Monday, December 30, 2013

Selangor : Rawang to Batu Arang Ride

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Selangor : Rawang To Batu Arang
Rawang to Batu Arang : 21st December 2013
Cycling Distance Covered : 51.97 km.
Time : 8:10am - 3:10pm
Time Taken : approx. 7hrs. (including stops for breakfast, photo-shoots, rest, durian feast, etc.)

Route Recommendations :
1. Tasik Biru is rather scenic, if only visitors to the place don't simply throw rubbish around.
2. The Malay rice stall next to Tasik Biru serves very rural delicious dishes and at reasonable pricing too.
3. For King-of-the-Fruits lovers, Batu Arang has some pretty good durians.
4. Batu Arang has retained it's quaint old charm. A place that is a throw back into the history books.
5. Don't miss out the Tilapia Wantan Mee at Rawang.

Group Photo At Seri Garing Secondary School together with school headmistress, Puan Ho.
This was a ride organized by Rivern, a leader in one of the FaceBook cycling groups called My Cyclist Friends. I had rode with Rivern many times and always looked up to him as he is in a way a mentor during my newbie days. In fact, one of my earlier rides with him was also to Batu Arang (... see Sg. Buloh to Batu Arang Ride blog).
Rivern had left the planning of the route to the two Rawang area masters, SC Chin & Liliana who are very familiar with this town and it's neighbourhood. And they are literally "masters" being teachers in a secondary school (we affectionately call them "Cikgus" - that means teachers in Malay), the Seri Garing National Secondary School (in Malay, called the Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seri Garing). That's what I like about them, being teachers they treat the rides as they would one of their school outing - with good research on the routes, meticulous planning and care for safety.
The headmistress of the school, Puan Ho was very accommodating and happy to see us. She even allowed us to park our cars in the school compound eventhough there was a school function ongoing at the same time. That's a real bond between the school and the community. Many thanks, Puan Ho.

Unfortunately for Rivern, his mother passed away a couple of days before the ride date. Being the sporting man, he asked us to proceed. I was not able to attend the wake, but spoke to him on the phone. What he said to me, I will always remember and keep in mind. He said, "My mother passed away with peace in her heart having forgiven everyone." It is not an easy thing to do, to forgive; but I will try my best to follow that example.
Out of respect for his mother, we held a minute's silent prayer for her before starting off the ride. God bless her soul.


Rawang to Batu Arang Ride Map (click for Google Map Link)
Starting from Rawang, we will ride towards Kuang, ahead we will stop by Tasik Biru for some scenic views. Our ride continues on to Batu Arang via Kundang.

8:10am - After a quick briefing by Chin, we waved our goodbyes to Puan Ho. The twenty-one of us headed off along Jalan Batu Arang and quite immediately made a left turn into Jalan Ciku.  A short stretch of this roads is full of pot-holes; there are a couple of cement/concrete plant nearby with cement/concrete trucks serving them. These roads were not built to withstand such heavy vehicles. But Chin had already warned us of this during his briefing, and we rode with appropriate care.

Oops! Just twenty minutes into the ride we hit a small snag. Phoebe (who had contacted me through the AhPek Biker FB Page) had some problem with her bike. Somehow the chain had come loose and was snagged between the front chain-ring and the main frame. A few of us stopped to help her. Fortunately, with some pushing and pulling here and there, we were able to get this fixed. It's hitches like these that makes us recall our riding adventures - how we have worked together and gotten to know each other better.

Hah! The teachers had no mercy! We are kicking off with some tough cycling. This stretch of Jalan Ciku had a series of dragon-backs that stretched on for nine kilometres. It's a good thing that the newbies were strong and took on these slopes well. At some of the steeper slopes, a couple of them came down to push. No shame in that, it's all part of cycling and most of us had at some time or other done some good pushing too.

9:10am - Just after those dragon-backs, near Kuang, we stopped for a short breather and also to regroups. Somewhere along that stretch, Sam's bike had a puncture. Being the experienced biker, he told the rest of us to proceed on. But then a couple of friends still stayed back to help.
At the re-group point, Harry took this time to poach some fruit groves across the road. He came back smiling, with handfuls of duku-langsats!

At the Jalan Ciku-Jalan Setia junction, our teacher Chin turned traffic-warden making sure that all of us headed in the right direction, i.e. towards Kundang He is really a fantastic ride leader, making sure that his flock of riders (that's us!) are ably guided.

