Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Selangor-Perak-Penang: Cycling Selangor to Penang Day 4 - Ayer Tawar to Taiping

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Cycling Selangor to Penang : Day 4 - Ayer Tawar to Taiping
West Coast Peninsular Malaysia -  Day 4 : 10th August 2017
Small Group Cycling Tour of the west coast of West Malaysia : Ayer Tawar>Kg. Merebau>Pantai Remis>Trong>Changkat Jering>Taiping.
Cycling Distance: 90.57 km.     Level: Medium
Cycling Time : 7:45 am to 5:15 pm.
Time Taken :  9-1/2hrs (inclusive of stops for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, durian snacks, cendol, & stops to view "great wall" and visit to Pantai Remis old village.

This is page 4 of a 5-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D3 Ayer Tawar           |      Go to Other Days      |              Go to D5 Penang >

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

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Accomodations
At a friend's place in Kamunting, Taiping.

5. Places of Interests
Along the route were several places of interests, some of which we visited others we did not for lack of time:
- Great wall at Kampung Merbau (GPS: 4.33728, 100.72923).
- Old village at Pantai Remis (GPS: 4.45905, 100.62837).
- Trong Leisure Duck Farm (自农休闲农庄) at  (GPS: 4.71081, 100.70822).

6. Food
- Breakfast: Hock Chew noodles at 575 Coffee-shop in Ayer Tawar (爱大华).
- Morning Tea: chee cheong fun (steamed rice noodle roll) with woo tau koh (yam/taro cakes) at Restoran Biing Siang (班台菜糕) (GPS: 4.45963, 100.62839), Pantai Remis.
- Lunch: Roast duck set at Trong Leisure Farm Trong Leisure Duck Farm (自农休闲农庄) at  (GPS: 4.71081, 100.70822).
- Snacks : Durians at road-side stall, Changkat Jering.
- Late Tea: Cendul & Pasembur at Ansari Famous Cendul, Taiping  (GPS: 4.85298, 100.73883).
- Dinner: Chinese dishes at Yes Restaurant, Kamunting  (GPS: 4.84627, 100.73446).

7. 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. Today's weather was 33°C but felt hotter due to the clear skies and bright sun. Winds were fairly strong, up to 15 kph.

8. 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.

9. 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) was a 45-days cycling tour around Peninsular MalaysiaFive of us joined him for stage 1 that spanned from Sungai Buloh (in Selangor) to George Town (in Penang).
Previously, Day 3 took us from Hutan Melintang to Ayer Tawar with a surprise boat crossing over the Perak River and of course there were lots of eats too! Today we go on busier roads to head for Taiping.

Cycling route: : Ayer Tawar>Kg. Merebau>Pantai Remis>Trong>Changkat Jering>Taiping.
The route mostly runs on slightly busier main roads and is fairly flat except for some gentle slope stretches around Kg. Merebau and along the approach to Taiping from Changkat Jering.

We started the day with breakfast at 575 Coffee-shop. Ayer Tawar's locals are majority Hockchew, and we had plethora of noodles Hockchew style and we ordered several varieties to share. The min sin (white rice noodles) in herbal chicken soup was rejuvenating, while the seafood noodles filled with fish-balls and fish paste tasted good to. But our favorite was this fish head noodles with chunks of pre-fried of fish meat. The pre-frying had flavored the fish and the fish oil seeped out lending their essence to the soup. Needless to say we left the shop with wide smiling faces.

8:30am - Our route now takes us onto busier main roads, like Route A15 and later on an even busier trunk road, the Route M60. Fortunately, early morning traffic was light, the roads were fairly flat and there were emergency lanes for us to ride on.

Our first stop, an unplanned one, was at Kampung Merebau, it had a very recognisable entrance arch with a tree-lined road leading inwards to the actual village. But it was not this arch that attracted us .....

..... it was this long bright blue sloping wall that caught our eyes. On top of it was a long brick wall, which sort of represented a mini Great Wall of China. In fact, further inside were more walls, hence the name the Great Wall of Kg. Merbau.

It was a great morning to ride, the skies were bright blue with some green hills in the backdrop. There were not much shade as oil palm plantations lined both sides of the road, luckily it was a cool morning a light breeze did help out.

Along the way were these chimney stacks, I wondered what this place is, were these brick kilns like those traditional brick kilns at Kuala Sepetang? Can't tell as we were riding relatively fast and did not stop here.

10:30 am: We were on a roll and reached Pantai Remis thirty-five km. away within two hours averaging about 17 kmh, it may not be fast by road-bikes standard but it was faster than our usual snail-paced, look-see speed. 😎
It was not the new buildings at the outskirts that attracted us; it was more the old town with these colorful old timber buildings that we found more interesting.

More of these old houses were to come as we weaved off from the main road and went into the old fishing village. The streets were quite quiet, but inside the shops were a hive of activity as the locals were congregating, having returned from their morning's fishing trip.
We wanted to try the village's famous prawn fritters; but our timing was not right. The young girl selling these was off for the day.

So a short hunt for alternative. Er... you mean eat again; didn't we just had breakfast a couple of hours ago. That's the good thing about cycle-touring, one does burn up the carbs fast and get hungry soon. But that's not the real reason, we just had to try the local delicacies of the small towns and villages along the way.
Our find was this stall at at Restoran Biing Siang (班台菜糕) which sold a mix of chee cheong fun with woo tau koh (yam/taro cakes).

