A more recent account on cycling on a Brompton in the big city or anywhere outside the country…
I have to admit, before I started to cycle in the city, just looking at the traffic and the many lanes in Kuala Lumpur was enough to scare me witless on how to survive on the road with a bicycle.
Then I started watching the foreign workers in the city weaving in and out of the city traffic quietly and confidently, without causing any alarm or panic to anyone and themselves, on a fixie or any other old bicycle they have. Their quiet confidence gave me hope.
Imagine that! Foreign cyclists gave me a better impression than anyone else! And it is true that they are truly the only ones in the city who are saving up on other transportation expenditures.
This observation gave me peace and the inspiration I needed to use my bike on the busy congested streets. Together with my other cycling partner, we would pedal slowly to observe traffic and cross at pedestrian crossings when it was impossible to get to the other side by weaving around other vehicles.
Although there are no proper cycle routes in KL unlike the clearly marked roads in Penang island, it is not impossible to cycle in the busy capital. We just need to be on alert every second of the ride and have a good judgement of where and when to go. Otherwise, I don’t find KL drivers to be too scary to deal with. As long as the lights on our bikes are on, it gives better visibility to other motorists of our existence. It also helps a lot when hand signals are given to motorists to allow them to anticipate our movements and therefore give us the space to turn into the next lane or corner. Being courteous on the road is the best way to go. When face to face with big vehicles like trucks, lorries or buses, we just let them pass first before we pedal onwards.
With the Brompton folded down to its legendary compact size, it also made it easier for us to commute by trains everywhere. It is only during peak hours that we would have to bag our bikes in order to protect other commuters from its parts. Fair enough.
Every once in a while, our bikes would get curious stares, but mostly they would leave us alone. For those who do not, the first and foremost annoying question to pop from their mouths would be, “How much does your bike cost?” instead of a “Hey, nice bike! Where did you get it?” We have gotten so much of the same question from a variety of locals that it has inevitably lead me to believe that a majority of the KL people are more concerned about money and social status than they are of its aesthetic quality & functionality.
After cycling regularly for the past few months on the Brompton, I have only ever once heard a foreign pedestrian comment “Nice bike!” while I was in Penang out of a 100 “How much does it cost?” from locals. That was the only pleasant comment I have ever heard so far. Sigh…
Bottom line is, KL city is not impossible to cycle in. Difficult at times, yes – but definitely not impossible. It is my hope that in the near future, the roads will be made better for us cyclists as we look forward to reducing pollution & adopt a healthier way of commuting to work or for leisure. The government may harp on and on about building this or that infrastructure, or by closing roads for a short 2 hours only once every month to create awareness, or preach about the health benefits of green commuting…bla bla bla… One should take note that nothing will really happen unless it all starts with ourselves. We have a long way to go still but, with persistence, may we forge the way ahead to a better commuting & courteous community.
It wasn’t easy packing for a 9 days overland trip away from the comfort of home. Where we used to bring all the essentials and luxury items for our trip, we had to rethink our packing when the Bromptons are involved. This forced us to cut down a lot of things and made us identify what was really needed. Once that was done, with lots of looking back in mild regret at the stuffs we have to leave behind, we cycled our way through the morning traffic and reached our destination safely for our next transition by coach.
The journey was tiring, especially when we had too work around the city for the first 6 hours before finally hitting the highway for our next 5 hours journey up north to Penang Island. By the time we reached the historical city of Georgetown, all of us were exhausted yet happy. As our clients went ahead to check in to their hotel rooms, we unfolded our Bromptons, strapped our bags down & cycled off to our booked lodge rooms. The ride only took us about 5 mins. If we had walked with our bags alone, it could have taken about 15 mins to reach. The owner of the lodge warmly greeted us near midnight as we rolled in quietly & settled in for the night.
The next morning proved to be a long one as we waited for our clients to settle their business in another hotel. Thank goodness for our bikes, we unfolded them, rode off to escape the crowd and found a nice local kopitiam spot in a flat community which served up delicious ‘char kuey teow’ for our breakfast. Yummy!
