The Indies Heritage Hotel was so nice, I spent most of the last 3 days in it ! At about $55 a night plus breakfast, not only was it the deal of the decade, there was no need to unnecessarily get sweaty outside. Besides I’ve seen the temples, the royal palaces, the choked shopping streets etc etc. Only the mundane last few days of a bike trip errands to do.

Troll the bike shops for bargains and rare hard to find retro bike parts. Secure a bike box for Mr Shrek for the flight home, and meet up with some Singaporean biker friends who were in Jogja for the weekend.


Chicken porridge is a staple street food in Java. This is the much nice looking hotel version. 2 bowls of this and I’m ready to churn the pedals. Well not quite as there are other dishes for breakfast.


Weather beaten but you get the point. A waiting box for bicycles at the start of traffic lights. Very thoughtful.


I drop by the biggest bike shop in town. 3 shophouse units and an apartment above where the owners live. Unfortunately no bike box to give away.


Plan B. Yes they have a box. A sharp eye will notice that some bikes are built from the frame up. That’s a lot of work, but maybe not for the older gent here.


A box a retrieved from another shop across the street. Nicely folded, and tied with a carrying handle of sorts. $1.50. Now I have to cycle back to the hotel to leave it there. And my back pack is already full of some purchases from the previous bike shop.


These 2 guys drove all the way from Jakarta. They had a gala time squatting and pointing to the parts on my bike. They took a photo of me so I returned the favour. Now I just need a bunch of women with toned legs to do the same. Squat and gawk at the bike.


I spot a German brand Stevens at another old shop in town. Check out the floor tiles. Old. This place still has a brand new, but unridden Alpinestar cro mega mountain bike hanging on the wall. I estimate that it’s a 1990 or earlier model with 7 speed Shimano Deore DX parts. Rp 6.5 million or just under $700. Awesome deal if you’re a fan of elevated chainstay mountain bikes. Don’t think that bike is heading anywhere as I saw it on the wall back in 2009. Alam Baru did lighten my wallet though. A new crank and some brakes set me back Rp 1.2 million in one afternoon. For some perspective, I had 8 million when I started the trip.


A pedal van. Yes get 3 friends and you have a 4 human horsepower VW van. These and many others have discovered LED technology and I guess therein lies the novelty. Pedalling around the town square, with blinking lights, in the cool of the night. Me? Back at the hotel surfing 6 movie channels from HBO.


Jogja street graffiti.


Jogja SUV. Severely utilised vehicle.


The boys and I ride 30 kms on a Sunday to Parangtritis Beach south of town to drink coconut juice and watch the raging surf of the indian Ocean.


More quiet contemplation, surf and tattered tarps. And yes, cheap Indonesian cigarettes.


In this scene there are 3 very relaxed musketeers left, downing Jogja tea and cigarettes as No 4 had to rush back to the hotel, pack up and head to the airport. With 30 kms left to backtrack and check in, in 3.5 hours, I’d be quite worried as No 4 was.

First, he had to endure a bit of teasing as to why he did not book a return flight for tomorrow, a very relaxed Monday? Leaving the beach all 4 were furiously pedalling like a TDF time trial….in search of a taxi back to town. There were none this far out by the Indian Ocean.

There was a pick up full of elderly local cyclists heading back and I stopped them, asking of they could take one more on a fancy folding Brompton. No, they were really full to the brim. A quick call was made to a friend asking him to send a taxi from town, 30 kms away. That’ll take some time. Another 20 wasted minutes. So the 4 continued on their time trial as I slowed to take more photos.

While doing so, I spot a white Vios taxi at a crossroads. I jumped on my bike and chased him down, well lucky for me and No 4, he was at the junction taking his time moving off. I told him to head to town and keep a look out for 4 cyclists on very small wheels. One of them would be very pleased to take his taxi to town and thereafter to the airport. It would be a very big fare for him to. Airport runs are a big deal. Rp 80k if from a fancy hotel. No meters. I also found out that daily rental was only Rp 150k ! 2 airport runs and that’s more or less covered. Compare that with a S$140 / Rp 1.3 million a day rental back home.


This was earlier in the day, a second breakfast for the ever hungry boys.


A final shampoo and hot spray bath for the bike. Got quite a bit of volcanic gunk and sand from the ride to the beach.


The shrink wrap cost more than the box, but hey at $4.00 it was peace of mind as the cardboard was soft and flexy. None too strong as I would like, and Changi Airport in Singapore would probably charge a whopping $15 or so for this service.


The very early 7.30 am departure has it’s rewards. The mountains around central Java bathed in the morning light. Here’s Merapi in it’s almost dormant state with other lesser volcanoes west of it. Hence the attraction to ride a bicycle around them.


Days 7 & 8

I finally have a full ‘rest’ day on this trip. Rest meaning I don’t ride to another town, wake up later and basically have no plans, sort of, for this day.

Such days are important on extended bike tours, physically and mentally. Physically the body needs to rest from the routine of packing, eating, cycling and finding a place for the night. Mentally, there’s a break from looking at maps, navigation, reading the weather, getting lost, etc. Usually a rest day is called for every 3 days of the trip, but there are many variables in this set equation also.

Thankfully I have not been too stretched out on both aspects as my distances are shorter than normal for my bike trips. Yesterday’s 125 kms was a test whether I could still ride more than 100 kms and I’m glad I passed. Although I prefer not to ride in the dark for a late check in.

Today I am just going to chill, except that I have placemarked some  Surakarta or Solo bike shops in my phone. Let the games begin !

Click on the individual photos for my detailed comments.

Leaving Solo was a breeze. What was surprising was the thick fog that enveloped the city in the early dawn hours. It would have been great to ride through that but with only 70 kms to go, a 7 am start was not going to happen. I have cable tv and a hotel breakfast to attend to.

Sometimes I am all packed the previous night so that I don’t have to pack  too much in the morning. This was also a non event.

As there’s only one main highway between Solo and Jogja, I did not want to ride the same traffic choked road again. So I did my best to find a parallel country road. It was not easy as both are big cities in their own right and expanding into the countryside with each passing year. 65 kms isn’t vast in Java. At least, as always the towering peaks of Merapi and Merbabu loomed over the western horizon. They were omnipresent till the late afternoon clouds and haze enveloped them.

I think I got about 20 kms of pottering in the ricefields before the dreaded highway appeared. Well better 20 than nothing. Java is a heavily populated island. Even in the countryside there were lots of people, with the only saving grace being slower traffic on the smaller narrower roads.

