Malaysia KL – Evrim and Elif Yiğit Tour Journals
After a month spent in Indonesia, coming back to Malaysia made us feel like we’ve passed through a time tunnel. As our first stop, we come to Port Klang from Sumatra. We notice the train station just beside the ferry. We talk to a station clerk to go to KL by train from there. He indicates that we cannot take the train with our bikes. He calls a higher authorized one for an exception but we get the same answer. Thus we have no choice but to spend the nigh in Port Klang and head to KL in the morning. Since we’ve been in this town before, we don’t spend much time to look for an hotel and stay in the one where we’ve been before. There’s a large space used as a storage and a lounderette to put our bikes in on the ground floor. As we get in there to place our bikes, we realize that there are other tour bikes and find out that there are other cyclists in the hotel. They tried to tour around Indonesia like us and had some hard time. Since they have a small child with them, Indonesia may have been a little dangerous for them. Because the island they’ve been to is the most crowded island in Indonesia. So the traffic must be busier according to that.
Thailand have started a new application for foreign visitors for a couple of years. If you don’t have a visa for Thailand and you get in the country via the airport, you can stay in Thailand for a month. In this case, the first time we came to Bangkok from Istanbul, Thai government let us stay for a month. But if you get in via a highway, Thailand will let you stay for 2 weeks. So if cyclists like us would want to come to Thailand from Malaysia by bike, they have to acquire a visa to stay more than 2 weeks. Without losing time in KL, we visit a consulate. But here we face something unfortunate. Our visa application coincide with the birthday of the King of Thailand and the consulate has a holiday for one day more. So we have to wait for 4 days for one day Thailand visa. KL is a tedious place to wait for 4-5 days. We rest more in the hotel and experience a calm KL life. We have a pleasant conversation with a Turkish-USA citizen we’ve met here. Our new friend is in fact Turkish but he’ve been living in USA since he’s a child and now trying to get used to his new job in KL. He’s doing a quite tough job at an oil-well worksite and gives some information which are hard to learn from much people. BP’s oil well’s problem of leakage, what they did wrong, how an oil well is excavated, new oil sources, costs etc. At the end of the conversation he adds a sentence I recall “We only lay down pipes between oil reserve and your car’s gas tank” Technically, as you think about it, it’s more a reality than a simile because in real oil without ever leaving the pipes, proceed for miles and come up to our gas tanks from 5km down the ground. In this situation, we take the oil out from there. With every tank, we bring more oil out. Which means with every car driven, every tank filled, we take more oil out of the ground. That’s not just it. A great deal of energy types is fed by oil from under ground. Which means to illuminate our homes, use our computers, we keep on consuming. But here’s another good news. We’re not running out of oil. Resources under ground may get used up but new oil resources are being discovered. The newest of these discoveries is a new kind of an oil which’s found among boulders and have a great more deal of reserve but it’s not yet very affordable to get it out of there. The biggest advantage of this oil is that it’s closer to the surface and can be found everywhere. Which means in the following years this oil type will come into our lives and for some time more, we can keep on consuming comfortably.
Next morning after we got our visas we head to a town near the border of Thailand by bus. If you travel by bus with your bike, you’ll always face unpleasant incidents. Lots of cyclists had had to fight bus adjuntcts in Turkey. But none would have been as depressing as it’s in Malaysia. I just have to say this, here we completed our bus journey of 300km by changing 3 vehicles, arguing while placing our bikes and waiting for another bus to come for hours. After such a particular trip to Malaysia, I suppose you’ll guess how much we missed Thailand and how we completed the road to the Thailand border without a pause.
And Thailand after all. As soon as we arrive to our first destination, we cleanse our bodies with a dream-like beer and a massage. We were about to forget that there are smiling people… But despite all my complants I have to say that considering the last two months, one misses Sumatra’s natural beauties. I guess Indonesia will be one of the places I want to see again. About Malaysia, I don’t think that I’ll miss it for a long time.
It’s nice to be back in South Thailand in December but we have to go north as soon as possible and pay off our old scores with the North Thailand geography. At this point in order not to bore you, I’ll cut it short between Malaysia border in south and Bangkok. It’ll be unnecessary to write again about the places we’ve seen before. For the first days, we’re quite lucky and with the wind blowing from behind we proceed with an average of 25-26kmph. This equals up to 75km in 3 hours and if we’ve gone slower on this flat geography, it’d get quite boring. Our first stop is Surathani, which can be considered at of half of our road. We stay there for a night and head to Ko Tao Island next morning. Ko Tao is one of the smallest and calmest islands of the country. It’s ideal for ones who want to just rest and enjoy the beautiful nature after a long bike trip. As we get off the ship, we see that the left side of the island has developed more and has got more touristy compared to the right side. We rent a nice bungalov on the other side and add a break of a couple of days to our tour which’s been going on for months.
After a couple of days, we head to Chumpon via the ship that took off at 10:00pm from Ko Tao. The vehicle resembles more like a ferry, there are cars on the ground floor, some stuff and our bikes, on the upstairs is a room for 25-30 people to sleep in and a terrace up on the room. We first try to find a place in the room but all is reserved by others. There are 20 people on the terrace who will travel in cold without getting any sleep. For a while, we get freezed on the terrace then prepare our own beds in the room, laying our mats on the floor. Since we can manage to find a warm place to sleep for the night we arrive to Cumphon after a comfortable trip. After resting for a day in town, we continue our journey to north. From this point of Thailand, wind starts blowing from the front, from north to south and it makes cycling uncomfortable. As the extremely hot weather combines with the wind, it dries your skin and your lips begin chapping. We go on like this for 2 days and arrive a town called Bang Sapan Yai. The beach 20km away from here is a popular vacation spot for local people and we’d stayed here 2-3 months before. However town center is as pleasant as the beach. Even if it’s not quite easy to find an hotel, since we won’t have hard time catching the train next morning and can eat at the diners along the river, we stay here. In the morning, we go to Hua Hin by train and arrive to Bangkok after staying there for a day. We leave some of our stuff (approximately 8-9kg) in the hotel, trying to lighten our bikes a bit.
