Archive for the ‘8.Malaysia’ Category

10 times around the world!?!

Posted: December 21, 2010 in 8.Malaysia

250,000 miles! Well 250,570 actually as I forgot to take the picture passing the quarter of a million mark. So far this trip I think we have done around 12,000 miles although I have yet to actually sit down and work it out but I will this week. This landmark was celebrated with (and only because Megan said I could, as our daily budget was down that day to £40) my first beer in a month!

I had a hangover within half an hour.

My next beer, or more likely mild shandy, will be at the 500,000 mile mark.

I’ve finally worked out how to make money out of this trip: I’m going to write a book at the end of it all entitled ‘Garages of the World’. Yes you’ve guessed it, more problems with our (slightly less, it has to be said) beloved Land Rover. We last left you in the jungle with the leeches and the sweat, well, we escaped the blood sucking monsters and made our way to the Cameron Highlands to flee the heat and stickiness of the tropics. The journey there was fairly uneventful- now that we have Karen the GPS she has taken all the fun out of navigation, and the imaginative name calling my navigator and I had going on has come to an abrupt end. When we arrived at our lodgings, a delightful old church retreat named ‘Father’s Guest House’ it was obvious that the right hand rear half shaft seal was leaking a lot of oil. I shall answer the two obvious questions that you are all now thinking: yes, I know what a half shaft is and no, I didn’t bring a spare as they were new when we left and I naively thought they would last! After my now mandatory pout, cry and shouting fit we took the car to be fixed. Lady luck however was finally on our side, as it turns out that, next to the Falklands bizarrely enough, in this part of the world there is the highest Land Rover to person ratio. (I was told this by a Land Rover lover so don’t quote me). Finding a garage to fix the problem was easy enough and a price of £6 was agreed, including an extra spare gasket for when the next one goes, which it will! However, the problem came when we (ummm, I’ll be honest, I say we, I had more of an observational / managerial / motivational role in the repair), when ‘we’ tried to replace the half shaft. Five bolts hold it in place and four of them do the job very well, excellently in fact, these are bolts performing at their best under trying circumstances and no one can and should ask more of these bolts. There was one, as there always is, that just didn’t want to be a team player, a rogue, a loner if you will that refused to go in, and to this day it still won’t stay in place. Let’s hope the Fab Four that are in can pick up the extra strain…

So many Land Rovers in these parts and so little time. It truly is the Mecca of Landys.

Enough car stuff, let us now turn to the enjoyable three days we spent in the Cameron Highlands. On the first day we went to visit a tea plantation that was set high in the hills. Although the sun was not shinning it was an amazing place for the scenery alone. The plantation was owned by a company called Boh, which make a lot of the tea out here, and was set up by a British chap at the height of the British Empire. Most of the machinery in the factory was still of the era and one could almost picture the scene 100 years ago. It made me feel very colonial and all I would have needed to complete the scene was a pith helmet, high boots and a stick under my arm as I wandered the estate shouting mildly racist statements at the local work force.

You will be glad to hear that I didn’t do this, but simply had tea and scones in the plantations café. A scone with butter mind you, not cream… who has scones with butter and jam and not cream and jam?? When will these foreigners learn?!? See there I go, getting all colonial again, sorry people, it was actually very nice, not cream and jam nice, but nice all the same.

Day two started with a gentle walk along a river and ended with us hacking and abseiling our way out of the jungle. Needless to stay we got lost. The blame is still to be apportioned as to who got us lost and due to legal constraints I can’t say anymore until the outcome of the arbitration has been settled. Day three also started well as we embarked on a gentle, downhill stroll. However after a couple of kilometers the rest of the path had been washed away and our walk ended with us traversing a cliff edge, getting soaked in the rain and getting a lift back home from a friendly local, who saw the state of Megan’s wet, untamed hair and thought she should not be seen in public. Bless him.

