It must have been nearly 13 years ago when I last cycled back 220km from a church camp in Malacca to Singapore with my friends Koh Gay and Marvin. It was a fun ride home but I caught a high fever at Batu Pahat due to the heat. I was stucked at The Katherina Hotel for 2 nights to recuperate. Since then, I have cycled up to Malacca twice and I always enjoy riding the coastal route passing small towns and cruising along the quieter roads.
Last weekend we had church camp again at Malacca, this time at the Marvelux Hotel. The theme was Connecting the Dots and it was wonderful to indeed connect with the great folks at Evangel and connect afresh with God's Word, preached so well by Rev Dr Mark Chan. Because Malacca is such a historically rich city, it was great fun to organize an Amazing Race game for the participants that took us to her iconic attractions.
Riding back to Singapore was a golden opportunity for me to get back in shape to prepare for our upcoming Very Southern Thailand Adventure Ride in early August. Hence, my faithful Bike Friday Expedition nicely folded into a very manageable bag rode up in the car and sat obediently in my hotel room until it was time for action. I was very grateful to have a good friend George Kee who took the bus up with his Dahon foldie on Sunday night to accompany me on our 2 day 220km ride down south to Singapore. My policy is always to ride with a buddy for safety and practical reasons.
After a big breakfast at our hotel, we left at 745am. The plan was to cover as much as possible the 100km ride to Batu Pahat before the blazing sun was in her full glory. It was wonderful to be spinning again and I was surprised that I was in better shape than imagined. Of course we had to stop for pictures as my kind of touring is not about speed but about savouring magical moments.
Leaving the city of Malacca and entering the quiet countryside, we were surrounded by greenery and open spaces. Passing through the unique Malaccan designed houses with its pointed roof, I recalled as a young boy my father who was an Art Educator, teaching me about its uniqueness as we drove along in his Toyota Corolla.
While architecture did not really catch on with me, I was fascinated more with cars and still am. Parked inside these houses were old cars and what caught my attention were 40+ yr old Toyota Corollas that still served faithfully. I spotted 2nd Gen KE 20, KE 30 as well as a KE70 in superb condition. It is a testament of Toyota's bullet proof reliability.
We entered the beautiful town of Muar at about 1030am some 45 kms later and took a picture of the river as we crossed it. In the old days, traffic had to use a car ferry but today, there is even a lane for motorcycles and bicycles on the bridge.
Muar is very well known for Assam Pedas Fish (spicy sour fish dish) as well as Otak Otak. But we wanted something more agreeable with our stomachs and by God's grace, we stumbled upon a lovely Bak Kut Teh restaurant in a cool and shady part of town. This is a rich Pork Rib Soup eaten with rice and our small wheeled bicycles were met with fascination. The owner came to sit down with us and have a chat about our adventure and the friendliness of small town folks is truly a blessing. We really enjoyed the meal washed down with ice Chinese Tea and it was really hard to get back on our saddles.
Riding out of Muar, a very cool elderly Muslim gentleman wearning a white tunic and sporting a goatee came alongside me on his motorcycle to ask where I was heading and to wish us journey blessings. That was much needed as at noon, the sun dial was switched to maximum! My Cateye cyclo computer was registering 40c at times and this was giving me a bad migraine. Just coming in from the cold wintery days of Perth, the contrast was literally unbearable. A quick stop at a provision shop for drinks and shade, I took the opportunity to have an impromtu cool bath. This was my first time after years of touring! That with 2 Panadols got me going again. Even under the roof of the shop, the temperature hovered at 36c!
The ride to Batu Pahat in the heat of the day is certainly not pleasant. I usually will be finding a place to have an afternoon siesta from 12-3pm but we wanted to arrive early. Being Ramadan or the Muslim fasting month, all Muslim shops were closed. The only places open for us to revive were petrol stations and the few Chinese coffeeshops. Our favourite were aircon Shell Stations and here, George taught me a quick way to cool down. Just stick your head into the fridge! It works!!!
Fortunately, nearing Batu Pahat the roads were lined with trees and that provided the much needed shade. The trick was to ride slowly through the shade, and speed up out in the open sun.
We arrived at Batu Pahat just before 4pm and checked into our regular Crystal Inn. The ice cool aircon lobby felt like heaven when we entered and this being a bike friendly hotel, we could take our bikes up to our spacious room. It was a pity that our friend KC could not join us here as planned as he fell ill at the last minute. A quick shower, nice cold tall drinks and a little horizontal meditation got us springing back to life again.
After 98km of cycling, we were famished and deserved a good feed. A quick walk round the corner of our hotel, we discovered Ah Tee Seafood or Restaurant Hai Chen. Turn left exiting Crystal Inn. Left again at traffic lights. Walk 200m pass Hyundai Showroom 2nd left. We ordered sweet sour pork, claypot veggies and a lovely Lotus root soup, eaten with hot steaming rice.
The meal was absolutely delicious with a home cooked taste. A flaming wok is the key to choosing a good restaurant and it helped that the service was friendly, efficient and attractive too! We were blown away when it came to settling the bill - an amazing RM$32 or A$12 for the 2 of us.
After dinner, we went on a walk and stumbled upon a very busy night market. We spotted a spa offering traditional massage and enjoyed that very much. George and I had no problem falling asleep after a hard day's ride in our airconditioned hotel room.
We were thoroughly baked but not burnt out yet. Somehow we managed to survive the hot ride and my thoughts drifted to the next day as it is an even longer ride.But the wise words of Jesus in Matthew 6:34 made a lot of sense as I drifted quickly into dreamland.
So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.