Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 9 of my solo trip: Kulim - Taiping-Kuala Kangsar

Friday, December 2, 2010: Kulim, Kedah, Malaysia:

I woke up at my auntie's house in Kulim, as I was made to put up a nite by my cousin. She is my childhood friend and continues her father's (my late uncle, youngest sibling of my father) profession as a police sergeant at the place where her father retires. Three more of her 12 siblings end up in the police force. I used to spend my long school holiday in my uncle house at the old barrack of Kulim police station. My late uncle is well known as Tok Mat.Yesteday, I cycled through Baling and took the highway to Kupang and later divert to Kuala Ketil to meet with Jep KP, my fellow Pujmac team mate, who happens to be on the way to Langkawi for holiday. I also met my colleagues Izam and Zamzurina in Kuala Ketil as they went back to their hometown. From Kuala Ketil, I cycled through Merbau Pulas, Padang Serai and reached Kulim town at about 5.00pm. My cousin hauled me up into her car and took me to my uncle house. I had good diner.
Jep KP
Izam, bro  and sis
Baling, categorized as black area same as Pengkalan Hulu, even few years after emergency. In September 1955, the famous Baling Talk was held in Baling, the talked between our Tunku Abdul Rahman accompanied by David Marshall and Tan Cheng Lock with the Communist Party of Malaysia which was led by Chin Peng accompanied by Rashid Maidin and Chin Tian. Tunku made firmed and perfect decision as he dismissed all demands from Chin Peng. Baling also was known for the caused of student demonstration in the 70s, where there were rumors of people died in Baling due to famine that inflicts students in Kuala Lumpur to demonstrate and riot against the government. The student leaders at that time were Anwar Ibrahim, Ibrahim Ali and Hishamudin Rais. Both Anwar and Ibrahim were sentenced into ISA whereas HRais fled oversea to escape ISA. HRais, an undergraduate student of Malaya University, majoring in History returned to Malaysia in the early 90s after long stayed in middle east, Europe and India and remained as rebel without caused but giving no harm at all, like toothless tiger. Should he docked in the ISA, he would probably be somebody by now, just like the two asses (DSAI and Abe Ali). I called them asses as DSAI had been through enough trouble with someone's asses, whilst Abe Ali kisses someone's ass to rejoin UMNO. Another incident that happened in Baling was a demonstration led by a religous leader, Ibrahim Libya in 1982. The clashed with the police claimed many casualties among the peoples. Ibrahim Libya and many of his followers died in the incident. PAS claimed that the the act was jihad and those people who died are martyr. For me, only god knows. Baling remained calm and quiet, the town is equipped with loudspeaker at four corners and played music, probably the idea came the new state government. I continued my lone journey after having lunch at my auntie's place, it was Friday and I missed the prayer again, taking full advantage of privilege of being a 'musaffir' (traveller) heading to Junjong, Kg Valdor, Nibong Tebal , Parit Buntar, Bagan Serai, Gunong Semanggol  and Taiping. The ride through malay villages, rubber estates, rice fields, palm oil plantations on a very flat land. Its kind of monotonous as for the past few days I went through serious mountainous ground.
I pass through Taiping and just after Bukit Gantang, I experienced intense climbing at Bukit Berapit. It was not that long, but it steeped enough for me to make deep inhaled through mouth. The climbing end up once I saw the YTL cement quarry on my left and its busy chopping down Gunong Pondok. We cant really blame them, Perak has limited resources and probably the poorest state though the former Chief Minister's (MB) son was flying on private helicopter for a date with local celebrity. I reached Kuala Kangsar when it was about getting dark. Had myself a room the in the famous Double Lion hotel which cost me RM 50 per nite and shared bathroom.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My solo tour: Day 8 : BETONG (Thailand)-Pengkalan Hulu-Baling-Kuala Ketil-Kulim

