John Clark’s Penang to Kuala Lumpur Review
Day 279 Penang, Malaysia to Bagan Serai, Malaysia – 76km
Despite having to cover 400kms in four days to arrive in Kuala Lumpur (KL) in time to meet with another chapter of the Rotary Club we made the most of the Park Royal buffet breakfast. Once the trays of delicious fresh fruits, cheeses and sautéed tomatoes were taken away we each repacked our bikes and made our way to the lobby to say our final thank you and good bye to Francois and his team.
The six of us were cheered and waved off by the Park Royal staff and some guests as we began the 20km ride to the ferry terminal. Unfortunately on this short stretch Kathryn’s knee troubled her and while on the ferry she contemplated whether or not to continue riding once we hit the mainland, eventually deciding not to ride.
In Butterworth the bus and train companies basically gave Kathryn no choice but to ride as they wouldn’t allow bicycles on board! The most frustrating thing about this was that it wasted about an hour and we ended up leaving as six anyway!
Tim was having a little trouble of his own with a nasty skin infection on his feet. It had caused a lot of swelling and small fleshy wounds that were causing a considerable amount of pain. The doctor in Penang suggested he shouldn’t ride but with feet looking like a picture off a pack of cigarettes he bravely pushed on.
Luckily for Kathryn and Tim the terrain was completely flat. I was also happy about this as I was now carrying Kathryn’s backpack and I can tell you girl’s definitely over pack! The three of us rode together today as the others rode ahead quickly in the easy conditions. Steep overpasses were our only climbs for the day as we made our way closer towards Malaysia’s capital.
After our lunch stop massive storm clouds filled the sky and then drenched us and the surrounds forcing the three of us to take refuge in the small car park of a mosque. After ten minutes it seemed to have softened enough to continue, although we were too eager as after only riding 500 metres it started pouring down heavier than before! Tim, Kathryn and I took shelter this time under a massive tin roofed carport. We stayed here for about 35 minutes, throwing the Frisbee and making adjustments to our bikes to pass time occasionallt stopping to stare at the strange beauty of the heavy downpour.
Finally the storm past and we rode only 5kms further until we bumped into the others who had taken shelter at a KFC, we were jealous of their comfortable hangout! Due to the late start and the messing around with buses and trains in Butterworth and now with the weather it was already quite dark so we decided to call it a day.
In the small town of Bagan Serai there weren’t any hotels so we rented a homestay for the night which proved to be more fun than a hotel. We all had dinner together at a local eatery, enjoying Mei Goreng, before playing Uno and watching a movie together in our little home.
Day 280 Bagan Serai, Malaysia to Ipoh, Malaysia – 129km
The homestay owner didn’t allow us to leave until we had a photo with him. Of course we obliged and by the time we had reached our first stop for the day, after 40kms, he had already posted it on our Facebook wall!
Other than a quick Facebook check at the break we made our plan for the day. We decided we would try our luck on the bicycle forbidden expressway as it would reduce the trip to Ipoh by 30kms. For some reason it is the only section where the provincial number one road doesn’t run alongside the expressway.
The six of us sped up and flew through the toll booth ignoring the yells from attendants and made ourselves comfortable in the immaculate and wide hard shoulder. We had been travelling at Kathryn’s pace as six for about 10kms when Daniel’s patience gave in and he took off with Karina at our regular pace. Aaron stayed with Tim and I at Kathryn’s pace as his bike was running terribly, his cranks so worn that we could only apply force with his right foot.
The four of us carried on. We knew that every turnoff we passed the closer we were getting to complete the short cut. With only 3kms to ride until we passed the last turnoff before our target off-ramp to Ipoh we were stopped by highway police. This was so frustrating. If had passed that next turnoff in 3kms we would have had only 20kms to ride to Ipoh! The officers force us to exit the expressway despite my pleas and directed us to the provincial road. It was heartbreaking when we saw our first kilometre marker – Ipoh 45km!!