From the Highlands we set off to the Island on Penang on the east coast and our last stop before the Kingdom of Thailand. The book didn’t sing the praises of this Island but we found it to be a surprise highlight of Malaysia. We enjoyed wondering the streets and looking at the old colonial houses, some of which are crumbling and being reclaimed by the local plant life. It was fascinating imagining what these houses would have looked like in their hey day. On the second day we went for a drive around the island, stopping at a fort used by the British and then by the Japanese as a prison/detention centre during the Second World War. It was a sober, eerie place, slightly ruined by the fact that half of it has been turned over to a paintball park. Can’t decide if this is in bad taste or not…

We even found a Tesco! So excited were we about this find and the cheerio’s within that we had a bowl in the car park.

Malaysia was a nice, civilized introduction to this leg of our trip and we have very much enjoyed the month we have spent traveling here. Once again, as seems to be the case everywhere outside of Europe, the locals have on the whole been very friendly, the food has been sublime and it’s a very safe place to travel around.  Budget wise I think we ended up spending around £57 a day, which considering we stayed in hotels and had flights and bought a GPS was not too bad and was still actually under our £60 day limit. We are both looking forward to coming back to Malaysia on our return journey to ship the car from Port Klang to Perth.



Hot and steamy 1-10/12/10

Posted: December 11, 2010 in 8.Malaysia

I hope you are sitting down people, we have a lot to get through in this blog: It’s been a while since my last big one so I’ll do my best to fill you in with two week’s worth of adventures, hopefully without losing your attention half way in…..

During the week following Langkawi we spent three nights in Malacca, which was about two nights too many, as there really wasn’t that much to do! but it’s an interesting enough place to spend a day. There were also a number of museums which we wandered around to escape the heat, some were good, some not so- there is only so much interest I can show in ‘Seagrass of Malaysia’, fascinating as it is.

Halfway though our stay we got a call from our agent informing us of our car’s arrival to Malaysian shores! As I said in the previous post it was about five days early which was amazing, so we hopped on the bus back to Kuala Lumpur to pick it up. Unlike the other shipping agents we have dealt with the guy in Port Klang had in fact already cleared the car from the port and the container was ready and waiting for us in his yard. What service! As I have already mentioned the car started first time! Actually, did I mention that it started first time? First time people!?! Not even a couple of turnovers but straight away, key in, engine on, magic. It put a little smile on my face, something that the Land Rover had not done for a while.

We had a few little jobs that needed doing to the car and as it was Friday we would have to wait until Monday to get the car to the Land Rover garage. So our agent took us to get insurance, which cost £44 for the whole year and a sat nav, yes, a sat nav. You see, since we lost all sat nav coverage once we entered Turkey it’s fair to say that mine and my navigator’s relationship has taken a bit of a knock. We therefore thought it best to invest in the magic box in order to ensure we are both still on speaking terms by the time we get to Oz. The best £100 I’ve ever spent.

Over the weekend we took a day trip to a place called Fraser’s Hill, an old English hill station about two hours out from KL. At this point I want you all to google map (yes that’s right, I’m using ‘google’ as a verb) Fraser’s hill and zoom right in to see the road leading up to the top, it’s ok, I’ll wait…………………..Done it? Really? Ok, good. I doubt there is a road with as many turns in it anywhere in the world! It was ridiculous. For well over an hour we didn’t get out of 2nd gear as we weaved our way up to the top of the hill. Megan got a little car sick, as did I to be fair, in fact I’ve been on ships in force 10 storms that didn’t sway as much as we did that day. By the time we got to the top I actually had arm ache from all the steering! The town itself being very high was a lot cooler than city the and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours wondering the lanes and footpaths, and like home there were even grey skies with a bit of drizzle, lovely stuff. Coming down was more of the same, luckily though neither one of us actually puked!

