Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Selangor :Sekinchan to Sungai Besar - The Big River Ride

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Selangor : Sekinchan to Sungai Besar - The Big River Ride
The group at Sungai Besar (photo by Wong KT)
Sekinchan to Sungai Besar : 11th January 2014
Cycling Distance Covered : 73.90 km.
Time : 8:10 am - 5:00 pm
Time Taken : approx. 8 hrs. 50 mins (including stops for breakfast, lunch, photo-shoots, rest, etc.)

Route Recommendations :
1. The seaside route out from Sekinchan is off-road. Do use a suitable bicycle, i.e. not one of those with slim tires. 
2. Along the coast, there will be some river mouths with colourful trawler boats, these can be quite scenic.
3. The food at Xin Hai San Restaurant in Sungai Besar is very good and cheap too! Don't miss it.
4. The padi fields are beautiful prior to harvesting when it is all nicely green. Try to be there around then. See this link that gives the timing when the padi is green, golden brown, etc. - Sekinchan Padi Fields.
5. In the afternoon, the weather does get rather hot. So do cover up and bring more water to re-hydrate.


Cyclist flying kite at Sekinchan beach sunset.
I had previously cycled from Sungai Buloh to Sekinchan and found the place to be a quiet, friendly and a beautiful rustic place (... see Scenic Sekinchan blog). When Rivern organized a ride from Sekinchan to Sungai Besar it tickled my itchy riding feet. After all, I had not gone on  major ride event since the start 2014. And this will be a sort of an extension to the Sg Buloh-Sekinchan ride, going further north to another rustic town.
Oh.... why call this the Big River Ride? Sungai Besar translated from Bahasa Malaysia means "big river". In Hokkein, the place is called "Tua Kang" which also means big river.

The ride route itself is an attraction. The ride out will be along tracks along the edge of the sea, and the route back will run in through the beautiful Sekinchan Padi Fields.

The meet up point was at Jalan Masjid, opposite the Sekinchan Bomba Station. Here there are ample road-side parking. Wong KT, a cyclists familiar with the area will help Rivern lead the ride. Wong is a keen blogger too, his blog The Great Outdoors will really get those interested in cycling, hiking and camping hooked. The two teachers, Chin & Lilliana, were also co-organizers and will be marshals.

Group photo at Sekinchan beach.
Although more than an hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, the turn out was very good. Altogether nineteen of us turned up, looks like many were also eager to experience the sea-side and padi fields ride. From the fire-station we rode over to Sekinchan beach (Redang Beach) for a memorable photo - that's me squatting and trying unsuccessfully to emulate a heart shape with my arms.

Okay.... time to ride! We looked like cowboys heading into the sunset.... or rather the sunrise.

With Wong's assistance, Rivern led the pack heading down a fairly wide laterite track sitting on a bund next to the sea. This is what we call the Sekinchan Bund, although not as romantic as Shanghai's Bund, it a good place to cycle at with the natural green on one side and the seaside blue on the other. Fortunately a previous evening rain had wetted the track so it was not dusty.
The rain had spared us the dustiness but did not spare us the few muddy puddle along the way.

Further along, we turned into the oil palm estates. Here the track became so narrow that we had to ride single file. The wet muddiness of this track made it quite slippery to ride on, but we all (especially the newbies) took this and the muddy puddles in stride. Thank God, no one slipped and fell.

After almost sixteen kilometres into the ride, the growling stomachs of many who had missed breakfast insisted that we stopped for eats - this led us to "discover" a nice eats place called Mee Udang King Original at Sungai Nibong!

Trying to conserve my tummy for the promised good lunch at Sungai Besar, I ordered the normal fried noodles. It came with normal sized prawns fried to a sticky consistency with prawn gravy. It was good, but a bit on the sweet side. At five ringgit it was a very cheap compared to city pricing.

A bit of regret here though, especially when I saw the "Special Mee Udang Rebus" that Chris had. It came with huge white-shelled prawns! I could not help it but nipped a sampling from his plate. The gravy had a good prawny flavour but was also a bit too sweet - have to get them to hold back on the sugar.
Overall, it was a good meal; almost comparable to the Mee Udang Mak Jah that I had sometime back while bike strolling in Kuala Sepetang.

