Tuesday, 5 December 2017

7 Day Road Trip Malaysia – Banjaran Titiwangsa

Woke up in the morning and had a chat with the Royal Belum Resort hotel manager and he gave some suggestion on where to stop by along the way to Kota Bahru. Started driving and immediately detours after 200 meters when I saw the sign public jetty. Jetty was not accessible by car but driving to the end I saw a rubbish dump being attacked by wild pig and her piglets. That was a sight worth detouring. 

Belum Lake
Back on the Grik highway and it was not as I remembered. Those crazy drops and amazing scenery are not there anymore. Most parts covered by trees and roads not as windy anymore. 

A Quiet Drive .... Watch out for Wild Elephant Crossing - Grik Highway

Titiwangsa Reststop - Grik Highway
I stopped at Titiwangsa rest stop as suggested by Andrew and the Belum staff and it was a great view .. the highest point of the Titiwangsa Mountain Range in Malaysia they say or at least by driving. Also the tasty lunch of Ramly burger was worth the stop.

The Virgin Tropical Forest of Malaysia - Banjaran Titiwangsa

Me at Banjaran Titiwangsa

A work of Art - Ramly Burger
Back on the road again and no detour till I reached the border of Thailand … Rantau Panjang. So this part of the border town it was a duty free zone and I drove pass in ave that this would be the way to go next time into Thailand if I manage start my 2 year road trip around south east Asia. 

Scenic Drive - Northern Malaysia

Logging Activity .... - Malaysia

Entrance to Border Town of Malaysia - Thailand - Rantau Panjang

Border Town - Rantau Panjang

Entering Thailand ..... ( ... but I did not go in ... no passport ... cries ... )

Bus Stop at Rantau Panjang - All you need tickets & Insurance vice versa
All the way to Kota Bahru … nothing of interest but the drive was relaxing if not tiring … almost 5 hours on the road and I decided another two to get to Kuala Terengganu would not be a good idea.

Travelled on: Dec 2016

Sunday, 3 December 2017

7 Day Road Trip Malaysia – Kota Bahru

Day 5, Woke up early at 8am and I was eager to get out of the grimy house / makeshift bed and breakfast. Visiting Kota Bahru was refreshing, I could not remember the last time I was here and everything seems weird. Almost familiar Malaysia yet sublime difference. 

One thing I remembered today in the morning was that I could not communicate with the locals. Trying to buy the first “Keropok Lekor” I saw and I asked ‘berapa ??’ And I got the answer ‘leper’ …. I figured it was eight such as ‘lapan’ and it was true but it took a while to click and after that every time I try to ask something it felt like I was in south America again learning a new language, trying to not stick out. 

Felt weird referring them as the locals, as it was Malaysia and I am Malaysian yet thou it seems like another culture and country altogether. 

Kota Bahru is a vibrant town, as I walk around everywhere visiting markets, streets and even old Chinatown in the city you see a blend in culture comparable to Penang and even Malacca.

Town Centre - Kota Bahru

Handicraft Market - Kota Bahru
I learned to appreciate the little things in life observing the locals around yet as a city boy finding tranquillity in Kota Bahru, I can only wonder how many of them felt trap and wishes to migrate to a large city like KL. 

Big Bazaar Market - Kota Bahru

Kota Bahru Streets

Hokkien Community in Kota Bahru

Mural & Street Art - Kota Bahru

Streets - Kota Bahru

Deep Fried Chicken - Malaysia Style
Some parts of the old palace and monumental buildings were open to the public … taking full advantage as a Malaysian … for once I only had to pay the customary fee of RM 2 instead of the tourist price I had to fork out visiting places throughout my travels.

Traditional Long Boat - Kota Bahru

Travelled on: Dec 2016

7 Day Road Trip Malaysia – Detours Detours and more Detours … towards Gerik

The drive to from Taiping to Gerik was simple taking it slow and easy till I reached Sauk where I did a slow drive though the kampong (village).
Town of Sauk - Malaysia
After driving pass the town crawling at 10km an hour, I decided this was the place for lunch and picked a restaurant for fresh water fish. Or at least I think it is … how much I asked and they said about RM 7 a fish … all this was in hokkien/Cantonese mind and I am rubbish at it but at RM 7 I tot it was dirt cheap. 

"Pak Su Kong"
One fish “Pak Su Kong” a vegetable dish called “Mak Choi” and rice … the bill came out to be RM 49 … so apparently the fish was RM 7 for 100 gram … felt so cheated but it was a great meal non the less. 