Monday came and we took the car to a garage that had been recommended to us by the people at the Malaysian Land Rover club. Basically, it was an old farm that was totally full of every different type and make of Land Rover. I was in heaven, and although Megan seemed not to share in my joy, I can tell she secretly loved it too… The garage was very good at fixing all of our last remaining little problems and they even moved the roof tent into the middle of the car, as Harriet had started to get a slight port list and we thought we should even up the weight a bit.

Car fixed we spent our last night in the capital with One Dollar, our agent, who took us out to an excellent restaurant, which served the most amazing fish. He also put us up for the night in his house, very kind of him.

So on the Tuesday we were finally off, back on the road and heading for the rainforest. Ahh the rainforest, where the trees are big and the bugs even bigger. We went to visit one of Malaysia’s best known national parks, Taman Nagara, which is slap bang in the middle of the country. A good friend recommended a nice little place to stay so we set the Durian Chalets into the sat nav and off we went. The chalets were basic but clean and at £8 a night it didn’t seem worth camping. To be honest, as accommodation is so cheap in SE Asia I don’t see us using the tent again till Australia. We ventured into the national park the next day and having been warned by the Lonely Planet to cover up because of leeches we both wore rather thick trousers. Big mistake, within ten minutes I was soooo hot you could have fried an egg on my forehead and within twenty minutes I was totally drenched in sweat from head to toe. There was not a dry patch on any of my clothing and a steady river of sweat was traveling down my back, collecting in the gusset of my trousers and making for a very uncomfortable and somewhat embarrassing experience. I don’t mind telling you, it was all a very bleak time of my life and my cheer was only lifted slightly when we did a tree top canopy walk, which was actually quite cool. Somehow Megan didn’t seem to suffer from the heat, apparently real ladies don’t sweat I was told! Squelching around the rain forest all I could think of was the shower I was going to have when I got back and man was that a good shower.

The second day, determined not to make the same mistake I wore shorts, and as I hadn’t seen any leeches on the first day I thought I would be safe. It turns out that I actually had no idea what a leech looked like. I thought they were big black things but they actually look like short worms, a fact that soon became obvious when one crawled up my boot at a surprisingly rapid pace, making for my naked flesh. After an appropriate amount of screaming and foot shaking on my part

Megan sprayed the bugger with some hardcore bug spray and it fell off. Yet again my man hood had been called into question, something that seems to be happening with increasingly regularity on this trip. From then on our meandering walk turned into a quick march, as we couldn’t stand still for too long before the leeches started to make their way towards us, it was like something out of an alien film!

Sweat and leeches apart we enjoyed the rainforest and I even managed to do a little off roading, admittedly because I turned down a logging track by mistake but it all counts! The walks we did were amazing and we saw tones of wildlife, not only in bug form but also monkeys, wild pigs and butterflies the size of pterodactyls.

As I write this we are staying in a hotel in Kuala Lipis on our way to the Cameron Highlands in search of cooler weather and longer leech free walks. The car is going well and it’s great to have our freedom back.

We aim to be in Bangkok for Christmas in case anyone wants to fly out and meet us (with presents of course). Although there are Christmas trees and decorations up everywhere neither of us feel like Christmas at the moment, but maybe that’s because it’s 35 degrees and 99 percent humidity!

PS Megan has updated the expenses sheets and we have added a shipping one as well for those of you that are interested. We are slowly getting back to the £60 a day target we set ourselves (not including shipping) but with the massive overspend in Turkey it’s going to take a few more cheap noodle dinners to get there. I saw a web site recently where you could donate petrol money through pay pal to the writer; we are not there yet but if we have any more hiccups I might just start charging a subscription to this web site… Hands up who would pay?? Only you mum? shame on the rest of you!

It’s here! 3/12/10

Posted: December 4, 2010 in 8.Malaysia

After getting a phone call on Thursday it turns out that Harriet the Land Rover arrived about a week early to Port Klang! We cut our plans in Malacca short and went down to unpack the container and more importantly, to see if she would start. Our agent, the charismatic Mr $1, said that no Land Rover he had ever shipped in had ever started first time, I had faith though!

