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The #FreshLegs Tour

Photograph courtesy of amazon.com

Danial suggested the route for our latest credit card tour.

Day 1
• Cycle from home to the Kepong KTM station and ride the Komuter train to Tanjong Malim
• Cycle from Tanjong Malim to Ipoh

Day 2
• Cycle from Ipoh to Brinchang

Day 3
• Cycle from Brinchang to the Tanjong Malim KTM station and ride the Komuter train to Kepong
• Cycle from the Kepong KTM station to home

Choo Chian and Halim quickly said that they were up for it. I enjoy riding with the three of them and opted in as well. If I had thought more about the route I was committing to I might not have been so quick to agree to participate. 390km / 242mi and more than 3,000 metres / 9,800 feet of climbing over three days.

Day 1

I met Choo Chian and Halim at just past 6.00am on Day 1 and we rode together to the 7-Eleven on Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah where Danial was waiting.

We caught the first train from Kepong, the 7.30am departure, to Tanjong Malim. All smiles at this point.

It was 8.50am when we rolled our bikes out of the train in Tanjong Malim. We had 118km / 73mi to ride. But first, breakfast at our usual spot, Restoran OCU Amy, 1km from the station.

The plan was to ride to Ipoh at an easy pace so that we would have fresh legs for the 2,000 plus metres / 6,500 plus feet of climbing on Day 2.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

So much for that plan. We spent almost three-quarters of our moving time riding at 30kph / 18.6mph or faster. “Fresh Legs” became our ironic catchphrase for the next three days. As in “My legs feel so fresh” or “Your legs look so fresh” when the opposite was the case.

We weren’t helped by the heat. We made regular stops to refill bottles. We bought iced fresh fruit at the Bidor stop. It was 37ºC / 99ºF when we got to Tapah at 1.00pm.

We spent the next two hours over a long lunch in the air conditioning at the KFC there. It was still a furnace outside when we got going again. At 3.45pm we had to stop (what a relief) because of a puncture. It was 38ºC / 100ºF.

Photograph courtesy of Halim Zin

Halim’s sister saw this photograph and commented that I looked like I was regretting coming on this ride. What I did look like was this . . .

We arrived at the Mornington Hotel in Ipoh without further incident. Choo Chian had done the research into accommodation and had booked the most promising looking places in Ipoh and Brinchang. The Mornington Hotel was excellent.

For RM45 / USD11 each we got two Standard Twin rooms with the amenities not usually provided at this price point. The fixings for coffee and tea, a couple of bottles of mineral water, toiletry sets including toothbrushes and toothpaste, a fridge, a safe, and wifi. Best of all, bicycles are allowed in the rooms, which are big enough to accommodate two bikes without them being in the way. The bonus is the Mornington has a lift so we didn’t have to carry our bikes up a flight or more of stairs.

Photograph courtesy of the Mornington Hotel

We took a Grab car into Ipoh for dinner. Danial suggested the Ipoh Hainan Chicken Rice restaurant on Anderson Road. Sadly the quality of the food there has declined since he last ate there. The food was alright but not worth another visit.

By 9.00pm it was lights out. Our legs weren’t feeling particularly fresh, which was a bad sign.

Day 2

At 6.40am we rolled away from the Mornington Hotel to the Restoran Nasi Kandar Pulai 3km / 2mi away for breakfast. The restaurant must have only just opened because there were only a couple of staff members there to take orders and make hot drinks and prepare food. Service was slow, to say the least.

While we were there a group of four cyclists came in looking for breakfast as well. One of them asked us for directions to the road to Cameron Highlands. Like us, they were from Kuala Lumpur. Unlike us, they hadn’t ridden to Ipoh the day before. I’m sure their legs were fresher than ours. We wished them well on their maiden ride to Cameron Highlands and headed to the 7-Eleven a couple of shop lots away to stock up on drinks.

Our paths would unexpectedly cross, in a manner of speaking, later in the day.

I had ridden from Simpang Pulai as far as the Meiko Strawberry Centre a couple of times, but never with a 5kg / 11lb saddle pack. This time there would be a further 23km / 14mi to ride, and another hill to climb to get to Brinchang. It promised to be a long and hard day.

Graph courtesy of Garmin Connect

13km / 8mi from the hotel we got to the start of the climb to Cameron Highlands. The first 2.5km / 1.5mi are particularly steep, rising 280 metres / 918 feet.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Mindful of the amount of climbing we had to do, we made regular stops to stretch our not-fresh legs.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Despite the sunshine, the temperature stayed at or below 25ºC / 77ºF for the first 40km / 25mi.

We made another of our frequent stops after 45km / 28mi. The temperature had risen to 30ºC / 86ºF in the space of 5km / 3mi. Admittedly it had taken us forty minutes to climb that 5km, but still.

It was very humid. We were sweating profusely and despite carrying extra bottles of fluid we were running out.

There are very few places selling drinks along Federal Route 185. We knew that there was a café somewhere near the border between the states of Perak and Pahang, but weren’t sure where exactly it was or whether it would even be open. I was starting to worry that we would run out of water before we found a place to restock.

