South to Malaysia and beyond to Borneo !!

Feb 23, 2003
Hello all:

Just came back home to Chiang Mai from my Borneo trip. Had a GREAT time. Was gone for a total of three months which was a little too long for my patiently waiting girlfriend in Chiang Mai. My last report was one night in Bangkok. Sadly I lost my digital camera in Kota Kinabalu so no pictures. All the pictures taken for the first three months, GONE, along with the camera. Oh well. Anyway, here goes.....
So after wild times in Bangkok, time to head south to log some island time. About a three hour trip down to the coast to Hua Hin , a small town which is notable for being the King of Thailand's sort of getaway from Bangkok. He has a palace there. A couple of days there with the middle aged tourists, and then down to Samui. About another five hours, and then a ferry ride over to the island. It is one of my favorite places in Thailand. When you are staying in a nice bungalow right on the sandy beach, sitting in a beach chair, watching the crystal clear warm water, and having palm trees waving over your head, the thought that comes to your head is DAMN, I am in the middle of a postcard !!!!! Was trapped in the slow paced island life for a couple of weeks. Every day kept saying time to go, but it just seemed like too much work to leave. Did take the bike up into the mountains in the center of the island. Would love to show you a picture of my brand new adventure in a sad horizontal position on a steep dirt road but cannot due to discontinued ownership of my camera holding the pictures.
After Samui it was on south to Malaysia. After crossing the border headed down another 80 kilometes to Alor Setar, the home of Gair, a fellow ADV rider. Had a very nice time with him and his lovely wife for the day. From there still south to the island of Pinang. Renewed my one year Thai visa while there and had some great food. The variety is amazing, with Chinese, Indian, Thai , Malay, and a bunch of other countries all contributing to a real international flavor. While there stopped at a small motorcycle shop. He had the crashed bike of a round the world rider who was smoked by a bus in Indonesia. He showed me the side panel from the bike. The guy had painted on the side panel something to the effect that if he died he hoped he would get to heaven an hour before the devil knew he was dead. Eerie words from some one who died. ....
Then on south to Kuala Lumpur. A fairly modern city where everything looks new. Confusing winding roads, so easy to get lost. The Petronas Towers are pretty impressive, especially when you get close and realize the entire building is sheathed in stainless steel. A couple of days there , and then I left my bike at a friend house. Jumped on a jet on then over to the Philipines.
Now east to Manila. Hooked up with my brother there who flew in from Alaska. He had left his 42 foot sail boat in Subic Bay so he wanted to go over and check up on it. A three hour ferry ride to small city near Subic Bay, and then a long taxi ride. I am sure it was wild times during the Vietnam War, but now it is a little down on its tourism luck. I think they are waiting for tourism wave number two, but it may be a while. Lots of empty bars with pictures of service men on the wall... Then another long ride over to Angeles City. It is a small city next to the now close Clark Air Force base. The bars full of lovely lonely Filipinas seem to keep perking along with tourists and expats living there. I think it is due to the fact of being much closer to Manila than Subic Bay. It even appeared to be growing with a lot of new gogo bars being built.

After exploring the gogo bars in Manila for a few days it was on a jet and back to Kuala Lumpur. In KL we took our bikes to the freight office of Malaysian Airlines for shipping to Borneo. Drain the gas , disconnect the battery wire, show registration, and off the bike goes. Cost was about $ 125 US dollars for the bike. It is about a two and a half hour flight to Kuching, which is the major city in Sarawak which is the southern portion of Malaysian Borneo. Basically Malaysia owns one third of the island, and Indonesia owns the other two thirds. From here just keep riding on great roads up to the north. There is basically one main highway connecting the north and south. We stopped at some very interesting parks along the way, including Neah Park. This was a huge cave with bird nests being harvested from the roof of the cave a hundred feet up, and bat guano ( shit ) being harvested from the floor of the cave. The bird nest havesters have a high death rate, which you quickly understand when you watch them scamper around using bamboo poles to climp up to the roof of the cave.
To get to the northern area of Sabah you must pass through Borneo. While driving through Borneo I am suddenly in heavy slow traffic. Being on a bike I simply ride along the road shoulder to the front of the problem . Next thing I know I am in a war zone. Heavy small arms fire, lots of big field guns going off, soldiers running around everywhere, Huey helicopters zipping around at low altitude, smoke flares everywhere, and tanks covered in troops grinding along on the side of the road. First thought was this does not look good. A soldier is waving me on but I am having no part of that. Mama didn't raise no fool. Made a quick u turn back and little ways back and talked to some guys by the side of the road. Turns out it was a military exercise. This made about as much sense to me as the US army holding field exercises in the middle of interstate 5 in Calif........., but it was true. Seemed to me that the Sultan of Brunei is raking in billions of dollars from his oil revenue, and wants to strike some fear into the population with a show of military force so as to avoid any pesky revolutions...So on to Kota Kinabalu.