Thursday, December 2: Betong: 0800 hrs.
I checked out from the chalet and cycled towards the border, its moderate uphill slope from the chalet to the border check point and as I was heading towards Pengkalan Hulu. I stopped for breakfast at the stall not far after the checkpoint. Tuan Fadil (Farhoud's father) and a few of his friends from Pengkalan Hulu cycling group were there to treat me for breakfast. BTW, Tuan Fadil is the OCPD of Pengkalan Hulu.
Tuan Fadhil
After breakfast and thanking Tuan Fadhil, I continued towards Pengkalan Hulu road until the junction to Baling. I took Baling road through Gunung Inas. It was nice views, mountain and tropical jungles all along the way. I was cruising on a long downhill freeride until almost reaching Baling town
Back to Pengkalan Hulu town, it is formerly known as Kroh probably Thai word as the distance is only 7 km away to the border. The town that is located on the highland discovered by H.N Ridley (British Botanist and Chief of Garden) about 100 years ago. He came to Kroh in searched of land for rubber estate on caravan of elephants from Kuala Kangsar, however he found tin deposit in open outcrop in Kelian Intan and it was a cash cow.They built the town as what we see today. By the way, HN Ridley is the guy who has contributed tremendously to Malaysian modern economic. He helps to transform Malaysian from consuming to producing nation. He brought the first Hevea (biji getah) seeds to Malaysia from Botanical garden in Singapore and planted it on Bukit Chandan, Kuala Kangsar. He promoted British investors to invest in rubber estates in Malaysia, thats how names like Sime Darby, Guthrie and Harrissons & Crossfields appeared in Malaysian economic sorority. He also developed the modern day tapping technique.Thanks to the British who introduced education, administration, technical & engineering and law & order to the Malays or else the the Malays would probably just a food gathering people and good in making baby only.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My solo tour: Day 7 : BETONG (Thailand)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010: River Inn Chalet Betong, Thailand:
I spent most of my time within the chalet or cycled to the mosque. I only went downtown for lunch and dinner. City is no big deal. Given a choice I would chose to live in the village. The mosque here are happening, even during predawn prayer, the prayer hall is quiet occupied, far better than the mosque in my village, which hardly have more than 5 heads during predawn. People in my hometown feared the cursed of the fish more than called for prayer.The mosque which is located on the river bank is not as grandeur as any typical mosque in Malaysia, I saw only equipped with basic necessities. The water supply is from the natural spring that came from the ground exactly below the mosque and piped to be drained at the ablution area.It is potable and refreshing, I consumed bottles of it. The water from the stream is cold and crystal clear. I always forgot to snap photo of the mosque and its surrounding.

I met Farhoud father by accident, he saw me at the front of Butterfly hotel and greeted me in Thai.I was on my bicycle. Perhaps, I look like typical Thai when I put on camouflage shorts and buff. He invited me for drinks, over the table then I came to know that he is Farhoud father, very nice man. He promised to take me to the local bicycle shop.

I cycled back to the chalet and met with the receptionist, she offered to arrange sex companion for me if I am interested. Politely, I told her that I am muslim, and illicit sex is forbidden according to our believes. She smiled and told me that they were many Malaysian muslim who seek her assistance for such services. Well, I cut it short by telling her I wasnt interested.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My solo tour: Day 6 : BETONG (Thailand)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010: River inn chalet, Betong Thailand:
The chant for morning prayer from the nearby mosque was loud and very early in the morning until I noticed that my watch is still showing Malaysian time, we are ahead of Thai by one hour. Its amazing to hear a loud chant, even louder than the call for prayer in the mosque back home, only hardcore sinners would not wake up and pray. It came across my mind again, the incident with the big guy in the mosque at Kampong Pahit, if he really threw punched on my face, I would have shitted in the sarong hehe, Well, one madman would not harm another madman. hehehe

The bridge

The half wooden chalet is nice, it was built on the banks of the clear water stream on both sides and connected to each other by some kind of bridge. The bridge is equipped with chairs and tables and has been the place where I spent my time relaxing(lepak), drinks and cigars while watching the flow of water and beautiful plants and trees.

Last nite, after having dinner I went to the hotel not far from the chalet in searched for Wi-Fi, its available and I was sitting with my notebook at one corner in the lobby. I noticed they were many beautiful women, some were really really damned beautiful, which I thought they are guest, I was curios that they were too friendly and seducive.., how shall I describe them this " say the ladies are all insane there, and they know how to use it, they dont abuse it, never gonna lose it, I cant refuse it"......... hehehe,  I borrowed the words of Waylon Jenning in his song title..Never been to Spain.., W. Jenning  is the icon of the country music of the 70s. Actually,..." I refuse it...", they are hookers. It doesnt took me long there and I cycled back to the chalet and caught me a zzzzzzzzz.

I had breakfast 'nasi berlauk', the malays here speaks kelantan accent, it works well for me as I picked the twang while dating kelantanese girl way back in the 80s, my fluency is still within understandable standard.The town is happening, majority inhabited by chinese while the malays occupied the surrounding villages.A lot of trading and agriculture activities took place in daily life, while some works in public services. Other economic booster probably sex industry, as I saw flocks of Malaysian crosses the border in search of sexual ecstasy.Its kind of hard to distinguish sober woman and prostitute when night comes. Women, karaokes, massage parlors,brothels and pubs are names of the game. This town makes hard man tumble, not much between despair and ecstasy, cant be too careful with your company and I can feel the devil walked next to me.