On opening the container it seems the boys who packed it in Dubai had done a great job and the car had not moved an inch, then the moment of truth arrived… I felt my heart in my mouth as I turned on the battery, and as I put the key in the ignition there was sweat on my brow and a slight tremor in my hand. But I needn’t  have worried, she started first time!! Never doubted she would, even the agent was impressed!

So we have the car back and after spending a few days getting stuff sorted we should be off early next week!

….and still we wait 21-30/11/10

Posted: December 1, 2010 in 8.Malaysia

We’re getting itchy feet, and not because that persistent fungal infection has flared up again. We are stuck, stuck waiting for our car that is hopefully on a ship making its way to Port Klang, Malaysia. Admittedly there are worse places to while away couple of weeks but still, we are getting to that stage where we just want to carry on with the trip. Man am I whiney, listen to me going on about having to spend a week on a tropical island with nothing to do other than sunbathe and eat just to kill time! Sorry dear reader, I will try and be more sensitive in future blogs – I heard it was –3 in London this week……..haha.

So yes, anyway, we went to the Island of Langkawi last week and spent seven delightfully, ridiculously lazy days doing nothing. And I mean nothing: eat, swim and read pretty much sums up the daily activities for the entire week. I actually think the most active we got was being chased around our hostel (yes, another hostel and £11 a night, bargain) for 10 minutes by a surprisingly large frog with a rather sinister look in his eye.

Langkawi is an island on the Thai border in north east Malaysia. It’s set up to cater entirely to the tourist trade and other than amazing beaches and the odd waterfall there are few sights to see. We did hire a scooter for the day and toured the island but frankly after 5 days on the beach it was all too much effort and we returned early afternoon for the now mandatory 4pm snooze.

The hostel was quite good actually, much better than the £11 a night price tag had lead us to believe. It was the typical back packer joint with far too much tie die, dreadlocks, cut off jeans, and phrases like ‘I really found myself on that beach, you have to go man’ being bandied about for my liking, but I could forgive all that as the beer was only 60p. Needless to say we didn’t talk to anyone but we judged them all harshly.

The week flew by and before we knew it we were back in KL (that’s what us locals call Kuala Lumpur, we’re sooo south east Asia now). We had to return not to pick up the car but to go to the Thai embassy to get a 60 day visa. You can only get 15 day visas at the border so we thought we would save ourselves a lot of bother and sort it all out before we got there. Look at us being pro active! It should have been a fairly straight forward procedure; go there, hand in the form, pay and go back the next day to collect our stamped passports. I won’t bore you with the exact details but what should have been a 20 minute exercise turned into a two and a 1/2 hour slog after we assumed that I had lost our cash to pay for the visa. Not an unfair assumption as I frequently ‘misplace’ cash and other items (I left my laptop on the train the other day). So I had to wonder around for well over an hour in the middle of nowhere in the heat getting very, very sweaty trying to change dollars into ringits, only to return, triumphant I might add, to a sheepish looking Megan who it turned out had the money in her back pocket all along. I haven’t paid for dinner since. (Don’t know how long I can dine out on this though…I’m going to try for the month.)

We left our passports with the Thais and headed off to kill the last few days before the car turned up in the World Heritage town of Malacca where we are at the moment. Getting here involved three trains, a long walk, a bus, a taxi and 4 pints of sweat. How people can back pack around the world for over a year I don’t know. It made us realise just how much freedom a Land Rover gives us. We don’t have to wait for public transport or work out the times of trains and buses, one can just pack up and go whenever ready. Plus, when don’t have your camping stove and can’t cook your own food the daily budget takes a bit of a pounding.