That’s when a father and son in an SUV pulled over and asked if we wanted water or 100 Plus. We gratefully accepted his generous offer. It turned out that the man’s wife was one of the four cyclists we met over breakfast at the Restoran Nasi Kandar Pulai. Quite a coincidence. We never did see those four cyclists again though.

It was a relief to have more water in our bottles. Though as it turned out we were only 2km / 1mi (and ten corners) from the Waterfall Café. Which was open.

It was 12.45pm and we had no idea where the next place selling food was. So we had lunch. In my case a bowl of Maggi mee with two poached eggs and keropok udang (prawn cracker) croutons. Very delicious.

We spent a very pleasant fifty-five minutes over lunch chatting and watching the koi in the pond that fronts the café.

1km up the road, I had a surprise. The last time I rode here was in the Cameron Highlands KOM event in December 2018. At that time there was nothing but a construction site.

Photograph courtesy of Google Maps

Today that construction site is the Kafe Banjaran. Which is clearly very popular with big bikers. The motorized kind. There is even a shop selling Route 185 merchandise.

Photograph courtesy of picgra.com

3km / 2mi later we were at the border between Perak and Pahang. Just 31km / 20mi to go . . . .

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

The road continues upward, albeit with some short descents along the way, until the right turn onto Federal Route 59. From there it is a 7km / 4mi descent to the Cameron Valley Tea House. We stopped for some cardamom tea and scones with cream and strawberry jam.

We needed the calories. The road kicks upward from the Cameron Valley Tea House for 9km / 5.5mi and more than 400 metres / 1,300 feet of climbing to Brinchang. The payoff was chocolate-coated strawberries at the Kea Farm street market. I have to admit that I didn’t expect the strawberries to be so good. What a treat that was. We should have bought more.

Photograph courtesy of Lacasa Biru Jr

We had just 6km / 4mi to go to Barrington Square and our apartment for the night. We checked into our fifth-floor G Residence apartment just as the clouds rolled in and it started to rain.

Choo Chian had picked another winner for accommodation. This time a comfortable and spacious two-bedroom apartment. Again bicycles are allowed inside the property and there is a lift. Barrington Square consists of three blocks of apartments, shops and restaurants. We didn’t have far to walk to dinner.

Paradise Reyan serves Middle Eastern and Western food. We had a combination: hummus as the starter and lamb pizza as the main course. Both were good.

Photograph courtesy of Paradise Reyan

It was lights out for me at 8.00pm. Fresh legs? Only in my dreams.

Day 3

We were out of the apartment at 6.30am. Brinchang is at an altitude of 1,540 metres / 5,050 feet. It was 14ºC / 57ºF. We had a mostly downhill and very chilly 3.5km / 2mi ride to Tanah Rata where we had breakfast at Restoran Nasi Kandar Mamu Ismail. The hot drinks and roti canai warmed us up before the still nippy 50km / 31mi descent to Tapah.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

About 4km / 2.5mi from Tanah Rata is the Cameron Valley tea plantation, owned by the Bharat Group. Bharat is Malaysia’s second largest tea producer.

It was very quiet as we dropped more than 1,000 metres / 3,300 feet through rain forest over the next fifty minutes. There was very little traffic on the road with us. However, the quality of the road surface was inconsistent. Sometimes smooth and then suddenly rutted and patched. So we had to keep our eyes on the road rather than on the scenery around us, especially when descending at more than 45kph / 28mph. The occasional pack of dogs on the road added to the hazards to be alert for.

I took off my windbreaker about two-thirds of the way down the mountain. Stowed on my saddle pack it made my butt look like a baboon’s.

Photograph courtesy of Heng Choo Chian

The gravity assist came to an end 10km / 6mi before we got to Tapah. From Tapah it is 70km / 43.5mi to ride to get to Tanjong Malim. With legs which were most definitely not fresh.

We had a long stop at Tapah, and an even longer one at Sungkai. Then a ten-minute break at Slim River before getting to Tanjong Malim at about 1.15pm. Where we had time to sit in the air conditioning at the PETRONAS station before riding to the station to catch the 1.55pm train to Kepong.

The only comments to make about the ride from Tapah is that there seemed to be a headwind for most of the time and the temperature went up from 28ºC / 82ºF to 36ºC / 97ºC.

The train was a welcome respite from the heat. Still all smiles as we waited for the train to depart.

The exertions of the trip caught up with us not long after we were seated.

We were all at home by about 4.00pm. It had been a tough trip. I won’t be doing the same route again in a hurry. But it was definitely a lot of fun riding with Choo Chian, Danial and Halim. There were plenty of laughs throughout the weekend.

Now if only there really were a cream to turn tired legs into Fresh Legs.

Photograph courtesy of HFL Laboratories

Credit Card Tour to Port Dickson and Melaka

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

When the four of us were planning this trip we referred to it as road bikepacking. I have since discovered that is is not the correct term for what we did. Bikepacking involves at least one or more nights of camping.

