Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thailand to Singapore, via East Coast of Malaysia, Ride

Here's a raw GPS plot of my journey (via MacGPS Pro). It will take some time to get it rendered on a map as my venerable 1st generation Apple PowerBook G4 Titanium does not possess enough VRAM (8 MB) to run Google Earth.

Almost all the stamps are on the same page  :-D

As this is a multi-day ride, the ride report is lengthy; hence, so it will be broken up into daily reports. Pictures with comments will be interspersed with the end-of-the-day journal entries; occasional disjunctions / discontinuities are unavoidable.

As I post each day's ride report (it may take a fortnight or so, to complete all of them; there are approximately 1352 pictures and 44 videos to sort, edit, and notate), this page — with links to each day — will remain as the index to the 2-week trip.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

                                         The Winners

                             ("The Story of the Gadsbys")

         What the moral? Who rides may read.
         When the night is thick and the tracks are blind
         A friend at a pinch is a friend, indeed,
         But a fool to wait for the laggard behind.
         Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne,
         He travels the fastest who travels alone.

         White hands cling to the tightened rein,
         Slipping the spur from the booted heel,
         Tenderest voices cry " Turn again!"
         Red lips tarnish the scabbarded steel,
         High hopes faint on a warm hearth-stone —
         He travels the fastest who travels alone.

         One may fall but he falls by himself —
         Falls by himself with himself to blame.
         One may attain and to him is pelf —
         Loot of the city in Gold or Fame.
         Plunder of earth shall be all his own
         Who travels the fastest and travels alone.

         Wherefore the more ye be helpen-.en and stayed,
         Stayed by a friend in the hour of toil,
         Sing the heretical song I have made —
         His be the labour and yours be the spoil.
         Win by his aid and the aid disown —
         He travels the fastest who travels alone!

         (Joseph Rudyard Kipling)

Thailand to Singapore, via East Coast of Malaysia, Ride: Epilogue

[T]he meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of those misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.
         (Joseph Conrad)

Just like that, the 14-day tour is over.

How time flies when you're having fun.

Aside from from confronting my fears, testing my intuition, mental, emotional, and physical limits — and regaling in the abundance of solitude — I had the time of my life observing different cultures, social and governmental systems from the ground level; experiencing the kindness and spontaneous generosity of strangers, and having my belief that most people are inherently good reaffirmed. Regular people, heartened by the (comical?) sight of a lone cyclist ladened with luggage, slowly inching his way across their country — despite the cheaper, easy availability of mechanized efficiency — actually cheering and rooting for the endeavorer, suggests, at least to me, that romance is not dead. Or, maybe they just think I'm a retard.

In this aspect, what started as a solo journey became less and less so as the days progressed; a succession of strangers gradually (and unknowingly) linked by the passage of a bicycle, and a story unfolding, hidden within the scribbled pages of a journal. What is recorded in these pages then, become less about the rider and more about the communities and people he came into contact with, however fleetingly. I have become no longer the focus of the narration, but merely the projector's motor — these people and their landscapes are the film.

Deepest gratitude to the following, who made this ride possible and/or contributed to its success:

God; Mom, Dad, Auntie Fong, Uncle Jimmy, Cheryl; Peter Chew (Cycle Corner 6285 1468); Calvin Tay, Xavier Goh, Mabe (Campers' Corner); Chris Wee; Sulaiman (The Rebound Centre 6743 9474); Hon Shin; Viki, Louis, Ahmad (Cycle Craft); Miss Chua (Jinson Industries), Castron Computer Components; Karen Kuah, Nicholas Mok, Francis Chow, Sol, Wayne & Kristina Carpenter, Jamie, Natalie & Nick, Dexter Ong, boagy, brettou, Mr Pumpy, Martin Adserballe, Bine & Uli, Janne Corax, dragonc, kso1, rinconbay, Geer37, greenmango, diuofo, Norman Fischer, and Elmo.

         Thank you.

GPS log does not include the ride north of Tak Bai.

Did this approximation while waiting for my food at Desaru on Day 12.

Not too far off, eh?

Image courtesy of Hon Shin.


