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R@SKLs Do Penang – Prelude

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R@SKLs Penang Banner Oat Anantachote

Photograph courtesy of Oat Anantachote

Penang is noted for its food, its beaches, its street art, and its bicycle lanes.  The Tien Hotel Residence will soon join that list.

Fellow R@SKL TH Lim has been converting what was the Sky budget hotel into a swankier boutique hotel.  Here he is in the upstairs lounge / bar area.

R@SKLs Penang Prelude TH in Hotel TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The Tien Hotel Residence will open its doors to the public soon.  TH invited the R@SKLs for a “shakedown” stay at the Tien.  He wanted feedback from us so that any kinks could be ironed out before the official opening.

Eight of us jumped at the chance to be the first guests at a very nice boutique hotel located in the historic center of George Town.  We did everything in the style befitting our accommodation.

Starting with transporting our bicycles.  We hired an eighteen-seater van and driver to get our bikes to Penang and back.  Nine bicycles (including TH’s bike) and our bags went into the van, with room to spare.

R@SKLs Penang Van Loaded Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

The eight of us met at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport on Friday evening for the short flight to Penang.  Some beers were needed to calm the nerves after some of us had endured stressful journeys to the airport through particularly bad KL traffic.

R@SKLs Penang Prelude Subang Airport Hsing C Pai

Photograph courtesy of Tsing C Pai

Malindo Air got us to Penang on time.

R@SKLs Penang Prelude Malindo CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

We each got a guided tour of our rooms upon arrival.  The rooms have everything you would expect from a boutique hotel, plus a few extras.  Along with the standard power sockets, the rooms also have USB sockets.  So mobile, Garmin, headphones etc. charging cables can be plugged into the sockets without the need for separate chargers.  There is also a wall-mounted HDMI port so you can stream A/V from a portable device to the curved screen television.  Lastly, the shower head has a built-in Bluetooth speaker.  What is really neat about the Bluetooth speaker is that it is powered by the flow of water through the shower head.  Eco-cool!

I did say Penang was noted for its food.  Given the Tien hotel’s location in the foodie area of George Town, we didn’t have far to walk for excellent street food.  Char kway teow, popiah, wanton mee, oyster omelette, apom manis and lok lok.  We had it all.

Simon and Pai were spoiled for choice at the lok lok stall.

R@SKLs Penang Prelude Lok Lok CK Lim

Photograph courtesy of CK Lim

After dinner our minds turned to our bicycles.  The van was supposed to arrive between 9 and 10pm.  We had been told that the van would be delayed.  This is why.

R@SKLs Penang Prelude Van Arrives

Better late than never!

 

R@SKLs do Bentong

Bentong Sign gobentong com

Photograph courtesy of gobentong.com

Before 1977, all traffic across the Titiwangsa range used the winding, narrow Federal Route 68, which runs from Gombak in Kuala Lumpur to Bentong, Pahang.  Everyone going to Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Bharu, and other points east of Kuala Lumpur drove through Bentong.

The Kuala Lumpur – Karak Highway, opened in 1977 and upgraded to a full expressway in 1997, bypasses Bentong.  Today, the majority of traffic uses the Kuala Lumpur – Karak Expressway, leaving Federal Route 68 to learner drivers and cyclists.

Regular readers will know that the climb up to Genting Sempah is popular with cyclists from the Klang Valley.  A more ambitious ride continues to Janda Baik.  Even more ambitious is a ride to Bentong.

The R@SKLs are nothing if not ambitious.  About twenty of us turned up at the Hospital Orang Asli Gombak car park for a 7am start toward Bentong.

Bentong 2

Photograph courtesy of Daniel Lim

The first 16km / 10mi is uphill to Genting Sempah.

Bentong 7 Kiat Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Khoo Yit Kiat

This was early on in the ride.  Clockwise from top left, Luanne, Tomoe and Daniel, Arthur, and Kelin.

 

We regrouped under the flyover at Genting Sempah.  Behind us is our support vehicle.  Leonard very kindly provided his pickup and driver.  Plus coolers of ice and drinks.  Top man Leonard!

Bentong 6 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

From the flyover we let gravity take over for the 20km / 12.5mi run downhill to the Suria Hot Spring Resort.  We regrouped there before riding the flatter 17km /  10.5mi to Bentong town.

Bentong 12 Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Some of us had the dubious pleasure of being dragged along from the hot spring at up to 44kph / 27mph by Daniel, as he waved his hand in the air, urging us forward.  I for one was glad to see the outskirts of Bentong.

Once in Bentong the only thought on everyone’s mind was food.  We rode into the streets where the Sunday morning market is held, and stopped at Po Lai Kam kopitiam.  We queued to fill our bowls . . .

Bentong 10 Kiat Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Khoo Yit Kiat

. . . and then filled our stomachs.

Bentong 11 Kiat Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Khoo Yit Kiat

There had been some talk of riding on to the Chamang waterfall.  The consensus on the day was that it was too hot for extra kilometers.

So we rolled back toward the hot spring.  At a much more sedate pace.  Well, some of us rode at a more sedate pace.  About half the group had shot off ahead.  We all stopped at the hot spring for a rest in the shade, and something cold to drink.

If it hadn’t been a hot spring I might have jumped in.

Bentong 8 Kiat Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Khoo Yit Kiat

We had all enjoyed the 20km / 12.5mi downhill roll to the hot spring on the way to Bentong.  Now it was time to pay the piper.

After 10km / 6mi and 270 meters / 885 feet of elevation we were ready for another rest.  This time outside the Bukit Tinggi secondary school.

Bentong 4 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We weren’t yet halfway through the grind back up to Genting Sempah.  There was another 8.5km / 5.3mi and 405 meters / 1,330 feet to climb before we got to the Genting Sempah R&R.

