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The R@SKLs Like Penang – Day Two

Saturday AM Banner

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.

Saturday AM Ride Start Leonard Yee

Photograph courtesy of Leonard Yee

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.

Saturday AM Breakfast Lai Voon Keat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Von Keat

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.

Saturday AM Outriders Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

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.

Saturday AM near Bridge Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

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.

Saturday AM Snake Temple 1 Lai Voon Keat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Keat

The temple is known for its namesake snakes, in this case a variety of pit vipers.

Saturday AM Snake Temple Snake Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

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.

 

Saturday AM Broken RD Lai Voon Keat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Keat

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.

Saturday AM Electrolytes Leonard Yee

Photograph courtesy of Leonard Yee

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.

Saturday AM Serena Refreshment Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

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.

Saturday AM Ready to Attack Kek Lok Si Hill Martin Lee

Photograph courtesy of Martin Lee

We were aiming for the base of the Kek Lok Si pavilion and the pagoda, 90 meters / 295 feet above where we regrouped.

Saturday AM Kek Lok Si Arne Müseler www.arne-mueseler.de

Photograph courtesy of Arne Müseler at http://www.arne-mueseler.de

We all got there!

Saturday AM Kek Lok Si Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

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.

 

Saturday AM Kek Lok Si View Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

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.

Saturday AM Sin Yong Wah Coffee Shop Assam Laksa Kevin Chin

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Chin

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!

Saturday AM Sin Yong Wah Coffee Shop Char Koay Toew Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

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.

Saturday PM Sin Yong Wah Coffee Shop Rain 2

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C. Pai

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!

Saturday PM Residence 3 Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

Pretty soon it was time for tea and nyonya cakes.

Saturday PM Snacks Martin Lee

Photograph courtesy of Martin Lee

And some vino by the pool after the rain stopped.

Saturday PM at the pool Tomoe Suga

Photograph courtesy of Tomoe Suga

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.

Saturday PM Ferry Leslie Tong

Photograph courtesy of Leslie Tong

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.

Saturday PM Auntie Gaik Lean's Safe Door Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Hsing C. Pai

The nyonya food?  Delicious!

Saturday PM Auntie Gaik Lean's Dinner Menu TH.png

The R@SKLs?  Happy!

Saturday PM Auntie Gaik Lean's Kevin Chin

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Chin

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.

Saturday PM Kek Lok Si View Rooster.png

R@SKLs Do Penang – Day One

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R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Shoes Not Allowed.png

The R@SKLs crawled or bounced out of bed, depending on how much wine and beer had been consumed the night before.  Freshly-baked bread, jam, juice, yogurt, fresh fruit, and coffee were waiting in the communal kitchen / dining area.

The plan for the day was a gentle ride of between 30 to 40km / 18 to 25mi, interrupted at regular intervals for food and drink.  The estimated time of arrival back at the hotel was 11am.  What transpired was a little different.

We were all ready to roll at about 8am.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Start 2 CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

Lay was in town, so he joined us

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Start 1

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

I mentioned in the Prelude post that we would do this ride in style.  We hired these three fine young men to accompany us on their scooters and motorbikes.  Armed with whistles, flags, and walkie-talkies, they stopped traffic at junctions and intersections, and rode between the traffic and us on multi-lane highways, so ensuring that we were safe during our ride.  They were our guardian angels over the weekend.  Thank you gentlemen.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Marshals CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

We spent the first kilometer of the ride looking for somewhere to have a second breakfast.  Clearly, the breakfast at the hotel was merely a snack to tide us over whilst we searched for a proper breakfast.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Breakfast TH Lee

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We didn’t get far after the roti canais and teh tariks.  Simon had a puncture within the next kilometer.  Some of us were up the road, so there were only Leonard, Kevin and Kelin to stand around and watch Simon and CK replace an inner tube.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 First Flat Spectators Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

We got an early taste of Penang’s bike paths.  There is an annual cycling event organized by the Campaign For A Lane (CFAL), that raises funds for the creation of bike paths and bike lanes.  CFAL has been running for about a decade, and the results are visible all around the island.

After our stint on the bike path we were on the Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu highway, riding toward the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge.  This bridge, Malaysia’s longest, opened in early 2014.  It is the second bridge linking Penang to the mainland.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Penang Bridge Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

If we had known better, we would have retraced our track from here, and been back at the hotel, and out of the sun, by 11am.  As most of us expected.

