Monday, October 3, 2016

Perak : Parit Buntar Fishing Villages 2016: Day 1 - Cycling Around Taiping

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Perak : Parit Buntar Fishing Villages 2016 : Day 1 - Around Taiping
Taiping to Trong to Kuala Sepetang : Day 1 - 24th September 2016
Medium Group Bike PackingTaiping>Asam Kumbang>Trong>Kuala Sepetang / Taiping.
Distance  : 58.12 km     Level: Medium
Time : 7:30am to 4:45pm
Time Taken :  9 hours 15 mins. (including stops for breakfast, lunch, visits to the charcoal factory, eco-farm, duck farm; rest, regroup, and lots of photo ops).

This is page 1 of a 3-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
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Route Recommendations :
1. The route is relatively flat; with only moderate climbs at a couple of flyovers.
2. Except for the route to the Eco-farm and through the palm oil estate at Kampung Sungai Limau and Kampong Jaha, most of the route is unshaded, so do cover up.
3. Points of Interest:
    - Spritzer Eco Park where some of the original timber sleepers of Malaysia's first railway line between Taiping and Port Weld has been laid (Tel: +605-8072663) (GPS: 4.82061, 100.75192).
    - Trong Leisure Farm & Resort; there is a large duck farm here and one can take a boat ride out onto the duck pond to view the ducks. They also sell roasted Pipah duck, frozen ducks, duck eggs and salted duck eggs here (Tel: +6010-4640918 / +6010-4642917 / +6012-5498978) (GPS: 4.71122, 100.70815).
    - Kuala Trong, with it's small estuary of colourful fishing sampans (GPS: 4.70865, 100.68242)
    - The Kuala Sepetang Charcoal factories (Khay Hor Charcoal Factory, Tel: +6019-4166098 / +6012-4286098 / +6012-5739563) (GPS: 4.83693, 100.63709).
 4. Food:
     - Supper the day before was the interesting Simpang Fireworks Char Keow Teow (新板華順煙花炒粿條) (GPS: 4.82145, 100.70789).
     - Breakfast was the food court at the Pokok Asam Market (GPS: 4.83044, 100.73852).
     - Lunch was a very good seafood porridge at the Lighthouse Seafood Restaurant in Matang (Tel: +605-8475408 / +605-8475649 / +6012-4030783) (GPS: 4.8198, 100.67215).
     - Dinner was at the Xin Seafood Restaurant in Kuala Sepetang (Tel: +605-8581350) (GPS: 4.83425, 100.62756).
5. Accommodations:
    - The night before we stayed at the Leisure Home homestays in Taiping (Tel: +6016-5500411 / +6016-5313384) (GPS: 4.83892, 100.71933).
    - On event night we stayed at the Kuala Sepetang Inn (Tel: +6012-5169909) (GPS: 4.83573, 100.62958)
    - For both places we twin-shared rooms at approx. MYR40-00 pax.


KT Wong, the event organiser, had planned for the ride to span two days. But since the first day ride would be starting early on a Saturday, many went up on the preceding Friday. Some drove up (or down, for those coming in from Penang) while a few of us took our bikes onto the ETS train from Kuala Lumpur (including yours truly). On arrival, we were pleasantly surprised to find Wong and his wife, Lilian, waiting for us at the train station. Afraid that we would have difficulty locating our homestay, Taiping Leisure Homes, he ride-guided us there. Enroute, we stopped by at the Prima Taiping Cafe for a quick bite; there are several coffee-shops there so part of the street was closed with tables laid out for dining el-fresco. After checking in and refreshing ourselves, he was back to take us on a quick night spin of Taiping.

At a break for drinks, Wong suggested that we meet another gang of buddies. Why not, we agreed, it will be good to meet and chat up. After making a few calls to locate our buddies, off we went riding to Simpang, to a roadside stall that sells the unique Fireworks Char Koay Teow. Ah Soon, the operator has been selling this for more than half a century. Though old, he is still nimble, frying his goodies on a wok over a charcoal fire. Every once in a while, he would crank a manual fan to stoke the fire, and sprays of ember would lit up light fireworks, hence the name of his stall.

