Day 294: 07/01/2020
Location: Kupang, Malaysia
Miles Driven: 164
UK foreign travel guidance advises against “all but essential travel” through the southern-most part of Thailand. Throughout our trip, including whilst driving through Pakistan, we have ensured to avoid these areas, however, in order to get to Malaysia, we had to drive through. To try and minimise our time there, we had camped the previous night just north of the dodgy area and drove straight into Malaysia in one go.
Crossing the invisible line, there were a few subtle differences: we had to slalom our way through multiple unmanned army/police checkpoints, the driving standards deteriorated, and, because the south of Thailand is largely a Muslim area, we could not have our favourite lunch of cheese and ham toasties from 7-Eleven.
We arrived at the Thailand/Malaysia border, and half an hour later we had successfully arrived into our 19th country of the trip.
With not enough time left before dark to drive very far into Malaysia, our afternoon was spent in search of somewhere to wild camp. We rejected the first spot on iOverlander and drove on to the next one. There were not many camping spots listed on the app, so there was quite a big distance between the two spots, but the second one was in the direction of where we needed to be the following day. When we got there, we realised that this had been a mistake. The spot was essentially a fly-tipping area, and the ground was covered in burnt out rubbish. It was far from ideal, but the afternoon was quickly turning into evening, and it was better than nothing. As we parked up, a couple of guys on a motorbike spotted us, and pulled over to say hello. We told them we planned to camp there for the night, half hoping they might be able to suggest a better alternative. Unfortunately they didn’t take the hint, however they did assure us that we would be safe from tigers whilst camping – a strange reassurance considering we were next to a main road in a populated area where the risk of tigers seemed far from likely.
As darkness fell we went up into the tent and watched downloaded episodes of Jonathon Creek. Every now and then we would hear a strange rustling noise near to the tent, but every time we paused the programme and looked outside, the noise would stop. The noise sounded like it was coming from something bigger than a dog, cat or goat (the usual suspects). It was too loud to be from a human or monkey, so we were a bit stumped. After peering into the darkness through our window for what felt like ages, we eventually spotted the culprit. A large pig was rifling his way through the rubbish. The joys of the freedom of wild camping; from outstanding mountains passes, endless beaches, woodland forests, to a dump by a road with a wild pig for company.
Day 295: 08/01/2020
Location: George Town, Malaysia
Miles Driven: 67
The next morning, the motorbike man came back to make sure we hadn’t been eaten by tigers (or pigs). We packed up the tent and drove to Butterworth train station to collect my (Charlie’s) parents, Moirag and Mike. They had flown into Kuala Lumpar the previous day to spend the next 11 days with us in Malaysia and Singapore.
Once we had got our heads around the road toll card system (easy when you have one, not so easy when you don’t), the driving in Malaysia was great. The roads were tarmac, had multiple lanes, the other drivers were considerate and on the whole they seemed to actually know how to drive. It was the closest we’d experienced to European standards of driving since leaving Europe. We drove across one of the long bridges connecting Penang Island to mainland Malaysia, and checked into our home-stay a few miles outside of George Town.
Day 296: 09/01/2020
Location: George Town, Malaysia
Miles Driven: 0
We spent the day walking around George Town; through the colonial district, the Chinese clan jetties, various temples of numerous religions, and admiring the street art scattered throughout the city. The heat and humidity was close to unbearable, so several drinks stops in cafes were needed. Overall, we were slightly disappointed, especially after having seen/read/heard so many great things about George Town. The street art certainly made the city Instagrammable, but beyond that, we felt like it was missing the charm and character that we were expecting to find. Perhaps if it had been cooler, we would have enjoyed it more, but overall, it seemed a bit overrated.
Back at the guesthouse, Chris spent the evening attaching new car parts that had been hand delivered from England. We cooked our Thai cooking class speciality – Thai Green Curry, and chatted the evening away.