In another twenty minutes we reached Tasik Biru, our first major destination. Even under the cloudy, slightly dark skies, the lake scene was very panoramic. It's soothing serenity making taking those earlier dragon-backs worthwhile.

Jason seems very happy here, posing in front of the calm lake waters that reflected the condominium building perfectly.
It's unfortunate that many visitors has dirtied the place by wantonly throwing rubbish. Perhaps, we shall organize a short ride in the future to help clean up this place.

At another side of the lake we stopped for breakfast. This simple, rustic place just next to the lake was a lovely place to eat and chat.

Here they serve buffet style Malay dishes with wonderful curries and the likes. The food was delicious, with some of the dishes being found only in rural kampong-style cooking. Somehow, local dishes seems to taste better in their local setting. For those keen on eating here, it's along Jalan Setia, just slightly opposite Lorong A1. How appropriate! A-One food just opposite A1 road!

The roads now are flatter but less shady. At one of our rest spots, I grabbed this photo of Hong Chong with a beautiful mosque nearby. He's Pheobe's friend, and another newbie who had taken on this ride very well.

 At another junction, Chin the teacher was back to his traffic warden duties again *smiles*.

11:35 am - Yahoooooo! We have reached Batu Arang town. At the notable round-a-bout, just at the town's entry, we took a memorable group photo (see top-most photo).
It has taken us almost 2-1/2 hours to cover the distance of twenty-five kilometres. That's just about at an average of ten kilometres per hour, not a superb average. But that's how it's like with fairly large group rides, many a times we have to regroup and wait for the slower riders. And along the way snags like punctures, loose chains, etc. will come in. Most importantly is that all of us have arrived safely, and has cycled as a team with good camaraderie!

Photo time is over...
Look at all the eager faces of my friends, watching in anxiousness as the vendor opened the durians. "Hey Pakcik, faster lah!"
Although I don't eat durians, the excitement of my friends was infectious and I got caught up in this brohuahua.

Mmmmm...MmMmm... slurp slurp...

"This IS good, BIG and GOOD!"

... it's so, sooo good that I can kiss it.

While my friends were busy with their durian feast, I sauntered around to try out some macro-photography with my camera (an Olympus Tough TG-2). I was lucky to capture this image of a blue-bottle fly nesting on a flower stalk.

Durian Time is over, time to ride on.
But then suddenly....
"PuNcTuRe!" I hear Ian shouting behind me.  Luckily, this happened next to the town market and friends quickly chipped in to help under the shed of the market.

Batu Arang was once a coal-mine area, some of the coal were used to support an off-shoot industry, brick manufacturing. In fact when one mention Batu Arang bricks, it immediately brings to mind the fine, red facing bricks that were manufactured here.
A bonus to the residents for having a brick kiln nearby, many of the houses here are built from those fine bricks.

Alas! The brick kilns have all been closed down. What is left of this area are dilapidated houses, hardly intact with only some walls standing. Strangler vines have grown onto these walls, making it look like an archaeological site almost like the ones seen in the movie Tomb Raider.

But these creeping walls makes a good backdrop for photos. Yup, that's my bike trying hard to climb up those creepers!

Batu Arang is getting too quiet and the state government is trying to bring life back to this throw-back place. It is promoting the town as a historical place with it's old coal mines, abandoned brick kilns, traditional old houses, etc. In fact, the icon for the town is now one of those brick kiln chimneys (like the one where we took our group photo above).

Having been suitably impressed by the town, we rode off. At another junction of Batu Arang Road, we stopped for a breather.

Hey! What's that head doing there?
It's Johnny, trying out a different pose for a photo. He's standing in a man-hole next to the road. A MAN IN A MANHOLE pose. Haha!
That's Pak Wee pointing at Johnny's head and next to him his son Alex Wee. It's been a while since their last ride with us. Welcome back guys.

Ahead we rode through a short stretch of dragon-back slopes. This stretch was quite shady but after that the relatively flat roads were not. Fortunately, most of us had covered up or had applied some Sun-block cream.

A stop at Aeon-Jusco Rawang for refreshments turned out to be a "nasty affair". Bandarita Ann was up to her tricks, "robbing" this young fellow of his bicycle!

