Friday, September 19, 2008

Thailand to Singapore, via East Coast of Malaysia, Ride: Day 5

One of the less-heralded rewards of travel is — or used to be — disconnecting from your mundane, workaday life and disappearing into the wider world. No one could reach you, and you could live fully in the here-and-now of Provence, or the Masai Mara, or Patagonia, as the life you temporarily left behind faded to a distant abstraction.

"The whole point of my leaving was to be out of touch," wrote Paul Theroux in "Dark Star Safari," a book about his overland journey from Cairo to Cape Town. "The greatest justification for travel is not self-improvement but rather performing a vanishing act, disappearing without a trace."

         (Flinn, John.  "Joy of travel is ability to drop off the grid."  San Francisco Chronicle, June 15, 2008.)

Journal entry

'Had a good rest. Lying between silken sheets (actually, just high thread count cotton) on the king-sized bed, I thought, "I could get used to this."  :-P

Breakfast was an interesting affair: I ordered an American breakfast (whatever that means), but they half-boiled the eggs instead of frying or scrambling them. Hmm... Anyways, some portions remained raw, so I left it. No point risking the runs on the road for 7 grams of protein.

Video of the beach at Gem Beach Resort, Batu Rakit, Terengganu, West Malaysia.

'Spent some time taking pictures before hitting the road. Today is a late start: 11:49 AM. I only planned to hit Merang (the leap off point for Pulau Redang) today, about 45 km (28 miles) away.

'Took village roads through the sleepy villages of Kampung Padang Maras and Kampung Teliput instead of Highway T1.

25 km (15.6 miles) of this to Kuala Terengganu.

15 km (9.4 miles) before the city of Kuala Terengganu, I spotted what looked like a Chinese eatery. When the lady answered in Mandarin, I knew I struck gold.

Food, and it's chicken rice!

As I pigged out, I regaled them with tales of my journey so far. When it came to time to settle the bill, the owners insisted that the meal is on them. When I good-naturedly protested (Hmm... 'Guess I still have a little Chinese in me), they suggested that I send a picture when I reach Singapore.

"Yao jia you!" they cheered. I rode on wings for the rest of the day.

On the way to Kuala Terengganu: segregated lanes for motorbikes and bicycles.

Islands in the river: left, Pulau Che Yok, right, Pulau Besar.

Downtown Kuala Terengganu.

Somehow, I missed the bike lane.

Daughter sizzles?

Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque (floating mosque).

Leaving the greater Kuala Terengganu area. The hill is 74.4 m (244 ft) Bukit Cenderung.

It was hot and dusty.

Doesn't Chef Wan bear more than a passing resemblance to Martin Yan (of "Yan can Cook")?

One of these days, I will reach Kuantan...

When I reached Merang, I was still feeling strong, so I decided to try my luck and see how much ground I could cover today, and search for accommodation when it hits late noon.

Again, I guess my prayers last night were answered: headwinds were not so strong today, and there were several sections where tailwinds were pushing me along at 25 km/h (15.6 mph). Pure joy is to be piloting a 45 kg (99 lb) bike at this clip.

View on the left.

Had an interesting encounter at about 5:30-ish PM on a lonely stretch of road. This beat up car screeched to a stop on the road shoulder, 30 feet (~10 m) from me, and a rough-looking chap got out of the passenger side, strutted towards me, pointed at me with his index finger, and demanded, "Awak tahu chakap Melayu, tak?" I thought, "Okay, I'm gonna get robbed." But when I replied, "Sediket," he went, "Oh, nevermind. Good luck!," hopped back into the ragtag vehicle and left me baffled at the side of the road.

Later, I rode past him seeking directions at a roadside stall. It turns out that he's more lost than I am.

But even chicken rice and cheers have their limits, at 6 PM, 15 km (9.4 miles) from Rantau Abang, the leatherback turtle marine sanctuary, I experienced the familiar signs of bonking. But the hardcore part of me urged, "It's only 15 km more!" So, I pushed on, trying to maintain an average speed of 20 to 22 km/h (12.5 to 13.8 mph).

Is that a chevrotain (mouse deer)?

[Update: Nope. According to a commentator below, it's a Malayan Civet (Viverra tangalunga). Thanks, dude!  :-)  ]

7 km (4.8 miles) from Rantau Abang, I hit the wall. Shakily, I got off the bike, and just stood there, by the side of the road; head spinning, mind reeling, and stared at the sign, silently cursing the hardcore side of me.

