Learning To Share

We love to share, don’t we? We share a meal, share a story, share a post on Facebook. Sharing spreads our joy and expands our experiences. Sharing is caring.

So what about bikes? Dare we share them? I’m happy to share my bikes with friends if they don’t happen to possess their own. But what about to the public? I suppose it’s really more of a rental system, isn’t it? We can only share something if we own it in some form.

Semantics aside, I bring this up because I’ve recently learned of a great initiative, a marvelous movement, a tremendous undertaking occurring behind the scenes in Penang. This initiative is called Penang Bike Share.

Penang Bike Share logo
Linking all Penang together through the humble bicycle.

This is all part of a master plan, part of a grand scheme to create an image for Penang, to make the very name of Penang synonymous with anything to do with cycling. The current chief minister has himself stated that it is his vision that Penang become the cycling state of Malaysia, and perhaps even the most prominent cycling hub in all South East Asia.

Basically, it’s good news for cycling enthusiasts. Well, mostly good. I foresee a few who might not want to contend with throngs of cyclists flooding their hitherto private cycle routes. But there’s much good to be had and much work to be done still.

Now, one big question:

Bike Share

Well, why not? The basic idea is really quite simple: you visit your nearest Bike Share station, scan your card and extract a bike, ride wherever you want however you like (safely please), then deposit the bike at the most convenient Bike Share station and you’re free to go about your business.

No need to worry about parking. No need to worry about securing your bike. You save on petrol, and you feel a little better inside. Assuming you didn’t wallop too many donuts on the way.

Of course that’s in an ideal world. The reality is much more complicated, as it so often is. Let’s have a look at some issues that may have already come to mind.


What should I do if there is no Bike Share facility near my start and/or finish point?

A pertinent point indeed. Like any public transport system, commuters have to have easy access to the network.

Penang Bike Share System
I can see my house from here!

The little red bikemen are all the proposed bike stations. As you’ll notice they are all centred  around the core Georgetown area, as the area is most suited and also most in need of bicycle travel, or at least some alternative to cramming your car into the narrow lanes between pedestrians and bustling shops. Hopefully if the project goes well they may attempt to expand the network further out.

If only your starting point is near a Bike Share spot, then you might have to hang on to the bike until you can make the return trip to your original station, which isn’t too bad unless you plan on doing copious overtime at work. The shared bikes can be remotely locked so if you hog it for too long you might be stuck with a lump of metal at the end of the day.

If there’s a Bike Share station near your end point, perhaps you can catch the bus (or God forbid, drive) to the nearest Bike Share hub and cycle from there. It’s for a good cause, no?


What happens if something goes wrong with my bike?

Having utilised and tinkered with many a bike in my time, I don’t even want to think about the amount of maintenance involved in making sure hundreds of bikes function. That said, it has been done and it also creates lots of job opportunities for the mechanically gifted and those who like to get down and dirty. Wait, that sounds wrong…black and greasy? Oiled up and good to go?

Of course Penang Bike Share can’t guarantee that nothing will go awry with the bicycle that you pick up. But they plan to make sure it doesn’t occur very often. And even when you do encounter some unforeseen circumstances, Bike Share will be prepared.

They’ve got personnel on hand to attend to any issues that may arise, and they even plan to have bicycle repair outlets attached to some of their stations so you can fix it up yourself!

At worst, you can detour to the nearest Bike Share, hand the problematic rascal to them, and take off with a new set of wheels between your legs.


What if it rains or I don’t like the humidity and the harsh sun or I just can’t stand being exposed to the environment and the world at large?

Drink some concrete and make sure you’re well equipped for the journey.

You can obtain compact waterproof hooded jackets that easily fit into little pouches. Bring a towel to mop up any excess sweat or to dry yourself off if you have access to shower facilities (did I mention they’re setting up a whole bunch of those around town too?). If it’s incredibly sunny outside, then slip slop slap! And sunglasses definitely help.

If you just don’t like going outdoors in general, then…

Eat more peanuts – peanuts are good for you.

