Tag Archives: jerantut

Last Week in Malaysia- Jerantut to Gelang Patah

486.5 kilometers in 5 days of cycling

2,427.8 kilometers so far!!!

Day 35- July 9, 2015- Jerantut to Temerloh

73 km

Just some more truck rolling through the countryside.
Just some more truck rolling through the countryside.

Cycling through the middle of Malaysia was definitely a different experience from cycling along the coast. We were glad we had chosen to leave the coast for our last week in Malaysia. The terrain was a little more varied with some rolling hills and the occasional jungle thrown in there, all surrounded by palm oil forests of course.

The chinese restaurants were also our only chance of finding beer in this country.
The Chinese restaurants were also our only chance of finding beer in this country.

Also now that we were further from the North we were noticing more diversity i.e. Chinese people who would keep their restaurants open all day. All of a sudden we didn’t have to rely on our hotel to give us breakfast and peanut butter and jelly by the side of the road for lunch. These previous staples were replaced by Chinese noodle soups and overly-sweetened tea.

Mike got his fourth flat tire on the same tire in about as many days today. We either weren’t changing them properly or he was getting really unlucky, but something wasn’t right. After some closer inspection we found that his rear tires treads were almost completely worn down. Any debris on the side of the highway could pierce through that, and they were. So we rolled into Temerloh looking for a bicycle shop. So far it had been easy to find bicycle shops in even the smallest towns in Malaysia and Temerloh was no exception. He got a new tire, a new tube, and we found a place to sleep. That tire got no more punctures for the rest of the trip.

 

The "Happy Homestay" we stayed at. And their probably "hopefully" inadvertent shout out to "The Shining"
The “Happy Homestay” we stayed at. And their probably “hopefully” inadvertent shout out to “The Shining”

That night we were taken out to dinner by a Malaysian guy who was studying at a university in London and was just home for the summer break to make some money. He took us to an apparently famous fish restaurant to break our fast, answered a couple of the questions about Malaysian and Muslim culture that we had after cycling here for two weeks. These are the kinds of interactions you get to have when the language barrier isn’t as much of an issue, which it isn’t in Malaysia.

Day 36- July 10, 2015- Temerloh to Bahau

95.5 km

Trucks carrying entire trees past us!
Trucks carrying entire trees past us!

This was one of those days where we had one road we could take, there were no other options that would have helped us avoid this pretty miserable stretch.

Palm oil being carried out of the forests.
Palm oil being carried out of the forests.

We spent the day cycling up and down seemingly endless rolling hills along a road that was made for one purpose – to connect palm oil plantations to the rest of Malaysia. We shared the road with trucks and lorys carrying huge logs and palm oil berries all day. It felt like with every new hill we climbed they just creeped closer and closer to us. It was a long, hot, exhausting day.

Cheesin' with the Malaysian cop who pulled us over for the photo op!
Cheesin’ with the Malaysian cop who pulled us over for the photo op!

The highlight of the day, and probably one of our top 5 highlights of Malaysia, happened around the middle of the day when a police car pulled Mike over, only because they wanted to take a picture with us! We doubt that they see many cyclists come through these parts.

Day 37- July 11, 2015- Bahau to Melakka

100 km

Kiri cycling past a herd of buffalo.
Kiri cycling past a herd of buffalo.

Today was more hills also, but this time they were going in our direction. 100 kilometer days go by much faster when you’re easily cruising downhill into your destination which also happens to be one of the coolest places you have stopped at in Malaysia.

Our last truck picture I promise!
Our last truck picture I promise!

The last 20 km before getting into Melaka were back to large 4 lane highway with lots of traffic. We found that if you just stick with the motorcyclists (are there are lots of them) the cars will respect your space. We rolled in, found a great guest house: Tony’s. It was right in the thick of the historical district and a perfect place to start our weekend off in Melaka!

Day 39 and 39- see SIDE TRIP TO MELAKKA

 

Day 40- July 14, 2015- Melaka to Batu Pahat

110 kilometers

A beautiful backroad that actually looked like it could take us somewhere...it didn't, we had to backtrack for 5k, but still worth it.
A beautiful backroad that actually looked like it could take us somewhere…it didn’t, we had to backtrack for 5k, but still worth it.

Our guest house in Melaka was known for its breakfasts cooked by the owner himself so we weren’t about to skip one of those, which gave us a later start time than we wanted. This day was another flat relatively uneventful day of cycling.

