road riding in Penang | Malaysia

cycas revoluta 2005 Tour Beer Langkawi, Day 1

story and photos by Darren Lee | additional photos by Finian Lee, Teoh Ween Sze & Ong Kai Seng |
polar graph by Finian Lee


I haven't been to the fabled island of Langkawi in about 17 years, so the memories of the place is foggy at best. Depending on what you read, the island could still be pristine or has already been "polluted" and "destroyed" by over development and commercialisation. Well, only one way to find out then ....

Have bike, will travel.

The eleven of us took the ferry from Penang. The trip took 2 1/2 hours. And it is deadly boring ... except for the first 5 minutes and the last 5 minutes. It's nice to see Penang island getting smaller and Langkawi getting bigger, but other than that you were wishing they invented light travel or at least installed nuclear reactors as engines on the ferries.

So long Penang .....

The ferry there was packed to the brim (being a Saturday). So I spent the whole time on the deck where the bikes were. Standing around goofing with each other, sitting in the sun, or lying down on the deck with a knapsack as a pillow. Pretty uncomfortable as you can imagine. On the flip side, the ferry back (on a Monday) was empty and I made sure I sat across two seats for a while.

While out in the sun, double eyewear is recommended.

We could have flown, but the ferry is cheaper. More importantly, for someone as lazy as I am, you don't have to dismantle the bike into little pieces and pack everything into a box, which you'd have to do if you were taking a plane. Of course, you should be prepared for some dings and scratches on your bike as the ferry handlers aren't exactly Cinderellas, if you get what I mean.

Ok, enough about the ferry, on to the island itself ....

Ahh .... Langkawi, here we come.

Today seemed to be a day for punctures. Before I had even rode a metre on the island, my bike had a front puncture. Everyone waited patiently for me while I changed the tube. To my consternation, I discovered a large hole in the tyre which had caused the puncture. This meant that subsequent tubes would also likely suffer the same fate. And no one brought a spare tyre. I changed the tube and prayed for the best.

Getting ready for the ride to the hotel.

We rode our bikes from the jetty to the hotel, which meant travelling through half of Kuah town (the "capital" of Langkawi). Kuah looks like your typical recently-developed Malaysian town, although its location beside the sea gave it a holiday feel. You also immediately notice the many shops selling alcoholic drinks and cigarettes, this being a duty free island. A 500ml can of Heineken (of European and not Malaysian origin) costs only RM3.20. Hmmm ....

"Dude, I think we're lost."

Our first ride was scheduled for the afternoon. But this being the day of punctures, Red Short's rear tube exploded while he was pumping it up. It looked like its time was up and he probably hasn't changed the tube since getting the bike.


A violent puncture.

Anyway, our ride was to go around only half the island, and the ride was optional as some of us (like me) were tired out from the ferry ride. To my surprise, everyone (including myself) who brought a bike turned up, except for Kai "The Sleeping Machine" Seng who obviously had a plan to do the obvious - sleep, although it turned out he later went swimming and shopping - strange...

We started along the eastern side of the island at casual speed and upon reaching a large roundabout, detoured to the famous beach of Tanjung Rhu. The eastern road isn't anything to shout about as you couldn't see the coast, but the road to Tanjung Rhu and the beach itself was simply fabulous. The sand, the view, the sea. Wonderful.

Cruising along the coast ....

A bit like some scene from some movie don't you think ...

After having the requisite coconut water and filling the afternoon quota of awful jokes, we headed off to go back to the hotel. A quick look at the map indicated the shortest way home would be through the middle of the island - the new road known as "Lebuhraya Langkawi".

Before that, Finian Babey, Jimmy Babey, Red Shorts and myself decided to check out Gunung Raya, a 13km climb from sea level to about 800 metres. We rode up for about 1.5km before deciding to turn back as time was running short (actually, I was dead tired but time was running short sounds so much better don't you think).

Anyway, back to the Lebuhraya. It sure was the shortest way, but not many in the group knew about the "humps" ... vicious short rises as you can see from the graph and photo below ...


Needless to say, everyone was glad to reach the hotel. Speaking about the hotel, it has really dirty carpets - probably hasn't been changed since the hotel opened ...

After a rest, it was time for dinner. Our original destination was a place half an hour away but with everyone howling of hunger, we decided having something nearby would be most agreeable (especially to the Eating Machine who was droning away about food). We drove around town in our rental cycas-mobile and settled on a large-ish Chinese restaurant, which proceeded to slaughter us with a hyper expensive food bill.


Dinner settled, it was back to the hotel for an early night's rest. This being a holiday, I suggested the next day's ride to start at 9:00am only to get incredulous looks from the rest. Too hot, they say. We finally agreed on an 8:00am starting time.

Next up: Day 2!

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