The morning turned to afternoon and from there, we moved on to the new Subterranean Penang International Convention & Exhibition centre a.k.a SPICE. Once everyone was off and gone for their international function, we unloaded our bikes off the coach & rode off towards the industrial area of Bayan Baru & on to Queensbay via the Tun Dr. Lim Choong Eu Highway. I recorded it to about 5.7km in distance, short because we got off our bikes and pushed across at one point to shorten the journey & avoid a more dangerous stretch. Once we had reached Queensbay Mall, we folded our bikes down & rolled them in, to the curious stares of the security guards. No one bothered us as we rolled around in the mall to have our drinks and get some bread for tea time.
The ride back proved to be more complicated than we had thought. Taking the same highway back towards the Bayan Lepas Industrial area, we were confronted with a minor but irritating fact that the ongoing upgrading highway project has sealed off our exit back into Jalan Kampung Jawa. We rode the TDLCE 3113 highway all the way down until we decided that we will have to cross it somehow or we’d end up at the airport. Pushing the bike to the middle section wasn’t a problem at all. The problem was the rush hour traffic on the other side headed back north that made us wait for the longest time. Fortunately for us, a kindly foreign worker on the other side saw us, took up his red flag and whistle, risked his life to stop the vehicles long enough for us to cross the 2 lanes. As we zipped past him on our bikes, we thanked him loudly above the noise of traffic, in which he acknowledged by looking back to ensure we have crossed. God bless him for helping us.
The rush hour traffic from Jln Kg Jawa to Jln Mahsuri was massive. Where cars were held up, we zipped past them without any problems. The motorcyclists were also vary of us cyclists and were kind to allow us space to cycle as long as we don’t block their route. Hand signals were also helpful in informing other vehicles of our intended directions. Total distance recorded for this ride back was at 8.6km.
It rained towards the late evening and into the night. With our bikes safely tucked away into the van, we slept off in the cool weather as we waited for our clients to end their function for the day. I lowered our seats all the way in order to put ‘brakes’ to our bikes as the saddle posts have rubberised ends for that purpose of limiting movement of the bikes should it be in its folded position.
As the night wore on, and I managed to get my rest, the itch to ride again took hold of me. She rested as I went for a few rounds around the entire SPICE area, covering a total distance of 5.2 km.
We got back to Georgetown around midnight after the event. From the drop off point, we cycled back to the lodge & called it a day.
After a disappointing visit to a certain establishment for business opportunities, we unfolded our Bromptons and rode out again to the nearest station. Earlier, before the start of the visit, while waiting for the next green light at the curb, one white man who was driving his car, stopped next to us and gawked at our bikes. I had to look away so that I could resist the urge to giggle at his odd facial expression.
Tired from an especially long journey before the visit, we found the act of bagging our bikes to be a tiring affair.
It was 3pm+ and the commuters looked to be alright. No crowd in the station is always a good thing for cyclists!
We took advantage of the off-peak hours & rolled our unbagged but folded bikes into the station, pass the electronic ticket gates & went straight to the platform. The station’s officers looked at us curiously but did not stop us.
With the escalators*, it made it easy for us to move our Bromptons up and down from station to platform & vice versa. Off-peak hours is comfortable as there are less people, which means less stares or questions.
By the time we got to our stop, we rolled our bikes back out to street level, unfolded in an undisturbed corner & happily cycled off back home.
(* Note: One must really get to know the many different stations in KL to avoid or prepare yourself for any inconveniences. For example, some stations does not have working escalators nor functioning lifts.)
I have not had much time with the bike due to work, but now that I have an entire week to rest, I’m finally able to take it out for a spin.
She told me to take her bike instead of mine, probably the fashion-conscious bit of hers that I ride with complimenting colors. Her cobalt blue & apple green Mini-O became my companion for the hot sunny day as she went on her appointment with the doctor.