Kota Kinabalu was a little larger than it seemed in the tourist brochures, but still pleasant. There are some great islands off the coast but we did not make it to them. One of the reasons was we were in the middle of monsoon season. Sitting on a tropical island in pouring rain just does not seem to work. Will come back when the rain stops in a couple of months. After KK as the locals call it, it was north and somewhat east up to Mt. Kinalbalu park. This baby is over 13,000 feet tall so of course I had to climb it. Made reservations at the lodging located at about 11,000 feet up. The total number of people allowed up each day is tightly controlled. You also must have a local guide for yourself or a small group. Leave in the morning, hike along the steepest trail I have ever been on in my life up to the lodging. This consisted of bunk beds in large rooms. Go to sleep early and then wake up at 2:00 in the morning. Quickey breakfast, and then head out at 3:00 AM. Why you ask??? The final strike to the summit is a couple of hours to 13, 000 feet, where you then watch the sunrise. Sooooo it is pitch dark, cold, windy, and the trail is so steep at this point there are fixed ropes to hang onto so you do not fall down and die.....Am pretty beat from the previous day but am steadily making progress. Passed a few people puking their guts out along the side of the trail from the altitude. Sadly when I was in the Philipines I caught one of the worst chest colds I have ever had. I hacked and coughed for weeks, and thought I was over it. Wrong........At about 12,000 feet my lungs could simply not provide enough air no matter how slowly I went. I had to turn around for the first time in my life within sight of the top. Went down a few thousand feet and could breathe again. Oh well just means I have to go back again. But I was pissed !!!!!!!

After Mt. Kinabalu I could hardly walk for three days I was so sore. Seems like I was in better shape when I was twenty...... Anyway it was on through rolling roads through the jungles over to the east coast and then south to Semporna. Overnight there and then decided to continue on what appeared to be a loop road that went back to KK along the south. Notice usage of the word appeared. It seems to me that any road that shows up on cheesy free tourist maps should be a real road....... NOT !!! Road started out as a perfect four lane road. Then two lanes , then good dirt , and then presto chango, LOGGING ROAD. That wonderful, greasy, clay based red colored dirt now makes its appearance. By now we are quite a ways into a remote area, looking for a lodge indicated on the map. Also it is getting dark as we are making much slower progress than we planned for. Am just thinking I hope to god it does not rain, and ten minutes later the damn skies open up. The GS is hopeless in the sticky mud, as it continously clogged the front tire fender and stops it from turning. Had to stop every hundred feet and clean it out with a stick in order to keep going, accompaning my work with shouted curses at German engineering that did not provide enough fender clearance for an around the world bike..... Guess there is no mud in Germany. Will be glad to send them some for future testing. Soooooo finally it is pitch dark, pouring rain, we cannot make progress forward or back, and we are in the middle of nowhere in the jungle. Yes ,you guessed it, BIVVY time. Gather up some grass to put on the ground, lay down the bike cover, fold it in half like I was a taco and climb in. Complete the picture with a umbrella to keep the rain from falling directly on my head. The picture of my brother and I laying next to our bikes on the side of the muddy road in bike covers, in what was surely the most pathetic camping ever performed would have been a priceless . Too bad my camera was in the hands of someone else....
Toss and turn all night lying in sopping wet clothes since water was coming in from the side of the cover, and finally mercifully dawn comes. Poured rain all night so now the road is worse. Only food is some candy bars, a liter of water, and a loaf of bread given by some truckers who were mystified by these bikers in the middle of the jungle. Were informed by them that the road was far worse ahead so decided to go back. Except, we could not due to the evil road condition. Thank god the sun came out in the morning and started to dry to road. After about four hours it dried enough where we could barely make our way back. As we were starving at this point we stopped at the first small town to eat. Talking to the very nice man who ran the restaurant, he informed us we were the very first touists who had ever come through the town. So whipped by the dirt road, we backtracked our way to KK with our tails between our legs .