After lunch I took the detour trying to get to Chenderoh hydroelectric Dam but at the end of the detour there was a guard post and he said not open to public. Apparently people work there and a small community stays there within the government quarters. Wasted detour but oh well back on the road to Gerik.

Somewhere between Sauk & Gerik
Every chance I get I took a detour off the main road to the parallel small road but other than plantation there was not much to be seen. Reached Gerik and it was decision time … to stay or to try my luck at Royal belum rainforest resort …. Could not find anything worth staying for so after topping up fuel I headed to Royal Belum resort. 

Somewhere Between Sauk & Gerik

Approaching Gerik

Onwards from Gerik into the Jungle
Internet booking.com price was RM 330 without tax but walk in price was RM 400. I guess Malaysia is the kind of country where booking in advance is cheaper than walking in. I stayed the night in the resort in a room that could accommodate 3people … 

Royal Belum Resort
Slurge but it was a beautiful place to spend the night. At the fringe of the tropical Belum Rainforest it was the gateway into the oldest Rainforest in the world. Even at the fringe I already encountered tons of mosquitos, a family of monkeys and a few bite of leaches when walking around the more forested part of the resort. Eco-tourism is expensive in Malaysia but without it the forest would never survive the hoard of tourist.

Jetty at Royal Belum Resort - Gateway to hire guides into the Tropical Rainforest

Monkeys .... Slowly back away ... - Royal Belum Resort

Jungle Survival Training .... Maybe

Nasi Goreng Kampung - Royal Belum Resort
Travelled on: Dec 2016

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Converting Singapore Licence to Malaysia Licence

Felt Like this Dear Jumping About 
When I first decided to convert my Singapore Motorbike Licence to Malaysia Motorbike licence, I scour the net for information. Most gave me the opposite on how to convert from Malaysia to Singapore instead. I guess it’s just not that common doing it the other way around.

So I decided to record down my experience.

First things first, this is the circumstances of my situation before trying to convert. Don’t know if you are in the same boat but the below was my profile.

1. I am a Malaysian

2. I have a Malaysian Driving Licence Class D

3. I have no Motorbike Licence in Malaysia

4. I have no Driving Licence but I have a Motorbike Licence in Singapore

(I Took my Driving Licence in Malaysia and Took my Motorbike Licence in Singapore)

5. I have never converted any licence between the two countries

6. I work in Singapore on a Work pass

Gathering Information

It was hard trying to decipher the information from the net, especially between Singapore and Malaysia for Malaysian citizen as a lot of the rules publish is meant for general foreigners and not really focus on the special relationship that Singapore and Malaysia has. Some information tells of corruptions and ways to avoid getting blacklisted and some blatantly just condemns each countries for being petty and making life difficult for the common people.

I stand neutral on this for I feel that both Malaysia and Singapore has their point of view but still one small fry can’t avoid being caught up in the mind-set of the whole.

Anyway I decided the best way was to stop speculating and just walk in to get direct information. This prove to be even challenging as most information at counter given by word of mouth by the guards or the information desk lack to instil any confidence.

1st Attempt

I walked up to Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) in Johor Bahru at Galleria Kotaraya going straight for the Jabatan Pengangkutan Jalan (JPJ) or in English Land Transport Authority of Malaysia. Going to the queue number ticket collection which had a guard there to assist on directing and dispensing the correct type of queue number I asked for conversion of licence from Singapore to Malaysia.

The guard refused to give me a queue ticket number. Go to the main headquarters office is Taman Daya, Johor Bahru he said. JPJ does the conversion of licence but this office/branch does not do it.

Puzzled, and a bit suspicious I thank him and left googling the main headquarters of JPJ at Taman Daya.

Deciding that it may be a coy I returned a few weeks later to the same place trying to get a queue number again. This time I got the same reply from a different guard. Go to Taman Daya he said.

Guess it’s true that I have to get to the main HQ of JPJ at Taman Daya

Working in Singapore and trying to convert my licence during my free time was not easy, crossing the border to get things done was time consuming. Luckily Johor government working hours were different and Sunday was considered a working day while Friday and Saturday a weekend.

2nd Attempt

A few months later I went to Taman Daya paying a RM 30 for a grab ride to the main JPJ HQ in Johor. The actual address was:

Kompleks JPJ,

Karung Berkunci No.714,

80990 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia

The complex was huge and first off was to navigate to the right department. As I follow the signboard getting closer to the goal, lots of so called “runners” were loitering around downstairs and nearby the entrance to the office building for the actual changing of licence, renew, road tax etc.

