The Malay Foray


Day 115 – Saturday, August 17th 2013

Night was falling as we finally entered the country, after an inept cock up on our part we managed to queue for customs twice. Once inside, we obtained a stamp on our carnet de passage (a temporary import document issued from the UK to spare us the ludicrous Malaysian import tax), then dashed to get some motor insurance from the only broker on site, so that we could then in turn get road tax. The requirements to drive your own car has differed with every single country that we have entered so far, but we are at least getting used to the idea that we will be dancing between various official buildings before being unleashed onto the countries roads.

We were on the road again, and pleased to find the triple lane asphalt to be pristine – as good if not better than our home countries. We covered a fair few km before pulling up at a service centre to sleep for the night.

Day 116 – Sunday, August 18th 2013

Today we would veer away from the direct route to Port Klang to stop in at the Cameron highlands – both to visit the famous mountainous area of tea plantations, and to gain a little altitude for a cooler night’s sleep. As we had been heading steadily southward, the lack of air conditioning or a good cooling fan was becoming a more significant oversight for our cabin – well 20:20 vision is hindsight, so they say.

Cameron Highlands Cloudy

As we gained height we rose into the clouds, and the majestic views were somewhat lacking. We searched out a backpacker’s hostel where we could make use of the washrooms in exchange for a little loose change. We somehow ended up drawn towards their ‘Jungle Bar’ and whiled away the evening with other travellers in front of an open fire. Just one day earlier this would have been some kind of torture, the temperature drop had been so sudden that it was a treat to be huddled away in the gloaming.

Day 117 – Monday, August 19th 2013

Laziness took hold this morning, so with a sluggish start we weaved our way back down from the highlands and towards Port Klang in the early afternoon. Not too much excitement otherwise, just continuing the search for a shipping agent with the unique combination of the ability to return calls and a pricing structure that wouldn’t cripple the rest of our trip.

We were treated to a glorious sunset for our drive into town

We were treated to a glorious sunset for our drive towards town

We checked into a cheap hotel near the port so that we could sleep well and make use of the internet to try and get our affairs in order.

Day 118 – Tuesday, August 20th 2013

A dull day, spent organising and planning. We did manage to meet up with an actual shipping agent though – he seemed to be quite reasonable, and although we were sure he was still ripping us off- it was slightly less than anyone else was going to – he seemed to think we might get Ivor loaded onto a ship over the weekend. Highlights of the day came in two forms – first, we spotted a bike shop and were told that there were some good trails not far from where we were, and second was the icy strongbow that awaited us that evening at ‘The 3 Monkeys’ just round the corner from the hotel.

Day 119 – Wednesday, August 21st 2013

We will apologise in advance if this bit of the blog becomes tedious – shipping, particularly for the privateer, involves a good deal of waiting… but we made the most of our time where we could.

Since it was clear that nothing was going to happen before the weekend we checked out of the hotel and set off in search of the trails we had heard about. We were delighted to find a trail centre with well signed routes of technical singletrack weaving its way around a hill not too far from the city. It made a nice change to have monkeys swinging through the trees as we made our way along the forest floor – Vaughan was in for a big surprise though, coming over a rise to find an equally startled meter long lizard scampering away from him. It’s commonly said that wild animals are more scared of you than you are of them – Vaughan still insists that the thing must have been bloody petrified if this was to be true.  The temperature and humidity were also a shock to the system – in only a couple of hours we had drained our camelbaks dry and could take no more. We’d planned to sleep in the trail centre carpark, but the endless sweating was enough to steer us towards another cheap local hotel.

Day 120 – Thursday, August 22nd 2013

We headed back to the trails for another stomp on the pedals, this time earlier in the day before the sun was at full force. But fun-time was sadly at an end – we moved back towards Port Klang in the afternoon since tomorrow we were supposed to be stuffing the container (that is the technical term, believe it or not).

One last job for the afternoon was to prepare a detailed inventory of everything that would be inside Ivor for his seafaring voyage – it was something we probably should have done before, it seems hard to believe that we had made it this far around the globe without even knowing exactly what we had with us!

Day 121 – Friday, August 23rd 2013

A nervous start to the day, since we were due to dismantle Ivor and load him into a container but had still not managed to get any reasonable quotes for destuffing and handling the customs paperwork in India. We were in two minds whether to proceed and hope for the best, or hold off and risk missing the boat that we were provisionally booked on.

