Saturday, July 14, 2012

Penang Bike Ride 07/07/2012 : Tg Tokong - George Town

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Malaysia / Penang / Penang Ride 7th July 2012
                     AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                   
Penang Ride : Tanjong Tokong to George Town
7th July 2012

Trio Ride from Tanjong Tokong to George Town Heritage Zone & back.
Distance covered : 13.5 km.
Time Taken : Who cares? It was a leisure ride.
Recommendation : Good, scenic ride. Can be fast-paced but should take time at Heritage Walk Area.

Penang Ride Biker Route (Click here for Google Map link)
An uncle, coming back to Penang for a short visit, decided to hold his 65th birthday party (see WoW! : No.5 Uncle 65th Birthdayon the 8th July. I was itching to take my 1-week old bike (Buying My First Foldable Biketo Penang for a ride there, and this was the opportunity. So I loaded my bike up into the holding space of the 5-Star bus I was boarding from 1-Utama Transportation Hub and off we went!

AhPek Biker with Mamatan
In Penang, my brother Vic and his son came by at 10:00am the next day to rouse me up! We had planned to start at 8:00am but a late previous night enjoying Penang's good food altered our plans. Well that's Penang for you.
Mamatan, like any mother, was concerned for the well-being of his son, who crazily was going cycling again after umpteenth years.

Brother Vic & his son Will
We rode down to Tanjong Tokong road and then proceeded to Gurney Drive. Traffic was fairly heavy.

High-rise Condos at Gurnery Drive
Gurney Drive's skyscape has changed with the many high-rise condominiums sprouting up. Looking more like Waikiki, albeit without the beautiful beaches.

Alas, the beaches here are disappearing. Land reclamation further up at Tanjong Tokong could have change the tidal patterns leading to accretion of silt. Mangrove swamps have formed and they  have stretched half-way besides Gurney Drive.

Even the condos are not spared, with the mud-banks inching their way year by year closer to the city. Soon, this area may not be a sea-front anymore as more reclamation may be carried out. What view will the condos have then?

Heritage Among the Highrises
As we cycled along Gurney Drive, I notice only a handful of the original buildings left. This particular one standing "tall", nestled among the high-rises.

We reached the far end of Gurnery Drive, and were pleased to see sampans there - just at the city doorsteps, fisherman are still plying their trade!
Our cycling was at a leisurely pace, and I was able to take the following photos without stopping - hold the camera up, roughly aim and snap, snap, snap. I was surprise that some of the photos turned out quite okay. 

As we exited Gurnery Drive, large and green angsana trees are seen lining the road sides. That's the beauty of Penang, at one side will be the condos facing the sea, round a corner and one will find nice tree-line boulevards. Take another corner and the scenery change again, that is as we approached Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah (formerly Norhtham Road).

Northam Road is a peculiar place, on the landward side there are tall office buildings.....

Whilst on the seaward side, there are still the old colonial mansions - a strange mix of architecture. Some of the old mansions have tall office buildings behind them. It was a lame effort by the previous State Government to balance growth while preserving heritage. Perhaps, in the future this mix itself will become the heritage of Penang. Who knows?

In an effort to meet the government requirement that old mansions be maintained, odd combinations have cropped up - like this one above of a newer building trying to unsuccessfully imitate the older one.

OR this one! Looks too spanking new to be an old colonial building? It is a new building! The old one was suspiciously demolished one fine night. Amid the hue & cry by the public, the developer had to rebuild a new one as close a replica as the former one. Sadly they couldn't really get it right. And the new replica is a sad replacement.

Exiting Northam Road, we rode into Farquhar Street and passed my old school field. It is a large one, the size of two soccer fields; and it holds fond memories for me. We had our PE here, and some of the cheeky ones like me would sometimes be naughty. For this, we would be punished by having to run 10 laps round the field. Which we happily did, as the field is shared by the convent girls, who would be using the other corner of the field. One lap and waving "Hi!" Another few more laps and more "Hi's" and, if their teacher was not around, we would be rewarded by some smiles from the girls. That's teenage years' thrills.

Assumption Cathedral
We are now entering the inner city, the UNESCO Heritage Core ZoneTo our right is the Assumption Cathedral at the junction of Farquhar Street & Love Lane, a marker for the boundary of this Heritage Core Zone.

George Town - UNESCO Heritage Core Zone  (Click here for Google Map link)
The heritage zone is an area show-casing the rich culture of Penang. A culture of mixed Malay, Chinese & Indian influences - where one can see a mosque next to a Chinese temple; and which itself would be next to an Indian temple. A fine balance of racial and religious interaction, where racial harmony has allowed this mixed architecture to spruce up. Another uniqueness of Penang, a city with a strong cultural history.

As we turned into Light Street, I was surprised to notice biking lanes in this area, these are probably for tourists. But then still Hurrah! for bikers. Light Street is named after Sir Francis Light, the founder of Penang Island.

Pitt Street Penang
From there we proceeded right into Pitt Street, referred to by locals as "Ia Kar" (meaning "under the coconut tree") as coconut trees used to line this road. It is the Little India of Penang. This road is now called Masjid Kapitan Keling, a renaming effort by the Malaysian Government to rid itself of it's colonial past.

We rode pass the Goddess of Mercy Temple here. Unfortunately, the was a temporary stage (for a Chinese Opera performance) blocking a good view of the temple. I could only take a side view photo of the temple.

Turning left into Chulia Street, we noticed the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, a Hindu temple with Islamic domes.

Just opposite it is the Lim Kongsi (Kongsi is the Hokkein term for surname-clan house). Surprised? I did mention that this area have a very racial and religious mixed.