I got into Jogja proper in very good time. Well there was a slow leak in the front tyre which had also seen better days. The sidewalls were tearing and so I found a shady spot away from zooming traffic. Tyre and tube were replaced together. Yes I carry a light foldable 1.5 inch spare just for moments like this.

A quick soak in the pool of the Indies Heritage Hotel before dinner was a wise choice as the following Saturday and Sunday meant only one thing. Weekend crowds at the hotel.

Tomorrow, I get reaquainted with Jogja, last visited in 2009 and 1997.

Days 4, 5 and 6.

The photo collage format in the last 2 previous posts do not  leave much space for detailed photo captions so I’ve switched to this. Individual large photos with space below for a photo essay type of post.


Choked traffic on the way into Magelang. Like all cities, the shoulder is just another lane. Fair game for everyone. Irritating as well I could easily pedal faster than this bunch of crawlers. Close by is an intersection to the right which leads to the highland town of Wonosobo and the mystical Dieng Plateau.

Dieng was in my plans but a to and fro journey of another hilly 300kms meant another 3 days at least.Dieng itself lies at 2000m with very basic accommodations.  I contemplated taking some form of transport but heck, nice and cold as it was I visited Dieng in 1997, so it was easy to head for Magelang just down the road.


On the southern suburbs of Magelang whose city center of shady narrow roads and old shops did not entice. I’ll see that the next morning when it’s brighter and drier. From this junction one of my preferred hotels was still about 3 kms south. Then my eye caught sight of that huge hotel with a Carrefour and KFC next to it. Bingo! Rode up to the lobby and the manager stepped out. Dried and cleaned myself before going in. Already the manager asked the security guard to put my bike in a safe place, like in his guard room. Great!

One small problem. Sure there were room, but at what price? A million rupiah ! What?!? S$103. That or ride another 3 kms in the wet. Well surely there was a weekday discounted rate for a tired wet hungry cyclist? There was, at Rp530,000. Almost half price. Over budget but not drastically. Done deal again. A room that would easily cost $250 and up, back home.

Had dinner at the adjacent mall’s food court and a quick walk trolling the shelves of Carrefour ended the day. Stock up on some drinks, snacks or fruit. On a solo bike trip it is quite vital to have a place to walkabout after dinner, more so when it is raining outside and you don’t want to battle the elements after a nice shower, much less cycle out again to look for dinner, unless it is absolutely necessary.


The room as you can see was very luxe for a bike tour, and I still don’t exactly know where it is, the bike I mean ! 2 bolsters too. Now since I am paying over $50, I might as well get to the roof on the oh so high 9th floor for some mountain photos. There was a roof top bar, littered with the previous night’s party.

Unlocked doors through the bar and open rooftop. So much for security. At least the skies were clear in all directions and I get to see a nice sunrise over Merbabu and Merapi. Breakfast was amazing, for Magelang and I had my fill.

Going to skip or snack for lunch till I get to the outskirts of touristy Borobudor via some small village roads. A ride of only 40 kms or so, great for checking out at 12 noon, my latest ever. Lots of lounging around with my latest friend, whose initials are HBO.


The morning’s papers confirmed what I saw on Indonesian TV about a month before the trip. A crazy lone sniper in Magelang itself who targeted only women. Schoolgirls were not spared. To date 13 dead, and I asked the hotel security guard about his take. He said there was more than one sniper ! The police had detained one and another was still one the loose.

Nothing to worry about, he said. Only women were his targets. I felt slightly assured as long as the MO did not turn to moving targets like a bicycle tourist. No wonder the streets of downtown Magelang were desolate and shops shuttered in the late afternoon yesterday.

Out of curiousity I rode those streets and narrow lanes among shophouses and small businesses after checking out. Seemed normal to me except more police presence at some corners. Adios Magelang as I headed south on a road parallel to the main highway.


Passing by a well fortified church and school reassured me a bit.


Solitude on a bike lane in suburban Magelang


You know you’re in the villages when bikes start to carry grass feed for the cows.


Closer to Borobudor, I cross a few bridges and scenes like this appear below. It’s still mid afternoon and I have lots of time to scout around for a place tonight. The ‘town’ around Borobudor has sprout out just to fulfill one purpose. Housing and feeding visitors to the temple, so there are scores of cheap accommodation and restaurants near the entrance. Those looked too dodgy and I rode further out to find some cottages in a nice garden down a side lane. Aah the benefits of cycling, don’t like a place, pedal on to seek another.


I was not disappointed once they showed me the room. 2 rooms in a building with a central chilling living room in the middle where the bike slept. This was sort of a mid range place for those wanting to escape the basic homestays outside. They had a price to match $45 and no lower.

Pricey for the lone traveller but just nice for a couple, with 2 breakfasts. Clever me, I ordered 2 breakfasts the next day. An Indonesian one for me and a western one for me also, but to go and have somewhere down the road.

The girls running the place didn’t mind, gossiping away in a slight American accent, no doubt learnt from passing tourists that make Borobudor so popular.


Easy access for the bike to the bathroom meant that it got a shower too, my post dinner workout. A ride into the strip outside in the drizzle reminded me of my past travels in Java. Dark roads, dim lit bulbs fronting push cart stalls and people gathered in small groups quietly tucking into a light dinner. Brightest lights in town belonged to the ever present Alfa Maret convenience stores. I got my usual supplies and had to ride fast back to the hotel as heavy raindrops signalled a night storm on the way.


The soothing pitter patter of rain on the bathroom’s roof was reminiscent of my other stays in Bali, where opened roofed bathrooms are the norm. Bathing under a coconut tree.

I was loving the alternate type of stays I was getting on this trip, very comfy with air conditioning, fast wifi and especially Indonesian cable TV with at least 6 movie channels. Though the quality of US movies can be debated at length, it did make the pre sleeping hours much shorter.


Morning has broken, with sunshine even.Bucolic with roosters crowing. Made checking out a little bit slower, but I have a long day ahead. Let’s see whether I have the mojo to do 125 kms or so.


Before actually getting onto the main roads southeast toward Jogja and Solo, I potter around the backroads of Borobudor. Very quiet and car less. I chanced upon a much touted sunrise viewpoint after 1o kms. The road above also leads to 2 very pricey resorts, in the countryside, hence the lack of potholes and even a guiding white line, non existent on other lesser village roads.


Hah, the temple as seen from it’s north from across padi fields and not a parking lot of vehicles and ringed by souvenir stalls.  No US$25 entrance fees for foreigners like me. In any case I visited in 2009 when it cost US$10 and $2.00 for locals. Guess which ticket i bought in my best indonesian accent. I am told that they now check passports. Game over.


