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Old 03-28-2012, 12:15 AM   #691
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3/19 Ride to Malaysia

The 30 hours in the saddle and 980 miles that we have ridden over the last three days really caught up with us this morning. Neither of us wanted to get out of bed since we were really sore and tired. After hitting the snooze button a fair few times, we finally crawled out of bed and into the shower. This morning, we were both thankful for a hot, hot shower. While I started loading up the bikes, Re walked out to the 7Eleven and returned with breakfast. There wasn't a lot of conversation while we ate, since neither of us was looking forward to plopping our sore butts back in the saddles. But the ride must go on, so we reluctantly bid farewell to our comfy room and made our way back down to the bikes. After gingerly settling into our seats, we rolled onto the street at around 9:15 am. We dutifully followed the GPS directions south through the city. Lane-splitting is the rule in Thailand (as everywhere else in southeast Asia) and so at each stoplight, we joined the migration to the front of the line.

At one such light, Re lined up behind me in the crowd, and I heard her talking with another excited rider. Before the light turned green, she yelled to pull over once we got through the intersection for a photo op. After we pulled over, I met Pong, of

Pong is also a fellow ADVRider who also rides an 1100GS, which makes him only the second ADV-er we've met in southeast Asia. He wanted to know about our trip and our bikes, so we chatted for a little while, took some photos of each other, and Pong even made a short video of us. It was very nice to meet him, but we soon had to go. We said our goodbyes and continued our ride south to the border.

The ride to the Malaysian border was busy and basically, just one long urban area. The morning was getting hot, but around 10:45, we found ourselves at the Thai border. All our paperwork was stamped, and we were on our way in 15 minutes.

Once we crossed into Malaysia, we followed the signs that had a picture of a motorcycle on them and went through the “ride-through” immigration booth. No visa is required for Americans, so we were given our 90-day stamps without even having to get off the bikes. After Immigration, we began to look for Customs, but the only thing ahead of us was open road. Whoops. About a half-mile down the road, there was a checkpoint where I asked the guards about Customs. They gestured back to the border complex we'd just come through, and indicated it was in building A. We made a u-turn and headed back to the complex, where it soon became apparent that the Customs building was on the far side of Immigration. Hmmm. We parked our bikes and spent the next ten minutes explaining to various border officials that we weren't crossing back into Thailand, had already been stamped into Malaysia, didn't need to go through Immigration, we just needed to find Customs. This was all complicated by the fact that we only speak about five words of Bahasa Malaysia, and none of them really applied in this situation. We finally found the building (which wasn't building A) and an agent who spoke excellent English and could point us to the office that would process our Carnets. We stepped into the blissfully air-conditioned office, and in less than ten minutes, were walking back to our bikes. The error was ours, in that we rode through the lane for ASEAN motorcycle riders. Even with this confusion, we still cleared the Malaysia side of the border in about 30 minutes. The whole process only took about 45 minutes and cost exactly 0 dollars. I love Malaysia (and Thailand, too).

One of the reasons I love Malaysia is their highway system. We were now on a limited access, modern, four-lane, divided highway, complete with wide, paved shoulders, excellent signage, and even rest areas (with fuel). Many of the highways are toll roads, but once again, since we were on motorbikes, they are free for us. We covered the 80 miles to Butterworth in about two hours, since it was easy to maintain a 40 mph average. The scenery here was still relatively flat, but everywhere was the dark green of oil palms and mixed jungle. I know that oil palm plantations are an environmental disaster, but they sure are pretty. We were heading for Butterworth because that's where you get the ferry to the island of Penang. As we pulled into Butterworth, our fuel gauges showed that we had less than 25 miles of range left, so I pulled into the nearest Petronas station. Unlike everywhere else we've been in southeast Asia, no smiling pump jockey appeared when I pulled up. Apparently, Malaysia is self-serve. No problem, I haven't lived in Oregon so long that I've forgotten how these things work. (For those of you in more enlightened states, Oregon, like New Jersey, believes that mere mortals are incapable of operating gas pumps, and consequently, only highly trained technicians can dispense fuel in these two states. Seriously.) But my confusion was over the fuel grades and wide difference in their price. The “95” was 1.9 ringgit per liter, while the “97” was 2.8 ringgit per liter. Hmmm. One reason for my confusion is that I recall from our time in Malaysia two years ago, that the government was going to remove the fuel subsidy for foreigners, and consequently, foreigners would pay a higher price. I waited for a minute or two in hopes that another bike rider would pull in and I could follow his example, but no such luck. Apparently, the manager inside the store saw me standing around outside and motioned me in. He spoke very good English, recommended the “95,” and took my 14 ringgits. I returned to the pump, filled our jerrycan with “95,” and we then continued toward the ferry. Another reason I love Malaysia is that this is the cheapest fuel on our trip so far. We just got 7.4 liters of petrol for 4.50 USD! In virtually every other country we've been to, 4 liters of fuel would cost around 6 USD.

