It eventually happened just outside of Taiping, my last stop before reaching the ferry terminal for Penang the next day. I took the plunge on the bitumen on a busy road. Luckily I wasn’t going full speed, only about 15km/h so the only damage that came out of this crash was mental. And a little scratch on my right knee.
The road was fun to ride despite the very limited to non-existent shoulder; snaky, undulating, small villages dotting the road. Loads of traffic though. Road 60 on the west coast of the Malaysian Peninsula is popular with locals and loris (small size merchandise trucks) so a cyclist needs to focus all the time. For a fraction of a second, I looked my map and when I looked back up, my front tire was half on the bitumen while the other half wasn’t in contact with anything. There was a gap of about 5 inches with the grass on the side of the road. This section of the road has just been resurfaced and the heat (it reached 40 degrees that day) made the bitumen very soft. The next second, my front wheel left the bitumen and went straight down the grassy-muddy “shoulder”. I went right down my right side. Luckily, there weren’t any cars coming from behind. There was coming from the other side though and those 2 young man stop to help me put my bike and my stuff back in place. The back pannier on the right came off, my backpack taking its place. My right knee bleeding, I put back in place my gear in no time and took off again. After making it to Taiping I could have a better look at my gear to make sure everything was in order. I was glad to find out nothing was broken and the only souvenirs I’ll have from this crash is mental.
Prior to this misadventure, I spent 2 days on the beautiful island of Kuala Pangkor. The island is about a 15 minutes ferry ride from Lumut and cost RM10, return. Plus RM3 for my bike on each way, that’s a grand total of RM16, or about $5 Ozzie dollars. The west side of the island is dominated by the fish industry. There are numerous pontoons covered by small fish or squids being dried up during the heat of the day. The western side is more expensive to stay; this is where the beaches are. Most travelers or holidayers are going to this side of the island to enjoy some sun and the occasional ocean dip. Upon arrival and looking at my map to decide where I’d stay, a Caucasian man approached me and started asking me about the trip I was doing. He finally showed me the budget hotel where we was staying and I decided to take a room there too. The view was over the ocean and a couple of fishery pontoons leading to a wooden shack. After a few beers with my new mate, I retreated to my room, exhausted.
It rained most of the following day so I decided to update my photos, get a bit of journal/web article work and catch up with NHL highlights. Once the rain stopped around 2PM, I went for a wander around the area where I was and took a few photos. The island is still a very quiet place with lots of interesting fishing villages and friendly locals. The next day, I took my bike and went around the island. The whitish sand of the western beaches with the crystal blue water and beautiful surroundings of limestone rocks and lush jungle were a very nice place to hang out. Numerous food stalls were along the main road, a short 20-30 meters walk from the beach. The traverse back to the east side of the island was hilly; I recorded gradients of 22%. Lucky I didn’t carry any luggage! The next day, I went back on the main land and rode towards Taiping crashing on the way…
Taiping was a lovely town to stay. The Chinese heavily occupied this section of Malaysia in the 19th century to take advantage of the tin industry. Like a lot of cities on the Malaysian western peninsula, reminiscence of the Chinese building still stands today. The mountains surrounding the city give an additional charm to the city. To settle tension between different Chinese groups, the British were called in to assume control which explains the colonial buildings around the city. The lake gardens the British established is also a lovely place to kill some time.
After Taiping the next destination was Georgetown on the island of the state of Penang. Historically rich and one of the most popular stop in Malaysia, the island is well known amongst both tourists and locals. The island is predominantly Chinese dating back to the 15th century and the Ming dynasty before the Brits came along with the Indians. Penang was a popular trading center for many years. Today, this reflects in the mix of pagodas, mosques and Hindu temples but more importantly in the AMAZING food options available. I’ve tasted some of the best curries I’ve had in my life here. Penang is a food paradise and is extremely cheap. Line clear, a small alleyway where a restaurant have been operating since 1930, serves on of the best Nasi Kandar – steamed rice – plain or mildly flavoured – served with a variety of curries and side dishes. Walking on the streets in Chinatown, there are many tiny restaurants serving a wide range of traditional Chinese dishes. Throw little India in the mix. It’s absolutely phenomenal.