Thursday, June 14, 2012

Finding the gold (well tin, actually...)

We happily left Mersing after our 'awareness modifications' were complete. Including reflectors/upgraded brake lights. North to Kuantan on the eastern coast we road. Everybody had said the ride was nice and it certainly was. Even the highway sections were pleasant. As our cruising speed is generally no faster than 90km/h its great when the highway scenery is more than just palm-oil/rubber plantation. Cruising at 90km/h allows us to see the most but also get there in some fashionable time. Most Malay drivers do between 90-150km/h on the freeway so it also allows us to ride a slower groove and concentrate on staying well out of the way of crazy 'flash' car drivers. Most of the jerks drive Mercedes it seems. In a strange way it's comforting to know that most of the high priced Merc's are assembled here in Malaysia though. We actually passed the place where they are assembled and also became friends with a technician in the paint department later on.

Tiara guesthouse, lovely.

The story of meeting our Mercedes painting friend occurred through a bit of a chain of events though. Firstly we had stayed a lovely two nights at the Tiara guesthouse in Sungai Lembing. Clarissa got to relax and rest in a really flash air-conditioned room and my calling was to do some local off-road exploring of the jungle town that has a very rich tin mining history. On the weirder side of things at the guesthouse we noticed that ever night a number of local chickens would climb up and sleep in the tree in the front yard. Bizarre.

Chicken tree...

During our evening stroll down the street for dinner, Clarissa's keen eyes spotted Satay. Her favourite Malay delicacy so far, hands down. Which is basically a small BBQ style cooker with different meats on sticks for dipping in a magical sauce blessed by Zeus himself on Olympus.
Certainly myself too, completely concur that its wickedly awesome. To top it off, the rice is cooked into cubes, somehow through some evil dark arts of cooking systems. With a little bit of cucumber to balance the meat'o'meter scales away from the carnivorous. What sets this satay away from the rest we have tried is that the amazing family preparing and cooking it.

We were invited the second night we ate at 'Satay Warisan' by Rizal to go along to his nieces engagement party in Pekan, Pahang. 'We'd be bloody honoured' I replied.

They put a feed on for almost the whole street, literally.

Feast at the engagement party

Really can't say how eye opening it was to experience a traditional Malay engagement ceremony. The culture was a bit overwhelming when compared to the normal 'BBQ and beers' ceremony we have in Australia. Magical spread of food and drinks. Including the infamous, and soon to be released 'Poker dot' muffin which we did some promotional photos of with the bikes. The men wore traditional dress including the wonderfully painted Malay sarong. The women were all dressed up for the occasion also. The bride/husband to be were in their finest obviously to boot. Just to sit down and watch on as all manner of details were discussed/decided between the two fathers was intriguing and interesting. Excited and also exhausted after a big day of eating/chatting we ended up staying in a local budget hotel (expensive, but fast wifi). The next day we even got in on their family re-union. Kicked arse too! At a bloody monster waterfall.

Our Malaysian family re-unuion.
Couldn't cut this mushroom up with laser beams!

A little on the towns history:

Sungai Lembing had been a mining town way back into the 1800's. A Cambodian chap who's name escapes me had come to the area to search for minerals and goodies. He certainly found rich deposits of tin that was quickly surface mined by the way of panning and attracted a gaggle of Chinese and Malay miners to the area. Before/after the great war the Pom's got in on it too when they started to hang around in Malaysia. The formed the Pahang Consolidated Company Ltd. They dominated the hell out of the underground mining systems making it the largest underground tin mine in the world including some 300KM of odd tunnels. The geological maps certainly show the town area to be full of old mines which are mostly in disrepair after floods and landslides.

 Oh tin tin!

As all good things come to an end though, only recently, in the 1980's did the tin price plummet and the company went under. Unfortunate though for Sg. Lembing, as it had provided free housing/duty free shopping/regular sports and clubs for the workers and staff. That was happening back in the 1920's too! Shazbot!

'Ruins' of the mining buildings.

The town went quiet after that with most people pressing on for better work with logging and other activities in the state and country. What's left behind is a quiet and beautiful little village nestled in the seemingly endless mountainous jungle. We arrived in the midst of school holidays, when huge numbers flock here for its great museum, suspension bridges, panorama sunset views and waterfalls, including the rainbow variety. The museum was a great insight into the mines (which I would love to go underground and explore) and really shows how amazing the conditions were here until the 1980's (baring the Japanese occupation during WW2). Not much is left of any of the mining infrastructure. 

Whilst discussing where we would go next it was obvious that both Clarissa and I had to return to Sungai Lembing to see what we had missed. Alas being school holidays all accommodation in Sg. Lembing was booked out still. Luckily and very generously, Rizal offered to accommodate us in the top floor of his house. The place is over 100 years old, very basic in construction but is filled with nothing but a loving and happy family. Rizal has taken over the family satay business to keep the legacy going. He has an amazing wife, two boys and a young adorable girl. With Grandma too! Secretly in charge of the whole operation to be honest. We spent many a night honing our Malay language skills, talking about each others countries, watching the UEFA Euro football making fun of the karaoke people over the road and generally being a normal family. Proud to say that I most likely may be the first Aussie/RTW biker to pick a kid up from the local primary school. Also we were lucky to get a personal tour of the town. Some of the many things that kept us busy included lazing around on the river having a cool dip, seeing the old Family home in the jungle, floating down the river on a queen air-mattress for an hour and refereeing many a game of football for the local kids. Rizal had told virtually the whole town (we being the only white man around) that we were his Australian relatives. Many people came to eat satay and chat but later we found out they were too shy with their limited english. This prompted me to try my best to learn as much of the Malay language as I can. Clarissa and I then became known to most of the family and other local kids as Aunty and Uncle. Even just the thought of leaving this beautiful place was too hard to comprehend.

