Thursday, June 27, 2019

Perak-Kedah-Penang: Cycling Kuala Kangsar To Gerik To Penang Day 7 - Baling To Kulim

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Cycling Kuala Kangsar>Gerik>Penang Day 7 : Baling To Kulim - A Fairytale Ride
Central West Coast Peninsular Malaysia Day 7: Wednesday 13th 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 there were two rides.
From
 Baling to Kulim:
Cycling Distance: 67 km.              |               Level: Medium
Time : 7:00am to 1:30pm
Time Taken : 6 hrs. 30 mins. (including stops for re-orientation, rests, breakfast, morning tea, regrouping, and lots of photo opps).

Around Kulim:
Cycling Distance: 10 km. (Bike ride only)             |               Level: Easy
Time : 2:30pm to 5:00pm
Time Taken : 2 hrs. 30 mins. (including stops at various places of interest, for lunch, afternoon tea & regrouping, and lots of photo opps).
Kota Kenari>Anak Kulim>Kulim Clock Tower>Dataran Kulim>Taman Berlian>Kulim Street Art>by car>Karangan>by car>Kulim.


This is page 7 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
 < Go to D6 Baling            |            Go to Other Days            |           Go to D8 Penang >

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 from Baling to Kulim was partly through rural roads and mainly along quiet oil-palm plantation roads. The plantation roads were very almost devoid of traffic and at many stretches had ZERO phone signal strength. As such, it will be safer to download phone off-line maps OR rely on GPS units. At the plantations, most roads were not shady, so do cover up or apply sun block. Here too, the roads were undulating with mini-dragon backs.
    The route around Kulim town goes along mostly quieter roads, with some stretches on the main roads and a bit of riding on side and back alleys. The roads were fairly shady.

3. Places of Interest
    They are two maps below; one showing the route from Baling to Kulim, and the other showing a short exploring route of Kulim. Along these two routes were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time:
- Kampung Baru Kejai (GPS: 5.57900, 100.73449), a Chinese village set amidst Indian villages in an oil palm estate.
The Sungai Sedim Tree Top Walk (GPS: 5.41322, 100.78367) at Sungai Sedim.
- Kulim Merdeka Clock Tower (GPS: 5.36620, 100.55294).
- Dataran Kulim (GPS: 5.36714, 100.55309).
- Kulim Street Art (GPS: 5.36897, 100.55553) at Jalan Sekolah.
- MBI Desaku Fairytale Park (自由游行) (GPS: 5.50825, 100.62267), a colorfully lit park in Karangan.

4. Food
a. Breakfast: Roti Dol @ D'Rainbow Classic (GPS: 5.65183, 100.86108) at Kampung Charok Bemban.
b. Morning Tea: Deep-fried Dodol (Goreng Dodol) at roadside fruit stall (GPS: 5.42684, 100.61861) near Sungai Kob.
c. Lunch: Fusion fare at Anak Kulim (GPS: 5.36668, 100.55421) in Kulim.
d. Tea: Cendol Istimewa (GPS: 5.35730, 100.54281) at Taman Berlian in Kulim.
e. Dinner: Thai Fare at Heng Teik Yong Thai Seafood (GPS: 5.37147, 100.56691at Taman Kenari in Kulim.

5. Accomodations
    Our accommodations in Kulim were two twin-rooms at Fuller Hotel (GPS: 5.37342, 100.56873) at RM130/= per room per night, inclusive of a simple breakfast.
Address: 50, Lorong Kota Kenari 5/1, Kota Kenari, 09000 Kulim, Kedah, Malaysia.
Phone: +604-4927999.

6. Weather
    March is within the tropical dry season, which is a hot period. At Baling, morning temperatures ranged from 28°C. Mid-afternoon temperatures at Kulim peaked at 33°C with the perceived temperature was 41°C; night temperatures was averaged 35°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.

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PRELUDE

Legs up and relaxed on a boat trip around Tasik Banding
Yesterday, we had an easy day with minimum cycling as we enjoyed a nature boat ride around Tasik Banding (Banding Lake), followed by a road trip from Pulau Banding to  Baling. It's a road trip that took us along the scenic Baling-Gerik stretch of the East-West Highway.
Today, we are back to serious cycling as we head for Kulim. It's a route that will avoid the busy highways..... but we ended up along some rather quite and deserted plantation roads .....
_________________________________________________________________________
THE RIDE: BALING TO KULIM


From Baling to Kulim Cycle Route: Baling>Kg. Bukit Timah>Kg. Charok Kapas>Kg. Kuala Tawar>Kg. Baru Kejai>Labu Besar>Sg. Kob>Kulim Hi-Tech Park>Kulim.
The route goes along rural and very quiet plantation roads and manages to avoid the highway except for a short stretch nearer to Kulim.
Cycling Distance: 67 km.          |               Level: Medium

We hit off with a hunt for breakkie food; opting not to take the "not-so-good" nearby food and decided to ride out further.
SUCCESS!!
At Kampung Charok Bemban, our hunt proofed fruitful. We a roadside shop with a flowery name of D'Rainbow Classic that sold Roti Doll. This is a roti dish that is peculiar to Kedah and is seldom found out of the state. I first accounted it at the Restoran Mee Sham near Alor Setar amd found it to be a nice breakkie dish.
And the ones here did looked beautiful, with a sunny-side-up egg sitting atop the roti, looking like an eagle, ready to swoop down onto the sea of curry-dhal below.
Roti Doll is a variation of roti canai; it's one with an egg sitting atop a rolled up or torn roti that is flooded (banjir) with the curry gravy.

