Monday, May 28, 2012

Dirt Sun and Leeches

We made it back each with an awesome tan from the beautiful Tioman, with me secretly not wanting to leave. I could have easily stayed for another week or so but we must move on. Already I had that same feeling in Melaka. The location is one thing but the people and new friends we now have are what really makes it memorable.

Some guardians of the Rooney Specials while on Tioman...Bagus

Off the ferry to retrieve our bikes, knowing that Neil was having withdrawals from not having a Rooney Special to ride. He was a man with a plan. Head towards Endau Rompin National Park, described as the “last frontier” type adventure but in Neil's eyes it was dirt dirt dirt. It was said that you could only access the park through a 60 kilometre dirt road. Yep they were right it was dirt and mud and dust. Although let it be clear that thanks to the Rooney Specials it was done with no hesitation. Well maybe a bit from me considering my dirt experience was my parents house and around 30 kilometres back home in Australia. Let it be known I never doubted the bike more the hesitation on my abilities. That would soon surprise even me. “If in doubt, gas it out.”

Jungle run

I had a fight with some hard core mud... I think I won

So with a hard days ride under belt we had a feed and decided to settle into our dorm which by chance only had us in it. No sign of leeches yet....

We woke the next morning to enjoy a wonderfully made Malaysian breakfast, with the additional cat at our feet. This tends to happen anywhere there are people sitting. It seemed as though we were on the only visitors to the Park. Neil booked a boat to travel around 45 minutes up river to Kuala Jasin which is their base camp, from there it was a mega trek through the jungle and I mean jungle!
Our guide claimed to speak not much English but we both reckoned she did an amazing job. To think she had to go to work everyday in it and combat the leeches!!!

Boat ready for launch

5 hours of intense leech action

Clarissa and Sisema

Now includes five river crossings

Gotta keep moving

A nice cluster of leeches

Malaysia number 1


We had left our dorm at 10am ready for the trek with a massive supply of water, Bushmans and lighters to burn off the leeches. Considering the amount of leeches they had you were better off leaving them or pulling them off. We returned at 4 pm exhausted but with a strong sense of accomplishment. We had combated the dirt and won, we had combated the leeches and won. Tomorrow it was mud and dirt to combat. Our journey back through through the way we had come.

A well earned rest

After sections like this.


            A very steep learning curve was learnt again that day. It was about 45kms of palm oil plantation dirt road which was good for 45km/hour. Then about 15kms of very slow going through muddy broken old dirt/tar road. Very bumpy/slow and in significant disrepair. I had made it to bitumen, now to combat the drivers. Not sure which ones I preferred the dirt and mud or the drivers that pushed you off the road. We decided to stop for an Ice Milo which seems to be one of the few drinks available everywhere, at a fish shop. (I could tell from the sign and the abundance of fish). Here we met another Singapore rider and sat for a chat and for me to catch my breath.

Neil called me over and said “look at this!”. Through our jungle trek we had not seen much wildlife except for insects and lots of noisy birds. Monkeys we had seen on the side of the road. Yet under this building was a monkey. Neil made a new friend, although it was sad he was chained up.

Although this little one put his arm through the crack and was dragging a kitten around on the floor by its head which was pretty funny.

Neil... monkey...monkey...Neil

So now we are back in Mersing for a few days while we “Pimp” out our bikes. With road conditions the way they are, modifications to the bikes including lights and reflective tape are in order. Along with personalised stamps and business cards are being made. So as I sit in our air-conditioned gem of a room, I thank you for taking the time to read and remember....


If you like Pina Coladas...

Firstly we must apologise for the lateness of our blog updates...but you will see why is a moment.

It was decided that we were going to head to Mersing located on the East coast of Malaysia, where we would hopefully be able to catch a ferry to Pulau Tioman. Fortunately a new friend, Colin,  would come along for the ride with his Ferrari red BMW R1100 GS. Mike “The Thunder” and a number of new friends would meet us at Tioman Island.

We started a late morning off with “Pow” which is basically a Chinese Steam bun. Luckily Colin and our other friend Heng showed us where the best “pow” in town was. Yep, he was right it was really really good. Now that our bellies were full... it is time to RIDE!!!!

Two hundred odd kilometres later and we reached Mersing, an adorable little town. We parked our bikes at a “friend of a friends” place and headed towards the ferry just down the road.

So Colin, Neil and myself jumped on the icy cold air conditioned fast ferry to Tioman, where the three exhausted and sweaty riders could catch a breath. The trip took around an hour and a bit to reach the main town of Tekek. Contrary to what we had been told the ferry was not really rough, it just ploughed through the waves like a trooper.