So why am I doing this public service announcement? I’ve got my own bike, I don’t need to hire a bicycle to get around. Because if Penang is to become great in anything, not just cycling, then it will need the support of all its passionate citizens. Penang Bike Share is a colossal project, and it is going to rely on us – the users, the locals, the people – if it is to succeed.

So go out there and share the joy of riding! And share those roads if you have to drive. And while you’re at it, check out Penang Bike Share’s fancy website, with lots of pretty pictures of Penang! Peace out!

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A Challenging Life

Ever since I first laid eyes on Watterson’s comics as a little kid, I’ve always loved Calvin & Hobbes. But never did I think I would one day draw inspiration from it.

Never have truer words been said.
Never have truer words been said.

Change. Challenge. Not the two nicest words in the English dictionary. Or at least, they don’t usually carry with them positive connotations. You don’t think fluffy bunnies when you hear these words, do you? (If you do, I’d love to meet you.)

Change

To be fair, change really isn’t something that people should fear. Change merely means something different.

Like it or not, as much as we try to control our lives and make it conform to our little routine box, life always finds ways to make every day different. The key is whether or not we allow ourselves to notice these differences and create change in our lives.

You now have a choice: do you wait for life to force you to change? Or do you actively incorporate change as a part of your lifestyle?

I’ve made my choice, because I’ve come to terms with the fact that life will choose to mess with me regardless of how nicely I plan my day or how neatly I arrange my shoes outside my front door. The rains will come and winds will blow and this world will keep on spinning, so you can either let it blow and batter you, or you can ride the waves as best you can into the unknown, into the future.

Challenge

Now this is a word that should get your adrenaline gushing! Most definitions will invariably involve some form of contest or competition, whether it be internal or some guy in a suit daring you to do silly things.

Challenge Accepted!

So the question is: do we dare to challenge ourselves? Are we up for the challenge? Are we willing to push ourselves to achieve something, to do something we may not even believe we can do?

That’s what a challenge is, right? If it’s something we know we can do, is it still a challenge? That depends – how well can you do it? Doesn’t matter if everybody else in the whole wide world can do it! Can you do it?

It doesn’t matter how small the challenge is, as long as you acknowledge it and you’re ready to fight to achieve it. It could be climbing the stairs, running a marathon, or even…talking to that cute girl you always see on the bus.

The important thing is to push yourself. And to never stop doing so. But of course, take a breather and rest when you need to. We can’t all be Superman.

Afterthoughts

Calvin’s final statement tickles my fancy. I’m familiar with the term atrophy, at least in a biological sense. Atrophy is what you get when you strain your muscles really, really hard, and come in first at the race. Teehee.

Atrophy usually occurs when your body decides to cut back on unnecessary expenditure and withdraws supplies to (what it deems) superfluous areas of the body. You may have had big biceps back when you totally ripped those guns lifting them fat metal things, but give the gym a rest for a few weeks and you’ll notice a difference.

In a nutshell, it’s saying: use it or lose it.

It happens in muscle, it happens to bone;
When you don’t use it, it feels all alone;
If you don’t push it, you ain’t in the zone;
So push it real good, and get off that phone!

Like a muscle, if you don’t exercise your abilities in life, they will eventually shrink and wither. In order to thrive, life must be challenged; I daresay life must be lived. Otherwise, it wilts and becomes lacklustre and neglected. So live your lives to fullest, my friends!

Consciously make a small change, the most minor of changes, that will potentially improve your life, and see the results. Don’t stop there; that’s merely the first step. Look up into the skies, into the face of God, and say: challenge accepted.

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Lovely Day For A Cycle

This is where the lines blur a little, where white and black become grey, where two seemingly incongruous objects collide at the speed of light and from the resulting explosion you have this:

No need to be sheepish, step right in!
No need to be sheepish, step right in!

Sorry, I meant this:

But will it love me back? Who cares, just ride the darn thing!
But will it love me back? Who cares, just ride the darn thing!

