Monday, March 26, 2012

sitiawan (overnight bike trip)

photo: at the temple at pasir panjang

the main purpose of this short overnight trip is actually to test out the recently acquired rear rack and pannier bags setup for feasibilities and also identify and iron out any potential problems/weaknesses prior to any future longer trips. my primary concern was that the bike wasn't designed for rack/pannier setup in the first place, being a lightweight racing geometry bike. well, i can report that the set-up sort of works ok for a light touring setup that i had in mind, although the handling isn't as nice as usual due to the extra weights at the back. but there are some issues i had with the rack's design that i may review in a separate post later. was actually thinking of heading to ipoh, but then decided that a smaller town would probably be more interesting on a bike rather than a big city...

after having switched to clipless pedals more than a month ago, i finally had my first clipless pedal "malfunction" today... starting from a standstill, i had my right foot already clipped in, but then i probably over-compensated for the unbalanced pannier on one side, and started to tilt to the right side. in my mind, "oh shit..." and by the time i managed to disengage my right foot, it's too late to stop the inevitable fall. anyway, apart from a scraped knee, slightly torn handlebar tape (now i have an excuse to change the easy-to-dirty original white bar tape to other colors), the chain came off, minor scratches on the rear rack, and more importantly a bruised ego, everything else appeared to be fine. happened right in front of yut sun restaurant in taiping as i was leaving after an early lunch. an uncle came out to help hold the bike while i reattach the chain, and at the same time gave me a series of "you young people"-type of lectures when i do certain things my way instead of what he suggested... anyway i'm grateful for the assistance :)

from taiping, i headed towards air kuning/changkat jering (follow the signboard to "ipoh - tolled" route when you come to a traffic light junction with tolled and non-tolled options, but continue straight past instead of turning into the north-south highway interchange) and onwards to terong. when mentioning charcoal factory, kuala sepetang is more well-known in perak, but there is also another charcoal factory at kuala trong for those that may be interested for a visit.

note that when approaching pantai remis town on route 60 (from the north), the road shoulder soon practically dissappeared all the way until the junction to damai laut, leaving one to jostle for space with other engine-powered counterparts. and there's a lot of large, heavy vehicles (think trucks, lorries, container trailers etc.) passing through this road. and the road quality isn't very good either, where you have to constantly dodge cracks, sandy patches, rocks etc.. all these while being repeatedly passed closely by the aforementioned huge vehicles at high speed... frankly, unless you need to go somewhere accessible only from this route (e.g. the segari turtle conservation center), do yourself a favor and avoid cycling this stretch where possible.

photo: with the largest turtle at segari... or maybe not.

segari turtle conservation center is a 7km detour (one way) from the main road. there are adequate signboards pointing at the junctions to take. you'll first reach an observation tower with the signboard "baitul hilal" - it is apparently used for new moon sightings to determine the starts of islamic month of fasting/ramadhan and also raya. go around this building and the segari center is at the end of the road. other than the segari center, there is another one on the west coast side located at pantai kerachut in penang.

there are 3 large bridges to be crossed before entering into sitiawan town, with the first of these being the majestic raja permaisuri bainun bridge, currently the second longest river bridge in malaysia. the views from atop the bridge of the surroundings were pretty nice, with the lumut port/shipyards on one side, and mostly green undeveloped area on another side. i arrived in sitiawan quite a bit later than planned, and missed out on some of the online food recommendations - the pau (bun) at yee si restaurant was already sold out, and manjung rojak was closed. managed to try james cendol (with the trademark red bow tie) and manjung coconut jelly though, with the latter also available in penang at jalan dato keramat.

over at pasir panjang nearby is a chinese temple with various huge (granite?) statues facing the sea. from sitiawan town (the crossroad with kfc at the corner), head towards kampung koh, and then take the junction to pasir panjang on the right side. then go straight past a crossroad with traffic lights until ending at a T-junction. from here, the only signboards pointing there is in chinese characters (in yellow background - just follow these). of the various huge statues, there is one of 'guan yin' holding a jar on one hand, from where water is flowing down and collected in a big jar underneath for people to scoop up and take away.

photo: at the temple at pasir panjang

accommodation for the night was at lee garden hotel near the local tesco (technically it is in seri manjung area rather than sitiawan town proper), RM55 for a room with double bed (aircond/hot shower). they're ok with me taking the bike into the room, although they also have space at the back on ground floor (staff area) for storing the bike.

by the way, i noticed lots of ugly swiftlet nesting structures built everywhere along this trip, and even converted from unused shophouses, with annoying recorded chirping sounds playing back on endless loops to attract the birds in. some are even right in front of people's homes! wonder how they cope with it.

the next morning, i made a detour to kampung koh's morning/public market for breakfast at the noodle stall before continuing the journey back to kulim. this would be my only solid food for the rest of the journey today, and multiple cans of red bull energy drinks fueled the rest of the return journey.

from kampung koh, i headed towards ayer tawar, and onwards on the dual-lane ipoh-lumut trunk road before turning towards beruas. the presence of large groups of people at the chinese cemeteries along the way, burning paper offerings, was a reminder that 'qing ming' is around. from beruas to batu hampar/terong, the road has many twists and turns, good for keeping one from falling asleep due to the monotony of a long straight road (especially when passing through wide swaths of oil palm plantations). from terong to changkat jering was the same stretch of road that i passed yesterday. from changkat jering, i took the federal trunk road no.1 for a long stretch until around sungai bakap in penang, bypassing taiping town. mainly i just wanted to use a different route that doesn't pass through selama as i've been around that area many times already.

turning into the junction towards tasek, the sky in front was veiled in deep dark shades of blue... rain clouds. the drizzle started soon after and became progressively heavier until the junction in front of kulim police district headquarter. and then the sky cleared with the sun out again after i reached the house in kulim. damn...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

  • kulim to sitiawan (day 1) via sungai tengas (136/K907) - selama (K7) - kubu gajah/pondok tanjong/kamunting (A7) - taiping (A2) - air kuning/changkat jering (A109) - terong (60/A103) - pantai remis (A101/60) - segari (60) - sitiawan (60/A177)
  • sitiawan to kulim (day 2) via kampung koh (5) - ayer tawar (A125/5) - beruas (71) - batu hampar (73/60) - terong/changkat jering (60) - simpang/bagan serai/parit buntar/nibong tebal/jawi/sg. bakap (1) - tasek/junjong (P145) - kulim (K145/K12/136)

total distance cycled (including detours):
  • day 1: 209 km
  • day 2: 183 km

amounts of isotonic and red bull drinks consumed: enough to get isotonic drink poisoning, if there is such a thing... (note to self: mix a bit more plain water in next time!). and i just realized that the oversized downtube design on the bike actually functions well as a makeshift front fender in case of rain...

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