Two Savages in Southeast Asia

The Only Good Beach on Pulau Pinang

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So we’ve got this crazy plan to rent a bike and circumnavigate the island. There are a few glaring problems with this plan:

  • It’s harder to find a bike rental shop than we think. (Maybe that’s because we start looking in Little India, which we soon discover is not at all the right place to look; Chinatown proves a more fruitful district to search.)
  • Rental shops mostly have one-speed beaters. The more reputable places have well-maintained one-speed bikes. There are a lot of hills on Pulau Pinang.
  • It’s 60km around the island on road, much of it over the aforementioned hills, and the weather is akin to a permanent sauna in midday.
  • Did we mention Malaysia isn’t very pedestrian-friendly? Well, it’s not very cyclist-friendly either.

Needless to say, we abandon the plan and settle for the more modest goal of reaching Batu Ferringhi, which is only 20km away without giant hills blocking our path. Given the other problems, even this turns out to be difficult: the coastal road is mostly flat, but not always, and despite the reassuring bike path signs has neither bike lanes nor any obvious affordance for cyclists. That’s OK; we’re crazy (or stubborn) enough to make it to Batu Ferringhi, which is mostly a resort town with some nice beaches. We were hoping to find the system of hiking trails that connect some of the beaches on Pulau Pinang, but that doesn’t work out either; we’re pretty wiped from the ride over, and we still have to ride back!

Practical note on renting bikes: we got ours for 10 RM/day each. The first place we checked offered 15 RM/day. No idea how much lower you can drive the price, but probably not much.

A couple of coconuts to fix our dehydration and it’s back on the bikes to Pulau Pinang again. When we tell the rental shop that we went all the way to Batu Ferringhi, he looks at us with a curious mixture of approval, disbelief, and horror. Approval because, in the owner’s words, “Batu Ferringhi has the only good beaches on Pulau Pinang”; disbelief because, well, it’s a touch more ambitious than the usual itinerary around Georgetown’s city core; horror because, as we found, the coastal road is a dangerous place to be non-motorized!

We’ve still got some time to kill in Georgetown, so we set off on a hunt for street art. There’s a series of cat-themed installations, everything from murals to sculptures to usable seating areas – about 20 in all. Aside from that, there’s also several educational wireframe pieces about the history of Georgetown. We happen upon one of the jettys, a ramshackle collection of huts and shacks perched on a pier and permeated by the stench of seaweed rotting below. (If you can ignore that, though, it’s oddly picturesque.)

Busy day, and we’re headed for Malacca early tomorrow, so it’s back home for some much-needed dinner and sleep!