We followed the crazy, circular ramp over the water and around to the ferry, where we paid our two ringgits and joined the queue of other bikers waiting to get on the boat. The ferries here are huge, two level affairs, with passengers on the upper deck and cars, trucks, and motorbikes on the lower. After all the four-wheeled vehicles boarded, we joined with the 75 to 100 other motorbike riders and rode onto the ferry.

The ferry ride only took about ten minutes, but it was a fun time, since each of our bikes drew a small crowd, and everyone wanted to know about our trip. The other cool part of the ride was that Re found herself parked next to another SYM underbone. Malaysia gets a variety of SYM models, but not the Symba. This makes Malaysia the only country we've visited that has SYM badged bikes. India had a few SYM models, but they were sold under the domestic Mahindra brand.

Actually, there were some older SYM motorcycles in Cambodia that were used as moto remorques, but they were all old and shitty. Riding down the highway from the border to Butterworth, we saw several billboards advertising a variety of SYM underbones, scooters, and motorcycles.

After we disembarked from the ferry, we found ourselves on the streets we walked so many times on our previous trips to George Town. This was nice, because we knew exactly where we were going. We made our way up Lebuh Chulia to Love Lane, then left on Lebuh Muntri, to the Star Lodge. It was a bit like coming home, since we spent over six weeks here in the past. Robert, at reception, remembered us, and we were soon unloading our gear into our room. Since it was now nearly 4:00 pm, we decided to walk over to Komplex Komtar for a treat for our sore butts. In the mall they have what we refer to as the “executive chairs.” These are the massage chairs you see in various malls around the US and were all we could think about for the last couple hours of the ride. We walked the half mile through familiar streets and into the mall. We soon found a bank of executive chairs, sat down, and fed them a one ringgit (.33 cents) note for a three-minute massage. When our three minutes was up, we did it again. Feeling suitable pummeled and refreshed, we walked around a bit, checked out what was playing at the movie theater, and then made our way back onto the streets and up Lebuh Cintra for dinner at our favorite dim sum restaurant.

One of the very best things about George Town is the food. The island of Penang is on the Straits of Malacca and has been an important trading port for hundreds of years. It was a major port and stop off on the journeys between Asia and Europe and the Middle East. Consequently, there is a large Chinese population here, and also, a large Indian population that mostly arrived during the British colonial period. While this creates a fascinating multi-ethnic society, the real winner is dinner. The variety of food here is unmatched by any other place we've been. Everywhere you look, there are small restaurants and hawker stalls selling delicious food for cheap. Really cheap. We grabbed a table at the dim sum place. A pot of tea arrived, and then the same three ladies as two years ago wheeled up their stainless steel carts full of goodies.

We chose two of the rice, chicken, sausage, and egg wrapped in tea leaves, one of the taro cakes, a curried potato “egg roll?” a couple of different prawn-filled dishes, and a vegetable filled omelet roll. We stuffed ourselves silly on the delicious food, and the total bill came to 7.66 USD. I love Malaysia. For comparison purposes, each one of these seven dishes would be between 3 and 5 USD in Portland.

After dinner, we went back to the room, where Re scrubbed our Darien pants on the floor of the bathroom, while I caught up on the internets. Our Dariens are absolutely filthy after our time in Laos and Cambodia, and the difference that a good washing made was dramatic.

One reason I don't love Malaysia is the incredibly high tax on alcohol. Malaysia is a Muslim country, and so high sin taxes are the rule. For example, a 650 ml Chang beer in Thailand is 1.33 USD or so, whereas, in Malaysia, the same beer is at least 4 USD. But after our long rides over the last several days, we both wanted a beer, so we walked out to our favorite corner bar for a cold one. We jokingly refer to it as the Corner Bar, because it's on a street corner. There are more traditional bars aimed at the large number of tourists who visit here, but they are more expensive than the little local bars. The corner bar's clientele is almost exclusively Indian and Chinese, and rarely sees any farang. It's down a bit of a back alley, and there are a few beer coolers and a small bar behind a rollup door. You choose your beers from the cooler, pay at the bar, and then go sit in the plastic chairs next to the folding tables out in the road. It does attract an interesting crowd with beers that are the cheapest around.

130 miles in about 5 hours including 45 minutes at the border.
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Old 03-28-2012, 12:19 AM   #692
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3/20 Day Off in George Town

We slept in late this morning, and Re let me stay in bed while she walked out to Yasmeen (another excellent Indian restaurant nearby) and returned with roti telur (egg roti), some curry, and coffee. Roti from Yasmeen is our usual breakfast in George Town, and it was as good as I remember. After breakfast, we cracked open the books, maps, and laptop to work on plans for the next several days. We made the stupidly long ride to Malaysia specifically to see the Formula 1 race this coming weekend outside of Kuala Lumpur. The race itself is actually at the track near the Kuala Lumpur airport, which is 30 plus miles from the city, so we wanted to find a hotel closer to the track than that. After looking over all our resources, we had a few ideas, but decided to go to lunch instead.