What is this, you might ask. I will tell you! This is a most intriguing shop, where art and bicycles and paint meet. And it all takes place on Penang’s scandalous Love Lane!

Scandalous you say? Why, that’s the magic word! Now that I finally have you attention (what were you doing the past few paragraphs exactly?), time for a bit of a history lesson! No groans? Oh yes, you’re still hooked on the scandals.

Legend has it that Love Lane used to be where the sailors and soldiers and other manly professions of old came to, you know, find love in Penang. Wink wink. Standard red-light district stuff – yawn. But wait, there’s more!

It was also believed that the many opulent double-storied townhouses along this street were home to the fine ladies clandestinely held by their lovers just one street over. So whenever they needed, these wealthy businessmen would pop on down the road to reassure their lonely ladies that they were there for them. And they all lived happily ever after. Teehee.

There’s even a wire frame sculpture named “Cheating Husband” erected on this little lane that attests to the story.  Frankly, I feel for the poor chubby man hanging outside his window. He never gets to go back inside. Sniff.

All this talk of love and riding has certainly whet my appetite for some…cycling! And that’s exactly what you can do when you visit Love Bike! As the name suggests, it is a cozy little shop that houses many a bike for hire. But wait, there’s more!

The bikes for rent aren’t just any ordinary type of bicycle. They’re true-blue, restored vintage bicycles! Don’t worry, they come in other colours too. Here’s a prominent one right outside the shop!

Love Vintage Bikes

They come in all shapes and sizes, but mostly the steel vintage shape and size. And they’re cheap and reliable and great for coasting around the UNESCO Heritage zone, which incidentally Love Lane is a healthy part of.

Did I mention the owner is a stunning, charismatic guy with a major artistic flair? I think I mentioned the artsy bit. This creative tauke (local Hokkien slang for “boss”) goes by the name Thomas, and he’s been churning out exquisite, bite-sized pieces of art ever since he got a hold of a paintbrush. It doesn’t stop there: you can even turn these unique little canvases into the perfect postcard! If you ask nicely, he’ll even mail it out for you! I’m fairly certain he’s a regular at the post office by now.

The way I’m hard-selling him, you’d think I’m his marketing biatch. Well, I’m not; I just met him. It’s not every day you encounter such an interesting merger: an old heritage shop lot awash with bikes and postcards and watercolours.

Love Bike Gallery
He’ll even put you up in his lovely cyclist gallery!

So if you’re visiting the town area and you’d like to have a cycle and look at some art, and maybe pick up a postcard or two, then Love Bike has got you covered. If you’re heading down Love Lane, you definitely can’t miss it! You can get more details on this website.

I like how Love Bike is so symbolic of the two areas that Penang is really booming in right now: cycling and the arts. Ever since the wall murals across Georgetown and the rising investment in bicycles, Penang has become alive with activity, and everyone is keen to join in the fun. Encouraging people to cycle while giving them a glimpse of local art? I think we’ve got a winning formula right here.

So go visit Love Bike and ask for Thomas, and let him tell you all about Love Lane and how his story has unfolded. Who knows, he might even draw something special for you!

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Cambodian Chronicle

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Reaping The Benefits

So there I was, thrust out of a tuk tuk, overcharged, undernourished, and the darn hotel didn’t get my booking. Good thing I didn’t pay in advance.

I trudged morosely through the Cambodian dirt, shaken but not defeated, tired and lost but not really afraid. It was the afternoon and I was certain there would be plenty of lodgings nearby.

Long story short, I found a bigger and cheaper place just a brisk walk down the road, slightly out of the way. The folks there seemed nice and they gave me a pretty good room, complete with air-conditioning! Score!

After winding my way out of the land of everything that is golden and into Cambodia (considering how many people cross those borders, their facilities and amenities are sorely lacking), my expectations for the vivid and extravagant diminished rapidly. Not that I was expecting the red ruby carpet upon entry, but everything in Cambodia was literally rock. Thais are all like: “Talk to the golden hand.”

Can’t touch this.

