Saturday, August 19, 2017

Selangor-Perak-Penang: Cycling Selangor to Penang Day 1 - Sg Buloh to Sekinchan

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Cycling Selangor to Penang : Day 1 - Sg Buloh to Sekinchan
West Coast Peninsular Malaysia -  Day 1 : 7th August 2017
Cycling Distance - 89.90 km.     Level: Medium
Cycling Time : 7:55 am to 6:15pm (Starting from Kampung Selamat MRT)
Time Taken :  10hrs 20mins (inclusive of stops for breakfast, lunch, tea, many stops to enjoy the sceneries, regrouping, rests and many,many photo opps).

This is page 1 of a 5-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
    Malaysia is right-hand drive so ride on the left side of the road.

2. Bringing Bikes Onto Trains & Ferries
- The Klang Valley MRT operated by MYMRT provides mass rapid transit for the Greater Kuala Lumpur area. Foldies are allowed on board without extra charges but must be folded.

3. Communicating with Locals
    For the uninitiated cycling in foreign lands can be a daunting experience, especially when one can only speak a smattering of the local language or if there is no common language to speak to each other (like English). The language of the country is Bahasa Malaysia, and many urban Malaysians can speak fairly good English; but in the rural areas the locals speak only some rudimentary English, so learning some basic phrases will be helpful.
    This could be partly overcomed by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    And do install memory-resident translation apps into your mobile phone.

4. Staying in Touch
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost or just to share photos and moments. Pre-paid phone sim-cards are easily available from most phone shops in the main towns.

5. Accomodations
At Sekinchan, we stayed at Wong Corner Homestay (GPS: 3.51377, 101.09719) at RM90/- for a room for two. Here there are also rooms for three or larger dorms.
Address: 45A-C Site C, Jalan Kuala Selangor, 45400 Kampong Sekinchan, Selangor.
Contact: +6017-685 6018.

6. Places of Interests
Along the route were several places of interests, some of which we visited others we did not for lack of time:
Cambodian Village Market (GPS: 3.19536, 101.51417) at Kampong Kubu Gajah in Sungai Buloh. (Update: this is not the location of the market, it's just a local street market with some Cambodian stalls. See the route map for updated location of this market at Jalan Kubu Gajah 23, GPS: 3.19013, 101.52919) and this ride for details.
- the Sky Mirror at Sasaran/Jeram, where on the 1st and 15th of each lunar month the shallow sea calmly reflects the sky. There are many tour operators to this place, one of which is Jack of Manta Ray Ventures who is based at the Restaurant Grandma.
- fields full of lemongrass and galangal (lengkuas) (GPS: 3.2653, 101.29861) at Jalan Rancangan Tanah Api Api after Sasasran.
- the Monkey God Temple (西灵宫) (GPS:3.34329, 101.25394 ) at Pasir Penampang. This temple is dedicated to Sun Wokong, the Monkey God.
- the Xian Jian Qi Gu Shi Fo Zu Miao Temple (七劍仙師佛祖古廟) (GPS: 3.34441, 101.25488) at Pasir Penampang.
Pantai Redang (熱浪沙灘) (GPS: 3.50285, 101.09447), this is a nice beach in Sekinchan. The sunset here is lovely.
- the Padi Fields of Sekinchan (GPS: 3.51307, 101.11704), the acres of paddies here is very scenic. At different times of the year, the colour of the fields changes from bright green to a golden brown.

7. Food
- Lunch at Ah Poh Seafood (阿宝海鲜餐馆) (GPS: 3.34244, 101.24923) in Kuala Selangor.
- Coffee break at Restaurant Grandma (阿嬷厝海鲜小吃馆) (GPS: 3.25875, 101.30469) in Sasaran.
- Steamed Mantis Prawns tea time at Restoran Sahabat Makanan Laut (友谊海鲜饭店) (GPS: 3.40047, 101.17112) in Tanjung Karang.
- Seafood dinner at Weng Kee Seafood Restaurant (榮義記海鲜酒家) (GPS: 3.50632, 101.10589) in Sekinchan town.

8. Weather
As August is the beginning of the wet season do have your raincoats ready. However it does not rain everyday, so do cover up or use sun-block lotions when necessary.
Temperature ranges from 27°- 32°C; on hot days it could go up to 34°C.

9. Navigation
Where data signal is available and strong, one can use Google Maps to navigate around. If the cycling options may not be available, just use the walking options.
In cases where data signal is weak or unavailable (like in remote rural areas), install MAP.ME into your phone. It's an off-line map app.   
Alternatively, use a dedicated GPS unit like those from Garmin. However ensure that one install the Malaysia maps into the unit.

10. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads with the relevant tools.



Our buddy Sin (of the hApPy HaPpY blogs) would be going on a 45 days cycling tour around Peninsular Malaysia. Being the magnanimous chap that he is, he has invited friends to join him along the way. He has divided his tour into several stages. Five of us joined him for stage 1 that spanned from Sungai Buloh (in Selangor) to George Town (in Penang). This here, is our tale of our first day's ride from Sungai Buloh to Sekinchan, one that took us to a Cambodian Village Market, along rustic roads, pass acres of lemongrass fields, almost to a Sky Mirror Sea that reflects the sky beautifully, and lots of eats.

