Video Courtesy of Malaysian Motorcycle Getaways 2018
As a general rule, Malaysians speak very good English and are easy to communicate with. If you have questions, just ask.
Driving License – NOTE!
Rules of the road
Malaysia rides on the LEFT side of the road. Like NZ, Australia, UK, Japan, …
Speed limits generally: Motorways 110 km/h. Smaller trunk roads 80 km/h and passing through villages 50 km/h.
Lane splitting / filtering is the norm and expected. Filtering is done virtually from any side where there is room. You will quickly get the hang of it by just observing other riders. During rush hour motorbikes are way faster than cars through the traffic.
Toll Roads are free for motorcycles. You should not ride up to the toll gate but need to prepare for a slip road that passes the toll booths. Slip road may be just a narrow lane past the booths or often a small detour around the toll station, in which case the entry may be quite early before the actual booths.
Petrol pumps operate a strict pay first, then pump -policy. If you wish to fill up your tank and are unsure how much it will cost, just tell the cashier your pump number, leave a high enough value note (or your credit card) to the cashier who will open the pump and then you can pump the petrol. The cashier will take payment from the note (or card) you gave and return your change.
When entering a service station look out for a pump mainly used by motorbikes. Sometimes there is an assistant and they will take the money and pump the bike for you. Quicker this way. Otherwise you can use any pump. The yellow nozzle is for 95 oct and safe to use in most bikes.
What to Wear – Heat and Rain
The weather plays a role in Malaysia. It can be very hot and humid and locals may ride wearing only t-shirts. As you will be riding at relatively high speeds, protective gear is recommended. Definitely you should wear something that does not give you a heat stroke – a mesh jacket with protective pads is a sensible choice.
Sudden thunderstorms and very heavy rain occurs. And I mean it pours! These do not necessarily last for very long but light rain gear should be at hand when it happens. Rain fronts are often clearly visible and give you a warning to dress up. The rain can be so heavy that water on the road has nowhere to drain and can be really deep for riding. Speeds generally fall but cars still throw bucket loads of water on you – no spray, buckets!
Animals on the Road
Animals on the road beside the usual dogs etc include cows in particular. Cows often are calmly on the side of the road but do not be fooled by their apparent calmness, they also gallop across the road and appear suddenly from a bush. Beware.
Monkeys are also quite usual running across the road and a rare sight today are wild elephants. Watch out for elephant dung though!
Taking a break
Motorways have big R&R stations – Relax & Recreation areas. These offer full service petrol, food and play areas. Some may have limited facilities though. In any case these are signposted a few kilometers ahead on the road.
Riding in Malaysia is great fun. As a well developed country, it is a good destination if you wish to explore Asia on a bike but do not fancy a too extreme experience. It also offers great opportunities for combining your biking with island / city holidays.
Unesco World Heritage site – Malaka
After my group ride on the north side of KL, I decided to continue my ride solo and to head south towards a historic town of Malaka, also known as Melaka, Malakka or Malacca.
Malaka has a fascinating history. In brief, the city has been conquered first by the Siamese, by the Portugese on the 16th century, the Dutch on the 17th and finally by the British at the end of the 18th century, plus the Japanese held the city at WWII for a while.
The date of independence for the Federation of Malaya was announced in Malaka on the 20th of February 1956 based on the Agreement of Independence signed earlier that month in London.
Ride from KL to Malaka
The ride from KL to Malaka, some 160km, can be done quickly on the motorway or by taking time to tour the smaller roads and villages. I opted for a combination and took a quick route out of KL and diverted to smaller roads half way to Malaka. This was also partly due to the extreme heat. I was no longer in the highlands with cool breeze but lower in much hotter weather.
As soon as one diverts from the motorway there are small stalls on the side of the road selling local delicateses – home made juices, fruit (ofter durian in many forms) and food and bakes. I stopped for fruit juice and rather fantastic tasty donuts made from some fruit. Don’t know the name for them but they were goooood!
When you book a hotel in Malaka, make sure it is near the old town area and the canal. This is where you want to go, trust me.
There you enter a new world with the busy canal, narrow streets, murals, restaurants, busy daytime and even busier nightlife when streets are for pedestrians only and full of food vendors. Jonker walk / street being the busiest.
True to its history, Malaka has several museums well worth visiting. I went to the Independence Monument museum and the Sultan’s Palace. Many more available.
A cruise on the canal is also worth the time, taking one out from the old town, still following the border of the old Malaka village and new Malaka high rise hotels. When you walk around a little, you will see the Indian as well as Chinese areas of town.
Both sides of the canal in the old town are nice for a cup of coffee or a cool beer in the heat. Good food available everywhere!
A particular feature in Malaka are the numerous murals.
I was not the only biker in town! Local police was out on a Honda.
When in Malaka, expect interesting history, busy streets, great street food, outdoor karaoke and entertainment of many kinds in the evening in particular. Malaka evenings seemed popular amongst the locals and tourists alike.
A boat ride away from mainland lies Pulau Redang. Our speed boat sails from Kuala Terengganu and the trip should take little over an hour in good weather – Which we do not have!
Heading outside the breakers in the harbour, the waves immediately show their power! I am a relatively seasoned sailor but sitting inside the tin can being tossed around made me a little apprehensive.
Eventually after the strenuous trip close to Redang, we changed to an open landing craft / ferry-type boat and eventually to a smaller speed boat taking us across the waves to the island. A further short ride on the back of a tractor to our resort where the jetty had been washed away by the waves – some four hours after embarking in Terengganu.