First stop, the good doctor put me down at the Tesco hypermarket. I took the bike out of her car boot (lying down, yet it held itself in good form) and placed it into the shopping cart with lots of space to spare. Both women drove off to the clinic & I was left to shop for our lunch ingredients.
One of the nicest things about this, is that no one really gives a damn that there is a strange folded contraption in the cart. I like it that way, no one stared or gawked, and so I was left on my own to look for the things she needed to make our lunch in peace. A bottle of Kewpie mayonnaise, a French loaf, Knorr chicken cubes, cracked black pepper & a bottle of Olive Oil w Balsamic Vinegar.
The last item in my shopping list is notoriously difficult to find. This made dipping cut pieces of French loaf into the oil & vinegar impossible as part of our lunch menu. She told me to ditch the loaf and get a Masimo Wheatgerm bread instead.
Directions to the clinic were clear and easy. I found the place in less than 10mins after exiting Tesco.
She made our lunch a healthy sandwich style : grilled salmon cut marinated with salt, poached broccoli in small cut pieces, mixed with the Kewpie mayo to keep everything cemented together. The nurse gave me an apple, and after washing it, I sliced it into small thin pieces to put them into the sandwich spread for a nice natural sweetness.
There was enough bread and salmon spread to go around for both of us, 3 nurses and the doc. We made the doc’s sandwich a special 2 layer spread with extra apple slices. The doc smiled happily while eating it. Once lunch was done, she went with the doc into their appointment room & I was left to do as I wish.
I’m not brave enough to ride on the main open roads yet, so the best route was around the neighbourhood. I criss-crossed whatever roads I could around the nearby residential area, changing gears here and there just to get a hang of how it works. The small roads inside the residential area were quiet and well paved, so I pedaled as hard as I could & coasted whenever it allows me to.
The small wheels allowed me to maneuver however nimbly I wanted it to. The frame feels absolutely solid yet folds down as easily as closing a book & tucking it away.
In the end, the heat was too much for me, and I gave in. 32℃ outside. *pant pant* Coming back to the clinic was such a relief. The nurses buzzed me & I quietly folded the Brompton back to its compact size, wheeled it into the nurse’s office & chilled.
I should make it a point to cycle earlier in the morning & save myself from all that sunblock.
Until the next ride 🙂
Check out my 8.5 km Ride on Strava: http://app.strava.com/activities/133586089
Today, we have finally gotten ourselves a folding bicycle each. It isn’t a cheap investment but it is going to help lower our costs in travelling to & from work, during travels & leisure activities. It definitely took us some long hard thinking, researching and some months of extra stinging of our salary as we targeted for our dream bike. Now that it is ours, the satisfaction and feeling of peace are much more profound than ever.
It isn’t going to be easy maintaining a bicycle, but hell, it will be so much more cheaper & less stressful compared to maintaining a car! Plus, we can fold our little vehicle down to a medium luggage size & bring it with us for our rides in trains and buses! This is something I am really looking forward to, considering that I love cycling out of state.
After talking to our sales person on maintenance & other issues, making sure everything was in order & even purchased lights for dark / night time riding (he immediately installed it for us), he happily took a picture of us before we left to test out our ride. Since we were about almost 2 hours away from our next appointment, we went around the neighbourhood (which is big!) to get ourselves acquainted with our spanking new Bromptons.
The Brompton, being 16″ wheelies, I was expecting it to ride a little less further than the 20″ I have. On our first try, the steering felt a little twitchy (as described by most Brompton owners) but soon felt alright once we have gotten used to its handling. I guess small wheelies will usually be like this.
The other thing which surprised us both is that, after a few kilometres, we were both enjoying ourselves tremendously on these beauties. Being small and compact, the bikes felt really stable and they ride marvellously. I don’t think I have ever seen her smile so much while cycling. She has yet to build up her strength for hill climbing, so we stuck to more level roads and easy ascends.