What we did was credit card cycle touring. Which is essentially like bikepacking but without the camping gear. Accommodation was procured with our credit cards.

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur to Port Dickson. 108km / 67mi.

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

Three Apiduras and one Topeak met early in the morning at the Shell station on Jalan Kampung Pandan in Kuala Lumpur. We got onto the Maju Expressway and rode south through Cyberjaya to Dengkil where we stopped for breakfast. From Dengkil we rode to Sepang. This is a section of Federal Route 29 somewhere around Kota Warisan.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

We stopped at the Shell station in Sepang to refill bottles.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

From Sepang, we would normally have ridden onto Federal Route 5 toward Port Dickson. But Choo Chian and Halim had never been on the little ferry that crosses the Sepang River at Sungai Pelek. So we rode 8km / 5mi in the opposite direction so we could take that 70-metre ferry ride.

Photograph courtesy of Mohd Farid Abu Bakar

The ferry carries pedestrians, motorbikes and bicycles. Contrary to Chris de Burgh’s advice, you pay the ferryman when you board. 80 sen / US20 cents per person and bicycle.

Danial, Choo Chian, Halim and I on the ferry.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki
Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

It was 12km from the ferry to rejoin Federal Route 5 south of Sepang at Tanah Merah.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki
Photograph courtesy of Heng Choo Chian

And a further 15km / 9mi to the Waterfront Boutique Hotel in Port Dickson. We got there at 12.45pm, which was a bit early to check in. So we spent an hour over lunch at the McDonald’s nearby to pass the time.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent washing cycling kit (Choo Chian and I hung our kit to dry on a lamp post outside the hotel), napping and eating and drinking at PappaRich, Double Queue Thai Cuisine (the pad thai was pretty good) and Starbucks. All within walking distance of the Waterfront Boutique Hotel.

The Waterfront Boutique Hotel is in a commercial development that houses a bank, a 7-Eleven and a number of other restaurants. So the location is excellent. Another plus point is that bicycles are allowed in guest rooms. The only downside is that you have to carry your bike up and down stairs. No lifts.

Day 2: Port Dickson to Melaka. 84km / 52mi.

We were up early for the ride to Melaka. While Danial and Halim were getting ready, Choo Chian and I perused the bun shelves at the 7-Eleven looking for something for Halim to nibble before we started riding. We were spoiled for choice.

We were on Federal Route 5 towards Melaka at about 6.30am.

Photograph courtesy of Heng Choo Chian

The road was very quiet.

Photograph courtesy of Heng Choo Chian

Federal Route 5 follows the coast from Port Dickson until Pasir Panjang, where it heads inland to Linggi. We turned right off Federal Route 5 onto Jalan Pasir Panjang – Kuala Linggi (N143) and immediately stopped at a roadside restaurant for breakfast. Halim and Danial were happy at the prospect of food.

Photograph courtesy of Heng Choo Chian

The N143 continues along the coast. It becomes Federal Route 138 as it crosses the Linggi River, which at that point forms the border between the states of Negeri Sembilan and Melaka.

At Kuala Sungai Baru we left Federal Route 138 to ride along Jalan Telok Gong / Pengkalan Balak, which hugs the beach facing the Straits of Malacca for about 5km / 3mi. There is a concrete jetty at Kampung Sungai Tuang which we couldn’t resist riding onto.

Photograph courtesy of Heng Choo Chian
Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

At 10.45am we were at Klebang. The day was starting to get hot (it was 37ºC / 99ºF when we got to Port Dickson the day before). Not that we needed an excuse to stop at Klebang Original Coconut Shake.

Photograph courtesy of Halim Zin

The home of the best coconut shakes in Melaka.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Choo Chian told us that we must visit Baba Charlie Nyonya Cake next. The Baba Nyonyas, also known as the Straits-born Chinese, are the descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago between the 15th and 17th centuries. They have developed a unique “Nyonya” cuisine which includes a wide variety of traditional kuih or cakes.

Photograph courtesy of Baba Charlie Nyonya Cake

It took a bit of time to find Baba Charlie despite it being only 3km / 2mi from Klebang Original Coconut Shake. When we got there we found that it is a take away kuih shop. No tables and chairs there.

But we also found out that there is a Baba Charlie Cafe less than 500 metres from the kuih shop. With AC and a lunch menu. It wasn’t noon yet so we have lots of time to burn before we could check in to the hotel. So we had a Nyonya meal.

Lemak nenas prawns, Cincalok fried omelette, brinjal udang kering and chicken curry. And kuih and cendol for dessert.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

It ws 1.30pm. I was stuffed. And it was 38ºC/ 100ºF outside. Thank goodness it was only 4km / 2.5mi to the Fenix Inn. Our hotel for the night. Another bicycle-friendly hotel that allows bikes in guest rooms. Once again we asked for rooms on the first floor so we only had one flight of stairs to negotiate.

