Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Perlis-Kedah-Penang: Cycling Perlis to Penang Day 4 - Yan To Penang

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Cycling Perlis to Penang : Day 4 Yan To Penang - Of  Tsunami & Whispering Markets
West Coast Peninsular Malaysia - Day 4 : Friday, 10th August 2018
Small Group Cycling Tour of the west coast of West Malaysia, from Perlis to Penang ::
Cycling Distance: 64.00 km.     Level: Medium
Cycling Time : 8:35 am to 9:00pm
Time Taken : 12hrs 25mins (inclusive of stops for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, tea, dinner, visiting whispering market, old British bunker, boat ride, ferry ride, rest, regrouping, and many photo opps).

This is page 4 of a 5-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D3 Yan              |            Go to Other Days       |      Go to D5 Penang Island >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
Malaysia's traffic is right-hand drive, so 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
The route is generally flat, and road conditions good except for a couple of stretches of the coastal road which were muddy and full of rubbish.

3. Navigation
Where data signal is available and strong, one can use Google Maps to navigate around. If the cycling options may not be available, just use the walking options.
In cases where data signal is weak or unavailable (like in remote rural areas), install MAP.ME into your phone. It's an off-line map app.   
Alternatively, use a dedicated GPS unit like those from Garmin. However ensure that one install the Malaysia maps into the unit.

4. Weather
At Butterworth, daytime temperatures averaged 30°C, but overcast skies and short spells of rain in the morning made it feel cooler. There was very low cloud cover and though the temperature was around 32°C, the perceived temperature felt like 38°C as there was not much shade along the way.
Evening temperatures at Penang Island averaged 27°C.
A useful weather forecast sites is AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

5. Places of Interests
Along the route were several places of interests, some of which we visited others we did not for lack of time:
- Old British World War 2 bunker (GPS: 5.66985, 100.37040) at Pantai Merdeka.
- Tsunami Memorial Monument (GPS: 5.58616, 100.33985) at Kuala Muda.
- Tsunami Gallery (GPS: 5.58489, 100.33960) at Kuala Muda.
- Kuala Muda Whispering Fish Market at both the Kedah side (GPS: 5.57849, 100.34108) & Penang side (GPS: 5.57623, 100.34135).
(See Youtube video on the whispering 😐)
- Old Colonial Gateway (Pintu Gerbang(GPS: 5.58490, 100.37484) at Kota Kuala Muda.
- Northrop F-5E Tiger II Plane at the entranced of the RMAF Butterworth Airbase (GPS: 5.46483, 100.38287at Mata Kuching.
Penang Ferry ride from Butterworth to Penang Island across the Penang Strait.

6. Food
- Breakfast: Nasi lemak and Malay kueh at coffee-shop at small food court (GPS: 5.78513, 100.37180) at Taman Samudera, Yan.
- Morning Tea: Durians and drinks at Dataran Selera Tsunami (GPS: 5.58577, 100.33935) in Kuala Muda.
- Lunch: Nasi Melayu at shop (GPS: 5.56813, 100.36054) in Kampung Bakau Tua, Penaga.
- Afternoon Tea: Seafood snacks & beer at 323 Seafoood Restaurant (GPS: 5.44284, 100.37883) in Pantai Bersih.
- Dinner: Rice with Chinese dishes at Hing Kee Resaurant (GPS: 5.41802, 100.33964) on Penang Island.
- Supper: Char Kueh Teow (stir-fried flat rice noodles) at Good All (万好) Foodcourt (GPS: 5.45233, 100.30614) in Tanjung Tokong.

7. Accomodations
On Penang Island, some of us stayed at the Thirty Three Stewart Houze (GPS: 5.41897, 100.33813).
Address: 33, Lorong Stewart, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang.
Tel.: +604-2627582.

8. 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). The language of the country is Bahasa Malaysia, and many urban Malaysians can speak fairly good English; but in the rural areas the locals speak only some rudimentary English, so learning some basic phrases 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.

9. 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.

10. 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 with the relevant tools.



The previous day, a rainy spell had us starting late. but we still managed to ride almost the whole length of the Kedah coast, met up with our our buddy Sin (of the hApPy HaPpY blogs) to visit a pregnant island (yup it did look pregnant). Today we cross over to Penang and enroute visited a whispering market, had a boat and ferry ride; and even much more!

Going along the coast in Kedah, the route was rather flat except for some climbs at Tanjung Jaga. Nearer Penang, muddy track with high waves splashing along them had us detouring inland.
Cycling Distance: 64.00 km. (excluding boats & ferry rides)    Level: Medium

8:35am - Another bout of heavy rain had us starting late again today; and even worst soon after starting off we hit a stretch of flooded roads, some of which were too deep for our bicycles. Well, only one thing to do, carry our bikes across those sections. Most times our bikes carry us, sometimes we have to carry them 😜.
As we dogged on across those wet roads hugging the coast; an old man peered out from his window, giving us a toothless smile. Either he must be admiring us as adventurers having fun in the rain OR more likely he must be thinking "What are those idiots getting wet for?". Then about a kilometer down, we hit a barrier - construction works totally blocking our route. Well no choice but to head inland again onto Kedah State Route K1. Discretion is the better part of valour.