But not Cambodia. Cambodians are well-grounded, down-to-earth, and not afraid to get their hands dirty. They may not have all those fancy, rare jewels and minerals, but what they do have will last a very, very, very long time. Well, most of it anyway.

I was greeted by a casino. Right as you step foot into Cambodia, there is a big casino. There was probably more than one, I was merely unable to tell where one began and another ended. Then dust. Then lots of green fields. Then back to dust.

Siem Reap is a pretty little tourist hotspot that sits happily on the sublime Tonle Sap lake, which is incidentally the largest freshwater lake in South-East Asia.

Fun fact time! The Tonle Sap is a very fickle body of water. Why do I say that? Because throughout the year its size balloons and deflates dramatically, like it can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be a lake or a little puddle. But that’s not all, it also changes its direction of flow twice a year! I never knew inland lakes could do that. Nothing like a bit of flow reversal to get the uh…juices flowing. Am I right?

Think of the city of Siem Reap as a convenient service centre for some of the maddest man-made structures in that whole Asian region. The city is bunched up in the middle, with the mighty Tonle Sap to the south, and the indomitable Angkor family colossi to the north (the most notable being Angkor Wat, of course). All made of stone, by the way. Pure, unadulterated (just heavily chiseled) stone.

Wow, I just gave some lame-ass Lonely Planet exotic town description. Where are the wheels, boy? The wheels that go round! Patience, patience.

So the first thing I do after I drop my backpack and freshen up is waltz across the alley and get me some wheels. Cheap rental, standard safety bike, all the features. You know, two wheels, metal frame, even had brakes!

By the way, the locals cheerfully accept American currency. Theirs tends to have more zeros than anything; reminds me of Nam. Basically, everyone’s a millionaire. Except the locals. Okay, okay, too soon.

Now that I’m mobile, I’m alive! Suddenly everything isn’t so dreary anymore. I whiz down lanes and back alleys, between shops and crossroads. I even stopped at this rad joint called the Tuk Tuk Bar for lunch. Nice people there.

For those playing at home, cycling to the places of interest in Siem Reap isn’t that hard. Once you hit any of the major roads, they tend to take you either north or south. North goes to Angkor Wat, south goes to the water.

Angkor Wat is easily under 10 kilometres from the part of the city with all the accommodation, which is more northerly. Honestly, the place isn’t all that big. So head north and you’ll hit a big crossroad where the main highway intersects. Just cross that and you’re in Angkor territory!

This is where the fun begins. Now, before you go too far in, try and locate the ticketing area, because it’s not intuitively located at the expected entrances to the grand ancient Cambodian city. I guess there are lots of entrances. On the plus side, they take your photo and print it onto a neat square ticket for you to keep as a souvenir, so they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.

Take in the tall, tranquil timber that lines the roads into Angkor land. Pause at any stall you like and pick up a few local uh…drinks! Vendors tend to be more mobile in countries like this. If you’re there get some coconut; fresh coconut is sweet tropical nectar.

And in no time you’ll see lots of people and parking and a big body of water, and you’re there! Welcome to Angkor Wat.

Do you see Wat I see?
Do you see Wat I see?

It really is something else. I say that because it’s also a little quirky in that it faces a very unorthodox direction: west. Which I’m told is the direction of death (maybe something to do with the ol’ Sol?). And the direction of Vishnu. Good old Vishnu. Also it’s the largest religious monument ever. Angkor Wat

Unfortunately you can’t take your bike in. Not that you would want to, because the palace roads are unsealed and highly uneven. Fear not, lots of parking opposite. And if you hired a cheapo bike, then no one is going to bother stealing it. Even if they do, hire another one from the parking zone. Chances are it was the one they took from you in the first place. I jest, I witnessed no crimes of the sort.

So take a stroll into Angkor Wat and take your time. Enjoy the palace grounds and the stony grandeur. I wasn’t kidding about that stone, huh?

Halls of Angkor Wat

Now when you’re good and done sightseeing, go chill on the north side of the courtyard grounds, where there should be a multitude of shops and stalls. Be prepared to get harassed by salespeople a little, and be aware that everything is tourist price.

