Off to Penang: He's off to a slow start and grinds through a slow finish - Taking my life for a ride - CycleBlaze

June 25, 2015

Off to Penang: He's off to a slow start and grinds through a slow finish

Lumut heading north:

I don't really want to leave the island, as I'm having a good time and have made some new friends. But the road calls and the kms won't cycle themselves. I'm thwarted in my attempt to get an early start and don't leave Lumut until after 10 am. I stop for the day only a few hours and just 40 km later at Pantai Remis - it's hot, only mad dogs and Englishmen should be out in this - and I'm not in the mood to bang out another 50 km to the next town, Taiping. So I stop at take shelter at the local Chinese Hotel. It's right across the road from the local Mosque, so I'm guaranteed an early start: 5:52 tomorrow morning is fajr, first light prayer call.

Born and raised in the fishing village, Tan now lives in KL. Phd Engineer, Professor at Taylor University - this son of a fisherman has done very well. I have an open invitation to stay at his rebuilt family home on my next trip. I fully intend to do so.
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I woke up the desk clerk who was sleeping on the hotel lobby sofa. It looked like a hard bed and he was sound asleep, poor bugger. But I wanted my deposit back, so both he and I get an early start to the day. I head off to the local breakfast food stalls and down my first mee soup for the day. He probably heads back to the sofa for a bit more sleep. I'm off and pedalling by about 07:30, I don't like the idea of getting out there much earlier than this as it's still pretty dark at 07:00 and I ride with my helmet, lights and yellow safety vest for the first hour.

Kiblat - that way to Mecca. Most hotel rooms have one of these so the faithful know which way to face when they pray.
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The first half of the day is good. The traffic thins out and there is a shoulder most of the way. The second mee soup breakfast goes down better than the first. I'm finding that I need to load up on food early, because when the heat kicks in I'm too busy downing liquids to think much about calories. I then find a back road heading north and get about 20 km of nice quiet pedalling through small villages; palm, banana and coconut plantations. Oddly enough I site my first water buffaloes for this trip - it's taken them quite a while to make their first appearance. There are lots of monkeys and small black squirrels running around in the palm trees.

Mid morning vllage backroad riding - nice!
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I'm riding with either the helmet or hat, bandanna on head to soak up the sweat and another on face to cut sun and exhaust, long sleeve cotton shirt and long pants rolled up to below the knees. When the traffic gets gnarly, I put on the hi-viz safety vest, too.
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Road side Hindu temple. These are quite common and many are located in the Palm Oil plantations. They are all very well kept, neat and tidy, often will incense and devotional candles/oil lights burning.
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Hindu temple close-up.
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The second half of the day is back onto the main secondary hiway into Penang, Hiway 1. Bikes aren't allowed on the Expressways. No matter which way you cut it, if you're riding up the west coast, sooner or later you have to put your time in on the bigger hiways: take your ticket and dance with the big trucks, buses and fast moving cars. I knock off another 50 km through the heat of the day and finish my ride about 50 km from Penang, a total of about 90 km for the day. My bike computer tells me I have done about 840 km so far for this trip, it will be 890 by the time I get to Penang so that's what goes into the heading at the top of the page.

Tomorrow we dance our way into Penang... One, Two Cha Cha Cha.

Into Penang:

It was only 50 km into Penang and should have been an easy day. Instead for some reason the whole day it felt like I was dragging an anchor behind me. The heat and humidity take their toll. Mostly, the ride in on Hiway 1 is slow going, with lots of stop/start riding the shoulder in heavy traffic. Apart from one homicidal burka clad mother of 4 intent on running me over in the middle of a busy Ramadan market, it wasn't too bad a dance. If you don't dwell on the one or two big freeway interchanges where you are totally exposed, getting temporarily geographically displaced ("lost" is not in my vocabulary), and the heat/humidity burning a huge deficit into my health and well being, then getting to the ferry was not too difficult. If you're coming from the south, just remember to stick to Hiway One and when you get to the middle of Butterworth, follow the ferry signs, find and stay on Jalan Chain Ferry road. Stay on the road shoulders and watch your rear view mirror closely.

It's low season and there aren't many tourists about. I'm staying at Magpie Residence, the only person. I have the dorm and the whole place to myself. It's brand new, well managed and quiett and about a 5 minute walk from the busier trendy towncentre guest houses, shops and night life. Do you really want to stay at the Reggae Hostel?

The ex Tai An hotel, affectionately known as "the Porridge Shop" - it was my "go to" hotel in Penang. Looks closed now.
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Bruce LellmanI remember this place way back in 1979. I think I spent my first night in Penang in the Tai An. Thank you for jogging my memory.
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5 years ago
40 years later it is still Swiss, but Grand Swiss. Now not a hippy hostel, it's an upmarket boutique hotel for the well to do.
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I can still recognise a few of the hotels and landmarks from 40 years ago, and I take a few photos as reminders. One thing I can't help notice is that the entire UNESCO World Heritage area is surrounded by tall buildings. There is a fancy bridge across from the mainland and on the ferry approach the island skyline is dominated by tall buildings.

Dorm rooms are going for $20 to $40 MR per night. And you can eat cheap, under $15 MR per day, if you are careful.

I'll spend a couple of days here, R&R. And planning my route through Thailand and beyond.

Fortune tellers shopfront, down a back laneway off Chulia Street.
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Today's ride: 890 km (553 miles)
Total: 890 km (553 miles)

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