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Saturday, December 4, 2010

"No Wheels In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia"

Here is an article I wrote for 'Women on Wheels' in 1994.

This adventure to Malaysia geared up for me a year and a half ago. My husband traveled to Malaysia on a temporary assignment for his company. His proficiency and technical skill, while in Malaysia, were nothing short of excellent. So, guess what---they lured him back for a longer term and your's truly got to tag along for a year long holiday.
We've been here since the first of July. Malaysia's weather patterns remain mild and constant. Remember, I'm in the tropics, surrounded by tall palms and swaying coconut trees. The equator sets about 100 miles south, just past Singapore. Malaysia is a peninsula, so Kuala Lumpur receives daily rain showers that push the thick haze out and cools the million-and-a-half people who live here. Malaysia is a young country, representing three nationalities: Malay, Chinese and Indian. On August 31, they will celebrate their thirty-eighth year of independence from the British. The economy is booming and struggling hard to speed up its technical knowledge. The people are gracious and most kind, especially to the visitors. So, dear
readers of "Women on Wheels' here are my observations of motorcycle riding, tactics, safety and attitudes for riding on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
First, there are few real bikes, as you and I know them. My husband and I have seen maybe three or four. Scooters run the streets. You know the ones, the two or three strokers, burning an oil stream a mile long behind them and adding to the environmental issue. Real bikes like Harley's and Honda's are priced so high the average working person can't afford them. I have a 500 Shadow in the states. My cost around $4,000. For the same bike here, a biker would think he has cashed in on a real bargain by dishing out $12,0000.
Safety rules. There are none. You sort of make up the rules as you ride down the streets. Police are around, somewhere, but usually dismiss these antics and look away. Splitting two inches between car mirrors seems the only way for bikers to keep on riding. To sit and wait on a red light is considered ridiculous. "No way man," they say. Unfastened helmet straps dangle in the wind. Flip Flops are the norm for a good riding boot and having headlights ---Are they an option? These scooters, which were designed for one, carry Dad, Mom and two babies. And sometimes a lawnmower. A Sari (a women's long dress) flops near the rear tire that could catch Mom's leg any moment. Statistics have proven motorcycle accidents and deaths run high for Malaysia. No wonder. Their safety rules have gotten stuck in their driver's manual and stayed there.
But, I have to tell you readers, I have to give these scooter bikers credit where credit is due. It's a fast-moving city and the bikers skills are quick. They lean from vertical to horizontal with a great skill. They hug the corners as though they don't exist. They weave their scooters in and out of traffic as smooth as honey on a biscuit. I do realized this type of riding and maneuvering is risky and dangerous, but I must admit it looks exciting. Their riding attitude is simple: "Let's move it, pal or get the hell out of the way."
We thought about bringing our bikes with us. However, our sources informed us we would have to pay 125% tax on the book value (which was refundable when you leave their country) plus an eight-month waiting period for our permits. Since our stay is only for one year, these regulations changed our minds.
We're missing our riding season back home in Kentucky. We especially miss our yearly Blue Ridge ride with family and friends. We hope to return to the Bluegrass state in early summer of 95' and make up for lost time on our 'real bikes' In the meantime, we're here in Malaysia with 'no wheels'

Wishing you gals good riding from the Far East

Sherry White

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