Another one of our favorite Indian restaurants (especially for lunch) in George Town, is Sri Ananda Bahwan, which is a short walk from the guesthouse. At lunch they serve delicious and inexpensive banana leaf thalis, and that's what we had today.

They put a section of banana leaf on the table, a big scoop of rice in the middle, then three scoops of different vegetarian dishes, add a couple of crispy papadams, a dal, and a sambhar, mix it all together with your right hand, and throw in the general direction of your mouth. They do provide silverware for the timid, but if you're gonna eat banana leaf, you really have to do it with your hand. With our banana leaf we had limau ice to drink, which is a sweet and salty drink made with calamansi limes. For dessert, we each had a piece of our favorite Bombay sweet, soan papdi. The total bill came to a hair over 5 USD, and it was delicious.

Since the afternoon had gotten very warm, and there were a few sprinkles of rain, we decided to head back to the room to work on some ride reports. Later in the afternoon, we walked out to the movie theater at Prangin Mall to see “John Carter.” Another great thing about Malaysia, is that since English is widely spoken, they get many first run English language movies, and the theaters here are everything they are in the US- cold A/C, stadium seating, THX surround sound, but at a third of the price. Our tickets to see “John Carter” were 2.66 USD each. I know this movie has been pretty much, universally panned, but we both enjoyed it. After the movie, we hit the grocery store for a pineapple and some cat food. There are many street kitties in George Town, and we like to stop and give them a snack occasionally.

By the time we made it back to Lebuh Chulia, all the evening hawker stalls were open for business, so we stopped for some wonton mee at our favorite. The setup of the hawker stalls here is kind of funny, in that they line the roadside, but down a small alley, a drink vendor sets up tables and chairs each night. You order your food from the hawker stall, and then your drinks from the drink vendor, and sit at his tables, where your food is delivered. For drinks, we each had a glass of tangerine juice with sour plum (50 cents each) and soon our wonton mee was delivered.

Wonton mee is a noodle dish that is served with sliced pork, pork-filled soft wontons, and fried wontons, deep-fried fatback, water spinach, and pickled peppers in a dark soy sauce. We each ordered the large bowl (1.33 USD) and it was delicious. Walking back toward the room, we picked up some apom (crispy coconut crepes) and a big bottle of diet Coke. Back at the room, Re decided that since our pants were now so clean, that she needed to give our jackets the same treatment.

0 miles.
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Old 03-28-2012, 12:24 AM   #693
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3/21 Planning and Writing

It was much easier to get out of bed this morning after our nice, relaxing day yesterday. Re again, walked out to Yasmeen for breakfast, but she was gone for longer than usual. When she returned, she had roti pisang (banana roti) and coffee, not from Yasmeen, which was closed today, but from Jaya. After breakfast, we continued our search for hotels near the track and decided to stay in the city of Nilai. Nilai appeared to be less than ten miles by road from the track, and it is a good-sized city, apparently owing to having large universities there. There wasn't much information about Nilai online. Neither Travelfish, Travelwiki, TripAdvisor, Hostelworld, nor Hostelbookers had much information on accommodations. Agoda, a mainly Asian hotel booking website, listed a few hotels in Nilai in our price range. None of the reviews were great, but we settled on the Nilai Budget hotel, due to its low cost, good location, free wifi in the rooms, and attractive pictures on the website. We normally don't book multiple nights in an unknown hotel, but we decided to go ahead and reserve and pay for four nights, not knowing if other racegoers would also flock to Nilai. Then until lunch, we worked on ride reports and did a little reading.

At lunchtime, we walked down the alley through the block to the Sky Hotel and their delicious pork and rice. We have eaten here plenty of times before, so while I grabbed a table and ordered lime with sour plum juice to drink, Re ordered two servings of the mixed barbeque and roast pork and rice.

It is served with some boiled water spinach and a bowl of broth. As usual, it was excellent. The pork was juicy, but crispy on the outside, and the broth tasted of well-cooked bones (no bouillon cubes used here). After lunch, we walked around a bit and picked up a few things at the pharmacy before heading back to the room to do some more writing and relaxing.

Later that evening, we had dinner at Restoran Kapitan, a fantastic Indian restaurant, where we have eaten many times. Clearly, we have eaten there many times, as our usual waiter from two years ago recognized us as soon as we sat down. He doesn't speak a tremendous amount of English, but he was either trying to say that I had lost weight, or that I was huge. I'm not sure which, but it was nice to be back in a place where people know your face.