Ahead, as in life, a fork! Do we go right or do we go left. Right goes onto the busy main road. Wanting quiter roads, so we zoomed down left onto rural roads.

It's a road that takes us through the kampungs. We passed by several wooden houses, and this one caught my attention with it's pastel violet and pink tones. More importantly it had durian trees around it.... to bad it's not durian season yet.
It's also a road that has free range chicken running wildly at the grassy sides and where goats roam freely along the road without fear of being knocked down... or KID-napped, I am referring to the goats' kids 😂.

It's so quiet here that my buddies could ride three abreast like P. Ramlee and in friends from their Bujang Lapok movie of the 60's. The road took us through secondary jungles then onto plantations of older oil palms, every once in a while a small truck with harvested oil palm fruits rolled passed us, to deliver their harvest to a factory somewhere within this plantation.

But our quiet, early morning sojourn came to a sudden end. Our plotted route map indicated a junction where we were suppose to turn left. We zoomed up and down the stretch where the junction was supposed to be several times before finding it. No wonder it was hard to fing, it was an obscure laterite road. Shall we use this, I was gung-ho. But our experience at the outskirts of Gerik a few days earlier (where we landed cycling on soft sand) my buddies decided to play it safe and we looked for an alternative detour.

We ended up on the busy Kuala Tawar-Sedim stretch of Federal Route 4. Yes, it's the same highway that leads to the East-West Highway, and here it's really a busy highway cars zooming by very fast. At a stop for rest, we witnessed a heart-stopping moment: families of monkeys were trying to rush across the roads, some of them mothers with babies cling onto them. There were some thirty of them, trying to make it across. Some managed it on the first try; while others had to beat a hasty U-turn retreat as cars came honking onto them. We saw a baby almost losing it's grips on its mother and falling onto the road. Thank goodness, they were not hit by car speeding by. Can't the drivers just stop and let the monkeys pass? Damn!

Good for us that we were only on that busy main road for a short 2-km stretch before we turned away from it and continued our journey along Route K19, onto K825 and other quiet roads. We are back onto the plantation roads, but this time it wasn't flat and had many undulating mini-dragon backs; but somehow we managed to survive. This was a newer plantation and the younger trees afforded us almost no shade from Mr. Sun, who was getting rather hot.

The plantations are usually populated with small villages that cater to the Indian workers. We passed several, and then suddenly an archway! It announce the entry into a village called Kampung Baru Kejai in both Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin. It's odd seeing this Chinese village sitting plonked in the middle of an Indian community.

It's a mixed route that took us along hot oil palm estates, shady rubber plantations (only for short stretches) .....

The odd padi-fields (not that many around as we were at the foothills).

It's a route with varied scenery; the only common uniting factor was that the roads were very quiet; very, very quite such that when we saw a plantation tractor, it brightened up our day..... Hahaha...!
Okay, a small tip here. At these quiet plantations, there were areas with totally ZERO mobile phone signal strength! So it's good to use a GPS with pre-downloaded maps, OR download  off-line Google Maps or Maps.me.

An in the middle of this quitetness, out of nowhere, an odd signboard that stated "Danger! Accident Area!". We looked around, hardly any cars... perhaps the danger came from falling fruits and leaves of the oil palms!
Jokes aside, I think that these quiet stretche encourages the odd vehicles to speed and let their guard down... hence this signage.

To cut a long story short, we from Route K825, continued along K166 for long quiet stretch before exiting onto Federal Route M169 (the Jalan Kulim-Mahang Highway) that will lead us into Kulim via the Kulim Hi-Tech Park. Just at this junction was a large road-side stall that sells fruits with a rear section selling Malay Assam Laksa, goreng pisang (banana fritters), sugar-cane water and fresh coconut water.
The enterprising stall operator has ventured into making Dodol Goreng. Dodol is a sweet toffee-like sugar palm-based confection made from coconut milkjaggery, and rice flour, and is sticky, thick, and sweet. This is the first time I am trying it deep-fried like goreng pisang; it's not bad with the crispy skin contrasting with the gooey molass-like, hot Dodol.

A passing remark by Jenny about "eating coconut" instead of drinking coconut water had me trying to bite into this coconut.... no success!. It's too tough for my old teeth and definitely something not edible!
Anyways, the stall operator was a chatty fellow, and advised us to visit Karangan at night for some beautiful views. This got us intrigued and we searched the net for Karangan and found very interesting photos of the place... but more of that later..... let's get to Kulim first 😅.

