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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.

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.