Monday, December 4, 2017

Selangor-Perak-Penang: Cycling Selangor to Penang Day 5 - Taiping To Penang

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Cycling Selangor to Penang : Day 5 - Taiping To Penang
West Coast Peninsular Malaysia -  Day 5 : 11th August 2017
Cycling Distance: 107.27 km.     Level: Hard
Cycling Time : 7:15 am to 7:45 pm.
Time Taken :  12-1/2hrs (inclusive of ferry ride, stops for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, tea, dinner and lots of photo opps).

This is page 5 of a 5-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D4 Taiping                  |         Go to Other Days      |              Go to ETS Train >

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 Tanjung TokongPenang Island.

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:
- Taiping Lake Gardens (GPS: 4.85248, 100.74951).
- Terra Cotta Temple, Kampung Alor Senggut, Bagan Serai (GPS: 5.00496, 100.54519).
- Pedestrian Bridge at Nibong Tebal old town (GPS: 5.15101, 100.46341).
- Nibong Tebal Cycle Path Cyclist Statue (GPS: 5.15288, 100.4671).
- Old iron bridge at Nibong Tebal (GPS: 5.17175, 100.47959).

6. Food
- Noodles breakfast at Restoran Sim Sim, Kamunting (GPS: 4.8915, 100.73164).
- Heavy Morning Tea at  Restoran Mei Jing (美景冷气海鲜餐馆), Bagan Serai (GPS: 5.01257, 100.53393).
- Sweetened Nipah Seeds at road-side stall (GPS: 5.13744, 100.46823) near Nibong Tebal.
- Seafood porridge lunch at Law Chiang Kee, Nibong Tebal (GPS:5.16522, 100.47606).
- Tea break at Pelita Nasi Kandar, Bukit Minyak (GPS: 5.32949, 100.44733).
- Penang street food dinner at Cheapside, Chulia Street, Penang Island (GPS: 5.41811, 100.33653).

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 4 saw us riding from Ayer Tawar to Taiping with our route going along busier trunk roads and with an interesting stop at the Pantai Remis fishing village. Today we head for Malaysia's island in the sun, the Pearl of the Orient!
The route mostly runs on Federal Route 1, a major trunk road. It is fairly flat but is usually busy with traffic; there are emergency lanes to ride on but at times these disappear so do ride with care.
This is a Google Map Plot of a route Taiping>Kuala Kuarau>Nibong Tebal>Butterworth that avoids using the main trunk road.

7:15am - We rolled off, with our Taiping friends leading us for a ride to and around the Taiping Lake Gardens. We have rode here several times, but it will be a first for Amanda to see the oldest botanical gardens of Malaysia.
Our route took us pass the Antong coffee factory which manufacture one of the better coffee powder in this region. Passing by there stirred memories of our visit to the factory back three years ago when we did a short bike touring of the Parit Buntar fishing villages.

Into the lake gardens we went, even having been here many times I am always taken in by the old, very old rain trees with their branches drooping down as if to take a sip of lake water.
I think Amanda was even more enchanted, just a few of days back she had seen the first rain tree, and had asked what trees those were. And those were relatively young trees, now she is seeing these gentle drooping giants that are more than a hundred years old.

At the Taiping Prison junction, our local friends waved us on. No, he is not asking us to quickly rush by the prison; they will be turning back to return back home while we head onwards. Many thank my friend, you have been a warm and lovely host.

8:30am - Breakfast at Restoran Sim Sim in Kamunting, a coffee shop with a few stalls. The food here was passable and nothing to shout about. There are much nicer things to eat in town itself, but we were short on time. But no worries, we will be having more foodie time later on.

Here's Brian smiling from cheek to cheek, happy as a lark, as he had not been on his two wheels for quite a while.

We are exiting Taiping via Kamunting to get to the main trunk road, Federal Route 1. At the Kamunting Railway Station, a climb on flyovers above the railway tracks. We would have love to use rural roads as in our previous days; but as it is using the main trunk road to Penang is already a distance of more than a hundred kilometers. The roads are quite flat and the only climbs we had were up flyovers like this one crossing over railway tracks and other busy roads.

We hit the main trunk road just before Kampung Dew, there's a metallic pedestrian bridge crossing the river nearby. Rusting and needing a fresh coat of pain, it looked poorly maintained.

Other than the kampungs, along the way there are many rubber and oil palm plantations. These are often worked by Indians and their community have put up many temples and sometimes on the roads can be seen these "kolams" which are brightly colored and laid there for their festivities.

10:00am - We have covered one-third of our journey; ahead will be Bagan Serai, the last major town in Perak before we cross over to Penang.

While often there are emergency lanes to cycle on, we had to watch out for local motorcyclists riding against the traffic. They usually do this to get to the nearest intersection to cross over to the other "right" side!

Nearby Selinsing, Amanda suddenly swerved and crossed over to the other side of the road and fell down. Goodness! What happened? She had noticed that one of her hinge clamps was slightly loose and rattling. Trying to tightened it back while still riding, she lost control of the bike and swerved over. Fortunately, a van coming from the opposite direction managed to brake in time and did not hit her. We have to thank God that her injuries were minor - a scrapped knee and a bruised ego. We all learnt a lesson here, NEVER try to adjust something on the bike while cycling; best to stop at the side and do it.

At Kampung Alor Senggut, on the outskirts of Bagan Serai, we notice a new temple. It was one with miniature grey replica of the Great Wall of China ...

