Saturday, June 29, 2013

Riding Black Beauty for the first time

Alas, I got myself a birthday present this year. No, I didn't buy a horse. It would cost a fortune to maintain - the food, the vet and whole range of other related expenses. I got myself a steel steed that runs on fat: a bicycle. Since it was black, with some white on it, I named the bicycle Black Beauty. With slightly bigger tyres, better gearing and other stuff, it is an upgrade compared to Lil' Red.
Black Beauty - as advertised at the supplier's website

To check if it was indeed a real upgrade, I decided to take it for a test ride along the route that I've travel on Lil' Red.

The red dot on the map indicates the 99 metres peak of the route. With Lil' Red, I had to dismount and push the bike up the gradient. With Black, I managed to shift to the lowest gear and slowly pedaled it up the hill.

I had some reservation about the seemingly crappy handle bar. I had wanted to replace it with a better one from the 'Neo' model. Unfortunately, none of the shop seemed to be able to fulfill my request. To my surprise, after adjusting the handle bar to the right height, it was comfortable. I would have suffer some discomfort and occasionally pain on my right wrist when riding Lil' Red, the seemingly crappy handle bar on Black gave no such problem.

I decided to roll into town and pay some bill. I could have tried to fold the Black Beauty and bring it indoor. But it was easier just to lock it to a pole. With no quick release on the tyres, I didn't have to worry about people carting away with my tyres.

I had wanted to taste the famous "cendol" in Seremban town, but it was closed.

I rolled out of town. Within 30 minutes, I was back at the starting point.

In terms of folding, Lil' Red folds a lot faster and easier. The over-sized carrier on Lil' Red became a stable stand for Lil' Red when folded. But Black Beauty performed better on the road compared to Lil' Red. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

S24O - Penang 27-28 April 2013 (Part 2)

2.20 pm - The room was better than what I had expected. It was spacious. Each of the two single beds was big enough to accommodate two medium built persons. At one corner of the room was a luggage rack. Next to it was a small dresser drawers that also doubled as television table, next was a steel chair. The television was a flat LCD, probably 32". Unfortunately the TV was connected to neither an antenna nor cable. It was, however, connected to a DVD player. Since we didn't have any disk to watch, there was nothing else to do but rest.
Our room in Red Inn Heritage
4.00 pm - When my stomach growled, I realized that we hadn't had lunch. AJ offered the "kuih keria" that she had bought at Teluk Bahang. We decided to follow the Street Art trail and stop to eat along the way.

We didn't have to walk far to spot our first sculpture, "Five foot way". We had passed it earlier but didn't see it probably because we were bent on getting to our guest house as soon as possible.

At the opposite corner was another sculpture. Here we met three Chines ladies (they are Malaysian, actually). They didn't know that there are more of this Street Art around Georgetown. Thanks to the invention of bluetooth technology, we "beamed" our map to one of their phone. We wished them good luck and parted ways as they studied the map.

AJ and I plodded on, eager to see our first mural. We walked and looked around. Without this Street Art, we wouldn't have walked and appreciated the little things that Penang has to offer. 48 Muntri Street for example, was where Hainaneses founded Aik Chee Reading Club to promote the revolutionary ideas of Sun Yat Sen. When we reach another sculpture toward the end of Lebuh Leith, we knew we had missed the mural. We were studying our map and trying to decide wether the mural had been painted over, when the Chinese ladies arrived. The informed us that the mural was indeed there.

Hence, we tracked back to find it. It was AJ exclamation "How did we not see it?" that grabbed my attention. The cute "Little girl in blue" in the map isn't really little nor cute in real. The mural was probably 2 storey high. With her two hands seemingly holding two of the building's window, she was monstrously scary!
The illusive "Little girl"

We continued up Muntri Street and found another sculpture, "Jimmy Choo", before turning right at Penang Street. Having seen how huge was the first mural, we were on the look out for another huge wall.

5.00 pm - Across the road from us was a row of trishaw peddlers resting on their trishaws. However, the peaceful scene was broken the minute one of the guys saw my DSLR. He got up and called the price for a ride on his trishaw. I smiled and politely declined. I was a little disappointed; I didn't get the photo I wanted.

AJ and I continued walking till we reached a parking lot. Overlooking the spacious parking lot was a huge mural. We had found "The awaiting trishaw". My stomach growled again. We studied the map for any possible eateries nearby. We decided not to take any chance. We crossed the road and headed to a "mamak" stall.

The stall specialized in selling soup. I would have prefer to order vegetable soup. Unfortunately they only have beef soup, mutton soup, and chicken soup on their menu. I ordered a bowl of beef soup while AJ ordered a bowl of chicken soup. The soup was served with two slices of bread. Dipping the bread into the rich broth, I finished my two slices of bread in no time.

