Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Penang: Cycling University Science Malaysia

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                                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                   
Penang : Cycling University Science Malaysia
Penang : Friday, 16th December 2022
Duo cycling adventure from at University Science Malaysia on Penang Island:
Cycling Distance: 7.6 km.                   |                    Level: Medium                         
Time : 5:40 am to 7:00 pm
Time Taken : 1hrs 20mins. (including stops to enjoy panoramic viewpoints, rest, coffee-break, and lots of photo opps).

Route Recommendations:
1. Traffic Directions!
    Malaysia's traffic is right-hand drive, so drive or cycle on the left. Same thing applies when crossing the road, be careful and take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from!

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    This route goes around the grounds of University Science Malaysia on Penang Island. It is a route that is has several manageable slopes. Most of the route is nicely shaded with old landscaping which makes cycling there pleasant.

3. Places of Interest
    Enroute were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time (Note: click on GPS coordinates for directional map to respective places):
Penang Bridge Viewpoint (GPS: 5.35586, 100.30773).
RCE Penang (Regional Centre of Expertise)(GPS: 5.35627, 100.30774) and it's tower.
- Solar @ USM (At roofs of several buildings & car-parking).
- USM Bike Share @ Aman Damai K01 (GPS: 5.35482, 100.29748) off Jalan Aman.
- USM Bike Share @ Komplex RST Bukit Gambir (GPS: 5.3556,0 100.29242).

4. Food & Drinks
Coffee Break: BumbleDees Cafe (GPS: 5.36210, 100.30694).
       
5. Weather
    Located near the equator, Malaysia's climate is categorised as equatorial, being hot and humid throughout the year. Malaysia faces two monsoon winds seasons, the Southwest Monsoon from late May to September, and the Northeast Monsoon from October to March. The Northeast Monsoon brings in more rainfall compared to the Southwest Monsoon.
    November is Malaysia's coldest month. Even then, aPenang, mid-afternoon temperatures were 30°C, so do cover up or apply sun-block lotions. Night temperature averaged 25°C. It rained in the late afternoon and evening.
    A useful weather forecast site is AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

6. Communicating with Locals
    For the uninitiated cycling in foreign lands can be a daunting experience, especially when one can only speak a smattering of the local language or if there is no common language to speak to each other (like English). Most Malaysians can speak fairly good English; but in the rural areas the locals speak only some rudimentary English, so learning some basic phrases in Bahasa Malaysia will be helpful.
    This could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    And do install memory-resident translation apps into your mobile phone.

7. Staying in Touch
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost or just to share photos and moments. Pre-paid phone sim-cards are easily available from most phone shops in the main towns.

8. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.
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PRELUDE
It's the first time this Penang Kia is flying back to Penang and riding there since my left knee operation in late August, three months ago. From a month after the operation, I have been slowly getting up onto the pedal. and gradually riding longer and longer distances. And I am glad to say that my knee don't hurt anymore when I walk around.
On that previous trip, just before the operation, I had cycled from the Penang International Airport to Tanjung Tokong via the new Bukit Kukus Elevated Highway. Along the way I avoided busy main roads as much as possible - a route that had me passing odd scenes like the one above, of a family sitting on a Chinese tomb. Goodness! What are they doing there? To find out read that ride blog.

A day before I had arrived by flight and as usual after landing, I cycled from the airport via the coastal route which will also goes along Penang's East Coast Cycling Lanes and North Coast Cycling Lanes to get to Tanjung Tokong (see A Homecoming Ride blog). But this time round I was in for a nasty surprise, just at The Light Waterfront Development, large orange & white plastic barricades had been put up barring further continued access to the cycling lanes. I couldn't see any alternative & temporary rerouting of the lanes being provided; like those laid out by socially responsible developers at Queensbay, when development was carried out in that locality.
The lanes where still there but just blocked off; so I carried my bike over the barricade and happily cycled on. But just after E-Gate the lanes were totally blocked off! I gave up, but no way was I going to cycle along the very busy Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway with fast speeding vehicles, it's just to risky and dangerous! So I did the next best thing and sheepishly and reluctantly called a e-hailing Grab car to safely continue on my journey to Tanjung Tokong. Hah! I was e-hailing at E-Gate! What a coincidence!
Anyway, today's story was not about my home-coming misadventures, it's more about a wonderful ride at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (in short, USM);so read on 😊.
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THE RIDE 
This route goes around the grounds of University Science Malaysia on Penang Island. It is a route that is has several manageable slopes. Most of the route is nicely shaded with old landscaping which makes cycling there pleasant.
Cycling Distance: 7.6 km.                   |                    Level: Medium
(Click here for the Google Map Cycling USM Cycling Route Link.)

