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Tag Archives: Dave Ern

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes *

Image courtesy of Dave Ern

Image courtesy of Dave Ern

The weather has not been kind lately to Kuala Lumpur.  It has been very hot and dry.  The month-long drought has had two effects.  One is that water rationing has been imposed.   The other is that forest and peat fires have sprung up, driving air quality to unhealthy levels.

It is no wonder Dave Ern posted weather and haze updates in the days leading up to the Iron Horse ride.

Image courtesy of Dave Ern

Image courtesy of Dave Ern

Image courtesy of Dave Ern

Image courtesy of Dave Ern

The main concern was the haze.  The air quality was in the moderate range on Wednesday.  Conditions deteriorated as the weekend approached.  By Saturday the API value was in the unhealthy range.

Nevertheless about forty people gathered in the car park at GM Klang for the start of a two-day round trip ride to Port Dickson and back.

Photograph courtesy of Nelson Ng Hong Tuck

Photograph courtesy of Nelson Ng Hong Tuck

The ride would take us out to the coast at Morib.  We would then ride south along the coast to Port Dickson.

Avillion Route

The early going was not pleasant.  This was on the way out of Klang enroute to Banting.


The air quality got worse the closer we got to Morib.  Many of us had masks or bandannas over our mouths and noses.  I had neither, but made sure that I was breathing through my nose rather than through my mouth.

There was little we could do about our stinging eyes though.  Except hope that the air would be clearer and cleaner along the coast.

At Morib we should have been able to see the beach and the sea.  We couldn’t.

It was not until we got to Tanjung Sepat, about halfway to Port Dickson, that the haze started to clear.  At that point I was in a group of six cyclists that was ahead of the other riders.  Traffic lights, flat tires and other stops had slowed the rest down.

The six of us made our first stop at Tanjung Sepat.  Soft boiled eggs, buttered toast and kaya, and iced tea for everyone.

The wind had picked up by the time we got rolling again.  Not so good that it seemed to be a constant headwind.  Very good that it cleared the smoke and haze.

Photograph courtesy of Junie Leow

Photograph courtesy of Junie Leow

At Sungai Pelek we took a detour through a housing estate and an oil palm estate to get to the little ferry that crosses the Sungai Sepang.

Photograph courtesy of Ann Daim

Photograph courtesy of Ann Daim

We got onto the ferry in the state of Selangor, and disembarked a few minutes later in the state of  Negeri Sembilan.  This is the Selangor side of the river.

Photograph courtesy of Junie Leow

Photograph courtesy of Junie Leow

The first half of the ride was a battle through the smoke and haze.  The second half of the ride was a battle though the heat.  We stopped for cold drinks and ice cream at Sungai Pelek.  We stopped for more cold drinks and ice cream 15 km later on the outskirts of Port Dickson.  We had only 10 km further to go, but it was so hot.  We had to rehydrate and cool down.

I dove into the freezer cabinet and discovered Nestle Apple Sourz iced lollies.  They were so good, and I was so hot,  that I had three of them.  Those frozen treats, and the air-conditioning in the 7-11, cooled me down enough to face the final 10 km to the Avillion Hotel.

Photograph courtesy of

Photograph courtesy of

Twenty five hot minutes later the six of us rode up to the lobby of the Avillion Port Dickson.

Photograph courtesy of Travel Advisor

Photograph courtesy of Travel Advisor

Our relief at arriving at our destination was short-lived.  There are two Avillions in Port Dickson, and we were at the wrong one.

So we had 5 km more to cover before we got to the Avillion Admiral Cove.

Photograph courtesy of Travel Photographer Asia

Photograph courtesy of Travel Photographer Asia

The other Flipsiders had made a stop along the way for clay pot chicken rice.  They arrived later but not as hungry as I was.

Photograph courtesy of Brian Tan

Photograph courtesy of Brian Tan

I was thankful for a cold shower and air-conditioning.  My young riding partners were staying at the Best Western.  A further 15 km down the road.  They hung out for quite a while in the lobby of the Avillion Admiral Cove, waiting for their friends.

Photograph courtesy of Brian Tan

Photograph courtesy of Brian Tan

The most adventurous ones in our group camped on the beach.

Photograph courtesy of Kellie Itoe

Photograph courtesy of Kellie Itoe

These true tourers packed up their tents the next morning and rode the 115 m back to Klang.