And once again the afternoon itinerary included laundry, a nap and a visit to the corner Starbucks. Once the day had cooled down we walked to dinner at Pak Putera Restaurant, which has a reputation as one of the better tandoori and naan restaurants in Melaka. We sat outside in the open air, which was pleasant. The food was merely okay, though I must admit that the tandoori chicken was good.

Day 3: Melaka to Tampin. 38km / 24mi.

We had another early start. We wanted to catch the 9.10am KTM Komuter train from Tampin station to KL Sentral station. That meant leaving the Fenix Inn at about 6.30am. Not that we got very far before stopping for breakfast. There is a McDonald’s 100 metres from the Fenix Inn.

The ride was unremarkable apart from the strong wind, which seemed to be against us for the entire ride. When we got to the station the train was already at the platform. We scanned out Komuter Link cards at the turnstile (KTM has introduced stored value cards as the payment mechanism for Komuter journeys) and took our customary places in car 6. As is often the case, we were the only occupants.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Other passengers did join us in that car as the train made its way to KL Sentral station. The Komuter trains on the southern route seem to have more passengers than the Komuter service to the north of Kuala Lumpur. Perhaps because the southern route connects to the KLIA Express and to the long-distance bus terminal at Bandar Tasik Selatan.

It is a two-hour ride with sixteen stops from Tampin station to KL Sentral station. It is a short walk through the KL Sentral station concourse to the street outside.

Photograph courtesy of Halim Zin

Danial had the shortest ride home. Choo Chian, Halim and I had about 8km / 5mi to pedal to get to where each of us lives.

We all enjoyed our latest credit card tour. Lots of fun and laughter. We are ready to do another one. The only question is . . .

Graphic courtesy of Bitmoji

Four Apiduras and One Topeak to Teluk Intan

Danial, Halim and I had intended to do a bicycle tour to Port Dickson and Melaka at the end of December. That plan was scuttled when I had to pull out.

The next possible dates for an overnight were over the Thaipusam long weekend. Choo Chian and Mark were able to join this time. The program was to take the KTM Komuter train to Tanjung Malim and then to ride from there to Teluk Intan.

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

Choo Chian met up with Halim in Ampang and they rode to the Kepong KTM station. Danial rode from his home and linked up with Choo Chian and Halim en route to the Kepong station. The three of them had to reroute when they discovered that Jalan Ipoh was completely closed for the Thaipusam chariot procession.

Photograph courtesy of The Sun Daily

Despite the redirection, they got to the Kepong station in time to catch the first train of the day to Tanjung Malim. That train departs Kepong at 7.30am.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Track upgrading works mean that until the end of 2019 the Komuter train service to Tanjung Malim starts and terminates at Kepong. Once the upgrading is completed the service will run from and to KL Sentral station.

I drove to Mark’s house and we rode to the Kuang KTM station. The first train to Tanjung Malim gets to Kuang at 7.54am. We would meet our three companions on that train.

Mark and I got into the last of the six carriages as discussed to find that the other three had boarded the first carriage. Fortunately, that was the only part of our two-day plan that went awry. We nevertheless had both carriages to ourselves.

Photograph courtesy of Heng Choo Chian

We arrived at the Tanjung Malim KTM station bang on at 8.51am. On thing that KTM got right is running the Komuter service on schedule.

We rode one kilometre from the station to Restoran Ocu Amy on Jalan Ketoyong for breakfast. Fed and watered, we got onto Federal Route 1 and rode northwest to Sungkai, which is just over halfway to Teluk Intan.

Federal Route 1 is believed to be the nation’s earliest public roadways ever constructed. Construction began in 1880 under the orders of the Sultan of Kedah at that time, connecting Alor Star to Songkhla, Thailand. Federal Route 1 now runs 993km / 617mi from Johor Bahru in the south to Bukit Kayu Hitam in the north.

In 1994 the North-South Expressway took the role of the Federal Route 1 as the main backbone route in Peninsular Malaysia. This has reduced the volume of traffic on Federal Route 1. Coupled with the numerous towns that grew along its path, Federal Route 1 is quite a nice road to cycle on.

We stopped at Slim River for ten minutes. We stopped again at Sungkai. It was 11.00am, we were riding under a cloudless sky and the air temperature was already 32ºC / 90ºF. We needed a cold drink and to refill water bottles.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We left Federal Route 1 at Sungkai to join Jalan Kuala Bikam – Sungkai (Perak State Route A189). That road is relatively new, so the surface is good. However, I managed to bang into one of the very few potholes after about 10km / 6mi. I was more vigilant about keeping my eyes on the road ahead after. There were no more flats.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The temperature had risen to 35ºC / 95ºF by 12.30pm. We were getting toasted.

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

We stopped again after 63km / 39mi for yet more drinks and bottle refills. That was a 20 minute stop. It was even hotter. We needed some time in the shade.

20km / 12mi later we were in Teluk Intan. More specifically we were in the McDonald’s Teluk Intan. It was almost 2.00pm. Time for lunch.

