Sunday, July 14, 2019

Perak-Kedah-Penang: Cycling Kuala Kangsar To Gerik To Penang Day 8 - Kulim To Penang

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Cycling Kuala Kangsar>Gerik>Penang Day 8 - Kulim To Penang - Eating All The Way!
Central West Coast Peninsular Malaysia Day 8: Thursday 14th March 2019
This is part of a small group cycling tour from Kuala Kangsar to Penang Island on a north-western central route of West Malaysia. Today's ride is from Kulim to Penang:
Cycling Distance: 48 km.              |               Level: Medium
Time : 9:00am to 5:30pm
Time Taken : 8 hrs. 30 mins. (including stops for visiting temple, and George Town tourist spots, re-orientation, breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, rests, regrouping, and lots of photo opps).

This is page 8 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
 < Go to D7 Kulim           |           Go to Other Days    |    Go to D9-10 George Town >

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 avoids using the main trunk roads and busy roads as much as possible and goes along rural roads through Lunas and Kubang Semang. It approached Butterworth via Permatang Pauh for a short stint along the Butterworth Outer Ring Road (where there are wide emergency lanes to cycle on).
    Taking the Penang Ferry to Penang Island, we continued with a short exploration of the 
Unesco Heritage inner core of George Town.     
     Even at the secondary roads, traffic was moderately heavy; and the route was only fairly shaded, so do cover up or apply sun block.

3. Bringing Bicycles Onto Ferries
     One can literally cycle into the Penang Ferry, instead of using the normal route going up the circular ramps, there is a shortcut way in from the side of Penang Sentral. It takes one right to the boarding ramps, bypassing the ticket booths. Get the ferry tickets from the control booth next to the ramps. (see map). The motorcycles and bicycles section is at the rear section of the lower deck of the ferry.

4. Places of Interest
    Along these route were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time:
- Taman Kijang Cycling Monument (GPS: 5.42629, 100.53136).
- Lunas Street Art (GPS: 5.42912, 100.53386).
Buddhist Hermitage Lunas (GPS: 5.42397, 100.52946).
Rajchaphohong Thai Buddhist Temple (GPS: 5.42875, 100.51014) near Lunas.
- the ride on the Penang Ferry across the Penang Strait.
- Mengkuang Dam (GPS: ) near Kubang Semang.
Penang Street Art (GPS: 5.41379, 100.33745at the colonial heart of George Town.
Teoh Kongsi (张氏清河堂) (GPS: 5.41459, 100.33281) in George Town.
- Nyonya Kueh at Moh Teng Pheow (GPS: 5.41929, 100.33548) George Town.
PG Cycle Sport (GPS: 5.42062, 100.32676), a friendly bicycle shop in George Town selling Bromptons & accessories.

5. Food
a. Breakfast 1: Loh See Fun (Mouse Noodles) at 鲁乃椰脚下米太目 (GPS: 5.43124, 100.531) in Kampung Lunas Lama.
b. Breakfast 2 : inclusive hotel simple buffet breakfast at Fuller Hotel (GPS: 5.37342, 100.56873) in Kulim.
c. Brunch: Roasted Duck at Tan Kee Roast Duck (GPS: 5.42915, 100.53489) in Lunas.
d. Morning Dessert: Keropok Lekor & local curry puffs at road-side stall (GPS: 5.41216, 100.43108) in Kampung Bukit Merah.
e. Lunch: ST Loo Beef Noodles, with Char Koay Teow, Oyster Omelette and good coffee at Oo White Coffee Cafe (GPS: 5.41429, 100.33319) in George Town.
f. Dinner: Penang street food at Presgrave Street Hawker Centre (GPS: 5.41114, 100.33043) in George Town.

6. Weather
    March is within the tropical dry season, which is a hot period. At Kulim, morning temperatures averaged about 28°C. Mid-afternoon temperatures at peaked at 32°C. In George Town afternoon temperatures were at 30°C, evening temperatures averaged 29°C.
    A \useful weather forecast site is AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.
    We plotted routes both on Google Maps and Garmin: Google maps are more up to date and some roads are not shown on the Garmin maps; on the other hand the Garmin GPS units becomes handy when data signal is weak or not available especially in the rural and plantation areas.

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.


A day earlier we had a little adventure of getting from Baling to Kulim, it was a route that took us deep through quiet oil palm plantations, so remote that there were no phone service!
At Kulim we were met by our local friends Chris & Simon who was most proud to show us their hometown and even took us on a drive in the evening to go see the spectacular colourful display at the MBI Desaku Park.
Today we will head for Penang Island, it's a place famous for it's food and along the way we should be having a feast of eats! But which route should we use?