Photograph courtesy of Ann Daim

Photograph courtesy of Ann Daim

The guys I cycled together with did the return trip also.  These guys rode an extra 20 km to get to the start at GM Klang.  They then had an extra 15 km to the Best Western Resort in Port Dickson.  So in all they rode about 315 km.

Photograph courtesy of Brian Tan

Photograph courtesy of Brian Tan

I took the easy way back home.  As a passenger in my biker chick’s car.

The ride was smokey.  The ride was hot.  Given the chance I am sure we all would do it again.

Photograph courtesy of Ann Daim

Photograph courtesy of Ann Daim

* With thanks to The Platters

Durian Fiesta Ride

September 2013 has turned into a month for metric century rides.  Yesterday Chris, Keat, Mark, Raj, Seow and I joined Dave Ern and about twenty-five other riders on a hunt for durians.

Durian Fiesta Banner

Photograph courtesy of Dave Ern

The durian is known as the King of Fruits in Malaysia.  Durian is a seasonal fruit, generally available  in Malaysia from June to August and from end November to January.  Its popularity has led to extensive cloning and farming, not just in Malaysia but throughout South-East Asia.  One result is that durians can now be bought all year round, although supply is limited and aficionados will tell you that the quality of the fruit in the off-season is variable.

Keat,  Raj, Seow, Mark, photographer Chris and I started from the BHP petrol station in Kampung Bukit Tinggi.

Photograph courtesy of Chris Chin

Photograph courtesy of Chris Chin

The route that Dave Ern had planned took us downhill along the old Bentong Road.  I travelled this road many many times as a child.  Then it was the only way to get from Kuala Lumpur to points east of the Titiwangsa Range, which bisects the peninsula from north to south.

Durian Fiesta Route

After about twelve kilometers the road levelled out, and it was relatively flat from the Bentong Hot Spring near Kampung Temiang to the town of Bentong.

Durian Fiesta Bentong

We made a refuelling stop at Bentong.  Kedai Kopi Phoon is famous for its wanton noodles.  Definitely finger-licking good.

Durian Fiesta Kedai Kopi Phoon

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The plan had been to continue on to the town of Raub while a support car drove on ahead scouting for durian stalls.  Seven kilometers north of Bentong we got word that there were no durians to be found up the road toward Raub.  So we turned off the Bentong to Raub road and rode toward Kampung Baru Sang Lee instead.

We made an unscheduled stop just after that turn.  Raj and I watched as Keat replaced his punctured rear inner tube.  In case you think that I was not helpful, I did lend Keat my pump. 🙂

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Kampung Baru Sang Lee is surrounded by extensive durian orchards.  The village does not hide its claim to fame.

Durian Fiesta Kampung Baru Sang Lee

We found lots of durians at a large roadside stall in the village.

Durian Fiesta Fruit

Unfortunately these were already loaded onto a lorry, ready to be hauled away to a wholesaler somewhere.  There was precious little left to be eaten at the stall.  The durian lovers amongst us had to make do with sharing just a couple of fruit.

Durian Fiesta Eating

So the Durian Fiesta Ride was a disappointment for anyone who had hoped to feast on the fruit.  But the ride was a lot of fun nonetheless.

This was the first metric century for Chris.

Durian Fiesta Chris Return

For Raj and Seow too.  It was a very hot day, but we had shaded and quiet roads for the most part.

Durian Fiesta Turnaround

Quiet for the most part.  Every now and then we had one of these for company.

Durian Fiesta Lorry

I overtook this lorry before slowing down to take this photograph.  As the lorry swept past I saw Mark behind it, being sucked along in the slipstream.  I have never been motor-paced by an eighteen-wheeler before.  Mark and I had a blast effortlessly hitting 50kph plus behind this lorry.  Later we latched onto the back of an oil tanker for another tow.  The experience of being pulled along at speed was worth all the dust we ate.

We stopped at a Shell station in Bentong to wash the dust out of our throats.  This is now my mid-ride drink of choice.

Durian Fiesta Chocolate Milk

As I downed a half-liter of cold chocolate milk I noticed this display next to the cash register.  What first caught my eye was the collection of mini-LEGO cars and trucks.  Then I saw what the toys were sitting on.  PowerBars and PowerGels.

