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Batu Ferringhi and a Carnival of Comestibles

Our second day in Penang began with the same breakfast of toast and banana bread at the Hutton Lodge. Our plan for the day was to wheel north to a beach area called Batu Ferringhi. After crossing our hearts and swearing to make no puns or allusions to Star Trek, we brought the speed TRs downstairs and unfolded them for the wheel.

We made our way northward past towering hotel after sky-scraping condominium, discussing the best way to design an algorithm to separate signal from noise in the wavering of our compass reading, which at times became quite violent on the bumpy roads. Soon we found ourselves in a region that called itself Miami. We took a short side wheel here to explore more of the sparklingly posh housing developments. The sea to our side was becoming cleaner and bluer the farther we traveled from the busy port in Georgetown, and soon we were looking out at white sand beach on one side, and think jungle punctuated by expensive housing developments on our left. Both Scott and I could not help drawing parallels between this wheel and a popular wheel in San Francisco and Marin County known as Paradise Loop. Both sported good smooth roads, gentle elevation changes, cliff-side views of the sea, and generally expensive real estate. We had, in fact, enjoyed a very similar wheel during the planning phase for this trip. I know, dear reader, it was a mere three months ago, but now it feels like many ages have passed. The extremes of experience, indeed.

Back in Penang, Malaysia we were nearing Batu Ferringhi, and not long after we passed the Hard Rock Hotel Penang, we decided to stop for refreshment on the beach.

We sipped from very cold and slightly fermented young coconuts. It was our suspicion that the coconuts had sat for some time in the fridge, but the yeasty flavor was nice, and the meat had a tang that we quite enjoyed. If this was not a local delicacy, we would petition for its installation as one.

We drank and ate these, allowing the sweat to evaporate from our bodies and clothes, and watched 40-50 year old European tourists take horse back rides on the beach, or try their hand at para-sailing. When the coconuts were done, and at least five Avril Lavigne Songs had played on the Malaysian pop station at the restaurant, we decided it was time to climb back on the cycles.

We kept riding north, right through and out of Batu Ferringhi, into the more rural northern parts of the isle of Penang. Traffic thinned and jungle and beach began to dominate our view from the road. Soon we found ourselves at the entrance to a new, more rural settlement. This one seemed much less dominated by tourism, justifying its existence as a fishing community, and a kind of commuter’s suburb of the more touristy Batu Ferengi. The hunger was beginning to clench around us, and we called a Rausch into the township.

We rode around for quite some time before selecting a shop. None of them looked clean, so we needed to survey the area to find the one that was most popular. Our hypothesis was that if we were unable establish an estimate of cleanliness from the exterior of the business, perhaps the presence of as many un-diseased patrons as we could spot would point us in the right direction. And, dear reader, this it did.

We ended up parking the cycles outside a joint by the name of the Cafe Ibriham. It was a buffet style restaurant, where we were given a large plate with a dollop of white rice, and set loose upon a table piled high with large metal trays, filled with various dishes, just swimming in their own succulent juices, and regrettably covered with flies.

But it was a choice between full on starved lunacy, and this food. And to be honest, the smells coming from the buffet were intoxicating. So we put our faith in the doxycycline and dove in. The food proved absolutely delicious, exhibiting such diversity of spicing and texture.

My plate for example contained some curried fried chicken, a roasted fish, a pile of squid gravy, some cinnamony red sauce full of tiny fish, a paprika-filled fried egg, and a little pile of very American tasting homefries.

Delightful. Truly delightful.

As the blood sugar surged back into our systems, we took to the streets, wheeling hard and fast back toward Georgetown.

Back in town, we called a waypoint to sip a milk shake, and then took back to the streets. Cursed by the unbelievable number of one way streets in Penang, we found ourselves again and again siphoned onto the same streets. We were searching for the coffee place we had seen on the previous evening’s wheel. Finally, we were able to make our way back into Little India, where we were forced in desperation to just ride against traffic, until we found the place.

Sure enough it was vacuum pot coffee, and at 10 ringgit a cup, the owner was quite happy to explain the entire process to us at length.

Afterward, we wheeled down the streets to a music store selling Tamil super hits.  We indulged in a Rajnikanth mp3 CD with 27 films worth of music.   Below, the video from one of our favorite tracks:

That evening we made our way to a local mall food court that was set up in the local emergent restaurant style.  Tables in the food court were flanked on either side by stands selling individual and specialized delicacies.  Some vendors had appeared for the evening, and others had begun their Chinese New Year vacation early.  There we were able to try a number of local delicacies, such as Ais Kecang, a red bean and ice cream medley for dessert.

With our stomachs filled and blood sugar once again on the rise, we decided to indulge in a night wheel through the surrounding and very Chinese neighborhood. We called a waypoint when we heard some commotion, and found a little carnival tucked into a pedestrian mall. It appeared to be in celebration of the fast approaching Chinese New Year, and we were enthralled by the strange carnival games and terrifying deathtrap rides, which constituted the operation.

Once again, thrilled at our good fortune, with full bellies and smiles on our faces, we wheeled back through the night to the Hutton Lodge.


  1. Mark/Dad | February 25th, 2010 | 9:21 pm

    Yes, I’m not sure which looks more dangerous–riding on the Ferris Wheel or operating it with all the open belts. But the music video was rockin’!

  2. Jamie G | February 26th, 2010 | 6:17 pm

    My favorite part is the asia wheeling t-shirts and the hat you are rocking. I got the t-shirt now all I need is the hat! Looks incredible guys. Keep wheeling strong and enjoy!

  3. Woody | February 27th, 2010 | 1:27 am

    @ Mark/Dad
    I think it’s all those open belts. They sure scared me. Maybe that’s why the Ferris Wheel seats are like little cages: to keep the riders away from the belts.

    @ Jamie G
    Glad you did the shirts. Do you think it’s about time to set up pre-orders for the second round?
    And rest assured, any time you need a panama hat, just go to http://www.hornetshats.com/

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