The route starts from the Kampung Selamat MRT Station along rustic kampong roads, through some new housing townships and then straddles the coastline Jeram to Sekinchan. It also passes by a Cambodian market.

I may get a bit long-winded than usual here as we saw so much and did so much on an interesting route. I will try to make this as short as possible, so bear with me, OK?
Er........ we started off with a small hiccup. We had arranged to meet up at the Sungai Buloh MRT Station where we were supposed to kick off our ride. Then as we were about to leave the station, we found no way to cross the busy 4-lane Jalan Kuala Selangor (our route starts from the other side).
Luckily we recalled that there was an earlier station on a less busy road; so it was back up the MRT train to take a short journey to the previous station, the Kampung Selamat MRT Station.

In a way, it was a good to meet at the Sungai Buloh MRT Station, it's a more easily identifiable station. See, Amanda a cyclist who contacted me through my blogs came all the way from Australia to join us for this tour. It was easier for her to recall than the Kampung Selamat name.
Anyways, to cut it short, from the station we rode off along quieter roads to the Sungai Buloh New Village where we had our first eats - a dim sum breakfast at Restaurant Kong Mah (港马点心美食有限公司).

We had set our GPS units to take us on rural roads and it did just that, with us passing by quiet kampong roads......... and then to a dead end! Well actually it was not a dead end, a bridge across a stream had been demolished to make way for a new one. And we had to cross the stream via a narrow single steel beam make shift bridge.
What an interesting unique way to kick off an adventure, and later days, Sin's route did bring us onto more of these unique detours.

Suprise number two came soon. At Kampong Kubu Gajah was a Cambodian Village Market, it's a street market with several stall manned by Cambodians. Yes, there are Cambodians residing here in Malaysia!
This lady here is selling salted shell-fish, a delicacy from back home. It's quite hard to distinguish the Cambodians from the local Malays as they dress and speak like the locals. In fact they originated from Kampong Cham a Muslim province in Cambodia, where not suprisingly Malay is spoken there too. In prehistoric times, nomads migrated from this province down south. The Malays in Malaya have their roots from these nomads.
Every once in a while these Cambodians here will revert to their Khmer lanquage. Having been to Cambodia frequently in the past (.... see Cycling Cambodia blogs), I could converse with them in my smattering of Khmer.
"Soos Dei. Sook Sabai!" I greeted them to their surprise. I was wishing them "Good day, how are you?" Seeing me speak their language warmed them up to me, and some vendors even offered their food to me, saying, "Ngiam, Chern-ngan" (Eat, it's delicious).
Update 2019: This is not the location of the actual Cambodian Village Market, the updated location of this market at Jalan Kubu Gajah 23, (GPS: 3.19013, 101.52919) and see this ride for details.

Ahead we passed by this nicely landscape road, it seemed to be someone's private land as it was very well maintained and we had to ride in via an entrance arch.

Zooming below the an underpass, to our right is the Sungai Buloh River and above us was the Guthrie Corridor Expressway, one which I had cycled on previously. It's a favourite for cyclist out for a quick sweat (..... see Guthrie Corridor Cycling blog). Up there the highway is busy, but down here the scenario was different, it's so quiet with hardly any traffic.

We did have to cycle on the busy Jalan Kuala Selangor, the main road that connects Sungai Buloh to Kuala Selangor. There was no choice but to cycle on this road as there was no rural roads at this section that connects through.

After four kilometres, we swung left in and away from the main road cutting through a small industrial area that led to .....

A couple of new township in Puncak Alam. The roads here are wide, dual carraige way, but being new townships, the traffic here was light... LUCKY US!

We enjoyed the wide quiet roads for a while and were then coasting down a short slope. Yes! We are back onto the narrow but even quieter village roads.

At one of the rest stops in Kampong Bukit Kuching, Sooi Ying was intrigued by this tree with a torny bark, admiring it but not standing to close. This is the Silk Floss Tree (Ceiba Speciosa), with the sharp thorns lining it's bark, it's a Bad-Ass tree that can claim to be one of the world's hardest tree to climb!

11:50am - We reach our first main destination, Sasaran in Jeram and rode into a jetty situated right at the river mouth of the Sungai Buloh River. Here the fishing boat penants were flying high, wavering in the wing, but the fishing boats were quiet; it's past fishing time and the fishermen were back on land... passing their time playing mahjong at a nearby coffeeshop.

Like in most coastal villages, the houses here sit on stilted platforms. The west coast of Peninsular Malaysia has a coastline that mainly overgrown with mangrove swamps, which are still muddy flats even when the mangrove trees are cut away for development, hence the houses on stilts.

We stopped at a opened walled restaurant called Restaurant Grandma (阿嬷厝海鲜小吃馆); they have pretty good herbal tea here as attested by Fenn above, thumbs up!
But the significance of the place was not this tea, it's the name Grandma coupled with the Ah Poh (which means grandma in Hokkien) restaurant in Kuala Selangor that had Amanda and Sooi Ying calling each other teasingly "Ah Poh" through out the rest of our tour...
"Ah Poh!"