Brompton owners all around the world seemed to be divided into two categories. One, they use their bikes for daily commute & the occasional tour. The second, they are obsessed with their Bromptons (prestige?) and carry them around in their cars to go for leisure and touring rides with biking groups of almost every sort. Well, I may be wrong but that is how I have read it on blogs all over the internet & it is that impression that I have gotten. Even the creator of the Brompton, Andrew Ritchie, expressed that the bike he had designed seemed to have developed a cult following. There are Brompton riding clubs springing up everywhere! Then again, there are also clubs for Dahon, Tern and whatnots too.
Just before our appointment, we took a few minutes to figure out how to fold our bikes into its legendary compact size, and had the pleasure of hauling it up 3 flights of stairs (why, oh why must that appointment be on the 3rd floor?!?), having us experiencing the weight of it all the more. Despite the sweaty effort, I have to say, moving the Brompton up the narrow stairway was way easier than when we had to move our 20″ wheels. This was something we looked forward to, easy transportation of our rides. Tighter biceps, here we come! After the appointment, we gleefully looked forward to unfolding our bikes and riding back to the train station.
Knowing how the station itself is laid out is an important thing for us as well – to avoid stares & questions we weren’t comfortable in answering. If there is one thing that stands out about the bike is how it folds and how this often attracts attention of onlookers. So I picked a spot with the least traffic of all, where we got to fold our rides in a quiet and hidden corner at our own leisure. It isn’t easy for first timers, but with more practise, I’m sure we will be better at it.
Now, to be better commuters, I am going to cultivate this practice of bagging our bikes each time we are to board any train at any station at all.
The idea of using the IKEA Dimpa bag is not mine. Sourcing ideas from the blogs and articles of other Brompton users, this was how we came about to its existence and usage. I have to say, the bag fits the bike marvellously! The designer of the bag deserves lots of praise from us Brompton owners! It is cheap, light and easy to store away while not in use.
Using the bag to cover the bike not only helps to protect it, but also to protect other commuters from contact with the open parts of the bike. It is also an additional blessing that it doesn’t draw too much attention to it, making our transition into the train station easier. In time, I am sure we will find a better bag for our rides, but for now, we shall make do with whatever we can afford.
In the meantime, here’s to more adventures with our bikes!
For the past few days, it has been raining almost nonstop. From drizzling to heavy raindrops, everywhere’s been gloomy and cooling. Welcome back o’ you monsoon rains.
Aside from wet roads, squishy brown earth, and half-dried laundry, life goes on as usual. Whenever it rains, traffic in Kuala Lumpur city will slow to a crawl. Maybe the rains make drivers sleepy. Then again, I’m more inclined to believe that everyone slows down for fear of slippery roads. For whatever the reason, December is a great time to stay indoors and catch up on those stacks of movie DVDs, read that long forgotten novel and do all the things you want to do at home.
While my better half is away at work, I’ve gone about to look for some fresh fish in the supermarket. Why not the market? Well, because usually on rainy days, most vendors would opt not to sell in the open, so my chances are better in the supermarket. Besides, it’s not a guaranteed thing that open markets will sell produce cheaper than the ones in the supermarket.
Best go in the morning when the fish are fresh. Not too early though as the fresh food might not even be on the counter yet.
With thanks to modern technology, I am able to communicate with her via pictures as to what type of fishes she would want to have. Of course, I’d have to make sure my phone’s battery is sufficient for all this communication.
Pic #1 : Sardines at RM 8.99/kg
Pic #2 : Selar Kuning (local fishy name) RM 8.99/kg
Both pictures are taken with my trusty HTC OneX since my FujiFilm F11 has gone the way of the dodo…
I’ve become a big fan of the selar kuning fishes. I love it when she fries them, then serve them up with sauce and white rice with stir-fried vegetables on the side. So crunchy, you can even eat the bones! Yums!