As I walked a few runners pester me on what my purpose was here.

What do you want? One of the runners called.

Renew Licence? Change Licence? Road Tax?

I decided there was no harm extracting information so I asked which way to the change licence was.

You want to convert licence from Malaysia to Singapore right?

They will blacklist you, but I can help you get around that.

I felt annoyed that before understanding what I wanted I was already labelled.

Oh, you want to convert from Singapore back to Malaysia licence, but last time when you convert to Singapore Licence did they cut your Malaysia Licence? They probably blacklist you already and you won’t be able to convert back until you pay (bribe) them to erase you from the blacklist

Annoyed that I could not even get two words in before being labelled again I decided runners were the stupidest idea to get information from.

Ignoring all the runners, I walked up to the actual office to the queue counter.

The officer asked me if I had a letter from Singapore.

Letter ?? What letter ??

The officer told me that I require a letter from the Singapore Transport Authority to verify that I have no outstanding offences for the past 6 month. I could get it from the Singapore JPJ and with that the process for converting licence can be done. I would also need a photocopy of driving licence, identification card, photo, passport, work pass etc … anything related all photocopy he said but most important was to get that letter.

He even gave me the form for converting licence but would not give me a queue number as I did not have all the documents required.

Helpful information indeed but the monotone conversation told my guts that the small disdain of Malaysian going over to Singapore for work was still there.

I decided that if I was going to convert, it will not be in Johor but will travel back to Kuala Lumpur to do it.

Obtaining the Letter from Singapore Transport Authority

Funny thing is …. If you google Singapore Transport Authority like I did, you will get (LTA) which has nothing to do with driving licence record keeping.

I went to the nearest neighbourhood police and asked for advice and even then the police was uncertain but referred me to the Traffic Police HQ at the address below:

10 Ubi Avenue 3 Singapore 408865

Making my way there one weekday when I was off work, I entered the front door asking the guard for guidance on obtaining the letter for converting licence back to Malaysia.

Ironically the guard said:

Why convert? Singapore licence is international and it’s better here.

I have my own reasons I told him and he then pointed me in the direction to the main office. Go in and ask but I am not sure if this is the place he said.

Going in I was greeting with a police officer in full uniform. Explain to him my situation and he gave me a queue number not explain much.

Once it was my turn, all the counter asked was my Singapore bike licence and after a few moments requested for payment of SGD 10. Payment has to be made using NETS only and no cash transaction is accepted.

Paid and viola, I now had the letter from the traffic department of Singapore stating that the licence is valid and I have no offence pending with the Singapore state.

The whole process took less than 20 minutes including waiting time.

3rd Attempt

Few months later I managed to get leave and headed back to Kuala Lumpur to get the licence finally converted. The location I went was at Bangi a sub branch of JPJ in the Selangor state.

Jalan 7/7c, Seksyen 7, 43000 Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia

Went to the queue line to obtain a queue number and the officer told me to speak to their head officer first. Guess it’s not a normal procedure converting licence. Pass both my licence to the officer and I was question the following;

Why do you want to convert licence – (Go Home I Said)

Did you convert this licence from Malaysia to Singapore – (Nope … I took it in Singapore)

Wait a moment. After a few minutes the head officer came back.

Yes you can convert back no issue, but you will need a letter from the Singapore traffic authority. I have it I told the officer and passed the letter.

A few more minutes later and the officer asked me to get a photocopy of the following

1. Passport

2. Driving Licence of both Malaysia and Singapore

3. Identification card

Finally the officer said to me … I will ‘potong’ cut your Singapore licence once it’s converted, is it ok with you?

Sure I said … I was not trying to cheat the system anyway.

They finally gave me a queue number and within a few minutes I was up at the counter again. After a few types the officer just stared at the screen …. Waiting … then I heard their internal conversation

(Notified Singapore already? …. Yes you may proceed)

Interesting I thought … so there is some sort of integrated system now. Shortly after he cut the edge of my Singapore licence and kept the licence with the document for processing. Asked if I would get back the cut piece, they said they will keep it and send it back.

Processing the conversion of licence I had to pay the fee of

Add on Class – RM 5

Conversion of Licence – RM 20

That’s was all and a few minutes later I collected my new licence fully integrated with motorbike (B2) and car (D)

Interesting note was My Singapore motorbike licence was limited to 200cc but after conversion I am now certified to 250cc. A bigger bike was now a possibility ….