A last regroup before we take on another series of climbs just before Bandar Country Homes. The Cikgus were really taxing us, this then is the fun in cycling - pushing ourselves to our limits every once in a while.

3:10pm - Our ride ends; but the teachers were not finished with us yet. In a convoy of cars, they led us to Rawang town to have this renown Tilapia Wantan mee. We had previously ate here before in another ride organized by the Cikgus - the Serendah Waterfalls ride.

I had this deep-fried Tilapia Wantan Mee. The fish was so crispy that I ate it down to the bones! (... see more at Tilapia Wantan Mee blog).

It was a very good, taxing yet memorable ride. We will look forward to future rides by the Cikgus.

Thank you Cikgu Chin.

Thank you, Cikgu Liliana.

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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Malaysia / Selangor / Rawang-Batu Arang
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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cambodia : North Phnom Penh Recce

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                                            AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                         
Cambodia : North Phnom Penh Recce
At Wat Phnom park.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia : 7th December 2013
Cycling Distance Covered : approx. 35km.
Time : 10:35 am - 3:15 pm
Time Taken : 4 hrs. 50 mins. (including ferry ride, stops for rests, photo shoots, and visiting temples)

Route Recommendations :
1. For those who come from right-hand drive countries, bear in mind that in Cambodia vehicles are left-hand drive. So do take the extra care to ride on the correct side. When crossing roads, do bear this in mind, as vehicles will be coming in from the "wrong" direction.
2. Do take care when cycling along the muddy paths, don't speed as they can be rather slippery when wet.
3. What is seen as roads on maps at the outlying areas of Phnom Penh are in fact laterite tracks only.
5. Points of interests :
- The "Prawn" Temple.
- Ferry Ride.
- The Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge.
Wat Phnom (cycling within the temple park is difficult as the paths are paved with rough cobblestones.

I have been doing a fair bit of cycling in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I have followed friends cycling to islands in the Mekong River (... see blog), and on a longer trek to the Oudong Temple (... see blog). Previously, I have also done some cycling by myself but these were short rides to familiar places (... see Pedaling Phnom Penh : Diamond Island blog). Feeling more confident about riding here, I am going to try a solo ride to, this time to carry out a recce of the northern Phnom Penh area; to the north-west where there are some lakes. But things never turned out as planned, and I got diverted .....

Cambodia : North Phnom Penh Cycling Recce Map (click for Map Link)
The ride route : - Monivong Blvd>Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge>Ferry Ride>Prawn Temple>Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge>Wat Phnom>Riverside>Monivong Blvd
From Monivong Boulevard, I tried to head to the north-west lake district but got diverted. Instead I went to the north-east and scouted around that area.

Starting from Diamond Hotel, I pedalled northwards along Monivong Boulevard. Traffic was fairly heavy, with cars, tuk-tuks and motorcycles squeezing here and there trying to weave through the slow traffic especially at the traffic lights. A difficulty I face is that many motor-cyclists tend to go against the traffic, and I had to watch out for them to ride safe.
On the way, I stopped by Cafe Malaya to have a quick chat with a friend before continuing further. This place is where I come to eat whenever I miss Malaysian food while in Phnom Penh.

Heading further north, I hit the big round-a-bout near the old stadium. The traffic was getting heavier and seems rather chaotic, but the locals seems used to it; stopping, horning and squeezing their way through irrespective of whatever they were driving or riding.
I don't like to ride in such heavy moving traffic conditions, nevertheless I proceeded on and took a left towards Road 70.

At the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge.
Gosh! Traffic at Road 70 was also as heavy! Seeing that in that direction onwards the traffic situation would not be safe to cycle, I decided to turn around and divert the recce - heading east instead. I decided to cross over via the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge over to the other side of the mainland, hoping that over there light traffic would make cycling more pleasurable.

From the bridge, a downstream view of the Tonle Sap River, at the far end it merges with the Mekong River.

Crossing the bridge led to the Chroy Changva peninsular, except for a couple of main roads, the traffic here was much, much lighter.... and I look forward to some pleasant riding.
Over here, I was pleasantly surprised to find a building with some elements of Japanese architecture and this reminded me of my recent cycling trip in Japan (... see blog). This building is the Norton University, seems like there is more Japanese influence in Cambodia than just the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge.