After the refueling, we walked along Penang Street. At the end of the road, we turned right into Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. We soon reached a building that we had spotted from the parking lot earlier. It was Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. Unfortunately the visiting hour had just ended. We continued down Lebuh Leith. We made a stop at The Chocolate Boutique.

AJ had fulfilled her coffee fix at the soup stall. It was my turn for hot chocolate. However, before I could buy the drink from the counter near the entrance, a staff invited us in for a guided tour. I had thought we were going to see the chocolate making process. Instead, we were shown and given sample of various types of chocolates sold there. By the end of the guided tour, AJ and I were some what "confused" with the many flavors that we hat sampled. I didn't feel like drinking any hot chocolate anymore. It was almost 7pm when we finally returned to our Red Inn Heritage.

8.00 pm - We got ready and went out for dinner. We stopped by a craft shop along the Love Lane. For a fee, the shop provide the things needed for customers to do painting stuff including batik. To our surprise, the Eurasian lady that we met earlier at Jalan Chowrasta, was there. Jesse, her name, is from Germany. She had thought AJ and I are tourists from Indonesia.

I had expected that we would pass another sculpture along the route. What I didn't expect was there would be enough light for us to spot it. It the last sculpture we spotted for this trip. We continued down Lebuh Chulia. Near the Kapitan Keling Mosque, was a small art gallery. We went in the dimly lit gallery and enjoyed the art work on display. Then a guy from the back of the gallery greeted us. He switched on more lights. On our way out, we donated some money to the box labeled Persatuan Pelukis.

9.00 pm - We finally reached our destination: "Nasi Kandar Beratur" at Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. We ate our dinner and made our way back to the inn. We wanted to sleep early as we had to catch our early morning flight. On our way back to the inn, we stopped by a 7-11. I bought a pack of instant noodle. It was suppose to be my lunch at work on the following day.  

Day 2 - Sunday 28 April 2013
4.00 am - After a restless night, I finally got up. On my way to the shower, I filled my steel mug with hot water from the water dispenser and 'cook' my instant noodle. Not wanting to leave the room unlocked and unattended, AJ waited for me to return. Then while she showered, I got dressed, and packed. By the time AJ returned to the room, I was sitting on the bed, enjoying my breakfast of instant noodle.

5.15 am - We boarded our taxi and left the guesthouse. We had expected that the taxi would take at least 30 minutes to get to the airport. The taxi sped through the early morning traffic. The drive took about 15 minutes to get to the airport. Still full from the instant noodle, I just sat and chatted while AJ ate breakfast at McD. We boarded the plane soon after that.

By 7.41 am, we were already driving out of LCCT parking lot!

Our checklist

Monday, June 17, 2013

S24O - Penang 27-28 April 2013 (Part 1)

This is one of many long over due entries. We didn't exactly go cycling nor camping. So, NO, we didn't exactly for a S24O. But we did go to Penang and stay overnight.

It all began when yours truly craved for a certain dish eaten in a state up north Peninsular Malaysia and chatted online about it with a friend. Then, as if on cue, at the corner of the screen an advert came 'flashing': Airasia Cheap Fare. One click led to another. Soon, yours truly and the friend, who from now on will be known as AJ, was booked on a return flight to Penang.

Penang is not where the dish was eaten. But it was the only destination with flights that suited our schedule. AJ, stressed out, needed a break away. I on the other hand, was itchy to travel again but due to work commitment, could not afford to take leave. My day off was only on Saturdays. So the plan was to take the first flight to Penang, go sight-seeing or other do other geeky-tourist stuff, spend the night there, then return on the first flight out of Penang and be in time for work on the following Sunday.

Day 1 – Saturday 27th April 2013
4.30 am – Woke up and got read. Had an early breakfast of a mug of hot Milo and a few cream crackers. By 5.15am, we were already on the expressway to Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier Terminal. About an hour later, we reached the terminal. But we missed the entrance to the car park.

6.20 am – We managed to get through the parking entrance. We frantically searched of an empty spot then made our way to the terminal building. Fortunately we've already check-in online and only needed to print our boarding pass at one of the self-service kiosk. Having no luggage to check-in, we breezed through the security check and was boarding the flight within fifteen minutes. The plane took off at 7.15am.

8.10 am – The plane landed safely at the Bayan Lepas International Airport. As soon as the plane landed, people unbuckled their seat belts and rushed to get their luggage from the overhead compartment. The flight attendants had come to the aisle and politely asked everyone to stay buckled in their respective seats until the plane got to a complete stop at the runaway.