I took 10 selar kuning fishes into 2 packets. That is a total of RM 7.00 for both packets (20 fishes altogether). Then 10 sardines into a packet for RM 5+. So that’s around RM 12+ for all the fishes (roughly USD $ 3.5 in total). In order to avoid having my hands smell of fish, I used the turned-out plastic bag as a temporary glove, pick out the fish from the pile, hold them together once they are picked, and then wrap the plastic backwards to cover them all. Voila! Fishes all in the pack and hands are smelly-free.
Note : One chubby Indian man watched me pick the fishes. He decided it was too much of a hassle and just dived right in with his hand, WHILE I was doing the picking! Remember the old “fish slap” expression used in chats? Truly I wanted to fish-slap this inconsiderate shopper, with a real one!
As for vegetables, we would usually hunt for the freshest in a few places and compare prices before buying them. With our money getting smaller and smaller, we would have to make every cent count. Of course, the freshest & cheapest vegetables can be found on the outskirts or straight to Cameron Highlands itself.
Ah, I look forward to making dinner tonight with fishes!
One year plus!
Have I been gone for so long? I must somehow update this blog whenever I can, and find the time to do so. For all I know, my grammar has deteriorated during my absence here.
As an update, my partner has decided that I am not beyond saving and has established that I am quite capable in fending for myself outside of home and in the kitchen as well. So yes, after so many years of not cooking, I’m finally able to make my own meals without having to rely on any instant-cook-its. In fact, I rather enjoy peeling garlic, onions, skinning potatoes, cutting vegetables, steaming rice and a whole host of other things for our eating pleasure. It is so liberating to be away from home and prying eyes.
Just a few months ago, after having a break-in at my family’s home, all of us were scarred from the incident – my father most of all. He felt the need to put every corner of the house under surveillance and with that, I no longer felt any safer nor feel I have any privacy left. Which is one of the reasons why I moved out into the city.
This new place may be small, but I am so much more at home and freer to be as my own individual than back with my immediate family. Plus, with my other half by my side, I am once again at peace with my surroundings.
One of the many things I shall return to doing is this, my blog. I should at least keep up with updates on how things are going and record my progress through here. While the rest of the world in general is slowly spinning out of control from events happening overseas and at home, I have been happy in my own bubble and it is not too good a thing to be cut off from everything. Now with the TV all set up and other gadgets installed, it is the best time to catch up with the news & get back to living with the world at large.
Christmas is coming and she wants a small tree to decorate our place with. We will have to start our hunt for this small tree soon. Everything in the malls and markets seem to be overpriced. I dread to think about the decorations. Maybe I will just dredge up past gifts from clients and hang them all up for a change. It’s not like we have any snow in this part of the world for winter themes…
Just as work is catching up after the lull months, my body has begun its breakdown due to physical stress. Jobs came with limited sleeping time, long hours traveling on the road and long working hours (from dawn till near midnight). From there, the breakdowns came in forms of flu, cough, body aches, gastric reflux (damn painful!) and finally, shingles! Damn…
Shingles is just as irritating as gastric reflux but nowhere near so painful. Thing is, gastric reflux can be countered through proper eating and my miracle pill Miracid (introduced to me by a friendly Thai pharmacist who trumped the local doctor who gave me lousy meds only to suppress the pain). Shingles on the other hand is a revival of the dormant virus that causes chicken pox when I was a kid. Now my shoulder looks like I’ve been in the middle of transforming into some red monster but then the process got interrupted, and so I have to live with gruesome patches on my skin. Bleargh…
Doc says that it will take a week or so for the patches and the marks to go off. In the meantime, he has given me loads of pills, to be taken up to 5 times a day – enough to ensure that somewhere along the week, I’d choke on them before I reach the next appointment.
Oh, and because of shingles, I have completely lost all sense of taste… So it is going to be a week of pills and food with no appetite.
Discovering the wonderful world of mobile photo editing apps. This is SO going to make me lazy in Photoshop!
Do you believe in reincarnation and rebirth? If yes, you would appreciate reading this book. If not, well, you know what you will (or will not) do.