Colin, Clarissa and Neil enjoying a break from the heat

The plan was to find somewhere to sleep and head straight to the bar! I managed to twist Neil's arm into getting an air conditioned room although the island was not as hot as on the mainland. Halo Bar was our bar stop which was located right out the front of where we were staying. It was something from the movies, cool night, palm trees, Pina Coladas and Hoe-garden bier. Now Tioman is a “duty free” island which basically means cheap beer. Jackpot for the three of us. We drank, laughed, sang and drank into the night. This is where we met our favourite bar tender, Apae. A humble jolly man who makes the best Pina Colatas in the world!!!!!

Enjoying some drinkies....

Neil with our new feline friend

After a well deserved sleep in we awoke to see this outside our front door. Tioman is that tropical island that you hear or read about. I have been fortunate enough to travel a bit before this epic adventure although nothing has been as like Tioman. The best was yet to come Scuba!!!!

Sigh its a hard life....

Through a recommendation we decided for us to do the scuba thing. Neil has not been scuba diving only snorkelling and for a while I kept saying to him yeah but scuba is sooo much better. I already had my Open Water Certificate so I decided to go for my Advanced Open Water. Neil started with Open Water then  wanted to dive deeper then 18 metres so he also got his Advanced. All thanks to our awesome Dive Master, Sebastian and the owner Ray, of Ray's Dive Adventures. A friend that we have met on our travels recommended him to us as he himself had taught Ray how to scuba!

Neil after his first dive!

Living the dream
….Now lets get on that beeech

Hammocks lined the beach

There is something about Tioman it took us a week and a half before we had to rip ourselves away from this gem in the South China Sea. A big thank you to Ray'sDive Adventures and their crew, Apae (our favourite bar tender and good mate), Colin (our translator, drinking buddy and brother) and all those we met and helped us with out all of you it would not be Tioman. Including; Afish, Atif, Brian, Mr. Ali Baba, Nazari, Zali, AC, you guys rock. Miss you already and we shall return!

Also to you crazy Polish man who full steam head-butted your door when you were too drunk on captain morgan! You probably shouldn't have believed Neil that the hike 7km's through the jungle was easy either...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It all started at the Honky Tonk Haven Cafe

It was meant to be one of our last days in the historic town of Melaka... little did we know that everything was about to change. Our day started with the intent on visiting the massive replica of a Portugese ship which was also their Maritime Museum, followed but a short trip across the road to their Navy Museum. But first a ride along the river in one of their River Cruise Boats.

It was amazing to see all the different influences in architecture of the area
For only $10 Ringitt around trip 

The Museums expanded on what we had already learnt at other museums yet we noticed it was crazy busy on the weekends. And I mean CRAZY. Children we running around the Navy Museum like mad men but it was nice to see so many people interested in the history of the area.

All the other tourists were doing it

 Outside the Portugese Ship... Wow thats big. It was used for defence and cargo storage...Hmmm multi tasker

Neil could help but go Titanic on the front of one their old Navy ships

Couldn't help but want revenge on the evil cars trying to take the road from me!!

Once the museums were done we decided hey lets enjoy a few beers on the waters edge and watch the world go by. So Neil suggested the "how about this one??"It is was Honky Tonk Haven Cafe

Knocking back a few beers :)

Three buckets of beer later, (1 bucket = 5 beers) we met Joe "Fingers" a New Zealand bloke with a great personality with awesome shirts to match.... This is also where we met Nigel a British fellow who ended up chatting about motorbikes. At this stage he questioned whether or not we had me the french bloke who has the BMW GS down the road, who was also travelling around the world. The thought of another BMW near by was too good to pass up. So after a great feed and icy cold beers. (The only way to combat the Malayian heat) We went for a walk, found the BMW  but no french man. Due to the amount consumed that afternoon and night before we decided to stay another night... Thats the thing about Melaka. We just keep saying yep another night.

A late breakfast ended with me retiring to air conditioning while Neil decided to explore the rest of Melaka. He had to of course stop by St Paul Church, originally build in 1521, located on the top of St John's Hill. Where he found a gentleman playing Bob Marley. 

St Paul's Church

Later on that afternoon Neil came in the room informing me of how he had met the french man along with some other local and internationals at the Honky Tonk Haven Cafe. So he headed back while I had to complete a few more things. Around an hour later I headed down to see Neil sitting there with some lively characters surrounded by buckets of beers. I knew this would be a fun night. Dinner was all you can eat Indian for only $12 ringitt !!!! Which they do once a month or so I was told. They also had live Jazz music which we so lively. 

