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Old 04-10-2012, 10:47 AM   #1
TonyBKK OP
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April Fools Bangkok-Malaysia Ride Report- 3800km in 7 days!

What a fantastic trip! Certainly one for the bucket list, and all I can say is, Malaysia should be on every SE Asia bikers short list!

Day 1-

Neil and I left Bangkok bright and early on Wednesday March 28th to escape the Big Smoke ahead of morning rush hour. Frank and Brian would put their bikes on the night train from Bangkok to Surat Thani and meet us there the next morning.

Gixxer packed and ready to roll!



Breakfast of champions just outside of Bangkok ;)


We made excellent time, traffic was light, the highway to Surat Thani is in good shape heading south (*but really rough heading north!) and we breezed through a few police checkpoints without any hassles.

Gas and coffee stop somewhere just south of Prachuap Kiri Khan-


We made excellent time and reached the Surat Thani train station shortly before 1.





Turns out the train station is quite a ways from the actual city and there didn't seem to be much in the way of accommodation near the station so we rode over to the city proper and checked in to the Diamond Plaza Hotel- big clean rooms for 1300 Baht, secure vip parking for the bikes out front, a nice pool, in room massage and a fantastic restaurant nearby.


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Old 04-10-2012, 11:37 AM   #2
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Surat Thani to Betong, Thailand

Day 2- Surat Thani to Betong

Amazingly Brian and Frank's train arrived one minute early at the Surat Thani station! There had been some drama in Bangkok the night before because there wasn't room on their train for their bikes! They were told to try the next day, which of course wasn't acceptable. Fortunately after asking around and making it known that there would be a financial reward they were able to put their bikes on an earlier train. Neil and I wondered if the bikes would actually turn up, and believe it or not they did!

Rendezvous near the Surat Thani train station-


None of us had ever been to southern Thailand and you may have heard about the ongoing insurgency that's been raging there for years. In fact there were some horrific bombings in Hat Yai and Yala just days after we rode through the area.

That said, southern Thailand is absolutely stunning, blessed with some fantastic roads, all the locals we met were quite friendly and we never felt like we were in any kind of danger.

Another nice thing about Southern Thailand is that it gets a lot more rain and isn't plagued by the seasonal fires and smoke and air pollution that our friends in Northern Thailand have been suffering in recent months.

Surat Thani to Hat Yai was quick and easy on major roads-


Pit stop




Once past Hat Yai we took some smaller roads through the countryside in order to bypass Yala and see what rural life looks like in Southern Thailand-


The stunning limestone mountains reminded me of Krabi, but mosques certainly outnumber temples down here!


We saw a lot of checkpoints and bunkers and razor wire, but most checkpoints were unmanned....



Playing with some razor wire


There are a lot of troops in Southern Thailand to try to combat the insurgents and there are also what they call "Village Defense" volunteer forces. I believe the real soldiers wear army camouflage, while the Village Defense volunteers wear blue uniforms, but to be honest I'm really not sure. We saw some fellows carrying some serious hardware but we were never stopped and in one village where we stopped to wait for Brian we got to play with some of their guns



Note Neil with his finger on the trigger! (Fortunately they removed the shells before they passed him the shotgun)


Stopped for lunch at a little roadside restaurant in the middle of nowhere-




We all ordered, what we all agree, was the best damn Pad See Iew Fried Noodles any of us have ever enjoyed in Thailand-


So fekkin good that Brian ordered seconds!


It was interesting to note that the middle aged lady running the restaurant didn't speak a word of Thai. I know that folks in the Southern provinces speak a Malay dialect, but I didn't realize that many can't speak Thai...

Some seriously nice roads on the way to Betong!


The road to Betong is incredibly tight and twisty and it started to rain so we slowed right down, but fortunately we didn't have much farther to go. They are building a new road to Betong that will eliminate a lot of the hairpin curves in the present road. Here you can see a bridge they're working on that will cross over the reservoir-

Lots of military security for the construction crews, but again, everyone was quite friendly.

Welcome to Betong!


The Tijuana of Thailand!


Most of the hotels are basically fronts for brothels and it took us a little bit to find a half way decent place to spend the night. The Sri Betong Hotel was nothing fancy, but for 800 Baht it had secure underground parking for the bikes and condoms in the minibar- perfect!

Betong is a playground for Malaysian tourist who come across the border to let loose. (It's pretty hard to find booze and pretty much impossible to find girls in certain parts of Malaysia, but no problem at all in Betong!)


People kept quoting us prices in Malaysian Ringit which was a bit odd. Never experienced that in any other part of Thailand. Neil finds a shop that stocks Jack Daniels; I am a happy camper


Wander around looking for food and luck out with this place near the clock tower in the center of town-


Then wandered about getting scammed and overcharged in pretty much every disco and bar we hit...