Then I remembered that I needed to eat. Okay. I had 3 salted biscuits, the last 2 gulps of 100 Plus, and chugged on, this time between 15 to 18 km/h (9.8 to 11.3 mph).

It appears that the adage holds true: you perform at the level of your training. For the last 8 months, I have been engaging in 104 to 115 km (65 to 71.9 miles), non-stop, sans food (save sometimes for a slice of fruit cake or a brownie), rides in Singapore on 12 kg (26.4 lb) Ivy, my 1996 Specialized Stumpjumper M2. The timing ranged from 3 hours 57 minutes to 4 hours 30 minutes. On this tour, I am lugging a 42 kg to 45 kg (92.4 to 99 lb) bike, and bonking around the 4 hour 15 minute mark, regardless of what time of the day I begin riding.

Equipment issues: a spare helmet buckle is something I overlooked in my pack list. A spare computer sensor cable is also a good idea, but, with 2 cyclo-computers, I already possess some redundancy. 'Discovered the threaded 1-inch headset was loose this morning. The Gerber tool worked. The chain is getting gritty from all the sand on the coastal roads. The Finish Line Cross Country lube isn't helping either, but it is the only one I brought. The Finish Line Dry lube quits after about 80+ km (50+ miles). Some creaking occurring when I pedal up inclines. I hope it's just dry cleats on the pedal mechanism and not something more insidious — and serious —, like a failing bottom bracket bearing.

Crossing Sungai Mercang.

The groove of trees turn orange as the sun sets.

Entering the district of Dungun.

I chugged into Rantau Abang at 7:05 PM. The first chalet's reception was unmanned. After waiting for 10 minutes, and then attempting to call the number listed, I set off in search of alternatives before night fell. Taking a chance down a steep dirt and gravel road leading down to the beach, I came upon Awang's Resort. I walked in and found a Malay community breaking fast.

Ignoring my stomach's pitiful pleas (I'm really good at that — that's why I am so skinny   :-P  ), I made inquiries about accommodations. As luck will have it, they do; and, at RM70, it even has air-conditioning, an attached bathroom, and I can wheel Michelle in. Sold!

After that came food. Before I undertook the 2+ km walk out in the dark to a roadside establishment, I asked if they served dinner too. He looked at my famished state and mentioned a nominal fee for (RM10) partaking in the breaking of fast. I guess I looked like I could do with some food. Before their astonished eyes, I emptied their container of lime juice   :-D

It's 11:45 PM now, I'm supposed to be asleep 45 minutes ago, but the staff informed me that the leatherback turtles show up after midnight. I guess this is something I should stay up for. These big fellas actually swim from Point Reyes, Northern California to here (and people think my ride is long).

One thing I noticed about doorways and passageways in Malaysia — they are not made to accommodate individuals above 6 feet (1.8 m): on the KTM train, I repeatedly bashed my head on the top of the connecting passages between carriages; tonight, I bashed my head thrice on the doorway to the toilet.

While waiting for the turtles, I took a solitary midnight stroll along the beach. 'Ran into this duo of backpackers from a nearby resort: Kimberly and Katherine. Kim and Kathy, they call themselves.They have been on the road for the past 11 months. We started a small fire on the beach and waited for the turtles. Then, Kim got sleepy, and decided to hit the sack. Kathy and I decided to wait on.

The turtles never came. Kathy, a weekend warrior cyclist from San Diego herself, decided to check out Michelle, my venerable 1991 Bridgestone MB-3. Staying up into the wee hours of the morning, we traded stories of our adventures: she, of the time in Tehran, where she discovered that the only clean article of clothing she possessed before entering a swanky hotel lobby was a miniskirt; and me, trotting into a cowboy bar in central valley, California, attired in spandex and lycra. We shared an understanding of what it means to be a traveler; not just through landscapes, but life; briefly touching — flitting through — lives; seeing (and appreciating) life, and then moving on. Never settling. Never staying.

We fell asleep in each other's arms.

When I awoke, she was gone.


Cateye AT-100
Elevation climbed  260 feet (79.3 m)
4 hours 41 minutes 2 seconds
Average speed  11.7 mph (18.7 km/h)
Maximum speed  19.1 mph (30.6 km/h)
Distance  54.9 miles (87.8 km)
Temperature  forgot to record.

Cateye Velo 5
Distance  88.43 km (55.3 miles)
Maximum speed  30.9 km/h
Cumulative distance  273.1 km (170.7 miles)


aneess said...

Nice pictures !

-ben said...

Thank you :-)

Cheers said...

That mousedeer, is a malayan civet dude..

-ben said...


Thanks for the clarification!