Cycling Route: Kulim (Kedah>Lunas>Kubang Semang>Permatang Pauh>Mak Mandin>Butterworth>George Town (Penang Island).
This route from Kulim to Penang Island avoids using as much as the main roads as possible. Instead of going through the busy roads at Bukit Mertajam, it takes the northern approach via Lunas and Kubang Semang to reach Butterworth through Permatang Pauh & Mak MandinFrom Butterworth we crossed over to George Town via the Penang Ferry.
Cycling Distance: 48 km.              |               Level: Medium

We woke up to a beautiful morning, one of the rising sun peeking out from behind the hills.
Our Kulim hosts, Chris & Simon were still not through with pampering us. When we mentioned that we would be going to Lunas to savour their renown roast duck; they said that they would take us try something even better!
So they picked us up and drove over to Kampung Lunas Lama for Eats #1, this is an old village of timber houses. There among the houses a stall sells coconut tree mouse noodles! 

You must be wondering what mouse noodles are? Well, in Cantonese they are called Loh Si Fun (老鼠粉); literally translated "Loh Si" means mouse or rat, and "Fun" is noodles. So there you are - Mouse Noodles! But how did the noodles get its name? Is it because they are short and stubby, or is it because they look mouse droppings? I hope it's the former.... hahaha.... Officially it's called Silver Needle Noodles (银针粉), now that's a better name 😂.
Anyway, this noodles were sold from a tricycle stall parked below a coconut tree, hence the name Coconut Tree Mouse Noodles (鲁乃椰脚下米太目).
Anyway, jokes aside, it's really a delicious noodle served with the typical northern style reddish char siu (which turned out to be very good), some minced pork and Saito fishballs. This stall is a favourite amongst cyclists, so the operator really warmed up to us.

Back at our hotel, we invited the couple for Eats #2; an inclusive buffet breakfast. It was one with limited choice of some sandwiches, nasi lemak and tea/coffee, and which of course seemed pale by comparison to Eats #1.
9:30am - We set of from the hotel to head for Butterworth/Penang. From Kulim, there were a several ways to get to Butterworth; the usual way is via Bukit Mertajam and Perai. But the roads around Bukit Mertajam is perpetually heavy; so we decided to try another route, one that goes via Lunas and Permatang Pauh. The initial nine kilometres to Lunas were on wide secondary roads, traffic was moderately heavy so we cycled as close to the road's edge as possible.
En route we passed by an area with many coconut trees, was that where we had the mouse noodles breakfast earlier? Slightly ahead were several road-side trucks roasting chicken; their smell whiffed out to tempt us, but we resisted.

Our resistance lasted only up to Lunas; but we are not going to having chicken. Since we were already here, we thought we might as well try the famous Tan Kee Roast Duck.
So here comes Eats #3, of excellent cuts of roasted duck paired with another platter of roast pork. Which one was better? Can't really say as we enjoyed both very much 😂🤣.
We were now close enough to Penang and tried ordering iced Pat Poh, a drink that's peculiar to Penang. They do serve Pat Poh, and their version was very good, so herbally thick that it had a dark greenish colour. Hopefully we won't turn green as Martians after this 👽!

Tan Kee has been selling his roasted ducks for decades, starting as a vendor from a tricycle push-cart. Back then, he (like me) was a handsome young man.....

Now we still look very handsome, although much older!

Just a couple of streets away, at the side-lanes and back alleys opposite the Lunas Market, we were surprise to find some nice street art murals. This one is of the Monkey God, Sun Wukong next to an Indian lady preparing to dance.

This one looks like a female version of the Monkey God, perhaps it's his girlfriend!

And one that shows the town's famous duck.

While in Lunas one should not miss this place, the Buddhist Hermitage Lunas.
Here we are at the entrance - impressive as it was, it was not what that attracted me to the place while researching it .....

It was this beautiful tiered roof that got to me. We were not sure what's inside this building as it was locked, perhaps therein lies a sacred shrine.
In the northern states of the Peninsular, there is much Thai influence, and often one can see Thai temples OR even names of towns that sounds Thai  (like Kodiang & Changlun,
which in Thai is ช้างหล่น, Changlon, which means "fallen elephant"). This is probably because historically the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia was once part of Thailand until an agreement was reached between the British and Siam in the early 1900s. (See a 1800s map of Thailand showing its border then).
But this building, with its stupa-like sharp roof, looked more Burmese.

We were also wondering why this place was called a hermitage centre and not just a temple, and found out why when we dropped into another corner of the temple, the community centre. Here there were many devotees, some praying while others were walking around the gardens. Many of them had come to this place for a few days retreat AND while here they DON'T TALK! Acting like hermits and keeping to themselves as if others they walked pass did not exist! Getting into the mood of the place, we ourselves refrained from distracting or talking to these "hermits" while they were walking around.

It was after this that our route got a bit exciting OR should I say more quiet and rustic. We left Lunas via very quiet roads that skirted Sungai Kulim and went through old oil palm plantations and even chicken farms with rows and rows of chicken coops.... that came with the accompanying chicken poo aroma 🤢!