Paid Rp 10,000 for a post sunrise climb. Not 300 m as the ticket seller told me. It was more like 500m as I sweated like no tomorrow. Left my loaded bike at the parking lot, locked of course, in front of the ticket booth. Well the view of the countryside was nice but not nice enough for a 3 am wake up call. Sunrise view is done.


The little morning’s jaunt added another 20 kms to todays massive 125 kms. The longest day’s ride on the trip. By now I was fit enough to manage this. After some kms in the country, it was time to bite the bullet and hit the highway with a faster average speed. Speed is traded for scenery which is not a bad thing. It also tests one’s tolerance for people and their driving or lack of driving skills.

Before that I got to tete a tete with 2 lovely ladies taking a break with a knife and a papaya. They probably woke up before dawn and were chirpy in giving me directions to everywhere but the main road. Then they argued among themselves which was hilarious, but not when one has a knife in hand.

I sort of knew they way, cross that bridge and turn left. Reconfirmed that with my Maps.Me app. which did not show a river that small. After being triple sure I thanked them and left.


After happily cycling about 15 kms only in trying to avoid the highway, I was greeted with this bit of graffiti. Just lovely.


Volcanoes are taken very seriously in Java. Here is one of many enlarged canals, just in case lahar flows from Merapi, gets out of hand. It did erupt in 2010 and the surrounding villages in the danger zone and even cities like Jogja were not spared. Covered in grey ash for weeks on end.


At lunch I got the least sweet of these offerings from the menu. Plain ol coconut juice. No sugar added, they do that sometimes. The rest could keep me awake for a week. Indonesians do love their desserts and drinks very sweet.


Entering the messy roads of Jogja and this was not even down town, but a larger ring road meant to divert traffic to the surrounding areas. I had planned the final 3 nights in Jogja but decided today to press on to Surakarta or Solo, for 2 nights, which was another 50 kms or so east of Jogja. At one point it got so bad that I jumped the road dividers and cycled against very minimal traffic on the other side. At least I was now not cycling at 10 or 15kmp/h.

One of the reasons for the snarl just 10 kms from Solo were road works at 5 pm! Actually they had finished resurfacing the road and the road crew were just relaxing and chilling in their vehicles taking up the first lane, oblivious to the 5 kms of traffic behind them. You’d think that they had the brains to move those vehicles aside, or to a side lane, but no….just continue the mayhem the next day.


Merapi shows it’s eastern flank near sundown. So I’ve circumvented it from 3 o’clock back to 1 o’clock. Imagine a round clock. I missed the 1 to 3 o’clock portions.


After 125 kms, I get to Solo one hour after sunset at 6.30 pm. The Fave Hotel (there are 2 in town and about 50 all over the country) booked online for the princely sum of $33 plus breakfast. My wallet is not complaining.


Pretty in pink and the window faces west, towards Merapi. Cant get enough of it, and of course they have cable TV ! A long shower and slow satay dinner at the hotel cafe ensued. I don’t want to leave this building unless absolutely necessary !




Days 3 & 4

Left the choked roads out of Semarang on a quiet Sunday morning. Headed south inland and 3 steep climbs awaited me. Instantly cooler in the shade of big trees, as sweat poured out like a leaking shower. The last 2 days must have been too easy, with minimal cycling and maximum eating and snacking.

Destination. The hill town of Bandungan, very close to one of the country’s amazing sights. Gedong Songo. A cluster of 9 ancient Hindu temples or candi in the hills high above the sweltering plains. 1250m asl to be exact.

After 30 kms or so on the highway, I turned right into a smaller road that wound it’s way into the hills. A wonderful 90% drop in traffic, and an increase in rural scenery laid before my front wheel.  For the first time padi fields and wooden huts reminded me of Bali. I detoured into smaller concrete roads, with even better scenery and zero traffic.

The climb was only 9 kms, before Bandungan showed itself. A small crossroads village market, that hugged the hill sides meaning flatter roads and easier cycling. Time was certainly on my side. That was until a sudden thunderstorm had me heading for shelter at a disused fruit stand, just 1 km from the Kusma Hotel down the road.

It poured for almost an hour non stop. Then the roof of the stall started to leak. Doing nothing my tummy started to rumble like the thunder in the mountains. I did not really have a lunch, just drinks and snacks from Alfamaret. Cold drinks and freezing AC to boot. They are a Godsend for cyclists and there must be a few thousand outlets in the country.

Just as I was running out of patience, the rains eased and I rode gingerly on the wet and slick roads out of town. The Kusma Hotel was set nicely on a hill side and I got a room facing south and the mountains. Gorgeous views of Mt. Merbabu’s north face and Mt Merapi just behind it.

Like many resort towns in the country, there’s a slew of sleazy ones whose main attraction is the horrendous karaoke parlour and attendant bunch of women in tight clothes.

Seeing that it was a Sunday, and loads of traffic that was leaving Bandungan back to the cities in the plains, it was time to negotiate for a better rate. A deluxe room was going for Rp 500k / $50 way beyond a single traveller’s budget. Reception was nice enough to dangle me the local rate. Rp 300k. A very done deal. Only 2 other rooms out of 20 had guests.

A quick cleanup and I was ready for a 6 pm dinner and a very early night. A simple fried rice with bits of chicken and 2 very black cups of coffee  at an unbelievable Rp 31000, just over $3.00.

Back to a newish 1 year old room, my only ‘companions’ were fast wifi and a dozen movie channels ! This was going to be de rigeur in all the hotel I stayed at. Not that I’m complaining.

Day 4’s weather was gorgeous, as all early mornings in the mountains should be. Let it rain in the late afternoon when I’m in or nearing the night’s hotel. I had to make an early start if I wanted more time to see Gedong Songo and still be back in time for breakfast which ends very early at 9.00 am. It was going to be tight. 5 kms to the start of a steep 3 km climb and back. Photography was going to be my time stealer, as always, but the views were worth it.

After about 2 hours of pottering around Gedong Songo and it’s marvellous setting, it was time to leave. Got back to breakfast 30 mins late and of course the restaurant was bare. No matter, checked out and headed downhill to Ambarawa, whose railway station/museum ate up another hour or so of sightseeing. 2 pm and I’ve clocked a massive 12 kms.

Saw ‘Pauline’s Bakery’ on Google Maps the previous night and headed for it for a snack. As I thought, a Chinese establishment fronted by local Indonesians. No heavy sleep inducing lunches this trip, just snacks to get me thru the daylight hours. I was not disappointed.

A ‘lumpia’ or fried spring roll (so good I took away another 2) a nice sweet slice of ‘kueh lapis’ or layered butter cake, and another unknown peanut stuffed sticky concoction, and a canned Nescafe, all consumed at a lone table inside Pauline’s. $4.00 for the whole lot. Burp !