At this peninsular I did a bit of exploration and at the other side saw these water intake stations. These are pumping station, taking in water from the Mekong and send it to a purification plant on the other side of the road. This must be one of the sources of drinking water for the city.

From here I espied a vehicular ferry crossing the river. Hey! There must be a ferry terminal nearby, and off I went towards that direction.

There was a long queue to board the very. Fortunately, I was riding a bicycle and managed to make my way to the front to board the next ferry. In the ferry itself, it was such a tight squeeze that  one can hardly walk in between the vehicles! The fare for the ferry ride was 300 riels for bicycles.

On the other side of the river, the disembarkation point was the Sway Chum Ferry Port, with a laterite slope road leading away.
Saw this lady, still in her pajamas cycling with two dogs, disembarking the ferry too. Wow! she really took her dogs on a good ride.

Moving on, I crossed a short bridge spanning over a small lake, I wonder which island in the Mekong am I on. Without a GPS unit, I was not able to tell. Ahead the laterite road continued on; I was a bit concerned about riding my Brompton on these laterite roads but decided to press on to see what lies ahead.

Thank goodness! Ahead was a proper road. Right at this junction was a couple of elephant statues and opposite it a small temple. There were no signboard stating that the ferry port was here, and without a GPS unit, I had to use these visual points of landmarks on my return trip.

Travelling on this road, I passed by rural houses. But I have seen all these before in my earlier cycling treks in Phnom Penh, missing were there children as it was now late morning. I did pass by a cheerful pink shed with green buntings, this was erected for a forthcoming wedding celebration. When in Cambodia, do not be mistaken that all such brightly coloured sheds are for weddings, some are for funerals. Just look out for bunting that are of blue, white or black colour.

Stopped for coconut water refresher.
I was getting bored; sure I passed by many temples - which made me believe that the Cambodians are very religious people as almost every other two kilometres I passed a temple. But I have seen many Cambodian temples before..... until...

... I saw this temple with a couple of prawn statues at it's entrance.

Interesting... a temple dedicated to prawns. It must have been erected by local fishermen whose livelihood is from prawn fishing. This reminded me of the Crab Temple I saw at Pulau Ketam during another ride (... see Pulau Ketam Ride blog). The giant prawn statues at it's entrance were well crafted and look so realistic.

So too were the ornate carving of nagas at the top of the entrance arch. And inside the temple itself, I would even be more impressed.

These are what I saw inside:
A 20 metre long Sleeping Buddha.

A peacock statue?

Man sitting on a Cambodian dragon statue.

A lady sitting on a rabbit next to an elephant, at the back is the residence of the monks.

What statue is this? It looks like a mixed of a Chinese Qiling and an elephant. Perhaps some Cambodian can enlighten me.

Olden days Cambodian warriors battling.

Elaborate painting of Buddha's life on the ceiling of main hall of the temple. The visit to this temple along was worth my cycling over here.

Further on, I took a rest at the banks of the Mekong River, wondering which island I was on?

I turned into one of the branch roads leading into more villages, but fearing of getting lost, I went back to the main road and continued on hoping to hit the northern tip of this island. But after a while, and still not reaching the northern coast, I decided to turn back. (Little did I know then that I was not an island but on the other side of the mainland, I would have continue riding on without reaching "a northern coast".

On the return ferry trip, it was packed as usual. Even the landing ramps where full of motorcycles and people.

Back on the city-side of the mainland, avoiding the busy Monivong Boulevard by using the secondary roads, I rode over to Wat Phnom. This is one of the oldest temple in Phnom Penh, built in 1373 it is almost 800 years old.
The interesting thing about this temple is that the stupa seems to have some elements of Burmese design. In the park around the temple, is a realistic statue of a cobra that is made from rattan! This cobra statue encircles partway of  a giant clock. Note: the cobble stones make it difficult to cycle in this park, and for most of my visit here I had to carry my bicycle.... pant... pant!

Tandem bicycle with third bicycle attachment.
Still avoiding main roads, I went via the riverside road and stopped by to to say a quick hello to my friends at Grasshopper Adventures before returning to my hotel.

Related Blogs :

Cambodia : Phnom Penh Museums : December 2012
A surprisingly educational visit to the National Museum of Cambodia.

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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cambodia / North Phnom Penh Recce
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