Hot and happy to be at our destination.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The Yew Boutique Hotel is our regular hostelry when we visit Teluk Intan. Not least because it is a bike-friendly hotel with a convenient place to leave our bicycles right next to the 24-hour reception desk.

We parked our bikes, plopped into chairs in the air-conditioned lounge area and drank numerous glasses of the lemon citrus water provided by the hotel for its guests. Then it was time for showers and to wash our sweaty cycling kit.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Another plus for the Yew Boutique Hotel is its friendly and accommodating staff. It was no problem to hang our kit to dry on the fence next to the car park. We were even given extra hangers.

Everyone then took naps. At about 5.30pm I was awake and convinced Mark to come with me to explore the neighbourhood. I messaged the other guys but got no reply. Mark got no reply to his offer to get some of the famous Teluk Intan chee cheong fun. They were still fast asleep.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Those are rainclouds over the arch. The wind blew those clouds toward Mark and I. When rain drops started falling on us we made a quick call to Halim to ask him to bring all our cycling kit inside.

I had booked an udang galah (giant freshwater prawn) dinner at Restoran D’Tepian Sungai. The udang galah is frankly our only reason for visiting Teluk Intan. The rain stopped in time for us to get to the riverside restaurant only five minutes late.

Photograph courtesy of Heng Choo Chian
Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

The udang galah dishes – masak lemak cili padi, tiga rasa and goreng berempah, as always, were awesome.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

In a post-feast prawn coma . . .

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

On the way back to the hotel we bought Magnum and Solero ice creams for dessert. It was 8.45pm. A bit early to go to bed even though the plan was to start riding at 6.30am. We sat in the hotel lounge drinking more of that lemon citrus water as we chatted. It was 11.00pm before we checked the time again. Definitely time to the hit the hay.

We all slept well. Yet another plus for the Yew Boutique Hotel is that it is in a very quiet part of town. The New Glutton Square food court next door shuts down quite early.

We were on the road right about on schedule, with our first stop of the day being 4km / 2.5mi down the road at Restoran M. Gulam Rasul for breakfast.

It was such a nice change to be riding in cool temperatures.

Photograph courtesy of Heng Choo Chian

We were in Sungkai at 8.30am. We stopped at a BHPetrol station for drinks. These ducks stopped there too, but they didn’t get a drink.

We briefly entertained thoughts of getting to Tanjung Malim in time for the 10.15am train but conceded that was too ambitious. A more realistic goal if we had started at 6.00am.

We had plenty of time to make the next departure from Tanjung Malim at 11.55am.

Photograph courtesy of Heng Choo Chian

We were on the same route that we had ridden the day before.

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

Danial and Choo Chian stopped again at the PETRONAS station in Slim River. The petrol station where I had dropped and broken the screen of my mobile phone during our ride back from Ipoh in July last year. Halim and Mark were ahead of us and had stopped a kilometre up the road. I kept going and as I rode past them I shouted: “Let’s ride to Kuala Kubu Bahru.”

It is just over 21km / 1mi from Slim River to Tanjung Malim. Kuala Kubu Bahru (KKB) is a further 21km down the road. The three of us got to the PETRONAS station in Tanjung Malim at 10.20am. The train we wanted to be on leaves KKB station at 12.11pm. There was more than enough time for us to ride to KKB.

We got to KKB at about 11.30am. We had time to ride into KKB town for some fresh coconut water and a slice of sweet pineapple before heading to the station.

Choo Chian and Danial were on the train, in the last car this time, when we got on. It was getting as hot as it had been the day before, and the air conditioning on the train was very welcome. Though it didn’t feel as cold as it had been on previous rides.

Mark and I got off the train at the Sungai Buloh station. It was too hot to ride back to Taman Megah from Kuang. Choo Chian, Danial and Halim got off at Kepong.

Mark and I made one last stop before getting back to his house. It was 37ºC / 99ºF. A couple of bowls of icy cendol hit the spot.

The heat was the only drawback in a very enjoyable weekend. Good company, good food and good riding. All in all a very successful bike tour. More of the same, please.

** Four of us have Apidura saddle packs to hold our clothes and other bits and pieces. The other uses a Topeak saddle pack.

The short way home

We checked out of the hotel at 7.30am.  We rode out in a drizzle to look for breakfast.  You can always count on a mamak restaurant to be open at any hour of the night or day.

After breakfast, we rode to the usual photograph spots.  First the Porta de Santiago, a small gatehouse which is the only part of A Famosa, a former Portuguese fortress, still standing today.  A Famosa is among the oldest surviving European architectural remains in Southeast Asia and the Far East.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Then we went to Christ Church Melaka.  Construction of Christ Church Malacca started in 1741 and it was completed in 1753.  When the British took over Malacca they added a weathercock and bell to Christ Church and transformed it from a Protestant church into an Anglican one.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We had decided over dinner the night before to amend our plan for the day.  Originally we were going to ride to the KTM station in Rembau, where we would catch a Komuter train to KL Sentral station.  The Rembau station is 58km / 36mi from Melaka.

