Saturday, November 8, 2014

Folding to Mersing Part 2 - 55km

Pic KC

Pic KC

Pic KC

Pic KC

Pic KC

Pic KC

One of the pleasures in any Malaysian town is the wide variety of breakfast options available and Mersing typifies this. We had wanted the traditional Dim Sum but because we all slept in a bit, KC’s usual eatery was all sold out. The early bird certainly catches the dumplings here but we were not too disappointed as we still have tomorrow. Plan B warranted us to step into another coffeeshop teeming with people and for good reason. There were a variety of stalls selling all types of fare and we settled on the ubiquitous Wanton Noodles. For $4 RM, it delightfully satisfied our stomachs as well as our wallets.

Today was a leisurely one as all we wanted to do was not so much cycling but sightseeing. Our first stop however was to book our bus tickets for our return journey which was easily done. The bus station is just off the roundabout and we were spoilt for choice as there are quite a few companies offering the Mersing – Larkin JB route. Here is where the economic theory of Adam Smith's invisible hand becomes reality. At RM $12.60 or US$4 for a 150km journey, this is only possible because of competition.

The last time I really explored Mersing must have been in the 1990s and Air Papan, some 12 km north, was just a sleepy beach with a few huts. There is now a beautiful road that hugs the coast north of Mersing and we enjoyed spinning our wheels with the sea on our right, laced with shady Causarina and Coconut Trees. I was happy to see greater Mersing blossoming slowly with many shops, restaurants, resorts and even a brand new housing estate. A congregation of cars and motorcycles ahead piqued my curiosity. We stopped to see what was happening and happily stumbled upon a mini fish market. The morning boats must have returned and up for sale was all sorts of freshly caught fish including crabs, sting rays and a grouse looking gigantic cat fish that looked right out of a horror movie.

Pic KC

Continuing on, we hit a T junction and a right turn across green and open padi fields some 3km brought us to Air Papan. Despite being a weekday, the beach had a fair share of holiday makers and vendors selling drinks, ice cream and snacks. We resisted the temptations as our engines were hardly warmed up and rode another 1km to the end of beach where it was peaceful and deserted. I took the opportunity to wet my feet in warm clear waters of the South China Sea like I always do to "connect" with God's majestic creation.

Meanwhile Heng and KC were busy feeding their cameras. KC as usual, came up with his unique soon-to-be patented water-bottle camera stand. And it works, when there is no wind blowing! 

Pushing on northwards, the beautiful road towards Penyabong runs parallel to Highway 3 on the inland and ends near Endau. Heng tells me that this is a stretch his roadie friends use for training and I can see why. Rolling hills, very little traffic and smooth, like green velvet on a billiard table. Like Porsches on an Autobahn, we opened up our throttles. Drafting behind Uncle KC, we were sitting on a very respectable 30-35km/h on our foldies, hitting 40+ on the downslopes. It was an exhilarating workout for me. However as it was past 1pm, the sun was really starting to blaze.

Pic KC

KC led us to his favourite spot, an island which was accessible by a narrow land strip. This required us to do a bit of on beach riding which was rather fun. I cannot help but marvel at how our simple bicycle opens up such wonderful avenues of adventure. 

As usual, KC had fun clowning around the mangrove swamp but I was getting really famish. I noted the one and only Warung (a Malay eatery) opened for business some 3km down the road and told the boys to meet me there. At this time, it was hovering about 40c and I thought I was going to faint as I cycled slowly to the oasis of sustenance.

My face must have been crimson red when I pulled into the cool shade of the Warung and the ice cold tea tasted like heaven. When I finally settled, I got up to the trays of food displayed and chose a simple lunch of rice and Assam Pedas Fish. Though hungry, it was really too hot to eat. 

Heng and KC pulled in soon after. Apparently, they had a great time fooling around together with a kampong game. All hot and sweaty, they too could not eat a full lunch but chose to nibble on cakes and savouries. But one thing that we really enjoyed was ABC – Air Batu Campor or mixed ice topped with sweet colourful syrup and that really did the trick.

