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Week Nine Chapter - 29 Oct ~ 13 Nov 2007 - Thailand/Malaysia/Singapore

Starting Location for This Week: Hua Hin, Thailand (Asian Continent)
Ending Location for This Week: Singapore, Singapore (Asian Continent)
Planned Mileage for this Week: 1232 miles (1982 kilometers)

Welcome to Week Nine of The IndoChina Expedition

The TV monitor in front of me tells me that there are just over 8 hours left of the flight to Seattle.  Sterling is sleeping next to me hoping to wake up no sooner than when the plane touch down in Seattle.  He is lucky if he does; I wish I could sleep all the way, but I am too restless to kick back and sleep.  To me flying is the hardest part about traveling the world.  One day I hope that we can take a little red pill at departure and wake up as we arrive at our destination.

It is incredible to think that we have been gone from home 71 days.  At times it feels like we had been gone much longer or shorter, all depending on the mood of the day.  The last two weeks in Malaysia and Singapore gave new spark to our travels after having felt rather burned out the week before in Thailand.

As you will see below, this weeks slideshow is from our visit to a Charcoal Factory in Malaysia. This was a truly energizing experience, see Sterling’s great portrait of our encounter with the Charcoal Man in his story below.

To me this leg of the trip was in many ways a travel down memory lane.  Last time I visited Malaysia with my motorcycle (Olga) was in 1992.  Lots of changes since those days, but still lots of the same as I remember it from then.  In particular the road up to Cameroon’s Highland had left a good impression that first time.  This road has improved a lot and is now at time a double lane divided freeway.  As we arrived on a weekend herds of city people from Penang and Kuala Lumpur had taken to the hills to enjoy cooler temperatures and fresh produce.  Besides being famous for its tea plantations the landscape in Cameroon Highlands is filled with plastic green houses where vegetables, strawberries and other exotic fruits are grown year round.

The temperature is for a change on the cool side and I see Sterling get out his fleece jacket, I don’t have one so I dress in my rain jacket. It felt rather good to having to dress to keep warm for a change.

As we ride south we pull of from the main road and drive a few miles to a small town so that we can have lunch.  The place is not on my map and of the beaten track from all kinds of tourism.  We find an Indian restaurant where we have a great meal followed by a ice-cream cone for desert.  Nothing special with anything of this, we have been doing it almost every day.  But as I walk together with the others back to our bikes I see a man a block or so behind us.  He stands out because he looks in some ways like a tourist, but could also pas as a local.  But there is more to the man, I get the feeling that I know this fellow, is it the French fellow that I met many years ago?   I feel as if a ghost is following me and I turn away in disbelieve as I walk up to our bikes.  The next thing I know there he is looking at me with disbelieve asking if I am Pedersen, he does not remember my first name.

I met this fellow for the first time in Brazil in 1986, deep in the Amazons jungle.  We spent the night together as he was traveling north and I was riding south.  At that time he stood out from other travelers that I had met in the way that all he carried was a small bag, no sleeping bag or tent.  He was also unusual in the way that he had been on the road for 10 years.  With his impressive resume of worldly experience he became my hero vagabond.

Fast-forward to 1992 and I were riding on the Eastern coast of Malaysia when we met for the second time, purely by accident since we never had been in contact over the last 6 years.  Since then he has constantly been on the road traveling the world. For this reason what is the chance that we would meet up in an out of the way little village in Malaysia for the third time.  He was on his way north and I was heading south.  I am going to leave you with this little story as it is, but trust me there are much more to it.  With the help from Sterling and his videotape of the meeting we will try to give you a better insight to what this encounter really has meant for me in the upcoming IndoChina DVD.

As this is our last installment from the IndoChina Expedition 2007 I would like to thank Chris and Sterling for being such wonderful friends and for your own time following us trough this journey.

In the weeks and months ahead Sterling and I will be working on the waste material of over 100 hours of HD video and thousands of digital images. The goal is to produce a TV a DVD and a Multimedia show about the journey.

So once again thanks for your company Ride safe and see you soon.