Of course I believe in past lives and dreams. It’s the whole reason how I found Paulo Coelho and why his writings speaks to me. And if anything, this is one of his best book by far. The other favourite would be “Eleven Minutes” but that’s another story. What I want to say is, “Aleph” has made me aware of something and I know I am not alone for sure.
When I was still around 14, I was approached by a visiting evangelical speaker in a church I attended every Sunday. At that time, I was sitting on a bench tucked away at some wall and no one noticed me. In fact, this man walked passed me – but in a moment, he backtracked and I could feel him watching me. When I had looked up, I found him looking at me curiously as if he knew something I did not. Everything had stopped moving around me when he started speaking to me.
For some reason, he could sense I was having a problem. I was at a loss for words and that’s when he sat down next to me and spoke more of it.
No, not those petty teen problems, although everyone including myself go through it. No, this was something I never told anyone because I did not think it would be well received. He knew I was seeing things in my dreams. My dreams were blurring my reality with the other world, and it was starting to show, which was what he detected. To my surprise, he knew that I was seeing things I could not understand and that I am not sleeping well because of it. He asked me to describe what I had dreamed or saw (sometimes it happens in broad daylight), and to this stranger, I told him everything. He admitted that he wasn’t a translator of such things, but he knows that I am not fully ready for it. With that, he asked me if I am familiar with one of the books in the Bible. He said dreamers are featured in the Bible all the time, it’s the way God communicates with us sometimes. But he said I was not entirely ready for it yet, and taught me which prayer to say in order to put a pause to it, so that I may sleep easier by night.
At that time, I had thought that this prayer would stop these dreams entirely, but now I understand that it is just to pause it until such a time when I could understand it better.
Many years later after that encounter in the church, I dreamed again a few times, and the ones that affected me the most were the ones that spoke of the present or future.
Before I had the honor of meeting with a shaman, I had a dream that was so vivid that I woke up sobbing uncontrollably. It stayed in my memory for years. Every color, every sparkle and sound, every emotion from the dream were transformed into poetry, drawings and paintings, made for my final year as an arts student. And years later, I thought no more of it, thinking it must have been a passing fancy.
Until one day, a person who had recently entered into my life very suddenly then saw one of the drawings unintentionally & asked if there were more of the same thing. Happy to have someone appreciate my artwork, I dug out my old sketches and drawings. What follows shocked both of us simultaneously. Every image I have drawn or sketched or painted, she told me what it meant. The woman featured in the my dream-like sketches, it was her! Every color I had used, every line drawn in which I thought no more of it, it all stabbed at her unconsciously. From then onwards, she told me her of her past,, what happened and the abuses she had then went through, using the images I have envisioned as the visual to that past. We spent staying up nights talking about it, trying to understand the meaning of it all. It was during then, that she told me she has this “curse” she was trying very hard to suppress. It isn’t a curse, I told her, but a gift. She refuses to hear of it. With my close proximity to this new person, my dreams became vivid again, as if her “curse” fuels it. One dream in particular got me resenting this guy she was dating at the time. After waking from it, I only knew one thing, I hated him with a passion without really knowing why. Each time she tried to get me out to introduce us, I put it off, afraid that I might punch him for no proper reason – or for something he has yet to do. Weeks later, she called me, crying on the other line about what he did to damage her reputation. Only then did I ‘wake’ up to that dream again & understand it in its entirety.
I’ve only met with the shaman, or the white witch, twice and very briefly. But this was enough to teach me things. She read me thoroughly and at times, interpreted my dreams when it contained too many symbols in which I could not understand. Through her, and my dreams, I met with one of my very significant past lives in this lifetime, and she explained my other visions of my past life as well. More details were mentioned and in the end, she told me that only if I concentrate carefully, will I be able to interpret these symbols on my own, but not without going through some difficulty.
By now, I’m beginning to get used to it. There are others out there with much more potent gifts and abilities. And I look up to them for guidance. And thank God for Coelho, I know that he is always reaching out to help.
Anyway, I really love this book. It’s going to be my all time favourite amongst all his others. Thank you Paulo Coelho, for writing this.