I can’t put any pictures of Harriet the car up this time as we haven’t seen her, a disappointment to all you Land Rover fans I’m sure, but checking the website the ship should be docking today (the 1st) and fingers crossed we get her back by the end of the week. Then begins the inevitable three days trying to get her started. ‘You never know it might actually start first time’ I said. Megan, ever the realist, has still not stopped laughing at that one….

How is it hotter here?!? 15-21/11/10

Posted: November 21, 2010 in 8.Malaysia

Megan’s just lost all her hair overnight!……. Well, not really but I wanted a headline to launch into this exciting episode and that’s the best I could come up with (actually, I was going for ‘Megan’s been shot!’  but apparently that’s ‘not in good taste’). In reality it’s all very calm and quiet within team Trek to Oz and the stress levels are starting to come back down after all the Land Rover dramas. I think I told you last time we spoke that the car was in the container awaiting a ship. Well the ship sailed on the 18th (with our container one hopes) and should be with us in 2 weeks. Our last few days in Dubai were spent relaxing on the beach, window shopping in the malls and catching up with a long lost school friend (Lloyd) who I had not seen for 13 years. He hadn’t changed a bit; where the hell was his grey hair?!? Two days before our departure our lovely hosts, in a final act of kindness, paid for us to go up the Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building. We went up after sunset to see the city at night and it was quite an amazing view. The lift takes you up 130 odd floors in less than 30 seconds and deposits you on the viewing platform. It is quite incredible to see such a vast city surrounded by nothing but desert.

On the 16th we said our goodbyes to Ann, Mike and Ann’s sister, Jane and her daughters, who were also staying at Hotel Platt, and jumped on a plane to Kuala Lumpur. We both enjoyed Dubai and the UAE immensely. We were surprised by the size of the place and fascinated with the history behind it all and the speed with which it has developed. I’d never really thought of Dubai as a holiday destination, but if you are into celeb spotting (we saw some bird from Eastenders), posh cars and lovely beaches it is definitely worth a visit. Once again, we can’t thank Ann and Mike enough for their hospitality. THANKS!

So onto SE Asia… it’s hot, damn hot. We arrived at 6am on the 17th and caught a taxi to our hotel but unfortunately we couldn’t check in till midday. Never mind we thought, let’s go and see the national museum and kill some time whilst ticking a few things off the to do list. However when we arrived we discovered it was closed because of the public holiday for Eid, along with all the other tourist sights in the city, doh. So we went to the nearest air-conditioned shopping mall and spent five hours studying the Lonely Planet and drinking far too much coffee. I must have a little gripe at this juncture: there seems to be a craze sweeping the parents of Malaysia at the moment, where by they buy their children shoes with squeakers in the soles. Oh my god is it annoying! I’d go so far to say it is the most annoying thing in the world right now, far more annoying than Megan’s snoring, the total lack of Cheerios and a Land Rover that spontaneously combusts. Maybe it was the jet lag, five coffees or the heat but I had an over whelming urge to punch the offending children in the face. The fact I’m able to type this blog means that I didn’t, but it was a close run thing when a family of four squeaked on by.

We have spent the last few days exploring the Malaysian capital and doing the Lonely Planet guided walks, the highlight being the Islamic Museum of Art which, if I’m honest I thought was going to be a snooze fest but in fact was very interesting and housed in an amazing building. We have eaten for less than £4 on most nights and our hotel was only £20 a night so the daily spend graph is coming down, which is very exciting I’m sure you will agree.

I have joined the Malaysian Land Rover Club,, (yes, I really am that sad) and some very friendly people have got in touch with us, giving us ideas on where to explore once the car arrives and good garages to use. They really are a friendly group of people; offers of free accommodation have also been made which is great- can you imagine that kind of thing happening in the UK?…not a chance.

We are now on the Island of Langkawi, where we shall await an email informing us that Harriet the Land Rover has arrived in Port Klang. Let’s hope it comes soon, as I miss her and Megan just doesn’t have the same looks to keep me interested like she does!