Saturday, June 9, 2012

perlis trip (day 2 & 3, of 3)

photo: along chuping road.

decided to just check-out from brilliant inn today and not bother with staying another night after all. i was thinking to maybe overnight in kangar instead for a change, or if i had sufficient time in the evening and we didn't get a heavy evening tropical rain today, i'd move on to either jitra or alor setar, which will be only around 2 hours extra from kangar. that'll cut short my return journey on the third day too.

started the day heading east towards pauh, where there were some sort of morning market going on with various stalls along the road. a little further, the road merged into changlun - kuala perlis highway. a junction on the left, unmarked on google maps, has a signboard indicating that it leads to chuping, so i took this instead of another main road junction further away. at the roundabout towards felda chuping, there are 2 concrete signboards declaring chuping as the hottest place in malaysia, and also as the largest sugarcane plantation in malaysia.

photo: the hottest place in malaysia? okay...

40.1 degree celcius as the hottest recorded temperature? hmm.. my cycle computer showed up to 42 degree in the afternoon heat around perlis, and that was while constantly on the move. stationary, it'll shoot up a few degrees more.

very few vehicles on the chuping road early in the morning, and hardly any other cyclists too. heading northwards, there are more 'ups' than 'downs' - not sure why i always managed to pick the harder direction to ride on.

photo: along chuping road.

chuping, with a large area dedicated to sugarcane planting, has always been a unique scenic place to pass through in Malaysia, especially when the planted sugarcanes are matured enough. the chuping road, passing right at the edge of these plantations, was a joy to drive through when i was here a few years ago.

sadly, on this trip, there were hardly anymore sugarcane plants left around. hmm... maybe it was just past harvest season? a chat with a local cyclist at the lookout point on the road to wang kelian later revealed the sad news - there will no longer be any sugarcane mass-planted there, where they once used to stretch wide and far into the horizon. the last sugarcane harvest recently was the final batch, and the whole area will now be planted with rubber trees instead.

maybe it makes sense from an economic standpoint, but to me, that place used to have one of the nicest memorable scenery in perlis. and now it's gone...

photo: ostrich birds playing dead.

nearing padang besar, a passing car's wheel hit a small rock and flung it towards me, striking the front wheel. it made a really loud metallic sound - luckily no obvious major damage, spoke breakage etc... and luckier still that it didn't hit me instead. didn't bother to go into padang besar town, and turned left towards kaki bukit instead. there's an osctrich farm midway, with a few birds out on display for visitors.

there were quite a lot of vehicles heading towards wang kelian, likely due to the school holiday season. the road to wang kelian passes over a ridge, and some of the hairpin turns on the climbs are crazily steep on the inside corners. with many cars passing through, it was a bit dangerous to move to the less steep outside corners, and coupled with the unbalanced pannier on the back, i had to shamefully admit that i got down and push through many of the hairpin corners...

photo: hairpin corners at the climb towards wang kelian..

it was another hot day, and although there are two gazebos for resting near the lookout point, they are both located at lower areas and do not offer the same view from the higher lookout area itself, which is just an open area. from here, one gets a wide view of the surrounding locations, including the timah-tasoh lake which is an artificial lake created for hydroelectric power generations.

didn't proceed to wang kelian weekend border market as that'll mean another steep climb under the searing sun on the return journey, and anyway i've been there before. a unique aspect of the wang kelian weekend market is that malaysians can venture across the border into the thailand side of the market without needing passport (just identity card is enough), as long as they stay within the market area. this also applies for thai nationals crossing over to the malaysian side of the market as well.

photo: lookout point along the road to wang kelian; timah-tasoh lake at background right.

coming back down from the wang kelian road towards kaki bukit village was a speedy affair. took the less-used village roads on the west side of the timah-tasoh lake to head towards kangar. this route passed through mostly rubber tree plantations around the lake area, before opening up into paddy fields further south.

photo: kangar waterfront.

traffic was light in kangar, but the mid-afternoon heat made it a little unbearable for slowly exploring around, so i decided to just pass through onwards to alor setar. at least when cruising at sufficient speed, i generate my own wind to cool down a little...

photo: crossroad between changlun - kuala perlis road and kangar - alor setar road.

a long, straight stretch of the kangar-alor setar road runs right beside a wide water canal, and here, one has the option of taking the small village roads that run parallel on the other side of the canal - being further away from the busy traffic of the main road and more enjoyable. there are small bridges linking both sides of the canal at short intervals.

photo: water canal running alongside kangar - alor setar road a.k.a federal route 7.

further on, at one stretch, there was a long queue of cars stuck waiting before one particular traffic light junction, and it was so much fun breezing past what must have been over a kilometer-long queue of slow-moving cars, with wide road shoulder to ride on too. of course, all the cars overtook me again as soon as they cleared the traffic light. hmm... bad traffic light timing here?

riding in the busy alor setar city traffic was no fun, and riding on clipless pedals made it scarier in the start-stop conditions of a heavy jam. add to that impatient car drivers that just squeeze into any available spaces, creating their own new lanes and blocking off passages for two-wheeled traffics on roads that do not have any shoulder space to ride on in the first place. sigh...

wasn't sure of the accommodation options around here as it was not in my original plan to come to alor setar, so just rode around randomly looking for places to stay with reasonable price. but the aforementioned traffic condition was making this exercise a little tiring - so finally, just whip out the phone, fire up the gps navigation app, go to list of nearby POIs (places of interest) for accommodation places, then check online for contact numbers as well as photos and user reviews, and call ahead to enquire for room availability and prices before heading there. having a smartphone with data plan is definitely very useful in these kind of situations :).

and so, accommodation for the night was at bee garden motel, very close to alor setar tower. $55.50 for a regular double. bikes not allowed in the room, but they have a big storage room on the ground floor to store the bike, and the front desk is staffed round-the-clock. however, the free wifi signal in my room at 3rd floor was very weak and i could hardly get any useful connections.

photo: night view of alor setar tower against an (almost) full moon.

dinner was at a nearby food court - as usual for trips like these, it'll be double the usual portions for me to stock up on energy.

apparently, the room cleaning people appeared to have forgotten to put the towels in my room, and when i want to check out in the morning, they actually have someone go up to check the room first and then tell me the towels are missing. excuse me but there was no towel provided in my room in the first place. after a few phone calls around only do they return back my deposit (it was $50). btw, of all the cheaper/little-to-no stars places that i have stayed at so far, this is the first place that actually finds the need to have a staff inspect the room first before returning the deposit money (many places don't even collect any deposit to begin with). are many people around this city so dishonest that they have to do that? just wondering...

didn't visit much places in alor setar as most places will not be open so early in the morning, and i don't really fancy hanging around longer as it'll get hotter further into the day, so just stop at some places along the way for a few photos. and then, it was straight back to kulim, stopping only for drinks and short rests. wasn't in the mood to detour around today.

photo: alor setar clock tower.

photo: balai besar.

photo: masjid zahir.

photo: nobat tower (behind the white arch door, duh)

photo: random traffic light junction.

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

day 2: arau, perlis to alor setar, kedah via pauh (r6) - chuping (??/1002) - padang besar (r16) - wang kelian (7/r15) - kangar (r15/7/r144/r121/r5) - alor setar (7).
day 3: alor setar, kedah to kulim, kedah via gurun (1) - padang serai (1/67/k824/136) - lunas (136) - kulim.

total distance cycled: 140km (day 2) / 108km (day 3)

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