Our Penangite friends who were going to lead our Saturday morning ride, and the young chaps on motorbikes who were our outriders, were outside the Tien Hotel and ready to go at 7.15am.
It’s too bad that the R@SKLs weren’t.
The story we are sticking to is that Tomoe’s bus didn’t get onto the island until about 8am. It would have been churlish not to wait for her, after all the effort she took to get to Penang.
In truth it took us some time as a group to get organised. About twenty minutes after the agreed start time, we were finally ready for a group photograph.
Then we rode six hundred meters (the distance sounds much more impressive when expressed in meters) to breakfast at a coffee shop on Jalan Kuala Kangsar.
There were twenty six cyclists, and four outriders. Too many to fit in the shop. So we sat in the lane behind the shop. We were perfectly comfortable, and it was easy to keep an eye on our bikes.
The breakfast dish of choice was the koay teow soup.
The toast with butter and kaya, and the soft-boiled eggs were very good too.
After breakfast we rode a further one thousand one hundred meters to the car park outside the Residence, where we met Tomoe. And waited fifteen minutes for various R@SKLs to use the toilet.
Better late than never, as they say. By 8.45am we were heading south on the Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu Highway. We were on our way at last.
Err, not quite. This McDonald’s was a convenient spot for one last toilet stop.
The guys in the fluorescent vests were our outriders. They helped us the last time we rode in Penang. See R@SKLs Do Penang – Day One for details..
They did an excellent job for us this time too. With an added weapon. One of the guys has outfitted his motorbike with a horn which would do a container truck proud. We all nearly jumped out of our skins the first time he blasted that klaxon!
We took a short diversion off the Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu Highway and onto Persiaran Bayan Indah. A popular photo stop on Persiaran Bayan Indah is where you can get Pulau Jerejak in the background.
The main destinations for our Saturday morning ride, apart from coffee shops and restaurants, were the Snake Temple, and the Kek Lok Si Temple. We got to the Snake Temple first, about 22km / 14mi into the ride.
The temple is known for its namesake snakes, in this case a variety of pit vipers.
As we left the Snake Temple, one of our Penangite friends, Dennis, told me that we would soon be on a climb. He then asked if the R@SKLs would be okay to climb about 500 meters to 1km / 0.3 to 0.6mi of “quite steep” slopes.
“No problem” I replied.
I owe the R@SKLs an apology. As you can see, “quite steep” was actually very steep in places. And the climb was longer than advertised. 2.5km / 1.5mi, with 167 meters / 548 feet of elevation.
That climb claimed one victim. Voon Keat’s rear derailleur.
Fortunately our outriders knew just where to go to get a replacement installed. Voon Keat was up and running again by the time we finished lunch.
We regrouped to catch our breath at the Petronas station at the bottom of the descent of Jalan Paya Terubong. If a shot of RON 97 would have helped me recover, I would have been in the queue behind Ralf.
More preferable refreshment was available 2km / 1.2mi down the road, at Serrena’s business premises. She kindly laid on a variety of cold liquids for us.
We needed the drinks and the breather. Less than 3km / 1.9mi further on was the start of the ascent to the Kek Lok Si Temple.
First we had to negotiate Jalan Pasar, or Market Street. It is an aptly named road. Both sides of the road are lined with market stalls that make up the Air Itam market. We were competing with pedestrians, cars, and buses for what little road space there was.
Sometimes you just had to stop and wait for an opening to ride through. The riders who faced fewer blockages waited at the junction of Jalan Pasar and Jalan Balik Pulau for the others.
We were aiming for the base of the Kek Lok Si pavilion and the pagoda, 90 meters / 295 feet above where we regrouped.
We all got there!
It is a spectacular temple complex. The bronze statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin, is 30.2 meters / 99 feet high.
The view from up there isn’t too shabby either.
As we were about to leave the Kek Lok Si Temple, those dark clouds started delivering their payload. The rain made the descent – 18.5% gradient in places – rather tricky.
Everyone got down without incident. The rain was getting heavier, so there were no complaints when we were ushered into the Sin Yong Wah coffeeshop for a Penang speciality. Asam Laksa.
Asam Laksa is made with mackerel soup, and its main distinguishing feature is the asam or tamarind which gives the soup a sour taste. The fish is poached and then flaked. Other ingredients that give asam laksa its distinctive flavour include lemongrass, galangal, and chilli. Typical garnishes include mint, pineapple slices, thinly sliced onion, ginger flower, and petis or haε-ko, a thick sweet prawn paste.
Our Penangite guides know their food. The asam laksa at the Air Itam market is rated amongst the best on the island.
Their char koay teow is pretty good too!
We sat at Sin Yong Wah for an hour. Not because we were stuffing our faces the entire time mind you. The rain got heavier and heavier as we ate.
The rain didn’t let up. So we ordered tea and coffee, and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually the rain eased a bit. It didn’t look like it was going to stop anytime soon, so we headed out and rode the very wet 12km / 7.5mi back to the hotel.
We had the Tien staff chasing after us with towels to wipe up the water we left behind as we splashed our way up the stairs and into our rooms for a shower and some dry clothes.
It is a good thing we had the Tien Hotel and Residence all to ourselves. I don’t think any non-cyclists would have been impressed with our use of the space!
Pretty soon it was time for tea and nyonya cakes.
And some vino by the pool after the rain stopped.
While we were getting rained on at lunch, Leslie, Lay and Philip were getting rained on as well. They had been riding from Ipoh, where they had spent Friday night, after eight hours in the saddle from KL. At 3pm they hit heavy rain, which persisted for the hour that it took for them to get to the ferry terminal at Butterworth. Fortunately the rain stopped by the time they were on the ferry to the island. They were on track to be at the hotel by about 5.30pm.
It is hard to believe, but by 6.30pm we were hungry, and ready for dinner. It was threatening to rain again, but we risked it and walked the 1km / 0.6mi to Auntie Gaik Lean’s.
The restaurant is housed in what used to be a jewelery shop. The safe door is still in place at the back of the shop.
The nyonya food? Delicious!
The R@SKLs? Happy!
Perhaps a bit too happy. I suspect we were too loud for some of the other patrons in Gaik Lean’s that evening. They can’t deny that we had ourselves a good time though.
It was drizzling when we left the restaurant. Some of us walked anyway. I certainly needed some gentle exercise after all that I ate.
I was stuffed, happy and ready for bed by the time I got back to the hotel. Others, however, went out for supper later that night. I don’t know where they put more food.
The R@SKLs staying at the Tien Hotel planned to met the others at the Residence car park at 6.15am. We would then ride as a group to the Youth Park for the start of the CFAL event.
We would have to be up before this guy.