Rambutan trees that were lining road.
Rambutan trees that were lining road.

We cycled past tons of marshes and farmlands that had small paved footpaths winding through them. In the morning we took a couple of these that looked like they were going in direction we wanted them to go in, and so ended up doing an extra 10 kilometers of backtracking when they dropped us off in the middle of nowhere – typical Malaysia. Still today for the first time in Malaysia there were a couple of side roads that kept us off the highway, it was probably because of a higher density of people living along this part of the coast.

Kiri with our free rambutans that we had been gifted from a Malaysian guy on a motorbike.
Kiri with our free rambutans that we had been gifted from a Malaysian guy on a motorbike.

When we were on one of the country highways we got two free bushels of rambutans from a generous stranger on a motorbike. All in all, a really nice day.

Day 41- July 15, 2015- Batu Pahat to Gelang Patah

108 kilometers

A close up of what palm oil looks like straight off the tree.
A close up of what palm oil looks like straight off the tree.

Unlike yesterday this day kept us on the highway the entire trip. It was a long day, we started later than we wanted to, and couldn’t really afford to waste time back tracking on backroads. This last stretch of Malaysia was different than the other parts we had cycled in. We were going through large beautiful suburbs filled with massive houses that connected larger port towns. There was clearly some money down here. After all, we were getting closer and closer to Singapore, and we figured since Singapore is such a small and expensive country it would only make sense for people to live in and commute from cheaper Malaysia.

Another shot of an early-evening market we rolled by and got our first dinner at.
Another shot of an early-evening market we rolled by and got our first dinner at.

We arrived in Gelang Patah around dusk hoping to find some hodgepodge of a city with a few cheap guesthouses. Instead we found a series of new developments that were probably going to be the sprawl of Singapore in the next few years. We almost didn’t have enough money for one of the few hotels in the area and had to bargain to get them to let us share a single room for a slightly reduced price. This cheap bargaining mindset might not have been the one we wanted to enter Singapore with, but hey, what are you gonna do?

Side Trip- Taman Negara

July 6, 7, 8, 2015

DSC05819We left our bicycles at the NKS travel agency in Jerantut and took their one hour shuttle to Kuala Tehan. We had briefly considered cycling the 50 kilometers to the park entrance, but after seeing the steep hills, sharp turns, and massive trucks, we were pretty thankful we had paid the 15 RMs to take a bus.

The road on the way from Jerantut to Teman Negara- even though you're biking to the most amazing jungle you have to go through a scene from the Lorax to get there.
The road on the way from Jerantut to Taman Negara- even though you’re biking to the most amazing jungle you have to go through a scene from the Lorax to get there.

We showed up without any hotel reservation and found the Teresek View Hotel that had air conditioned rooms for 75 RM per night. And after showing up in the late afternoon and carrying our bags up and down the hills in Kuala Tehan we were pretty positive we needed air conditioning. However, the nighttime air in the forest does cool down quite a bit and a room with a good fan probably would have been sufficient too.

Kuala Tehan- after a large storm and flooding in December 2013 a lot of the town ended up getting wiped out and was still being rebuilt when we got there.
Kuala Tehan- after a large storm and flooding in December 2013 a lot of the town ended up getting wiped out and was still being rebuilt when we got there.
The boats that take you across the river for 1 Malaysian Ringgit ($0.3)
The boats that take you across the river for 1 Malaysian Ringgit ($0.3)

The next day we took the 1RM transfer boat from Kuala Tehan across the river to the park headquarters. We bought our park pass which was apparently good for entry to the park any time in the next month. We then hiked in along the manicured boardwalk until we got to the canopy walkway, which was truly amazing (worth the extra 5RM per person). You walk between a series of approximately ten trees in the elevated jungle canopy, it’s really an incredible experience. A few hundred meters of the old canopy walk had been closed because of massive flooding that had come through the park in December 2014, but the section that is still open is wonderful.

A piece of the jungle canopy walk.
A piece of the jungle canopy walk.
Jungle Canopy Walkway
Jungle Canopy Walkway
More of the jungle canopy walkway- easily the coolest part of the trip!!
More of the jungle canopy walkway- easily the coolest part of the trip!!