Angkor Wat Clouds
They have pretty nice clouds too.

Head on out and hop back on your bike. Now if you’ve still got enough adventure time, keep heading north along the road that brought you here. It gets better, especially if you have a bike.

You’ll approach a bridge and a tall stone archway that is so narrow it becomes a single lane bottleneck. Feel free to halt the bike and peer over the side of the bridge. You’ll see this:

Bridge GuardNot too happy, is he? Actually this is more like it:

Angkor Thom Moat
I wonder if there are crocodiles in there. Or maybe just piranhas.

And if I’m not mistaken, this sizeable expanse of still water is actually the moat for the regal city within! And I thought it was natural!

That's my bike!
That’s my bike!

Now ride on into the mighty Angkor Thom, my friend! And behold the gargantuan palace grounds! This place is a modern explorer’s wet dream: scattered ruins of various temples and structures, and heaps and heaps of nooks and crannies and niches to poke your head into. If your name is not Indiana, then there’s lots of rolling green fields for your picnic on. This place is perfect for a casual bike cruise, and you could spend an entire day crisscrossing all over this tiny tropical park.

Did I mention there were even more monuments up north? Yeah, you can keep going and going. But you probably want to rest for the journey home, so pace yourself and don’t worry so much about chasing all the major sites that you miss the odd pool and forgotten ruin.

Bayon Temple
Bayon beckons.

This has certainly turned into a bit of an essay. If you’d like to check out more of Siem Reap and other Cambodian delights, please visit my gallery nearby. All proceeds go to nowhere in particular. Just keep it.

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A Brewing Storm

Dark clouds loom over the horizon of this Utopian little tropical island; there is talk weaving through the grapevine of an incoming thunderstorm. And here I am propped up at the most miniature laptop I’ve ever used in the lobby of a hostel in Singapore, in the wake of the biggest global tremor that has emanated from this region in a long time. The Minister Mentor is gone.

His title says it all: he was the politician of this country and he was a marvelous mentor to younger ministers and to his citizens and to the rest of the watching world. His words and actions have inspired generations and shaped the physical and mental mould of many nations, including but not limited to Singapore’s.

Like so many others, I wish to pay my respects at the Parliament House to the great man on the very foundation of his life’s work. And like many others, my mind drifts to the possibilities and to the future. How will Singapore forge ahead without their iron backbone, their will of steel? Has Lee Kuan Yew’s ideologies and life values been ingrained sufficiently into his lifeblood, his countrymen and women?

I have always admired Lee Kuan Yew. He has easily been one of the most prominent political figures in this part of the world ever. Ever. That means the public spotlight was always on him. And he endured it and relished it and made it work for him, as best he could. His traditional values and stern leadership carried him consistently through this mortal coil, and he barely stumbled, always pushed on, always did what he believed was best for himself and for his people.

Did you know Lee Kuan Yew loved to swim? I imagine he didn’t get a chance to do it very much when he was playing father to a whole country of people, but I guess that’s something that kept him going. Kept him sharp. Maybe I should get back to swimming more.

Oh, that reminds me, some good news: Penang just had their international cross channel swim this morning! Six whole kilometres over open ocean. And that’s not taking into account drift and waves. And I don’t mean from the spectators. Hopefully there will be more to come, since it has been a very long time since there has been anything of the sort around that part of Malaysia. Watch this space!

Now I mentioned I was lodging at a hostel. A little bit of advice to those who may plan on hitting the dormitories and shared accommodations: get a decent and decently-sized quick-dry towel and take it everywhere with you! If you have to take one piece of advice from whimsical Mr. Adams, take a towel with you wherever you go. They can be surprisingly (or perhaps I’m just easily surprised) handy! That said you might not want to get too attached to one, because certain uses may call for the greatest sacrifice a towel can give.

That’s all for now, folks. Peace out!

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It’s Adventure Time!

I recently encountered a thought-provoking quote questioning a queer predicament that the Western world is currently facing. It is something that affects all of us, something that strikes us at our core. First World problems.