Distance  1021.6 km (638.5 miles)
Elevation climbed  2195 m (7200 ft)
53 hours 46 minutes 8 seconds
Average speed  19 km/h (11.88 mph)
Maximum speed  52.7 km/h (32.94 mph)

Lowest temperature  79° F (26.1° C) (Day 14)
Highest temperature  110° F (43.3° C) (Day 10)

Shortest riding time  1 hour 56 minutes 23 seconds (Day 2)
Longest riding time  6 hours 8 minutes 35 seconds (Day 14)

Least distance  37.66 km (23.54 miles) (Day 2)
Most distance  123.93 km (77.46 miles) (Day 14)

Least climbing  50 ft (15 m) (Day 2)
Most climbing  2150 ft (655.5 m) (Day 14)

Bike:  1991 Bridgestone MB-3 Michelle ("my belle")
Size  49 cm (19.29 inch) [Center-to-top]
Lowest weight  41 kg (90.2 lb)
Highest weight  47 kg (103.4 lb)

187 cm (6' 2")
Start (September 15)  64 kg (140.8 lb)
End (September 28)  60 kg (132 lb)

Things I should have brought along

lightweight cup
immersion cup heater
JetBoil™ service kit
spare computer sensor cable
spare helmet buckle
spare rear deraileur
another mirror for non-drive side (useful when filtering through heavy traffic in cities)
non-whistling compass
collapsable chopsticks
clothes pegs

No mobile / cell phone was carried or ever used on this ride.

Ride conducted solo.

Thailand to Singapore, via East Coast of Malaysia, Ride: Day 14

Solitude is strength; to depend on the presence of the crowd is weakness. The man who needs a mob to nerve him is much more alone than he imagines.
         (Paul Brunton)

The peaceful morning masks a night of turmoil and pain: the mushroom linguine carbonara I had for dinner contained too much purines, triggering a gout attack in my left knee at 3:40 AM. 'Hobbled out of bed, swallowed 500 mg of enteric-coated aspirin and 500 mg of paracetamol. At 5:04 AM, determining it to be a gout attack and not an overuse / overexertion injury, I took 500 mg of colchicine.

At 7 AM, I took 500 mg more of paracetamol and prepared a light breakfast of 3 salted biscuits and a cup of coffee. The resort offers a breakfast buffet for RM30 but I didn't have much of an appetite.

8:35 AM.
Despite the left hamstring still clicking, I deemed my body fit enough for the ride to Singapore.

Checked out at 8:48 AM.

Temperature  86° F (30° C)

I love the sign. Beautiful joke.

(Where's the humor? Do the ride and find out!)

There's a certain pleasurable sense of foreboding upon seeing such numbers.

9.11 km (5.7 miles) from Sebana Cove, I took my 3rd GU Energy Gel of the trip, to spare some glycogen for burning fats later in the day.

Just before the junction to Highway 89, but I am not taking the ferry to Changi today.

10:15 AM.
Petronas gas station outside Desaru. Had a 2nd breakfast of a chocolate bun, an iced-coffee, and a pack of Milo here.


Distance to Desaru from Sebana Cove

Cateye AT-100
Elevation climbed  370 feet (112.8 m)
1 hour 9 minutes 28 seconds
Average speed  13.2 mph (21.1 km/h)
Maximum speed  29.8 mph (47.7 km/h)
Distance  15.3 miles (24.5 km)
Temperature   95° F (35° C)

Despite the warmth (95° F / 35° C), it was drizzling rather heavily. Here, I found the complementary shower cap to be a rather nifty transparent rain cover for the handlebar bag.

Breakfast #2 done; drizzle stopped; road's dry; time to roll.

Junction with Highway 99. Took this turn under a year ago on the Sedili Mega Loop Ride.

The slight incline hints at what lies ahead.

58.28 km (36.4 miles) from Sebana Cove, I dodged a potentially nasty accident. There was a traffic jam; a female driver, checking her make up with the vanity mirror — not paying attention — only realized it at the last moment, served into the road shoulder to avoid rear-ending the car in front of her. When she got to the road shoulder, she realized that half of it was gravel. Not wanting the pebbles to scratch her precious paint job, she slammed on the brakes.

Suddenly, instead of a clear path before me, I faced a wall of steel less than 40 feet in front of me. On my right are other vehicles coming to a stop, a wall of moving steel and glass as well; on my left is another wall of mud and rocks — at 48+ km/h (30+ mph), on a 45 kg (99 lb) bike, I had nowhere to go. It's stop or splat.

Thank goodness I disregarded conventional advice and set my medium-profile cantilever brakes just a notch below maximum leverage a month ago.

