Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Day 24 - Beaurocracy at Port Klang (Malaysia)

Ben and I woke up excruciatingly early - 8 am - to get to the port, which is an hour away, and start the ball rolling on the paperwork front. It was just as well we did too, because by the time we caught the train, found the closest customs building to find out where we even had to go - not a simple process in itself - and then found a taxi that knew where "North Port" is, it was closing in on midday. As it turns out, the taxis in Port Klang don't stop at every white person and call out "taxi?" and sit waiting on the corners for business.

We thought the Customs booth at the entry gate to the port was a good place to start, and they told us we have to go and pay our port charges and then come back to them and they'll take us to our car. That sounded great, and we got hopeful that we might actually get our car the same day. So we followed the Customs Official's directions to the Document Centre, and kept following them, walking through dingy unoccupied streets with empty containers and smashed cars lining the streets. We realised this probably wasn't where Customs had their Document Centre, so we went back to the Official who had given us the directions and he kindly but very begrudgingly took Ben on the back of his scooter. Being Ben's first time on a motorised two-wheel vehicle of any type, he wasn't really sure what to do. The Customs Official wasn't very happy when Ben wrapped his arms around him and rested his feet underneath where he was supposed to rest his, but we weren't very happy with him when he drove Ben in exactly the opposite direction from the directions he himself had given us.

Unfortunately the Document Centre was closed for lunch, so Ben walked back to where I was waiting and we went to another building to verify what Customs had told us. They weren't much help, mainly just making phone calls and speaking to each other and not really telling us anything. So we proceeded to the Document Centre, where we spent the next hour and two things happened. 1. We realised there was no way we were going to get our car that day, and possibly not for a few days. 2. We met our guardian angel, by the name of David Ong.

We had spent the previous hour becoming increasingly frustrated with the officers at the Document Centre who kept telling us we needed a DO, but couldn't tell us what that was or how to get it. They wanted us to appoint a shipping agent, which we knew was only necessary for permanent import and costs hundreds of dollars for the service of them doing all the paperwork - a lot of which we had already organised ourselves. Then they'd make a few phone calls, look through our myriads of documents, speak among themselves and come back to us with "you need DO". We were losing all sanity and were just about getting ready to either burst into tears or punch someone in the face out of sheer frustration, when we heard a voice from a few meters away ask us what point in the process we're upto and offer his help.

We immediately trusted David and a huge weight was lifted from our shoulders when, after we had explained everything we had been through up until this point, he jumped on the phone and organised us a DO. He then got his car and drove us to where we needed to pick up the DO, which as it turns out is from a shipping agency - we just didn't need the full services. He filled in all our forms for us and even leant us some cash when in our ignorance we had assumed that Customs and shipping companies dealing with thousands of RMB a day would accept credit cards, and they didn't.

David then took us to Customs so we could get our Carnet signed and stamped. He doesn't any more, but he worked in shipping for many years, so he had a much better understanding of what had to be done than we did, and did all the negotiating on our behalf. Plus we speaks more languages than just English. We were told to go to about five offices, all over this huge building, up the stairs, back down the stairs, through somebody's office, until eventually we found someone who knew what a Carnet was and got someone to sign and stamp it.

Then we had to go to where the car was located inside the port - which David of course knows his way around. The man in that office told us our container wasn't actually unloaded yet so we had to go back to the Document Centre to pay some charges so that it could be ready for us in the morning. We had to go to an ATM on the way to get cash for this new payment, and of course the first one was out of order and the second one didn't accept our cards. None of these things are located anywhere near each other so David also had to stop for petrol aswell. We got to the Document Centre at 6.30pm (it closes at 7pm) to find out that the man at the port who had filled in the paper saying what we had to pay hadn't signed the sheet. So some more phonecalls were made, but we were fairly confident they'd sort it out before 7pm so they could all go home - and sure enough they did.

After going back to the man in the port so he could sign the document, there was nothing else we could do until business hours the next day. David drove us to the train station and could finally go home to his wife and children.

We hadn't been sure how we could repay him for his kindness, knowing that no money could show how grateful we really were. So when he told us about the Good Samaritan Home Orphanage in Klang that he helps to run, we thought donating money to them would be the best thing to do. They have children from babies up until 18 years old, of all racial backgrounds. If anyone is interested in their work or would like to help, whether it be financially or otherwise, their website is and I'd be happy to put anyone in touch with David directly.

Watch this space for the completion of retrieving Trevor and our adventures in Singapore on Day 25.


  1. Heya Eilidh!
    Great blog! I was a bit sad when I got to the top and there wasn't more to read. Just wanted to say have a safe trip and I will be interested over the next year to see where your trip takes you!

    By the way, I tried to have a look at the website for David but it doesn't really come up with what I would expect. You might need to check the link or maybe leave a page that people can google.

    1. This is awkward, but who actually are you? This post is anonymous. I have updated the link for the Orphanage website though, and I'm very glad you're interested!

  2. The updated link is
    David is must hv been lead by God, as he seldom go to port nowadays
    By the way thanks for the donation for Good Samaritan Home.

  3. Awesome meeting you guys today! I'd love to help you guys any way that I can. Check out my site at There are some resources there that will definitely help you guys for what you are trying to do.


    1. Thanks Josh! We will look into it. We'll be in Thailand for a couple of weeks as of tomorrow. If you're interested in meeting up, let us know. It was a pleasure to meet you!