11:00 am - We are cycling on proper roads now; proper but unshaded roads. Only once in a while was there a shady tree, but fortunately the overcast sky gave us some relief.

Our next destination, the D Muara Resort at the river mouth of Sungai Haji Dorani. Here we took in the scenic site of the fishing boats at the river mouth...

... sea birds swooping down to grab fish from the water and a Kingfisher patiently waiting for a prey... 

... and a couple of colourfully clad ladies digging for clams.

Riding more inland now, we are passing through the rural kampong area. Today must be a good day to get married as we passed by a couple of village houses holding wedding ceremonies. Was a bit tempted here to gate-crash and try out the rustic cooking... heh heh!

11:57 am - Yahooooooo! We reached our target destination, Sungai Besar just short of noon!

The first order of things - grab a memorable milestone group photo (that's the one right at the top of this blog). Every one looks so happy posing for this photo, is it because of what is to come next?

The second order of things - EATS!
Lunch was simple and good food at the Xin Hai San Restaurant in Sungai Besar run by a few sisters. We started off with Bak Kut Teh, it was good but nothing spectacular. Hey! Shouldn't we be having seafood as we are at the coastal area?

Yup! The seafood came rolling out...
Like this deep fried fish in dark soy sauce gravy. It was very nicely done with the fins and head very crispy and yet the main part just nicely done so that the freshness of the fish was not gone to waste.

Next came my favourite, deep fried sole in ... er ... some sort of sauce.
The sole were adequately deep fried and than the sauce poured over it with slices of spring onions and red chillies as embellishment. Till now, I am still trying to figure out what they put into the sauce to make it uniquely nice to go well with the fish - do I see some ground-nuts there?

Now this dish does not look that appetizing! Initially I could not figure out what it was until I dug in... is it bamboo shoots? No it's eggplant! The skin had been pared off and the eggplant flesh cut into slices. These slices were then stir fried with some beaten eggs, a few prawns and slices of chilli were also thrown in. Overall, a nice mix that turned out very delicious - simple but tasty. A lesson learnt here, do not judge a book by its cover.
I like eating in these small towns, the food is of local flavour good and the pricing superbly reasonable. All the above plus a last dish of stir fried mixed veggies for only RM14 per head (... see more at Xin Hai San Restaurant blog).

Pumped up with good food, we left Sungai Besar town an headed inland. Kookkeong, who is familiar with this route will now lead the way. Not to far out from town, we crossed a rickety wooden bridge and are now in 

Oops! Alex's Brompton had a puncture; while he was busy repairing the rear tire puncture...

... some took to resting on a swing of the kampong house where we stopped...

... others took to enjoying the sight of the padi fields. That's me jumping for joy in the padi fields. It's near harvesting time and the padi is now greenish-yellow instead of bright green. For timing on seeing the padi fields in different colour check this link "Best Time To Visit Sekinchan Padi Fields".

We continued our journey with cycling a short stretch along the gravel road running parallel to the paddies, slowly taking in the calm serenity of the place.

Nearby, a combined harvester was doing it's job - munching up the padi stalks and stripping them to get at the rice grains.

3:00 pm - Even with the overcast sky, it did get rather hot. We were drinking more water and stopped several time to rest. Fortunately there were nice shady spots like the one above, where Sin took a breather and time to ponder too.

As we continued, Jacklyn was slowing down. The heat had gottem to her. But I must say that she is one adventurous lady taking on a first long trip using only a 16" wheeler. A few of us took turns to sweep her and accompany her, chatting with her to take her mind off her tiredness. I can remember Rivern and Kookkeong doing the same for me while I was struggling to climb the slopes up to Genting Sempah during one of my earlier rides (... see blog).

With sheer determination, she made the last ten kilometres back to our start point.
Good show Jackie!

This was one awesome ride. One of riding a bund skirting the sea, to nice coves with fishing boats, to a rustic small town for good food, and returning back riding through the expansive padi fields.
Many thanks to Rivern, KT Wong, Cikgu Chin, Cikgu Liliana and Kookkeong!

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