Durian Fiesta Shell Station

This petrol station must attract a lot of cyclists.

The day got hotter and windier.  Just as the road started tilting upward south of Bentong.  We regrouped at the Bentong Hot Spring.  Sadly the suspension bridge across the Benus River makes a more interesting photograph that the Hot Spring does.

Durian Fiesta Sungai Benus Bridge

The last photo op was the small waterfall four kilometers from the end of the ride.

Durian Fiesta Waterfall

The section of the ride between Kampung Bukit Tinggi and Kampung Rasia is the nicest.  All the traffic across the Titiwangsa Range is now carried by the Karak Highway.  What is left is a peaceful road that follows the arcs and curves of the Benus and Tanglir rivers, hemmed in by primary and secondary jungle.

Durian Fiesta Sungai Kenung

Everybody made it back to the BHP petrol station at Kampung Bukit Tinggi.  Tired and hot, but glad to have made the trip.  It was a very pleasant century ride, despite the shortage of durians.

Let’s Get Wild Ride

These pre-dawn starts to bike rides are getting to be a habit.  The latest Dave Ern-organised ride was scheduled to start from Bandar Sri Sendayan.  About 70km from home.  At 7.30 am.  Chon, Chris, Mark, Marvin, Shahfiq and I were among the thirty five or so bleary-eyed souls who convoyed to the Sendayan Galleria for the start of the “Let’s Get Wild Ride.”

Photo courtesy of Dave Ern

Photo courtesy of Dave Ern

This ride would take us to Raptor Watch 2013 in Tanjung Tuan, Port Dickson.  Regular readers of my blog will recall that Dickson is apparently one of a number of Scotsmen who have given their names to places in Malaysia.

For the last fourteen years the Malaysian Nature Society has organised a Raptor Watch event around the migration of birds of prey like the Oriental Honey-buzzard , Black Baza, Chinese Goshawk and Japanese Sparrowhawk.  These hunting birds migrate north between mid-February and mid-April to their breeding grounds in Mongolia, China, Russia, Siberia, the Korean Peninsula and Japan after a taking refuge from the harsh winter in the south.

Tanjung Tuan is the nearest landfall across the Straits of Malacca from Pulau Rupat in Sumatra, Indonesia.   The birds have to traverse just 10 nautical miles / 18.5 km of open water to catch the thermals at Tanjung Tuan to help them on their way back to their habitats in the northern hemisphere.  If the weather is right it is not unusual to see a hundred or more raptors swirling overhead in the updrafts.

The usual mix of road bikes, mountain bikes, folding bikes were joined by a tandem-like bike ridden by Dave Ern with his young daughter on a tag-along.

Photo courtesy of Ann Daim

Photo courtesy of Ann Daim

Our 40 km or so route to Tanjung Tuan along the old trunk road took us southward through rolling countryside and under the Seremban – Port Dickson Highway.  This highway  now carries the bulk of traffic between Seremban and Port Dickson.  We then went south-west, under the highway once more and through the town of Lukut to Port Dickson, or PD as it is commonly called.  From there is was about 15 km to Tanjung Tuan.

Tanjung Tuan Route

It was relatively cool when we started riding.  So we were presentable enough to be photographed.  This is Marvin and I.

Photo courtesy of Ann Daim

Photo courtesy of Ann Daim

We were less presentable by the time we got to Tanjung Tuan.  The sun had come out at it had warmed up considerably.  It was definitely arm-cooler and Sweat Gutr conditions.

Migrating raptors not withstanding, Tanjung Tuan, or Cape Rachado as it was once known, is perhaps best known for it’s lighthouse.  Local folklore states there has been a lighthouse at that location since the Portuguese colonization of Malacca in the sixteenth century.

There is a paved path from the entrance to the Tanjung Tuan Recreational Forest up to the base of the steps leading to the lighthouse.  It is a stiff climb on a bike. 75 meters / 250 feet of elevation in 900 meters / 3,000 feet of path.  We all needed a bit of a rest before we tramped up the steps to the lighthouse.

Tanjung Tuan Lighthouse 05

Photo courtesy of the Malaysian Nature Society at

The area inside the balustrade is not normally open to the public.  However the keepers of the lighthouse agreed to open the area to the public for this weekend.  So we joined everyone else on the courtyard facing the sea, hoping to spot a raptor or two.  It had rained the day before, which kept the birds away.  It has to be a hot day to generate the thermal updrafts that the raptors depend upon.  It was certainly hot when we were there.  We were perhaps a bit too early though.  All we saw were a pair of native White-Bellied Sea Eagles.