For today's ride, I met up with my friend Dr. Nadhrah A. Kadir. who has kindly taken time off to take me riding around the varsity grounds. She lectures at the university and is an cyclist who advocates cycling in the state and is an active member of the Bike on Friday - a group that promotes cycling to work. More importantly she's the founder of Bike Commute USM that encourages and supports bicycle commuting in USM).
The first thing that strike me was that there are cycling lanes within the varsity roads. On most of the main roads it's a demarcated lane with noticeable bicycle icons painted onto the road, and also with cycling signboards. Great! Nadhrah and her group have done a great job with the university administration.

We met at USM's Sungai Dua Entrance, a noticeable landmark nearby is the Al-Malik Khalid Mosque. This area is fairly new, with wide and lightly shaded busy roads as it's near one of the varsity's entrance. But as we rode slightly further in, the landscaping lining the roads became more impressive, with huge rain-trees, a variety of smaller shady trees, and even palms.

Although the roads were undulating, the greenery made them a pleasure to cycle on; and the most of slopes were gentle. The university sits on a couple of small hills, and this undulating ground makes it all the more interesting.

Do take care when riding down slopes, some are on sharp beds, but even here there are cycling lanes on both sides to make it safer.

INTERESTING SPOTS EN-ROUTE:
Tasik Harapan, a small park with a couple of small lakes, their calm water reflects nicely the arms of the wide-spreading rain-trees. One can cycle here as there are pathways going partway round the lake - but do come down and push if there are lots of people around.

Quiet roads leading to an even greener area, the Eco Hub.

Here, we stopped and took a short walk to enjoy the serene atmosphere of the place.

Within this wooded place, one can go for a short hike along the eco-trial, in one of the few places of the varsity that have not been built up and left in it's pristine green condition.

The Ecotrail Map.

Some education at the hub, a signboard showing the Ecohub Living Web.

A ride out from the Eco Hub, this road here has one side lined with young Pinang palms. This is the tree of which Penang state is named after, and it appears on the state flag and state coat-of-arms.

Be on the look-out for nice round-abouts, here's one that's brightly planted .....

..... OR one with old trees encompassed by strangler vines that made them looked surreal.

Along the the way, directional board shows the way. These signboards have the word APEX indicated on them. Don't get it wrong, this does not have anything to do with this AhPek here. It's actually a distinction for this university as it stands for "Accelerated Programme for Excellence"

Heading uphill, more old and attractive trees .....

..... up here are nice spots.

Here too is BumbleDees Cafe, where we stopped for coffee. It's a nice cafe/restaurant housed in an old colonial bungalow designed with good natural ventilation, most of these house don't even need air-conditioning to cool them down.

OTHER NICE ARCHITECTURE:
The varsity is located at the former Minden Barracks, and from the historical Glugor House which was converted into this barracks in 1939The barracks was de-commissioned in 1971 and the campus of Universiti Sains Malaysia was moved to the site. Many nice original buildings form the barrack days can still be seen within the grounds. 
Next door to BumbleDees Cafe is another colonial bungalow, which has been converted to the Anjung Jannatun, the official residence of the university's Vice-Chancellor.

The Tengku Fauziah Museum Gallery, with its Roman columns and white walls.

Other buildings are of "newer" but still interesting design.

Swiss or Tudor?

Komplex Eureka, of a modern design. What is interesting too is the roof of the car-parking lots; like many of the car-parks in the campus, they are lined with solar-panels.

This solar panels in the varsity were set up in September 2021, under a 20-year solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Ditrolic Energy Solutions Sdn. Bhd., a Malaysian clean energy solutions company for corporate and institutional customers in Southeast Asia. Under the plan it is to set up a 10.6MWp on-site rooftop solar system in the varsity.
The above combo-photo shows one of the solar-to-electrical panels in one of the car-parks, and a close up of the electrical panel.

Students who don't own bicycles, OR even visitors who want to cycle around, can use one of those shared bikes provided by Bike Commute USM. The above shows those stationed at Aman Damai K01 (GPS: 5.35482, 100.29748) off Jalan Aman.

There's another bike-share station at Komplex RST Bukit Gambir (GPS: 5.3556,0 100.29242).

As the campus sits on hilly terrain, there are several scenic viewpoints:
The view from BumbleDees Cafe overlooks the residential Minden Heights and beyond.

An even better viewpoint (GPS: 5.35586, 100.30773), is located at Jalan Ilmu, near the RCE Penang tower. Click here for a Google Street view.

Look further and one will be able to see the first Penang Bridge.

On the other side, the sun cast a beautiful orange over the skies as it sets down at Bukit Gambier.

It started to rain, and at Jalan Damai we ended our short, sweet but informative ride. With a cordial goodbye, Dr. Nadhrah A. Kadir donned her raincoat, and rode off. Hey! The rain-cover for her back-pack has a large 30 kph signage imprinted onto it! That's so practical!

Thank you my friend for showing me your beautiful campus. It is indeed a nice place to ride around; the shady routes and dedicated bike lanes make it a pleasure to cycle around and the slightly undulating grounds give enough exercise without being overly taxing. These should encourage more to commute around the campus.
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