We decided instead to ride to the KTM station in Tampin, which is 40km / 25mi from Melaka.  We would be very glad that we chose to ride to the closer station.

We rode through the narrow streets of historic Melaka to the AMJ highway.  The highway took us north to Alor Gajah. 

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We left the AMJ highway at Alor Gajah for the 14km / 9mi remainder of the distance to Tampin.

Map courtesy of Ride With GPS

The cool and overcast conditions had quickly given way to hot and muggy conditions.  It was 30º C / 86º F at 10.00am.  We were relieved to have opted to ride to Tampin rather than Rembau.

We had time for a cold drink after buying our tickets.  The train left on time at 10.55am.  And in only a few minutes we were cold.  The air-conditioning on the KTM Komuter trains is quite chilly.

We warmed up once our damp jerseys had dried out.  By the second half of the journey, we could feel the heat of the sun coming through the train windows.

Photograph courtesy of Jake Sow

The train takes about two hours to get to KL Sentral station.  On the way we messaged Jeff Liew of The Bike Artisans, asking him to book duck rice lunches at the restaurant next door to his bike shop.  We would be riding in that direction to get back to my place from KL Sentral station.

It was an easier task to get out of KL Sentral station that it had been to get into Tampin station, where the lift had broken down.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We rode the escalator up to the main hall of KL Sentral station and then wheeled our bikes fifty metres to the exit.  In less than a minute we were on Jalan Tun Sambanthan headed towards the Bike Artisans and lunch.

In less than 4.5km / 3mi we were at Jeff’s doorstep.  Which was a good thing because it was another hot day. 

Kelin joined us for lunch.  

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

As did TH.

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We made short work of the chicken and duck rice.  Thank you Jeff for buying us lunch, and Kelin and TH for joining us.

All that remained was to ride the hot 3km / 2mi to my place.

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We had moaned at times about the heat over the two days.  But we did agree that it had been a fun couple of days, and that we looked forward to more such rides.  

And there are already some R@SKLs asking to join the next overnight ride.

Road and Rail to Tanjung Malim

Once in a while work schedules allow some of us to do weekday morning rides.  Which means that the KTM Komuter train service can be a part of the route plan.

Tanjung Malim Route

The Komuter service to the north terminates at Tanjung Malim.  So we rode to Tanjung Malim and took the train back to the Kepong KTM station.  Ongoing track upgrading work means that Kepong is still the closest we can get to the Kuala Lumpur city centre.

We parked at the Kepong KTM station for RM4.00 / USD1.00 per day.  Annie, Kieren, Mark and I rolled out of the car park at about 6.00am, heading for Federal Route 1 toward Ipoh.

By the time it was light we had completed the climb of the day, 100 metres /  330 feet over 1.3km /  0.8mi from Templer Hills to Taman Amansiara, and were rolling through Rawang toward Serendah.  Serendah was a good place to stop for breakfast.  Nasi lemak, char koay teow, meehoon soup, half-boiled eggs, iced Milo and coffee teed us up for the rest of the ride.

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Photograph courtesy of Annie Lim

We were blessed with overcast skies for the entire ride.

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Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

And once we were north of Rawang, we had relatively quiet roads.  Most traffic heading north uses the North-South Expressway, which provided a faster alternative to Federal Route 1.

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Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We were aiming to catch the 10.15am train from Tanjung Malim.  We had a few delays caused by mechanicals early in the ride.  It was 8.40am when we got to this signboard. We had covered 39km / 24mi.  We still had 34km / to ride to the Tanjung Malim station.

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Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We would have to up our pace to make the 10.15am train.  Otherwise, it would be a long wait for the next train, which was not until 11.54am.  We were at the Tanjung Malim station with 10 minutes to spare.

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Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

If you look closely, you can see the train on the platform behind us.  Unfortunately, it was the platform across the tracks from us.  So we had to do a quick cyclocross-style scramble up a flight of stairs, across a walkway, and down another flight of stairs.

With minutes to spare!

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Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Definitely a ride to repeat, especially in weather like this.

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Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Road and Rail Back to Kepong

Day 2 Mini Bus

We were a bit slow to get going in the morning.  There was some not-necessarily joking about taking the bus or train all the way back to Kuala Lumpur or getting a ride with someone.

We did make the walk to Hollywood at 7.30am.  Plates of prawn chee cheong fun, char kway teow, and lor bak, washed down with glasses of leng chee kang (lotus seed drink) perked everyone up.

Day 2 Breakfast 2 Danial Marzuki

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Day 2 Breakfast Danial Marzuki

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

At 9.0am we were packed and ready to roll.  Danial’s friend Eric rode with us to Gopeng before turning around and heading back home.

Day 2 Start

Photograph courtesy of Eric

We made a quick stop at the 7-Eleven in the same row of shophouses as the Ampang Cycle House.  Our first proper stop was at a Petron station in Gopeng.  The breakfast drinks had made their way through our bodily systems by then.

The day had started out cooler than it had been the previous day.  Everyone was pleased about that.