Anger at the inattentive idiotic moronic dumbass driver for almost turning me into a human pretzel is better spent fueling the climbs up the hills ahead.

Upon reaching the junction before Kota Tinggi, where I had to made the decision whether to take the shorter route (bypassing the town completely), or go through town, I chose the latter. Having a BMI that dropped to 17.2 during the first 4 days of the tour, any opportunity to top up on food should be treasured.


Distance to Kota Tinggi from Sebana Cove

Cateye AT-100
Elevation climbed  1240 feet (378 m)
3 hours 13 minutes 3 seconds
Average speed  13 mph (20.8 km/h)
Maximum speed  31.8 mph (50.9 km/h)
Distance  41.9 miles (67.4 km)
Temperature   92° F (33.3° C)

Cateye Velo 5
Distance  67.57 km (42.23 miles)
Maximum speed  51.2 km/h

1:20 PM.
Ducked into Loong Foong Restoran, a dim sum shop, just in time to escape a heavy shower.

2:15 PM.
'Was about to set off when the rain lightened, but then it increased intensity again, becoming a monsoon deluge. So, I went back into Loong Foong Restoran and ordered a cup of kopi-O (coffee with sugar, no milk). I inquired about the best way to get out of Kota Tinggi. Through the course of the exchange, they were piqued by my adventures along the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. When the rain let off again and it was time to go, they insisted that the coffee is on them. Maybe I should be a minstrel or something  :-D

Well, the downpour only eased off for a few minutes before coming back full force (and then some). In the limited visibility, I took a wrong turn and went onto Jalan Jaafar instead of the road out of town. There, deciding that though I'm not made of sugar, I'm not impervious to speeding trucks — with drivers half-blind in the rain — either, I ducked into a hawker center.

And ended up chatting with the owner of a Bak Kut Teh stall.

She showed me pictures of the devastating flood that hit the town on the 20th of December 2006. I found myself eating Bak Kut Teh — the spiciest kind, with loads of peppercorns, and she uses fiery chili padi rather than the regular, anemic red chilies, for the the thick, black soy dipping sauce — under the roar of a tin roof, rattling with the fury of a tropical monsoon; and flipping through photo albums of a place — where I am now sitting and eating — that was once under 15 feet (4.5 m) of water. Sometimes, getting lost is fun.

Husband and wife putting away the table I sat at for the last hour.

Leaving Kota Tinggi. Recognize the bridge and building from the lady's photo album? Check out smaller picture. Also, check out 0:16 of this video.

Yes, yes. Purple. I got it in 1991 from the wonderful folks at Bridgestone @ Far East Shopping Center, back when I was a wee innocent JC kid and thought that cycling along Bukit Timah Road was impossible, and round island (Singapore) rides were classified as suicide attempts by the traffic police. Look what they've done to me:  17 years on, I'm dressed like a mad man, smell worse, and tell tall tales in foreign countries for food and drink. Man, what they've done to me?  :-P

Boy (and coin phone) saying, "helo," at flooded Kampung Surau Kampung Batu 25, outside Kota Tinggi.

Lemang! I know it's hard work cooking this delicacy, but I still think I got ripped off @ RM8 a stick.

I bought 2 and lugged them 55+ km (34.4 miles) back to Singapore.

Weightweenie? Who sez aye a weightweenie?
Aye kills heem! Noh! Aye kills heem two times err!

The friendly truck driver's word of caution at Jemaluang was spot on: Ulu Tiram wasn't fun. 3 chaps followed me around in their car. When I turned into a gas station, they followed, parked and waited. So, I fiddled with my bike. This went on for 3 gas stations and 45 minutes. Finally, they gave up and drove off.

Umm... hello, whatever money I've left can't even fill up your gas tank, and you spent 45 minutes following and stalking me in your car. Let me take a wild guess, you underachieving bandits are named Moe, Curly, and Larry?

Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator.

Maybe the lemang ran out and they wanted mine or something...


6:13 PM Sunday, 28th September 2008.