We all got to the Genting Sempah R&R – eventually.  But we couldn’t celebrate yet.  There was still the not insignificant obstacle of Hamburger Hill to surmount.  Exhilarating to descend, but a lung-burning, leg-breaking 81 meters / 266 feet, 6.4% average grade climb over 1.1km / 0.7mi, especially after the kilometers ridden and meters climbed to that point.

Lay, Mark and I delayed the inevitable by detouring to the McDonald’s at the R&R.  I for one needed a sugar boost – in a big way.  McDonald’s delivered.

I might not have been able to get up Hamburger Hill (you see the reason for the name now) without that pie and sundae flooding into my bloodstream.

The other R@SKLs didn’t need a McDonald’s boost.  They had made their way up Hamburger Hill and down to the Hospital Orang Asli car park, and had packed up and left by the time the three of us got there.

As Leonard said, it was fun.  Painful fun at times, but fun nonetheless.

You know what they say about ambition.  It grows.

The R@SKLs have decided that Fraser’s Hill is next.

Freeze in ‘Little England’

Photograph courtesy of malaysiasite.nl

CIMB Cycle @ Seri Menanti 2017

CIMB Logo

Seri Menanti is the royal capital of the state of Negri Sembilan.  It is a tiny town about 100km /  62mi southeast of Kuala Lumpur.  Among its landmarks is the old wooden palace know as Istana Lama, built without the use of a single nail.

CIMB Old Palace thestar com

Photograph courtesy of The Star Online

On Saturday March 26th, Seri Menanti was the venue for a 120km / 74.5mi ride, sponsored by CIMB, which is an international bank headquartered in Malaysia.

I signed up to ride with a group of friends who call themselves R@SKL.

CIMB R@SKL Logo

Given how far away Seri Menanti is from Kuala Lumpur, most of us opted to drive down on Friday, and spend the night at the Melang Inn Hotel in Kuala Pilah.  The hotel is about 12km / 7.5mi from Seri Menanti.

Some of the guys are avid golfers.  On Friday afternoon they played a partial round, truncated by rain, at the Staffield Country Resort, which is about halfway between Kuala Lumpur and Seri Menanti.  I met the golfers for dinner at the Regent Restaurant in Seremban.

Then we drove the rest of the way to the hotel.  Golfers and nongolfers alike met up for a drink at the Hailam Kopitiam restaurant next door to the hotel, before one by one, we headed to our beds.

Anyone planning to park at the starting point had to be there before about 6.30am.  So it was an early start for everyone except me.  I rode to the start.  My deadline was the flag off time of 7.30, so I had an extra hour of sleep.

Pink was the jersey colour of choice for the R@SKLs.  I don’t own a pink jersey.  The best I could do was a pink base layer.

We got off the stat line bang on time.  Well done organisers.

CIMB 2

The route was a counter-clockwise loop.  From Seri Menanti we rode back past the Melang Inn Hotel in Kuala Pilah before heading roughly north to Kampung Serting Hulu and Kampung Chawas at the northernmost point in the loop.  To that point the terrain was almost pan flat, so the riding was comfortable.

CIMB Route 2

Map courtesy of CIMB Cycle

You will notice from these photographs that the R@SKLs were wearing white arm screens  Those were provided by LGB Group, a Malaysian multinational with subsidiaries in a number of industries.

CIMB 9

Photograph courtesy of Cyclery

LGB Group were one of the corporate partners for this event.  In addition to the arm screens, they provided a support vehicle for us.  Always a comforting thing to have on a long ride.

CIMB 8

Photograph courtesy of Cyclery

We hit a few small climbs as we meandered westward to Kuala Klawang.  The real climbing action started about 10km / 6mi southwest of Kuala Klawang.  The infamous Bukit Tangga.  4km / 2.5mi with 280m / 919ft of elevation.

Fortunately it was overcast as we dragged ourselves up Bukit Tangga.  By the time we got to the top it was raining.  Which kept us cool as heart rates became elevated.

Luckily the rain was very localised, and the road was completely dry after the initial third of the descent.  We caught our breath after the descent at a Petron station in Taman Panchor Jaya.  Then it was 4km / 2.5mi along a series of busy intersections to the foot of the next climb, up Jalan Kuala Pilah.  This ascent was 6.5km / 4mi and 315m / 1,033ft of elevation.  Not helped at all by a relatively strong headwind.

When we crested that second climb it was past midday.  And hot.  So everyone appreciated the 3km / 1.8mi blast down the other side of the hill.  The next 10km / 6.2mi was slightly downhill, but the headwind prevailed, making it harder work than it should have been.

The ride organisers put a sting in the tail of this ride, as you can see below.  The climbs, from the left, are Bukit Tangga, Jalan Kuala Pilah and Seri Menanti.

CIMB Profile

Graphic courtesy of veloviewer

That last 1km / 0.6mi kick, with a red section at 15%, came with just 5km / 3mi of the ride left.  More than a few riders had to push their bikes up that vicious 90m / 295ft climb.

As is always the case, there was lots of moaning during the climbs, but everyone was in good spirits after the ride.  We older, i.e. slower riders made it safely to the end.  Sadly one younger i.e. faster R@SKL got caught up in a crash, which fortunately damaged his bike more than it damaged him.  But the crash meant the end of his ride.

It had seemed like a good idea to ride to the start in the cool of the early morning.  It didn’t feel like such a good idea when the sun was at its peak at 2pm.  I got a lift back to the hotel.  Definitely preferable to getting broiled while riding.  We all had lunch at the Hailam Kopitiam, amidst much laughter as we shared stories about the ride.  The R@SKLs are a fun group to ride with.

If CIMB organises another ride next year, I’ll be up for collecting one more of these.

CIMB Medal