Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thailand to Singapore, via East Coast of Malaysia, Ride: Day 3

Instead of the usual quote, here's "Don't Fence Me In" by David Byrne.

Started off at 10:03 AM.
Temperature in the shade  83° F (28.3° C)

Red tracks denote my route for the day. Route continues on map of Terengannu further down.

Journal entry

'Woke up feeling much better today, the combination of lack of sleep, food, and water really got to me yesterday. 'Had a large plate of nasi lemak with fried breaded chicken and eggs as part of the hotel's complementary breakfast. I would certainly need it, seeing that the Muslim eateries won't be open until dusk (or early evening). I guess I can call this a Ramadan Ride too, since I'm practically fasting along with them.


Taking Highways D21 / D8 toward the coastal town of Bachok.


The bustling city of Kota Bharu slowly faded in the distance, mile by mile, as I rode east: tall concrete and marble-clad edifices replaced by pitted, weathered — and occasionally, torn — galvanized tin roofs, which, in turn, gave way to attap (thatched roof) huts, wandering cows, and verdant padi (rice) fields.

Cycling lanes appear and vanish at random; at times, a generous 10 feet (3.28 m), and others, none at all. On average though, I get 2 feet.

All along, children would shout the archetypal Malaysian greeting, "Hello!" and wave excitedly. I don't know if it's my (slightly) buck teeth, my crew cut (they can see under my helmet from a distance ???), or my glasses, but every Malay I've encountered so far assumes that I'm Japanese. So, Banzai Ben, it shall be. (I just hope none of these guys have World War II memories.)

Pantai Irama (Beach of Melody) was a disappointment. It made me glad that I did not commit to an additional 20+ km detour from Kota Bharu to check out the Beach of Passionate Love (which is just as well, considering the archaic definition of "passion.")

There's accommodation right at the beach, but the day is too young to bunk in.

Calvin, of Campers' Corner was right: the people of Kota Bharu speak excellent English. Better, in fact, IMHO, than the gibberish grunts that sadly pass for English in Singapore. I.e. Singlish. E.g. "May I hell you?" "Chill-ren." "Can or not?" What the heck is that? You suffered head trauma recently or your tongue piercing went awry? Anyways, whenever I am lost, or require route clarification, I had only to ask.

Creative vandalism.



Seeking another route clarification from a roadside drink vendor before Kampung Tok Bali, the gentleman expressed his surprise that I rode from the Tak Bai, Thailand; and, then again at my destination. He asked, "You are doing this alone? Your girlfriend / wife allowed this?" I smiled, and replied, "Maybe that's why I don't have one." Fyodor Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor is right: humanity just can't bear the responsibility of their freedom, they need someone to come and take it away, and shoulder the burden — failing at which, they recklessly give it away.

Okay, Elmo. Enough freeloading. Get down and push!

Looking east, towards the South China Sea. The tiny isle on the right is Pulau Ru, which boasts a peak of 105.2 m (345 ft).

Looking east. The ranges in the distance comprise of 514 m (1686 ft) Bukit Batu Meninjau (right) and 568 m (1863 ft) Bukit Tualang Chepa (left).

Freeride, anyone?

'Finally got the hang of the diminutive (but excellent) Zéfal Spin mirror. Despite its small size, it is actually very useful, giving me 2 to 3 seconds notice of a vehicle approaching from the rear. Of course, a round convex mirror is better, but it is bulkier and more susceptible to breakage.

It is not unremarkable how things can come together with such serendipity. Since December 27, 2007, I've been doing what a friend or two dubbed, "Death Rides." I.e. 104 to 115 km rides in Singapore, with one bottle of water, no food, and non-stop. Sometimes, I throw in a brownie or a slice of fruit cake, but that's it. People would tell me that I'm crazy. "You're mad," they would say. I never understood it either. Bonking and pushing yourself to go on is no fun; the body aches so much, a haze of pain descends upon the mind. But I kept doing it. Solo.

         It's Ramadan, stupid!

In hindsight, had I not done what I did, and trained my body to operate on low levels of food and water, this tour during the month of Ramadan would not have been possible. On my non-stop rides in Singapore, riding past stores, coffee shops, and hawker centers, wafting of food and beverages, was a test of mental discipline, especially with a gnawing tummy; acidic, and burning with need. But the experience built up fortitude; it prepared me for hours of riding past signs promising local culinary delights — ikan bakar, nasi goreng pattaya, nasi padang, nasi daging merah, ayam goreng, mee soto, mee bandung, roti canai — but revealing only bare tables and shuttered stores.

While Pantai Irima, the Beach of Melody, was a disappointment, 2 hours south, the Beach of Whispering Breeze was gorgeous. Here, I enjoyed a few salted biscuits, seated on a log under the shade of a tree, while clear, warm, and blue waves lazily lapped on sand, a few meters away.

A new bridge over Sungai Semerak spared me a lengthy detour inland to the town of Pasir Putih, and a grind up the flanks of 188.4 meter (618 ft) Bukit Peteri.

Crossing into the state of Terengganu.

WARNING: SDS / SDU females ahead.

For NicIz2HardKore.

Temperature  38.3° C

'Was planning to spend the night at Kampung Raja, but the heat and lack of nourishment was getting to me, and after 60.29 km (37.7 miles), I decided to call it a day at Kampung Besut, the leap off point for Pulau Perhentian.

'Found a room for RM70. No hot water, nor kettle, complementary sachets of coffee, creamer, and sugar; or even soap and towels, but they did have a room on the ground floor and let me roll my bike to the room. That's more than a fair trade, IMHO.

This is the 2nd most expensive meal I had in the entire trip. RM22.50 for these. Still, expensive food is better than no food.

It even came with extras.

         Alas, poor Heimlich! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
         of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy...

The words of an alumna, solbeam, kept resounding in my ears as I rode. A Buddhist parable asks,

When you cross a river with a boat, and finally reach the other shore, do you pick the boat up and continue to carry it with you?

That, together with the words of Norman Fischer — when you travel, you leave everything behind: all pre-conceived notions, your past, your contacts, your links to your old life. I enjoy traveling at the ground level; it allows you to engage the life of the locals. It makes you vulnerable. It shakes off pretense; it exposes you in your raw form, letting experience and encounters, whatever they may be, forge you. It keeps you meek. I like to believe on reciprocality: if you are — genuinely — nice and respectful to people, people will be respectful and nice to you. Of course, there exist nasties out there, and for that you will have to hone your intuition and judgment, but most of the time, things go on fine.

Bridge over Sungai Besut. I will cross this tomorrow.

Back in my room.

'Going to turn in now. It's been a good day. I hoped to hit 100 km (62.5 miles) today, but only did 60 km (37.5 miles). Still, I achieved my objective of crossing from the state of Kelantan into Terengganu. God grant me good weather tomorrow.
- 10:05 PM


Cateye AT-100
Elevation climbed  100 feet (30.5 m)
3 hours 7 minutes 22 seconds
Average speed  11.9 mph (19.4 km/h)
Maximum speed  21.1 mph (33.6 km/h)
Distance  37.4 miles (59.8 km)
Temperature  85° - 102° F (29.4° - 38.9° C)

Cateye Velo 5
Distance  60.29 km (37.68 miles)
Maximum speed  33.8 km/h
Cumulative distance  97.9 km (61.2 miles)

Grammar Nazi never sleeps!

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