Friday, March 22, 2019

Perak-Kedah-Penang: Cycling Kuala Kangsar To Gerik To Penang Day 1 - Kuala Lumpur To Kuala Kangsar

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Cycling Kuala Kangsar>Gerik> Penang Day 1 Kuala Lumpur To Kuala Kangsar - A Royal Ride
Central West Coast Peninsular Malaysia Day 1: Thursday 7th March 2019
This is part of a small group cycling tour from Kuala Kangsar to Penang Island on a north-western central route of West Malaysia. Today's ride adventure starts with an ETS train from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Kangsar followed with a short cycle exploration of Kuala Kangsar:
Distance: 18km.               |               Level: Easy 
Time : 5:30pm to 9:05pm (this is for the evening ride after checking in & resting at hotel)
Time Taken : 3hrs 35mins. (including stops for visiting attractions, tea, dinner, and lots of photo opps).

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Route Recommendations:
1. Traffic Directions!
    Malaysia's traffic is right-hand drive, so cycle on the left. Same thing applies when crossing the road, be careful and take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from!

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    The route is generally flat with just some gradual climbs near the istana. Nearer the palace and parks, the route was shady.

3. Bringing Bikes Onto Trains, Ferries & Buses
- KTM (Keretapi Tanah Malaysia) Peninsular Malaysia's rail service provider runs an electric train service called the ETS train from Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar. Tickets can be bought on line via KTM website or Easybook.
Folded bicycles are NOT allowed on board even if bagged. So how did we get our bikes on board? Read the blogs to find out 😏.

4. Places of Interest
    At Kuala Kangsar were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time:
Malay College Kuala Kangsar (GPS: 4.77571, 100.9386).
Kulup Chandan - Royal Elephant Mural (GPS: 4.77216, 100.94226).
Sultan Abdul Jalil Bridge (GPS: 4.77858, 100.9459(also known as the Sayong Bridge as it reduced travelling distance to Sayong outskirts).
Ubudiah Royal Mosque (GPS: 4.76414, 100.95045).
Sultan Azlan Shah Gallery (GPS: 4.76634, 100.94817).
Istana Kenangan which houses the Perak Royal Museum (GPS:4.76025, 100.95571 ).
Kuala Kangsar Recreation Park (GPS: 4.77126, 100.94438), it is here that the Kangsar River joins the Perak River, creating the confluence (in Malay called Kuala) hence the name of the town Kuala Kangsar., meaning the confluence of the Kangsar River.

5. Food
Breakfast: Pork noodles soup at Kuan Lee Coffee Shop (GPS: 3.14033, 101.62870) in Kuala Lumpur.
Lunch: Renown chicken chop, bau & fried Hainanese noodles at Yut Loy Coffeeshop (GPS: 4.77007, 100.9415) in Kuala Kangsar.
Tea: Local coffee and toast with kaya (coconut-egg jam) at Double Lion Hotel (GPS: 4.76943, 100.93923) in Kuala Kangsar.
Dinner: White rice with dishes - Steamed Saito fish with fermented bean sauce, omelette, stir-fried potato leaf, tofu with mince pork at Chun Ji Restaurant (GPS: 4.77224, 100.93069).

6. Accomodations
    Our accommodations in Kuala Kangsar were two twin-bedder rooms at Sayong Resort (GPS: 4.77245, 100.94694) on the Sayong side of the Perak River.
Rate: RM105 per room.
Address: Kampung Sayong Lembah, 33000 Kuala Kangsar, Perak, Malaysia.
Phone: +605-7775002

7. Weather
    March is within the tropical dry season, which is a hot period. At Kuala Kangsar, mid-afternoon temperatures were 34°C but the perceived temperature was 38°. Late afternoon temperatures was a more bearable 31°C and night temperature averaged 27°C
    A useful weather forecast site is AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

8. 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). Most Malaysians can speak fairly good English; but in the rural areas the locals speak only some rudimentary English, so learning some basic phrases in Bahasa Malaysia will be helpful.
    This could be partly overcome 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.
    We plotted routes both on Google Maps and Garmin: Google maps are more up to date and some roads are not shown on the Garmin maps; on the other hand the Garmin GPS units becomes handy when data signal is weak or not available especially in the rural and plantation areas.

11. 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.


