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We set off from Johor Bahru on a lazy morning where the sun is hiding behind the cloud. After a rice dumpling breakfast, loaded our luggage onto Hope Too and started the journey to the end of Malaysia. We decided to leave the digital camera at home.
It was the first time Hope Too went on a trip without his aluminium side panniers. Instead, it was replaced by 2 saddle bags which was previously tied to the front crash bar. It contained 2 sets of heavy duty rain coat, engine oil, chain lubricant, pad lock, and a spare rear tube. Hope Too finally got his front wheel bearing, steering cone bearing and front suspension oil changed from a proper mechanic at Planet Motors, Joemac’s recommendation. Thanks to Joemac who accompanied me through out the servicing. We had a tank bag and a top case with some books, lots of battery chargers, and the usual travel bag. So this time Hope Too is less bulky and I have to pay lesser attention on the side clearance.
Traveling the first 100km along the north south highway to Yong Peng was a stress for Hope Too as he was cruising at 110km/hr and at times had to reach 125km/hr to over take slow moving vehicles. We detoured out of Yong Peng and roll on for the country road up north, till Segamat. At 1130hrs, we had our rm$21 lunch at the clay pot bak kut teh restaurant. We wheel locked Hope Too, brought in our tank bag and the GPS. The fears of loosing our belongings are still around. Restaurant comments: food could have been less salty and the price…but it is a good rest station as it is situated at the North of the town and right side of the road. I am missing my Airhawk as my backside is aching much.
This is the first time ever in my life traveling the country road after North of Segamat. We went pass Gemas and reached the state of Negeri Sembilan (the 9th state). It clearly feels that this state is being administrated differently by looking at the environment. The next off our butt stop is the only Chinese shop along the road. I saw it on the right side of the road, applied the brakes, made a U turn and parked at the slope in front of the shop.
It was a hut made of wood with zinc roof. The door opening was facing a slit road and only 4 meters wide. The floor of the shop was built one foot lower than the road. We knew that if it rains, this shop would be a good water collection center. Inside the shop, there was a tall counter on the right with a young Chinese man sitting, looking at his computer screen. There were only 5 tables. We sat at the table nearest to the door and with my hand reach distance, I could knock at Hope Too to wake him up from his afternoon nap. Next to us was an elderly with a rugged looking face and untidy hair. He seems to be drinking his Chinese tea from the pot after lunch.
When I asked for the toilet, I was led to a storeroom. They were very certain that I had entered the toilet. They kept their agriculture equipment in the toilet. It was about the same size as my room in Singapore. There was a basin to wash hand and a portable showerhead. I was asking myself that where am I going to aim my pee at. Where will the pee goes? Shall I do it in the sink or the small broken opening between the floor and the bottom of the wall? I guess this is how the locals did it… and I did it. Hmm, what if I need to do the squatting, release solid waste?
I went back to Sam and had our cold fizzy drinks, at the same time managed to glance everyone in the shop. I passed by the mother washing vegetables. I passed by the sister and brother looking at the lap top screen. I passed by 2 topless elderly man, each sitting at their own table with reading glasses and 2 girls of aged 5-7 years old trying to read a cook book that is about 100 pages thick. All of them had something in common: they were all concentrating in what they are doing and all we hear was the motion of the desk fan circulating the air in the shop.
There wasn’t much traffic along this road. We left the tank bag and the GPS with Hope Too. It was so peaceful and simple being here. No phone ringing, no music, no roaring traffic but just birds chipping and conversation of the elderly with the little girls.
I imagined just by cutting these people by pressing ct-X, and then paste them in Singapore by pressing ct-V, they just looked exactly the same as any ordinary people around us.
I really wanted to start a conversation but I was a little shy as they were concentrating in what they were doing. They don’t even looked at us where we dressed like alien and rode a spaceship. After the sore on our butts had cooled down, we dressed up and get ready to move on. I took this opportunity to break the ice by asking them about the direction to the next town. All of them started chatting as in an online forum. Telling us how far is the next town, in miles. They became very friendly and asked where we came from and where we will be going. I guess they have been waiting for us to start the conversation.
This is the place where Samantha and I met real people with sincerity and welcoming heart. We would not be surprise if they would let us pitch a tent by their back yard. They do not serve first class beverages but the feel is there.
Want to get the feel?
