Monday, June 15, 2020

Hunt for Malaysia's Best Cycling Routes : Batu Arang - Fruit Valley Loop 50km

This is a 50km scenic route where only 5km is along a busy road. The remaining 45km consists of secondary and minor roads which have very little vehicular traffic and a pleasure to pedal on. Don't forget to take selfie stops at the sprawling vistas afforded by the fruit valley. This particular routing skips Batu Arang town - which you can easily detour to sample local favourites like roti goyang and lontong - if you wish. Check out the White House as you ascend out of Batu Arang on your way home.

Difficulty: Moderate
This is rated by elevation gain over distance and this route has a score of 6.71 (the higher the harder it is - as comparison a route up Genting Peras from Batu 18 is rated 8.33).  

What Does it Feel Like: Hilly
75% of the route will involve cycling at slight grade incline of +1.2% which translates to approximately:
  • 27.4% of time is spent climbing (10.3km) - indicative of some really steep climbs
  • 56.9% of time is spent flat (29.1km) - where the cool shaded palm trees are aka junk miles
  • 15.8% of time descending (10.7km)
Route Safety Score: 90%
No road is ever safe, but if you are looking for long mileage with less traffic, this route comes highly recommended. Santai riders should be able to complete this between 3 to 3.5 hours (without stops).  

Total Ascent: 414m

Parking : shoplots at Taman Residensi, near Bandar Tasik Puteri. Safe as houses with a 99 Speedmart to stock up on snacks and drinks.

Download GPX here

Disclaimers: this route guide is not intended for serious riders! When 90% of the course is made up of secondary and minor roads - there is no way riders can maintain a high average speed. Serious riders are best served by mileage consisting of main / primary / highway routes. Junk miles for serious riders are precious miles for easy riders.

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Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sg. Dua Waterfall - dua thumbs up!

The scorching heat of 38 deg C in Klang Valley made us ask the question : where is a relatively nearby waterfall around Klang Valley which fulfils the following conditions:

1. not packed to the brim with picnickers (and left behind garbage) &
2. has clear pristine waters?

Question 1 easily rules out a number of favoured spots : Teratak Tekala, Sungai Gabai, Sungai Congkak, Kemensah, Sungai Sendat - which are already packed on normal weekends and which would be even more so with the heat wave. Janda Baik has many viable candidates but finding a spot that flows in a gushing torrent would be a challenge.

Answer : Sg. Dua Waterfall. Located 75km from city centre, it will take you a bit over an hour to get here via Karak Highway. It will feel "far" because the time you spend on the winding uphill downhill highway but it actually is not - when say compared to the daily 1 hour drive to get from Puchong to the City.

Single but fierce cascade into a medium-sized pool that washes down through ankle height creek

Driving there : straightforward drive along Karak Highway and through Gombak and Bentong Toll Plazas (passing Genting Highlands, Janda Baik, Bukit Tinggi, Selesa Hill Homes, Bentong exits along the way) and exit just before Karak town. A narrow tarmac road will lead you to an orang asli village (less than 3kms off the Karak highway) to the waterfall. Normal cars can park by the roadside. 4WD can drive down a steep slope which is unpaved and mildy corrugated with deep water channels.

Cost: There is an orang asli toll gate at the village : RM2.00 per head. Don't quibble over this as the funds are used to keep the site clean - there is a functioning toilet (albeit a very spartan one) and a garbage bin which is emptied regularly by the caretakers. RM10.00 if you want to camp here. You would be encouraged to cross the river and camp on the higher bank in the event of a flash flood. The site looks safe enough 99.99% of the time unless you are lucky enough to experience a 100 year flood during your stay. There is no place to maneuver if it does - short of climbing up the terraces and leaving everything behind. Having said that, I would camp here nevertheless ..

Thoughts? Adults would find this waterfall a literal blast. The cascade is strong, hard and powderful. There is a rock underneath the water (you need to find it with the help of the rope) which allows you to get up close and personal to the fall - and get a real pounding from the stinging sprays and forceful thumps down your back. It was just super! Or you could just wade in the pool and enjoy the thundering roar from afar .. but really where's the fun in that ..

