High Tea is the traditional British custom of having tea and various cakes and finger sandwiches as as a means of relaxation, socialization, and sustenance to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner. To experience the British colonial history of George Town, we decided to visit Suffolk House, a restored colonial manor, for a refined afternoon date.
The afternoon would have been an entirely lovely affair except for the ordeal involved getting there. We had decided to rent bicycles to get to Suffolk House both to save money on a cab and to enjoy seeing a new part of town. Our usual bike rental shop, Love Bikes, was located located in an art gallery with watercolor paintings and rented beautiful new cruiser bike. The shop was run by an endearing young dad/painter who played the Sound of Music soundtrack on repeat all day long to please his six year old daughter. Unfortunately, on this afternoon Love Bikes was closed so the dad/painter/manager could visit his mother in the hospital. We were forced to rent from a cheap convenience store whose bikes were not quite as pristine.
About 10 minutes down the road, I realized that my bike brakes didn't really work. Another ten minutes later, Andrew's left bike pedal fall off and he barely dismounts in time to get out of the way of the cars zooming past. At this point we are furious and worried - the roads are very busy, there is no bike lane, we aren't used to biking on the left hand side of the road, the bike shop didn't have helmets, and our bikes seem to be made of tin foil.
If a bike has one problem, its an accident, if there are two problems (this severe) its a scam, likely to get us to pay for repairs for damage we didn't cause. I should have checked the breaks ahead of time, but there wasn't much space to test ride the bikes before we rented, and who thinks of trying to wiggle off the bike pedal anyway? Assuming our destination was close, we keep going as I watch Andrew try to awkwardly kick in his pedal with his heel about every 30 feet so it won't fall off again. Then we get lost and it starts to sprinkle rain. We make it to Suffolk House angry and a bit shaken but none worse the wear.
The tea was very enjoyable and took a little of the sting out of the journey.
The kicker is that after we finished tea, we had to ride all the way back again. I tried getting the Suffolk House gatekeepers to call us a taxi van to drive our bikes back, but neither they nor the confused driver in the regular taxi that showed up understood that we needed a larger vehicle so we went on our way. When we finally made it back, we kept our mouths shut about the damages to the convenience store in order to get our deposit, but then I warned the desk staff at every hostel on our street to discourage their guests from renting there.
We'll definitely keep renting bikes on our trip, but next time we'll be much more discriminating.
Be free little birds!
To end this post on a positive note, I wanted to share a darling little video that we shot at one of George Town's Chinese temples. At many Chinese temples, there are bird cages just outside the entrance so that devotees can rent them for a bird release to promote good luck. We caught a video of this very patient temple visitor working diligently to release his birds without losing his divine concentration. Enjoy!