Penang to Singapore: Homeward Bound

Posted: June 8, 2010 in Cycle touring South Thailand & Malaysia 2010
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Friday May 14, 2010

Had a very relaxed morning looking to buy one of those rip stop nylon folding duffel bags for all my stuff as I did not feel like packing the panniers for a flight. At a small back lane rife with litter I see a huge crowd lining up for something that must be yummy. Looked like coffee and toast and soft boiled eggs. Gary from the bike shop was there with 2 nubile and lanky girls with funny tan lines on the arms and thighs, just like me. At least let me pay for BF I said, in return for the bike box and getting to know lanky girls with funny tan lines.

With BF, goodbyes and duffel bag done, as per usual, I always like to lie flat and ponder over the whole trip, the good the bad and the ugly, while staring blankly at the ceiling and slow spinning fan.

As the flight was 1715 hrs and check out was extended to 1300 hrs, and it is just 1000 hrs now, I figured vegetating till 1500 hrs when the taxi arrives, would not be productive. I go down to the palatial Chinese 70s inspired decor (read : tacky as hell) lobby to chit chat with Mr Hong, who vehemently denies that he’s the owner of the Hong Ping, lest I have kidnapping plans for a small time tycoon like him. He’s the smug one who kept the TV remote for 202.


CEO of the Hong Ping chain

We discuss everything Penang and I got some pretty good insights. He told me not to come during year’s end. Prices are doubled and they still have to turn away guests. I did that once in 1998 and learnt my lesson. There’s a massage place in front where a coffee shop used to be. The one that Muslim men are banned from and have to go all the way to Hat Yai for their jollies.

How did I know, asked Mr Hong. Well you see, in the last millenium, more precisely 1989, when I was a bike touring virgin, me and 3 friends stayed at the venerable Hong Ping. Sleep was not easy as when any car passed by, the whole front room would rattle. NO AC or TV remotes in those days. Back to the center for muscular and joint relief. Malaysian MR$50/ or abt US$15 per hour base price, more for hanky panky. After that duffel bag, I am just MR$45 short.

Being a majority Chinese state in a majority Malay/Islamic country has it’s challenges too. Every business sign has to have a Malay translation, which cannot be smaller than 50% of the English one. So Emma’s Boutique will have ‘Butik Emma’ under it. Or John’s Restaurant is followed by ‘Restoran John’ Good times for signboard makers. A tad confusing for English readers.

Also of interest are the famously infamous ‘Khalwat’ or ‘close proximity’ laws. Who knows, if you fall out of love with your bike and in love with a local, research like this IS vital,

‘Know Your Rights!’

In the meantime, mention Penang to any one, and you’ll be asked what are you going to eat / have eaten there? It actually makes sense to start a trip in Penang and cycle off somewhere just to burn off those calories.

Choose your own 'slop'

Wantan mee @ midnight

Blood red tandori chicken


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