Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Perak : Taiping Heritage Fun Ride

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Perak : Taiping Heritage Fun Ride
Taiping & Kuala Sepetang, Perak : 30th March 2014
Distance covered : 40 km.
Time : 7:50 am - 10:50 am
Time Taken : 3:00 hrs. (inclg. stops at checkpoint, refreshments & photos)

Route Recommendations :
1. The Taiping Lake Gardens is the oldest & one of the most beautiful parks in Malaysia with centuries old Rain Trees having their sweeping branches arching across the roads.
2. If time permits spend more time at Kuala Sepetang - a town unfettered by the passage of time.
3. Pop in for a short visit at the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, it is one of the largest of it's kind.
4. The Khay Hor Charcoal Factory at Kuala Sepetang is a must! See how charcoal is manufactured from mangrove wood the old traditional way that have been passed down from centuries ago.
5. Try out the prawn noodles at Mee Udang Mak Jah, these are good and relatively cheap.


PRELUDE

Cooling it on a Rain Tree at the Kinta Riverside.
I have not rode that many times in the Silver State of Perak. But of late it seems to be drawing me to enjoy it's quiet charms. On the way up to Penang for the 2nd Bridge Ride, Sin (of the hApPy HaPpY blogs) & me stopped by Ipoh for good riding stint with Kookkeong who was back there as it was his hometown.

Now I am going up again to take part in the Taiping "Heritage Town" Fun Ride. The name is quite long, so I will just call it the Taiping Heritage Ride.
This was the ride that had to be postponed as a last minute confirmation of the 2nd Penang Bridge Ride date meant that the two rides clashed. The Taiping ride organisers graciously changed their dates. So here we are, two weeks later, ready to enjoy what Taiping has to offer us - and WE DID REALLY ENJOY THE PLACE!

Personally, I had two pleasant encounters.
The first was James from Sydney. He had contacted me through my blogs and was in Malaysia. A nice and easy going person, he joined us for a couple of rides including this one.

The second one was meeting up with Khee & his family. He follows my blogs closely.
I am most thankful to people like him and James; they are an inspiration for me to continue writing as best as possible.



THE RIDE

Taiping Heritage Fun Ride Route Map (click for Map Link)
It was a fairly long fun ride that took us forty kilometres from the Taiping Zoo to Kuala Sepetang (formerly known as Port Weld). The route was interesting in it's diversity of the large Rain Trees of the Taiping Lake Gardens to the mangrove trees of the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve; from the warm town of Taiping to the fishing village of Kuala Sepetang and then through the narrow roads around the Aulong new village.

Kicking off from the zoo, we rode through the beautiful Lake Gardens. I just cannot get enough of the beauty of this park. It is the oldest public park in Malaysia, that has huge old Rain Trees with overhanging branches arching over the roads. I will have to come again another day and just cycle at this park and to explore it's interesting corners.

Out of the Lake Gardens and into main street Taiping, i.e. Jalan Kota. Except for a few new high-rise buildings, the old town centre seems unchanged. Life here is at a slower pace here; less hectic, no rush.

The Siang-Malam ("Day-Night") food court, as it's name implies it's a place where one can get to eat 24/7!
Further behind this is the Old Market which has it's own story to tell. Taiping is the wettest town in Malaysian; it rains so often that some locals bet on the time that the rain starts! This is where the Old Market comes in - from one particular corner valley of it's roof, rain water drips down onto a paper laid onto a table. The moment the water spot reaches six inches in diameter, that's the time the rain has officially started; no arguments there.

The first climb, just at the fringe of the old town. The town centre may seem unchanged but the outskirts of Taiping have definitely grown. The last time I was here was like ten years ago; now I can hardly recognise the place.

At Simpang, a small town that used to be an important cross-road of the old trunk road, i.e. Federal Route 1. Here, long distance buses used to stop for passengers to stretch their legs and eat. Of course, back then this junction was a much narrower one.

8:30 am - At the first check-point at the Kota Ngah Ibrahim, now converted into the Matang Museum. My friends posing here for a group photo. Some of them are from Penang and a few from Kuala Lumpur, all coming here for a rare public ride event in Taiping.

The thing about fun rides are that most of us are here for the... er... fun! Like this family on a tandem bicycle. The unseen mother was keeping a watchful eye on another bicycle at the back.

A cute bunny cyclist.

Friends taking a selfie. There was no hurry to quickly complete the ride; it was just fun!

Unicyclist Dirk & his friends.

9:00 am - We are into Kuala Sepetang, cycling along the streets of this quaint old town that time seems to have passed by.

A little further on, the 2nd checkpoint at the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve. Mangrove trees are used to make charcoal, one of the supporting industries in this area. It takes almost thirty years for the mangrove trees to reach a suitable size for making charcoal.

En route back to Taiping, for some the distance was taking its toll, a helping hand was indeed helpful.

This father and his young son seems to be taking it well in their strides.

The route took us over the North-South Higway...

... onto plantation roads besides the highway ...

... and even under the highway!

A fair part of the route took us onto the narrow roads of oil palm plantations.....

..... where at one point the ride marshals had to stop a herd of cows to let us pass through.
Hah! This is a first. Cows stopping for cyclists!
This brought back memories of my cycling along the Oudong Trail in Cambodia where we just bulldozed our way through a herd of on-rushing cows.

With a short stint at Aulong New Village, we were back at roads lined by giant Rain Trees again. Yes! We must be at the vicinity of Taiping Old Town.
This is Jalan Muzium Hulu, where the three renown old schools (St. George's Institution, King Edward VII and the Taiping Convent) of Taiping are located.

The third and final check-point, the Taiping Town Council Building.

With a short detour to the foot hills of Bukit Larut and we are almost at the Finish line.
Bukit Larut (formerly known as Maxwell Hill) is know by the local Cantonese as "Kopi San" meaning Coffee Mountain. I wonder, were coffee ever grown there?

And we are at the FINISH Line.
Well done everyone!


POST RIDE

After the finish, at the stage area of the Taiping Zoo entrance, there was a lucky draw.
In between, we were treated to a performance of Classical Chinese music by three cute young ladies; one of them playing the Pipa, another the Ruan (Chinese lute) and a third the Erhu (Chinese violin).

And three zesty girls gave a lively Classical Indian Dance performance.

Later we drove back to Kuala Sepetang where we had this delicious prawn noodles at Mee Udang Mak Jah.

And popped in for a visit of the Khay Hor Charcoal Factory. This is an interesting place that shows how charcoal are made from the surrounding mangrove trees in an ancient traditional way. Do go there for a visit, it's surprisingly educational.


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