We turned back to Jalan Kapitan Keling and rode pass the Kapitan Keling Mosque, the namesake of this road.

There was an push-cart stall selling Mee Goreng (i.e. Fried Indian Mee) a Penang delicacy. The Indian man was frying the mee, and the smell wafting from it was tempting but we were not hungry yet. I took a picture of this, thinking to myself that this is probably a dying trade. The Indian man did look old indeed.

Yap Temple. The adjoining green building is the Yap Kongsi.
Further down is the Yap Temple, a temple next to the Yap Kongsi.

Yours truly, the AhPek Biker at the Yap Temple
This being the UNESCO Heritage Day, we decided to ride around & explore the locality..

The area is exciting, full of culture and past. One can see a large mural painted onto the gable end of a shop-house. This and many other wall murals were painted by Ernest Zacharevic, a young Lithuania-born artist, as part of the George Town Festival in 2012.

The three bikeeters, Will, Vic & AhPek
Further away, as part of the Heritage Day celebration, a young Malay boy was playing on traditional Malay gongs.

Signboard at a shop indicating directions to various sites of the Heritage Walk.
The place was fairly crowded with tourists, both local & foreign. Most were following the renown George Town Heritage Trial, a walking tour of this historical area.

It is full of live. The were other signboards promoting other cultural events at other venues in Penang.

Exploring further, we saw an interesting entrance to the Cheah Kongsi, with colorful mosaics adorning the walls. People are actually living in these places, engaging in their day to day activities. Penang is not only a heritage, it is a living and thriving heritage.

Riding on, we stopped at a non-descript entrance, and entered.

The renown Khoo Kongsi
This humble entrance led to the Khoo Kongsi, one of the most beautiful temples in Penang, if not Malaysia. Today, visitors were only allowed into the temple compound. But I understand that the interior of the temple is even more beautiful.

Sun Yat Sen Base at Acheh Street
Exiting the Khoo Kongsi, we went onward to Lebuh Acheh. This area was once an enclave for Achenese from Sumatra, during the heydays when Penang was an entreport. Here we found the Sun Yat Sen Base, and odd place for a Chinese revolutionary to have his base - within a Malay and Indian area!

Sun Yat Sen, during his revolution against the Imperial Chinese, was in the Nanyang (Chinese for countries south of China) to bolster overseas revolutionist and gather funds. He set up a base in Penang and had a brief sojourn here. The base now is a historical monument to him, documenting his stay in Penang; and the various houses he resided in or had meetings with the locals.

Acheh Street Mosque Minaret
Heading towards  Carnarvon Street  we passed by the Acheh Street Mosque. Whilst the Kapitan Keling mosque was built by Indian Muslims, this one was built by Indonesian Muslims from Acheh. Hey! Aren't we in Malaysia? What's this about Indians & Indonesians? Well, this is Penang - a melting pot of cultures.

Finally, the toll of riding was getting to us and hunger pangs set in. At Carnavorn Street, we stopped at Kafe Ping Hooi for a quick brunch. Penang is well known for it's food. In 2009 the New York Times readers voted it as the 2nd best place to eat in the world. Penang Laksa is listed as the 7th most delicious food in the world by the CNNGo.

We had Penang Char Keow Teow, another well known street-fare dish. It is flat rice noodles, beans sprouts and prawns fried with soy sauce over a charcoal fire. This one was delicious, a testament to the reputation of Penang's food. The owner of the stall was an avid biker also and was most happy to see us cycling there.

Tin-smith at Kimberley Street
Carryiing our bikes across the road's central divider, we headed for Kimberley Street. Vic & Will had to rush back for some urgent appointment, and I was left to ride alone at my own leisurely pace. I noticed a tin-smith shop and asked permission to snap photos of yet another dying trade. The lady owner looked up at me and remarked local Manglish "Hey! Go cycling must dressed more stylo, cannot dress like an old man one!" It seems that my reputation has preceded me!

Heading toward Penang Road and then turning into Burma Road (Burmese in Penang? Yes, there were and still are.), I stopped at the Burma Road-Macalister Lane junction to savor another Penang delicacy - Cendul.

Penang Cendul. The drink on the right is "green-grass" a health drink.
The couple manning the stall has been selling at this spot for over forty years. Cendul is a beverage consisting of short green rice noodles served with coconut milk and sweetened with palm sugar (gula Melaka). I also had the "green-grass" drink, a health drink of sorts.

Burma Road - Anson Road Junction. Dark skies ahead!
The sky wasn't being friendly towards biking, dark clouds were forming and I had to pedal faster, puffing away trying to beat the rain. Too bad. I couldn't make it in time to home base and was caught in the rain for the last 10 minutes of the ride.

My humble bike had carried me well and carried me true. It was indeed an interesting ride. Next I plan a ride from Tanjong Tokong to Teluk Bahang, perhaps on a new bike. Heh! Heh!

You may also like:

Faster pace ride from Tanjong Tokong up to the Telok Bahang Dam, passing by rustic village and scenic beaches.

A ride for charity in conjunction with Penang Adventist Hospital "88 Shining Heads - Go Bald & Food Fair" fund raising event.

An interesting ride from Penang Island across the North Channel via the Penang Ferry and onward to Pantai Bersih, Butterworth

Malaysia - Street Art of George Town, Penang : December 3rd 2012 
Interesting street art murals & wire sculptures around the UNESCO George Town Core Zone

 A grand clan house full of heritage, with impressive art & architecture.

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Malaysia / Penang / Penang Ride 7th July 2012
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