Blasting through B-roads and savouring the magic of Melaka

Blasting through B-roads and savouring the magic of Melaka
"Blasting through B-roads and savouring the magic of Melaka"

Some days, you ride like a complete idiot and it shows. You flub your gear changes, mess up your corner entry and exit speeds, and your throttle work is an unmitigated disaster.

Worse, you ignore the basics, like not stopping at junctions to scan for traffic before crossing, or taking that turn. There have been occasions where I just couldn’t get in the groove, where things were not quite flowing as they should, that I would just quit riding and head straight for home before I killed myself.

But on April 11, the second day of Aidilfitri, everything was just right. I had just turned into Bandar Enstek, in Sepang, Selangor, and was headed for the state of Melaka, astride the latest addition to the fleet, a Kawasaki Versys-X 250 tourer.

The smooth tarmac on this straight back road opened up into a nice, sweeping first bend. I eased off on the throttle, letting my speed carry me through, my right index and middle fingers tucked in, away from the brake lever, while my right foot hovered tentatively above the rear brake pedal. No blips on the brakes this time, I tell myself. Without thinking, the second I committed to the corner, I dropped down to fifth, and leaned that sucker in, into the turn. As the revs and speed wound down, and at the apex of the corner, I fed the throttle, smooth as a baby’s rump, and exited the bend cleanly and with panache.

I marvelled at how pin-sharp the Versys was. The front forks soaked in all the bumps, divots, ruts, and cracks on the tarmac effortlessly, giving a nice, plush ride. The tracking on the front wheel was precise, there was no wobble, no hints of hesitation. The rear wheel held firm, unlike on my previous bike, the Vespa Primavera 150 ABS.

I had taken delivery of the Versys just three weeks earlier, after selling off the Vespa. The Versys had just done a shade over 900km, and had just gone in for her first service. Initially, I was hesitant about taking a new bike out on a three-day, two-night jaunt, but figured this would be the perfect shakedown cruise for this baby.

The next corner came in short order, and again, I found myself in the groove, in the zone. I exited the second corner thinking ‘Hey ... maybe this isn’t a fluke after all’, grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat.

The route I picked cut across Port Dickson, Pasir Panjang, across the Linggi river that marked the boundary between Negeri Sembilan and Melaka, Masjid Tanah, Sungai Udang, Tangga Batu, Tanjung Kling, right up through to Klebang, and on to my final stop in Jalan Jawa, near Jonker Walk.

The hotel I picked is nestled in the back alleys of Jalan Jawa. Ohana House HQ is located just a minute’s walk to the Melaka River, and six minutes to the Hard Rock Cafe Melaka. Tastefully refurbished about eight years ago and equipped with modern features such as keycard access and security lock, the rooms in this pre-war building are minimalist, with Baba-Nyonya/Peranakan influences throughout. My strict requirements of cleanliness and a firm mattress were fully satisfied. I opted for the Queen Room with Garden (patio) View to facilitate my ‘healing’ process.

Strolling in the narrow alleyways near the hotel, it was nice to see Melaka’s ‘old world’ charm meshing seamlessly with modernity. There was none of that ‘forced kitschy-ness’ some states are notorious for.

Riverside cafes selling char koey teow, cendol, rojak buah, and seafood, dot the riverfront. Tourists and visitors sit and sip on their caffè mochas and iced lattes as riverboat cruises glide effortlessly by. Lorong Jambatan or Guimenguan, a narrow sliver of alleyway known as ‘Hell’s Gates’ among the locals, is now home to chic cafes, pizzerias, bistros, and watering holes popular with backpackers and day trippers. Melaka seems to have struck a fine balance between being a modern, cosmopolitan state, and satisfying the economic needs of its populace, while retaining its traditional values. It is thriving, vibrant, and refreshing to see.

My second day in Melaka was spent touring the Submarine Museum near Klebang. Centrepiece of the exhibit is the French Ouessant, an Agosta-class diesel-electric boat, a 1,524-tonne, 67-metre sub that was used as a training platform for our submariners from 2005 to 2009, prior to the commissioning of the Royal Malaysian Navy’s two Scorpene-class submarines, the KD Tun Abdul Razak, and the KD Tunku Abdul Rahman.

The icing on the cake were the two Royal Malaysian Air Force jets that once ruled our skies, the Northrop F-5E Tiger II interceptor, and the McDonnell A-4PTM Skyhawk, used primarily in the attack role.

Placed on two large concrete pedestals under a large roof in an open structure, both airframes were in fairly good nick, with none of the panels missing. Placards and signage were adequate, giving the types’ storied background and operational history with the RMAF. Credit to Perbadanan Muzium Melaka for curating a fine display befitting our national assets.

The rest of the stay in Melaka is a blur of nasi lemak, char koey teow, sambal tumis petai, steaks, and good ‘ol fashioned rock and roll, courtesy of H20, the resident band at Hard Rock Cafe Melaka.

By Saturday, it was time to head for home. Gear stowed, the bins locked, I fired up the Versys and rode off.

The debilitating heat necessitated a quick hop home, so I opted for a quick dash up the North-South highway. I figured that should get me back home in about two-and-a half hours. But the punishing heat was just too much and lulled me into a sleep-induced, hazy stupor. I woke up just centimetres away from crashing into the metal guardrails that lined the highway.

In the end, I managed to limp home in one piece by 3pm. Someone was definitely watching over me that day ...

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