Betong-Kulim-Bukit Mertajam-Penang

Posted: April 30, 2015 in Mountain Bike Touring North West Malaysia 2014
Tags: , , , , ,

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 !

P1140934

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.

P1140939

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?’

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