Other than the sparkling embers, what make his noodles special is that they are served on Kam Yuit leaves (Daun Simpoh Air in Malay). These are leaves from the Dillenia Indica shrubs, one that grows very well in the wet marshy lands around Taiping. These plants together with yam shrubs are more common than banana trees in this locality; so the dillenia and yam leaves are more often used than banana leaves for serving hot fried food from food stalls or fresh food (fish, meat) at the markets. They are also used for wrapping of Tempeh.
Ah Soon's kuay teow were so good that some of us went a couple of rounds.

Here we are, meeting up with our buddies. They are also from the Klang Valley and had came up for a separate concurrent ride around Taiping. We chatted and laughed together for close to an hour without realising that it was close to midnight, the witching hour; best to ride back as we have an early start the following day.



 Cycling Route Taiping>Asam Kumbang>Trong>Kuala Sepetang / Taiping.
From Taiping, the route will take us southwards to Trong and then loop back up on the return journey. En-route we would pass by duck farms, nice shady oil-palms plantations and also get a bit of history lesson.

7:00am - In the early morning we rode out, to the chirping of swallows, to the meet up point. We lingered there a while catching up with each other and taking selfies and photos. Some had come up from Singapore and others down from Penang, so we had a fair bit of catching up to do with each other. Okay, okay, I am not being vain here, just had to show off Goofy, my Brompton. This time round I had packed more and had used a C Bag instead of the small Mini O bag.

With just a short ride we were at the famous Taiping Lake Gardens. Unlike the previous time, we did not just ride a loop around the gardens; instead we cut through riding on pathways in between the lakes and trees.

During our previous tour, it was dry season and the lakes were dry. This time the lakes were full of water, showing off the beauty of the place with clear reflections on the water.
The Taiping Lake Gardens is the first public park to be put up in the then Malaya. Established in 1880, more than a century old; so one can imagine that many of the trees there are really old. And these huge giant rain trees overhang the roads to form a nice arched boulevard.

With a few turns around the residential roads we were at the Pokok Asam market. It's breakfast time, and who did we run into again? Yes, our friends from the other ride. They were having their breakfast there too before riding on to the Aun Tong Coffee Factory.

Heading to the Spritzer Eco Park; it's a short stretch but one which was the most pleasant to ride along - shady and every once a while we see road signs that indicated baboons, lizards, porcupines and the like. There must be much wild live here, pity we did not get to see any except our own wild selves.

Here we are at the Spritzer Eco Park; still happy, still smiling, still in love. This will change later on when the heat gets to us.

This park is a good place for families to come to; shady with some themes sections (like the Cactus Rock, Heart Lock Corner (for a moment I thought it was a medical unit, but it's actually a corner for lover's to lock their love with a physical lock), mini golf course, etc.
One thing that should not be missed here is the board-walk that is made from the recovered timber sleepers of Malaysia's first railway line, the line that linked Taiping to Port Weld.

We did not see any wild animals; probably because there were too many of us making too much noise. But we did have this three pretty girls acting out the role of the Three Wise Monkeys. And in the meantime some others were hunting for PokemonGo, apparently there were some rare Pokemon monsters lurking around here.

10:15am - We were along Jalan Air Kuning that led to Route M60 that leads to Bruas. The weather was starting to get hotter, and with the sun shining strongly down, we made frequent stops to re hydrate. On stop was at this road-side stall where an Encik Ahmad was preparing roast chicken for sale. In this hot weather, it must really be an effort for him to stand in front of those charcoal embers.

Our next destination, the Trong Leisure Farm & Resort. This is a place that specialises in ducks, there is a large duck pond here and at the far end can be seen lots of white ducks; one can and for a small fare one can take a short boat ride out there to see those ducks. Pity, the hot weather had got to most of us and none went out on the boat ride; instead we hung around the cafeteria to cool down and have drinks. Kimmi did have an idea of another type of duck ride - see the video above.... LOL!