 Mike and Neil's Motorbikes 

Some of our new Malakian and International friends

Boogie on down Baby!!!

The celebrations went well on into the night with the same decision made the day before. One more day in Melaka. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Chinese discovered Australia?

The Chinese apparently discovered Australia????

Well looks like its my turn to update this blog of ours... Man, has there been some adventures already and we have only been travelling for a week!!!!!

I must say you never really appreciate your air conditioner until you are in Asia, with temperatures reaching over 30 plus degrees with 80% + humidity..... lucky for me Neil worked his magic and got us an air conditioned room.... much to my delight :)

I have been very fortunate over the years to be able to travel overseas, (generally with family) but this is a whole other side of things that you can not possibly imagine unless you jump on that wagon... anyway enough of my rambling.... Fortunately I acquire a skill my father has kindly passed on.... the knowledge of history and the beginnings of cultures and societies across the globe... Melaka is no exception with the invasion of the Chinese, Portugese, Dutch (twice), British and Japanese and I suppose a few more I haven't yet mentioned.....

We started our day off by heading to the Taming Sari Revolving Tower, which is a massive 80 metres high which revolves (as the name suggests) giving us a perfect view of Melaka and its beautiful surroundings.

                                                     What ever you do don't look down!!!

The People's Museum was meant to be the next stop but unfortunately it was closed for renovations. It basically contained exhibits showing the lengths people go to for perceived beauty, e.g. dental mutilations, foot binding, tattooing etc. So we moved onto Porta de Santiago. Which is a fort, the remains of a massive slave Malayian force under the rule of the Portugese. The fort stood for approximately 296 years until the British come and decided to demolish it moving everything from Melaka to Penang. 

Next stop was the beautiful Istana ke Sultanan, a beautiful dark timber palace surrounded by grand gardens, it was built recently and based on the description in the Sejarah Melayu, a text written in the 15th century. In typical Malayian tradition it is built with multilayered, sharply slanted roofs containing no nails!!!! It was basically where the Sultan lived when he was in the city but mainly was used for administrative purposes. The detail inside was absolutely amazing to say the least with a lot of wax figures of traders and officials etc. Overall great fun.

I wonder how many Ringgit it costs to rent the place???

Finally Neil sees someone else in a sarong!!!

Peace and free trade... thats the way its done :)

Ever heard of a bloke Cheng Ho??? Nope?? Neither had we.... next stop was the Cheng Ho Museum where we were warmly welcomed by a gentleman who very graciously gave us a very cheap and fantastic tour of the place.... Basically during the Ming Dynasty the Emperor asked Admiral Cheng Ho to travel from China to Melaka no less then six times. Interesting little fact here. The Emperor built the forbidden city and it was divided into two areas. One for functions and the other his private quarters. Now he had a lot of consorts and didn't want any male poking around if you get my meaning. So if you were not of nobility you were castrated which Cheng Ho was at the age of 13!!! He then worked his way up through the ranks and landed the role that would make him legendary. Below is a photo of Cheng Ho at the tender age of 13 loosing his "money bag" and "spring roll."

 Records show there were seven trips in total with Cheng Ho commanding six of them. His fleet consisted of no less than 300 ships. He travelled from China around the globe, including Melaka where he set up a warehouse for the valuables obtained on this long journey. Cheng Ho encouraged peace and prosperity unlike the invaders to come. 

Many valuables were brought to China as a result of his voyages he travelled as far as Africa to Somalia. Where he brought back a giraffe as it represented a magical creature. These voyages lasted 2 years at a time...
I would highly recommend a visit here, Cheng Ho was an amazing person who accomplished what other explorers like Colombus would not do for another 87 years!!!! 
Quick note according to a book 1421,written by a guy named Gavin Menzies. Basically he states this is the year that China discovered the world. He says that in this time a few of Cheng Ho's ships left them and set off to find America, New Zealand, Australia etc. I personally have not read it but it will be an interesting read. The guide said that they had found in present times a ship dated 600 years ago to the Ming Dynasty off the coast of America. Just before Cheng Ho's death he recorded on a tablet his six voyages on behalf of the Chinese empire. I think I will leave the history lesson there.... but this is what I love about this place it is sooo full of interesting history...