A reprieve from the rain - warm breakfast from a stall at a shop-strip. Food at small towns are cheap, and those at their outskirts are even cheaper.... and good too. We had Nasi Lemak with a large, slightly spicy, fried chicken; pre-fried Mee and Mee Hoon Goreng.... and a host of traditional Malay kuehs. They even had Kueh Bengka Ubi here, but it was lacking in tapioca.

We were not the only one braving the rain, this lady was selling clams and other shellfish; the cool, drizzle probably must be keeping her fresh goods alive and all the fresher.

Not to far ahead we hit Tanjung Jaga, the only serious climb of our whole tour. Its name is appropriate too as "Jaga" means "take care of" in Bahasa Malaysia; and "Jaga-jaga" means "be careful". With the steep roads we had to look out for and jaga each other as we slowly took on the climbs. And as we went down the wet slopes, we couldn't zoom down as we had to jaga-jaga.

Right at the peak of the hill were public signboards promoting the Jerai Geopark. The sponsors of the geopark effort art listed at the bottom. One of the was "APEK".... too tempting a place not to place one of my "AhPek Biker was here!" sticker.
Don't get me wrong, I am not being vain by putting up this stickers. My hope is that they will attract some newbies to read my blogs and encourage them to cycle more, as a whole of adventure is awaiting cyclists out there. Sometimes my friends and readers do see this stickers and will post photos of them to me. One time a friend saw one at a Nakdong-ri hotel while cycling in South Korea and straight off sent me the photo.... okay, okay.... there's a bit of vanity there but there's also a strong sense of comradeship!

Better stop this old man's mumbling. I looked down and there was a fantastic view of the coast with steep slopes creeping down down to the shores. Faraway was an island, can that be Penang Island?

State Route K1 is always a pleasure to cycle on, there are many stretches well shaded with bright green trees, and beyond them even brighter padi fields. We rode along a similar stretch as we approached Yan yesterday.

10:20am - We reache Tanjung Dawai, it's an important destination for us today (you'll see why later).

It's a small town with a row of colonial houses at it's old centre.

Tanjung Dawai is located right at the mouth of the Sungai Merbok River, where it drains into the Straits of Malacca, and naturally there are many fishing piers here. It is the river with the widest mouth in Kedah.

We hopped onto a boat to take us across the river to Pantai Merdeka on the other side. The fare was RM3/- per pax and an additional of RM4/- per bike. This boat crossing saved us having to loop upstream to the Semeling Bridge, and shaving about 40km. from our route.

On the Pantai Merdeka side, we did a little bit of hiking. Here part of the river banks are lined with unique red shingle rocks. These are the red mudstones of Bukit Penjara which form part of the 450 million years old Mahang Formation. The red colour is the rocks high iron oxide content.

The short hike took us to the Old British War Bunker. This is a remnant from World War 2, part of the fortification when the British Armed Forces and locals were trying to stop the invading Imperial Japanese Army.
Here I am giving a salute to those brave soldiers who had sacrificed so much for our country.

Leaving Pantai Merdeka we rode on the quiet coastal route again. There were new mangrove trees being planted here; these mangroves will probable form a small swamp. The mangrove swamps were and important defense for this locality during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Sadly there were many deaths and casualties during that tsunami, but the mangrove swamps did prevent even more damage by slowing down and absorbing the brunt of the tall tidal waves.

 We were still in Kedah, but from the coast here we could see George Town on Penang Island. It looked near but was still more than 30km away.

The nice tarmac road we were on soon disappeared to be replaced by a wet, laterite track. Here the coast line are lined with a rocky embankment to prevent erosion. It's high tide and the sea level was almost the same as the track level. Every now an then high waves splashed over the rocks and onto the tracks, making then even more muddy and difficult to cycle on. After a short stint there we decided to head back inland onto Kedah State Road K639.
Unlike Perlis and Northern Kedah, there are not many roads hugging the coastline here.

12:30pm - At the Tsunami Memorial Monument at Kuala Muda. This memorial is made up from the fishing boats that were washed ashore during the 2004 Tsunami. Ten lives were lost at this locality; and hundreds more affected by the carnage. All in 67 lives were lost in Malaysia when the tall waves swept over Northern Sumatra onto the Western coastline of Peninsular Malaysia, hitting towns all the way from Kedah down to Selangor.

Nearby, several houses that had been destroyed by the tsunami were preserved in their bare condition, a stark reminder of the day of that disaster. We said a silent prayer for all the victims before leaving.