I was so jealous of Daniel and Karina. They arrived in Ipoh at 2pm, we didn’t arrive until 6pm. It was a very long, slow and sweaty day. The four of us rode an extra 30kms than Daniel and Karina, Kathryn almost equalling her longest day.
Ipoh was a very nice city. Hidden away amongst tall rocky mountains, the city boasted colourful Hindu temples, mountain top pagodas, shopping malls and impressive colonial architecture. We all met up at a mall and had dinner. Afterwards we explored another night market before hitting the hay in a Chinese run hotel, our cheapest stay yet and a shock to the system after enjoying five star luxuries for four nights.
Day 281 Ipoh, Malaysia to Slim River, Malaysia – 103km
This very eventful day began with a McDonald’s breakfast and the six of us riding together for the first 25kms. Perhaps it was karma playing its game as it was Daniel that was forced to drop off due to a problem with his rear hub.
He shouted for us to ride on as he thought it was going to be a quick fix however he was wrong. It turns out his hub was so loose it literally fell apart when he removed his wheel. With no spare parts or appropriate tools he hitch hiked back 18kms to the town we had ridden through. Here he managed to find a bicycle mechanic who very creatively fixed the problem using a series of washers and old ball bearings. Although we didn’t see him until he arrived into Slim River about an hour after us.
Next to fall off the peloton was Tim. He had suffered a puncture although he was too far away from Aaron, Karina, Kathryn and I to let us know so we had just continued on. He was without a puncture repair kit, spare tubes and a pump. Yes, he was without a tube, a pump and a puncture repair kit. ‘Always be prepared’? I don’t think he was a scout. Assuming Daniel wouldn’t be too far behind he waited for a while but then eventually began walking once Daniel didn’t arrive. He ended walking about 8kms to the next town where he visited three motorbike mechanics asking for assistance. None of the stores helped him out so instead he made his way to a hardware store to purchase glue. He found some patches in one of his panniers and then fixed the punctured tube then inflated the tube at a service station. He arrived in Slim River with Daniel as they had crossed paths later on.
As for Karina, Kathryn, Aaron and I, we rode together for the day. Enjoying the scenic route as the road snaked its way through rocky outcrops and through more palm tree plantations. The road also raised and fell, the breeze on the descents very cooling on our perspiring skin as the temperatures roared over 40 degrees; easily the hottest climate since Iran.
Our lead group wasn’t without incidents either. After our lunch break Kathryn rode into Aaron’s back wheel as we climbed up one of many short hills. Despite only travelling at around 12km/h the collision was enough for Kathryn to lose control of her bike, named Princess Audrey, causing her to fall heavily to her right onto the tarmac. When I turned from the front position she was lying across the whole lane of the highway. Luckily – VERY LUCKILY – the driver of the first vehicle – a massive truck – was quick enough to swerve to miss her. The second vehicle had enough time to come to a stop and act as a road block as the three of us help her up and off the road. We all helped clean up her small cuts, which almost led to another medical as Karina nearly fainted at the sight of blood! I then corrected Princess Audrey’s twisted handlebars and then we were all off once again.
Due to the crash we took it a little easier, riding even slower and stopped more often until we reached the rural town of Slim River. I thought the eventful day was over but then Karina got a puncture, we were literally 200 metres from the hotel!
Once this problem was sorted we checked into the cheapest hotel yet at a mere 25 Malaysian ringgit per night! When Daniel and Tim arrived we headed to a small restaurant for dinner and shared our adventures from the day.
I also checked the Ride2Rescue email and the plans for KL sounded awesome! We were all really excited for our second welcome organised by the Rotary Club and Park Royal!
Day 282 Slim River, Malaysia to Kota Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 104km
For breakfast Daniel and I shared ‘Choko Loaf’, an item that’s become a favourite of ours. It’s like a raisin toast loaf but the bread is chocolate flavoured plus there are choc chips through it! Unfortunately we only ever eat it out of the bag but it would be incredible if toasted!!