My first 1000 km (625 miles) unsupported solo road tour  :-D

6:50 PM. As I sat outside an Esso gas station, fresh sweat reviving old; coated in road grime, drenched by drizzle, showers, storms, and #@%&! road spray; and drinking iced-coffee and 100 Plus, a Singaporean-registered car roared up. Whilst their precious, pampered, domestic-maid-fed — spoonfed hand-fed — teens stay huddled behind locked doors, the wife frantically scanned around, as the middle-aged husband pumped gas into the vehicle at a speed that would make any pit crew envious. Then, darting back into the safety of their COE-entitled, ERP-equipped, GPS-guided, cell phone-enabled, DVD-capable, car, they sped off toward the cocooned safety of Singapore ala Back to the future...

         ...while I sat and played with the gas station's resident cat.

         It must be difficult, living in such fear.

Gas station toilet art.

I was so busy feeding the cat that I left the 3 maps I bought at the counter. Luckily I was only 3 km away when I discovered that.

Johor Bahru pavement + bike fully loaded with panniers = ultimate skills park.

The reception at Singapore Woodlands Immigration Checkpoint was far from endearing: I didn't expect to be questioned about what was I doing in Southern Thailand; why I made this trip without anyone ordering me to; how is it that I am doing this without any cause; or, if I considered how dangerous it is to travel alone through a foreign country.

Thanks for wasting an hour of my life.

Stay in your coop, gentlemen.

         Thank you, Michelle  :-)

         8:44 PM Sunday, 28th September 2008.

         JOANNE, IVY, CLOE: Where have you been???

         MICHELLE: Boy, do I have stories to tell you!


Cateye AT-100
Elevation climbed  2150 feet (655.5 m)
6 hours 8 minutes 35 seconds
Average speed  12.5 mph (20 km/h)
Maximum speed  31.8 mph (50.9 km/h)
Distance  76.9 miles (123 km)
Temperature   79° - 95° F (26.1° - 35° C)

Cateye Velo 5
Distance  123.93 km (77.46 miles)
Maximum speed  51.2 km/h
Cumulative distance  1021.6 km (638.5 miles)

Whatever you do.....Don't ever do it for anyone but yourself.
         (Peter Croft)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thailand to Singapore, via East Coast of Malaysia, Ride: Day 13

Journal entry

'Woke up today feeling much better. 'Took a series of pictures by the beach. It is nice watching the sun rise when you wake. My dream cottage sits on the west coast of North America, however. Just as well, I'll take a sunset over a sunrise any day — there's less drama; and, if there's any, darkness hides it.

A 360° view.

During breakfast, I discovered that, somewhere along the way, the temperature inside the map case (the transparent plastic acts as a greenhouse) soared beyond 120° F (48.9° C) and broke my analog thermometer  :-(

Kinesys Performance Sunscreen. 'Discovered this at Sports Basement 3 years ago. This is the only sunscreen I am comfortable using when cycling. It is non-greasy, relatively sweat and water-resistant, and most importantly, does not attract sand or road grit. The small 1 fl. oz. (30 ml) size makes it easier to lug around for solo riders. Available locally from the fine folks at Campers' Corner.

It's remarkable how adaptable one can be: after 10 plus days on the road, it takes less than 5 minutes to pack this stuff up — waterproofed and balanced — onto the bike.

10:30 AM.
Back on the road.

47 km (29.4 miles) to Tanjung Pengelih.
Bukit Tuatau lies immediately ahead.

Turn off to Batu Layar. 15.5 km (just under 10 miles) from Desaru, this also marks the end of the hills section (apart from a brief climb before Tanjung Ramunia).

Nice! They cleaned up the place.

Today is supposed to be an easy ride and I took it easy. 'Did a little more exploring and discovered a few more chalets. 16 km (10 miles) from Desaru, I ran into a group of Singaporean novice cyclists; overheated and exhausted, they only covered the flats from Penggerang. I gave them a heads up regarding the hills ahead and wished them well.

Kampung road bypassing a section of Highway 90.

Sepang Muhibah Beach Resort lies south of Sea View Resort, on the same rural kampung road parallel to Highway 90.

Its location makes it a viable alternative to Sungai Rengit for beginner cyclists seeking overnight accommodation en route to Desaru.

Further south, after a short section of dirt track, a military outpost, and bumpy asphalt road, is another resort.