1st step done …. Now to find wheels for the road trip

Monday, 13 November 2017

7 Day Road Trip Malaysia – Taiping Gardens

Taiping Gardens. The one reason why I decided to make Taiping a pit stop is to visit the gardens which I remember during my childhood family road trip days. The picture in my head was exactly the same when I drove by the gardens. 

There is a timeless sense to Taiping Gardens, almost like a magical place thinking of peter pan and the Neverland wonders.

Here is a video for picture cant do them justice

Travelled on: Dec 2016

Saturday, 11 November 2017

7 Day Road Trip Malaysia – Fireflies at Kuala Sepetang - Taiping

So I found the only hostel in Taiping quite easily … I actually booked it a few hours ago as I figured if it’s the only one I better book just in case since there won’t be a backup … luckily too coz it looked like a full house thou the people seamed confined to their individual rooms.

Checked in and as I met my roommates … yukov eukov and Jamie while they asked the hostel manager about Kuala Sepetang and how to get there to see the firefly. My ears perked up and asked if they were planning to see this Kuala Sepetang that was 20 minutes’ drive. Yes they said but then they did not know I drove so they were still grilling the hostel manager on how to get there. 

Immediately I said,
Boat to See Fire Flies
let’s go guys I can drive there, 730pm right to see the fireflies …. We only had an hour left …. Their stunt look was priceless but in less than 10minutes I was driving again. So I basically just check in and grabbed 3 backpackers and left for Kuala Sepetang …. How I enjoyed the spontaneity. 

One Canada - one Holland - one Finland – One Malaysian …. Cool …. 

For some reason the GPS decided to bring us though small road .. like road just big enough for one car to go through … reminds me of those kampong paddy field road … luckily it was paved but with a full load of 4 guys I was worried at every bump that the bottom would be scrape … in fact I scrape it a few time too. :…

Came out of a jungle and holy crab we found a huge Hindu temple. Detour I said and parked the car for a quick look. Initially I thought it was a Shiva temple since I saw the signs and the blue bodied god but then after rounding and finally looking at the biggest piece on top of the temple I realised it was a Brahma Hindu temple.

Hindu Temple dedicated to Brahma - Taiping
This was really rare … when I was travelling the whole of India I have only seen one temple dedicated to Brahma and here in Malaysia somewhere between Taiping and Kuala Sepetang I found another, with all 5 heads intact …. 
Brahma Temple - Taiping
Moving on we rushed to Kuala Sepetang and at the pier we just missed the bout out like 5minutes 

Somehow I had a feeling that we were being scammed but I had no way to prove it. Original price RM 20 per pax to go see firefly and a minimum of 8pax … but the dear boat man will take 4 of us or one of us as long he got the minimum 150 per trip … dinner first and hopefully more people later at 830 to share the cost …. 

Kuala Sepetang River Cruise - Firefly RM 20
Dinner I was tasked to order … and I dun really know how to order Chinese food … in the end due to the expansiveness of seafood (surprising since it’s a fishing village-and also the reason I feel being scammed) I ordered the lay man dish … hokkien mee , fried tang hun, thai style fried rice and chicken local style and a baby Kailan …. Have to say they did enjoy the local local food 

Times up and we were the only one so RM150 divided by 4 … nearly double oh well everyone was converting ringgit to some other currency so we went to see firefly. 

New Friends to enjoy the Fireflies
 I have to say, despite being from Malaysia I have never seen the fireflies. It’s everywhere in Malaysia another tourism wonder but downplayed so much only the adventurous or nothing better to do idiots spend the time to go see them. While I decided not to overnight at Kuala Selangor to see it I was glad I got to experience it in Kuala Sepetang. 
Leaving Dock to see Fireflies in Kuala Sepetang
Who knows, seeing stuff blinks a night can be so wonderful

The drive back to the hostel was much better as the GPS brought us though good roads instead of the backyard trail. After that was the usual philosophical talks with beer and cigs that happens in all random stranger gathering in hostels.

Travelled on: Dec 2016
#Fireflies #kualasepetang #kelipkelip

Thursday, 9 November 2017

7 Day Road Trip Malaysia – Towards Taiping, and a Visit to the Oldest Rubber Tree in Malaysia

Carefully setting my GPS not to select the fastest way but the longest way plus no toll and hopefully scenic I headed out towards Taiping.

The drive was always lovely but not much detours. I guess there will be stretch where it’s just driving. I always gape in awe when passing those huge manufacturing kilns in Ipoh … cement factory I think and took a picture on my phone.