It had been some time since I was last in PD.  I lived in the Sunggala army camp in PD for a couple of years from when I was seven.  My memories include the barber who arrived at our home on a bicycle, the neighbors who had one of the few televisions in the camp, the friend of my mother who would visit bearing a packet of ginger biscuits for a sweet-toothed little boy, the Officers’ Mess where my parents played tennis in the evenings and then watched Shindig on perhaps the only other television in the camp, and of course the long stretches of almost empty beach.

When I was nine or ten we moved to KL.  PD became a regular weekend destination.  The Sri Rusa Inn was a favorite spot.  We also spent a lot of time at the Port Dickson Yacht Club, especially after my father acquired a speed boat.  We would often fortify ourselves for the drive home with excellent Cantonese style fried noodles from a stall along the seafront in town.

Things are a little different today.  The army camp must be at least four times the size it was when I lived there.  It even houses an Army Museum.  The Si Rusa Inn is sadly derelict.  The Yacht Club has a Royal designation.  And much of the beach frontage is built-up.  Unfortunately the hotel and resort boom of the 1990s was curtailed by the Asian Financial crisis.  So amongst the resorts, hotels, villas and bungalows are many unfinished and abandoned projects.

I had to be back at my car by about 2pm.  The other five were happy to head back before the day got really hot.  Before we got going again we replenished our potassium reserves with coconut water.  As fresh as can be, straight out of a green coconut that had been opened to order.  The stall also sold cold canned drinks.  My bidons were almost empty so I topped them up with two cans of 100 Plus.

We made our way down from the lighthouse at about 11am.  Lunch somewhere in PD was the plan.  We made a photo stop about half way between Tanjung Tuan and PD town.  The road runs along a rise right alongside the beach at that point, so nothing has been built on the beach side of the road.  Which preserves views of the beach and the sea that I remember from many years ago.



Shahfiq, Chris, Mark and Marvin.  Chon was behind me taking photographs of the views


We rode into town in the vicinity of the noodle stall that I remember so fondly.  Except the area is now covered with rows of shops and restaurants.  Including the McDonalds that we patronized.  Obviously ‘fast,’ ‘predictable.’ and ‘air-conditioned’ were qualities that appealed to us.  The restaurant was surprisingly crowded.  It turned out that the locals knew something that we didn’t.


It wasn’t yet noon when we got to the counter.  Our server told us we would have to wait a few minutes before she would take our order.  Something about a special offer.  Promptly at noon the menu boards were flipped to reveal all.  25% off double cheeseburger meals!

It was 12.45 pm and broiling when we left McDonalds.  We had been smart to take advantage of the free refills to recharge our bidons.  In no time I was sweating buckets and dipping into my bottles.  To the relief of all, it started to rain.  Patchy at first, but pretty heavily for the last 7 km.  We all got soaked to the skin but were thankful for the respitefrom the heat the rain provided.  The final 15 km of rolling hills were challenging despite the cooling rain.  That final section might have been just a bit too wild in the full heat of the day.

Fraser’s Hill Revisited

Fraser’s Hill was a favorite holiday destination when I was growing up.  Sometimes my family and my cousins’ family would occupy an entire stone and wood-framed bungalow.  We would spend the days going on walks, or when we were older, trying to play golf.  Evenings were spent first scoffing dinner prepared by the bungalow cook, and then playing board games or just lounging in front of the stone fireplace.

Louis James Fraser is one of a number of Scotsmen who have places in Malaysia named after them.  Cameron, Dickson and Darvel are others.  Fraser operated a tin mine high in the Titiwangsa Range in the 1890s.  He disappeared some twenty five years later.  A search party sent by the Bishop of Singapore found no trace of Fraser.  What the Bishop did find was the the perfect place for a hill station.  In the years of empire the British were fond of recreating a slice of home in highland areas where they could retreat from the heat of the lowlands.