Today was far less eventful than yesterday and we all stuck together for most of it which was nice. Before we knew it we reached the city of Rawang where we had an ice-cream. From here we had planned to ride another 10kms along highway one before finding a hotel to check into. We didn’t want to ride right into KL as plans had been made to meet Jason from the Rotary Club early tomorrow morning.
So, from Rawang we managed to miss the sign to the minor highway one and ended up back on the expressway. I didn’t mind too much as the meeting point with the Rotary Club was actually at a tollbooth on the expressway.
We cruised along, making good ground towards KL and the meeting point until Kathryn suddenly pulled off the expressway into a service station complaining of knee troubles again. The group, me included, hadn’t realized she had dropped off until we were a kilometre up the road. Once we did I told the others to take the next exit and that I would go back and find her and meet up with them later. So, dangerously not doing something I enjoyed, I rode the wrong way down an expressway and found Kathryn a service station. After ten minutes she made a recovery and then we rode very slowly towards the exit.
We ended up in Kota Damansara, a very nice, new suburb of KL. I explained to the others over Skype where we were and once all back together we checked into the Sun Inn Hotel.
Karina, Daniel and I went for a run; a big test after 104kms on the bike. Afterwards we all enjoyed watching a massive electrical storm from the comfort of Starbucks. Then it was an early night for each of us as we were to meet with Jason from Rotary at 7am tomorrow morning.
Day 283 Kota Damansara (KL), Malaysia to Park Royal Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 27km
We left the Sun Inn at 6.20am and I led the team onto the E1 expressway for 10kms to the meeting point. Here we met Jason, a relatively new member of the Rotary Club and a man we all quickly took fondly to. We also meet Lloyd; the General Manager of Park Royal Kuala Lumpur who was kindly providing us a complimentary stay at their five star city centre hotel. The two provided us with special Ride2Rescue branded high visibility vests, which we all thought were really cool!
Also in attendance was Billy, a photographer from Cycling Malaysia magazine, two young brothers Jeremy and Vincent who cycled along with us and also some KL Harley Davidson club riders and three motorcycle police officers. All of these high powered men acted as marshals for our ride into the city. It was a great feeling riding along the expressway with bikers leading the way. Not having to look as we merged lanes or crossed through intersections.
Our first stop was at National Monument. Here we walked around the impressive memorial statue before meeting some more cyclists who joined us on the ride to the Park Royal. One cyclist was Gerard who had recently helped found Freedom Cyclists, a cycling group that will also complete rides and events to increase the awareness of child trafficking.
So with a few extra cyclists we continued onto Stadium Merdeka where we were greeted by around 30 people, most of whom were on bicycles. The group including many members of staff from the Park Royal who had come to join in the festivities on their day off, K.G, the president of the Rotary Club and a famous Malaysian actress who easily had the lightest and best bike there.
Then just 3kms later we arrived at the impressive Park Royal Kuala Lumpur to the applause from hotel guests, more staff, senior members of Rotary and Miss Malaysia, Carrie Lee! There was a huge RIDE2RESCUE banner draped across the hotel’s driveway entrance, confetti being sprayed everywhere and endless flashes from loads of photographers.
In the lobby a stage had been set up for an official welcome by Lloyd who said many kind words about our ride and cause. K.G also shared his feelings on the issue and also explained the work Rotary complete through their Child Sexual Abuse Prevention (CSAP) program. Mr. Liew Tong Ngan, CEO of World Vision Malaysia, followed and then it was our turn, as four we explained our journey up to KL before retiring to Klix Lounge for a question and answer session. I met Joseph from Cycling Malaysia Magazine and he asked me to write a 2000 word article for the April issue, I was stoked! I also had a photo with Miss Malaysia and the Actress.
As part of the welcome, two young children suffering from autism from Rotary Club of Bandar Utama Music Dream Centre (RMDC) charmed their way into the hearts of all in attendance with a few great hits. The RMDC is a platform where music is used as a therapeutic tool to help children with learning disabilities, operating under the care of Rotary Club Bandar Utama.
It was such an exciting morning and once again something that we were all touched by. Never did I think when I left London we would have had such a massive reception in Malaysia! Suddenly Malaysia is our third biggest following on Facebook!