12:55pm - Our official time of reaching Kulim, here we are at the Kulim Hi-Tech Park.
Fast forward a bit... to 2:00pm. We had checked into our hotel and contacted our local friends Chris and her hubby Simon who asked us to go out cycling... "Now? In this very hot afternoon?", I asked. "Yes, we will be over in fifteen minutes!" he answered.
See map below for route we took for a quick exploration of Kulim.

THE RIDE: EXPLORING KULIM


Around Kulim Cycling Route:
Cycling Distance: 10 km. (Bike ride only)             |               Level: Easy )
Time : 2:30pm to 5:00pm
Time Taken : 2 hrs. 30 mins. (including stops at various places of interest, for lunch, afternoon tea & regrouping, and lots of photo opps).

And off we went, the couple's lively, exuberant nature soon had us forgetting about the hot sun, and we rode into town to find ourselves riding on clean and quiet back-lanes.
Why back-lanes and not the main front road?

Herein lies a local secret, we will be eating at a place called Anak Kulim ....
and their rear door was a much more interesting way to enter than from the front. Their back door and back compound had ficus trees (often called strangler vines) growing on their walls, making the place looks rather rustic... like something from Lara Croft's 
 (the Tomb Raidervisit to the Ta Prohm temple in Angkor, Cambodia.

Inside, they had booked the most comfy seating, one with faded "sepia tone" walls, overlooking the interesting over-grown rear compound. The food here is an interesting fusion of local cum Western cum Chinese fusion fare; we had their unique Pumpkin Noodle Soup( where the hot yellow pumpkin soup is poured onto deep-fried vermicelli rice noodles), Basilco Pesto Sphagetti, Green Curry Sphagetti, and their Black Forest Chicken set.

We had a real surprise in store...
It's Chris's birthday....
🎆🎆🎂🎂🎂  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRIS! 🎂🎂🎂🎆🎆

Okay, here's me, up to my cranky self to entertain the birthday guest!
That rattan thing reminded me of the Asian conical hats that we wore during our Vietnam Mekong River Tour ... but that was actually not a hat, it's a cover for food that has been laid out on a table. Oops....

The couple were very good hosts, and took us on a spin of thier hometown with visits to the town square at Dataran Kulim (see top-most photo), and then to the Kulim Merdeka Clock Tower.  This is a landmark that was erected to commemorate the independence of Malaya. The clock tower stands at the corner of Kulim Main Road and Jalan Tunku Laksamana. It has the words Merdeka 1957 (meaning Independence 1957, the year our country gained its independece) on each of its four sides. Ground breaking for the Kulim Merdeka Clock Tower was officiated by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, who was then the Chief Minister of the Federated States of Malaya, on 14 June, 1957.

With a few twist and turns, we found ourselves at a quiet residential area, Taman Berlian. It'a an appropriate names as "berlian" is Malay for diamond. It's at this humble road-side stall that we tried one of Kulim's treasures - Cendol Istimewa Kulim.

They have been around for more than fifty years, more than enough time to perfect their recipe. This I must agree as their cendol was perfect with good fresh santan, aromatic Gula Melaka which was just sweet enough.... and the kicker is their pulut, glutinous rice cooked with santan! Yes it's a double dose of coconut creaminess.

But our ride was not over yet, there was one more destination back in town- the Street of Kulim. These were rather nice artwork and we added our creativity to them in our funny poses!

This one reminded us of a politician who could talk very well but had saliva spraying from his mouth at the same time. A local cartooist drew a cartoon of his audience carrying umbrellas whenever he spoke!
(... read more of Kulim Street Art)

After a rest back at the hotel, we were out again. This time it was a 45-minutes drive up to Karangan, our Kulim buddies picked us up to go visit the MBI Desaku Park (自由游行). This park has many attractive lit-up colourful presentations separated into different themed sections, and dusk was the best time to catch their display. The colour of the setting sun blended very well with the colourful displays. Above is the entrance archway to the park.

The park is divided into different sections, each one having a different theme. The above is one from the Wonders of the World section, showing domes that represent St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, Russia. There were even replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning of Pisa - the unifying them was that there were all colourfully lit up.

This one is the archway into the Japanese section of the Oriental Zone. And adjacent section was the Chinese section in a respective theme.

The Fairytale section with Cinderella's carriage will surely attract the children and the ladies.

And this fish is a giant, large enough to "swallow" up adults too!

In another zone, were various "towns" with shops and eateries represting different countries. The was a Western town with a cowboy look; a Japanese town with spartan but attractive buildings. Above is the restaurant from China town, an impressive replica of one of those floating restaurants.

So caught up by those attractive displays were we that we forgot about our tummies. By the time we left, it was already getting late and several eateries we went to were already closed; we finally ended at Heng Teik Yong for a good Thai seafood dinner. Surprisingly it was just round the corner from our hotel; yup, we haf gone one full cirlce.

MANY THANKS TO CHRIS & SIMON FOR BEING SUCH GRACIOUS HOSTS,

GOOD NIGHT!

(For more photos of the dayClick Here)
This is page 7 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
 < Go to D6 Baling            |            Go to Other Days           |           Go to D8 Penang > 
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