Alor Star to Georgetown, Penang: A nice finale

Posted: June 8, 2010 in Cycle touring South Thailand & Malaysia 2010
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you see what I see without sweating

Wednesday May 12, 2010, 108 km (67 miles) – Total so far: 971 km (603 miles)

Today’s ride was a fitting end on this journey south, overcast and cloudy and even a shower on the last 20kms into Penang Island. Started with riding 10 kms out of Alor Star, due west to the coast towards Kuala Kedah, jumping off point to Langkawi Island. Then a quick left into K1 which is mostly straight for the first 40 kms. Many schoolkids on bicycles, some trying to start a race. Much of the route was tree lined and the shade was very welcome, after yesterday’s sizzling heat.

Opening my panniers after each ride, stuff like shampoo and toothpaste are still warm to the touch.

Some small hills to roll over after the village of Yan, as I pass the flanks of a huge granite outcrop of Gunung Jerai at the halfway point. Reaching the elusive Tanjong/Cape Dawai I keep an eye out for the town jetty. Then it’s a quick RM$12 ferry ride across the mouth of the huge Merbok River to Merdeka Beach on the opposite bank.


Philippe's fully loaded bike

Crept up behind a French couple on fully loaded ‘De Silva’ touring bikes on a world tour. They started in Mongolia and are making their way south. We agreed that after Thailand, Malaysia was getting to be a bit more expensive, and Singapore, well is on par with New York or London. They were keen to find out ferry routes to Australia, saying that their bike trip was getting a bit too routine and held no more excitement as when they first started. They were stopping at Sungei Petani just a few kms on.


Socks and shoes off less I get wet. The clear waters were a welcome relief and I was severely tempted to take a swim even, but there was another 65 kms or so to go, so off to more plodding. I am taking the straightest route to Penang , no deviations inland as the locals would suggest each time I asked. You’ll understand why, tomorrow.

Across the huge Merbok river mouth

Just 10 kms from Butterworth into the home stretch and a car ferry crossing into Penang, things get a tad confusing. I am supposed to be on the old trunk roads, but no the clever new signs to the ferry lead me on to a 6 laned highway/bypass and into a container terminal. Malaysian road signs are something else. Even when driving, you’ll directions after the fork in the road and not say 100 meters before so that you can make a decision. I follow traffic off the highway into a turn off and sure enough a small sign says ‘Feri’ or ferry in local lingo. A really smart cop here tells me of a shortcut, against traffic and over some railroad tracks, and on to the ramps for the ferry. Bet he uses it a lot.

The ages old ferry service running into Penang still operates 50 year old ferries from the mainland to Penang. I rode into one just in time before they raised the ramps. You get into Penang free, but have to pay when you’re on board leaving the island. While there was still some daylight I went to the city’s two huge bike shops to secure a box for the flight home. I shall leave my credit card in the room, as during my cursory glance into the shops, some bike accessories were already calling out to me. Look, look…

Backpacker central, Chulia Street, Georgetown


I am holed up here tonight, but ah the street food just outside. Really glad also for my super comfy Keen walking shoes. They will be earning their keep, as exploring Georgetown on foot deserves a good 2 to 3 days. I’ve done that before, and having a bike handy will cut that time in half.

Tempted to try the ‘Old Trafford Burger Shop’ Yes Man U fans can get a taste of the local mystery meat even at midnight, but I shall pass having sat down at three places already and will be contributing later to the coffers of 7/11 Malaysia. The lure of crushed ice and mango juice is a big deal for the lone cycle tourist vegetating at the Hong Ping.

I look out the window and people are still eating at the hawker stalls down on Chulia Street. It’s 12.25 am.

A couple of new places to consider, rooms are cheap but with the all important AC and bathrooms are out back (more for en-suites)




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