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Ride Malaysia on Adventure Bikes

 All the charms of an exotic land along with modern safety and convenience

Published on 06.26.2013
Riding off-road in Malaysia
Riding off-road trails in Malaysia. (Courtesy Flickr.com/Tony X.Q.)

Why Ride Malaysia?

It’s the perfect motorcycle destination for Adventure Touring with fantastic cuisine, friendly locals and great riding. Malaysia is a Southeast Asian Tropical Paradise with white sand beaches and thriving coral reefs. In the interior are vast pristine rainforests and untamed jungles full of wildlife. The country’s National Parks offer the opportunity to see rare animal species like Monitor Lizards, Orangutans, Lemurs and Leopards in their native environments.

But the country is not only about the natural environment. Malaysia is ranked as the 35th largest economy by the World Bank. The capital city, Kuala Lumpur, is a gleaming modern metropolis of 1.6 million people. The Petronas Towers, which once held the title of “World’s Tallest Building,” dominates the city skyline. The city offers all the modern conveniences with 5 star hotels, world class dining and plenty of motorcycle shops for parts and repairs.

When you ride Malaysia, you are never alone.  Malaysia is a country obsessed with motorcycles. More than 50% (5.8 million bikes) of registered vehicles are scooters or motorcycles. Can you imagine what it would be like riding through your hometown if more than half of the vehicles on the road were bikes? This motorcycle-friendly country provides motorcycle only lanes on the highways, covered rest stops (some with toilets), designated motorcycle parking and free tolls for bikes.

While traffic can be chaotic and fast, drivers tend to be courteous and aware of motorcyclists. Gas is relatively cheap and fill-up stations are easy to find. Malaysia has a well-developed paved road system and the roads are usually in good condition. Some fantastic curvy roads can be found in the mountains where there is very little car traffic. Dirt roads are hard to find on the Malaysian Peninsula but off-road riding opportunities exist on the less developed eastern side of Malaysia (Borneo Island).

The Climate

Weather is hot and humid – between the 80s and 90s Fahrenheit (mid-20’s to mid-30’s in Celsius). If you want cooler temperatures you can retreat to the higher elevations where the climate is very pleasant. Like most tropical countries, the rain appears frequently but doesn’t tend to last more than about 15 minutes at a time. If you get caught in the rain you can just go to one of the convenient motorcycle only rest stops to get out of the rain until it passes. The best time to travel is from May to September to avoid the rainy season.

The People and Culture

Malaysia is a mixture of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures. This melting pot results in a unique blend culture and some of the most delicious cuisine in the world. Malaysians tend to be friendly, curious and helpful to travelers, especially on motorcycles. Everyone loves motorcycles, so it’s a great way to meet people.

English is taught in schools and is widely spoken in Malaysia. The majority of Malaysians can speak at least Basic English. Communicating in English should not be a problem in the major cities but may be difficult in rural areas. A lot of the signs are in both Malay and English and the Malay language uses Roman characters, so it’s possible to read the words phonetically.

Safety and Security

Malaysia is a very safe country for travelers and one of the most stable countries in Southeast Asia. Petty theft and credit card fraud can be a problem in the touristy areas, so stay alert. But violent crimes against foreigners are rare. Malaysia takes their tourism economy seriously and police officers tend to speak English and are helpful to tourists.

Conservative Customs

Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim nation and can be quite conservative, especially when compared to neighboring Thailand. Conservative dress may be expected in certain areas and don’t expect to do any nude sunbathing. Alcohol is legally served, but may not be available in more remote areas. The penalty for possession of significant quantities of drugs is a mandatory sentence of “capital punishment” (Remember the 1998 movie “Return to Paradise” starring Vince Vaughn?), so using pot or any other drugs in the country is out of the question.

Exotic Asia at its Best

Malaysia offers a great balance as a developed nation that still holds onto its exotic foreign culture. Take time to enjoy the modern big city and then visit the headhunter tribes of Borneo. Ride some of the best mountain roads with sweeping turns, or get off pavement and take a tour of the dense jungles or Tea Plantations. You can even time your trip so that you’ll be in Malaysia for the Sepang MotoGP race in October and watch the best racers in the world battle it out with thousands of other fanatical Malaysian race fans.

Malaysian Ride Reports

Here are a few stories from out in the field that provide a glimpse of what it’s like to ride Malaysia.

Dr. Frazier Rides Malaysia
Dr. Gregory Frazier, contributing editor of motorcycle-usa.com describes his journey on a KMX200 through Malaysia. The Doctor finds Malaysia motorcycle-friendly and the people helpful. Dr. Frazier states, “There were many roads with high quality pavement, properly cambered turns and scenic views.”

Malaysia – Mixed Feelings…
Heike & Filippo Fania of “2 Live the Dream” tour Malaysia but experience minor theft from their room and get preoccupied with mechanical problems on their bikes. Nevertheless, they still experienced a taste of paradise, snorkeling on Tioman Island and “fantastic curvy roads” in the Cameron Highlands.

Jungle Joy Ride
Simon and Lisa Thomas of “2 Ride The World” tour Malaysia on their BMW GS’s and visit the Semengoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to see Orangutans in the wild. As the enter Kuala Lumpur… “We can’t help being impressed with the Petronas Towers as they dominate the skyline and send beams of vertical light into the low cloud base.” The couple also visits one of the world’s largest cave passages, Deer Cave and ride dirt roads through the rainforest of Borneo.

Malaysia Motorcycle Ride
The Iron Chef of the “Motorcycle Paradise Blog” discusses his personal experience in Malaysia where he discovers highway C156… “The most perfect collection of long sweeping corners where you seem to be leaning the motorcycle over forever in corners that never stop turning. Smooth, grippy and almost no cars…” Our friend does a great job of finding the best roads in Malaysia so we’ll forgive him for eating at KFC.

Malaysian Motorcycle Tours and Rentals

Here are a few touring companies offer multi-day tours of Malaysia on large displacement motorcycles. If you bring your own vehicle, a carnet du passage is usually required.

Asian Motorcycle Adventures
Ride Malaysia for ten days along the Malay Peninsula on a BMW F800 or Kawasaki KLX 250.

Malaysian Motorcycle Getaways
Choose a guided 5 day tour riding either on-road or off-road. Or you can rent a bike and have your own self-guided tour of Malaysia.

Planning your Trip

For more information about planning a Motorcycle Tour to Malaysia and Southeast Asia, GT-Rider is a good place to start. The website also has a forum that allows you to discuss trip plans with other riders that have visited the region.

Author: Rob Dabney

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