After had my breakfast, I cycled to Yala road and stopped by the roadside asking information about the road that lead to Hadyaai. A guy in police uniform told me it is not safe to go by road to Hadyai  through Thailand road as he fears the risk of getting gunned down by unknown assailants. Even local people traveled to Hadyai through Bukit Kayu Hitam. Therefore I decided to spent few days in Betong. I love the chalet anyway.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My solo bike tour to Thailand: Day 5: Gerik-Pengkalan Hulu-Betong(Thailand)

Monday,November 29, 2010, morning in Gerik is pleasant, it's chilly with temperature barely at 20 deg Celcius. I woke up early to enjoy and experience morning in Grik. I walked around the guesthouse, admiring the morning dew and greenery, with unpolluted atmosphere and untouched plants and trees its was paradise. I wasn't sure of the actual Grik's elevation above sea level, anyway it's really on the highland. Later I took a casual ride to the downtown and stopped by the restaurant to have 'nasi lemak'. There were talks about Grik, Pengkalan Hulu and the nearby surrounding areas, as the evident were never documented and only mentioned through words, it would be a risk having meal in the public places as one would be possessed by a voodoo kind of charm that causes the victim to vomit blood and would lead to death or lifelong suffering of continous vomiting of blood and other sickness.The charm is transmitted through food during meal. Grik and some areas in Perak are verbally known of having some quarters of people who practice such ritual. It will get riskier towards the end of the year as the practitioners are obliged to pay dues to the spirit by sacrificing at least one victim before the year end, or else the spirit will curse him or anyone of his family members and they will instead vomit blood and suffers. Being a full blown American educated, it's hard to believe but I did encounter some hard cases as I was born, bred and raised as full-blooded 'kampong boy' Perakian, and there were cases happened in my hometown too. Only thing I did before having meal is to pray and give total submission to god, so that I would be granted protection against all evil spirits.

While having breakfast, I was greeted by Ustaz (Mullah), he was asking me 5 basic questions again(where, when, how... so on) and later wanted to have a taste on my bicycle, by all means please.He seems enjoying the ride within the building compound.Talking about supernatural, I just forgot to mention about the incident  that happened to me when I was approaching the town last evening. It was light rain and dark, the distance was about 5km to the town, on the descending slope, all of a sudden my bike was running heavy as something is pulling it from behind.With my own weight of 80kg and 30 kg on the bike, the gravity by logic should deliver nothing less than 30km per hour of freeride speed, to my surprise the speedometer shows only 10km per hour. I look back and saw nothing but only darkness. I doubt it was mechanical fault, yesss it could be ghost. When the idea of ghost came into my mind, I started to mumble to myself "why me, its dark and raining, I am tired, helpless and desperate for shelter, rather than you give me trouble, why don't you offer me assistance". Immediately after completing the  phrases, she (must be female, male ghost don't bother male guys....according to Korean movie) let me go, as I was later cruising at steady 32km per hour of speed. Even on the steep uphill I ran consistently 28km per hour of speed, it goes till I hit Grik town, which is too good of a performance for guy my age. Perhaps she thought not worth it, a tasteless flesh of middle aged man, former virgin and with body fulled of contaminates, it could be harmful to consume. Or else, if I am pure and virgin I may end up on her dinner table (hehheheh...according to chinese movie).

After I had breakfast, I packed and checkout from the rest house, a beautiful receptionist attended to me at the checkout counter, very rare to have such beauty in this small town, double her age will not exceed mine, so lets the young guy look after her, I got cycling to do. I left Grik when the sun was just about to warm up, it was a nice flat road towards Pengkalan Hulu, its only 40 km away. Along the away, its a malay villages, palm oil and rubber plantations, I saw a boy with curly hair, covered by sarong waist down and a pouch hang on his belly. He smile and waived at me and I took a few shots of him. From the name of the villages and county, I figured there are some resemblance of 'Siam'(Thai) as this place was once rules by the 'Kingdom of white elephant' and Pengkalan Hulu was known as Kroh before the present name. After less than 7 km, I started to face a mean and unforgiving uphills, most of it were climbing, Pengkalan Hulu is at higher elevation than Grik. The surrounding views are mostly high mountains. The beginning of 'Titiwangsa' the backbone of Malaysia Peninsular. Its nice views and very refreshing, however the sun was so bullyful(new vocab). There are some canopies of tall tress along the road, the road was built by the British to transport tin ore from Klian Intan in Pengkalan Hulu to Grik and Ipoh for processing. The mines is still in operation and run by a company called Rahman Hydraulic.The tin ore deposits are on the open outcrops. Its not like the dredger technique where the tin deposits are beneath the earth strata. The technique of mining here is by detonators, where they blew the mountain with dynamite and collect the tin ore that are composed within the sediment rock, its dry and clean process. Later the rock and tin ore are separated. I believed the road has been widen. After cycling for more than 400km, I noticed that the roads that were designed by the British are more tolerating when negotiating uphill by bicycle. Newly designed roads mostly have steep gradient, the rationale is, bicycle is only for sports and recreational these days. I took a few stops as the sun and slopes were intolerable. Its peaceful, less traffics and lots of bird sings. I saw no sign of compromising slopes at least not yet. Its a beautiful tropical jungles and mountains all along the way. For information, though this is my silver state, it was my first time in life to step foot on this ground. Never been here before.