We ordered the excellent tandoori chicken and butter naan, with limau ice to drink. Fortunately, on our last trip, we had perfected the technique of eating a chicken quarter using only our right hands. It's trickier than you think, since you have to hold down the chicken with your pinky finger while you tear at it with your thumb and index finger. Sure, you could use the fork and spoon they provide, but you'd know, they'd know, you're a punk. In all seriousness, the food is great, everyone is very friendly, and they wouldn't judge you. For dessert, we ordered iced coffee and a roti tisu. The tisu roti is a very thin piece of dough that is cooked on a hot griddle, and before it sets, it is pulled or rolled into a tent-like shape and then drizzled with sweetened, condensed milk. It's a dramatic looking dessert, and apparently, a pain in the ass to make, since every time we ordered it, our waiter would get a little smile, and a few minutes later, you can hear him chiding and laughing at the roti cook.

It had been cloudy earlier in the day, so the sunset this evening was dramatic. There is a one hour time change between Malaysia and pretty much every other country in the region, so the doesn't set until about 7:30 pm local time.

Leaving from the restaurant, the sky was gorgeous and we walked through Little India and took a few photos of the night. Later, we returned to the corner bar for a nightcap.
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Old 03-28-2012, 12:29 AM   #694
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3/22 Ride to Nilai

Nilai looked to be about 275 miles or so, so we wanted to get on the road fairly early. While Re walked to Yasmeen, which was thankfully, open, I got the bikes ready to ride. Re's front tire was down to about 15 psi, so we're going to have to change this tube soon. It may also be a good time to put on the new front tires that we bought in Namibia. This morning, we had roti canai (plain roti), curry, and coffee. Roti make a good, hot, cheap breakfast, since there is a variety of flavors you can get, and each morning, roti, curry, and coffee is usually about 6.5 ringgit (2.15 USD).

We started riding at 9:15 am, but instead of taking the ferry back to the mainland, we rode south to the bridge. The bridge that connects Penang with the mainland is about four miles in length, and it was a beautiful ride this morning. Once we hit the mainland, we turned south on the E1 and droned down the shoulder of the highway. Again, the road was excellent, since this is the same road we took from the border. While it's modern and fast, it is a little boring. Since it is a limited access highway, there aren't many cities visible from the road, but every 20 miles or so, there is a rest area that has bathrooms, petrol, and food and drinks.

Once we neared Ipoh, low mountains began to appear, and the ride got a lot more scenic. We had basically been cruising at no more than 200 ft above sea level since southern Laos, and the last time we saw any mountains was really in northern Laos.

The ride here was very pretty, with rocky outcrops covered with dark green jungle and huge oil palm plantations.

As our fuel lights began to tick down, I started looking for fuel at the rest areas. With about 40 miles of fuel left, the rest area we came upon did not have a petrol station. Good thing there will be another rest area soon. And there was, the sign had a symbol for fuel pumps, so with about 20 miles of fuel left, we pulled in, only to find the petrol station had been torn down and dug up. It was just a construction site. Bummer. Back on the highway, we started looking for an exit. The first exit we tried had a ghost town of large apartment buildings. The next exit had just miles of oil palms. We had to ride about a km down the road before we could turn back to the highway. Just after making a u-turn, we saw a very sad sight on the should of the road. I got a glimpse of a small, spotted cat that had been hit but seemed remarkably intact. I spun around to see what it was, and it was a beautiful small wildcat, approximately twice the size of a house cat. It was dead but was truly a beautiful animal. When we looked it up later, we think it might have been a leopard cat. Regardless, it was a shame. Now we were down to less than 10 miles of fuel remaining, so we got off at the next exit, knowing that we could not get back on without finding fuel. At least as this exit there were signs of life, and we found ourselves riding through an area of humongous apartment buildings, then a warehouse area, then finally, a petrol station. We were now just outside the greater KL area, so instead of backtracking to the E1, I followed the recommended route on the GPS into the edge of KL.

Kuala Lumpur is a massive, modern city of over 1.5 million people, and consequently, we spent the next couple of hours fighting our way through downtown KL and out the other side. We never had to veer onto surface streets, but the elevated highways twist and turn and split off at random intervals. The best thing about this part of the ride was the tiny motorcycle only roads that followed the major highways at ground level, often ducking through small tunnels underneath the actual highway itself. Some of the tunnels were only two meters high, so I had the urge to duck every time I entered one. The drawback to these little roads is that of course, they're not listed in the GPS, so we had to do some seat of the pants navigation. But, we made it.

