon become the norm in Malaysia.  Basically if you want a cheap place to stay, you expect shared bathrooms and fan only.  Shared bathrooms are fine if they’re clean but it definitely took a little getting used to especially after being out of college for so long.   Made me feel a little old.  I guess as you get older you value space and privacy a whole lot more!   The next day we toured around the Boh Tea Plantation which had gorgeous tea plants with new, bright green leaves on the tips.  We lucked out and had a beautiful blue sky.  We ended up spending 3 nights in Tanah Rata because the weather was so good.  The thought of leaving for the heat of the plains was just damn scary.   Call me ignorant, but I never knew I’d have to bust out with my jacket in southeast Asia!  We spent the days we had riding around the windy roads, visiting a butterfly farm (that was hella creepy…had other yucky insects and reptiles too), and generally enjoying the views.

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