Hence the mock Tudor-styled bungalows, and the cooks who could make the best Yorkshire pudding east of the River Tees.  My last visit to Fraser’s Hill, or Bukit Fraser as it is now properly known, was at least ten years ago.  I have fond memories of Fraser’s Hill.  I have less fond memories of the road to get there.  A winding, nausea-inducing stretch of tarmac that gets even narrower and twistier over the final 8km to the top.   A section of road that some say was created by a snake being chased uphill by a mongoose being chased by a monkey being chased by a tiger being chased by an elephant.

Fraser's Hill Route

Chon, Mark, Marvin, Shahfiq, Wan and I met at the Sungai Buloh R&R on the North-South Highway at 5am.  We were either very keen or certifiably mad!  By 5.45am we were in Kuala Kubu Bahru.  Just in time for breakfast at the 24 hour Restoran Fazlina Maju.

Fraser's Hill - Racun Breakfast at KKB

The meeting point was at the mini stadium in Kuala Kubu Bharu.  The ride was organised by Dave Ern.  Dave is very well known for organising cycling events.  The Fraser’s Hill ride was Stage 1 of the King of 9 Mountains series that Dave is organising.  Check out Dave Ern’s Facebook page at to see what other events he has and is organising for cyclists.

Dave does a great job.  He posted riding rules on his Facebook page.  As riders arrived at the start point he handed out a list of the names and mobile numbers for the lead riders, the mid-ride and rear sweepers, and the support car drivers.  He gave us a rousing pre-ride briefing, and we all had excellent support from his crew of volunteers.

Photo courtesy of Ann Daim

Photo courtesy of Ann Daim

Then we were on our way.  Our first photo stop was at the Sungai Selangor dam lookout point.  Dave Ern was already there, briefing the riders that had chosen to start their ride at the lake.

Fraser's Hill - Sungai Selangor Dam

We made regular stops along the 32km from Kuala Kubu Bharu to the Gap.  It is a pretty ride with lots of photo opportunities.  And we needed regular breaks from the non-stop climbing!

Fraser's Hill - River

Fraser's Hill - Waterfall

We even had spectators.

Fraser's Hill - Spectators

The Gap used to be the point where the two-way road became a one-way road for the final 8km to Fraser’s Hill.  Traffic went up on even hours and came down on odd hours.  The drive took about twenty minutes so you weren’t allowed through the gate later than 40 minutes past the hour.  If you missed the gate time at the Gap you waited at the Gap Resthouse.  In the days when the drive from Kuala Lumpur to the Gap took the better part of three hours, a fresh orange (that’s what the kids got anyway) on the veranda at the Gap Resthouse was a treat.

Sadly the Gap Resthouse is no more.  It was closed for renovations and never reopened.

Fraser's Hill - Gap Rest House

A second road from Fraser’s Hill to the Gap was built in 2001.  So today the old road from the Gap up to Fraser’s Hill is open all the time to traffic heading up.  The new road is the one-way route down.

Fraser's Hill - 8km to go

That last 8km includes 400 meters / 1,300 feet of climbing.  Suffice to say were all pleased to get to the top.

A friend asked me if Fraser’s Hill was as I remembered it.  My answer was “yes and no.”  The police station is the same.  It will probably stand unchanged for the next hundred years.

Fraser's Hill - Police Station

Scott’s Pub and Restaurant used to be known as the Tavern.  I remember it for its dart board and billiard table.  And of course for its food and drink.

Fraser's Hill - Scott's Pub and Restaurant

The golf club across the road from Scott’s has expanded greatly.  You don’t have much of a view of the course from Scott’s anymore.  This is the course to the right of the clubhouse.

Fraser's Hill - Golf Course

What used to be the Merlin Hotel is now the Shahzan Inn.

This photo is courtesy of TripAdvisor

This photo is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The few bungalows that we saw looked to be in good shape.  This is Glen, which overlooks the golf course.

Fraser's Hill - Glen

Here is our “We made it!” shot.

Fraser's Hill - We Made It

We didn’t take a tour of Fraser’s Hill.  It was all we could do to ride up one last slope from the clock tower to get to the the food court (also new) next to the old roller skating rink for lunch.

It started to drizzle just as we finished lunch so we bolted for the road downhill.  We didn’t get caught in the rain but the road was very wet in places.  There are no descent photos.  I was too busy having some high-speed fun.

There is now talk of a ride to Cameron Highlands.  Another place named after a wandering Scotsman.  And 600 meters / 2,000 feet higher than Fraser’s Hill.  Hmmmmm.