Chinese New Year. A time when one of the planet’s largest communities celebrates with their families and friends. A time for reflection, fireworks, food and good times. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting…
What we didn’t realise (and what the freight agent we’d employed in Kuala Lumpur who promised to have our bikes out of customs within 24 hours failed to tell us) was that we’d arrived right smack bang in the middle of the Chinese New Year celebrations. We arrived on a Sunday and booked a hotel right near the airport so that we could get straight down to business on the Monday. Our hearts sank however when Old Mate at the hotel reception told us that because of Chinese New Year, all of Malaysia had a holiday on the Monday. And the Tuesday. Come Monday we took a punt and went to the freight office anyway, but to no avail. Calls went unanswered, and emails sat undelivered on servers.
So two days were spent in KL and we ticked most of Tripadvisor’s top 10 attractions off our list. It was bitter sweet however, as all we really wanted was our bikes. We finally got in touch with somebody on Wednesday morning who told us the bikes would be ready by the afternoon; so we packed our bags immediately and headed back to the airport cargo area. Once we got to the freight forwarders holding area, we meet some very enthusiastic staff who just couldn’t get enough of our bikes! We constantly had an audience of 5-10 blokes who watched and helped us put the bikes back together – we’ve since discovered that our bikes are real head turners here in South East Asia, where small motorbikes and scooters are so common.
It was five o’clock by the time the bikes were reassembled, but we were determined to get as far away from the city as possible. We decided the Cameron Highlands would make some good sightseeing and motorcycling, so we punched the details into the GPS and headed off. We were amazed at just how far we made it too – Malaysia’s road infrastructure is incredible. The speed limit was 110kms/hour the whole way, and nearly all of the traffic sat 10-20kms/hour above this. We made excellent time and were really happy to be on the move.
The following morning we headed up into the Highlands proper but were thwarted by bad traffic; the Chinese New Year celebrations were still in swing and it seemed that half of KL had come up to the highlands, so once back down the other side we decided to jump back on the expressway and head to Penang Island.
With the deadline of our tour through Burma looming on the 20th, we decided to head from Penang straight to the Thai border, which again saw us stuck on the raw side of the Chinese New Year. Literally hundreds of people were queued up to get across the border and with no signs, order or general instruction it was a very trying and time consuming process to get both us and bikes into Thailand. But we eventually made it through and made as fast as we could to our next destination; Koh Lanta.
And this is where we find ourselves now. It’s tough, but we figured we’ve earned it. We’ve stopped for two nights for a break from the road to recharge our batteries (and our cameras!), before we make a big push towards Mae Sot where we’ll cross the border on the 20th to begin our compulsory tour of Burma.