Group photo at the Suka-suka Resort during an earlier tour to Lenggong
We are heading to Kuala Kangsar again, our third time in a couple of years. It's an important cycling destination and rightfully so as it's easy access by train and car makes it the ideal launch pad for many cycling adventures at the Northern region of Perak.
Our earlier two trips starting from here were a day trip to Sauk for some river fish lunch by way of the historical Victoria Bridge. This was followed by an overnight trip to Lenggong with a stay at the Suka Suka Lake Retreat located at the Tasik Raban lakeside. This time round we are going for a longer tour. We will be attending the Gerik Temenggor Dam Fun Ride and that will be an "excuse" to cycle from Kuala Kangsar to Penang Island via a loop that will take us through three states - Perak, Kedah & Penang! And it will be a central route along the western fringe of the Titiwangsa Main Range hills of Peninsular Malaysia, a route that goes along quiet villages and plantations, one that is seldom done by other cyclists.

Cycle Route: KTM Kuala Kangsar>Kuala Kangsar Town>Sayong>Istana Kenangan>K. Kangsar Recreation Park>Taman Suria>Sayong.
This is a route from the Sayong side of the Perak River at Kuala Kangsar across the Sultan Abdul Jalil Bridge to visit the attractions of the royal town at Bukit Chandan.
Distance: 18km.               |               Level: Easy 

The ten-day tour for me started off with a simple breakfast of pork noodles at Kuan Lee Coffee Shop, this is one of my favourite place to enjoy this noodles as the vendor is friendly as always add more lard bits for me.

Then it was a quick hop onto the Klang Valley MRT to head towards Kuala Lumpur Sentral Train Station (KL Sentral). Riding this train is convenient, on several coaches are railing for the physically challenged to anchor their wheel chairs; when the railings are not being used that way, it's a convenient spot to park our folded bikes and tie them to the railing with a bungee cord. My bike with it's C-bag luggage complemented by a Asian conical padi hat (which we got during our Cambodia-Vietnam Mekong Delta cycling tour) must had looked odd to the other passengers. But I am glad that I brought the conical hat along as during this hot, dry season it came in handy to shade us from the glaring sun without having to don face masks 😅.

10:30am - Met up with the rest of the team, Richard, Jenny, Ying at KL Sentral. We are taking the 11:25am Platinum ETS Train (operated by Keratapi Tanah Melayu, KTM) and our ride would take three hours to reach Kuala Kangsar. The good thing about the Platinum class is that there were minimum transit stops (4 only) along the way. Some snacks and drinks used to be served to Platinum ticket holders previously, unfortunately this is not the case anymore.
Our bagged bikes are behind us. Bicycles are not allowed onto the ETS, and our bikes had to be camouflaged as normal luggage. We were using Ikea Dimpa bags for our bikes; but before putting them into the Dimpa bags we covered them with opaque blackgarbage bags (get the biggest ones, if not use two). On top of that we had booked our tickets so that it was two to a coach. I know, I know this is troublesome; but I do hope that KTM will change their policy in the future.

So as not to inconvenience other passengers, we quickly boarded the train and tucked our bikes at locations behind the front and back seats, etc. As seen above, with the black garbage bag, one can't tell that there is a bicycle inside the Dimpa.

2:25pm - We reached Kuala Kuala Kangsar, and the first the that greeted us as we disembarked was not pretty pom-pom girls but a strong blast of hot, very hot afternoon air.

The bright, hot afternoon although not conducive to cycle at was great for taking photos - the skies were bluer, the trees greener and buildings like the Malay College Kuala Kangsar stood out prominently.
Established on 2 January 1905, Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) is the first fully residential school in Malaysia, it was originally known as the Malay Residential School of Kuala Kangsar. The school is an elite Malay-only school which has produced many of the country's leaders.

Our first destination was for eats, sure there are food on board the train, but it's nothing to shout about. So off I led the team to Yut Loy Coffeeshop for their renown chicken chop. The chops were still as good; and this time round, having arrived earlier than previously, we managed to try their kaya (coconut-egg jam) and chicken paus and fried Hailam noodles. The noodles were good but we found the paus average only, but the locals would disagree with me as many of them came to order take-aways by the dozens!

