Day view of Petronas Towers

Day view of Petronas Towers
(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Exiting Thailand was really easy. Entering Malaysia was just about as simple. A small fee (3.80 Ringgit) and a stamp of the passport was step one. Easy. A visit to the immigration inspection booth lead me to the office of the head honcho to get my carnet de passage (Boris’ passport) stamped and I was in. Easy. I was aware I need some 3rd party car insurance. They were 100 metres past the entrance. A small fee for one month and I was done. Easy. Then I was sent to the Ministry of Transport for temporary registration. All was going well until they saw Boris’ darkened windows. The law in Malaysia states that your vehicle can not have shaded windows under 50% darkness. I argued that mine were fine. The officer didn’t take my word for it and pulled out a machine to tested the windows. My windows were 17% in front and 8% in back seats. Oh dear. After telling them I’d driven all the way from London just to visit Malaysia and their wonderful country, I managed to convince them to give me a one week International Circulation Permit. It would be just enough time for me to get to Kuala Lumpur and arrange my shipping. After that I couldn’t drive legally in Malaysia.

The seeming simple to get International Circulation Permit, that nearly didn't happen. (Thai/Malaysian, Malaysia)

The seemingly simple to get International Circulation Permit, that nearly didn’t happen.
(Thai/Malaysian, Malaysia)

Mini crisis avoided, I hit the road for Kuala Lumpur at speed, in what was going to be my fastest day of the trip. I need to get to KL by 5pm to meet my Dad and his partner Sue, before finding a pub to watch the All Blacks v Aussie rugby match. I flew down south on excellent roads and made just before 4pm. It was great to see my Dad and Sue at our accommodation in the centre of town. We then headed out and after a little searching we found our way to the main expat pub street in town. We drank beer, cheered on the AB’s to a great 47-29 victory and celebrated my Dad’s birthday all in one go. We ended up staying out late boozing and catching up on news of friends and family. It was a great night out.

Me and my Dad (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Me and my Dad
(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Sunday on the other hand was a very quiet day of recovery. I didn’t even leave the building. Films and pizza were the call of the day.

Monday was the beginning of the shipping challenge for real. Over the previous week I had been making enquiries but now that I was in KL I could contact the people directly. It was taking a while to get all the information out of the shipping agents. When I did, the figures varied widely between agents, yet came to similar totals. While they could tell you costs to stuff your vehicle in a container, put it on a ship and send it to India, none could tell you what the costs would be on the Indian side. While nobody would officially say it, it was becoming obvious that India was going to be a law unto themselves, where backhanders and bribes were potentially going to be part of the process.

The next couple of days followed a similar pattern of questions and responses, quotes and re-quotes, phone calls and emails, as I tried to decipher the complex world of international shipping. At the same time I had my own decision to make. Do I ship to Kolkata or Chennai? Kolkata was my preferred location but was going to take longer and it was definitely more expensive. Chennai looked cheaper and quicker but would require me to drive an additional 1500 kms to Kolkata before I would be in the north of India. The decision went back and forth but eventually I settled on Kolkata, the former capital and original base for the British Raj just a couple of centuries ago.

Wednesday was shaping up as decision day. I had the added time pressure of trying to reach Singapore for a Metallica concert on the Saturday. I’d agreed to go when I thought I had plenty of waiting time before our planned entry to Myanmar. With the change in plans I now had to find a shipping agent, find a boat and get Boris stuffed in a container before I could leave KL. It was going to be tight.

Wednesday was also the last day my Dad and Sue were going to be in KL, so we headed out to visit the Petronas Towers in the centre of the city. We found out like a lot of tourists that day, you have to arrive early to get one of the 900 tickets they have available each day. We were too slow and missed out. We had to settle for a few pictures outside, of these most impressive buildings. Dad and Sue spent the day sightseeing while I wandered back to you apartment to continue the shipping process.

Dad, Sue and Me at the Petronas Towers (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Dad, Sue and Me at the Petronas Towers
(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

That afternoon I received a call from Abdul offering his services. I told him I needed a quote in one hour and he needed to have shipping contacts in Kolkata that could help me with the Indian side. He duly produced the goods at a competitive price comparable to the other agents. He looked like the best option, so I decided to go out to see him in person before making the final decision.