Huge Factory around outskirts of Ipoh
Sometime later I passed one signboard that said Malaysian handicraft …. And I passed the building only to quickly stop at the road shoulder. Checking my mirrors, the beauty of country side road …. No cars …. and went into reverse mode.
Malaysian Handicraft Centre - Perak Branch
The Malaysian handicraft centre was a place where they make pottery and had a workshop for tours on how pottery making was about. Unfortunately I was there when the place was closed. There was an event in one of the big towns and all their pottery makers were out showcasing their handicraft.
Old Forgotten Pottery
Somehow I missed Victoria Bridge along the way, supposedly a scenic bridge and before I knew it I was in Kuala Kangsar, the main town of Perak where the Sultan Residence is.
Perak River
Oldest Rubber Tree in Malaysia
Interesting fact of Kuala Kangsar, the first Rubber Tree even planted in Malaysia is here in the heart of the city. Rubber tree is not native to Malaysia and was planted for economic reasons. This useless trivia will now be stuck in my head forever …

The Rubber Tree
Slow drive to Taiping …
The Malaysia country road
Travelled on: Dec 2016

Friday, 3 November 2017

7 Day Road Trip Malaysia – Seeking the Mysterious Gua Tambun - Ipoh

Gua Tambun, the carvings or pre historic markings made onto the limestone still exist in Ipoh. This was nearly 3000years ago …. Wiki said so. So I set the waze, Google map and somehow they always try to turn into the restricted army camp in Ipoh.

Gua Tambun - Pre-Historic 3000 Years Markings

F*ck … GPS navigation is f*cked , still I googled going by old fashion way … manual direction and stopping around to ask locals for direction. I went round nearly an hour driving around Ipoh and this place has now become a hunt a trill that I must achieve.   

Thing is, ask a local in Ipoh about Gua Tambun and most likely you will be guided to the Lost World of Tambun which is a water theme park and hotel resort. I can vouch for this for I got so lost in the Taman Taman (Residential Neighbourhood) in Ipoh asking locals walking their dogs, jogging, sweeping their front gate for the location of Gua Tambun and all pointed me to the Lost World of Tambun. Heck driving around Ipoh looking for any tourism signage help will also guide you to the Lost World of Tambun….. facepalm does not even begin to describe my feeling. 

Best way is to just trust google and wiki travel. Planted my GPS as instructed for Caltex Petrol Station Tambun and drive there. The entrance was a small back alleyway leading to a private property, Ipoh BP Polo Field to be exact

The entry point which was through Ipoh BP polo field which is private property. The pre historic sign pointed that way, and a worn out gate had laminated signs that says no tress pressing private property. WTF.

Mini Sign for the location of Gua Tambun Archaeological Markings
Check the guide in wikitravel again and confirm they said jump the fence. Over and a short walk one would not have known we were still in the heart of Ipoh. Horses were grazing free and I had to walk around them till the abandon staircase leading up to the paintings. 
Jump the Fence - Into BP Polo Club Fields Ipoh
Walking Towards Gua Tambun Limestone Wall

Forgotten Path to the Archaeological Site

Horse Grazing freely ...
Along the way a group of undergrad students on the way out approach me for an interview … they wanted to know where I was headed to, and how I knew about the actual Pre-Historic Gua Tambun and what drives me to go all the way out here to see it. In future they said, they were trying to create more awareness and hopefully get the proper funds and care for the historic landmark

A short work later, it was time to climb up the semi rotten stairs and finally I reach the locations of the painting … so just where is this 3000 year old paintings on a wall …. I saw a mark … xx love xx … peace … xx was here …. (Imagine my disappointment in mankind) …. That’s not it and I would be really passed if it was in ruins by some ignorant kids. 

Semi Rotten Stairs to See the Pre-Caveman Markings

Watch your Step - Walking to Gua Tambun

The Starting Point .... Look for the Markings
 After a while I found them … high up about 15m above, intact and beautiful. I guess the vandal could only reach the lower 3m mark and thankfully for that, the paintings was untouched. Still it was opened to weather and water drips from the limestone all day so one day it will all be gone. A historic marvel …. 
Gua Tambun - Pre Historic Markings

Gua Tambun - Pre Historic Markings

Gua Tambun - Pre Historic Markings

Lime Stone Weathered .... We can only Imagine that this Cliff Edge Used to be a Cave
Exploring Malaysia is like so …. There is so much things we take for granted

Looking Away from Gua Tambun - The Hidden View of Ipoh
#guatambun #Ipoh #heritage
Travelled on : Dec 2016