Thursday, April 20, 2017

Perak : Cycling Kuala Kangsar to Sauk & The Victoria Bridge

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Perak : Kuala Kangsar to Sauk & The Victoria Bridge
Kuala Kangsar to Sauk, Perak : 16th April 2017
Distance  : 59.68 km     Level: Medium.
Time : 7:30 am to 5:10pm
Time Taken :  9 hours 40 mins. (including long stops for brunch, lunch, tea, refreshments and  photo opps at padi fields, Victoria Bridge, etc. ; rest and regroup).

Route Recommendations :
1. The route is relatively flat; with only moderate climbs along Federal Route 76 (Jalan Baling-Kuala Kangsar).
2. The route is partly shaded along the rural kampong road but the main roads are not that shady, so do cover up or apply sun block lotion in the afternoon.
3. Places of Interest:
    - Victoria Bridge (GPS: 4.8369, 100.96224).
    - The padi fields at Kampong Kota Lama Kanan (GPS: 4.79026, 100.95414).
    - Sultan Abdul Jalil (Sayong) Bridge (GPS: 4.77869, 100.94609).
    - Sultan Iskandar (Iskandariah) Bridge (GPS: 4.81803, 100.96407).
    - Ubudiah Mosque (GPS: 4.76414, 100.95045).
    - Istana Kenangan (GPS: 4.76025, 100.95571).
    - Istana Iskandariah (GPS: 4.76197, 100.95431).

4. Food:
    - Dinner (the previus day) was good chicken chop & traditional toasted bread at Yut Loy (Yat Lai) Coffee Shop (GPS: 4.77006, 100.94157), this place is also renown for their paus. We also had wantan noodles & roasted chicken at the Belakang the Store (Kuala Kangsar) Food Court (GPS: 4.76901, 100.94021).
    - Breakfast was noodles at the Kiung Chow Associaton (4.77625, 100.94229).
    - Brunch was light eats at various shops in Karai town (GPS: 4.83609, 100.9657).
    - Lunch was fresh river fish and other dishes at Restoran Baru Lau Kai in Sauk (GPS: 4.93459, 100.92296).
    - Tea was Laksa Sarang Burung at Warung Telaga Kota Lama Kiri (GPS: 4.78623, 100.94203).

5. Tips on travelling with bikes on the Electric Train Service (ETS):
    - Book you tickets early, especially if travelling on weekends and public holidays. Train tickets can be purchased on-line via KTMB Intranet site.
    - In a nice reversal of its policy Keretapi Tanah Melayu is not charging transit fare for folding bikes that are bagged. So do ensure that you do bag your foldies.
   - For more details refer to this blog:


Shop front of the quaint Restoran Yat Lai which retained much of it's original architecture both inside and outside.
Wong KT is at it again. He has organised a ride and invited some friends to join him. I like his rides, they are well researched and recce-ed, taking us on beautiful routes and to interesting places. Often the rides would be multi-mode with us bringing our bikes onto trains, buses, ferries, etc. We had done some island hopping in Perak, putting our bikes onto motorised sampans to visit a pirates' haunt (... see blog). At the ride to Taman Negara, we took on the scorching sun and the dragon backs and the following day took river long boats down the Tembeling River (... see blog). AND then there is always the food!
This time round, his ride will take us from Kuala Kangsar to a little village called Sauk in Central Perak. I had not rode around this area of Perak before so I gladly (eagerly, actually) joined in, looking forward to what he had planned for us, and I must say we were not disappointed!

Tempting Chicken Chop (Hainanese Style) from Yat Lai.
Wong's ride will start early on a Sunday morning, so a few of us hopped onto the ETS Train the day before and headed for Kuala Kangsar reaching there in the late afternoon hoping to do some exploration of the town.
First thing first... EATS!
This was at Restoran Yat Lai within the old town centre. The shop still retains it's colonial architecture and old world charm, with good food and friendly waiters. We had the Hainanese Chicken Chop, one which was deliciously tasty; well fried so that it's crispy on the outside and tenderly juicy on the inside. We also had their toast which was toasted small-town style over charcoal fires. They had some other lovely dishes like eggs on toast. The shop is also renown for their paus, but we missed them as these were sold out.
(... read more of Yat Lai's Chicken Chop)

