Monday, September 22, 2008

Thailand to Singapore, via East Coast of Malaysia, Ride: Day 8

There is a sound of one hand clapping............ you just have to listen harder to hear it! Try clapping with one hand very close to your ear. It is the sound of hand and wind, the collision of gas and flesh, of air and substance, of space and time.
         (Michael Luttrell)

Journal entry

Woke up at 7 AM though I wanted to get more sleep. It was worth it. 'Spent 2 hours taking pictures around Teluk Cempedak and Teluk Tong Kang.

A new boardwalk has been constructed.

Nasty wake up call for cell phone motor mouths.

Teluk Cempedak. The cluster of buildings is the Hyatt Regency.

Another view.

Making my way to Teluk Tong Kang.

A lone sampan.

The old walkway from Teluk Cempedak.

One more, this time from the boardwalk.

Back to my room to pack and hit the road.

'Set off today at 11:05 AM. Rode a busy Jalan Teluk Sisek to downtown Kuantan to replenish funds. Located UOB. As I walked in, a security guard with a shotgun greeted me. Okay... Where's my Wild Wild West soundtrack?

'Waited for nearly an hour before I was served. On the ride out of Kuantan, I discovered a money changer on the other side of the financial district, Jalan Tun Ismail. Also stopped by a stationary store to get a couple more journals as the current one is getting filled up.

Lunch at some hawker center.

Bridge over Kuantan River / leaving Kuantan.

Another view.

Choose your level of pain for today.

Rather than follow Highway 3 inland, I chose to ride through a network of village roads connecting various kampungs along the way. There's less traffic, and it is likely to be more scenic.

Kampungs too, have changed. Not all of them are like these anymore.

Some of them are like these.

While stopping for a pee break, I took a picture of Michelle (she's tougher than me) under a shady groove of trees by Sepat Beach.

The reverie was soon cut short by a duo of grass cutters, so I left — but not before a family of Billy goats came by  :-)

During the next 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) southwards on village roads by the South China Sea, this gorgeous Malay girl with delicate features repeatedly passed me in various directions on her motorbike; each time beeping the horn, and giggling encouragement.

Later on, a trio of teenagers (also on motorbikes) rode past me. Flashing a thumbs up, they asked if they could take a picture of me. The photographer being photographed; the traveler being the attraction. I like that. I like to turn things upside down.

Back to the highway.

Turned east onto C101 looking for Rimba Resort Tasik Chini but couldn't locate it.

So I tried Kuala Pahang instead.

Somehow, those 14 km (8.75 miles) seemed long.

I rode into Kuala Pahang and the road dead-ended into its jetty. A friendly elderly Malay gentleman asked me where I was trying to get to, subsequently got on his motorbike, and escorted me through the various junctions out towards the town of Pekan — even though he had a heavy bag of fish in his left hand all the while, and needed to get it home to his wife to cook for the evening's breaking of fast.

Back on Highway 3.

'Crossing the bridge into Pekan.

There is a cycling lane but it is not too well-maintained and is covered with sand.

More fun ahead. Rode past a sign for Melati Inn, thinking I could do better, and was forced to turn back 10 minutes later. Even more fun: Melati Inn is fully booked, and so is the Chief's Rest House. The staff at Melati were extremely helpful though; they directed me to the nearest available accommodation with available rooms, Indrapura Resort. The only problem is that he had no idea how far away it is. "15 minutes by car," he said. Remembering that some of the speed limits on these roads can be 90 km/h (56.25 mph), "15 minutes" worth of distance can mean 22.5 km (14 miles) of cycling at night. But I had no choice. So I turned back, crossed the bridge again, and rode back up north on Highway 3.

Thankfully, it turned out to be a manageable 6.5 km (4 miles). The price is a reasonable RM110; I get a unit on the ground floor; I can wheel my bike in; and they provide a lithe, sexy masseuse to knead away my aching muscles all night long. All right, all but the last one are false  :-P  :-P

Rode out 1.5 km to have dinner. The charming waitress chatted at length with me, and then wished me good luck for the journey ahead. The same happened when I stopped by the gas station mini-mart by the access road to the resort. Echoing the friendly waitress at Coogee Beach Cafe, Western Australia, and the helpful jogger at Larkspur, North California, the girl behind the counter remarked, "You are a long way from home," and wished me lots of luck.

Today, I passed the halfway mark — 514.4 km (321.5 miles) — and contrary to unsolicited advice that I should lie and declare that I've other people riding behind me (blindly following the adage of safety in numbers) when the locals inquire if I am traveling alone, I reply with the truth. Rather than attempt to have me waylaid or take advantage of me, they either hold me in higher regard, or, more likely, take me under their wing by offering me directions, safe passage, drinks, food, or guidance. It is as if they desire to see me succeed. This attitude seems to span across cultures, races, age, or genders.

Knees are aching quite badly tonight. 500 mg of enteric-coated aspirin, 1000 mg of paracetamol, and topical applications of Voltaren Emulgel are in order again. Hopefully, I will feel better tomorrow. And, hopefully, the headwinds won't be as strong.

A more throughout inspection of the room revealed a number of unsettling surprises. The slot for the security chain on the front door is facing the wrong way. The lock on the sliding glass door on the balcony doesn't engage.

And the locking latch for the toilet ventilation window is completely missing.

I would have asked for another room but this is the only room available tonight. By reporting it to security (with other guests and staff possibly within earshot) the vulnerabilities of my room would only be announced — with immediate remedies uncertain.

Hence, to maintain some peace of mind (Well, not really. It's more like having some advanced warning.), I rigged up some aids to rouse me should an intruder attempt to sneak in.

It's one thing to be comfortable with uncertainty, it's another to be stupid. Hopefully, I'm just being paranoid, but when I travel alone, I trust my judgment calls 110%.

2:00 AM now. I better get some sleep.


Cateye AT-100
Elevation climbed  150 feet (45.7 m)
4 hours 27 minutes 51 seconds
Average speed  11.8 mph (18.9 km/h)
Maximum speed  23.3 mph (37.3 km/h)
Distance  53 miles (84.8 km)
Temperature  forgot to record

Cateye Velo 5
Distance  85.41 km (53.38 miles)
Maximum speed  30 km/h
Cumulative distance  514.4 km (321.5 miles)

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