Out of interest the cost was $2000 USD. Significantly more than the $1500 USD I had been told about by previous overlanders. And this didn’t include the India customs clearance costs either. Initial quotes were putting the Indian side at $1500 USD. Ouch!! Freight prices had gone through the roof in the last couple of years unfortunately.

Night view of Petronas Towers (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Night view of Petronas Towers
(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Wednesday evening we all went out for our last supper together. It was great to see my Dad and Sue and we enjoyed a nice dinner out over a few beers. The next morning they had an early flight to China so I waved goodbye from the comfort of my bed as they left at 6.30am!! Later than morning I checked out and headed for Port Klang.

Adbul and me (Port Klang, Malaysia)

Adbul and me
(Port Klang, Malaysia)

Abdul met me and we checked that Boris would fit in a container. I handed over the paperwork. The plan was to put Boris in a container on Friday and ship him to Kolkata on Monday 26th September, arriving on the 30th. It was going to be tight but Abdul said it could be done. Glad to have everything underway finally I went to get Boris cleaned.

It was at this point I got the first taste that things wouldn’t quite go to plan. Abdul called saying we wouldn’t make the sailing on the 26th and would have to wait until the 28th to depart and September 3rd to arrive. Right o.k I said. Not the best bit of news. Later that day Abdul confirmed that the paperwork for the ship had taken longer than expected and we had potentially missed the cut-off for getting the container delivered for stuffing on Friday. Oh great. Abdul assured me that the container would arrive on Saturday morning and we would be able to stuff Boris first thing, leaving me a couple of hours to get to the airport and fly to Singapore in time for the concert. The way things were going I was getting a little worried things wouldn’t work out. I was relying on my mantra of ‘She’ll be right’ to come good yet again. I was committed and I had to hope for the best.

Boris gets a clean in anticipation for his journey (Port Klang, Malaysia)

Boris gets a clean in anticipation for his journey
(Port Klang, Malaysia)

That night I found a hotel near the port and began the waiting game. I’d caught up earlier in the day with Vaughan and Kimberley who were going through the same process for shipping to Chennai. They had made a quicker decision than me and were getting Ivor stuffed on Friday. Lucky buggers!!

That evening I was shattered with all the ups and downs regarding the shipping process. I couldn’t help thinking if only Abdul had contacted me a day or two earlier!!! Before bed I checked on Boris to see he was all ready to go. I discovered the left front indicators were not working. Great. It continued the trend of every time I got Boris cleaned something electrical would stop working. I knew that if I left it a few days there was a fairly good chance it would correct itself. I was starting to understand my truck well.

Friday was spent sitting around waiting for updates. It’s a frustrating time when you can’t influence the situation. Here I was, waiting to hear whether the container would arrive today or tomorrow? All the time trying to decide when to buy my plane ticket, and for what time. The evening came quickly enough. I went and picked up Vaughan and Kim from the port as they had spent the entire day stuff their massive truck into a 40 foot container. Going for a drive was something useful I could do to get out of the hotel. We all went out for one last dinner together. After first meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan we had spent the last 10 weeks travelling through the same areas as our paths criss-crossed. Our departure from Kuala Lumpur would signal the end of our travels together on this trip. From what had started as an initial chat on an internet forum a year earlier, had now developed into a great friendship with many happy memories and more than a few battle scars to prove it.

Vaughan, Kim and me on our last night together. Probably time we stopped hanging out to be fair. (Port Klang, Malaysia)

Vaughan, Kim and I on our last night together. Probably time we stopped hanging out to be fair.
(Port Klang, Malaysia)

Saturday morning started with a rush. I said my farewells to Vaughan and Kim, checked out (and later realised I left my power adapter in the room. Bugger!) and headed for the warehouse to meet Abdul. The container had arrived as promised. So 30 minutes later Boris was stuffed and securely tied down in his very own 20 foot container.

Boris in his container (Port Klang, Malaysia)

Boris in his container
(Port Klang, Malaysia)

I then headed for the airport and arrived with time to spare. My attempts to get on an earlier flight were rebuffed by the worlds finest low-cost carrier Air Asia, so I treated myself to the lounge and its unlimited supply of food and beer.

No longer an overland trucker, I was now just a simple backpacker resorting to flying around the world.

My next destination was Singapore.

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