Friday, April 5, 2013

Penang : The Penang Laksa Hunt Ride

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The Penang Laksa Hunt Ride
Balik Pulau, Penang  : 30th March 2013
Medium-size Group Ride around Balik PulauPenang.
Distance covered : 25.28 km.
Time Taken : around 3.0 hrs (incl. eats & photo stops)
Recommendation :
1. Nice village roads with light traffic. But do start earlier than us, we missed some scenic spots.
2. Hakka village: if not up to pushing up bicycles, park at bottom & go up by walking/pick-up. It's a worthwhile place to visit, but would be good to call in for them to prepare home-cook drinks and/or meals.
3. Should not miss the kampong laksa and the fresh nutmeg juice.




PRE-RIDE

What's this; a cycling blog named after a food? Yes it is, because we Penangites are passionate about our food.
So what is Penang Laksa. It is a dish of bouncy rice noodles served in a bowl of fishy soup (that's the simple description, to know more click here).
Penang Laksa has been named the 7th best food in the world by CNN Go.


Penang has many laksa stalls, and up in Balik Pulau a renown shop next to the old market sells very good laksa.


The kampong laksa stall.
But the locals will say that the old market stall is only for tourists and will swear that there is an even better laksa further in the kampong (village).
So this blog is about our cycling hunt for that kampong laksa, on our ride to look for this elusive laksa stall.


Disaster! Harry did a recce drive to our ride area and saw that the house where the Kampong Laksa (at Kampong Baru) is located has been demolished. Oh dear! What shall we do?
Luckily, he asked around and found out that they have temporarily relocated to a place nearer the town.


This time round I will be taking my new Brompton, a first for it! Here it is bagged in a Ikea Dimpa bag and in the bus hold - it's the 5-Star bus that I am taking from the 1-Utama Transportation Hub.



THE RIDE

Penang Laksa Hunt Ride Map  (click for Map Link)
Our revised plan was to ride from the new market and head towards the Hakka Village, then towards Kampong Bakar Kapur for some beach fun. After which we will head to eat the laksa and then ride back to the market.

Our meeting point was at the Balik Pulau new market. I have never met some of the riders before, they were friends of friends. That's what good about cycling, it brings people together!

There are a lot of good food at the market, so we took a quick breakfast first.
Larry, the yellow fellow, being a vegetarian took Chee Cheong Fun. Breakfast was light as we wanted to save our tummies for the main course later - the Kampong Laksa!

And we are off.... crossing the main road to the rural roads, heading for our first destination - the Hakka Village.

Cycled pass this Center for The Gifted & Talented - I wonder what the entry requirement is, an IQ of above 200?

We had started late, and it is mid-morning now. Fortunately the rural roads were quite shady.

Our destination is near! We will turn left at a junction opposite the mosque, into narrower village roads.
The Hakka village is on top of the hill ahead. Gosh! are we climbing that hill?

Just after the turn off, we met these lady villagers having their morning chit-chat; and we stopped to reconfirm our directions with them.
They pointed us in the right direction but then said "Sure you all want to go up there, sure you all can cycle up there?"
Oh... oh. What do they mean?

Undeterred, we proceeded on. The nice,shady village road calming what ever fears that we had.

Oops! Our nice rustic ride ended when we hit the toe of the road leading up to the Hakka Village. It's a rough concrete road, one that is steep and wind round the hill for two kilometers. Now we realized what those kampong ladies meant!

Gung ho, we started riding up the steep slope.

But the slope was just too steep, and after cycling only a short distance we had to humbly come down and push.

The ladies taking a break from pushing. It is a two kilometer road up to the top, for most of which it is just too steep to cycle. We had to stop several times for rest breaks.

Rest and then push. Push and then rest.... Hey! This is no cycling expedition.

Finally! We can see the attap roofed huts of the Hakka Village (some call it the Hakka Cottage).

The view from this place is fantastic, from here Pulau Betong (Betong Island) can be seen in the distance. It made the two km. pushing worthwhile.

Here we are in front of the main building. There were 16 of us, six were somewhere else doing something...

We took a nice break at the main building ordering drinks to quench our thirsts. After that we walked around and explored the place.

A table with antique sewing machine for legs.
This place is fairly new, having been opened for just about six months.
But the owner have built this place for a rustic atmosphere and furnished this place with antiquarian items.

A drum made from a hollowed out tree trunk with a kerosene pressure lamp behind it.

An old latex rubber rolling machine.

Around the main buildings are chalet huts that are rented out for groups to stay overnight.
For those interested call +6016-4116666 or 604-2829666, ask for William. They have group and family packages that include meals. AND a pick-up truck to send you up the hill - no pushing required!! (... see more)

Larry started beating the tree trunk drum. "Tok! Tok! Tok! Times up folks!" It was a call to arms, time to ride again.

Amy & Anslem were worried about their costly racer bikes and loaded their bikes (and themselves) up the pick-up truck for the journey down.

The rest of us rode or pushed our bikes down. It was rather taxing on my brakes, but still it is better than pushing 2 km. down slope.

A sign at the bottom indicated that cars are not even allowed to drive up. The owners were concerned for the safety of drivers who may not be familiar with the steep winding road.

Riding pass Kampong Pulau Betong heading for Kampong Bakar Kapur.
Back at the main road, we took a right turn and headed towards Kampong Bakar Kapur, for some nice scenic sea views.

But then it was getting rather hot and we were running late too. So we decided to turn back, most of us were happy with this as it is going to be - LAKSA HUNT TIME!

On the way back, we rode pass this stall. They sell very good Malay curries and rice.

Passing the town, we turned into the village opposite the new market. They were blue signs showing the directions to the kampong laksa stall. No worries of getting lost.

We have arrived. The stall is located at a single-storey detached house in the village.

Hungry from the bike ride and hill pushing, we quickly made our orders and was soon eating away...

... the Penang Laksa. It was full of shredded fish and spicy good!

They serve awesome Penang Hokkein Mee (prawn noodles) here too! (... see more)

YummY! That was good; and now to ride back.
Within a few minutes we were back at the new market, at the bus terminal side.

Goodbye! My new friends.


POST-RIDE

Some of us lingered on at the market, and had this fresh nutmeg juice. It's a refreshing drink with a tangy & slightly bitter under-taste.

The juice is made from freshly plucked nutmeg  for which Balik Pulau in renown. They are halved, peeled, de-seeded and then blended into a juice (... see more).

I followed Larry back in his car and halfway back up in the hills of Penang, I took this photo of Balik Pulau town with Pulau Betong in the background. The Hakka village is located on the hill on the left.

Here too we saw some durians for sale. Durian season is over, but these are late bloomers. The seller had an ingenious way of keeping the durians fresh. He had tied banana leaves at the stalk of the durians to slow down the fruits from drying up.

A nice end to a nice ride.
Selamat Jalan (that's Malay for "Safe Journey/Goodbye")


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