Campsite across the river and someone with a camp chair and a book!

Crystal clear waters

Spot the sun

This part is deep but there is a narrow rock underneath which the man is standing on - allowing you to stand close to the waterfall. It is NOT shallow directly underneath the fall.

The sand makes the water looks brown - but it is actually crystal clear

Tips :
If you come in a normal car, pack light or spread your load into multiple picnic baskets. Not so easy to be carrying big loads down the slope to the waterfall.

Anything above 25 pax and the pool would be packed. So come early before the crowd arrives. Leave when they do :)

Privacy : there is a sprawling orang asli community living here - i do note that they make their rounds often to see if we are being naughty (with our garbage etc) - so don't really expect a fully private camping experience that is truly wild and remote.

We shall return here next time with a mountain bike. Further up, the road ends and a fire road begins: Felcra oil palm plantation begins. Crying to be ridden and explored!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Highways of the Past - River Spirits and Bees

A harvested beehive and soon-to-be. Zoom to see if you can spot the 2 hives.

A trek up an ancient highway still serving communities generations on.

According to Ustaz Amin, this is a beginner tree for the budding beehive harvester. Usually working in pairs, harvesting is almost exclusively done at night only. Half expecting a scientific explanation on bees being docile at night - but no. It is so that the climbers can't see how far they can fall. Advanced harvesters will climb trees that go as high as 150 to 200 feet and no matter how seasoned they are - they all do it at night so they don't see how high up they have climbed!

Pokok keramat
Sit down with the locals and they can tell you tales which stretches back to their ancestors decades ago regarding this very tree situated where 2 rivers meet. Days before the advent of modern medicine, many will discard ill and dark spirits that are believed to be responsible for ailments that afflicts members of the family.  Part of the trunk has been cut in pieces and left in the water but even the Great Flood of 2014 did not move those pieces - when the river broke its banks and flooded nearby villages up to roof level. You can take a boat ride and creep yourself out by looking at those very pieces today.

Highways of the past - no traffic jams
Private jetty belonging to Kementerian Kesihatan
There are still communities (out of their own volition) that are cut off from modern civilisation where the sole mode of transport is by boat. This private jetty operated by the Health Ministry will be put into action whenever there is a medical situation upstream.

#KualaMedang #BeautifulMalaysia #hiddengems #heritage #highwayofthepast #historysoonforgotten

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Most Interesting Thing About Kuala Dipang town is ....

.. there is NO town!

Continuing where we left off from our previous Chenderiang post - if you continue heading northwards, you will eventually punch out back on Route 1 near Jeram. Route A119 is punctuated with orang asli settlements spawning from POS Dipang. It's a super quiet road that snakes underneath PLUS Highway before doubling back towards Route 1. Kuala Dipang is signposted to be some 20 odd kms away from Chenderiang along A119.

And lo and behold - after 20 kms, there is no Kuala Dipang town! The signages disappear and the next town you come across is Jeram.

Kuala Dipang
Decades ago the town had old prewar shophouses - but any remnants of this past era has long since been eradicated.

It used to be a Royal town - the branch of family Tun Raja Mohar & Gen Raja Rashid whose leader was exiled to the Seychelles by the British. It had a Malay school which uniquely, taught up to Standard 6 where most Malay schools only served up to Standard 5. Those in Standard 6 were the brightest students who would then go on to Sultan Idris Teacher's College and become teachers themselves.

The town in which there is no town to speak of.  Nak ambik gambar pun tak boleh since there are no town, shops, facilities! A fortunate stumble that allowed us to delve into a time where history may soon forget  ..

Monday, July 24, 2017

Chenderiang, Draco Nature Park and Durians 2017

Chenderiang - a name that is seen many times in my lifetime but never have - set foot on until almost 5 decades later.

Accessible via Tapah exit off the PLUS Highway (2 hours from Kuala Lumpur), Chenderiang is also not on Route 1 - which means, it has always been a sleepy hollow town even before the advent of PLUS Highway. And it shows - an exceedingly short single street town that serves a 20,000 odd population - there's the customary tuck shop, a few restaurants and not much else. Your best bet for supplies would still be Tapah for your 7 Eleven or KFC fixes.