I’m set for the 40 kms of highway to Magelang ‘city’

Then I saw a sign for a lengthy detour to a coffee plantation and resort. The former Losari Resort now rebranded as the Msea Still Resort. Cycled through some bucolic country lanes far removed from the busy trafficked ones. Drats, a big hill to climb to reach it’s gates. No cycling up to the reception, a huge converted railway station building, transported piece by piece to a hill top. Parked the bike where the staff do, A discreet parking lot hidden in the trees. A uniformed guard helped across the narrow road, whistle blown and a red flag up, even without any traffic at all.

Cleaned myself up and ordered a latte. Rp47.5K after taxes. Or $5.00. It was so pricey but good. Better still they refilled my water bottle with ice and water. I love posh places. Saw just another guest in the dining room.

Now temptation crept in. How much for a night here? They only have villas and the 20% tax levied here could get me a room in Magelang or elsewhere. So about $$240 with breakfast. That was about 33% of my whole trip budget and I have 7 more nights to clear.

Magelang here I come, rumbling thunder in the distance and all. I pedalled away as some raindrops fell.


Image  —  Posted: June 23, 2016 in Mountain Bike Touring Central Java 2016
Tags: ,

Days 1 & 2

A 10 day solo trip into Central Java. Started at Semerang along Java’s north coast. A sizable city. a smaller version of East Java’s huge Surabaya, best seen from a slow bicycle, especially when city roads are choked with traffic, technically making cycling faster and saves one the hassle of dealing with public transport and the accompanying fare hikes for tourists.

Right from the city’s smallish airport, (2 immigration counters) I got a taxi booked from an airport taxi booth to my hotel 5 kms away. Rp 50,000 or $5.00. Initially wanted to fix the bike at the airport and ride into town, but the expected 40 deg C temps forecasted for the middle of May,  was deterrent enough. I could do all that in the comfort of my AC room.

Being in a biggish city, with a Dutch past and having arrived in the late afternoon meant that 2 nights in Semarang was a given. There was no way I could see the sights, check out at 12 noon and ride to the next destination. Well I could have done that but that meant not much time left for uncertainties like getting lost or dealing with inclement weather and reaching a hill side town in the dark.

I sort of got this bike touring thing down to a pat. Have ample time when in a strange city, or when leaving it.

Semarang has an old town feel, notwithstanding a few skyscrapers and glitzy malls. Spent quite a few afternoon hours in the actual old town itself. Crumbling Dutch buildings,with quiet neighbourhoods and back roads away from the choked main roads.

On this particular Saturday, there was a flea market and closed roads which made walking and slow cycling a joy. You could see the kids making full use of the peace without cars and other traffic in front of their homes.

I spotted a couple of chic coffee places with great air con and wifi. What more could I ask for?  Tokodeco was set in a 2 storey conservation building and the iced single origin Sumatran coffee I had was heavenly. $3.00 whole dollars.

Leaving Semarang was not easy. The city has mountains at it’s southern backyard. A bunch of volcanoes that separate it from Java’s southern coast. I was also not at my fittest. A case of too much input and not enough output. Hence one of the reasons for a bike trip. Ride a whole lot, and eat sensibly all I want.

3 big climbs loomed just as I left the city limits. They were not that steep but with luggage any cyclist would know that another 50% more effort would have to be put in, just so you don’t ride in the embarrassing single digit speeds.

I actually stopped and rested outside a palatial hotel. It was shady and sent in a posh residential district.  Immediately the winds here were much cooler than the lowlands. I was lucky too as not much later a convoy of Harleys zoomed by. I thought a thunderstorm was looming.

Nah, just your average moneyed Indonesian out to show the world their expensive toys on a Sunday. The convoy was led by of all people, the traffic police! An outrider would go ahead, stopping all traffic, so that the convoy could pass and even run red lights. This has sparked some outrage on social media as to why some are more equal than others to the extent of paying the police to clear traffic for them.

After 30kms I found my riding legs and stopped at a ‘milk factory’ It was jam packed and I guess a place to go for a family outing on a Sunday. Got a cold yoghurt and left.

The turnoff for the mountains was just opposite it.

Gallery  —  Posted: June 23, 2016 in Mountain Bike Touring Central Java 2016
Tags: ,

A Black Tuesday

Posted: June 16, 2016 in Accidents, Bikes

Black as in a bad bicycle accident, black as in bad luck, but lots of red as I was bleeding a lot. From the head. 2.30 pm. Tuesday 31st of May 2016.

Trying to recall the events in detail, 16 days later is no mean feat, but I’d like to think I am recovering well enough to remember every moment. There will be lots of words and graphic photos (from my dear wife’s phone cam) so be warned.

Running errands on my bikes have become second nature. Took out the 16in wheel Bike Friday tikit for a test ride, while getting a late lunch at 2 pm, sending my Coleen’s tights to a neighbourhood tailor, to be altered and then off to the supermarket for some supplies, seemed like another mundane bike ride. Job done in under an hour.

Those familiar with Bishan will know where the Bishan Loft Condo is. On Street 11. There’s a slight downslope to the left as one heads toward Braddell Road. A quiet neighbourhood street, with thankfully little traffic on a weekday afternoon. I crashed near the big tree in the photos, managed to pick myself up and walked to sit down under it.

I really can’t remember the moments before the crash. It happened in milliseconds. Was not speeding but bikes do pick up speed on a small downslope even. Looks like the long lock that was hanging in the bike’s front rack, crept slowly downwards onto the front wheel, got tightly jammed between the tyre and mudguard/fender, front V brakes and wheel dropouts.

Instantaneous stopping, strong enough to severely bent the front fork way inwards. At least that was what I saw after I picked myself up, and held a hand against the  right forehead as blood was gushing out from a deep cut there as well as the right nostril.

I could have hit the bike’s stem as there were blood stains there. Better designed stems have nice rounded shapes and NO sharp edges. I saw a pool of blood on the road and the bike about 10 feet ahead of that.

I came to realise what happened as I sat on the road, at the same time looking back to check for traffic coming around the bend and top of the hill outside the condo entrance. All cyclists do that.

I slowly stood up, and being able to do that was a relief, walking to a grass verge and asking strangers for help. Seeing my bloodied face, the first lady at the scene panicked and asked who to call. I remember telling her, ‘ambulance and police’. She saw me crash, parked her car and came to help. Another calmer woman, did the same. I asked her to take my bike and get it off the road. Plus I instructed her to unlatch the front Ortleib handlebar bag, as all my stuff including wallet and bank book was inside. All this while no traffic passed by.