Helge Pedersen

Final Dispatch

It was inevitable.  I knew it would come and I wasn’t surprised.  I’ve traveled long enough to expect it at some point.  If it didn’t come I would have been more surprised.  I’m talking about the end of the journey.  More specifically, the end that comes in the mind before the final geographic destination is reached.  It is signaled by many things, mostly a sort of hyper-saturation of experiences that signals the final onslaught of malaise before the journey concludes.  After countless days of new experiences on the road you’re left shell-shocked, incapable of being impressed by anything else.  Another ancient temple, big deal.  The most impressive Buddha in the world, I’ve already seen it.  Nothing is left to see that can make an impression larger than what came before.  This is a sign that the end of the journey is near.  If one continues further it can only lead to a pointless sort of wandering, an empty stare where once there was the face of delight.  That’s how I felt coming into Malaysia.  The end of the journey was still a couple of weeks away but I already felt it inside.

I knew it wasn’t fair.  It’s not in the true spirit of travel and adventure and discovery to feel this way.  And yet, there it was staring me plainly in the face – my own inability to be further impressed by anything I could encounter.  And then I met him, the Charcoal Man.

If you told me previously that I would listen to somebody talk about charcoal for two hours and be impressed I would have thought you were crazy.  But that’s what happened.  On the way to Penang in Malaysia we stopped at a factory where mangrove trees are cut into pieces and loaded into kilns for drying.  At some point they are removed and processed further.  The end result is a type of extremely clean burning charcoal that is exported around the world.  The Japanese buy lots of it for cooking because of the clean, pure blue flame that it produces.  While this may sound ordinary enough, the man who showed us this little operation was anything but ordinary.  His passion for charcoal was unbelievable, and his enthusiasm contagious.  For two hours we wandered around this rustic facility taking pictures of his operation and listening to him excitedly tell us everything there was to know about his business. I really can’t describe his enthusiasm with enough of my own, but it was there.  A simple man with a simple plan, but a great delivery.

I was reignited with a sense of wonder and realized that it’s not what we see that is important but how we see it.  From one angle, anything out there can be just another sight that fails to make an impression.  But from another angle, looked at with fresh eyes and enthusiasm, even charcoal can be interesting enough.  It was then that I found the strength to continue.  I shouldered my camera for the thousandth time and started taking pictures again, believing and feeling that I was seeing the world again with fresh eyes.


Sterling Noren

Seattle (home) is on the horizon.

We have reached our destination of Singapore and it's time to ship the bikes and fly home.  It has been an incredible 2 month journey through six countries.

Our travels have taken us through the rubber plantations and shrimp farms of southern Thailand and into Malaysia and finally Singapore since the last update.  Before we departed Thailand we stopped at a Monkey School, not for classes but to see how they train monkeys to harvest coconuts.

Helge and I can't believe how easy the border crossing from Thailand into Malaysia is.  We check out of Thailand and show our passports to immigration in Malaysia, then pause at customs with nothing to declare.  And we have entered Malaysia.  We have 2 nights in Penang to check out the sights but we are anxious to get to the mountains.  The Cameron Highlands are beautiful with lots of green tea plantations.

Our next stop is the jungle.  Taman Negara is the oldest rain forest on the planet. It was unaffected by the ice ages and has no volcanic activity so there are very old and huge trees growing there.  We have to take a ferry across the river to get to Taman Negara - it is a national park and the river is it's boundry.  We go on a hike through the jungle to reach the Canopy Walk.  They have a walkway suspended in the tree tops - it's about 30-40 meters high and 300 meters long.  Very neat.  After descending we go for a  boat ride to meet a Batek tribe.  They are a native people that live in the jungle.  We have to crawl up the river bank to get to where they are camped.   After we arrive a couple of the men demonstrate their skills at making and using blowdarts.

From the rain forest jungle we head to the urban jungle of Kuala Lumpur.  It is a big modern city.  The Petronas Towers are very impressive. At 452m high they were the tallest buildings in the world until a couple years ago.  They are covered in stainless steel and seem to change color with every angle.

The old port city of Melaka is our final stop in Malaysia.  It is a city with a rich and colorful past.  Sterling, Helge and I celebrate our last night in Malaysia with a rickshaw ride through the streets.  We cross over the border to Singapore the next day.  This border crossing was a snap also, easy deal.

Now is the time for goodbyes and thanks to everyone for coming along on our adventure.  I hope to see you on and off the roads of our world again very soon!

Take care and Ciao for now,


An IndoChina Slideshow



To start the Slideshow, click once within the frame above, then click the PLAY button at the left of the

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Helge Pedersen Images from Thailand, IndoChina Expedition 2007

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