In front of the wall were rows of Terracotta warrior, all in different poses, all on alert to guard the temple. One thing I did notice though, the ditch in front of the temple had clear water. This is unlike most of the other ditches (that run parallel to the trunk road) which have muddy and brackish water. It is possible to clean up those ditches and educate the locals to keep them clean.

11:15 - LUNCH! Isn't it a bit early? Well, we had to stop at this place which Sin had eaten at before during his cycling stint doing the Let's Cycle TV8 program. The name of the place is Restoran Mei Jing (美景冷气海鲜餐馆) located at the town center of Bagan Serai. It's not a upmarket or impressive decorated shop, in fact they sell economy rice (what local's call chap fun) which is cheaper, affordable food for the masses. What sets them apart is that they have a good range of dishes, all very tasty and home-style cooking too. Among the dishes we had were these deep-fried chilli Cincaru (Torpedo scad) fish, done almost the way my mother had cooked it.

And also these curry prawns, spicy cooked (meaning with lots of spices and not spicy hot) with very fresh prawns. The food here is simple, not elegant but very appetizing and I will definitely eat here if I pass by in the future.

The thing about riding on the main trunk road is that at certain stretches the emergency lanes disappear. What with big lorries zooming pass, our bikes shook and our hearts shrunk nervously.

At the turn off into Jalan Sugai Udang leading to Nibong Tebal; it's time for some local delicacy. From this lady, Nira's road side stall I bought a packet of chilled Nipah Asli - natural nipah seeds that has been pickled in syrup. These are seeds and are sometime call Attap Seeds, on account that the fronds of the Nipah Palm is used for cladding roofs and walls of kampung attap houses. The seed are soft and slightly jelly-ish yet at the same time bitey.

Anyway, we were glad to be off the busy main road, this stretch of road may not be the most scenic, but it was quiet.
Oh... yah... un-noticably we have crossed over into Penang state.

Further down, there were some nice scenes of green banana trees in front of brown harvested padi fields surrounded by tall willowing coconut palms.

Here we are, in front of one of our favorite bridge - a pedestrian/motorcycling bridge over the Kerian River, coming from the south, it's a safe short cut that leads into Nibong Tebal old town. Just at this bridge (not visible and to the left of the girls) is Lim Aik Chew, a famous shop that sells good curry prawns - the type that goes very well with white bread.

Just after the bridge is a metal sculpture of a cyclist which indicates the start point of a the Nibong Tebal cycling trails. We have passed this place many times but have yet to really try out this cycle path. Just for not, there are also cycling lanes a the nearby Univesity Sains Malaysia branch campus (click here to read more about it).

Other than the prawn curry mentioned earlier, the town has other nice food. One of the pioneer good food place is Restoran Law Chang Kee which sells delicious seafood broth; and also boiled baby squids eaten with their own made chili-pounded ground nut sauce. These baby squids are called "Too Boh Swee" in Hokkein; translated it means Sour Female Pig. Don't ask me as I for one can't figure out the relationship between octopi and sows.
Another place nearby that sells good seafood porridge is Cheang Kee NT.

To take advantage of tourists swarming into the town, other locals have opened up other business. Just next to Restoran Law Chang Kee is Enew Enterprise which sells biscuits. Up front of their shop, a lady was seen preparing these "love letters" that are filled with minced sweet pork.

Getting out of Nibong Teball was via this old iron bridge, on of the few remaining on Malaysian roads.
We passed by Sungai Bakap, cut away from the main road and into the Bukit Minyak residential and industrial area where we had a short tea break at Nasi Kandar Pelita.

As mentioned, our climbs were only at arch bridges and flyovers; this one at Bukit Tengah was on of the tallest, the height of a five to six storey building. The ladies took it all in their strides.

There is an alternative road below, but Sin had taken us up as he wanted to avoid a large and very traffic busy round-a-bout below. After this we sort of lost our way... we were trying to find a way via less busy roads, trying to avoid the vehicle packed Butterworth Outer Ring Road, via quieter local residential roads. Unfortunately, there are not many bridges crossing the Perai River and our detour to look for safer roads somehow led us astray to the Butterworth-Kulim Expressway. Oh... dear... we ARE LOST! So we did the next best thing.... called UBER to get us to the Butterworth Ferry Terminal!
Haha! I have done many multi-mode cycle touring in the past, ones that involved taking trains, buses, ferries, small boats.... but this is the first time involving taking UBER!

NOTE: On another tour from Kuala Kangsar to Penang via Gerik, we managed to use a safe quiet route that goes via Permatang Pauh.

At the Butterworth Ferry Terminal, we used our regular "secret' entrance into the terminal. It's one that goes via a railway crossing along a road behind the Penang Sentral. This avoids having to climb up and down the circular ramps to the terminal.

7:15pm - Phew! At last, riding into the Penang Ferry; our five-day tour is almost at end...

The short ferry ride was a good respite; letting the cool sea breeze blow onto our faces as we view the setting sun bringing in a pinky dusk sky. As we approached Penang Island, the tall Moorish-style clock tower of the Malayan Railway Building beckoned us.

We had dinner at the Cheapside Food Alley at Chulia Street. The fried hor fun, curry mee and wantan noodles are good. And also don't miss the cucumber juice garnished with a pickle simboi plum.
After dinner we went our own way, some staying with relatives others at hotels and hostels.


(For more photos of the day Click Here)
This is page 5 of a 5-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D4 Taiping                  |         Go to Other Days      |              Go to ETS Train >


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