The quote resonated with me. It piqued at this yearning inside me, this almost alien notion. Adventure.

Since I was a child I had heard the word so many times that its meaning was dashed to dull little shards in my autopilot brain (it doesn’t help that I still watch the intro for almost every episode of Adventure Time). Let’s go on an adventure, Adventure World, Adventure Time, Adventure Quest.

“This cosmic dance of bursting decadence and withheld permissions twists all our arms collectively, but if sweetness can win, and it can, then I’ll still be here tomorrow to high-five you yesterday, my friend. Peace.”

And I believe there is, deep in the soul of man, an innate longing for adventure, an intrinsic passion for something risky, something new. Perhaps just something unusual.

Variety is the spice of life, as they say. And you can’t drink variety without a spot of change. And change is often associated with trouble and discomfort.

Western culture is geared to believing that if we are comfortable and in control of our environment, then we will be happy. Is that not the American Dream? If you can tick all the boxes, then you’re a success and you can live happily ever after!

In striving to achieve the elusive American Dream, countless souls have thrown themselves into the pursuit of wealth and happiness. And are they now happy? Sure, lots of them are! I do not disagree. But what if the joy is in the struggle? What if we were never meant to “get there”?

Dean Karnazes has a similar lament about our culture of comfort. In fact, it almost seems like he is asking us to embrace discomfort.

We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure.

It is his quote that tickled my sense of adventure, that rang true with my distaste at the sedentary lifestyle and cubicle culture that boxed me in and surrounded me.

It has been said that pain and suffering are the catalysts for growth. No pain, no gain, right? On some level everyone knows this to be true. But of course you’ll find that just saying things like that to people ain’t the best way to motivate them. People cringe and visibly recoil at the mere prospect of pain and sweat and muscle aches and discomfort. Frankly, the sight of it makes me sad.

It has to start in the mind, I tells ya. I used to believe I could never amount to anything physically, could never run, never achieve anything athletically. But one day I decided. I said to myself: I think I can do this. Not the most assertive thing to tell a young scrawny sap, but slowly I pushed myself, gradually I tried different things, challenged myself in different ways. Because I believed nothing is impossible.

And you know what I found? I discovered I could do it! Nothing the likes of Dean Karnazes or Usain Bolt or my uncle Khoo Swee Chiow (Singapore to Beijing on a bike!), of course. That being said, deep down inside, I do still believe if I so desired that I could one day be like these legends. Pipe dreams, perhaps. But my point is it is not impossible.

What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I’m pushing and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.

And when I read this, I felt my insides come to life; the hairs on my back began breaching the atmosphere, a spark began spinning wildly out of control in my head. So that’s what it is, I thought to myself. I think Mr. Karnazes certainly hit the nail on the head, and put it very eloquently too. 

Now you might think all these folk do these outlandish things for the fame and fortune, and I can’t discount that as a real factor. But be that as it may, I like to believe that the real reason these folks went on wild and world-changing adventures, was just because they wanted to push themselves to see how far they could go.  When they had exerted their bodies to the limit, when they had stared certain death in the face, to catch a glimpse of that magic.

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The Little Lake North of Perth

If you’re a casual cyclist and you’re searching for a spot to take your bike for a spin, there’s this idyllic lake just north of Perth city that you’ll absolutely adore! Chances are you’ve already been. It’s called Lake Monger. Mm hm, thank you come again!

Lake Monger
Doesn’t look so big now, does it?

Even if you’ve already graced the place with your presence, you should try going at different times on different days of the week. It’s a truly picturesque spot that’s popular with runners, walkers, young families and cyclists. This means it can get very busy during peak exercise hours.

The lake is circled by lush vegetation and stalwart trees, and beyond the lake looking south you can behold the cityscape of Perth standing watch above the treetop. There’s lots of local wildlife (mostly birds, and they’re not really that wild), as well as cute local domesticated life. Yes, I’m talking about pets here.Happy Dog

Monger Lake
Check out them birds! Wak.