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The road got winding through the oil palm plantation. Traffic condition was light. It ended at Karak junction and we wanted to de-sore our butt terribly. If we carry on for 2 and half hour from Bentung to Gua Musang, we may not ride in peace but to rush for the last light. So we checked into an rm$55 hotel by chance and requested to park the bike into the lobby at night. The owner was looking at me with big curiosity and I explained to him that our bike had been stolen before in Malaysia. He was very kind to let Hope Too sleep in his hotel lobby without extra charges. Hope Too drank 350ml of engine oil that night.
It was a tiring day. We set off at 0930hrs, ended at 1600hrs and only did 400km. we need a butt massager badly. After dinner, Sam and I took out our books to read and gave up after half an hour of struggle because words that seems to be flying around the pages.
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Clouds overtaking nearby mountains seen from our window greeted us. I smelled durian in the breakfast dim sum and assuming that it is not very fresh. But the day was made good when we wanted to start the journey, chatting with the elderly sitting at the next table. They started using Cantonese with me and I replied with Mandarin because I had D8 for Cantonese.
The morning ride was welcomed by the perfect morning weather. This road to the north had turnoffs to the few important famous hills in Malaysia: Genting Highland, Bukit Tinggi, Bukit Fraser and Cameron Highland. Our objective was to ride this route to Gua Musang. Indeed, Gua Musang was surrounded by random rocks, as big as a shopping center building. These mountainous rocks seemed to be placed in position artificially or being thrown down to earth from the other planets.
Gua Musang is an important center for transportation from East to West coast. Many traders would come here also because of the railway station. If you intend to stay in Gua Musang with a proper parking space, Hotel Usaha would be the choice.
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We reached here at noon, took a chicken rice lunch and continue the highway 8 to Kota Barhu, Kelantan.
At 1600hrs, we reached Ideal Backpackers Inn.
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It used to be crowded here. Chang, the owner told me. Business had been declining. I see that backpackers now stayed in air-conditioned hotels. Being cheap will not be the most important factor now. The air in this guesthouse was heavy because Chang and his family were mourning over his mother’s death, 2 weeks ago.
I shared my story about my mum fighting with Leukemia with him and we had a deep hearted conversation. I understand.
The street outside the hostel is an eating paradise for us! We didn’t go much walking the tourist sites but to eat and drink. At the food center, we made new friends with a Swiss couple traveling in Asia, Sascha and Eveline.
Sleep, eat, slack, rest our butt, eat, read and do some writing. Our day was made wonderful when we spoke with Chang’s father. He had political sense of humor and good social perception. Kelantan state had always had negative impressions from people outside this state or those had not been here before. Also it is a ‘dangerous’ state because they hear stories of Kelantan from those that had not been here before. Kelantan state is under the opposition party rule for 20 years by an Islamic party. Chang’s father, a local Chinese, praised the party for the good that they had done. He also compared the previous ruling party that tried to rule this state for a season and commoners were suffering and the state had been messed up. We walked on the street, we went to Muslim stall to eat, chatted with local non Muslim citizen and everyone was happy, polite, easy going and their conversation was not about complaining the government but of other daily bread and butter topics.
Chang’s brother mentioned that once a foreign biker came to Kota Bahru, he locked his expensive helmet fitted with an intercom microphone on the bike along the street and went off to buy something. When he came back, someone cut the intercom microphone and had stolen it. This foreign biker went to report to the police and guess what….
If he was in some other XYZ state, it would be the same old story. To our very surprise, Chang’s brother said that the police took short time to arrest the culprit and got back the stolen intercom microphone.
So, don’t listen to what other comment about Kelantan State where THEY HAVE NOT BEEN HERE BEFORE. They only hear from the blind and read the sarcastic newspaper.
Chang’s brother drew us a map on getting to a nice and easy route towards south.
The first 120km from Kota Barhu along highway 3 to the South was a road to ride. Somehow I think that this road is designed for bike travel and traffic was lesser. There were many chalets, beach bungalows and small eatery along this stretch. Recommanded!
Our objective was to ride to the touristy beach resort of Cherating and stay for a night. Many Singaporeans came here for holidays due to the nice beach and resort type of lodging. It was our first time coming to Cherating and it was built like the beach town of Phuket/Koh Samui of Thailand. There were various lodging for us to stay and we were so ‘lucky’ to stay in this resort by the name of Riverside Holiday Resort.