That meal was just starters; as we left we enquired from the shop about where/what else were there to eat in Kuala Kangsar (KK). In their small town friendly and unselfish attitude, they pointed out a food court nearby. Good, we would have more eats after a quick round of town-exploration.
But just as we rode off it started to drizzle, so we scooted over to food court and just made it in time as that drizzle turned into a full-blown tropical thunderstorm! The food court has an interesting name "Belakang The Store", which meant behind the Store; which literally it was - it's just behind The Store supermarket. We were hoping that the heavy rain will blow over quickly, but no it stretched on for more than an hour. So what else was there to do but to sit it out and eat again! This place has several stalls, the one that sells wantan noodles serves pretty good roasted chicken too.
Rain over, and it was dark already so it was back to the our respective hotels. Chris and me stayed at The Shop Hotel; it was a very chic botique-styled place, well designed and cozy although their rooms were a tad small. Fenn and Kimm had a good deal, staying at a kampung-style homestay at Chalet Kampung Semawar for MYR50 a night which came with a bonus - a chaffeured pick-up truck which picked them up from the train station, from the food court and even sent them to the start point of the ride the next day!



Cycling Route Kuala Kangsar>Kampong Kota Lama Kanan>Victoria Bridge>Karai>Sauk>Kuala Kangsar.
The route will take us across a couple of renowned bridges to the lovely kampong villages and padi fields of Kampong Kota Lama Kanan before a long photo-opp stop at the Victoria Bridge and then onwards to Sauk. Most of the route were along rural roads with a bit of off-road cycling at the padi fields.

Group photo at Kheng Kwee Association.
7:00am - We met at the Kiung Chow Associaton (4.77625, 100.94229), it sounds like an odd place to meet up but it wasn't as within its hall was a stall that sold our breakfast - pork and beef noodles. Our group will consist of some from the Klang Valley, some riders from Ipoh and even a buddy who came up from Singapore.

I was expecting a route along the main roads, but right from the start Wong surprised us. Just a short ride out of town and across the Sultan Abdul Jalil (Sayong) Bridge, we veered off from the busy roads and were into rural roads. Riding here was a charm, the roads were quiet and lined with lovely timber kampong houses sitting amidst a lot of greenery.
This part of Kuala Kangsar District has many small villages with nice names as Kampung Kandang, Kampung Sayong, Kampung Kota Lama, etc.

From the tarred kampong roads it was onto gravel tracks further in; we were riding beside small irrigation canals that fringed a secondary forest. With all the foilage around, this place was pleasantly cool.

AND THEN we were at the padi fields, riding along the bunds that separated the different fields. Most of the fields had been harvested so it was not a pretty as during pre-harvesting time when the padi stalks were full grown. Still this place was a pleasure to ride at ...

The place reminds me of the padi-fields of Sekinchan but with a more natural surrounding, with trails that ran between the green paddies and wooded secondary forests ....

It's so beautiful here, with the green stretching out to meet the edge of the low misty hills nearby.

Around us were more rural ambience; white Muscovy ducks with their spongy red bills quacked quietly at a small, open green space...

... colourful tractors sat quietly, waiting for their time to roll off to work ...

... far out, a lonely timber hut sat below some tall trees facing the paddies.
The place was lovely, so lovely that most of us spent more time than expected here, taking in the sceneries, breathing in the clean crispy air.

We rode from the greenery out to Kampong Kota Lama Kanan and were surprised to find nice cycling lanes here. The locals use this lanes to commute around.

And we are back onto village roads, into green areas sparsely dotted with houses. This blue building is a small local school.

The kampong houses here are charming. Most of them have retained the old-style timber architecture of Malay kampong houses with many built mostly of timber without using any nails, just wooden pegs. Modern architecture had hardly crept in; take away the cars and this village would look the same as it was a century back.

10:15am - we arrive at our first destination, the Victoria Bridge. This railway bridge located at Karai town was built in 1997 and completed in 1900. It's dark iron frame stands out contrasting with the supporting large red brick piers. It's one of the oldest railway bridge in the country and was built to serve the booming tin mining industry back then. Almost 500 metre long, it spans over the Perak River and was in use up till 2002, when a concrete girder bridge was built to serve the new double-tracked Electric Rail Service (ETS).