AJ and I decided to wait out the mad rush. Once they we out of the plane, we took our bags and alighted the plane. We walked pass the mad crowd at the luggage carousel waiting for their bags. We headed to the bus stop near the airport entrance. The initial plan was to either take Rapid Penang's 401 or 401E bus to Balik Pulau. From then on, another bus number 501 to Tanjung Bungah and finally bus number 101 to George Town – essentially sight-seeing the whole Penang Island.

When we reached the bus stop. The bus number 102 was in front of the line. Bus 401 and 401E was there but there were no drivers on board. The JPEG map in my tablet seemed to show that the 102 bus to be going through both route 401/401E and 501 to Batu Feringgi. Thinking that it would save us from hopping on and off buses, I agreed to board the 102 bus.
Bus routes

I should have realized that the bus was going through opposite direction of my planned route when the bus driver / ticket conductor said Tanjung Bungah is further up from Batu Feringgi. I only realized it when the bus was navigating some sort of a morning rush in the city. I was disappointed. I really wanted to see at the other side of Penang Island, touted as the 'rural and rustic' part of the island before they are swallowed by development.

The bus continued on. AJ dozed off next to me while I drank the view that bus provided. I recognized the route that we were on. AJ and I had taken the route during our road trip last year. I had also taken the same route while vacationing with little Aizad (who is no longer little) and his family.

The bus then passed the touristy area of Batu Feringgi. By then, AJ was already awake. That morning, the area looked deserted. Very few shops was opened. Only a handful tourists were out and about. We were hungry. We needed a second breakfast. Batu Feringgi did not looked like it has any decent food to offer that morning. So we continued on to Teluk Bahang.

10.10 am - The bus reached the little town of Teluk Bahang. As little as it was, it was more lively than Batu Feringgi. Every one, except AJ and I, got off at the first stop. The bus traveled a few hundreds metres up the road till the last building on the road. The bus driver asked if we wanted to continue to Tanjung Bungah or get off at Teluk Bahang. Being hungry as we were, we decided to refuel first at Teluk Bahang before deciding our next step. The bus driver then made a u-turn and dropped us off opposite Teluk Bahang Market.

The market was a buzz with activities. Locals shopping for their fresh produce. Then there were some sort of carnival at the parking space next to the market. AJ and I made our way to the food court section of the market. We browsed through all the stalls at the food court before we finally picked a table. I ordered a plate of "char kuew teow" from a stall and a glass of "teh O" from another. AJ too ordered a plate of "char kuew teow". While waiting for her "char kuew teow", she bought some "kuih keria" from one of the stalls. The "kuih keria" tasted great, unlike the mostly "for-profit-only kuih" that you get in Kuala Lumpur. The "char kuew teow" was equally great. I was drinking my tea, when I spotted a lady frying "vadei" at the stall next to the drink stall. I had two of those freshly made hot vadei.
"Char kuey teow" and "teh O"

Before we knew it, an hour had passed. We finally left the food court and made our way to a bus stop nearby. We boarded the Rapid Penang number 101 to George Town. The bus departed at 11.40 am and took the same route we passed earlier that morning.

1.00 pm - We got off the bus near the iconic Komtar building.. We took a few minutes to get our bearings.
Getting our bearings

I poured over the JPEG map of Penang Street Art on my tablet. AJ switched on her GPS on her phone. We headed to the direction on the first item along the route - "Kopi-o". We walked and walked until AJ pointed out that we had reached a lane further up from the sculpture. We must have had passed it. We back-tracked. A few metres later, there it was, mounted on a second storey wall of a shop.
Penang Street Art map - can't remember which website this map came from

Excited with our first find, we made our way to the second item on the map. According to the map, it should be somewhere between Lebuh Tamil and Jalan Chowrasta. We bumped into a Eurasian lady. She too was looking for the sculpture. We agreed to give a shout if we see it. Neither of us could see it. AJ and I decided not waste our time. We continued to find the next item on our map. We found three more sculptures.

With dark clouds loomed over head, we took a more direct route to the guest house. We weren't sure how long we would have to walk to the guesthouse. At the corner of Lebuh Chulia and Love Lane we spotted our fifth sculpture. It was not in our map. We named it "5 Star Budget Hotel". Across the road not far from it, was the sculpture "Cheating Husband".

A short walk later, we arrive at number 55 Love Lane - the address for Red Inn Heritage. We went in and asked the lady at the reception counter. She explained that we were at Red Inn Penang and Red Inn Heritage was further up the road. I was relieved that we weren't at our guest house yet for next to Red Inn Penang was a pub. To have a room there might mean a sleepless night for noises would be expected from the pub.

Walking further up the road, we found Red Inn Heritage. In a "small-world" kind of wonder, the lady at the reception counter is a Filipinos from Cebu. She checked us in and showed us our room. She was delighted when I thanked her in her language: Salamat.