As the weather was getting very hot, and felt like it was almost 40°C, we decided to check in to our hotel and enjoy their air-conditioned rooms first. This would be what we would be doing for most  of our tour - try to finish the main day's ride by 2:00pm and cool off at the hotels.
En route, we just had to stop at this mural of elephants for some photos. These are not ordinary elephants though, the large male on on the left walking through a "hole" in the wall is Kulup Chandan. This was the royal elephant that was used by Sultan Idris Shah when he was crowned the Sultan of PerakIt is understood that the elephant had once fought with another elephant belonging to a State Official. It caused many marble stones in the Ubudiah Mosque to break and new marbles had to be ordered from Italy to replace it. Even now the name 'Kulup Chandan' was enshrined into the name of Bukit Chandan which was previously known as the Seri Andalas.

At the Sayong side of the Perak River bank overlooking the Sultan Abdul Jalil Bridge.
Our hotel, Sayong Resort, was on the other side of the Perak River, on the Sayong side, about 3km away. To get there we crossed the Sultan Abdul Jalil Bridge. Officially opened by Sultan Azlan Shah in June 2002, it is named after Sultan Abdul Jalil who reigned between 1916-1918. This concrete bridge takes some traffic load off the older Iskandar Bridge which was built by the British. With the opening of this bridge, the distance between Kuala Kangsar and Sayong was reduced significantly and it is thus also known as the Sayong Bridge.

While checking into our hotel, we noticed a display of nice pots on shelves around the reception area. These are the Labu Sayong pottery for which Sayong is renowned for. Another new thing learnt about Kuala Kangsar, each time we come we learn something more 💡.

A couple of hours later, after a refreshing bath and a beauty nap we were out riding again. A couple of our group had not cycled in Kuala Kangsar before; it was not so hot now, so we are going to take them on a short tour to show them the town. As we rode out, we were amazed to see horses being walked at the river banks, and wondered what they were doing here? Are these the horses the royals ride when the play polo?

The best place to ride is at Bukit Chandan, getting there we rode through an older part of the town, yes some of those double-storey colonial age houses are still there but year by year they are slowly disappearing. As we rode up on the shady route towards the hill, a tortoise slowly crawled it's way across the road. People swerved around it, and soon a girl stopped her motorcycle, scooped the poor thing up. She was going to give it a ride to the nearby park and drop it off! Such is life at a small towns, it's the little things that counts.

A must visit place in Kuala Kangsar is the Ubudiah Royal Mosque; although it is not the largest mosque or oldest mosque in Malaysia, with it's attractive well proportioned domes and Moghul-style minaret towers, it must be the most recognized mosque in the country.

The roads at Bukit Chandan were a pleasure to ride on, slightly sloping and mostly shady, it was light in traffic and we saw many old and stately buildings there, many were uniquely designed Rumah Perak (Perak kampung houses). We rode pass the Sultan Azlan Shah Gallery. At the extreme end of our "royal" tour was the Istana Kenangan, one of the most beautifully example of "Rumah Perak" styled architecture. It was the former a former state palace, and now houses the Perak Royal Museum. Unfortunately it was then undergoing refurbishment, but even in that state by buddies could appreciate its grandeur.

Riding into the Kuala Kangsar Recreation Park, a golden carpet of rain tree flowers greeted us. To the right, and on the opposite bank is Sayong.

From the park were nice views of the Perak River banks; down-stream (see the previous photo) were hills in the background, and up-stream was the Sayong Bridge.

It's here at the park that we see the Sungai Kangsar (Kangsar River) and the confluence point of where it meets the Perak River. It's from this confluence point, i.e. Kuala Kangsar, that this royal town got its name.

As we rode off form the park, giant replicas of the Labu Sayong pots could be seen. These ones in purple with gold trimmings looked outstanding.

We dropped into the Double Lion Hotel, a place that a cycling buddy, Jason, recommended to go to have good coffee and buttered toasts with kaya (coconut-egg jam). The place is also a hotel, a very old one indeed - with it's ancient timber buildings it's a throw back to British colonial days..
Sharing the entrance of the hotel is the Soon Fatt Bread Shop, the cakes here are quite cheap.

8:00pm - Time for a late dinner at Chun Ji Restaurant. Richard had eaten here before and had found their dishes to be pretty good. Unfortunately, this time round they recommended to us steamed Saito Fish with bean paste sauce. The fish had a strong muddy smell, which the bean paste sauce could not mask; we ate some but could not finish it.
It was a bad recommendation and poor introduction to river fishes for which this region is noted for. Let's hope the days ahead will have better eats to make up for this.

9:00pm - En route back to our hotel, another nice photo of the Sayong Bridge. At night it is beautifully lit up.

(That's Good Night in Malay)

(For more photos of the Day 1Click Here)
This is page 1 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
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