But I detract. Sasaran fame lies not in it's herbal tea or it's jetty. It's from here that tourist head out to the coastal shallow seas. Around the first and fifteenth day of the lunar month, during low tide the calm sea forms a mirror surface reflecting the beautiful sky above, hence it's name - the Sky Mirror.
But we had to give the Sky Mirror a miss, the next boat going out only leaves at 5:00pm (that's low tide time), just too late for us as we stil have more than half of our day's journey to continue on.

Ahead, we turned away from the Klang-Teluk Intan main road into rural roads again and another surprise awaited us - acres upon acres of lemongrass fields. Never realised that lemongrass was grown commercially in such quantities and here at Kampong Api-api these fields met us like rice paddies, stretching out to the horizon AND exuding their fragrant aroma to the air as we rode pass.

A plantation worker riding by; even the road shoulders were full of lemongrass shrubs!

Just slightly further, another change of scenery - rows of rain trees bowing over the roads formed a shady boulevard. Amanda was quite taken in by their spreading canopy and stopped to snap photos, asking "What trees are these?" Well can't blame her, they don't have rain trees in Melbourne.

1:15pm - We reached Kuala Selangor riding into the old town via a side lane with red lanterns hanging over.

After hours of cycling, we rewarded our growling stomachs with a good lunch at Ah Poh Seafood (阿宝海鲜餐馆) (pronounce Ar Porh). They are a small neighbourhood restaurant that has been around for decades; though small they have been patronised by well known entreprenaurs like Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay who hails from this town. What we liked about this place is that their food is very home-styled cooking, down to earth without the being over embellished like those of large eateries.
We had several dishes - omelet with bitter gourd, chicken stew with ginger slices, mantis prawn spicy dried stir-fried. My favourite was this ray fish curry, fresh fish in a good tasty curry which was not to spicy hot.

After crossing the Selangor River via the bridge on the Klang-Teluk Intan road, we made a short detour into Pasir Penambang. Over here there are many good seafood restaurants lining the edge of the river, one good one I tried before was Jeti Restaurant. But we were not here for the food, we were here to see a couple of fairly new temples.
The first was Xian Jian Qi Gu Shi Fo Zu Miao Temple (七劍仙師佛祖古廟), a temple dedicated to Buddha and Kwan Yin. It has an interesting feature, a mocked-up mountain sitting right on top of it!

The next one was the Monkey God Temple (西灵宫) which is dedicated to Sun Wokong, the Monkey God. Needles to say, this temple was full of monkey statues.

At a corner shrine, Sun Wokong stands proudly with his other travelling buddies from the epic Journey to West tale.

Here I am taking it easy on a coconut tree at a rest spot in Kampung Sungai Yu when I looked up and noticed something funny .....

..... the girls bending over oddly! Did they lose something or were they picking up some fruits. No, they were just bending over to stretch their muscles Pilates style!

At Tanjung Karang is this new temple, one with an impressive tall carved column at it's front compound. This is a new temple still under construction, so no entry yet for the moment.

We rode along residential pavements that took us through a dark corridor which led us to the Restoran Sahabat Makanan Laut (友谊海鲜饭店). It's time for EATS #3! Yes, eat again, hahaha! This one will just be light snacks 😆.

And while waiting for the food, we admired the colourful fishing boats moored at the jetties at the river mouth of Sungai Tengi ....

..... and had a toasts with coconuts!

Here's our snacks, Mantis prawns of which this area is famous for. These were steamed with some ginger.

Mantis prawns are delicious but with barbs on their shells they are quite tricky to peel. Kimmi did teach us an easy way, give them a massage first - this is done by grabbing them at both ends and rolling them in a wavy pattern several times. And PRESTO! Here's my prawn beautifully and safely peeled.

As we were eating, we saw school children in life jackets trooping by us to the river's edge. Curious, I followed them to see what they were up to. There's a jetty at the restaurant and they boarded a boat, one that will send them to their homes along the river's edge. Hah! A not a shcool bus but a school boat, one don't get to see this every day!

At a quiet temple in Bagan Tengkorak, Amanda takes a snooze. She had flown in from Melbourne to Penang Island, bought a bike from Brompton Penang and then took the ETS train down to Kuala Lumpur to join our ride back up to Penang. Amazing!

Our last stretch, riding on a rustic road running next to an irrigation canal. Sin's route was an eye-opener, as we took quiet roads that ran parallel to the busier main roads. It had us passing small villages, now those kampongs holds meaning to me when previously they were just names on a sign board. Their names; Kubu Gajah, Bukit Kuching, Bagan Pasir, Sasaran, Sungai Yu, and Bagan Tengkorak will forever be etched in my memory.

6:15pm - Happily we reached Wong Corner Homestay in Sekinchan. It had been a wonderful day's ride, and we looked forward to more adventures in the following days.

We had wanted to try a reccomended hot-pot stew near the Sekinchan wet market but the place was closed on Mondays so we ended up having our dinner at Weng Kee Seafood Restaurant (榮義記海鲜酒家). They serves rather good seafood and also this lovely Pork Rib Curry.



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