We wanted to visit the Tsunami Gallery, to learn more of what had happened here back in 2004, but then it was closed for lunch. Well, we will wait a while and have rest in the meantime. At a nearby road-side stall, Sin couldn't resist the temptation of durians being sold there and got one big one which we later at at while having drinks at the Dataran Selera Tsunami. We decided to skip the gallery as it was still not opened and head for a whispering market.

Yes, you read right. Whispering! But it was not of lovers whispering sweet nothings into each other's ears. We were at the Kuala Muda Whispering Fish Market. It's a unique market, where strangely instead of the usual cacophony of markets, this one was rather quiet as the business conducted here required it to be quiet!. Auctions are held here for the fresh catches hauled in from the sea, but there is not hammer or gavel being swung by an auctioneer. Bids by bidders are made by whispering into the ear of the of the seller.  And we were in luck, a fisherman had just return with his haul. Soon a few at the markets started whispering into his ears; they were softly and privately making bids for his catch! 
AS the fourth person whispered, he nodded his head - AN AGREEMENT HAS BEEN REACHED! And the successful bidder took the haul to a nearby scale to weigh it; no weighing is allowed before the bidding, bidders have to rely on their expertise to judge the weight. Most of the bidders were fish-mongers and restaurant operators.
Seafood were not the only things up for bidding, we saw a seller with petai (stinky beans) up for sale. These were not the ordinary petai but were Petai Hutan which had grown wild in the jungle and are supposed to be better.(See Youtube video on the whispering 😐)

Some locals were eyeing our Brompton bikes eagerly, hopping that we would put them up for bidding. Okay, better vamoose fast before they put earnest bids for our bikes; we rode off pretending to be interested in the salted fish being dried nearby 😱.

2:00pm - At Kota Kuala Muda we did a quick loop of this old town. Above is the old Colonial Gateway (Pintu Gerbang), an artifact preserved from its heydays.
This town is situated at the mouth of Sungai Muda River, the longest river of Kedah. It is estimated to have been built in the 18th Century. In its heyday, the town was an important trading post in Asia. Goods traded here included silver and spices that attracted traders from China, India, Portugal, Netherlands and England. The lack of land transportation contributed to the it’s prosperity. The city progressed rapidly in 1786 with the opening of Penang as a trading hub. Trading goods such as silver were brought in from Kedah and Perak had to pass here first. Tax was also levied on ships plying its waters, and Kota Kuala Muda became a prosperous and busy trade city.

Nearby we climbed a bridge spanning across the Sungai Muda River. This is a distinct point of our route as the river forms part of the boundary between Kedah and Penang. By crossing the bridge we had crossed over to Penang.... Yahoo!
Our exuberance was short lived; beyond this point the roads were not shade and Mr. Sun glared down hotly on us.

2:30pm - Time to go hunting for lunch and we found a stall selling very good Nasi Melayu at Kampung Bakau Tua. Needless to say, the fishes here were super fresh and the pricing very reasonable.

We rode pass the last of the padi fields and then onto busier roads as we got nearer to Butterworth. The sun did not let up and scorchingly seared us, slowly zapping us to the core.

Not letting the heat spoil our fun, at the RMAF Butterworth Airbase we stopped for a short break, attracted by the F-5E Tiger II Plane on display at the entrance.

4:30pm - The heat was getting unbearable; at 323 Seafoood Restaurant in Pantai Bersih we opted to take a longer break - having some seafood snacks and cold beer to cool us down. We called our local buddy Larry and he promptly came to join us.

After a good two hours break, we rolled off again. By now Mr. Sun has turned friendly, giving us a pretty views of it setting warmly below the hills of Penang Island.

Here's a secret that we want to share. The normal approach to the Butterworth Ferry Terminal would entail a climb up and down circular approach ramps. For cyclists, instead of going up the ramps, proceed further north and turn left into Jalan Pantai and then make another left next to the Penang Sentral. This narrow road will take you into the ferry terminal through a side entrance via a railroad crossing. Do be careful and listen out for approaching trains though.

These days the Penang Ferry is operated by the Rapid group which also operates the public bus and light rail transport system in the country. Many of the ferries are now colourfully painted to look out for them!

Here we are cycling out of the ferry without any other vehicles around; looks like we own the ferry hahaha..... actually, not wanting to jostle with the other vehicles, we had let them disembark first.

8:00pm - Penang's Chinese population consist mainly of Hokkiens, but oddly our dinner was at Hing Kee Resaurant  at the older quarters of George Town. This restaurant is decades, if not centuries old, having been operated by four generations of the same family, and instead of Hokkien food, they serve Cantonese fare like Mui Choy Kao Yoke, Kolo Yoke, etc.
Finished with dinner we said our goodbyes, our cycling tour had formally ended, and we went our separate ways to the different places that we would be staying in. But now worries, we will be meeting again tomorrow for a short ride in Penang Island.

Till tomorrow then,

(that's "Cheers!" in Cantonese)

(For more photos of the day Click Here)

This is page 4 of a 5-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D3 Yan              |            Go to Other Days       |      Go to D5 Penang Island >


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