We then hiked up Bukit Teresek which rewarded us with a great and slightly hazy view of the park from the top. There are two trails that can get you up the hill. One trail- if you are coming from the canopy walk, has boardwalk steps that lead you most of the way up the hill. The other trail which we took down is much more rustic with nothing more than roots and trees and a rope lining the path to get you up and down the mountain.

The somewhat hazy view from the top of Bukit Teresek.
The somewhat hazy view from the top of Bukit Teresek.

That night we did a night jungle trek, which you do have to do with a guide. Our guide made it very clear that we probably wouldn’t be seeing any large wildlife but if we paid attention we would see some very cool insects. There were a lot of other groups doing their night hikes at the same time so the goal of being “silent” to be immersed in the sounds of the jungle was never really achieved. Still it was a pretty cool experience being in that jungle at night.

A walking stick we found on our night trek.
A walking stick we found on our night trek.
The parks resident tapir who comes over to reception every night for fruit.
The parks resident tapir who comes over to reception every night for fruit.

The next day we hiked around in the park in the morning. We mostly retraced our steps from the previous day since there aren’t that many trails you can take with only a couple of hours. I mentioned the flooding from December 2014 that hurt the canopy walk, it also wiped out a couple of the trails that are closer to the park entrance. These still haven’t been restored yet.

DSC05818
In the afternoon we caught the public bus back to Jerantut. It was only 7RM per person and got us there in an hour. This has to be the cheapest way to get into and out of the park.
After spending a week cycling through industry and palm forest hell it was really refreshing to get a glimpse of what the old Malaysia used to look like- the dense rainforest filled with the lively sounds of the wildlife it’s protecting. I would recommend any traveler in Malaysia take the time to go and I would recommend doing it on your own since it’s an easy place to visit without a tour company.

The "largest grassland in Teman Negara". A little different from the grasslands in Tanzania.
The “largest grassland in Taman Negara”. A little different from the grasslands in Tanzania.

Logistics-
There are tons of places that offer to organize tours and treks through Taman Negara. While these seemed reasonably priced we also knew that we could visit this national park on our own, save some money, and have a totally free itinerary once we got into the park. The only downside to organizing your trip on your own is that you can only go so far into the park without a guide and you really won’t be able to do any multi-day trekking.

You can enter the park via bus (public or private) or you can arrange with a company to take a boat which is more expensive but is supposed to be beautiful.

Accommodation- Kuala Tehan is filled with a range of accommodation from cheap hostels to larger hotels. We didn’t need to make a reservation and there were plenty of rooms available.

Food- along the river there are at least 7 floating restaurants that all serve similar food- rice, noodles, meat, burgers, smoothies. The prices are reasonable and the food is tasty.

Other things to consider- the jungle is full of leeches! We didn’t see any on our first day but after it rained that evening the leeches came out the next day. They don’t hurt they just suck, literally! Other than that the major paths closer to the park entrance are marked with elevated walkways and are easy to navigate.

DSC05756

Into Central Malaysia: Kuantan to Jerantut

169.1 total kilometers in 2 days of cycling

1,951.3 kilometers so far

Day 29- July 3, 2015- rest day in Kuantan

 

The map of the Kuantan mini zoo.
The map of the Kuantan mini zoo.

Still not convinced we wanted to continue cycling in Malaysia we decided to take a day in Kuantan to figure out what our next move would be. And to visit the mini-zoo and beach.

 

Gibbon island- where the happy gibbons swing in circles at the mini zoo.
Gibbon island- where the happy gibbons swing in circles at the mini zoo.

The Kuantan mini-zoo is an awesome place! They’ve got a couple of great exhibits featuring porcupines and geese and ostriches and an island for gibbons. It’s cute, quiet, and free! Right next to the zoo is some sort of bicycle playground. ‘┬áseries of tiny roads with tiny fake traffic lights and traffic circles that you can zoom around in on your bike. Then we made it over to the beach where they’ve got a couple of restaurants set up and a walkway that takes you around some cliffs over to another beach. It was beautiful and the perfect rest day.

The beach outside of Kuantan.
The beach outside of Kuantan.

To our surprise there were a couple of restaurants that were open in Kuantan. We were able to get breakfast and pick up some sandwiches to take with us to the beach. This was also where we started seeing more Chinese people who seem to be responsible for keeping the non-Muslim population fed during Ramadan.

The bicycle playground next to the mini zoo where you can bike around tiny roads and tiny traffic circles made just for you- NO TRUCKS!
The bicycle playground next to the mini zoo where you can bike around tiny roads and tiny traffic circles made just for you- NO TRUCKS!