We took the leap of faith, and by 12:30 we had started stripping Ivor to prepare him for shipment. Since he is too tall to fit into a shipping container in one piece we have to dismount the cabin using legs and some levers that we have carried with us. The back body can then be lowered onto casters and rolled into the container, accompanied by the rest of the truck.

It took 4 hours of sweaty work, but the demounting system worked as it should (thank you Owain), and our worldly belongings were all set to be ‘stuffed’.  We called on the help of some other dock workers to push the truck and cabin inside the container itself, but with only an inch or so on either side and a very clear language barrier it was nerve wracking to say the least.

This sunset congratulated us after a busy afternoon

This sunset congratulated us after a busy afternoon

Jon, the guy we travelled through China with, was also in town and trying to arrange shipment – though his destination was Kolkata, whereas ours was Chennai. He came to pick us up from the docks and we stayed at the same hotel as him that night.

Day 122 – Saturday, August 24th 2013

We were back packers again! Like proper tourists! We had some days to kill before Ivor was even going to set sail, let alone be unloaded on the India side, so we decided to spend some time in Kuala Lumpur.

Deciding to stay in the area near the port for one more day for a little shopping for some Ivor bits (bolts and such, that might be tricky to find in a normal city centre), and get some laundry done. Errr, actually that’s about it for the day. Let’s move on.

Day 123 – Sunday, August 25th 2013

We caught a taxi away from the Port Klang area, and towards Kuala Lumpur proper. Our guidebook suggested that Chinatown would offer some good value lodgings, so off we headed.  We did a little shopping, and orientated ourselves in the town. We managed to come across an Indian guidebook, written in English so grabbed it while we had the chance.

Our ramblings took us through Merdeka square, where we found out there would be a free concert later that evening. We came back later to find a large crowd assembled, and some of the finest pop music Malaysia has to offer (ahem), but set to dancing and performances that actually made for an impressive show – which was being broadcast live on Malaysian TV, even down to the strange gaps where compares would try to keep the crowd entertained. We figured out later that these were the ad breaks.

Day 124 – Monday, August 26th 2013

We swapped hotels for a slightly more expensive one with a lower insect count, and where the electricians had taken the time to extend wires all of the way to the sockets rather than leaving them hanging out of the walls.

Our rushed departure from Toulouse back in April coupled with an incomplete plan from the outset, meant that we were lacking some clothes and camping gear that we would need for some trekking when we finally made it to Nepal in October – so we set about hunting out some outdoorsy shops. We needed a jacket for Vaughan that would at least slow down rain water (his current offering behaved more like blotting paper), some leech proof socks, a scarf or two, and a hand operated water filter to remove typhoid and other bacteria based nasties that lurk in water supplies ready to stake a claim on an unsuspecting tourists body in unspeakable ways.

We ate Chinese food that night from the local quarter and stopped in at the Reggae Bar, to hear the obligatory Bob Marley classics cranked up to the point of distortion, and to sup on the worst mojitos ever to disgrace some poor innocent rum.  Ambiance and drinks aside, we did get chatting to some interesting traveller folk – one gent was there with his tattooist, having traveled over from Australia for a week of getting ‘inked up’ and proudly displayed his latest artwork. We both bit our tongues, and offered compliments to the infantile scribbles that were now permanently attached to this poor man’s epidermis. Tee hee.

Day 125 – Tuesday, August 27th 2013

A shopping day again really, the search for some cycling clothes and a water filter continued… but we can be pretty bad shoppers when it comes to committing to a purchase – Particularly one as complicated / vital as a water filter.

Day 126 – Wednesday, August 28th 2013

Still on the shopping trail, Vaughan managed to commit to some cycling shorts –but we were still trying to haggle over water filters.

That night we stopped in at ‘Fat One Steamboat’ for dinner, despite the name looking suspiciously like a Google Translate outpouring, the food was really good. A steamboat is a kind of street dining that involves picking skewers of veg or meat from a stand – these will then be plunged into boiling water or oil, as is deemed appropriate by the cook before being sprinkled with spices. It’s a good, cheap way to get a full belly.

Day 127 – Thursday, August 29th 2013

First off we swapped our hotel for a cheaper hostel, and then went to a shopping mall to spend the day trying to track down more boring items.

A roller coaster INSIDE of the shopping mall, over the top perhaps?!

A roller coaster INSIDE of the shopping mall, over the top perhaps?!