Day 2 Road Danial Marzuki

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

37km / 23mi into our ride we were in Kampar.  A Petron station was a convenient place to stop for ten minutes.

At 12.30pm were in Tapah.  The KFC there was a lot less appealing as a lunch venue than it had been the day before.  After some scouting around, we ended up at . . .

Day 2 Pizza Hut Ozairi Othman

Photograph courtesy of Ozairi Othman

Pizza Hut!  That was an underwhelming experience.  The pizzas were smaller than we had expected, there was no ice for our drinks, and the air conditioning wasn’t working very well.  Nevertheless, between us, we polished off three regular pizzas and four 1.5 litre bottles of Pepsi Cola.

The cool of the early morning had given way to full-on heat.  It was 35° C / 95° F outside.  The plan had been to spend an hour in Pizza Hut.  The ineffective air conditioning while we were eating made that seem unlikely.  By the time we were finished eating the air conditioning had upped its game and we finally began to cool off.  And so we stayed there for seventy minutes.

We then spent fifteen minutes at the Petronas station 200 metres down the road eating ice cream for dessert.

Thirty-five minutes later we were in Bidor.  The iced mango and other fresh fruit at the Sakinah stall, where we had stopped on the way to Ipoh, were calling our names.  That was another fifteen-minute break.

Day 2 Bidor Fruit Stall Ozairi Othman

Photograph courtesy of Ozairi Othman

It was past 2.30pm.  The temperature would stay in the mid to low 30s° C / low 90s° F for the next three hours.  We would be stopping a lot.  So no change from the MO of the day before.

Day 2 It Is Hot Danial Marzuki

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

One of the benefits of riding on what used to be the main trunk road linking Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh is that you pass through lots of small towns.  Towns which have at least one petrol station with an air-conditioned convenience store where we could stop and rest.

Sungkai was the next of these towns.  We spent twenty minutes in the BHP station there.  We were not in a rush.  The first non-peak train leaves Tanjung Malim at 7.00pm on weekends.  We had about 45km / 28mi to go, and more than four hours to cover that distance.

It is 22km / 14mi from Sungkai to Slim River.  Just a bit too far to do all in one go, given the temperature and the rolling terrain.  There isn’t much between Sungkai and Slim River, so we stopped in some shade beside the road at the junction to Trolak.

We spent forty minutes at the Petronas station in Slim River.  More ice cream and cold drinks.  That was the good news.

Day 2 Cursing

The bad news was that I dropped my mobile phone and broke the screen.

25km / 16mi to Tanjung Malim.  It was 5.30pm when we left Slim River.  The temperature had dropped to 29° C / 84° F.  Enough of the cutting edge had been taken off the heat that we were able to cover those last kilometres to Tanjung Malim in one go.  We stopped at a Petronas station a couple of kilometres from the Komuter station to regroup and get a drink.

Day 2 Last Petronas Halim Zin

Photograph courtesy of Halim Zin

We then rode to the KTM station to get tickets for the 8.00pm train to Kepong.  We planned to have dinner during the hour or so before that train departed.  We got to the KTM station at 6.50pm and were told that we could board the 7.00pm train with our bikes.  The train was already at the station.  We quickly hauled our bikes up and across the overpass to the platform on the other side of the tracks and hopped onto the train.

Day 2 Train Danial Marzuki

Photograph courtesy of Danial Martzuki

Once again we had the entire carriage to ourselves.

It was dark when we pulled into the KTM Kepong station.  There had been talk about getting dinner before riding home, but by the time we wheeled our bikes off the train at 8.30pm the gloss had worn off that idea.  It had been a long and hot weekend, and everyone just wanted to get home.  Which we all accomplished safely.

This was my first ride to Ipoh.  It was a lot of fun (double pinch flats and broken phone screen aside).  I would do it again.  Any town with its own Hollywood-style sign is worth another visit.

 

Day 2 Ipoh Sign

Photograph courtesy of The Malaysian Times

Rail and Road to Ipoh

Ipoh Banner

Vegas and Hollywood were two of the highlights of our weekend trip to Ipoh.  More on that later.

Canning Garden in Ipoh, where we spent the night, is just over 200km / 124mi from Kuala Lumpur.  Which is just a bit further than we wanted to cycle.

So we went by train for part of the way.  Tanjung Malim is as far as you can go northwards on the KTM Komuter train.  The KTM Electric Train Service (ETS) goes beyond Tanjung Malim to Ipoh and onwards to the Thai border, but full-sized bicycles are not allowed on board the ETS trains.

Early on Saturday morning six of us met up at various points along the way to the Kepong Komuter station.  We would normally have boarded the train in Kuala Lumpur.  Track upgrading work means that there is temporarily no service between Kuala Lumpur and Kepong.

Day 1 Kepong Station Danial Marzuki

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

Danial, Halim, Choo Chian, Safwan, Ozzy and I caught the 7.10am train ride from Kepong to Tanjung Malim.  That was the last weekend non-peak hours train until 8.00pm.  Bicycles are allowed on Komuter trains during non-peak hours only.  The train ride took about 75 minutes.  We had the last carriage almost entirely to ourselves.  At 9.00am we were scouting the area around the Tanjung Malim station for a place to have breakfast.