We decided that we didn’t want to give up on Malaysia yet, especially after this unexpected gem of a day. We figured that we had hit a bad patch of days through industry and destruction, so Instead of sticking to the east coast all the way through Malaysia we would turn inland in hopes of better fortune. We had been wanting to see the famous rainforest national park Teman Negara, so we decided to cycle there and then head south to the south-western coast of Malaysia. It sounded more promising than the potential the find more of the same painful industry and trucks along the coast.

Day 30- July 4, 2015- Kuantan to Maran

88.5 kilometers

The road cycling out of Kuantan. No shoulder but not a bad place to cycle.
The road cycling out of Kuantan. No shoulder but not a bad place to cycle.

This was our first day cycling inland, which was a much-needed break from the same coastline. Today was back to highway cycling, but the scenery was a bit different – mostly rolling hills either covered with lovely forests or endless miles of palm oil plantations. At first glance these plantations are beautiful they’re this luscious shade of green that carpets the hills. But once you spend days cycling past them and realize its just monoculture that is taking over the landscape it loses all of that appeal.

Mike changing one of his MANY flat tires.
Mike changing one of his MANY flat tires.

Mike got two flat tires today – both on the rear wheel. Combined with a stomach ache, this didn’t seem like the most promising of days. We still didn’t have any good tire patches, just weak useless ones that leaked. Plus we were heading towards a town that we had heard had NO hotels. So it should have made sense for us to stop when we passed a town that had a hotel right next to a tire shop that was 15 kilometers away from our destination, but we pushed on to Maran.

The welcome sign into Maran- welcome signs across Malaysia seemed to include over-sized fruit bowls.
The welcome sign into Maran- welcome signs across Malaysia seemed to include over-sized fruit bowls.

After biking in circles around the town that is actually pretty big, we had confirmed that there was no hotel. As the day turned into evening and the Ramadan bazaars began to bustle, we were not only homeless, but also concerned that anyone running a hotel would soon be joining the crowds to find food. Some shopkeepers had told us that there were chalets to rent, but we just couldn’t seem to figure out where they were talking about. We eventually found a string of chalets next to the Maran Hill Golf Resort, but there was no one around to help us- not too surprising.

The Maran Hill Golf Resort conveniently located at the TOP of the tallest hill in Maran.
The Maran Hill Golf Resort conveniently located at the TOP of the tallest hill in Maran.

Our last hope was to hike up a pretty steep hill towards the unkept and deserted golf course to try to see if anyone was in the one building at the top – obviously not our first choice at the end of the day. But it was our only choice, and although inconveniently located we had to check since this was our last resort before we hung up Mike’s hammock and squeezed into it for the night.

 

The chalet we were so lucky to get in Maran.
The chalet we were so lucky to get in Maran.

Turns out the reception for those chalets everyone was talking about was conveniently located at the top of that hill, and we found ourselves sleeping in the only accommodation available in Maran.

Day 31- July 5, 2015- Maran to Jerantut

80.6 kilometers

Really beautiful downhill cycling through the jungles of central Malaysia.
Really beautiful downhill cycling through the jungles of central Malaysia.

The day started out beautifully. After climbing through some rolling hills the previous day, we got rewarded with a morning of coasting downhill through luscious shady jungle forests and ended up at a beautiful Hindu temple we got off at to explore.

The hindu temple hidden just outside of Maran.
The hindu temple hidden just outside of Maran.

The afternoon wasn’t quite as pleasant as the highway continues through, you guessed it, more palm plantations. It was an uncovered hot afternoon of highway cycling, but we ended up yet again in a beautiful town.

The park where we enjoyed our fast breaking meal in Jerantut.
The park where we enjoyed our fast breaking meal in Jerantut.

 

After collecting some food from the evening bazaar, we found a great park where we enjoyed our Ramadan fast-breaking dinner with the rest of the town. It seemed like we were finally doing something right and figured out how to cycle during Ramadan without being miserable. However, Jerantut was our jumping off point to a big tourist draw in Malaysia, Teman Negara, where Ramadan would no longer be an issue.

The sign posted in our hotel showing the conservative Muslim-appropriate dress code- nothing too "seksi".
The sign posted in our hotel showing the conservative Muslim-appropriate dress code- nothing too “seksi”.