Chilling out on the river, swimming and eating deep-fried banana!

You know your garden needs attention when you need a machete to get to the front door.

Sunrise 'Panorama' in Sg. Lembing. I climbed the hill three times for a clear morning... This is as good as it got :)

Also after a little investigation, managed to find the main mine shaft but its being renovated for tourism in the future (maybe ready next time we're back in Malaysia). Also did road some nice dirt (Clarissa was a bit ill, luckily though, as it was tricky) to the famous Rainbow waterfall, unfortunately didn't see the waterfall as I forgot my shorts and sandals so the last 45mins of hiking would have been hell in my riding gear. The ride was satisfying enough showing the tourists that the might Rooney special was not afraid of the thick muddy tracks that the diff-locked 4WD's struggled to ascend! All the while with all my worldly possessions loaded onboard.

Bike and rider cooling off on the way to the Rainbow Waterfall
Chilling in the Satay Warisan restaurant. Notice our newly reflective top boxes!

An extremely friendly bunch of Singaporean chaps and ladies rocked up on airheads one day too (air-cooled BMW boxer motorcycles, same as our own). I was stoked and quickly we began chatting away about where to go in south east asia and our love of our beemers. I spent a little time showing and telling about the Rooney specials on how to make our beloved old bikes more refined and more reliable. As much as our own bikes are rare in this part of the world so were their machines. We had some really tasty Chinese tea across the road. They showed us an interesting feat where the tea would taste slightly different depending on the tea cup age and type!

Realistically, the most BMW boxer's in the country were here today (note: a BMW R80 missing from this photo)
Our Malay family. Missing is Aimen, one of Rizals boys,
also Ijah is hiding behind her brother, Aidid.
The overwhelming part of the puzzle of this journey is always about the people you meet. The motorcycle is just a tool to get us safely overland to our destinations along the way. Having an off-road capable bike is just more of a lever to get access to the people who are living life to their full. Whether that's with or without need of the latest mobile phone/ipad/flatscreen. My biggest hope is to enjoy the local company, soak up the good nature and beautiful ways of life. All the while hopefully rubbing off to make myself a better person. Luckily for my siblings and I, my mother and father brought us up in a faultless and beautiful way. We were very lucky children and still are!

Alas trying to be as open minded as possible is something I strive for not only in my mechanical thinking but in all aspects of my life. Something I've most certainly subscribed to is yoga on this front. Flexible and open body = flexible and open mind. I could fill the blog easily on talking a about yoga though...
Bloody jelly blubbers...

Well its certainly sad sitting here now in Cherating, 'the backpackers village'. Not because the beach is filled with jellyfish and quiet choppy and 'not looking particually inviting'. Alas its due to the fact that for the last 10 days we allowed ourselves to forget about the RTW trip and felt like we were at home again!

Without a doubt we miss and certainly hope to see all our great Malaysian friends/family again soon. As difficult as it was leaving our Malaysian family in Sungai Lembing, we have to keep riding to see the rest of Malaysia and this big old planet.

Wish there was decent surf and less rips! Can't complain though :)


  1. Oooooh - that was so beautiful. Words can't express how much we are missing you - but at the same time so proud of you and your achievements and 'present journey'. Enjoy to the hilt! Once again, so jealous, but enjoying the journey 'with you'. Thanks heaps for the blog - it's incredibly interesting and we are with you all the way. Lots of love from home. xxxxxxxxxxx

  2. Wow mate. Truly a great blog and only the beginning of a wellness journey. I found a Rooney special on eBay of all places and just want to start an adventure. It would need to be a 4x4 for my family though. You lucky buggers get back into it. More stories please.

  3. Hi Clar & Neil, nice to meet you all up there at Cameron Highland with Ian and Ronnie.

    Enjoy your stay in Malaysia!


  4. hey guys! im linking this post to our blog

    we miss u a lot and still keeping those pictures of Neil with his bike :) we love your travelogue adventure, just keep rocking guys!

  5. Thankyou soo much!

    We ended up spending 10 days in Sungai Lembing. We really got a feel for the town. Can very much say that your guesthouse really fits the theme! Thanks for the love and we will see you again another day!

  6. the correct spelling for Aymen is Aiman.. Eeja = ijah.. Aye-d=Aidid...

    this is my blog .. have some of your photo during my engagement day.. ignore the entry because i'm writing it in malay.. thanks for coming.. nice to meet both of you on my engagement day and have fun at waterfall (^_^)

    1. Absolutely magnificent photos of a beautiful day :)

      Google translated your blog for me and I could read most of it in english. Hopefully one day we can speak good Malay and can talk easy.

      We are really proud to have been invited to your engagement and we hope that you two have a long and fulfilling life! Hopefully we can see you all again someday and maybe that day will be sooner rather than later.


Thanks for taking the time to reply :)