Pic KC

Revived, we were ready to take off once more but a circus of sorts pulled into the Warung. Before our eyes were a whole lorry load of alpha male monkeys. I have read about these expert coconut pickers and have never seen these clever animals up close. They each had a chain around their neck and looked rather forlorn. Who wouldn’t if all you do is to climb up trees and pluck coconuts that you can’t eat? If there was any consolation, their master appeared to feed them well as they looked very healthy.

Pic KC

Our ride back was another no holds bar sprint along the Air Papan Autobahn. However, the clouds started to turn dark and unloaded with a vengeance. One moment its searing hot and the next its blistering wet and cold. Experiencing such extremities in weather would make anyone fall sick but fortunately, our health held up. Though I was soaked to the skin, this was far better than riding in desert like conditions!

Pic KC

Arriving at the Embassy Hotel, I hit the showers and rested. Heng had taken another route while KC was busy exploring the port of Mersing. I really admire his sense of curiosity, and zest for life. We later rode to the main jetty which is the launching point for Tioman and other lovely islands. Then it was a quick climb to the beautiful main Mosque in town.

At the roundabout, we stumbled upon Sarawak Noodles which turned out to be average. I found it a bit too dry and we went searching for dinner part 2. As we were roving the streets, I noticed a very famous Cantonese restaurant Loke Tien Yuen all lighted up with its 2 red lanterns, inviting us in. 

It is renowned for traditional home cook food, super clean premises and down to earth prices. I have been there quite a few times before on our fishing trips and got acquainted with its friendly owner, Margaret Siew. It was like a homecoming as we chatted like long lost friends. It was a pity that our stomachs were already half filled so we could only order 3 signature dishes. 

That dinner was by far the best and truly brought us immense joy as we cleaned out the dishes. Heng was caught slurping the last drops of gravy of the black bean bittergourd pork rib dish.

We went to bed feeling very pleased at how well our day of exploration unfolded. Determined to wake up early for Dim Sum breakfast, we turned in early and slept like logs.

There is always something magical about Dim Sum. It is not just a place to enjoy amazing treats but it is the social epicentre of the Chinese community in Mersing, at least it appeared so in the busy coffeeshop we were in. Everyone seemed to know each other and exchange greetings, very much like a traditional village in China. We were served by a very kind elderly grandma who made sure we had enough tea, and always offering a smile. 

As our bus only left at 1130am, we had all the time in the world and ate leisurely, just like the locals who did not seem to be in any hurry. We had time to slowly pack our stuff and then reluctantly make our way to the bus terminal.

It was easy to fit the foldies into the bus luggage area but what was a real pain dealing with a very greedy and rude driver. "RM$10 each per bike! " he barked and scowled at us like we were some pariah passengers. I still don't understand his arrogant attitude but I gave his assistant RM$20 for 3 bikes, and that seemed to keep his mouth shut.

If ever there is a take home lesson here, it is to always bag your foldy to prevent psychopath drivers from getting unnecessarily stirred up. Our friend Chris Wee had this problem too in the Thai hamlet of Ranong bus terminal some years back with some bus boy.

We arrived at Larkin Bus Terminal in Johor at 145pm in what was an effortless ride. Joining us to celebrate the end of our adventure was Ying Chang who rode all the way from Singapore to meet us for lunch on his Dahon.

He had very much wanted to join us earlier but could not due to family commitments. So he being there with us on our last lunch as well as our first dinner meant a lot to us.

I can think of no better way to finish our folding adventure than to enjoy a spicy bowl of Laksa with great friends, who happen to be cycling legends too!

Thank you so much Heng, KC and YC for an amazing tour. Till we ride again... 


This song is dedicated to the 2 legends I rode with. Yes, we have seen the rain! Lots and lots!!!

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