We finally reached Nilai at around 6:30 pm, and miraculously, found the Nilai Budget Hotel, where we had booked in for four nights, sight unseen. Oh dear. The hotel was in a strip of auto repair businesses and was located above a muffler shop. Yay. While I watched the bikes, Re went in to see what was going on. She returned a few minutes later with kind of a frozen smile on her face. I asked how it was, and she said, “Well, it's not as bad as Shea's Motor Lodge” (Shea's Motor Lodge, in the mountains of North Carolina, is the “worst hotel” we have ever stayed in. It's a funny story, ask me about it sometime.). We decided that we would try it for one night and see how it would be. The people were very friendly, but the room was not very good. Unfortunately, I deleted all the photos from the camera, but it was bad. The highlights include: no sink in the bathroom, the room was the width of the bed, the walls were plywood painted pink, but the deal breaker was no wifi. I was planning to go to the track tomorrow for Friday practice, while Re was going to work on blog posts in the room. We were not going to be without wifi for four days, not when we were paying more through Agoda than the rate card on the wall. Grrr. Re went out and spoke with management about this and the fact that the photos on Agoda are not of this hotel. They explained that it was a mixup and that they are actually part of a three hotel group in Nilai, and the photos and description are actually of one of the other hotels. Re did an excellent job of explaining our plight and pleading our case. A couple of phone calls later, and our reservation was transferred to the supposedly much nicer and free wifi-ier, New Wave Hotel. Since this hotel was not in my GPS, we navigated from the simplified map on the back of their business card, and after a few wrong turns, we found the New Wave Hotel.

This was actually a much nicer hotel. They agreed to honor the rate from the Nilai Budget, and so we checked in. The room was clean and new, the A/C was cold, there was a sink in the bathroom, and the wifi was reasonably fast. Yay. By now, it was nearly 8:00 pm, and we hadn't had lunch or dinner yet, so we hopped back on our bikes and rode up to the McDonald's I had spotted when we were trying to find the hotel. McD's in Malaysia is truly a bargain. During the dinner special hours, a Big Mac extra value meal is 3 USD, and the double cheeseburger meal is 2.33 USD. That's a cheap stomachache by anyone's standards. We had some ice cream sundaes for dessert and then rode back to the room.

285 miles in about 9 hours. We lost time today looking for fuel and riding through downtown KL. The bikes are running good, but Re's front tube has lost air again.
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Old 03-28-2012, 12:33 AM   #695
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3/23 Formula 1 Practice and Writing

We got up early this morning since I wanted to get to the track before 10:00 am, but breakfast comes first. When we were riding last night, Re had spotted an Indian restaurant a couple blocks down the road. We walked down to Al Nazim, where we tried to order some roti telur. It seemed that they weren't making roti at that time, so instead, we had idli (a spongy, steamed Indian bread) with a couple of curries and coconut chutney. Filling. I then, left for the track, while Re stayed in the room to write.

The ride to the track turned out to be only about eight miles down some rural roads and through a couple of small towns. I found the designated motorcycle parking that was actually right next to the main entrance to the grandstand and parked my bike. From there, I went to the ticket counter to buy our tickets for tomorrow and Sunday. The great thing about the Formula 1 race at Sepang is that no ticket is required for Friday. This means that you can sit virtually anywhere at the track today. The grandstand tickets are beyond our budget, but two years ago when we attended this race, the tickets for covered hillstand C2 were only 20 USD. This year, the price has risen to 40 USD per ticket, but that's probably still cheaper than the parking pass for the upcoming Formula 1 race in the USA. After buying our tickets, I walked up into the main grandstand area and encountered security. They were strictly enforcing the no outside food and drink, including the 1.5 liter bottle of water I had in my bag. Remembering how expensive water was to purchase two years ago, I sat in the shade and drank the entire 1.5 liters in about ten minutes. Then me and the funny feeling in my tummy made it through security successfully.

It was a great day at the track and fun to see all the new uglified cars this year.

I have always been a huge Kimi Raikkonen fan, and I am really excited to see him back on the track, and doubly excited to see him in the classic Lotus black and gold. I stayed until the end of the second F1 practice and then decided to call it a day. I made the short ride back to the hotel and returned about 5:00 pm. My 1.5 liters of water had long since evaporated, so I was thirsty and hungry when I got back. While I cooled off for a few minutes, Re walked down to a store nearby and returned with an ice cold diet Pepsi.

Our original dinner plan was to eat at a local chicken/duck and rice restaurant, but I had a new plan. While I was at the track and sitting in pit lane, a woman sat down in front of me and opened the lid on her Pizza Hut box. All I could smell was cheese, glorious cheese. On the tiny business card map, there was a Pizza Hut symbol, so we walked out to find it. Pizza Hut in Malaysia is not a good value. It's nearly as expensive as it is in the USA, but sometimes, you just need cheese. We ordered a large pepperoni pan pizza and some sodas and garlic bread. The bill came to 13 bucks, but it tasted really good. On the walk back to the room, Re mentioned that the little store where she got the soda also had beers. We stopped there to pick up a couple to go. In response to the very high taxes, there are some peculiar beers here. There are many 500 ml canned beers from Europe in the 9 to 10% range, with some up to 14%. The amount of tax doesn't seem to vary based on alcohol content, so you can essentially get two or three beers in one. Burp.

20 miles in about an hour
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Old 03-28-2012, 02:46 AM   #696
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3/24 F1 Qualy!