On this tour along the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia; other than the captivating sceneries, what fascinated us was the different variations of food. Even a simple dish like this chee cheong fun varied from state to state from town to town.
This one here had smooth flat noodles, firm and and slightly bitey. The sauce of a mix of local-made purplish sweet sauce and spicy chili sauce; overall very nice indeed. From other towns can be found types with different textures and sauces, like the ones from the strong flavoured Penang kind and the Teluk Intan vegetable infilled type.

The stall also sold Black Sweet Vinegar Pork Trotters. The ones here had a thinner soup and lightly flavored, sort of lacking the strong ginger whoomp that comes thicker, strong soup.

Nearby, older locals were preparing the haul of the day. Cleaning up the harvest, peeling prawns, and packing them, etc.
It's a good balance of tasks, the younger do the tougher trawler fishing at sea; and the older ones prepared their catch for sending off to markets near and far.

A tray of fresh Mantis Prawns; decades ago these prawns were a poor man's food. But with the escalating cost of normal prawns and new styles of cooking, the mantis prawns themselves have become a delicacy.

As we were about to ride off, these older folks looked on at us nonchalantly; but in there hearts I think they had wished that they could join our cycling adventures.

Half an hour later, we stopped at Restoran M.T. Muhhamad Ali; we had just wanted to top up or water. The Malay owner had other ideas, tempting us to try this local breadish concoction. It's called Patangko, a bread-stick normally sold in Chinese shops. The operator had adapted it to be eaten with his self-made chili-sauce. Simple but good all the same as can be seen in the above half empty plate; my friends just walloped it too fast for me to take a proper photo 😆.

Though we were on the main roads, scenes of local life was abundant, like these colorful prahus.

There were stalls selling Nipah crabs, prawn noodles; and even Pulut Durian (this one is an acquired taste as this strong smelling and noxious tasting King of Fruits does turn off many.
It's late morning now and the beautiful blue sky did not shadow the scorching sun; it shown down strongly onto us, its rays biting into our skin. On top of that, the wind was getting strong, up to 20 kph.

2:00pm - At the Trong Leisure Farm (自农休闲农庄), the windmills and ducks (see the top-most photo) welcomed us. This place is a favorite tourist destination, AND it's actually a duck farm, breeding ducks of which this area is renowned for. Their ducks are sent to many towns far away down south for the restaurants to prepare their mouth-watering duck dishes.

They have a restaurant here which sells a variety of dishes; it's lunch time so we had a go at the food here, such as Deep-fried Belacan Tofu, Xiong Tong La La clams, Stir-fried Chili Brinjals.
And of course we could not resist trying their signature Peking Duck; sad to say theirs was not up to mark, the meat being a tad dry and the skin not crispy. Perhaps they should stick to rearing ducks.

Further east, Trong town was very quiet, almost deserted. The town was even much smaller than Pantai Remis; development has not come here yet, which is good a the place has maintained it's quiet, idyllic atmosphere.

At Changkat Jering, another unscheduled stop for eats; this time it's durians at a road-side stall. This locality, with it's foothills ideal for durian growing, is famous for their durians. A northern variety here called the Black Thorn sells like hot cakes.

Our last spurt, going into Taiping was via Jalan Air Kuning with it's gentle slopes. This route is much better than the usual one through Simpang as it was much quieter and green.

More scenes of local life - shrimps being laid out to dry.

A happy Brian was glad to join us.
A short detour to the Taiping Railway Station, we are waiting for another pal Brian to arrive by train from Kuala Lumpur. He will be joining us for the following day's Taiping to Penang stretch.

We did a quick loop of Taiping old town section, admiring the grand buildings, and old colonial schools like St. George's Institution and King Edward VII. Many of the older buildings were in a dilapidated condition; some like this Taiping Rest House were being refurbished. I do hope that it won't be turned into one of those new chic establishments. Rest houses are slowly disappearing and staying in one brings back memories of the charming colonial days.

Another stop for eats; this time for cendul & pasembur at Ansari Famous Cendul. The cendul was refreshing with bouncy cendul noodles served in fresh santan with large lima beans. Their pasembur was average, but our hungry tummies did not complain.
It's our sixth meal for the day, and dinner was yet to come. All in we ate a record breaking six times, heh heh!

An endorsement of the good food here, one of my "AhPek Biker was here!" sticker, it means that I like the food or the place. If you see one of these stickers, do drop me a line.

Our stay for the night was in Taiping, at a friend's place. Ho is a keen collector of bicycles as can be seen from the above photo of his collection. Other than bikes, he has a green thumb and collects and grow rare plants, there's even a Venus flytrap!
The girls could not resist it and got some seldom seen water-borne plants from him to grow back home.

Ho is a generous fellow always treating us to a good meal whenever we are in his town. This time it was a 8-course dinner at Yes Restaurant. Yes! It was feast that included these delectable curry prawns.

Good Night!
(Dang! I am so full..... Burp...)

(For more photos of the day Click Here)

This is page 4 of a 5-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D3 Ayer Tawar           |      Go to Other Days      |              Go to D5 Penang >


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