Clarneil decided to call it a day and return to our then fan room.... With the next port of call Jonker Walk

This is basically a night market where they cut off the street to road traffic and line it with things you need and things you don't..... Food and drink are a plenty along with Durian (ewwww). It was sooo beautiful and breath taking located in Chinatown, just down the road from our accommodation.... 

We ended up at the Eleven Bistro enjoying a "bucket" of beers watching the world go by... the waiter was so attentive and ran at us to help over the smallest thing... it was great service you just don't get that much anymore.... We also scored a photo of us, a photo with the waiter and free key rings!!! JACKPOT!!!

When I took this photo I couldn't stop laughing... Harry Potter or Where's Wally??????

I must commend this woman singing in front of at least 80 people not to mention passers by. They have karaoke where anyone can get up and sing.... it was great to watch a man in fluro down the front get his grove on for every song :)

Well thats all your going to get from me today.....Hope you all enjoyed my turn....

Love n well wishes to all those in the land girt by sea...

PS Thank you Ellen for your lovely letters xx

Thursday, May 3, 2012

On the road.

Its been six days since we started. Four nights in air conditioning and finally one without!

Just after we received the call that the bikes had turned up at Changi airfreight terminal six, I was almost running at 1000 miles an hour packing things up and getting ready to start riding. Little did we know about the fun we were about to get into with trying to even ride them in Singapore...

After packing all our gear up, we went down the street from Lloyds Inn (our hotel) to get some breakfast. With the sweet spot Clarissa had picked we had a handful of fantastically cheap little places to grab a feed. With a portion of 'power soup' and cans of milo we were off and racing towards the airport to grab our Carnets from the shippers. After heading out and retrieving thus mentioned paperwork, we were excited to find that we would have our bikes in under an hour.
So we raced back to the AAS (Automobile association of Singapore) to get our ICP (International circulation permit, $50SingaporeDollers). The ICP allows you to ride in Singapore but we didn't know what else was tacked on. First you need insurance ($300SDG for Clarissa, $360SDG for me). Ok, a bit steep for ONE DAYS RIDING. But then also an electronic tagging machine each ($170SDG we were told later). With the costs getting above $1000SDG my head was spinning at the craziness of it all.

I asked our wonderful lady at the AAS if she could call me a tow truck and we could cut all this rubbish out and just skip riding the 60kms to Malaysia and have the bikes trucked instead. She did and we committed. We soon met Daniel from Bikebulance and he did an amazing job of translating/customs mediating and having a good old yarn about our two very different countries.
$530SDG later and a trip to the airport for the bikes had me happy they were in good condition. Not on a special pallet that we had heard about, but instead both bikes strapped down on single aircraft pallet under plastic and netting. Not too happy about them being strapped down on the side stands but they didn't bend them (much).

Its now 7 o'clock in the evening. We've just had our farewell from singapore as the Bikebulance dropped us on top of the crazy western crossing bridge into Malaysia. Quickly packing the bikes from the now encumbering throwaway suitcase the thought of lobbing it off the bridge did certainly occur.
Ten minutes riding down the road and we were going through the truck immigration lane (as we were told too) to have our carnets completed. Somehow when we were told to leave I had to remind them that maybe stamping our passports too would be a good idea...

There we met Andy and his mates as they were travelling from Singapore to a bike rally up in Port Dickson. They had some very nice bikes (including our first BMW airhead that we have seen!). We had a great chat while we spent time rehydrating after sweating it out big time in the riding gear on the bikes. Including guiding us to the nearest hotel. Which we stayed for a couple of nights while we sorted ourselves/bikes out and got some rest after a long night (very long for Clarissa).

Now currently sitting in Melaka (about 200kms north of Gelang Patah, our first hotel) we have been relaxing and soaking in the old history and wonderful chow on offer. Using Melaka as a base for sorting the next few weeks of riding out, we are having a great time at Raymond's fantastic little River view guesthouse. Its costing us about $60AUD a day on average so far for food and accommodation as we get into the groove. The bikes are locked and wedged in out the front (we are the first overland bikers to stay here Raymond tells us!). We could be going significantly cheaper but we've decided to live it up a little for a while!

 Beers quickly push the daily costs up but we are pretty good at finding silly cheap and great food. This meal here (two garlic Naans and Dhal, two big bits of tandoori bird, three lassi's and a coke) was only 30ringgit/$10AUD.

 The view of Malaka from their crazy sky tower (80M high elevation viewing platform!)

Neil and his favourite past time. Making things go bang!

Well its time to do some yoga and probably fall into a food coma :)