Our plan for today involves spending the majority of it at the track. The no water through the gate was a problem for which I had a solution. As you may have figured out by now, I am entirely too cheap to want to pay 5 ringgits (1.66 USD) for a 500 ml bottle of water every time either of us wants to take a sip. While at the track yesterday, I remembered our MSR Dromedary water bags, which we have not been using since we were in Nepal. They are covered with a matte black fabric that I thought might blend in well with the bottom of our daypacks. So last night Re got out one of our “water babies” and the water filtration system and put about 3 liters in the bag. This morning we jammed it in the bottom of her daypack, leaving the black fabric side visible. We then put a number of small things on top of it and pronounced it good. Re also stashed a bag of peanuts under the water baby with her trademark, “Fuck The Police” sneer. Since we were packed up and ready to go, we walked down to Al Nazim to have roti canai for breakfast. The people here are very friendly and some of the curries are quite excellent. Breakfast finished, we grabbed our daypacks from the room and set off for the track.

Today we could not sit in the posh seats, so instead, we made our way to hillstand C2. We were able to park right next to the gate, and after locking our helmets to the bikes, we made our way towards security. Sure enough, the water baby worked like a charm. We found a spot under the freestanding roof, unrolled one of our tarps, and sat down for the day's events. Throughout the day, we watched the Formula 1 third practice, a GP2 race, a couple of Malaysian Super Series races (including one class that had multiple Ferraris and Lamborghinis competing) before the main event of the day: F1 qualifying. Qualifying went largely as expected, with Kimi slotting neatly into fifth. Unfortunately, the team discovered a problem with his gearbox overnight and had to fit a new one. This is in contravention of the rules that require the gearboxes to last for five races, so as a consequence, he was handed a five grid position penalty. Bummer. I still have high hopes for tomorrow, as Kimi has never been shy about passing.

We spent our time between the on-track action talking about what we are doing after Thailand. The frustrating thing for us is that our feelings change like the weather. One week, we're sure we have a plan of action, and the next week, that plan just doesn't sound right. This is getting to be a problem, since in just a few weeks, we'll be heading back to Thailand, and it would be nice to know what we're doing after that. Our two basic options are to either return to the US and some semblance of our previous lives until we are financially able to get off the merry go round permanently, or muddle our way through, living and working overseas, trading financial security for the possibility of adventure. It's a tough call. At its root, it's a "known vs. the unknown" question, but it's unfortunately complicated by familial concerns (such as, our parents ain't getting any younger).

After the short ride back from the track, we went to dinner at the chicken/duck restaurant nearby. Since this was a Muslim restaurant, their wonton mee contained no pork, but was available with (unsurprisingly) either duck or chicken. I opted for the double-size duck, while Re went for the double-size chicken. The food was very good, but the broth lacked complexity, and the noodles were kind of a clump. The duck and chicken, on the other hand, were both delicious. Since we were feeling restless after sitting around all day, we decided to walk the 2 km to the Tesco supermarket. We wanted to pick up some fruit and I had seen an ATM on the way to pick up some more cash. After the long hike up there, we found that the Tesco had a food court in it, and in the food court was a Big Apple Donuts. The donuts at Big Apple are really good, with fresh cappuccino cream fillings and all sorts of other delicious flavors.

After we ate our donuts, Re went into the Tesco to look for fruit and batteries for the GPS, and I waited outside and watched the crowd go by. Parenting styles around the world are certainly different, and I will say that virtually everywhere we've been, children are cherished. But they're also punished in ways that would raise eyebrows in the US. While I was waiting for Re, I saw two women pushing a shopping cart out of the store, and in and amongst the bags in the cart, were two small boys, maybe about three years old. As the cart went past one of those little rides you see outside grocery stores or Kmarts in the US, the one young boy pointed at it, and I honestly didn't hear him make a sound. What he got in exchange for pointing was a crisp smack across the mouth. Mom then looked up and made eye contact with me and must have seen my dropped jaw, because she immediately grabbed the kid out of the cart, put him on the ride, and put some money in the slot. He looked a little confused, but eventually, enjoyed the ride. I guess that was my good deed for the day?! After that little spectacle, we walked back to the room to find that the internet no work. Sigh.

25 miles in about an hour.
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Old 03-28-2012, 02:55 AM   #697
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3/25 Race Day!

The internet was still not working this morning. Apparently, a phone line in the area had been cut. The bad news about this was that I was unable to check the track schedule for today. I knew the race started late and that there wasn't much going on before it, so that gave us plenty of time this morning to change some tubes and tires. But first, roti at Al Nazim. I sat down at our usual table while Re went to order. She was met by a rather ebullient young woman, who we had not seen before. She seemed very excited that we were here and talked us into a different kind of coffee. She said it was healthy, and I swore that she said it had mushrooms in it, but what the heck. Sure enough, she brought over a package, and there was an illustration of a mushroom on it. Of course, if you believe the entire illustration, my coffee would also contain a tiger's head.