By the roadside at Sungai Rengit, a growling dog charged at me just as I was about to remove my camera to take a picture. I don't know if it was the heat making me irritable, or being incensed at the animal's attempt to thwart me so close to my goal or what, but instead of holding my ground — I had German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and a big-boned, really fat 62 kg (136.4 lb) Boxer, so your average 20 - 30 kg (44 - 66 lb) dog doesn't faze me — I bellowed and rushed at the dog. The surprised animal, not expecting the turn of events, caught a mouthful of Shimano steel studs, assumed a sub-orbital trajectory, subsequently obeyed the call of gravity, and, upon returning to terra firma, ran yelping back into its compound.

I'm a dog lover and it pains me to do this to a dog, but the fuzzy-cuddly goes out the window the moment your dog attacks me outside your property. Maybe I should have just squirted it with my water bottle in hopes of it backing off. I understand that rabies shots are really fun (and the pretty nurses give you candy after that), no? Or, maybe I should have called the Samaritans of Singapore on a mobile / cell phone and describe in vivid detail as I'm being bitten — how I am being bitten and where — and set up a counseling appointment when the dog finally lets go and I reach Singapore; that way, we can have a Kumbaya session about how my feelings were violated in the encounter with the excessively aggressive and offensive dog. Maybe.

We live in more of a pussy generation now, where everybody's become used to saying, "Well, how do we handle it psychologically?" In those days, you just punched the bully back.
         (Clint Eastwood)

Lunch was the usual affair:  2 bowls of laksa. The same deadly stuff I ate on the Glenfiddich Desaru Ride with NicIz2HardKore.

11 km (6.9 miles) to Tanjung Pengelih.

Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) fruits ripen, crack, split and fling seeds overhead.

As a primary school boy, I used to rub these seeds against concrete floors hard and fast, and then drop the scorching-hot seeds down the shorts of classmates. I got caned often. That's why I can ride ridiculously narrow — and occasionally unpadded — saddles for insane distances. The nerves were deadened a long time ago  :-P

In the center, an unripe rubber fruit. Each holds 3 seeds and 6 sections. Think of them as balsam (Impatiens balsamina) seed pods on meth.

Arrival at Tanjung Pengelih marks the official end of the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia ride.

Behind Tanjung Pengelih lies 186 m (610 ft) Bukit Penggerang, and the ruins of a British World War II fort.


Cateye AT-100
Elevation climbed  410 feet (125 m)
3 hours 12 minutes 25 seconds
Average speed  10.7 mph (17.1 km/h)
Maximum speed  24.8 mph (39.68 km/h)
Distance  34.4 miles (55 km)
Temperature  forgot to record

Cateye Velo 5
Distance  55.46 km (34.66 miles)
Maximum speed  39.7 km/h
Cumulative distance  883.5 km (552.2 miles)

Arrived 4 PM Saturday, 27th September 2008.

ELMO:  But... but... but Singapore's that way! The ferry is right here! The last one for the day too! 4 PM! I wanna go home! Wahhh!

BEN:  Shut up, Elmo.

There's a more hardcore way of getting back, but first, I am going to take a shower and get some rest.

Young oil palm trees.

12 km (7.5 miles) of this.

Plantation road to the rear entrance of Sebana Cove.

12 km (7.5 miles) of plantation roads later, the rear entrance to Sebana Cove.

The staff (dealing with accommodations) are charming. They readily acquiesced to my request for a room in a quiet corner of the resort.

Despite my protests, one of them even helped carry 45 kg (99 lb) Michelle up the steps to my room. I sure hope he didn't hurt his back. Thank you, Harrul  :-)

         They have a fine sense of humor as well  :-)

RM200 for the standard room. I understand the ones on the 2nd floor are nicer (at RM290), but I am not masochistic enough to lug a 45 kg (99 lb) bike up an additional floor just for a better view.

         A moment of narcissism.

Took a long shower and watched the sun set from my room.

Early start tomorrow. One objective has been fulfilled:  bagged the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The LORD has been exceedingly kind  :-)
-10:50 PM.


Cateye AT-100
Elevation climbed  450 feet (137.2 m)
4 hours 3 minutes 1 second
Average speed  10.6 mph (16.96 km/h)
Maximum speed  24.8 mph (39.68 km/h)
Distance  43.2 miles (69.1 km)
Temperature  forgot to record

Cateye Velo 5
Distance  69.63 km (43.52 miles)
Maximum speed  39.7 km/h
Cumulative distance  897.7 km (561.1 miles)

Here I have gone down with the sun
written syllables till time has surprised me
with the fact of his consistency.
I love not you but the sun’s going down
so easily.

         (Janet Frame)