Then God sent another angel to my aid. A man parked his car where I crashed, came to me and asked me to sit down and lean against a tree. ‘Dont worry, I am a medic’ He gave me a clean towel and told me to hold it against my head. I heard another passerby asking how he could help. Mr Medic asked for clean water and was given some to wet the towel and wash off any dirt. I heard their chatter saying something like the gash was about 1 cm deep and they could see ‘a bone’

He also checked the rest of my body especially the back, arm and leg movements as these areas are usually the parts to take the impact from a bicycle fall. Thankfully, I just had a slightly scraped right shoulder.

Ambulance and police arrived in about 10 minutes and Mr Medic briefed the ambulance crew. As fast as he appeared, I could not see his BMW. I can’t thank him enough. As well as the 2 ladies, who wanted to help in asking me to contact my relatives. Now traffic was starting to build up, cars and buses that normally ply this road quite heavily during peak hours.


4 yr old Limar shades, right lems missing from impact, left lens probably protected my left eye. $80 from a Muar bike shop, $150 in SG. I win again.

Now I know I was not going to leave this earth this soon, as I was able to give my wife’s contact number, my NRIC number and home address to the policewoman and ambulance crew. the police were kind enough to sent the battered bike to my home. Drop it with Mr Kumar, the day security guard at Lakeview. Done deal, no paperwork for them and no bike hunting for me later on, at some police station where the bike will surely rot. Plus I wanted to see what really caused the crash.

I had hit my right cheek real hard it seems. Scans later in the following days, showed 4 fractures there, another one above the right eyebrow and a small one above the left. Minor internal bleeding above the left temple but with a 1% chance of causing problems later on.

Different doctors were giving different opinions on my brain’s condition in the coming days, so I just took the most optimistic ones and left it in God’s hands. I did question the NS, neuro surgeons, plastic surgeons, ENT doctors quite a bit though, with the eye specialist giving the most reassuring answers to question about my brain and fractures even.

Lying and waiting in the A n E department of TTSH, I was told that both the police and ambulance crew had contacted my wife a few times. Timing wise, it was wiser to do that as I had to get to the hospital asap, and only then should she be informed. That would also give her maybe 2 to 3 hours of ‘worrying less’

Although I got cleaned up and treated at the A n E, it was a good 6 hours at least before I got to my hospital bed at past midnight. Silly me, thinking that I would get stitched up, stay a night and get discharged the next day. It took 8 days and 7 nights, and there were certainly good reasons for it.

Singapore’s A n E departments or emergency rooms, are notorious for overcrowding and my experience was no different. Beds are parked side by side, inches away from the next patient. Doctors and nurses scrambling and even running from place to place.

Seeing that I was left aside for long stretches of time, meant that there were much more serious cases to attend to. Got to count every blessing I had. After being cleaned up I was pushed into a more quieter but ‘high dependency’ section.  Off limits to visitors. A CT scan soon followed.

The airconditioning was  a plus here. I did ask for some water and that took an hour to arrive. At least a scurrying nurse remembered ! Coleen and I were able to communicate somewhat as she stood next to a sliding door that separated me n her from the ‘holding room’ of about 30 other people. She could see my legs only. And the water I asked for, from her was delivered in a minute via a nurse that was traversing between the 2 domains. Holding room and high dependency room.

I am very grateful and touched that Pastor Alvin and internet cycling friend Bob, showed up at the A n E. Not so much for me but to reassure Coleen that I was banged up but generally OK.  Bob a retired American Homeland security officer, now living in Thailand, with his Thai wife he met in California,  had to leave the country for 5 days before re-entering it. Something to do with his long term stay visa.

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Bob likes my sexy purplish eyeshadow ! Blah !

We had plans for lunch the next day, but that was obviously scuttled. Bob and another long time friend Peter, of Tiong Bahru No 7 fishball fame, saw me the very next morning. How they managed to get past security, official visiting hours and visitor screening is beyond me. Haha these guys are good !


A rich dude with a crappy phone cam !

In his own affable, OK sickening way, Peter told me that I looked like shit, real shit. Trained in sports medicine he told me of concussions, brain bleeding, strokes and comas, bruises and wounds. Blah blah blah. As he was not a real doctor, I did not take his teasing to heart. We have been teasing each other since 1991.

I’ve just got bruised eyes. He’s had a detached retina, ruptured tendons, and lately a slipped disc. Maladies that come with hero macho stuff. 180km real (silly) man off road runs in Vietnam, Hongkong and Thailand.

2nd day versus 15th day (of discharge)

God is on my side, he will never leave me. If no one is ‘for you’ who else can there be but God?  I am more than ready for my 120% restoration !

In fact Peter, please feel free to leave anytime. Haha. 120 minutes later he did. We had a really good chat. Me still in my bloodstained shorts and underwear from 18 hours ago. Bob had checked out of his Geylang hotel and made a decision to go to JB. As Peter was on his way to his second home to JB, I asked him to be useful and give Bob a ride too.

Bob’s planning to take a train to Woodlands and the a 170 bus across, is no fun even though thousands do it 24/7. I think Bob was most pleased he didn’t too. I shook his hairy hand firmly and thanked him for his visit, promising that the next time we meet, it won’t be in a hospital. A beach in Thailand would be just perfect. With wives in tow of course.


Precious friends. God like status to those bringing salty, spicy hawker food !

 In the following 7 days and nights a constant stream of friends dropped by, after hearing of my plight. Let me recall them, in no particular order of importance, length of friendship or what goodies they brought me. Well the bearer of 2 servings of wantan mee from Hong Lim Food Center, just one hour after my surgery, is the exception LOL.

Fishball Peter, Bob, Alvin and Celia, George and Wendy, KC, Ying Chang and Doreen, Kung Fu Peter, Joeel and Esther, Roland,  Betty, Christoph and Angkana, Sandra and Kelvin, Sandra’s sister, Matt Lee, Matt Chia,  An Dien, Constance and Pearlin.


Day 6

3 VVIPs stand out. My wonderful wife, the only person allowed to bathe me, and mum and dad in law, who came down from KL. MIL stayed 5 days to look after the nurse looking after me. Dad and Coleen were overjoyed also to find $300 on the floor, outside a money changers at Novena Square. Wished I was there too. God’s rewards continue to surprise us daily. That actually paid for other healing stuff in the pics below.

With such wonderful company, is was not difficult to heal well and fast. As the slew of medicines made up for most meals, I decided to forgo the painkillers, laxatives and what not. The nurses were surprised that there was no pain, but there wasn’t any, just numb swelling on one side of the face. Maybe a few nerves were traumatised but in this case, that was a very good thing.