There is a pedestrian platform adjoining the old structure and running parallel with it across the river. It's rather narrow, so do cycle with care. From the platform, one can climb in between the diagonal girders to get on to the old bridge. It's quite scenic, but do be extra careful when walking there. The rails sit on timber sleepers that are about two feet apart; in between them are large gaps, any slip and it's a ten metre fall into the river. We treaded carefully, stepped onto the bridge and took lots of photos, all glad to be part of our country's history.

While there, don't miss out the brick piers that hold up the bridge from below, they form a pretty picture too. That's me in a comical pose, looking like a squashed fly swatted onto the wall.
(... read more of the Victoria Bridge)
After the padi fields and the bridge, some of us were getting hungry. So the group adjouned to the adjacent Karai Town for some easy bites.

Our route took us through more kampongs and then we exited onto Fedral Route 76, locally called Jalan Baling-Kuala Kangsar. It leads to Baling, another historical place; it's in this town that the 1955 unsuccessful peace talks were held between the then Malayan Government and the Malayan Communist party (called the MNLA - Malayan National Liberation Army)  to end the Malayan Emrgency.
Okay, I digress but it's always good to know a bit of our country's history. The main road was quite busy and fortunately there were emergency lanes for us to ride along. But it was noon time and in the overhead sun, the roadside trees could not give us much shade.

12:30pm - Yipee! With a happy jumped at the town arch, Fenn celebrated our reaching SaukIt is not a very big place, more like a one-street town. The road beyond the arch leads to a waterfall and then onwards to Kamo Home, a nice place to stay overnight; it's the only place to stay here unless one get to bunk with the locals.

Our lunch was at Restoran Baru Lau Kai Ikan Sungai, as the name suggests it's mainstay was river fishes and we had a good Tapah Fish. With a large gaping mouth full of sharp teeth, it's a scary looking fish; it's meat though is tender and sweet and the skin of soft, slightly rubbery (that's the part I like best). This one was good but a bit small, we should have ordered a bigger one (like the one we had at Restoran New Tokyo in Jerantut).

People in small towns are alway ever friendly and ever smiling, like Ms. Tan (陈秀英) here, the operator of the restuarant. She personally waved us off.

The afternoon sun was shining brightly and very hotly onto us, most of us covered up, but this was not enough. When Wong made a stop at a sugar cane stall near the Victoria Bridge, I think most of us were most relieved! Phew!
Here's Kimmi, lending her hand onto slicing the skin off the sugar cane stalks; she's rather new at it, and the Pakcik operator looked on, a bit worried 😱.

Instead of taking the bridge again, we crossed through a tunnel and stayed on the left side of the Perak River and passed through an appropriately named village called Kampong Kota Lama Kiri (kiri meaning left) and other adjacent kampongs.

Our next destination was a stall called Warung Telaga Kota Lama Kiri. We were supposed to have cendol here, too bad they had ran out. But we did try a delicacy that's only found in Kuala Kangsar - Laksa Sarang Burung. It's a Malay Laksa served with and omelet that fried to look like a bird's nest.

It was also a nice place to stop, shady and cooling with hammocks to laze in while appreciating the view of nearby padi fields.
Wong called this place the official end of our ride, and rightfully so too, as beyond this many of us will go their own way to their respective homestays, etc.
(... read more of the Laksa Sarang Burong)

A few of us continued on into the town to view places that we had missed the previous day. This here is the Ubudiah Mosque; although small, it is more than a hundred years old. To me, with it's graceful domes and line-tiered minarets, it's one of the most beautiful mosque in the world.

And here is the Istana Kenangan, an attractive yellow timber building that was the former palace. It has a combo of Malay architecture with timber slats roof  (very European, the slats). Now it houses the Perak Royal Museum.
(... click here to see a YouTube presentation of colonial Kuala Kangsar)

With that we rode off to the railway station to take the ETS for home. Along the way we saw this murals of royal elephants breaking throush a wall. Yup! It's a royal send-off for us!

Many thanks to Wong KT for another wonderful ride filled with great memories.
In fact, some of us requested for future rides with him, perhaps another round to Taman Negara, or up around the tea plantations of Cameron Highlands ... we will see, we will see ... (keeping fingers crossed) ...

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