NOT Lata Kinjang!

WHY (for majority of visitors)
Most folks come to Chenderiang to head to Lata Kinjang - one of the tallest waterfalls in Peninsular Malaysia with its majestic vertical falls and cascades that is visible from PLUS highway as you drive northwards. But it is packed .. and too commercialised .. and on bad days may have cleanliness issues with the less civic-conscious picknickers (but the same can be said to most popular picnic spots in Malaysia unfortunately).

WHY (for the durian tegar crowd)
In July 2017, the local durian kampung (not those expensive musang kings) harvest is dire nationwide.  Due to the unseasonally hot weather, the blooming flowers were not able to last through long periods of rainless days. Except pockets of Perak .. like Chenderiang! With the right friends, you should be able to connect with the local orang asli for durians from their farms from the hills. It is not abundant - but enough to entertain your friends and families over the next few days with durio zibethinus scented flatulence ..

WHY (for the author personally)
It was for the river. Honestly, forget Lata Kinjang with its packed car park, crowded picnic spots and a river source which passes through many many orang asli villages upstream. It's all safe for sure by the time the water reaches the picnickers downstream but there's a little gem of an alternative about 10 minutes away from the turn off to Lata Kinjang : Draco Nature Camp.

And yes - to map the way to Draco Nature Camp :) . Currently Waze and Google Maps are unable to route to the correct location of DNC (July 2017) so you have to ask locals for directions at the point where the routing ends (which ends at Kem PLKN).

Draco Nature Camp
Nestled at the foothills of Sungai Salu Forest Reserve, DNC sits on aboriginal ancestral land. There is zero population upstream (nor any orang asli settlements) hence the river is nothing short of fabulous. In terms of mineral water clarity of its water - it ranks right up there with the rivers found at POS Titom which requires a few hours of traipsing in a 4WD. DNC is accessible without much drama.

The river skirts around the property anti-clockwise through a series of gradual cascades - plenty of places to bathe

Sprawling campsite

Perfect place to consume your secret stash of durians

Activity hall in the background 

DNC is spartan. It has only 1 event cum dining cum open sleeping quarters hall and 4  toilets but my - they are squeaky clean toilets which rivals even those found in city homes. No grimy walls, no icky flooring, no questionably looking stains or toilet bowls which seemed to have been constructed during WWII. You know how some toilets you wanna walk in with your eyes blurred and want to get out of even before you have finished evacuating that last few millilitres of ... you get my drift. Well I can tell you - as of July 2017 - from a guy who habitually checks out toilets of every accommodation before saying yes - DNC toilets get 2 thumbs up. For the weekend warriors, clean toilets go a heck of a longg way to making a stay enjoyable.

DNC is operated by Mr Hisham, a nature guide himself and you can check out their FB page.

As far as a glamping site goes - it gets top marks.

Visiting the top of Lata Kinjang
There have been numerous fatal accidents involving visitors having a look at the edge at the top of Lata Kinjang - so this is not an activity we would recommend so tengok pictures sudah la ye ... there is a visible trail that requires minimal scrambling down to the edge of the waterfall.

PLUS Highway down below

Orang asli hut at the top of Lata Kinjang complete with flushing toilets

Where the cascades begin before forming a giant torrent

Nature's own ropes

They were not kidding when they named it "Mini Hydro station"
Resident cats of Masjid Jamik Rahmaniah, Chenderiang 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Rough Guide - POS Betau, POS Lenjang, POS Titom. Difficulty Rating : Challenging to Hard

Disclaimer :

This is a guide for those willing to risk try going to these places without the support of an expedition. Before attempting some of the harder tracks, you should have a recovery kit handy and ensure that your vehicle is in good nick. We always support the maxim of "Travel in Numbers" and never take unnecessary risks.

Executive Summary:
Conditions as at 12/2016. At least an SUV with AT tires. You may attempt this using HT tires but only do so during the dry season because the mud can be quite deep at parts.  Challenging offroad course of over 30km going deep into the mountains. Some superlative scenery beckons with pristine clear rivers and creeks. If you take the shortcut, you will need to do a river crossing with your vehicle.