Apparently Betong has a reputation for scamming the Malaysian tourists, but for us, who have all lived in Thailand for a while and know what the prices SHOULD be, it was a bit aggravating, but oh well, we were just happy to have made it this far and were all excited to cross into Malaysia the following day. Party on!



Next stop- MALAYSIA!
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Old 04-11-2012, 12:12 AM   #3
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Day 3- Betong to Cameron Highlands

We woke up a bit fuzzy from the night before but some coffee and noodles helped sort us out. Let's go to Malaysia!

The border is only about 10km from Betong and the road is new, and huge and deserted.


Rolling up to the big Customs and Immigration building on the Thai side-



We get stamped out of Thailand at the immigration desk in a flash then a friendly official walks us over to the customs office which is actually on the other side (arrivals side) of the building.

There the customs officer enters the details for each of our bikes into the computer and prints off a Simplified Customs Declaration Form for Temporary Export of Motorcycle for each bike. It takes maybe 5 minutes for each bike, pretty efficient and quite friendly. Oh, and completely free! I thought there was a small fee to be paid at Thai Customs (I recall paying a small fee when I rode to Laos a couple years ago) but at the Betong border crossing we weren't charged a thing

We're on our way!


Welcome to Malaysia!


Malaysian immigration rocks! You don't even have to get off your bike- you simply ride up to the drive through immigration kiosk, hand them your passport, and they issue a visa on arrival on the spot, free of charge and no paperwork to fill out. Nice!

Then begins a bit of drama... We arrive at the Malaysian Customs office and they ask us for our Malay insurance and Malay number plate stickers...

What?! You mean we can't buy it here?! Where are we supposed to buy the Malay insurance and have the stickers made?!

They tell us- you should have bought the insurance and had the stickers made back in Betong, Thailand

WTH?! We were under the impression that we could buy the insurance and have the stickers made at the border, but no, it seems that at the Betong border crossing there is no insurance office, so impossible to buy insurance... And the customs guys told us over and over that they could make the stickers, but even waving my wallet about did not produce said stickers... Without the basic insurance and number plate stickers we can not bring our bikes into Malaysia...

Then one of the customs guys gets out his phone and calls someone and shortly thereafter a Thai-Malay guy shows up on a scooter and offers to go buy the insurance for us and have the stickers made.

Well, we're kinda desperate so we have to agree, so we give him the documents for our bikes and off he goes, telling us he should be able to have everything sorted in about an hour.

While we're waiting the head honcho of the customs department brings us into his office for a bit of a friendly grilling. All smiles, but some rather odd personal questions... Once again they confirm that they can make the stickers for us, but I must have missed some subtle hint, because again, wallet out, they wouldn't print them out for us. I can only guess that because we already "hired" the Thai-Malay agent to get them for us that they figured we were sorted and didn't need their assistance.

At least the office was air conditioned so it was nice to cool off a bit as it was approaching mid day and getting pretty hot even in the shade.

Fortunately there was a shop in the "no mans land" between Thailand and Malaysia that sold drinks, so we sat and waited, and waited, and waited until finally the agent came back. He had the insurance policies we needed and told us his mom would be by soon with the stickers.

He could of raped us on the insurance and stickers but in the end only charged us a 10 Ringit fee for each insurance policy and 150 Thai Baht for each set of stickers. Not bad at all.

FINALLY we are ready to roll!

Neil-


Brian-


Gixxer "plated" and ready to go-


Sorry, no pic of Frank

We ride into Malaysia and immediately I'm struck by how CLEAN everything is. The road from the border is quite narrow, but in excellent repair and starts off with some fantastic twisties. Right off the bat however we encounter a huge logging truck headed north and realize that we need to be a bit careful.

First town we come to we stop for gas and some food. Wow, gas in Malaysia is CHEAP!!!


The pumps are self-serve and it's a bit funny fumbling with them after being used to the full service stations in Thailand.

To Be Continued...
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Old 04-11-2012, 05:04 PM   #4
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Great report,
I rode down to JB last month. I crossed the border near Satun. No paperwork needed there for the bike on either side. Though the Malaysian side still used the old style entry card. Those new little entry strips are a great improvement. Saw that when I went into SG for a day by bus.
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Old 04-14-2012, 01:33 PM   #5
TonyBKK OP
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We made excellent time on good roads. The 1157 was a beautiful little stretch of road.

Here's a short clip- http://contour.com/stories/riding-in...on-suzuki-gsxr

Check out the big logging truck at ~1:40. Logging is BIG business in Malaysia!