The nights were however quite long. When everyone left, it was just me and my mind. And the noises that seemed OK in the day were magnified ten fold. Closing and opening of drawers, bins and even faraway chatter from the night staff. Sleeping at 10 pm and waking up at 2 am expecting and early dawn,  was de rigeur. Not a hint of daylight from the east.

Again God was generous. I had a bed by a window facing south and the city. Twinkling lights and very importantly, cool breezes. If fact it rained quite a bit in those 7 days, even in the daytime, making the non AC ward, most bearable even at noon.

My facial surgery was scheduled 4 days after the crash. the plastic surgeons were gung ho and ready to go. This was after the eye specialist said that surgery was a 50/50 option seeing that the fractures were ‘not severe’

We rejoiced for a day, until the chief neuro surgeon decided that my swelling was still pronounced and it would be better to wait till Monday to do it. So a weekend in hospital was certain. Again this was a God guided decision, as my right nostril was leaking moisture and blood each time I stood up and walked. Fed up, I just stuffed a tissue into it and cursed the devil ! I swore at him a lot.

Doctors were concerned that brain fluid might be leaking through the nasal passages also, as well my membrane was also ruptured at the forehead. They told me to keep watch. What do I know?  What does brain fluid look like?

Scary stuff like this bothered me for a minute or two. Sleep came easy with industrial strength earplugs from George. For about 3 hours.

Coincidentally, Friday night was also the worse in terms of stuff trying to leave my body. I woke up feeling something gagging in my mouth. Then I realised that it could be phlegm, from the nose. Hurried to the bathroom and lo and behold, a mouth full of coagulated, jelly like blood was dumped into the sink, followed by lesser red blood.

Gargling produced more diluted blood and I knew nothing else was coming up my throat, except for some tiny squiggly bits of gelatin like residue stuck onto some teeth. There satan, you go play with that and choke on it.

Went back to bed and slept instantly. Don’t want to think too much. The weekend came and went by quickly. Not because of more rest, but the larger than normal crowds of visitors for all 5 patients in the ward. On a hilarious note, I got to befriend an ex soldier now down with diabetes and back problems which might require surgery.

A tough, bald Singaporean Malay man who of all things, ‘offered’ me some char siew pau (red pork dumplings) once I got back from surgery early Monday morning. Right.

I knew he was the ward jester after facing and looking at his toes across from my bed, for almost a week. Each time he stood up, he would come around all of us to take orders for beer and burgers, but he only got as far as the toilet.

D Day was on Monday, just 7 days after the crash. Managed to clear my bowels twice without laxatives. It was bright and early at 7.30 am. I think the nurses and doctors were more excited than me. I wanted to sleep some more. Wheeled into the icy cold, operating theatre at 8.00, and the action started at about 9.00. Got gassed and next thing I knew, I was in a hallway at 11.00. Done.

Drenched in sweat and heart racing like a road bike in the Tour de France. Possibly 150 bpm. Everything was over. Calmed myself down, as I felt my bed rolling back to my ward on the 10th floor. No painkillers again, but I had to deal with a different set of stitches, swelling and bruises from the operation, not so much the crash.

Deep down inside there was this desire to ‘reign over’ any obstacle, any pain. Thankfully only numbness prevailed. Pain was plucked out by it’s roots and tossed into the sea, so to speak.

The promise of a discharge, and giving up my bed of 7 nights to someone more deserving, the next day was reward enough for me.


Through the wonders of Dr Google and FB this is the man, Dr Sam, responsible for my quick and painless surgery. God bless you and your guiding hands !

Day 18. I found out later that incisions were made at the left eyelid, right eyelid, right eye socket or orbital floor and inside the mouth, for the plastic surgeon to access and look at the fractures, and inject a polymer compound including some screws of the same, that will help to hold the fractures together and aid in bone growth where the cracks were. 100% bone healing would take about 6 months to a year.

Removing the stitches, the surgeon was most pleased that my bruising was fast disappearing, but more so was very proud of his work in that the stitching left no visible scars. What a nice guy to talk to and ask a myriad of questions.

Apparently the layman’s idea for such surgeries would be titanium implants and screws but aside from being beeped by airport scanners, titanium is a permanent, while people are not, as with age facial features and bone start to shrink, causing more problems. Like having surgery again to remove or realign titanium plates a few years down the road. Ouch!

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16 year old Oakley Frogskins came in handy. Don’t want to scare too many kids that I bump into outside of home.

During a follow up session 3 weeks later, I took a quick photo from a computer screen when both doctor and nurse were not around.

The technical terms are grim to the layman. Lots of fractures, but good news too.

1.   Acute SDH with possible acute SAH as described. No mass effect, midline shift or hydrocephalus.

2.   Comminuted depressed right frontal vault / superior orbital rim fracture is seen with underlying pneumocephalus

3.   Numerous facial bone fractures are seen, including bilateral orbital lateral walls,  right lamina papyracea, bilateral sphenoid sinus walls, right maxillary sinus all walls, right orbital floor fracture involving the intra orbital foramen, bilateral and right medial plerygoid plates, right zygomatic arch, left zygomatic body, comminuted nasal bone fracture, medial aspects of left squamous temporal bone, involving the foramen spinosum, bilateral planum sphenoidale, right sphenoid body and wing, right maxillary alveolar ridge.

4.   Emphysema is seen in both orbits, the sella and both cavernous sinuses. There is no extra-ocular muscle herniation or entrapment. Blood is seen in bilateral maxillary and sphenoid and right ethmoid sinuses. The globes are intact. The mastoid air cells are unremarkable.

‘Unremarkable’ and ‘resolved’ Very good words to hear.

P1150003 P1170079Unfortunately this place has ceased to operate.

P1150641 P1160538 P1160666 P1160669 P1160651

Beat the late night rains by a minute or so.


Very nice special treatment for my bike box. I guess the trailer was full.


I packed a full sized mountain bike in a folding bike box to see how difficult it could get. Surprisingly it wasn’t that bad, even with having to remove the fork. The box was only as tall as the wheels, but with all the air out of the tyres.

The box was for a Tern foldie with 24 inch wheels. I don’t think a traditional 20 inch foldie box would do the job. That would be stretching my packing skills much too much.


All done in air con comfort and ready to hit the streets of Penang.


A token bike lane in less congested Penang. Batu Ferenghi beachside road to be exact.


He’s a happy dude


Outside a hipster coffee place. Nice old Raleigh though


Good ol Penang Hill ‘jeep track’ as it was known in the old days. Some punishing 30% inclines in all of 5 kms.