Here from a Chinese district we purchase some bike parts, chain and cassette. We install these in the bike store near the hotel. In addition I find cassette and roller for Shimano XT front and rear hubs. I buy these and Shimano grease and decide to open up the hubs and replace the marbles during the next bike maintenance process. It hasn’t always been possible to find good quality grease during the previous maintenances. Especially in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia you may have to use someting of poor quality like butter for the hub maintenance. Even if Thailand is pretty advanced in means of this, instead of leaving it to bike repairmans, I’ve always prefered to fix my bike by myself. Even if I’d messed some parts before, I feel much more experienced now. In order to be a tour biker, it’s essential to know of all a little. We may not be a perfect bike mechanic or not a strong racer but to be a good tour biker in my opinion you have to be part mechanic, part cyclist and part camper.
After staying in Bangkok for a couple of nights and leaving some of our loads in the hotel, we head to Kanchanaburi by train. Kanchanaburi is the town where we’ll spend the new year. Bangkok was so dynamic even a week before the new year that it’s not suitable for us to spend the new year in Bangkok. We enter the new year in a bar we’ve been before for 2-3 times, celebrating with a group of 8-10. It’s a pleasant and sincere occasion since we all know each other. Next morning we get on our bikes and head to Burma border and try to proceed to the north of Thailand. Not long after 10km from Kanchanaburi, we encounter a camping store and we buy a small tent from there. We’ve left our own in Bangkok. With this new one, we now have a tent with us on the road and also get a protection we can use as a flyscreen. Road proceeds with a steep ramp after Erawan national park to Si Sawat town. This ramp slows us down and makes it impossible for us to arrive Si Sawat town in time. As it began to get dark, we give up the idea of reaching the nearest town 30km away, give it a shot and use the backroad turning left.
Proceeding on the unpaved road, a car stops to help us. As he learns that we’ve been looking for a place to stay, he invites us over his place. Retired father of the family has been living there on his own. He prefered to have a calm life in a wide garden near the lake instead of Bangkok’s town life. Since it’s the new year, all family members had come to visit him. as we got there, there was a huge razzle-dazzle and a preparation for dinner. Retired pilot and his son who’s been studying in America was speaking English so we don’t have a hard time understanding each other. They point us to the patio 300m away from the house. There’s a space to set up our tent, a clean restroom, a shower and stuff that we can use as mats to lay on the ground of our tent. We chat with the family during dinner. From what they tell us, come to the conclusion that we hadn’t chosen a right route to reach north Thailand and we have to get back to Kanchanaburi. Next morning we thank them and go back to Kanchanaburi. In the morning I go to Bangkok by bus.
I take our tent from the hotel. Then go to the bike store and buy a couple of more missing equipments. To eat, I go to a very nice diner near river that cooks Tom Kai Kai soup. I encounter an interesting situation here. There’s only one table in the diner. Customers sit around this one table which’s pretty long and eat there. There’s been 2-3 other people as customers as I arrived. One of them asks me if I’ve been touring by bike and after that we start chatting. Since I have my Ortlieb bike bag, it’s not quite hard to figure out that I’m on a bike tour. He’s also been touring by bike himself. As he’s near to the end of his tour, he wants to ride around south Thailand before his tour ends. Since he wanted to come to sout as soon as possible, he took the train to Bangkok. He’s in fact one of the tour bikers who wants to stay in Bangkok for a short while like me. Before Thailand, he rode in Laos and Cambodia. As I understood, he liked Laos as much as me and managed to find pleasant places to spend nice time in Cambodia. We exchange information since we’re two tour bikers, open our maps, tell about the roads and continue our conversation. Even if it’s been a little late, I figure out that he’s Spanish as he finds out that I’m Turkish.
According to what he tells me, he’s toured around Turkey before. In addition, he met a Turkish cyclist in Istanbul. This cyclist he’d met 3 years ago, had rode in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia like me. I tell him that if he’s from Turkey, I definitely must know about him as I have Ahmet Mumcu as the first one on my mind. As I ask this Turkish biker’s name, he says that he cannot recall but as he remembers, he was my age. In fact they ate together this one time. During dinner, this biker had told him so much about Thailand and Laos that he decided to take a tour around this region. Possibilities narrow down and the likelihood of this cyclist he’d met to be someone else other than me gets more and more impossible. There’s only one thing, I hadn’t been living in Istanbul at that time. I hadn’t been in Istanbul even for a day. Suddenly I remember everything.
Of course I’d came back to Istanbul from Bangkok by plane and stayed there for 4-5 days. During that period I had had to buy a new bicycle trunk and had gone to Eminönü. There I’d met a biker, ate together and had a conversation. After a tour of 4 months in Thailand, righteously I’d continously told about Asia to that cyclist. In a sudden, we find ourselves in a cosier conversation. We cannot believe this coincidence and even check our passports for our arrival dates to Turkey. Before he leaves, he says that he constantly thought about that biker he’d met in Turkey – which is me – during his tour. I guess this coincidence will be one of the unforgettable memories for me.