The place is centrally located and very accessible by bike. If you’re travelling up from the south, there is a region when you reach the central business district where you’ll have to do a hopscotch through the city then shimmy along the Mitchell Freeway until you spot the lake.

Here’s a brief cycle-through on how to get to the lake from Perth city. If you are game to cycle next to CBD traffic then go north along any of the main roads until you find your way to Wellington. Then go to 42. If not, go to 15.

15

Once you pass John Oldham Park (that one on your left as you approach the city) take a right into the spooky tunnel under the road, bear right, then head up the happy slope towards Mount Street where you’ll see the pedestrian overhead bridge that spans the Mitchell Freeway. Ignoring the trolls, cross the bridge and explore the quieter inner city streets that will lead you to the east section of Wellington Street.

There’s a little map below in case my directions are entirely unhelpful (which they probably are). I should mention this is a decent way of passing through Perth city without having to go onto the bustling deadly roads of Perth (they’re actually not that hazardous, aside from the cars), should you ever need to pass from north to south. Now go to 42.

Follow the blue line.
Follow the blue line.

42

Go along Wellington for a little bit then take a right to find your way onto Market Street before linking up with Railway Street. From here you have two choices: you can either go east or go west. If east is your inclination, then get onto the red bicycle path that runs parallel to the Mitchell Freeway and just cruise along it until you see an imposing white bridge that extravagantly opens the way to Lake Monger as well as the nearby train station.

Otherwise, you can take a jaunt into suburbia and cut north through Subiaco. Yep, that’s all folks; you can find your own way there. Don’t worry, the suburb is a grid, so just keep going right and you’ll be alright! No wait, I just made that up. Essentially, all you need to do is find your way to Lake Monger Drive, and the lake will be staring you in the face.

And a few hundred words later, you’ll find yourself at lovely Lake Monger!

Lake Monger Sunset

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One Man’s Cause

A few days ago, I met a man. A man with a very unique name, and a very unique passion.

I was told to call him “Jee” (please don’t start singing that song…oh great, now you’ve got it stuck in my head). He immediately struck me as a very passionate and driven individual, with many a good yarn to spin. But his one defining passion, at least as much as I could glean from a first encounter, was his roots. His Hainanese heritage.

Having a passion and taking action are two very different things. So what did Jee do? I’ll tell you what he did. Jee did something very remarkable – he cycled all the way from Penang island in Malaysia to Hainan island in China!

Penang to Hainan cycle route
Mr. Jee’s journey by bike from Penang to Hainan.

WARNING: Trivia Alert!

Bit of background information for those interested. Penang is one of the most prominent places in west Malaysia, with the nickname the Pearl of the Orient. With a population of under 2 million, Penang boasts a diverse multicultural heritage, as well as a UNESCO tag to their historic old town. It’s filled with arts and craft and architecture owing to a plethora of religions and cultures. A tourist hotspot and incidentally, a great place to cycle too!

Hainan, on the other hand, is the smallest and southernmost province in China since it split from Guangdong province in 1988. Don’t let that introduction fool you though, because it dwarfs Penang island in so many ways. Let’s see: population – 9 million; 10 major cities and 10 counties; 6 different mountains that exceed 1,500 metres in height. A thriving economy, major tourism industry, bubbling hot springs, and they have their very own space launch centre!

One thing both these places share is Hainanese chicken rice. And seafood. And other delicious Asian food. Man, this is making me hungry!

Anyway, I think I’ve digressed enough. Now Mr. Jee’s arduous odyssey took him through numerous countries in the South-East Asian region. He slogged through sun and rain, road and mud, hill and valley. He travelled over 6,250 kilometres. On a bicycle.

Why did he do it? Well, you’d have to interview him yourself to discover all the reasons. But I believe he did it for two reasons: to personally make the journey by land from his hometown to his ancestral home, and to create a link between these two unique locations.

He is a herald for the Hainanese clan in his hometown of Penang and for all those who belong to the Hainanese ethnicity in the surrounding regions. He is a champion for stronger relations and connections between the two island nations of Penang and Hainan, and ultimately Malaysia and China. And above all, he is a cyclist with a dream.