She gave up after 700 metres of granny gearing. ‘See you at the bottom of the hill’


So steep, the road just disappears from view, round the bend


Penang lang all recharged after checking their phones and some smokes !


I gave up in the fading light after 3500m. One of the reasons was dinner . See following pics. I did ride up all the way back in 1989, on a heavier bike. Ahh the wonders of youth. 😉





Meow !



Art? The artist almost couldn’t get approval to drive this bra padded Honda around town.  Something to do with driver distraction but I guess ‘morality’ was the underlying issue.



Even before we hit the streets of Georgetown, we must indulge slightly in proper and uninterrupted sleep.

P1150181 I went to Penang twice in 2014, exceeding my trip quotas for the island since my previous trip was way back in 2009. That was the solo bike trip from Phuket. Although I like to stay in the midst of  old Georgetown amongst the grime and crime, namely the 5 decade old Hong Ping Hotel along Chulia Street within spitting distance of it’s street hawker stalls. I am not travelling solo this time.

Time for a change, change can be good and blow some budgets but everywhere is still accessible as we do have two very able bicycles with us. Those by themselves, allow for more eats and exercise as well as taking a Penang taxi only once, from hotel to airport on our last day.

P1150182 I do prefer smaller family run hotels with less than 10 rooms. We did find this one though when total renovations are done there will be about 20 or more rooms. It is out of the Georgetown heritage zone though, which means a slightly lower nightly rate of RM$140 on line. We were lucky to be given an upgraded and larger corner room by the nice manager at The Sovereign Hotel along Lorong Kinta. On her FB she was a former beauty queen. As with most heritage hotels on the island a nice facade is preserved in front but the insides can be totally gutted out and modernised. Low ceilings and limited windows are common as well as creaky wooden staircases. Our only window was the one in the bathroom that opened up into a stairwell and faced 3 other bathroom windows.


 The entrance is a key card accessed glass door. It trapped our bike wheels more than once!

P1150443 Outside the heritage zone,  you can chose your colour scheme as you like with some tacky consequences.


Nice suggestions. Seen in a restaurant in the ‘zone’


 They have it all.


A ‘younger generation’ business

P1150686 The oldest profession in the world can be found through this grimy entrance of the Paris Hotel. Quite a far fetched name. Many legs popping out of short skirts line the lobby walls. It was 12 noon and I was in search of a bike shop in the area.


 An annual  15% increase in traffic with zero % increase in road space in down town Penang.

P1150637 Lebuh Acheh mosque

P1160866  A half day trip to the other side, Balik Pulau and experience it’s traffic jams.

P1170195 Old but new electronics. Haven’t they heard of IPad controlled lighting?

P1170311 P1170474


Bad English but who cares?

P1170391 I have the same day pack in the same colour. The venerable Osprey Daylight.


August seems to be opera time. Penang attracts opera troupes from as far as China.P1160768 P1150144 Teens left to their devices



Attempting a 1968 selfie.P1150125

Brownie along Armenian Street has her own FB page

P1150519 The hallways haven’t changed in 5 decades. Hilltop hotel on Penang Hill. Temperatures here are  a few degrees cooler that the sweltering urban jungle below.


The lawn at the only hotel on the hill with a panoramic view over ever expanding Georgetown


The stories these walls could have told


The latest funicular train up and down Penang Hill. It was fast. A $30 round trip.


Where do I start? Penang has been a melting pot of cultures and races for ages. Chinese, indian. Malay and Eurasian. To summarise so soon, one will never go hungry in Penang by following  a simple formula of sampling the two main stays of noodles and rice and whatever else in between that you fancy on the streets of Georgetown.

Even repeat the process in more convenient food courts and air conditioned malls if a change of scenery is called for. We are partial to the streets as there’s food from 6 am to midnight, and we can easily cycle to them at short notice. Like every 2 hours. Accessibility by bicycle is actually quite a dangerous thing. You will see more and eat more and never worry about parking. Just carry a small bike lock.


Wantan or wanton or jokingly, one tonne noodles, they are everywhere in town. The more popular ones will need their own space like a whole coffeeshop, instead of a small space shared with other hawkers.



This humble push cart along Chuiia Street has been around longer than I can remember, Possibly since 1978 when I first set foot in Penang. The 2 sons have taken over from their parents. They are now balding and middle aged. People gather even before they arrive and wait patiently for things to get going. Queues form with people sitting on stools, and once the tattered well worn wooden panels are removed as a sign that they are ready, all hell breaks loose…. Another couple has a push cart a few shops down the road, and theirs will take up the slack if this original heavyweight is too crowded.

Closed on Mondays and opened the rest of the week rain or shine. (competitor opens on Mondays)

P1150653Springy egg noodles and a light black soya sauce are the magic ingredients and of course a large dose of fragrant lard and it’s crispy bits hasn’t changed in decades. The boiled wantans are better than the deep fried ones, while the red char siew pork slices have gotten thinner over the years. It still beats anything else for miles around !

P1170629Another variant in another coffee shop. There must be dozens upon dozens on this island.  P1170632   P1160503A char siew supplier. Pork tanning in the morning sun, Charcoal roasted ones are the best.P1150260A Pulau Tikus Penang style Hokkien mee  P1160869Penang style laksa

P1170634Delectable char kuay teow has to be slightly moist and not too dry or burnt.P1150707The humble lunch time fried rice with char siew bits. Best with a dash of belachan in than saucer. Just RM$4.00  P1160483Chee cheong fun. A starter for breakfast.P1150677For a slight change, pork or chicken porridge and char koay khak / carrot cake  P1160489As authentic as it gets. The family has progressed from a wooden cart to polished steel one. P1170277  Firewood in 2014 ?!?P1170281Take aways only…….you’ll need to find a coffee shop and order some coffee or tea  P11702845 minutes later.  P1150259Thick fat bean sprouts to complement the sometimes salty and fried carrot cake. Pulau Tikus market.P1150448Curries at lunchtime. P1150558Since 1933 I believe…..  P1150555Good ol murtabak at Hamideeyah. Campbell Street. Penang style is not that crispy, but the insides are ‘meaty’  P1150034Indian curries on tap 24 hrs a day…….    P1150022Expect food center prices to be higher than individual street stalls. there’s better all weather seating for sure.P1150709Fresh  P1160701Mall food in cooler surroundings. Very good Turkish at Paragon. $14.00  P1150046Eventually we come to our complementary hotel breakfasts  …….P1150045  Ah well, they do look nicer…..P1170291I stayed here 5 days, so there were variations of this combination….  P1150335What I always term a last resort as there was nothing opened at Penang’s northern beaches in the morning. They do have almost clean toilets to clean up after a ride in the rain, 90% less flies than the outside, and wifi, but those don’t fill the tummy.