The stop at Restoran Hijas was the first of many.

By 9.45am we were on the road northwards to Ipoh.  We cycled along Federal Route 1, which as the name implies is the first and oldest federal road in Malaysia.  Federal Route 1 was the backbone of the road system in the western states of Peninsular Malaysia before being supplanted by the North–South Expressway (E1 and E2).

Day 1 Traffic Light Ozzy

Photograph courtesy of Ozairi Othman

Our next stop was at the Shell station in Slim River.  So named for a Captain Slim, who in the nineteenth century sailed up the river, mistaking it for the larger Perak River, which was the main waterway at that time.

We were trundling along at a relatively relaxed pace.  We were all carrying clothes, toiletries etc. in our saddle packs.  Some of us had handlebar bags as well.  Danial was on a Marin touring bike.  We weren’t set up for speed.

So it was two and a half hours before we got to Restoran Shakir in Sungkai, where we had drinks and topped up our bottles with ice.

A word about the state of the road is appropriate here.  The entire length of the ride was about 125km / 78mi.  There were some badly rutted and patched sections, but in the main, the road surface was reasonable to good.  However, there was enough debris on the road that you had to keep your eyes glued to the road ahead.

3km after leaving Restoran Shakir I got distracted by a motorcyclist pulling off the road to my left and clanged straight over a substantial lump of stone.  The noise that made was loud enough to make me think that I had damaged a rim.  Not the case as it turned out, but I had pinch-flatted both my tires.

Thank goodness for riding with friends whom I could borrow an inner tube from.

Day 1 Flat Ozzy

Photograph courtesy of Ozairi Othman

Danial and Ozzy rode on while my three assistants and I fixed two flat tires.  We caught up with them about 10km / 6mi later at a row of fresh fruit stalls in Bidor.  It was 1.00pm and 33° C / 91° F by then.  Iced mango slices hit the spot.

We got to Tapah about thirty minutes later.  A good time to stop for lunch.

Day 1 KFC Safwan Siddiq

Photograph courtesy of Safwan Siddiq

The KFC in Tapah was packed but we went in any way.  The air conditioning was the main attraction.

My lunch was pretty good too.

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70km / 43mi done.  55km / 31mi to go.

After forty-five minutes in the cool of the KFC, we headed out into the sun again.  Not for long though.  It was 35° C / 95° F.  Twenty minutes later we stopped at the Shell station in Temoh for ice cream and drinks.

Thirty minutes after that we were inside a Petron station at Kampar.  I told you we stopped a lot.

The next ice cream and drinks stop was at a Shell station in Gopeng.  It was 4.30pm, and we had 18km / 11mi to go.  But we had two more stops to make before w got to Canning Garden.

All the Way from Tanjung Malim we had ridden past a multitude of roadside stalls, some quite makeshift, selling durians.  Durians are regarded by many in Southeast Asia as the “king of fruits.”

Day 1 Durian

Photograph courtesy of The Star Online

Durians are a seasonal fruit, and prices have soared in recent years as more and more of the local crop is exported to places like China.  But this year, a combination of unusually hot weather and heavy rainfall resulted in a long durian season.  This has produced an oversupply that has pushed down prices.

Danial could not resist the temptation.  We stopped in Simpang Pulai for a mini durian feast.  While the others were delving into durians, I noticed, set back from the road, the ruins of this mansion.

Day 1 Ruin Closeup

In its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s, Ipoh was the epicentre of a tin mining boom.  Newly minted millionaires built mansions like this one.  Following the depletion of its tin deposits and the collapse of tin prices in the 1970s, Ipoh suffered decades of decline and neglect.  Epitomised by these remains of what was once a stately home.

Our last stop was at the Ampang Cycle House, where I bought inner tubes and CO2 cartridges to replace what I had borrowed.

4km / 2.5mi away from the bike shop is this terraced house which was our home for the night.  Choo Chian booked it online for us.  Very comfortable and well-equipped it was too.

Day 1 Home Stay

So why Vegas and Hollywood?  They are the names of famous eating places in Canning Garden.  Both are coffee shops housing a collection of food stalls, so there is a variety of dishes on offer.

It was 6.30pm when we arrived at Canning Garden.  After storing our bikes in the house, we walked, in our cycling kits, to dinner at Vegas.  Vegas is open at night but not in the morning.  Hollywood, 100 metres away in the next block of shophouses, is closed at night and open in the morning. We would be at Hollywood for breakfast.

There are no dinner food photographs to show, but I assure you the food was good.

Day 1 Dinner Danial Marzuki

Photograph courtesy of Danial Marzuki

After dinner, we washed ourselves and our cycling kits, and lounged in the sitting room for a while.  Some of the guys went back out at about 10.00pm for a teh tarik.  It was lights out time for Halim and I.