Trailhead begins at Pos Betau. From Gombak tollplaza, it is a 2 hour drive 154km north of Kuala Lumpur.

Two routes to choose from that will take you to Pos Lenjang and Pos Titom.

Option 1 : Pos Betau - Pos Lenjang (32.4km) (Pink route)
The traditional route of choice of 32.4km which will take some 3.5 hours to cover - it is slow going due to the bad condition of the track. Some parts are paved (or what's left of it) It is deeply scarred by ruts, water channels, collapsed sections and a whole lot of mud. You will pass many orang asal villages at the tail end of the route and will be greeted with some breathtaking scenery.

Other main challenges are the mud pools and some exceedingly steep sections which has 2 different levels of grip.

Uneven with track dropping steeply on either side. A good height clearance is essential.

Let's churn that mud!

Option 2 : Route 102 - Pos Lenjang (41.8km) (Orange route + leftover pink)
It's 16.8km tarmac detour on Route 102 (road to Ringlet) plus 25km offroad. So although appearing to be longer, the 16.8km tarmac road can be despatched in 12mins or less. The 25km offroad segment will cost you only 1.5 hours for a grand saving of over 1 hour over Option 1.

The caveat is that it involves a short river crossing that is slightly above waist deep. The use of this route is also totally dependent on the weather. The bridge at Pos Betau along Route 102 will tell you if you are able to attempt this route : look at the water levels of Jelai River. If it is swollen or turbid, take Option 1.

The good news is that it bypasses 18km of bad roads of Option 1 - leaving you with just a further 14.4km to go. At this point - the track is in significantly better condition as you would be greeted with many orang asal villages. This is the route of choice of the locals when weather permits.

Pos Titom
The road to Pos Titom is concreted all the way. Once you hit the junction to Pos Titom, it's a straightforward fuss free, no unwanted challenges drive.
Road to Pos Titom

Vital Stats :
Option 1 Pos Betau - Pos Lenjang 
Distance : 32.4km
Total ascent : 1294m
*MSM Trail Difficulty Rating : 19 out of 35.

Option 2 : Route 102 - Pos Lenjang
Distance : 41.8km
Offroad segment : 25km
Offroad total ascent : 988m
*MSM Trail Difficulty Rating : 22 out of 35.

Comparison scoring : Pos Senderut (tested in 11/2016) :11 out of 35.

Option 2 quicker and shorter on the offroad segments but harder due to river crossing.

Rating score is based on 7 categories : distance offroad, vehicle requirements, tire requirements, elevation gain over distance, track width, surface conditions and obstacles.

This route has already been coded into the raw map and would appear in the next compiled release of malsingmaps.
This is Pos Lenjang

Bukit Kene Api in the distance

Friday, October 21, 2016

Kuala Medang - the Ikea of Pahang!

What does Kuala Medang have in common with meatballs? Read on to find out ..

In the spirit of looking for "something out of nothing", we randomly chose Kuala Medang out of a hat. As coincidence would have it, we are also well acquainted with a gentleman who hails from Sungai Koyan : the closest civilisation to Kuala Medang. Having grown up there since a child, we asked him what's in Medang? To which he replied, "why would you even consider going to that dead place?" Thus evaporated what little hope we had for this town.

This little hamlet is located 50km west of Kuala Lipis or 60km north of Raub (approximately 170kms if you are coming from Kuala Lumpur). The only way here is to pass through Sungai Koyan. This satellite town is where - if you take a left you ascend to Ringlet (mind you - this is an absolutely beautiful piece of road where for some brief moments you are led to believe you are driving up some distant European mountains during summer)  - or take right and lalu jalan kelapa sawit and head towards Kuala Lipis.

Like most of the population, not everyone will follow the path of the straight and narrow where Kuala Medang lies :  straight past Sg Koyan. It being a cul-de-sac with no through roads to anywhere else, you can be forgiven to label it as a dead end town. Who goes to dead end places anyway? Folks from Sweden apparently!