When in KK we contacted the freight office of Malaysian Airlines and asked what we needed to ship bikes back out to KL. Were informed we needed to go to the transportation ministry and get a form that gave us permission to have our bikes leave Borneo. Was shuffled from desk to desk until they admitted they had never done this before. I said to just whip up a letter in their own words saying we could leave, which they finally did. So if other big bikes have been through Borneo, they sure as hell did not fly them out. So off to the freight office with paperwork in hand. Freight people are suitably awed by giant bikes being shipped off, and asked endless questions. Flew out ourselves early the next morning and picked up the bikes as the KL airport. During shipping they had cracked my windshield, and bent a corner of the touratech rack on the back of the bike. I politely pointed out the damage. No problem, just fill out a claim. Three guys come out, take pictures of the damage, and inform me there is a 15 ringit fee ( $ 4 ) to fill out a claim. Again I politely informed them they had just damaged a $ 17,000 bike, were now taking up my time for a mistake they made, and that pigs would be flying through the air before I paid money to make a claim for their damage. I then called up the freight manager for the airport who then rushed down to smooth things. There was no more talk about claim fees after that. I will be sending them a claim , so will see what they do. They were all very polite, and it just seemed like they did not really know what to do, rather than try to weasel out of paying me. Will know next month.


Items lost >>>>>>>>>>>>>
Mobile phone
digital camera
Mag lite
rear turn signal lens
one bungee cord
complete set of keys

Road kill seen>>>>>>>>>>
small goat
giant iguana

Overall one of the better trips I have ever been on. I have traveled all over the world, and have never encountered a friendlier group of people. They would routinely go out of their way to help us in any way possible, especially in Borneo. At a mountain lodge in Mt. Kinabalu I pulled in soaking wet and cold at nightime. I then ate a huge delicious meal. When finished I asked how much the bill was. Was informed it was free. Seems they were so impressed by a giant tour bike showing up they only wanted to take a picture of it to post on the wall. As I traveled around people would always ask where I was from. As it is a Muslim country, I would hem and haw and finally say America.
I always have a slight fear saying that since everyone seems to feel America is the world's whipping post. Instead what I got was praise that I was traveling there, and a sort of universal welcome from EVERYONE. They are very proud of their country, and are happy you are there so you can see. The more I traveled there the sadder I felt that so few people come to visit especially from America , perhaps afraid of Muslim issues. Soooo grab your bags and go!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Borneo has my highest trip recommendation. Great food, friendly people, beautiful islands, and fasinating jungle areas. Also final bonus for the language impaired ( myself) almost everyone speaks excellent english. It is a former English colony after all. So getting around is a piece of cake. So go and have fun...

Aug 12, 2003
Thanks for the entertaining report! How was it that you became seperated from your camera,phone, etc?
(formerly of San Juan Island, WA)
Feb 23, 2003
Hey Mike:
No alchohol was involved in any losses...... Phone was pickpocketed while I was at a food festival in Samui. Camera was taken out of my tank bag when the bike was out of my sight for one minute in Borneo. Keys were shaken out of my pocket while I was riding passenger in one of those goofy motor tricycles in the Philipines. If you are tall you have to slouch way back to fit in, so the keys were shaken out. Good thing I always carry two complete sets of keys, so no problem.. Regards Robert
Nov 21, 2003
Hi Robert, great reading.. I will inform Jim and ian, here on Samui, Jim was asking after you, I said I had a text msg on mobile now all is clear. Am helping Ian buy a new pc, he is still running Windows 95 on his lap top. Resturant still busy for brekkie...


Handsome John
Koh Samui