Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Perak-Kedah-Penang: Cycling Kuala Kangsar To Gerik To Penang Day 3 - Lenggong To Gerik

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Cycling Kuala Kangsar>Gerik>Penang Day 3  Lenggong To Gerik - The Northern Outpost
Central West Coast Peninsular Malaysia Day 3: Saturday 9th 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 will take us from Lenggong to Gerik:
Distance: 55km.               |               Level: Medium 
Time : 6:30am to 1:30pm
Time Taken : 7hrs (including stops at temple, breakfast, morning tea, and lots of photo opps).

This is page 3 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
  Go to D2 Lenggong         |         Go to Other Days        |        Go to D4 Temengor >

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 runs on a gradual slope towards Gerik and goes mainly along Federal Route 76 (the Lenggong-Gerik trunk road) with some detours onto local rural roads like at Ayer Kala. Along this main trunk road, there was not much shade, so do cover up or apply adequate sun-block lotion.

3. Places of Interest
    Along the route were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time:
- The Great Wall of Ayer Kala (GPS: 5.19255, 101.05923).
- Siamese Temple (Wat Luang Poh Tuad) (GPS: 5.20881, 101.06417) at Ayer Kala.
- Giant Gerik Hillside Welcome Sign (GPS: 5.42194, 101.12421).
- Gerik pocket park with giant vase (GPS: 5.42674, 101.12721).
- Gerik pocket park with giant deer antlers (GPS: 5.42763, 101.12746).
- Eng Seng Bicycle Shop (GPS: 5.42763, 101.12746) in Gerik.

4. Food
a. Breakfast: Wantan noodles at Loh Dee Wan Ton Mee (GPS: 5.11064, 100.96909) in Lenggong.
b. Morning Tea: Sunny side-up eggs (Telur mata) & Mee Goreng fried noodles at Gerai Makan Aida (Anak Zul Lawin) (GPS: 5.29523, 101.0586) at Lawin.
c. Lunch: Chee Cheong Fun and Char Kway Teow Noodles with good Pegaga Juice at Medan Takong 1 Food Court (GPS: 5.42979, 101.13025) in Gerik.
d. Tai Chow dishes at Mok Kuah Hooi"s (Papaya Plantation) Yan Kee Rice Shop at Medan Takong 1 Food Court in Gerik.

5. Accomodations
    Our accommodations in Gerik for two nights were two twin-bedder rooms at Sri Inai Inn (GPS: 5.43005, 101.1218) at RM90 per room per night.
Address: Jalan Haji Meor Yahya, Taman Desa Kemboja, 33300 Gerik, Perak, Malaysia.
Phone: +605-7911551.

6. Weather
    March is within the tropical dry season, which is a hot period. At , morning temperatures ranged from 24°C to 26°C. At Gerik, afternoon temperatures peaked at 33°C with the perceived temperature was 37°C.
    A useful weather forecast site is AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

7. 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.

8. 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.

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.
    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.

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.

_________________________________________________________________________________
PRELUDE

Yesterday we had rode an interesting route from Kuala Kangsar to Lenggong, one that went mainly on rustic routes that passed through quiet villages. Today's route to Gerik may not have that many detours going onto the kampung roads, but we will definitely look out for them; and we got more than what we asked for towards the end.
😱😨😱
_________________________________________________________________________
THE RIDE


Cycle Route: Lenggong>Ayer Kala>Lawin>Gerik.
The route is quite straight forward going mainly along the Lenggong-Gerik stretch of Federal Route 76 with some detours onto quieter local rural roads. Other than on these local roads, most of the route was not shady.
Distance: 55km.              |               Level: Medium 

6:45am - Often on our tours we look out for good local food to try; often we strike gold getting some unique local eats, at other times the food did not turn out to be as good as the hype about it.
This morning we are going to try Lenggong's famous Loh Dee Wan Ton Mee; will it turn out to be as good as the raves?

And here it comes!
The sauce was thick and fairly good but the kicker is the barbecued char siu pork which had been slowly barbecued over a charcoal fire. Taste-wise it was fairly good but I would have liked it with more fat. The noodles also came with wantans that had been wrapped with generous pats of nicely seasoned minced pork. From an adjacent shop, one can order coffee and tea. The coffee was okay only, and the girls would definitely agree that the coffee at Karai was much, much better. The good thing about this shop is that they open early, as early as 6:30am.

Signboard to the left giving directions and distances to the heritage caves.
IN the brightening dawn we rode off, heading towards  Federal Route 76 the trunk road linking Lenggong to Gerik. It is a busy road but fortunately along the way were some emergency lanes to ride on.
This northern area of Perak is hilly and is renown for many of its caves with interesting names like Gua Sejarah, Gua Gunung Runtuh, Gua Gelap, Gua Puteri & Gua Asar. All these caves form an interesting trail called the Lenggong Valley Archaeological Trail, there must be much history behind them.