Suddenly overhead we heard the roars of aeroplanes, they flew over us in loops with their load droning drowning out thew quiet kampung noises. There was some sort of flight drill going on, and the planes were from the Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Mata Kuching, Butterworth. Their load flying distracted us and  unbeknownly, at Kampung Lalang we had crossed over from Kedah to Penang!
Further along we passed the Rajchaphohong Thai Buddhist Temple, short of time we did not go in.

12:00 noon - At Kampung Bukit Merah, a small village on the outskirts of Kubang Semang, we stopped for a rest .... and Eats #4, an early afternoon tea snack of Keropok Lekor - with all the eating we are getting the timing of our meals mixed up. It was a nice stop, a small road-side hut overlooking padi fields.

Approaching Butterworth from the north had it's bonus, we avoided the very busy Jalan Chain Ferry. Here the traffic may be heavy but it was not crazily busy. We crossed Sungai Perai at a road bridge at Permatang Pauh - thirty years ago this place used to be a very quiet outskirts of Butterworth and back then a pontoon bridge at this location was good enough to serve the light traffic. The pontoon bridge is now gone, but these pillars next to the new bridge are still there. They had not been demolished and standing there bare-like made them look a bit odd, they use to hold a large water main pipe that brought water from the Muda River up north.

We rode into Butterworth town at Kampung Benggali, near the Sree Maha Mariamman Temple, street decorations of trumpeting elephants, attractive peacocks and oil lamps had been strung up in preparation for the Holi festival that would be held in a week's time.

We usually enter the Butterworth ferry terminal via a short cut from the side that cuts across railway tracks (a trick taught to us by our buddy Larry), this was a better way then having to go up and down the steep ramps at the front of the terminal. With the putting up of the new Penang Sentral building, we had thought that this short cut would be gone, but it was still there. One just had to make a larger loop around the building. These railway tracks are not that heavily used as they are more for goods trains serving the port storage area to the north.

Riding into the ferry; this is a first for Jenny & Richard.... 

Looking out the large window we could see colourful sampans fishing boats contrasting against the background of large oil storage tanks. We are on board the ferry called Pulau Payar; the ferries are named after islands on the North-eastern coast of Peninsular MalaysiaPulau Payar is an island off the Kedah coast and south of Langkawi; and lies within the Pulau Payar Marine Park which has pristine clear blue waters very suitable for snorkelling or scuba diving.

As we approach Penang Island, this is my hometown I can never tire of the scene that greets me. The view of the conspicuous clock tower of the Malayan Railway Building was like a home-coming for me.

Penang Port used to be a busy port serving ocean liner up till the mid-Twentieth Century.
After that came the large container ships, and suddenly the shallow port was not suitable for marine trade anymore and all container ships now dock on the Butterworth side. But all is not lost as some of the piers still serve cruise liners that dock here often to bring tourists visit the Pearl of the Orient!

I took my buddies for a whirlwind tour of some of the Penang Street Art and then to the Kedai Tuak (toddy shop) at Lorong Pasar. Too bad they were closed already, otherwise a swig of toddy would have been cooling on this hot afternoon.

2:30pm: Time for Eats #5, on of the best beef noodles in the country ST Loo Beef Noodles. This is really good and there is a bonus, the lady vendor Ms. Loo is very pretty too!
This place serves very good coffee also.

Psst.... behind the Kafe ST Loo is a very nice building, the Teoh Kongsi .

One last stop for my friends before we part ways - the Moh Teng Pheow Nyonyta Kueh factory. It's really a cottage industry and they do sell nyonya kuehs inside - still full from our beef noodles, we just went in for a look. On the external walls were murals of the old time Nyonya Kueh sellers who vend the kuehs on large Nyonya rattan tiffin baskets carried on their shoulders with a kandar stick.
Penang is such a curious hodgepodge of society, Nyonya Kueh is such an example. It's a fusion food of Malay and Chinese roots sold by Indian vendors!

4:00pm - After saying goodbyes to my tour buddies I headed to PG Cyclespot for Eats #6, coffee with the owner Andy while we chatted about all things bike.

In the evening it was out with relatives for Eats #7.... what eat again? Yes, that's what we do when in Penang, after all it's an eating heaven! This time it was to the Presgrave Street Hawker Centre where we started of with these pan-fried tau kuah that was eaten with garlic chili sauce mix with a pinch of grounded ground nuts.

Followed by a plate of Or Chien (Oyster Omelet) that came with juicy oysters.....

And finishing off with my favourite - Penang Char Kueh Teow. I love this so much that I can have them three times a day..... *smirks guiltily*



(For more photos of the dayClick Here)
This is page 8 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
 < Go to D7 Kulim           |          Go to Other Days    |    Go to D9-10 George Town > 

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