The ground was nice, sandy pit and Hope Too was able to park 5 meters away from our room door. There wasn’t much vehicle here and it seemed that only 4 rooms were occupied out of 30.
We had a RM$40 room with: fan, attached toilet with natural shower system, retro but moldy sofa that grew million of micro mushrooms, sleeping pillows used since world war 2, mosquito that couldn’t be seen when lights were on, free music till 4am, , free security watch by group of unknown people around the car park until 5am, free natural wake up call by real rooster at 430am and carpark was fully occupied by non guest coming here to look for paid adult entertainment. It was so different as in the daytime and now Hope Too was situated as closed as 0.3 meters away from the vehicle next to him.
There was a nice ‘little Bali’ pub in this resort by the river and live band every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It is a very good place to stay for those that want to look for night entertainment in Cherating, get drunk and numb then talk a 20 steps walk back to the room to sleep. Maybe the next time we will stay again in this place only if we have different intension.
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We woke up only at 10am and want to leave this place as soon as possible as there wasn’t a proper place to have breakfast.
We took a new toll way to the west, exited Temerluh, traveled about 50km to the north on a trunk road towards Jerantut where we had our Chinese chicken rice breakfast at 1300hrs.
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The next 60km road north of Jerantut to Kuala Lipis was wonderful, like a roller coaster ride! It was built parallel to the historical river and along the valley. Situated at the south of Taman Negara, the world oldest rainforest, that is about 130 million years old, the surrounding is the closest road navigable near to Taman Negara. Else, one has to walk and trek into Taman Negara.
Our initial plan was to ride the same highway 8 to Gua Musang again and turn west towards Cameron Highland till we saw a signboard near Kuala Lipis, it has a turn off towards Cameron Highland. I checked my map and GPS. No road linking to Cameron Highland. Anyway, it’s an adventure. We follow the signboard and the ‘Cameron Highland’ direction disappeared after the next junction. We rode on aimlessly hoping for miracle until we reached a critical junction at Sungai Koyan. Sam seeked direction from a local pump attendance and we looked at the map, there wasn’t any thro road.
Ok, just try, maybe, perhaps, we should trust the local sense rather than technology.
The gas station is at:
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The turn off is at:
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This 80km of new road was well built but unofficially announced to the public. We were the very first few to travel! It does not have much traffic and we managed to passed through some of the aborigine communities. What’s more, this new road led us straight to our friend’s (Teoh Yong Meng Nursery) office in Bertam Valley. There wasn’t any prior arrangement to meet Joyce and Joe but their father hosted us for a meal and good chat.
We carried on to our best lodging in this trip at Cameronian Inn, settled down, and walked towards our dinner location. It had been years that I had not been a tourist in Cameron Highland. It had been much developed and even Starbucks had set up a branch here. We sat by the Indian Shop and had our first and last try of the food here. What made our dinner special was a couple sitting beside us. They looked like Indian, but fairer in color. Both of them looked like bollywood actor. They did not speak English, Malay, Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi or any language that is used in Malaysia but we always hear the ‘Z’ sound in their conversation. I winked at Samantha if they were from Iran.
Bingo! They were working professionals in Capital of Malaysia for some years and going to migrate New Zealand soon. They shared with us about the situation in Iran and were surprised that we had traveled in Iran so well and also to their ‘no go region’: Zehedan. I was so ashamed when they shared their experience with the Custom officers of Singapore when they visited Singapore.
Ok, not to mention what happened, someone is watching over what I am posting.
Wonderful cool morning in Cameron Highland and we had breakfast with English Tea and Scone in a peaceful English garden! When we were about to leave, we had an unusual request for the owner of this inn: to provide us ‘red packets’ as we were on our way to visit Joyce and Joe’s new baby. He patiently went back to his room and dug out all the packets he had. We took two of them and found out that there was actually real money in it! Of course, politely, we returned the money to him and took the packets.
We had a nice chat with each other just by standing beside our bike and he share with us why he wanted to stay in Cameron Highland in this small Inn, instead of managing his another business in Australia.
Cameronian Inn is clean and quiet place with an English garden. Sam and I could easily spend another day here to chat with the owner and read a book but we have to set off, meeting Joyce and Joe for a quickie and to meet 2 riders from UK that had been traveling around for 8 years.
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