The food arrived, and it was, as usual, excellent. The coffee did have a bit of an aftertaste, but it was pleasant enough. As we finished our food, the young woman appeared again to ask our opinion of the coffee and to find out why we were in town. We explained a little bit about our trip, at which time she inquired if we had any kids. When we responded that we did not, she assured us that maybe we would some day. Not having children in Asia is usually seen as a tragedy. Re mentioned that we'd been married nearly 23 years, and that it hadn't happened yet. The woman leaned in close to Re, with bright eyes, and asked quietly, “was yours a love marriage?” Re assured her, it was, and the woman broke into the biggest smile we've seen in a while. In this context, I assume that love marriage means a marriage that is not arranged by the parents. In certain cultures, these marriages are kind of scandalous. After the young woman left, Re got up to pay as I waited near the front of the restaurant. A minute later, Re beckoned me to join her at the register, where the young woman took our photo with the package of coffee. I still don't know what it was all about, but some days are just like this.

I didn't feel any major health benefits from my coffee this morning as we walked back to the room, maybe they'll come later. We broke out the tools and the tarp and set to work on Re's front wheel. As usual, we attracted a small crowd while we worked. We removed the OEM front tire that has now been on Re's bike for over 21,000 miles, and the original tube as well. There was a fair bit of rust around the base of the valve stem, but the tube otherwise appeared fine. Regardless, it's time for a new tube and front tire. The tires that we purchased in Namibia were very stiff and not pliable, so Re found a patch of sun in which to lay them, in hopes that it would make it easier to put on the rim. When we dipped into the spares kit, I found that the higher quality Dunlop tube that we purchased in India was unfortunately of the 2.75/3.00 variety, which would be fine for the rear tires that we're currently running, but the new fronts are 2.50 in width. We do have a spare 2.50 tube, but it is a Nandi brand tube, which is the same tube that failed on me in northern India, when the valve stem ripped out. Hmm. We didn't see any motorcycle shops open at the time, so we decided to go with the Nandi tube and hope for the best. The heat did help the tire become a little more pliable, but it was still difficult to install on the rim.

While I was examining the tire for a directional arrow or balance mark, I did notice that it said it was , “Specially made for hot wearther.” Confidence inspiring. I did manage to get the second bead on without pinching the tube, so 270 strokes of the tire pump later, we were ready to install it. While the rim was off, I inspected the wheel bearings as best I could. I did not detect any lateral play, and the bearings turn smoothly. There was no evidence of any damage to any of the seals, so hopefully they are not the problem. Before reattaching the speedometer cable, we dribbled a few drops of engine oil along the length of the core, in hopes that it would quiet some of the noise Re has been hearing lately.

Our original plan was to change my front tire as well, but since we don't have a suitable tube, it'll have to wait until we get one. Instead, we decided to refill our batteries with water once again. My battery was completely dry, and I had been using my kick starter for the past couple of days, while Re's was nearly dry, but still producing enough juice for the magic button to work. A quick check of my notes shows that we last refilled the batteries a little over 2,000 miles ago, in Pakse, Laos. It has been hot, and we have been running hard, but that's surprising. Maintenance complete, we packed up the tools and went to clean up ourselves.

Since it was now around noon, Re cut up the watermelon we bought yesterday for a snack, and we watched a little TV. Apparently, while we were showering, the ginseng and tiger's head mushrooms that were in our coffee finally kicked in, as we were both feeling awfully frisky. Meeow. We managed to entertain ourselves until it was time to leave for the track at 2:00 pm.

The traffic around the track was much heavier today, and we had to make one complete circuit of the exterior roads to finally find the one parking lot where motorcycles were permitted. From there, we jumped on the shuttle and rode it around to hillstand C2, where we unrolled our rain jackets and sat down. Once again, we smuggled our water baby past security and a roll of Mentos (queue Judas Priest's “Breakin' the Law”).

Almost on schedule, the rain started seven minutes before the race. The cars completed a handful of laps before the safety car came out, and then the race was red flagged. The stoppage was less than an hour, and then the racing got underway again.

It was a fantastic race, and Re and I had shouted ourselves hoarse by the end. The bummer of the rain delay was that it meant it was dark by the time we got back to our bikes.

We battled our way through traffic and eventually back to Nilai. By now, it was well after 8:00 pm, and we were hungry. Unfortunately, since it was Sunday night, many things were closed. But not Al Nazim. We stopped in for some excellent chicken biryani before heading back to the room for the night. Thankfully, the internet was working again, and I was able to Skype with some of my family. Just to add another wrinkle to our trip planning, my oldest sister told us that she was planning a family reunion for July 7th, and that perhaps, even some of our relatives from England would be coming. Well now, there's a wrinkle, another wrinkle.