The afternoon was spent enjoying the hotel. The swimming pool was so soothing on our bodies after the four big days between Penang and KL. Kathryn wasted no time and explored the malls of the Golden Triangle, the centre of KL right where we were located, quickly adding to the weight of her backpack I was carrying.
In the evening the five members of the Rotary Club met us at the Park Royal and took us for a great night out in KL. We started by enjoying a spread of Malaysian and Chinese food, a tour of the city in the comfort of a really nice Mercedes before finishing things off at a Central Lake where the final day of the Chinese New Year celebrations were taking place. We let off lanterns, each of us writing wishes on them. Aaron’s didn’t take off as he had tied a knot in the top of it to repair a hole, we laughed at his although he had written Ride2Rescue to reach Melbourne on his which is a little worrying!!
Aaron’s luck turned though when he was handed an orange by a giggling Chinese girl. Traditionally the women throw an orange into the lake after writing their name, phone number and email on it – actually I assume traditionally they actually wrote their address but this is 2012. The men then fish out an orange and the woman’s orange they pull out will be their true love. This girl was obviously a little more forward. Tim was on the phone to a girl named Sandy for a while but his pickup lines were lost in translation.
Day 284 Day off in KL, Malaysia
Aaron, Kathryn and I just had to visit the largest mall in South East Asia, Med Valley. It was very big although we didn’t buy anything!
In the evening we went for dinner with more members from the Rotary Club at a very nice Chinese Restaurant. They kindly presented us with riding jerseys that they had specially designed for us. They were fantastic with Ride2Rescue, World Vision, Rotary and Park Royal logos all printed on them!
Over dinner there was plenty of rice wine being consumed and afterwards we went for a few beers with Jason and Amethyst, another member of Rotary.
Day 285 Day off in KL, Malaysia
Today we met with two local NGOs, CARAM Asia and Tenaganita, who work to fight child trafficking and also work hard to improve the situation for migrant workers in KL. We chatted with each group separately for about two hours, both of their work was really interesting and it was kind of them to take time out of their schedule to help educate us on the situation in Malaysia.
In the evening Mr. Liew Tong Ngan, CEO of World Vision Malaysia kindly took the six of us out for dinner. He is a great guy. We met him in Penang also and he just loves our ride. He assured us he will try to get to Melbourne for our arrival home! Maybe even ride the last week!!
Day 286 Day off in KL, Malaysia
This morning we headed out to Capital FM where we joined Aisha Hill on her breakfast show for a live chat. She was great fun and we were able to share loads about our ride and cause along with some funny stories to her listeners. Although she did say nobody listens to her show… except her mum. The radio station is for women, their slogan being ‘Capital FM, Woman – the new capital’. The topic before we arrived was about the type of lettuce you get in a garden salad from restaurants, so I hope we were a more exciting topic than that!
Once we returned to the hotel I repack my panniers again and decided to send home a heap of clothes and random things that I had accumulated. I ended up sending 6kgs! So my bike should feel much lighter as we head further south!
In the afternoon we had an interview with Malaysia’s national newspaper the New Straight Times and then Daniel and Aaron were requested for an interview with Time Out magazine. It seems they only wanted to speak to the hairy two!!
In the evening we had no plans. We were all exhausted so just did our own thing. I ordered pizza relaxed in my room!
Our time in KL had been so productive in terms of increasing awareness. Every morning at breakfast we would find an article in a different paper. Many of the articles were in Chinese newspapers where we could only read ‘Ride 2 Rescue’ in the heading although we got the idea just fine.
Again none of this could have possible without the hard work of our friends at the Rotary Club. K.G the president was fantastic and actually owns a property in Melbourne so we hope to catch up down the track. Jason was great fun and we definitely owe him a few beers if he ever makes it to Melbourne! In fact everyone we met in KL was great; so hospitable to us and generous. So thank you KL for the great memories, they will be with our team forever and have already been a massive boost to our goal of increasing awareness of child trafficking.