We received the news that at long last our ship had sailed, this was met with mixed emotions – glad that things were finally underway, but we STILL did not have an agreement with anyone for unloading the damn thing on the India side. Our bargaining power was definitely going to be limited now that we were now so committed to the sailing, and that we would have to start getting the container cleared as soon as possible to avoid any extra storage fees and the like.

We had been organised enough to book some tickets for the Petronas towers for the evening so headed over for 8 o’ clock. Most big cities seem to have some way of getting yourself towards the upper edges of the skyline, and at night they seldom disappoint. The towers, coupled with their unique ‘skybridge’ proved to be no exception.

Not quite ready to go back to the hostel we stopped in at the mall attached to the towers and ended up drifting into the Cinema. We bought tickets for ‘We are the Millers’, a disgracefully funny US comedy that was made all the more amusing by the audience in which we found ourselves. The crude jokes were going down surprisingly well with the Muslim crowd – and perhaps it is just our preconceptions that are at fault, but seeing the women conservatively dressed in traditional get-up with headscarfs and all collapsing with laughter made it all the better.

Day 128 – Friday, August 30th 2013

Seriously, more shopping?! We mentioned that we’re bad shoppers right? Still, we were at least nearing the end, things were getting crossed off the list faster than they were added – we picked up that filter at last, decided on water proof biking gloves, and picked up some Kim clothes in a day.

On our way back to meet our shipping agent to sort paperwork for the shipment, we wandered past an ex-pat pub and headed in for a bite to eat – we were confronted with a slightly irresponsible game designed to encourage the patrons to have a good time.  All we had to do was to stay in the bar, to not go outside and to not use the toilet for 1 hour, during which time we would be served unlimited free beer.  And so our appointment with the agent slipped by half an hour or so…

Upon our meeting, the agent hadn’t managed to stamp the correct part of our Carnet de Passage (worth an awful lot of money to us, since it spares us the need to pay import tax), so we kept hold of our payment until he got his act together.

Today was Merdeka Eve, celebrated across Malaysia, as Merdeka Day is the date that those pesky Brits were finally forced to release their grip on the country 56 years ago. We had been reliably informed that there were always fireworks at midnight from Merdeka Square – but along with several thousand Malay people, we were to be disappointed. It seems the plan had changed for this year, but no one had thought to share this information with the masses…oops!

Day 129 – Saturday, August 31st 2013

We started the day by traipsing back to Merdeka Square, for the parade which fortunately was still happening. A bold display of national pride lasting several hours, with marching bands a plenty and flag waving at each and every opportunity – we too were given flags and encouraged to join in.

Later that morning we met again with Karamath, and exchanged a frightening sum of money for very little paperwork in return – but that was at least correct this time.

At last we could book some flights to get ourselves over to Chennai in order to meet up with our truck, and get this show on the road once more. On Monday, we would be outta here.

Day 130 – Sunday, September 1st 2013

A lazy day in Chinatown, using the hostel’s internet, and getting ourselves ready to head towards India at long last. We whiled away the evening in the Hostel’s rooftop bar, spending our time with some other travellers all of which had some good tales about their travels so far (and thankfully none that needed white lies about the standard of their tattoos). Before we knew it, the clock had spiralled to 3 am and we were out in search of a late night Indian curry, which seemed fitting given our destination for the following day.

Day 131 – Monday, September 2nd 2013

We had plenty of time to catch the bus to the airport, Vaughan is pretty pedantic about these things so we were checked in, and our bags were dropped with time to spare. As always though, we managed to find a way to delay ourselves – in this instance it was looking for a post box. Despite chasing wild geese around the airport grounds, sweaty shadows of our former selves did make it to the boarding gate without a ‘call of shame’ being published across the departure hall.

Fantastic, after weeks of trying, we were onto the next stage of our adventure, and boy were we ready for it!

2 thoughts on “The Malay Foray

  1. I’m full of admiration and following your adventures with great interest. Thank you for making the effort to write it up so well. Your blog is very interesting.Elizabeth.

  2. It’s been snowing the past 2 days in the Tarn and hasn’t risen beyond -2C so enjoy the heat!
    Really sorry you didn’t hit Myanmar as it is a step back 50 years or more. You have managed all of the many hurdles and must be the most resolute couple on the planet. We plan to visit India in 2 years time so will watch your blog with interest for tips and pitfalls.
    Continued good luck & keep on truckin!
    Rick & Sheila

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