We knew that the road to Gerik did not have long parallel detours away from the main road that would make the ride more interesting than just cycling on the trunk road. But despite this we were on the look out for such roads. We missed a turning at a junction at Gua Badak but not far in front was a small trail that leads down to the quieter rural roads.... Yipee!
Gua Badak translate to "Rhinoceros Cave", but we did not see any rhinos around as they are getting scarce in numbers. I do hope that they do not become extinct soon.
Our happiness of cycling on the local roads was short lived, just after a kilometer it joined back to the trunk road 😥.

At a road-side break to re-hydrate, we saw some stray dogs staring at us suspiciously. We thought nothing about it until an odd smell led us to a half-rotting carcass of a monkey in the road-side drain. Was it a victim of these dogs? If so, I do hope that these dogs will be brought under control before more serious things happens. Needless to say, we kept our distance from them.

The girls were relieved to see a signboard indicating the Selat Pagar R&R ahead.... it was time for a toilet break. This rest stop looked new with an attractive building holding the toilets.... unfortunately, although a signed said that these were public toilets, they were locked. Looks like the girls will have to hold it in until we find another suitable place.
Come to think of it, we guys also held it in, not wanting to just do it at the roadside for fear of stray dogs!
This place was a fairly large R&R, at the other end was a restaurant called Restoran Memang Sedap (meaning Surely Delicious Restaurant); it was also closed perhaps they food was not so delicious OR perhaps they only open in the evenings.

8:15am - Happily for the girls, fifteen minutes ahead at an obscure junction was a small grocery and coffee stall. Out of courtesy we ordered some drinks and the girls quickly made a beeline for the rest-rooms behind..... Phew!
Out of curiosity, I asked how far away is Ayer Kala, our next destination....
"THIS IS AYER KALA!"
"Huh? We have reached Ayer Kala already?" I had thought that it was some distance away and was hoping to have lunch at Sun Kong Restaurant (GPS: 5.19582, 101.05737), a place highly recommended by friends. The food there is suppose to be CHEAP & GOOD! But it's too early for lunch and the place was probably not opened for the day yet.

It was definitely to early for lunch but we rode into the village anyway. Ayer Kala is located on a hill slope and riding further in would mean going uphill; we just rode along the fringe of the village. At a junction nearby to the entrance arch, some kind soul had set up a home for mentally-challenged children.
My buddies decided to head back onto the trunk road, while I went on to explore a parallel village road just after and to the right of the arch.

And I am glad that I did, for running next to this road was a red brick-wall built to resemble the Great Wall of China - this is the Great Wall of Ayer Kala. Hah! It looked new, sitting on a low slope, below which were gardens planted with colourful shrubs. The wall ran for just half a kilometre and at it's other end was a small park with replicas of the Petrona Twin Towers.

The saving grace was that further in front was a longer detour lined with shady green trees of a secondary forest. This road was just so comfortable to ride on compared to the trunk road.....

..... and this one led to a Thai temple called Wat Luang Poh Tuad. In this northern part of the country, it is not uncommon to find Thai temples as historically this northern part was once part of Thailand until an agreement was reached between the British and Siam in the early 1900s. (See a 1800s map of Thailand showing its border then).

Interestingly, this temple in an obscure small town seems to be renown. When we were there a bus-load of Indians had traveled overnight from Kajang (more than 350km away!) to come here to prayer. We made friends with a few of them including a pretty lady with charming eyes.

Seems a bit odd to find Indians praying at a Thai Buddhist temple until one realise that in many of the shrines were elephants. Perhaps therein lies an affinity with Lord Ganesh, the Hindu elephant god.

This temple also had a rather unique service; at one corner a monk gives blessing for new cars and motorcycles. Our bikes were not new, so the monk called us over and blessed us instead. With one small brush he wrote on our forehead some blessings and finished it with a whoosh of holy water from another bigger brush.

And here we are, well blessed and will be truly protected for the rest of our tour.

Ahead we were back on the trunk road which was getting steeper but still manageable, fortunately their construction cut through the hills, otherwise reducing the steepness of the slopes. We were not the only ones enjoying this route; its long straight stretches followed by some sharp corners attract super-bikers too and along the way several zoomed pass us.

We passed a village with an interesting name called Kampung Malau; "Malau" in Cantonese means monkey, but we did not see any monkeys around..... perhaps the poor things have all been attacked by those stray dingo-like dogs!
We passed a place called Arena Amanjaya Lawin; it was a large hall and at one end were some food stalls. Unfortunately, they don't seem to be opened.... "Hey! Don't these people wanna do business?" Anyway to cut the story short, this morning's wantan noodles had wantonly been burned off and we were getting slightly hungry. Lucky us, just across the roads were new shop lots and one of them was Gerai Makan Aida, a small and comfortable eatery operated by a jovial man called Anak Zul Lawin. He seemed to be name after this town..... or perhaps the town was named after his family?

