Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Sunday, March 2, 2008

The following morning I caught the speedboat back to Pak Bara, so I would have time to ride to Satun, near the Malaysian border, in the afternoon. Satun was a sleepy town, and my birthday was inevitably going to be a quiet one. I was lucky even to toast myself with a beer, since 2 March was election day in Thailand, and it was illegal to sell beer after 8pm on the 1st. Fortunately, the proprietress of the chinese restaurant where I ate dinner took the view that since I couldn't vote, I could drink.

The next morning I rode to the pier, from which it was possible to take a longtail boat to Kuala Perlis, a tiny port just across the Malaysian border. I had expected a fairly efficient operation, believing that most tourists crossing this border would take the same route. In fact, the vast majority either catch a ferry to the duty-free island of Langkawi, about 5km south of Koh Lipe, or cross by bus at the land border. The longtail boat was primarily for Thai and Malay passengers. I asked when it would depart.
-When it's full. 10 passengers.

It only took two hours to acquire critical mass, and the 45minute passage was actually very pleasant, riding past tiny forested islands and the jungly mainland.

I ever since Hong Kong I've had some funny looks crossing borders, and several officials have had to ask their superiors to confirm that the photo in my passport is actually me. (I've lost around 50kg since my passport photo was taken). This was the first time someone has actually looked liable to refuse me entry.
-This isn't you!
-It is! Look... Look at the bike! Look at all the stamps! See how far I've cycled. It is me, I promise! Look... (inflating cheeks) it is me!
-(looking at stamps) You've been to Vietnam
-How was that?
-Was OK. Beautiful hills out in the countryside. Have you been there?
-No. No need.
-Oh. Why's that?
-Vietnamese all here.
-Oh. right. ok.
-You're British.
-Malaysia was British colony.
-Erm.. yes. Sorry about that. bad times... (lamely trailing off. This isn't going well)
-No. Just times. It had to be someone.
-Yes. quite. (whatever! just stamp the bloody book!)

Eventually he was convinced and stamped me in. At this point, I should have turned smartly away and continued on my way. Never engage a border guard in unnecessary chat, they have too much power, and this one had already proved to be a tricky proposition.
-Excuse me, could you tell me the way to highway 7?
-Sure, here, I'll draw you a map. Where are you going?
-I'm not sure... the next big town I guess.
-Alor Star?
-Yeah, that'll do.
-I live in Alor Star.
-Oh. great.
-Here, I write down my mobile phone number. You call me, I'll take you to dinner.
-Erm, ok. but I might not stop in Alo...
-I look forward to it.
-Me too, that'd be lovely. If I stop in Alor Star, I'll definitely call you.
-You call me. I look forward to it.
-Right. Good. Bye then.

Despite a puncture 5km in, I managed to put a good 50km between me and Alor Star before the day was out.
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