Advertising in a hotel elevator.

17th May 2014 / 110 kms. 18th May 2014 / 35 kms P1140870 To rest well you need to know the Thai Betong Hotel’s floor plan. On the ground is the lobby, a small wannabe cafe, and shops for neighbours. 2nd floor is a 20th century evil, the empty orchestra or karaoke. Above it, the colourful windows are rooms. Above those in what used to be the roof are even more rooms. I guess those are the newest to be built and should be in an acceptable condition. Ours was one facing the back with a nicer and quieter view than this main road. If you have weak legs avoid the rooftop rooms. The elevator stops one floor below and you’d have to carry 2 mountain bikes up one floor each time you return. Sadly I thought this was our best bet. Away from karaoke and a room at the back. 1st night was blissful but my heart sank when 3 Perak plated pick ups showed up in front of the hotel, late afternoon. You could see the old hands sauntering in like it was their home and the newbies. Wide eyed, laughing and fidgeting and studying intensely any poster that had a scantily clad girl on it. Old hands handed out room keys to the newbies like chocolate treats on Halloween. If your drunk and pot bellied like our Indian neighbours on the second night, you should actually faint in the lift and let us sleep in peace ! Coming back at 3 am, and hitting each door hard, screaming for a friend, not knowing which is your actual room is not cool. I saw all the Planet of the Apes movies. They had better manners. P1140865 As we did not really cycle enough, I had this grand plan to look for some trails I saw when on the 24th floor of the Grand Mandarin Hotel. They were short and short lived. So it’s back to breakfast then. Across the street from our hotel, where the drunks are still snoring. Oh I usually get up early on departure days like 6 am. With 2 bikes and luggage to handle, noise is something I can’t avoid. Slamming doors and bike wheels hitting walls and doors are quite normal. If you have a hangover, well tough. P1140873 Thai/Malaysian style wanton noodles. Yummy, large portion for Thb 50, and should last a long while on the road. P1140876 Though the shop is old, they get an A plus for hygene in covering up the necessary utensils. P1140880 Back at our lobby check out is delayed as there are some important work related mails to answer. No point saying we’re in Betong. No Singapore city slicker has heard of it. What ? Where ? P1140886 There is no shortage of hotels in P. Hulu, a border cross roads, with Gerik and northern Perak, although do take the ‘highland’ parts with a pinch of salt. P1140892 The 10 km downhill from Pengkalang Hulu to Baling is savoured and relished as we did the opposite 2 days ago. P1140897 A break at a newish rest stop along highway K12 and then 4 directly to Penang. It was long, trafficked and boring, not many pictures to take dodging traffic and heat. Going in the opposite would also suck big time. Malaysians seem to be more on the roads on a Sunday. P1140898 We are just swapping seats, though the perplexed and clueless on FB had a field day dissecting our carelessness on leaving our bikes unguarded while lunching 5 feet away. P1140906 After a few wrong turns into some housing estates, getting lost in Kulim, we finally got only to Bukit Mertajam and to a choice hotel recommended by friends. I present to you, none other than the ‘Luscious Hotel’  Look closely, the lobby has French curtains. P1140903

Checkered floors and chandeliers too.

P1140907 A nice tip from some guys at a tyre shop led us to a simple but oh so delicious dinner. We were in a light industry area and there were no high brow places to speak off, not that we needed any. Soon after 2 guys from the same tyre shop came by. Hardworking small town chaps, dinner at 8.30 pm and then it’s back to the shop. P1140911

RM$4.00 / US$1.30

P1140918 When we checked in last night after 110 kms, a looooong day by any stretch of the imagination, the Luscious looked like a beacon of rest and relaxation, I mean look at the lobby and floors, this in the middle of tyre shops and sundry stores. Then came the shocker. No rooms, full. I did not make reservations, seeing they had quite a few rooms and this was Bukit Mertajam, small town Malaysia, though close to popular Penang. My mind was thinking, rest, dinner, regroup and find something else in the dark. A nearby mall was opening and all the rooms were booked out by ‘the Tesco people’ who returned at midnight and left at the break of dawn. Then came a flicker of hope. We have a Family Room for 4 people. Cool, Just charge us for 2 people, we won’t use the other king sized bed. No can do, boss’s orders. Where is your boss? Not here, at home. He will give you the same answer. Well OK for RM$159, we will use 2 beds meant for four. And bikes go in the room. On another note breakfast was spectacular for a small town hotel. P1140924 Yesterday as I was looking at my 1998 map of Penang in the fading light, a stranger got out of his truck to render some help. Why of course we were lost with a map from 1998, and could use some directions ! I had overshot some turns but he told us of a more scenic route to the hotel having stayed there too. As he was also a cyclist that helped a lot and  this morning in brighter light we had this kind of scenery in quite a built up area. The last of some padi fields and palm plantations around that did not have housing encroaching around it. Thank you stranger ! P1140926 Butterworth and the ferry to Penang was to be a paltry 20 kms but with our wandering over bypasses. U turns and incursions onto fast highways without paying tolls, we got 30 kms on the meters. Malaysian mile markers and distance signs are at best average in their accuracy. Add on 20 % extra to manage expectations.

P1140928Heading in the wrong direction after climbing another railway overpass. Another !


As a law abiding citizen, I generally follow older trunk roads that lie under these kinda bridges which are highways and bicycles are usually banned from it. The roads below are a maze and after numerous checks with people, they said why not just use the bridge cos that’s all they know. The new bridge across the Prai River, an industrial suburb of mainland Penang, and the most direct route to the ferry terminal. So heck we did. High tolls meant that few cars were on it anyway and were probably on the old trunk roads below clogging it.


We had to really hustle as a storm was approaching with every second lost. Pitter patter…..and made it just in time onto a departing ferry. As the clouds unleashed their fury, the winds were fiercely whipping up the waves as soon as the ferry departed. We were slightly wet but relieved and panting, having to ride at full speed the last few minutes. P1140945 P1140964 After waiting an eternity at the Georgetown side of the ferry, we rode in the pelting rain to get some lunch. Most of the traditional coffee shops were closing or closed, this being Sunday too, but not Subway at Beach Street. The weekly ‘Occupy Beach Street’  was washed out too. Tents were set up as usual but no one was around. A bit of coffee at Twelve Cups to finish off and I realised that we spent RM$55 and were still hungry! Welcome to expensive Penang. We need to watch our wallets the next 4 days. P1140977

P1140992I say, ‘Do you come here often?’