Monday, April 17, 2017

Crossing the Malaysian border

We had been given the advise by several people in Thailand not to go to the 3 southern provinces of Songkhla, Yala and Pattani. The situation was, when we were there, pretty violent apparently. So we didn't cross the border at Padang Besar but opted for Wang Prachan instead. According to a Malaysian motorcyclist it was to be an easy process, perhaps it would have been, had we been Malaysian... But as we were not, it took 3 hours and incomprehensible paperwork and methods... 

On the Thailand side everything went smoothly. Our passports were stamped out and the bike importation cancelled in 10 minutes. Then it was on to the Malaysian side, 100 mtr further. When we reached the Malaysian border, we had more than 70 border crossings under our belts. Normal procedure is immigration first and then to Customs for the bikes. In Malaysia they have a step in between called JPJ. Not quite sure what it stands for but they were a proper pain in the proverbial! First they demanded two pieces of paper we apparently didn't have and had no idea what they were or where to obtain them, the problem was they didn't know either... Then they needed to see our insurance for Malaysia and several photocopies of just about everything... apart from documents that would've mattered that is. Problem was that they didn't have a copying machine, nor was there any copying machine to be found anywhere in the complex. They told me to go back to Thailand and ride to the first town as there should be a copying machine there somewhere...

This guy was seriously telling me to cross the border into Thailand again, apply for another visa exemption, import our bikes again, fill in the conveyance documents and then ride 15km back, look for someone with a photocopier, ride 15 km back to the border, stamp our passports out again, cancel the bike permits again... and all in 35°C temperatures and the humidity at dripping point... all because he didn't have a copier...?! Yeah right, I might be silly but I'm not that dumb. I was ready to pitch the tent in nomansland and told him that too. Then he had the nerve to tell me off about not having done my homework... which I had. We had all we needed according to the Malaysian embassy, but nowhere did it show that the JPJ needed a stack of photocopies from documents that had nothing to do with the border crossing, nor did it say anything about the JPJ being so under-resourced that they couldn't even afford a small photocopying machine...

In the end he found a young bloke who could make the copies for us. The JPJ official sorted through what he wanted copies from and handed them over to the young guy, with instructions on what to copy and how many times. To my utter surprise the guy left on his motorbike, riding single handedly with all our original documents in his other hand...! Imagine what would have happened had he lost one...! He came back 45 minutes later, handed over the photocopies and originals and the two missing forms. We paid 90 Baht for the photocopies to the young guy, which is very cheap considering what he had to do, and then found the copies were only used to fill in the form on the computer... He apparently couldn't do that from the originals... 


Next was Customs, who were very helpful and friendly, but looked somewhat alarmed at our Carnet de Passage. We quickly found out why... he didn't know what to do with it! I told him what to stamp and where, which he did, then gave the next one, which he stamped the same as the first one, upon which I said 'done!' which resulted in a smile of relief :-) We rode into Malaysia over a beautiful road through the mountains, which are part of the aptly named Thaleban NP.
Unfortunately the ride through the mountains didn't last that long. Rather quickly we found ourselves back on sea level again, while the ride became a bit like a steeple chase of traffic lights. Haven't seen that many of them for a long time. Meanwhile we were looking for an ATM... we found two, both of which didn't accept our cards. So we tried another one at a bank, which proudly displayed a Visa and Maestro symbol, but didn't accept either of them. The bank couldn't help me as their head office was closed due to a public holiday... We tried another ATM, again no money... this was getting beyond a joke now. We tried another ATM, which dispensed the cash like it was the most normal thing in the world... which it is, but hadn't been in Malaysia so far.


By then we had seriously heated up, not because we were angry but because of high temperatures and high humidity. Tesco offered a choice of food we hadn't seen for months(!) and airconditioning, while the old man running the guesthouse we found didn't know the password to his own wifi... Reflecting on the day, we suddenly realised we had to do the whole thing again when we would come back from Indonesia as shipping to Australia seemed more and more impossible from Indonesia (unless we were prepared to pay for the whole boat while we only wanted a container...) Looking at the paperwork which we received from the JPJ again, we wondered if this should have been done at all. We have a Carnet, while they issued us with a Circulation Permit... doesn't make any sense. There was good news too. Not only could we ride on the motorway if we wanted, it was also free for motorcycles!




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