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.
Lay was in town, so he joined us
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“What’s that? No asam laksa?”
The guys had to settle for koay teow soup instead.
“But wait!” There is more asam laksa being made.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.