After more than 3 hours of pedaling, I only managed about 25 km. I decided to stop at the grocery store in the village called 'Kampong Pahit', had myself a refilled of ribena and chocolate. I saw two girls in nursing uniform and get myself friendly with them and later I decided to go to the nearby mosque when I heard a call for prayer.  I locked my bike and get cleaned and joined the prayer. After prayer I decided to take a rest and just found out how to use the self activated mode on my Canon camera, it was already a few months in possession. BTW, I am the one who can be called an 'electronic idiot'. Nice view, the mosque is facing a high mountain, the entire village is located on the valley surrounded by mountains. Its me alone in the mosque before heavy rain starts pouring, its cold and misty, I got a companion who came for shelter, a chubby guy clad in t-shirt. He did not response to my salam, doesnt seems friendly. He is big, dark and may look like William 'the refrigerator' Perry if shaved. BTW, William Perry was a Line backer for Chicago Bear football team in the 80s. Well, I better leave him alone then. I sat at one corner in mosque with my eyes still locked to this guy, he got his finger always inside his nose, digging and scratching. So I came with this weird idea to capture his action with my Canon, I did it well for the first two shots, he wasnt looking at me while I was clicking but I was caught red handed on the third shot. Oh my god, he was looking at me in the eyes, I tried to smile and waived to him, he gave no response. Opps better be ready to accept some fists or jump outside the mosque and get wet, as I was only clad in sarong without anything underneath. If we exchanged fists or get into physical commotion, I may loose the sarong and get naked and if I caught naked in the mosque with another guy, it may stir lots of speculations.

He was just staring at me but nothing happened, then I noticed that he is a kind of wacko (american.. means a person who is suffering mental illness) as the look he gave to me has no feeling and meaning, it was just empty look, probably he is in his own world. We were later joined by another person, a young boy who wanted to take a bath at the mosque. The boy confirmed me that the big guy is having mental disorder. I was relief then and later put on my riding gears and started to pedal to Pengkalan Hulu. After 2 km of cranking, the day was getting hot again as the sun was shining bright. The climbing was getting more intense as I approached Gunung Paku (Mount of Fern). I can feel the uphill slope so steep that I have to stand up to put my body weight load to the crank for extra force. Besides, the passing vehicles were pushing on maximum engine throttled while crawling to the summit. How I wish to have 3 more speeds to make it 12 on my lowest chain ring.
It was about three quarter to the summit when I observed that my heartbeat reading was 160 beat per min, additional 20 BPM could be fatal. Therefore, I decided to stop and lie down next to my bicycle for breather under the hot sun. It was only when the BPM gets below 80 then I decided to continue on foot to the summit. I reached the summit and it was a relief and the feeling was like reaching destination. I took few minute at the top to view the scenery before start to descend. It was so steep that I could reached a maximum downhill free ride speed of 67.8 KPH. It wasnt long after the free ride then I saw signboard of Pengkalan Hulu. The down hill road passes through few villages and I saw the tin mines that runs by Rahman Hydraulic.
And not long after that I hit the downtown, its only takes me another 12km
to the Thai border, just could not expressed the feeling when I made it this far.I stopped at the restaurant for late lunch, again it was raining and thunder storm. It was heavy this time, the whole town gloom with clouds and heavy fogs when the rain stopped. Reminds of winter in some European cities, which I used to visit in my younger days. Its almost dark when I was heading to the border. The immigration check point was not a hassle, within 5 minutes, I 've got all paper works done and starts heading into Thai side, it was like a welcome, when I noticed that it was downhill free ride right from the immigration check point to Betong downtown. It was dark when I rolled into the downtown. Through words and sign language, I managed to locate a nice chalet in the malay ghetto of Betong town.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My solo bicycle tour to Betong (Thailand)-Day 4: Kuala Kangsar- Gerik