The 76 was bigger and faster and not particularly special but not unpleasant.


Wow, riding on Malaysia's civilized roads is quite a welcome contrast to the madness and mayhem I've grown accustomed to on Thailand's crazy roads.

Funny thing in Malaysia- people seem to know how to drive and are quite courteous, use their mirrors and turn signals and even yield to motorcyclists

I've grown so accustomed to speeding in Thailand and it seems my riding-mates have as well because we covered route 76 in good time, blasting past a police car in the process Ooops! I really didn't realize it was a cop car until I was passing it- Malaysian police cars are little white sedans that look like this:


Well, they didn't give chase so we carried on :) Route 76 is a great road for going fast as it's wide, divided (no Thai-style u-turns or street dogs to worry about) and you have excellent line of sight through the bends.

We did have some rain to deal with. The further south we got the more it rained. I gave up carrying rain gear in the tropics years ago. I prefer to get wet than to sweat like a pig in rain gear. 9 times out of 10 you're through the rain in 5-10 minutes and find sun on the other side. Personal preference, to each their own, but it does slow a group down when people have to stop and don rain gear every time you cross paths with a storm cloud then shed said gear when the sun comes out again

We reached the point where the 76 ends and the highway (tollway) E1 begins. Kinda funny- we've all become accustomed to Thailand's stubborn refusal to allow bikes on tollways, so it was with a little bit of trepidation that we entered Highway E1 via the bike lane that bypasses the toll gates. I was thinking to myself, "don't I have to pay a toll"?

Turns out no! Not only are Malaysia's tollways open to bikes; bikes get to ride them for FREE!

It's a shame I didn't have my bike cam installed for this leg of the ride. The skies opened up and we got soaked! Then we came to a tunnel somewhere north of Ipoh, and upon exciting that tunnel it was a seriously heavy downpour that had traffic backed up and moving at a snails pace because visibility was so poor.

That's no big deal, but what was really amazing where the hundreds upon hundreds of waterfalls descending the cliffs into which the highway was cut and the clouds of mist in the valleys below. I kept thinking to myself, this is where they got the inspiration for the Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar- it looked almost that surreal (minus the floating mountains and big blue men of course) ;)



We continue on the highway south past Ipoh until we see the sign for the exit to Cameron Highlands. That exit has the funniest bike lane you could imagine- it's a 3 foot wide little path that takes you on a strange little winding detour and again, I was expecting I'd hit a toll gate, but no, it dropped us off back on the road after taking us around the toll gates and some buildings. Cool!

Now we're on the famed A181 / C181 to Cameron Highlands-




Unfortunately it's raining again so we have to take it easy, but wow, what a road! It climbs some 1600 meters in a rather short distance and the temperature drops quickly.

Here's a vid from the ride up- http://contour.com/stories/riding-ca...zuki-gsxr-1000

It's a fantastic road- very well built and with some amazing views, and it just keeps going and going, bend after bend- sport bike paradise!

We stop to check out the views and snap some pics-


Brian's got a case of perma-grin


Hard to capture the views with the iPhone and all the clouds and mist, but trust me- it's amazing!




We carry on and come to this HUGE sign where we simply must stop for a few more pics-




Looking back at the C181- what a thing of beauty!


We ride through Brinchang and arrive at the Century Pines Resort in Tanah Rata shortly before sunset.


We're all wet and cold as the temperature has dropped to around ~20 Celsius.

Nice big elegant hotel with covered parking for the bikes, huge rooms, breakfast for about 300 Ringit (~US$100 or about 3000 Thai Baht). http://www.centuryresort-cameronhighlands.com/


I go to my room and make some hot tea and take a long HOT shower which gives me a second wind.

Then we walk into Tanah Rata where we enjoy a good Indian meal. Random pic of strange durian beverage that is surprisingly good-


Neil goes to get a massage while Brian, Frank and I track down a bar (yes, there is a real bar in Tanah Rata!).



We're all tired from the long day and other than the quiet bar we found there's really not any night life in this town, so we're back to the hotel and in bed at a pretty early hour.

Tomorrow we're going to ride a loop through the Cameron Highlands and then continue on to Gua Musang and Kota Bharu on the east coast.

To Be Continued!
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Old 04-16-2012, 07:25 PM   #6
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Thanks for the ride Tony!! amazing.
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Old 04-17-2012, 03:07 AM   #7
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I see that you guys are having a blast. Yes Malaysian roads quite a breeze compared to Thailand. It's always a joy riding in Malaysia.
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Old 04-22-2012, 11:54 PM   #8
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Slept like a baby in the big comfy bed at the Century Pines Resort and met the guys in the morning for breakfast at the hotel.

