Sunday, July 12, 2015

Let's Cycle 2015 Day 3: Around Penang Island

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Let's Cycle 2015 Day 3: Around Penang Island
Penang: 21st June 2015
Let's Cycle is Malaysia's 8TV program about two cyclists (Baki & Rickman) taking on Peninsular Malaysia in 2014, cycling around the peninsular within a month. They not just cycled but went on to meet the people at the places that they stopped at, learnt and participated in the distinct local culture. Wherever they went there was always a warm welcome for them, with the locals proud to show them the local culture.
This year, in 2015 8TV is doing another TV program but this time with a unique twist. They have invited three other cyclist to join them in their cycling adventures. These will be senior people whom many may think old but who are young at heart (and perhaps physically they are too). The objective is to demonstrate that older people can take on tough physical tasks like cycling and at the same time enjoy life even in their later years. The three who will join them are Uncle Lim (a septuagenarian); and my friends Sin (of the hApPy HaPpY blogs) and Fenn, both of whom are in their fifties.
Together they will cycle from Kuala Lumpur to Penang Island in a week. Along the way they will pass the night at Kuala Kubu BaruBidorIpohSaukKuala SepetangBukit Mertajam. Their route will take them pass towns and villages where there will get to see and experience the distinctiveness of each place and their people. What an adventure it will be for them!


PRELUDE
At the Tanjong Piandang Chinese temple (Photo by Shang Long).
Some of us had thought of joining our TV friends (to give them some moral support) along part of their journey. The previous day we had had a challenging ride of almost 120km cycling from Kuala Sepetang to Butterworth. Though legs and body were tired, we were still in a cheery mood when we reached Butterworth. In the evening, we went for a good Lok-lok dinner at Chai Leng Park's Hawker Street. This was topped up with some fabulous Penang hawker food.
After a good night's sleep, today we ride over to Penang Island, the Pearl of the Orient.


THE RIDE
The group at our Butterworth accomodations, ready to roll off.
Oops.... sorry no ride map here as I did not do any tracking. Basically we rode from the Raja Uda to the Butterworth ferry terminal, crossed over to Penang Island and rode around the UNESCO Heritage Core area and ending at Straits Quay. Sharon & Jin took some time off to join us.

Route Recommendations :
1. The route is relatively flat. The road from Raja Uda to the ferry terminal has heavy traffic do cycle with care.
2. Although drivers in Penang tend to be cyclists-friendly, do still be alert.
3. Penang Island has many interesting places to visit/see, these are some of the places we visited:
    - Fort Cornwallis (we just dropped by at the entrance as time too short to go in).
    - Northam Road Christian Cemetery, this is one of the oldest cemetery in Malaysia. Sir Francis Light's (the founder of Penang) tomb is there.

From Raja Uda we rode to the Butterworth ferry terminal. The TV riders will be coming in from Bukit Mertajam (where they stayed for the night), and we will be meeting them at the terminal.
Local cyclists friends were keen to join us in the ride; HS Tan drove down from Sungai Petani to meet us on the Butterworth side. Also there was Rickee Lee, a cyclist tourer. Larry met us at Raja Uda and guided us to the terminal; instead of cycling up and down the approaching road ramps, he took us on a short-cut that crossed railway tracks right into the side of the terminal.

Our TV friends came and then the ferry came, and we cycled in. 

Hurray! We were into the ferry.

I always like riding the ferry; it moves slowly and with the cool sea breeze blowing in, it gives time for some reflections as we see the approaching old buildings on the island.
Riding the ferry with a bicycle is even more appealing; as we rode out from the ferry, that "wind-in-the face freedom" feeling continues...


On disembarking, we were in for a pleasant and warm surprise. Cyclists from the Trailblazer and Brompton Penang groups were there to greet us. Having done their Sunday morning cycling, they had decided to ride down to the ferry terminal to greet meet us, they were keen to meet up with Baki, Rickman and their KL friends.
I myself was keen to meet them. Some, like Kuan Pin and Chin Huat, had through reading my blogs become virtual friends, and this was a good time to really meet face to face. While the TV crew where doing some shoot at the Chew Jetty, I joined my friends for breakfast at the Tan Jetty, chatted, laughed and caught up with each other.


With Larry in the lead, we did a short cyclo-tour of the Unesco Inner Core Zone, stopping at some of the cute wall murals of George Town. Many new ones have sprouted up, like this one of children calling out to a tricycle street vendor.


During a quick stop at Fort Cornwallis, I was "apprehended" by one of the guards for trying to enter without an entry ticket (No worries, there is no need to bail me out. It was just some play-acting). These Gurkha guards really take their duties seriously.
For those interested to view the fort, entry tickets are priced at RM20/- & RM10/- for adults and children respectively. For Malaysians it's at half the price, just show them your MyCard.


11:45am- At the Northam Road Christian Cemetery. Though having often passed this place for decades, I had never gone in. Found the shady place to be quite, serene even though it's right smack in the city. Sitting below the shady Franggipanni trees looking at the calming place I was just drawn to reflect on my thoughts; and no it wasn't about death, it was more on life and how well to live it.


This cemetery is one of the oldest in Malaysia, dating back to the 17th Century when the British came to Penang.


The tomb of Sir Francis Light, the founder of Penang can be seen here too.


We continued on riding along Gurney Drive. Seeing the above posts brought back memories of younger days. These post use to hold spot lights at the two arms and had a dragon head sculpture at the centre. Dragon boat races were then held here annually.


At the Gurney Paragon mall, we were in for a nasty surprise. Stopping to have coffee there, we were most welcomed by a coffee joint at the ground floor. But soon a guard came scampering over telling us that bicycles are not allowed into the mall (no signage indicated that). Eventhough we showed him that when folded our bicycles did not take up much space or cause any obstruction, he was rather adamant that we should leave our bicycles out on the public roads. Leave our precious bicycles in the open, unguarded? Now way were we going to do that! It was only after we suggested that we will take our business over to Gurney Plaza (where cycling is allowed) that he relented.
P.S. (14/07/2015): The management at Gurney Paragon has replied to our complains and are now allowing bicycles onto their al-fresco area (... see FB post)



I left my friends to continue enjoying their coffee, I had some filial duties to carry out. I would rejoin them later.
It was Fathers' Day, so firstly I cycled over to the Kelawai Road Cemetery to says some prayers for my dad. Then it was to my mother's place to visit her, to keep her company during this important day.


5:30pm - I rejoined my friends and together we cycled along Jalan Tanjong Tokong, heading for Straits Quay. As we rode into the Straits Quay Marina Mall, camera flashes went off and an audience clapped and cheered us in - this was the closing finale for Let's Cycle Kuala Lumpur to Penang event.


Up on stage, my friends were requested to give a talk to recounting their experience during the trip. A couple of them, nervous with stage-fright, stuttered a bit.... Hah! We are better at cycling than public talking.
Nevertheless, the crowd gave them a big applause as they received mementos for their efforts.


The closing event was like a concert too, an old man performed a good harmonica presentation. Then a Tai Chi group did some dance that based Tai Chi moves. We would have thought the dance would be a very slow one, but no, it was fast paced and the lively. The performers even invited the audience to participate, we cyclists joined in, dancing quite well.
See.... we cyclists may not be good at public speaking but WE SURE CAN DANCE!


Look out for this LET'S CYCLE 2015 series, it will start airing on 8TV from 4th October 2015 onwards.

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