Sorry about the title to the blog but this was an advertising slogan run by the Malaysian tourist board for many years and as we crossed the border into Malaysia we just could not get it out of our heads. So after the modern international metropolis of Singapore was Malaysia going to give us a more fully Asian experience?
First we had to get there and sort out the logistics of getting over the border. As it is illegal for motorhomes to be driven in Singapore we had to be towed by a tow truck from the port to the border. This meant I was picked up by the tow company from the hotel and driven to the port where first I had to queue up to get a temporary access pass before been reunited with the truck. It was great to see it again, and all in one piece. However before we could tow it we had to take off the prop shaft to avoid damaging the gearbox while it was been towed. After that it was just a case of waiting to exit the port, trying to find someone who knew what a carnet was to stamp it and then following the tow truck for about 12kms to just short of the border. Here another driver brought Gilly, the kids and the luggage to the truck and while we were reconnecting the prop shaft on the hard shoulder of the freeway they climbed aboard. After that it was just 400 metres to the border where we were met by a bemused police officer who was not sure what to do with us. He said we should not have driven in Singapore and we explained we had been towed from the port to the border. He said we had still driven a few hundred metres. I shrugged and said I just did what I was told to do. He shrugged made a call and directed us through. It would be so much easier if they just gave you a pass to drive from the port to the border but that’s Singapore.
The Malaysian side was much easier. We drove across the causeway and because we were too big to go in with the cars followed the bus lane rather than the commercial trucks. Again immigration asked why we were in this queue and we explained. They smiled and stamped us in. As there was no one else around we just drove into Malaysia. We had already bought our insurance and International Circulation Permit in advance so I hope we did not miss anything.
We have noticed when overlanding that every continent has its different challenges as well as wonders. Immediately upon entering Malaysia we could see that driving was going to be a bigger challenge than Australia, mainly due to the sheer number of motorbikes on the road. They whizzed in and out everywhere swerving in and out of the traffic. It meant you needed all your powers of observation when driving although I think the unwritten rule is that they are meant to keep out of the way of bigger vehicles. Not that I want to test this.
The second difference is where we will camp each night. There are very few campgrounds in Asia and when camping wild we have been used to camping in remote areas. With the high population density in Asia finding quiet camp spots was going to be a challenge. On our first night until searching until it was almost dark, we drove down a small lane and found a parking spot next to a park. There were a few people around but nobody seemed bothered and we spent a quiet night.
The next challenge was getting cooking gas. You may recall we lost our gas bottle when shipping from Australia so had no way of cooking. Unfortunately gas bottles are like electric plugs in that each country has its own fitting. Malaysia was no different and had a different fitting to any we had used before. This meant none of our adaptors fitted and the outside cooker we had bought in Australia also didn’t fit. Eventually the solution turned out to be easy, just buy a Malaysian outside cooker with the fittings for their gas bottles. As this only cost $17 it was a cheap and simple solution. At least we would be able to cook outside while trying to solve the adaptor problem for our internal gas system. Mind you I am not sure how much we will be cooking as eating out is so easy, cheap and tasty.
We headed up the coast to the town of Maur. After a walk around the colonial buildings we needed to find somewhere to camp. We decided against camping in town and instead again followed a little lane down to the seafront where we found a very small fishing harbour. Here there was a little track we could follow to park overlooking the sea. A number of friendly locals came by on motorcycles but again it was a quiet night.
The next day we headed inland. We wanted to visit the jungle and had heard that Endau Rompin National Park was remote and not frequently visited. The park office is about 25kms before the park and we stopped there to pay our entrance fees and inquire about the trip in. We were told there was a campground and asked how the road was and if we would fit in. The guy came out to look at the truck, checked we had 4wd and said we would be fine. The first 20kms was along a narrow tar road in amongst the palm oil plantations. We had to brush under some of the swaying palms but this was no big thing. The last 5kms though was along a tiny track. After about a km I wasn’t sure we would make it. We were having to push through the trees and the track was getting narrower. There were also soft edges and with our long wheelbase we had to take it very carefully around some of the corners to keep all the wheels on the track. Still there was no turning around so we kept going. After 40minutes we arrived at a wonderful clearing in the jungle that was the campsite. It was by a lovely bubbling river and the hardship was forgotten as we jumped into the cool waters.
The next day we had hired a guide to take us deeper into the jungle to see some waterfalls. The jungle is still home to tigers, elephants and some very rare Rhinoceros. We would be very unlikely to see them though. Much more common were the leeches that sucked onto us as we walked through the wet undergrowth. They were not pleasant and if you flicked them off the bite kept bleeding due to the anti coagulant the leeches inject into you when they attach themselves.
If you are squeamish look away now.
At the end of the trek was a lovely waterfall where we had another refreshing swim. Due to the humidity we were all really in need of it. Alisha and Lucy did fantastically on the walk and were not fazed one bit by the leeches.
From the jungle we headed back to the coast to the old colonial town of Melaka. Before the emergence of Singapore, Melaka had been a key port in the spice trade. But following the Portuguese occupation it and gradually lost its importance. It had subsequently been colonised by the Dutch and then the British and in 2008 had been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. We spent a lovely day walking around the town visiting the old churches, town hall and forts. However the most interesting part was the old Chinese quarter where we also had some wonderful meals. A very interesting museum was in a house that had been preserved which represented houses of the Chinese traders. When they came to Malaysia they married Malay women and then wanted to preserve that mixed heritage through the generations by strict marriage guidelines. The house was a beautiful mixture of nineteenth century Chinese, Malay and British elements.
While we were in Malaka it was also Alisha’s birthday. Even though where we stayed, on a piece of waste ground near the centre, was not the most idyllic place for a birthday we still managed to do presents and birthday cake.
As we are due to head back to England in a few days we needed to ensure we could find somewhere to park the truck securely for two weeks. Not wanting to leave this until the last minute we decide to head to the airport to ensure there would be something suitable. Our internet searches had not revealed anything other than multi-storey parking for cars. However no sooner had we arrived at the airport than we saw a large open space for long stay parking. Although it was designed for cars we spoke with the parking attendants who said it would be no problem us parking there and we could park where the buses parked. Relieved to have this sorted we went to book into a hotel for the night before our early flight. Here we were also told that we could leave the truck in the hotel parking while we were away so we had two options. Not sure why we were worried about this at all.
With two days to kill we headed down to the beach at Port Dickson. This is a popular area with people visiting from Kuala Lumpur at the weekend but during the week it was very quiet. Driving down a small lane we found a small camping area. We were the only ones there and it made for a very quiet base for a couple of days by the beach.
So Asia is definitely proving to be different and is going to be a different challenge but so far it is all proving to be worthwhile and we just can not get enough of the food. As we head back to England for a couple of weeks to see family the biggest challenge we have in front of us is Thailand. At the moment they will not give us a permit to bring the truck in. It is looking like we might need a Plan B.