We had decided the night before to do a loop, continuing south on 59 then up the highway to the Cameron Highlands exit and back up the 181 that we rode in the rain the previous day.

Turned out this was the perfect plan because the weather today was beautiful!

The 59 is a much smaller, tighter road than the 181, but quite beautiful, passing through thick rainforest and jungle with amazing views and scenery. The road is a bit rough in spots and you have to beware of large trucks that take up both lanes in the hairpins. I was pretty impressed at the courtesy and skills of some of these truck drivers.

Stopped on the way down at a beautiful roadside waterfall-





Highway E1 is brilliant! It reminds me of the big highways in Europe and we never saw a single police car but did get to play cat and mouse with a fellow on a Yammie R1 so made excellent time

Fantastic to ride the 181 dry- wow, what a road!!!

Gixxer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOt2BOK5Vvg

Versys:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsnPQKvk3DY

Ninja 650R:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahjgn5cABOw

I could spend all day riding this road and still come back for more!


A bit bummed that I didn't have my Contour bike cam running this day because the hotel didn't have an adapter for my charger and I couldn't find anyplace in Tanah Rata where I could buy one :(

Some clouds, but thankfully no rain!


So lush and green-


Waitin' for the fellas to catch up


I'm amazed no one talks about the road from Cameron Highlands to Gua Musang- it's awesome!


The 185 is a BIG wide high speed road in mostly good repair and eerily deserted.


We rode it in one go all the way to Gua Musang with no stops along the way except this one where I pulled off to try and get the guys as they rode past, but I wasn't quick enough and they got past me before I could get the phone out...


Met some really friendly bikers at a gas station in Gua Musang- one fellow on a big BMW GS and the other on a Kawasaki Z1000SX. They said they just came from Kota Bharu and spoke highly of it...

They also brought us to a spot in town where all the restaurants are kind of grouped together where we enjoyed a fantastic lunch. Perhaps the only place where we really ate authentic Malay food. Seems everywhere else we went we ate mostly Chinese or Indian... Regardless, everywhere we went the food in Malaysia was excellent!

After Gua Musang the road became less interesting and the closer we got to Kota Bharu the heavier the traffic got. Add a lot of traffic lights, tropical heat and late afternoon rush hour and I was getting pretty steamed (literally) in my leathers...

Finally battled our way through the city and out to the coast and we hit the first resort that showed up on the GPS. Beautiful resort on a beautiful beach, but totally deserted and..... totally DRY! No beer! Ugh! There's really nothing better at the end of a long hot ride than a nice cold beer. Nothing else will do! Fortunately the fellas agreed so on to the next resort. Same deal! ARGH!

Aight, fek this, we rode back into the city and pulled up to the biggest hotel in town- Grand Riverview Hotel. Completely DRY! Wow... I'm starting to think Kota Bharu is a bit overrated... I ask one of the hotel parking attendants where can we find a place that has BEER. He very kindly directs us to a Chinese-owned hotel just down the road- the Dynasty Inn, where they've got off street parking for the bikes, nice clean comfortable rooms and will deliver beer to the rooms. Yippee!


I can't remember what we paid for the rooms.... maybe about 200RM? Breakfast included.

After a nice long shower I got my second wind, met the guys downstairs and we went to a nearby Chinese restaurant because once again, that's the only place you can get beer in this town... I know we must sound like a bunch of raging alcoholics, but really that's not the case!

Fantastic dinner, plenty of cold beer, life is good!


There is no nightlife whatsoever in Kota Bharu so we settled for coffee at a little shop near the hotel and turned in early.

We all agreed that next time we'd skip Kota Bharu. It seems there's really nothing much to see or do there and the roads getting in to the city are pretty congested and boring. Live and learn.

Tomorrow we ride to Georgetown, Penang!
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Old 04-23-2012, 12:38 AM   #9
TonyBKK OP
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Finally getting some videos uploaded.

This is the first road, Route 1157, after crossing the border from Betong, Thailand.

<iframe width="960" height="380" src="http://contour.com/stories/riding-in-malaysia-route-1157-countourhd-on-suzuki-gsxr/embed?map=true&width=960px&height=380px" frameborder="0"></iframe>

Riding Cameron Highlands Malaysia in the rain. Route A181 onboard Suzuki GSXR 1000. Raining alas. We hit this fantastic road again the following day in the sun and it was fantastic, but my cam battery was dead so no vid

<iframe width="960" height="380" src="http://contour.com/stories/riding-cameron-highlands-malaysia-in-the-rain-route-a181-onboard-suzuki-gsxr-1000/embed?map=true&width=960px&height=380px" frameborder="0"></iframe>

Man... why is it always so hard to embed videos on this forum...
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