Pekan Kati
Sunday November 28, 2010: Kuala Kangsar:  Yesteday was like a fun ride, I clocked in another 80km and made my total distance traveled since day 1 is 320 km. I spent my nite at Kangsar hotel, located near the old postal office of Kuala Kangsar. BTW  Kuala Kangsar is the hometown of Fid Mohammad, probably her parents were born here. I woke early in the morning and had breakfast at the jetty, the place where pasar malam is held in this town. The jetty served to ferry commuters to Sayong or Kota Lama Kanan  which is located on the other side of the river. It wasnt so busy as it was in the 60s or 70s, that was before the bridge was built. I remember when I was about 9, my mom and dad took me for a ride on the 'sampan' (boat which is manually rowed) to Kota Lama Kanan to visit my uncle. I could imagine the energy that the man who rowed the boat exerted while his 'sampan' which was fulled with passengers. Some people may not have much choices to make ends meet. We paid 20 cents per head for the fare. My mom's father was born here and I still have many cousins who live here. After had my breakfast, at about 8.00 am I start cycling towards the road leading to Ipoh and just before the Iskandar bridge I took left turn on the road that lead to a town called Kati. I saw Kati town signboard after 15 minute ride from the junction. Kati is also a cowboy town, I was not even stopped, keep on pedalling heading for Lenggong and the sun was starting to smile at me. Its gonna be burning hot cycling day, what the hell, I have  gone too far to retreat. My prediction was right as I cycled along the hiway under open sky, it was too hot till the water inside the water bottle tasted like warm water. I hit Raja Nazrin bridge that is crossing Tasik Raban, it was nice view but it was too hot to stay long on the bridge to appreciate the view.

Kuala Kangsar-Lenggong Hiway

After crosssing the bridge, I decided to look for shelter. I followed the exit road from the highway and riding along the old road towards Lenggong. I saw a nice spot near the lake where I parked my bike by the tree and took a nap. It was so refreshing after almost an hour of sleep an continued cycling through the village 'Kg Raban' towards Lenggong. On the way, I saw a restaurant serving hot fresh water fish barbeque and selling coconut too, its too tempting and time to recharge. The place look like a popular spot for lunch, I saw bunch of superbikers stopped by and walked into the restaurant  like a cowboy, mostly with buffs on their head and with jackets and riding pants, they walked as they are the most handsome and macho guys in town. The fact that they are only riding on the local assembled Kawasaki ERN 600, the marque that are popular among the beginners, lowest end of the league. That machine is not so cool like BMW RGS. Deep inside me was saying , hei guys I cycled almost 400km to get here, you guys are not even up to my ass  so dont walked like some kind of macho ...hehehe. BTW , its me alone, I may end up being vegetable  if I said it out loud.  

 After fullfilling my stomach, I continued on the old road and it lead me to the hiway, the sun shows no sign of complementing, as matter of facts it is really testing my patient. I decided to ride no matter how hot she wanna burn me. The slope on the hiway is not forgiving too, its reminds of riding on the MEX hiway and the difference is this higway is having long and steeper slopes and while riding the sun is perpendicular to the top of my head, while MEX is much shorter and gentle slopes, the cycling was done in the evening. I only could take it to Lenggong, while looking for place to rest, I saw guesthouse sign board.   I get to the cafeteria in the guesthouse and ordered ABC and got me a place on the nice couch in the aircond where I had a good nap after finishing my ABC.

Lenggong town
I took a nap on the couch, the aircond and the ABC were the nicest thing happen to me that day. I woke up at 3.30pm after having more than two hours of sleeping. I went to Lenggong mosque (Masjid Jamek) took a plain shower and pray. It was at about 4.20pm when I was back on the saddle heading for Grik. Both the
sky and sun were kinda comprizing and it was really a pleasant ride as the sky was clear and cold breeze blew from the mountain. It was beautiful scenery along, mountains, tropical jungle and nice rivers  and streams. I stopped on one of the steel bridge on the river that run parallel to the road and later was joined by bunch of kids on BMX. They threw some admiring gestures to my bicycle but gave no reaction to my story that I had cycled 400 km.They were only interested to know how much the bike cost but gave no attention to my story though I was zealously and repeatedly telling them. They were happy to join my ride for 3 km heading to Grik.
New kids on the block
It was about 6 pm when it was started to rain heavy, I continued cranking as I want to reach Grik before dark. It was kind of chilly as the wind blew and naturally that place is cold. It suits me well except for the rain. I dont really care about stopping for shelter, I increased my pace and finally I saw big concrete signboard written Grik on the left side of the road. It only took me 500m after the sign then I saw direction leading to the rest house. I got myself a room that cost rm 50 with 3 beds.