Asian Overland 2020 Road Report – Week #1 Back to News List

By Jerry Cook

Singapore & Malaysia

When I was growing up, I was fortunate to spend many a Christmas and school holiday in Singapore. Being only a relatively short flight from my hometown of Perth and with my relatives living there, it was the ideal family getaway.  I have many fond memories of carefree teenage days enjoying trips to Singapore and to the islands off the coast of Malaysia on my uncle’s boat.

This time my visit is very different.  Along with Bayne Morison from British Columbia we will be leading Compass Expeditions inaugural Asian Overland Expedition, an epic 90-day motorcycle tour from Singapore to Beijing.  Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus outbreak in China, the second half of the expedition will be modified. Rather than entering China, we are planning a route to enter the Vietnam highlands from Laos, ride down the coast and enter Cambodia before finishing up in Bangkok.  Nevertheless, it will be an incredible adventure with a great group of seasoned overland motorcyclists from UK, USA, Canada and Australia, many of whom are repeat customers of Compass Expeditions.

We left our joining hotel, the beautiful Park Royal hotel and crossed the causeway into Malaysia.  Riders were excited and anxious for the adventures that lay ahead and it was nice to finally kick off the 2020 Asian Overland,  an expedition that has been years in the planning and 8 months since my business partner Mick McDonald and tour paramedic Sarah Taylor completed the reccy trip, extensively researching every km that we will cover.

After our first border crossing of the tour into Malaysia, our overnight stop was the port town of Melaka, famous for its foodie scene.   When we arrived and being a Sunday, the street markets were in full swing. The avenues were lined with beautiful red lanterns swinging from above and the roads were closed off allowing street vendors to take over.  Not great for a ride leader as we navigated our way around the hotel finding a way and bypassing closed off and one-way streets.

It was then into the Cameron highlands, where we stayed two nights and enjoyed cooler temperatures at 1,400 metres above sea level.  Riding into Ringlet on a smooth, wide twisting road through Palm, rubber tree and banana plantations is spectacular. 

Penang was our next stop, but not before a visit to the Bukit Merah Orangutan Sanctuary.  We enjoyed a short boat trip out to Orangutan Island where these great apes are studied and rehabilitated before being released back into the wild.  It’s off bike excursions like this one that really add to the motorcycle tour experience.

We continued over a very impressive 24km bridge connecting the mainland to the island of Penang.  Penang is a UNESCO world heritage town and renowned holiday destination and often referred to as the Pearl of the Orient. We explored the historical centre of Georgetown viewing street art and some of us went to the Komtar building to enjoy a 360-degree view of the city from the 68th floor. This building was built in 1986 and at the time, was once Asia’s highest building.  Once again, Malaysia’s street food did not disappoint and with an array of vendors and bars in the close vicinity to the centrally located Yeng Keng hotel, we didn’t go hungry or thirsty.

Coming to the end of week one of the expedition, we enter Thailand tomorrow where we will enjoy the next 11 days of our adventure.

Jerry Cook



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