The Swedes love Kuala Medang they way they love meatballs 
Clockwise from right : Sg Koyan Mosque, MSM Vancation Mobile, suspension bridge at POS Pantos and durians which are  flat-rate RM2.50 a piece.
What's here?
  • Durians (when in season) and other local fruits
  • Madu kelulut (a type of honey) 
  • Sambal hitam
  • Crystal clear peaceful river (if you can find it -which you will in our map :)) 
  • Lovely MTB riding opportunities here : from tiny village roads, to fire roads to logging tracks of undulating elevation. And riding up towards POS Pantos will provide a challenge for the weekend warrior riders.
  • Raw yellow noodles and bunch of other small cottage industries. 
  • Cool settings amidst scenic country-side, resting at the foothills of the mountain range
  • And if you're in a big group, the locals can arrange for your pleasure : bamboo rafting activities, top spinning and mengemping (process of making rice flakes) - amongst others. I confess that I myself have not witnessed top spinning since I was a boy! 
And it is these stuffs which brings multiple families all the way from Sweden : twice a year, every year since forever! And most of us Malaysians, don't even know or heard of the place until .. um  .... 2016! Such a shame.

POS Pantos
Kuala Medang is fringed by small villages, Kg. Serau and POS Pantos orang asli settlement and further sliced by, as far as we can tell : 3 rivers : Sungai Jelai, Sungai Telom and Sungai Jelai Kecil.

The two big rivers serve as the main artery for the orang asli settlers to boat upstream to their fruit plantations far into the hinterland. And if you visit during the right season ..  you will find the locals will boat downstream and bring down their bounty of durians!

Our Government built concrete houses with electricity and water for the orang asli. But they will, invariably build their wooden hut next to it. Folklore has it, many will fall sick and die living in these brick homes. The reality however is far from it : they do it mostly because they need soil flooring to do their wood-fire cooking - something they can't do in their concrete homes without burning a hole through the ceiling. Based on a barter economy system, they also rely almost exclusively on their crops for income. So when times are tough, they can't afford to purchase cooking gas - they resort to wood fires as how their ancestors have done for generations before this.

Pos Pantos as viewed from a ridge
Typical DIY home extension project 

Gimme them durians already!! Orang asli settlers bringing fruits from their orchards upstream.

Unfortunately it is sufficiently off the beaten path that not many would venture here - which - fortunately means, Kuala Medang is still very much tourist free : and free from all the rubbish and large crowds that come with it.

Also when the durians are flat-rate RM2.50 per piece and you have rivers like this to bathe in whilst watching the durian seeds float away .. this is a tranquil piece of real estate worthy of its price of admission.

At the same time you can do a bit of charity (and some soul searching for our ipad generation children) by spending time with the orang asli at Pos Pantos. This is meatball country as far as the Swedes are concerned, so it's no wonder their make their bi-annual sojourn here far far away from Kuala Lumpur to stay and live with the locals at the many many homestays here. For them, it is an experience like nothing they can find at home - so where does that put us where home is already here in our own backyard which we do not even know to exist? Hmm ..
Peaceful and priceless

Places to Stay

  • Homestays (plenty to choose from) starts from RM60 per pax inclusive of 3 meals per day cooked by your homestay host. Contact : 013 961 0800
  • the only riverside chalet (RM180 per chalet @ Oct 2016 prices  : a bit pricey in our estimation) - no contact available but look for the caretaker living across the road on a hill.
  • cabin stay (RM80 per cabin @ Oct 2016 prices - a fair deal especially for the cabins located near Sungai Jelai Kecil) Contact : 012 325 5391 and 
  • camping (RM10 per head) - with electricity, fresh water, toilet support and a beautiful river.  Contact : 012 963 9065
Camping for the win!

Homestays, cabins and the only chalet in town!


.. you so happen do come this way - do consider bringing along used but still good to wear clothes : stick to T-shirts, shorts, jackets, pants. Leave behind dresses, baju kurungs, skirts which they have no need (nor the occasion for). Orang asli are dimunitive in size generally - so we're talking sizes XS to M. Unwanted toys are also much welcomed by the POS Pantos community. There are plenty of children here so a packet of Maggi or Mamee for each of them is like gold for them.