We just ordered a plate of Mee Goreng to share  and a couple of  "Sunny Side-up" eggs. The Malay language has a memorable way of naming eggs done this way, it's called Telur Mata Lembu meaning Cow's Eyes eggs. Don't they look like cows' eyes?
Anyways, Anak had an easy way to identify us on his bill - he just wrote on top "Cyclists"; simple and to the point.

Continuing along the trunk road, we missed several junctions that would had taken us onto the local roads. We could only look down on them wistfully - but other than having less traffic, they didn't seem to be shadier.

The army were having their training maneuvers these past two days and often their vehicles would zoom pass us all in jungle camouflage. Must be jungle training.

  Up on a long climb at Kampung Tawai, we were relieved to find some shady spot at the top (near the Gerik Mara Junior Science College (Maktab Rendah Sains Gerik)) for a short rest. Then along came Chong & Michelle on their road bikes, they had started in the morning from Taiping, which was over 110 km. away. Under this hot, hot weather that's an achievement. SALUTE!

Up ahead, at Kampung Tanjung Rambai, we turned away from the noisy and busy trunk roads onto the local road and were glad to find them shady and light in traffic. My friends could cycle three abreast for me to grab this shot!
They were happily smiling.... and then .....

.... I took them to "Horlan"!
At Kampung Air Panas, Google Maps showed some rural roads that will lead us into Gerik without having to use the main roads. We followed them and then as they went along they became gravel roads which we struggle to cycle on.... and further along they became sandy laterite roads which we couldn't cycle on at all and it's pushing time!~
Hoping that the roads will turn for the better, I was adamant to be adventurous and continue along despite the pleas from my buddies, after all:
"DON'T TRY, WON'T KNOW"
and
"NO PAIN, NO GAIN!"

To their relief, after 1/2 a kilometre of pushing, I recovered my sanity and decided to turn back!
Back onto proper roads, it wasn't plain sailing. The hot weather had not only got to us, it had got to the trees. Up front some dry trees had erupted into a bush fire and the Fire Brigade was quick to come to the rescue.

The trees weren't the only one feeling the heat, a herd of cows had smartly hidden under shady trees, even sitting down to rest, it's a sight seldom seen - them clustered sitting together under the trees. More often than not, they would be out in the open chewing away at the grass.

And a young toddler had immersed himself into a large tub of water, looking happy and reluctant to get out. How we wished we could have jumped in and joined him.

Elsewhere, a young teen boy was on a small bike. We call these type of cyclists, mosquito bikers on account that they sometimes a few of them will come quietly and buzz around us like mosquitoes. Aren't they affected by the heat? Perhaps mosquitoes are not afraid of the heat!

1:30pm - Happily we have arrived at Gerik, stopping at the iconic Giant Gerik Hillside Welcome Sign for a memorable photo (see top-most photo); and later at a pocket park with this beautiful, green, giant sculpture of a pot. It's located just off the main road and next to Sungai Hangai stream. On the other side of the stream is another landmark, one with a giant statue of a deer's horn.

Our first destination at Gerik was not to find eats or to check into the hotel. It was straight to the Eng Seng Bicycle Shop to collect our T-shirts for the Temengur Dam Gerik 2019 event. Here we met Daniel and Tony and were most glad to pose for a wefie with them!

And this is the event T-shirt, nice isn't it with a starlized batik elephant.

Before checking in we went to the Medan Takong Food Court for lunch, it's a good place to eat as it's a food court with many stalls selling an assortment of food & drinks. We just had something simple like Chee Cheong Fun and Char Kway Teow noodles. But we were surprised to find that Stall #5 selling Pegaga Juice, it's a drink made from juice squeezed out from the Centella Asiatica plant vine. In this hot weather it's a very suitable, refreshing drink to cool down the body.

In the evening, we were back at the Medan Takong 1 Food Court for dinner with a few friends who had just arrived for tomorrow's event. Bert & Ann had driven up & David had taken a bus!
At one end is the Yan Kee Rice shop operated by an old man who have been running his food stall for more than 40 years. His name is easy to remember - Mok Quah Hooi which translates to Papaya Plantation! Actually his name is Hooi and he used to sell papayas (mok quah) before he got into the food business, hence the nickname. His name wasn't the only memorable thing, the food served by his restaurant was memorable too. We had Tengalan fish again - a very good one, this time just simply garnished with soya sauce and oil topped up with just some ginger and spring onions.

Among the other dishes we had was
- this Wild Boar Curry: good,
- tofu stew: good, and
- Ham Yee Falam Poh which did not come in a clay pot but was very good!

Medan Takong 1 Food Court seems to be the melding point for us cyclists. At least four tables were taken up by us - some buddies from the Klang Valley, others from Alor Setar, Sungai Petani and Ipoh. Most of us hardly knew each other but after some camaraderie we were soon chatting away, trading stories and looking forward to tomorrow's event. 

WILL BE SEEING YOU ALL THEN....
GOD SPEED!

(For more photos of the Day 3Click Here)
This is page 3 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
  Go to D2 Lenggong         |         Go to Other Days        |        Go to D4 Temengor >
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