Well, the island is famous for its crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches. It is one of nine islands, which form a marine sanctuary park offering snorkeling and diving opportunities and is an important conservation site for sea turtles.
Due to heavy seas, no diving for us but instead, quad bike riding in the woods!
It is the most extensive hill station (read: hill town) in the country, named after William Cameron who surveyed the area late 19th century. Its eight settlements are all at elevations ranging from 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) to 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above sea level.
The tableland is one of the oldest tourist spots in Malaysia. Noted for its tea estates, cool weather, orchards, nurseries, farmlands, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, wildlife, mossy forest, golf course, hotels, places of worship, bungalows, museum and its aborigines Orang Asli, the oldest inhabitants of Peninsular Malaysia.
Return to Kuala Lumpur
Leaving Cameron Highlands behind, our route took us to most fantastic smaller, winding roads. Adding great food at a biker stop and a tour to Genting Highlands made the day a perfect riding day.
Eventually we had to return to main arteries leading back to KL and to MMG base for the end of the ride satay!
What a great week it has been. Highlands, lowlands, rain, sunshine, sea cruise to an island resort, good food and good times with great people! Many thanks to all!
To whom – MMG
Malaysia has very good roads and general infrastructure and is well suited for even bigger touring bikes, still offering great riding roads. The choice of hotels is good for most tastes.
Touring another country on a motorbike is generally a personal adventure. On this tour we did not do demanding or off-road adventure biking but stayed on paved roads. Though the roads were great winding roads with sweeping turns, they are well suited for anyone with at least some riding skills. Although in our group we had some very experienced riders, both track and touring, everyone enjoyed the tour.
Our tour was branded The Island Escapade. MMG offers wide choice form self guided (bike rental) to fully guided and catered rides as well as off-road tours.
There are many providers for bike rentals and tours in Malaysia. Based on this experience, even if you were a little apprehensive about riding in a more exotic location, I can recommend MMG to anyone dreaming of someday riding in Malaysia. To prove the point, most riders in our group were not first-timers with MMG!
Start of the Ride in Kuala Lumpur
It is some 28 years since I last visited Malaysia and I really look forward to exploring some of the central areas, Cameron Highlands and even Redang Island on the east coast.
The trip begins from Kuala Lumpur and this time I will be riding with a group organized by Malaysian Motorcycle Getaways, based in KL.
Our tour will take us from Kuala Lumpur through Frasers Hill – Ipoh – Cameron Pass – Kenyir Lake – Kuala Terengganu – Redang Island and Cameron Highlands.
Malaysia is one of the more developed Asian nations and I am not expecting much rough conditions this time. Perhaps even too refined to my taste?
But my experience tells me that it is not difficult to adjust to luxury…
The weather… Hot, sunny and humid most of the day with afternoon downpours. Cooler on the hills. Btw, Malaysia apparently originates from words referring to hills, so hills it will be!
Malaysia is mainly a muslim country – 60% with 20% Buddhist and
10% Christian, 6% Hindu plus traditional Chinese religions. The governmental and legal structures are highly complex and perhaps best read from wikipedia.
I expect good riding conditions and a safe ride.
The reminder of the Britisch colonial days is the three pin wall socket – lucky I have my adaptor with me!
Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley
KL is the national capital of Malaysia as well as its largest city in the country with some 1,8 million inhabitants. Greater Kuala Lumpur, also known as the Klang Valley, has 7.25 million people and is among the fastest growing metropolitan regions in South-East Asia, in both population and economic development.
My first mission is to find the world famed street food, which I remember from my previous visit. As it is the start of the F1 season, also a trip to Petronas twin towers and a look at Valtteri Bottas’s car is in the cards.
Kuala Lumpur – Frasers Hill – Ipoh
After the initial briefings and getting to know the fellow riders – from UK, Canada, Australia, USA, Malaysia, Finland – our first ride destination will be Ipoh, heading north from KL.
On the way to Ipoh we will be exploring Fraser’s Hill, which is one of Malaysia’s few pristine forests and derives its name from Louis James Fraser, a Scottish pioneer, who set up a tin-ore trading post in the 1890s.
Fraser recruited guides and coolies for prospecting for gold or other valuable metals. He also operated a gambling and opium den at the workers’ camp, through which he profited a second time from the wages paid to his coolies. True to many drug dealers, Fraser vanished without trace some 25 years later.
From Fraser’s Hill we continue north to Ipoh, the capital city of Perak. Located by the Kinta River, it is 180 km (110 mi) north of Kuala Lumpur. Ipoh is the sixth largest city in Malaysia with a population of 672.000
Ipoh in known for its British colonial style architecture and good food! Fine with me for a stop and this is where we also spend a night.
Road crossing the peninsula to Kuala Terengganu takes us through some great riding roads over the hills and Tasik Kenyir or Kenyir Lake, which is the largest man-made lake in South East Asia with an area of 260,000 hectares. It was created in 1985 by the damming of the Kenyir River to provide water to the Sultan Mahmud Power Station.
Today Kenyir Lake is home to numerous species of freshwater fishes and exotic wildlife and is being developed into a tourist attraction with elephant sanctuary, water park and boating.
The street food in Terengganu hawker centres – as in most – is mainly served by/for muslims and do not serve alcohol with food. This was fixed by a short walk to Chinatown, where the Chinese entrepreneurs were more than happy to provide a few local beers.
Riding conditions on the road have been very good and road surface is generally very smooth. Even one torrential rain pour and thunderstorm we went trough could not wipe off the smiles! Perhaps just made them wider – and wetter!