Some off-road riding on sandy roads to our next destination; those buildings in front house a charcoal factory, the Ng Pek Lim Charcoal Kiln. The Matang locality is renown for it's mangrove swamps and the subsequent down line industry, the manufacturing of charcoals. Many such factories dot small towns that are strategically located near the swamps.

At Kuala Trong, a small nice estuary. Even though it was hot we still managed to show our smiles; having fun can overcome the heat. Our smiles don't look forced do they?

Ahead, some relieve from Mr. Sun as we rode through a long stretch passing through shady oil palm plantations. But somehow the front group of many riders missed a turning at Jalan Kampung Perak and rode straight ahead for another 3 km., reaching the underpass below the North-South Highway, before realising it. KT who was riding sweeper for the moment asked me to lead the balance group to a coffee shop before the bridge over the Sungai Bukit Gantang to wait while he went looking for the lost sheep.

To top it all, one of our buddies suffered a double puncture, so we did have a long wait. In the tradition of Korean dramas, I show here a beautiful bloom I captured while waiting. This should ease of the tension of waiting.
KT came back with the news of the puncture. Worried that it would be getting late for lunch, he asked me to lead the rest to the our lunch place while he waited at coffee shop. In the meantime Grace & Clement, with their faster road bikes, rode out to send another spare tube to our poor friend with the double puncture. It was one real drama.... okay better have a look at the flower again to calm down; by the way it's a peacock flower, beautiful isn't it?

2:00pm - We reached the Light House Seafood Restaurant, and made our orders (KT had advised us what to order). We had this seafood porridge that came in a huge clay pot almost two feet across; the owner must have know we were very hungry after all that cycling and drama. With slices of silver pomfret and a generous amount of prawns and fish-balls, this was one of the best porridge that we ever had.... okay, it really is and it's not our hungry stomach talking.

We also had stir-fried potato leaves with sambal belacan and deep-fried Ikan Belanak (Grey Mullets). We loved the tasty mullets which were full of eggs and went for a second round of them.

Interestingly, Ah Meng the owner of Light House collects and sells antiques; he has one big stash at a corner of the shop.

Brenda, a buddy from Singapore riding my sixes.
KT and gang arrived at Light House as we were finishing our lunch and asked me to lead the rest onward to the Kuala Sepetang charcoal factories. As we rode on, it started to drizzle and the dark skies worried me... sorry my friends, we have to ride fast like the wind; it's going to rain!

A few of is just manage to make it in the nick of time; the rest got caught in the drizzle that suddenly turned into a heavy downpour. My poor friends! But if you notice, it was more important that they protect their luggage. Us getting wet is not a problem, our luggage getting wet would be on as it would mean no warm sleeping later on.

Here's a view of the charcoal factory. I have had been here a few time and so just waited it out while the rest went on an educational tour of the factory conducted my Mr. Chua himself.
Looking around, I noticed that the place is now more attuned towards tourists. There is a section that sell by-products of their charcoal manufacturing; charcoal oil that are good for curing wounds and even charcoal soap good for ladies' complexion (they are not cheap though at MYR50/- for three bars).

After so many visits to the place, I finally got to meet Mr. Chua himself, he's the second generation that running the factory.
(... read more of the charcoal factory, their traditional process & the old-style kilns that are shaped like domed bee-hive)

Unfortunately, the rain cancelled out our plans to visit the Matang Mangrove Reserve which is just opposite the factory. There is are posters there that list out details of the reserve such as its extent, the growth cycle of mangrove trees. For those who want to explore more, boardwalks lead further into the mangrove forest.
The photo above show some of us during an earlier Let's Cycle ride.

While most of the gang rode back to the Taiping Leisure Home; eight of us would be staying at the Sepetang Inn. Later in the night we went to the Xin Seafood Restaurant for a whopping dinner.
(.... read more about our dinner there)

Wong with wife, Lilian. Siew Yung is the lady in red on the far left.
Many thanks to Wong and Siew Yung for co-organising this event, and also to Lilian for helping marshal the riders. As usual, our cheeky friends decided to photo bomb this photo.

We retired early to the sound of chugging fishing boats as some returned from their fishing trip. Tomorrow will be an early day with more adventures to come.

This is page 1 of a 3-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
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