I had just crossed the Thai / Malaysian border when it appeared something was wrong with the bike. The rim on the back wheel had cracked in 4 different places rendering the wheel completely unrepairable. This was not good. I would need a new wheel and judging by the total lack of parts for this bike all over Asia it was not going to be easy getting a new one. Probably more frustrating was that Thailand was the place most likely to have the right size. The country i had just left.
I had to hitch a ride as the wheel was so wonky that it was rubbing against the frame. A friendly Malaysian man stopped and offered to give me a lift to Alor Setar where I had booked a room the night previous. I stayed overnight in a hotel that was out in the middle of nowhere and went by the only bike shop in town the next morning, they didn’t have the right wheel and mentioned that it wasn’t likely they have it anywhere in Malaysia. The next morning I boarded the train to Penang, a few miles south in the hope of finding a shop that would have the correct rim.
Penang was a good intro to Malaysian way of life and history. There’s a really interesting mix of cultures here with Little India and Chinatown being right next to each other. It reminded me a lot of Hoi An in Vietnam, same narrow streets and boutique cafes along with the brightly coloured walls of all the colonial buildings. There is no shortage of things to see here with all the historical landmarks and museums in town.
I went to the trek store a little out of Georgetown to try and find a new rim for my bike. They didn’t have the right size but they did direct me to somewhere back in Georgetown. A small shop which had been there many years. It turned out they had one in even though the guy in the shop mentioned this size was quite rare in Malaysia these days. So I handed in the wheel with the plan of picking it up the next day.
Meanwhile, I spent some time exploring the streets including the many street art pieces dotted around town. I took the tour of the so named ‘Blue Mansion’. Which was once owned by a wealthy Chinese businessman and politician. The mansion features some great cut and paste geometric floor tiles and Art Nouveau windows. There is also a distinctive blue colour that features throughout which is the result of mixing lime with natural blue dye made from the Indigo plant.
Other notable sights included the Khoo Kongsi – a Chinese clan house covered in intricate ornamental architecture, and a lot of lanterns, the building maybe a little over the top but certainly a treat for the eyes. Also, the Pinang Peranakan mansion which is a mint green colour and painted in gold leaf which is a garish combination but the building itself is worth a look.
After a few days of gorging on the street food and absorbing the Georgetown culture, it was time to head off. I picked up my newly fixed wheel the next morning and head off in the direction of Ipoh, my next port of call.