Instead we continued on to Bayan Lepas airport, and beyond.  We all agreed that Kapitan Simon was to blame for this.  We are sure he misled our guardian angels into thinking that we all wanted to ride further.  So they took us on a longer route.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Route

Just after the right turn onto Jalan Permatang Damar Laut, at the southern tip of the island, TH had a puncture.  It was about 10am.  The sun was bright and it was already 32°C / 90°F.  A group of us waited in the only shade we could find as TH replaced his inner tube.

Fifteen minutes later we were all rolling again toward Teluk Kumbar, where we turned right.  We were now cycling north and starting to climb up Bukit Genting.  Those of us who had ridden CFAL in the past were familiar with this climb.

Once down the other side, it was time for more food.  A stall in the Balik Pulau Food Court is famous for its asam laksa.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Balik Pulau Food Court 5 366 via TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

“What’s that?  No asam laksa?”

The guys had to settle for koay teow soup instead.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Balik Pulau Food Court 4 CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

“But wait!”  There is more asam laksa being made.”

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Balik Pulau Food Court Asam Laksa TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

So some of the guys had seconds.  Asam laksa on top of the koay teow soup.  A decision that would rise up, so to speak, to haunt at least one person.

All smiles at this point, as we left the Balik Pulau Food Court.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Balik Pulau Food Court 6 366 via TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Literally 500 meters from where we took the photo above, the road started tilting up, and up, and up.  It was 5km / 5mi to Anjung Indah, with gradients touching 10% and more.  This was allegedly a shortcut back to the hotel.  Give me the longer way next time!

This was the last 20 meters of what is one of the hardest climbs any of us have done.

We stopped where the junction with a side road offered some extra tarmac where we could safely get off our bikes.  As you can see from the photos, the sun was directly overhead.  So we sought refuge in some shade across the road.  Pretty much in a drain.

Which would have been convenient if that asam laksa had erupted up and out of someone’s stomach!

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Anjung Indah Climb 7 CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

If we had known that there were fruit and drinks stalls 300 meters up the road, we would have kept going, rather than stop where we did.  Although I must admit, that is easy to say now.  We were on the limit at the time.

After all the cursing about the climb while recovered beside the drain, smiles were restored when we discovered durian at the fruit stalls.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Anjung Indah Park 1 Kevin Chin

Photograph courtesy of Kevin Chin

Treasurer Heng Keng thought that he might have to make a cash call, given the amount of durian consumed.  Especially by some guy in pink from Taiwan!

We still had 23km / 14mi to get back to the Tien hotel.  With 8km / 5mi of that along the unshaded Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu highway.

By the time we got back into George Town it was about 2pm.  We were boiling.  Cendol was called for.  There is a very well-known cendol stall on Lebuh Keng Kwee, which goes by the less-than-modest name of Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol.  The queue for their cendol is always long – see below.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Cendol 1 Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

Some locals say that the cendol from the stall across the road is, in fact, better.  We opted for that much less-crowded stall.  Some of us had two bowls of cendol, and we were on our way before the people at the end of the queue for the “Famous” cendol had been able to place their orders.

Just one more kilometer, and we were back in the air-conditioned comfort of the Tien hotel.  Most of us jumped into showers.  Some took another option.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Pool TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

All of us did turn the rooftop pool deck into a dobi, or laundry.  Open dividers, which had obviously been designed with considerable thought and care, became excellent places to hang wet cycling kit.

Some of us took naps.  Some went for a massage.  Some indulged in the nyonya cakes and bubur kacang merah (red bean soup) that were laid out in the hotel dining area.

R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Tien Hotel Tea

Cyclists that we are, we had all done the maths, and had determined that, despite all we had eaten already, there were still calories to be replaced – see I Am Sure I’ve Earned That Second Roti Canai.  We were ready for more food.

Dinner was at Yi Bing Qing Fish Head Steamboat.  Yi Bing Qing is a big name when it comes to steamboat restaurants in Penang.  So good that Leonard paused to give thanks at the altar of the steamboat chimney.

In all seriousness, the steamboat was delicious.

With that meal, Day One was a wrap.  There was, allegedly, a party that night up in the lounge / bar area of the hotel.

Allegedly.  If there was a party, I slept through it. R@SKLs Penang Day 1 Halo 2