You can read all about Mr. Jee’s adventures and his plans to link these long-lost cultures on his dedicated website. There are even numerous tips on how to go about bikepacking (backpacking with a bike), for those who may be intrigued by the prospect. So if you’re contemplating exploring around the area with a bit more pizazz, check out the website or better still, get in touch with Mr. Jee!

P.S. At the start I alluded to a name that was like no other. You didn’t think I’d forgotten, did you? Well, when you meet him, remember to tell him I told you to say hi. Because that’s his name. His full name is Jee Say Hai.

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Pedaling Around Perth

Perth is a pretty pleasant place to pedal. I guess that sums up cycling in Perth: loads of peas.

And koalas and kangaroos.

I kid, you probably won’t see any of those (unless you specifically order them; some places serve a mean kangaroo steak) while you’re on your bike in Perth. Methinks this would be a good place to clarify that we’re talking about Perth, Western Australia. Hope I didn’t disappoint too much.

What you will see will blow your mind though. Well-kept lawns, pristine beaches, wide expanses of greenery, broad swathes of ocean and the most stunning sunsets you’ll ever see.

Sculpture Sunset

But enough chit-chat, let’s take a cruise around the metropolitan area of Perth.

Perth has some mighty decent cycling infrastructure: well-maintained cycle paths that flank the main freeway and surround the great Swan River; online guides to popular cycling routes; a few bicycle repair stations that may be in need of repair themselves; endless sunshine, except at night; quaint little cafes and coffee shops serving that precious molten elixir that everybody craves; and most importantly, freely available toilet facilities (yes yes coffee is waaay more important than whatever comes after you imbibe; let’s just say I saved the best few till last, m’kay?). What more could you want?

Chances are if you’ve been in Perth long enough, you’ll know it’s unofficially divided into the right side and the wrong side of the river. I’ll let you decide which is which, but it’s basically between the north and south side.

Perth Map
Figure 1.1 That mighty crooked thing under the letters Perth, that be the Swan Riverrr arrr.

Now, both the north and the south have their fair share of bike paths and scenic routes. I imagine most of the routes you take will be influenced, if not dictated, by where you live.

While I’ve got the map here I might as well point a few things out. The north side has lots of nice beaches with cycle paths that run parallel so you can cruise along them to the thrum of the ocean. If you go inland to that little dot called Mundaring, there’s a forest trail that’s popular with the off-road MTBers. It’s also fairly mountainous, so if you’re into acute angles on wheels then be my guest!

One thing that isn’t found in Figure 1.1 is this vibrant coastal town just south of Rockingham called Mandurah. Alright, before you cut my tyres I’m pretty sure it’s a city by now, but for some reason I’ve heard it’s still classed as rural. Go figure.

A red riding path runs right next to the north-south Kwinana freeway and goes all the way from central Perth city down to Mandurah. It’s a reasonable distance (around 70kms for those playing at home) but definitely worth the leisurely ride. A few small hills and the occasional detour, but largely a straightforward route.

If you do decide to speed down to Mandurah, don’t miss the turnoff at Cockburn Central Train Station. There’s this quaint little coffee shop shaped out of shipping containers called Mooba.

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Mooba long, you whippersnappers! New age cafes these days.

They do a decent cup of joe, and I’ve noticed some people doing bicycle workshops in the area from time to time. They even have a bike repair station!

Bike Repair
I hope it still works…

You can take detours to the two towns listed on the map before Mandurah, but you’ll find they’re both a fair distance from the freeway and are somewhat less vibrant. That said, don’t let it deter you from exploring those mysterious roads and forgotten forests…

Kwinana Reserve

In conclusion, if you are an avid cyclist and are for whatever strange reason being deported to Perth, fear not! For although the paths may not always be straight and may sometimes even end abruptly, there are many cycling adventures to be had here on the sunny western coast. And what can I say, the locals, they just looove cycling.

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