30 miles in about 2 hours. Re reports her new tire is fine, if a little bouncy. From the feel of the tire, I don't even think it needs a tube, it's so stiff.
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Old 03-28-2012, 07:29 AM   #698
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Originally Posted by Underboning View Post
Don't be envious, this is easier than it looks - just throw a couple things on your bike, sort out the paperwork, and go!!! If we can do it, anyone can.
That's the hardest part of it. I'm taking a bike into the USA for a trip this summer. I think I'm up to about 10 different documents so far. Then the bike spat the dummy and chewed it's final drive with just 14 days available to me before it's due to go into a container for shipping Enough to drive a man to

Who can guess the brand? No, not the drink, the bike
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Old 03-28-2012, 08:14 AM   #699
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Originally Posted by Packer View Post
That's the hardest part of it. I'm taking a bike into the USA for a trip this summer. I think I'm up to about 10 different documents so far. Then the bike spat the dummy and chewed it's final drive with just 14 days available to me before it's due to go into a container for shipping Enough to drive a man to

Who can guess the brand? No, not the drink, the bike
No problem, you can probably buy a new Symba over here for less than the cost of shipping your bike both ways
I ride, Therefore I Am.

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Old 03-28-2012, 08:58 AM   #700
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To me is looks as of both of you guys have lost weight but look quite healthy. I know that staying rested and clean and well nourished while on the road takes some skill.
I truly envy you your diet. I'd love to be able to eat like that every day.
"When I was younger I was afraid I'd die riding now that I'm old and falling apart, I'm afraid I won't."
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Old 03-28-2012, 08:58 AM   #701
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Hey ... that's my 'hood!

Originally Posted by Underboning View Post

Once we neared Ipoh, low mountains began to appear, and the ride got a lot more scenic. We had basically been cruising at no more than 200 ft above sea level since southern Laos, and the last time we saw any mountains was really in northern Laos.
Hey there Colin & Re! Been following your thread here from the very beginning. You guys are my lil-bike heroes!

It is ironic, but I just somehow knew that my very first post in ADVrider would be in a thread that has folks on lil bikes riding my country ... But what I didn't count on, was that it will be in response to a photo post of what is literally my home: my house is right at the foot of that limestone hill you shot!

I am sooo kicking myself for not writing earlier to buy you and Re lunch and a couple of beers Maybe on your return ride to Penang? I hope you guys are returning to Penang ...

Rubber-side down, safe rides! And, oh – watch out for moped-tire-puncturing steel cords of exploded semi's tire carcasses on E1 and all highways ... which can also slice open boots and feet if ridden past fast enough. I've had some underbones' lower fairings sliced clean-off by them ...
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Old 03-28-2012, 02:12 PM   #702
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Just by chance I watched the end of the Malaysian F1 and I wondered how many people showed up to watch the race ... who was in the bleachers ... who was on the grass. Low and behold you two were there! Cool!

Great to see your trip continuing. Fantastic writing and pics, as I've come to expect. :)

You guys are great ambassadors for Asia, BTW. Your food pics make me want to restaurant-hop with you.

Ride on!
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Old 03-28-2012, 07:37 PM   #703
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If you take anymore pictures like this, Re will end up in Toxic Britney.

"Alles hat ein Ende--nur die Wurst, sie hat zwei"

"You only have too much fuel if you're on fire"
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Old 03-29-2012, 01:19 AM   #704
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Cool pinstripe Re another great update guys,i can understand your peril with keep going having a adventure to returning to some sort of security,its a tough one
Cheers Clive
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Old 03-29-2012, 03:20 AM   #705
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Originally Posted by Underboning View Post
It's too bad that we will probably miss meeting you, we'd love to hear more about your elephant encounter. Where did this happen??
That was in Way Kambas National Park, right down the bottom of Sumatra.near a place called Jepara - well worth a visit... but watch out for the elephants. Same day that happened, a 6 week old baby elephant pushed a woman over.

You mention cheap fuel. I've been paying 45 cents a litre here in Indonesia, but its going up to 60 cents on April 1.

I'd love a bit of tyre life like you are getting.... my last front tyre was replaced at under 2,000 miles (as was the rear)

For the F1 race, I flew my son up from Australia and we were in the K1 grandstand - on the first corner, Watching them pull those cars up from 300kph or so in around 50 metres was painful.... it really must hurt eh?

I'm about 2/3 the way up Sumatra now, at Kopanopan tonight, I think... in a dive of a hotel after a few nights of luxury... heading for Lake Toba. I fly out of KL on April 8th - home to Oz for 1 month, then back into KL on May 8th. I don't know where I will leave the bike yet... maybe in Sumatra, maybe in KL. I'll keep an eye on your RR and let you know if we get close.

btw... saw two Japanese guys yesterday at Lake Maninjau, one from Finland on a G650 and one from Japan on an Africa Twin.... first other western bikes I've seen on the road.
A man should only do the work that is required of him. To do more is a form of greed.

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