Saturday, March 31, 2007


28th MARCH 2007
Another cycling trip back to Kota Bharu within 3 months. What's the reason? Should there be a reason to return to your birth place? OK, I'll find one.

While in Dublin in February, I bought a Brooks Saddle, a new camera bag and a purpose-built pannier for touring. The Brooks was "the saddle" for touring, so said reviews in the internet. I need to test this out, "break" the saddle along the way to be ready for my 500kms ride from Phuket to Perlis end April. The pannier was also required to be tested on some long journeys. So too was the camera bag. There we are, my reasons for a second trip back.

The starting off point was again Bentong. My eldest son and wife sent me off early morning. I will ride solo this time. At 0810 said goodbye to my boy and wife. I set off on the 91km ride to Kuala Lipis to catch the train to Bertam Baru. That was the plan. I made good progress before the sun came down hard. Once the sun was out, it was merciless and I was perspiring madly. The pannier was equipped to carry 2 water bottles and with 1 on the bike, the 3 bottles became very handy in this weather.

It proved even more handy when this Herbal Coconut stall didn't open for business. Probably it went out of herbs.

This signage of a oil-palm estate caught my eyes. It had caught my eyes before and I'm still wondering why this estate bears a name of a Kelantanese delicacy. Perhaps, it's the Kelantanese who came to open up this estate a long time ago and wanted to leave a trade-mark.

I reached K Lipis in very good time but the local train didn't arrive on time. It got itself stopped at Kerambit, one station away. The hot weather had bent a section of the rails and it was too risky for the train to ride on this stretch. (I told you it was hot!) It was to be a 4 hours wait and by the time the train rolled out of Kuala Lipis, it was 6.30 pm. Soon it got dark and I missed the opportunity to capture scenes along the way.

That aside, Bertam Baru, a small kampong and a first time visit for me will be in total darkness by the time I get there. The prospect of finding a place to eat and a place to overnight will be pretty challenging. I decided to stop at Cave Fox (Gua Musang) instead. A wise decision for the night but not necessarily so for the following day.

It was close to 2030 when the train rolled into Cave Fox. I was debating whether to look for a cheapo hotel first or to fill the stomach. It wasn't long before I had both - a room for RM40 (air-cond) with a restaurant. I chose to freshen up first before the attack on the food - nasi goreng USA (??) and sup daging. RM8 including my favorite Teh O Ice.


Total Riding Time : 4hrs 31mins

Average Heart Rate : 141 bpm

Max Heart Rate : 159 bpm

Distance: 91.7 kms

Av Speed : 20.3 kph

Max Speed : 51.7 kph

29th March 07
115kms is ok. Have done this before, regularly. The Gua Musang - K Krai highway has always been challenging, even in the comfort of a car. It's a pretty straight highway, oil palm estates of Felda, some limestones as you leave the town of Gua Musang and several dotted settlements along the road. The road is rolling, at quite a number of places, long gradual rolls.

As usual, progress was good before the sun woke up. Left 0710 after a Nasi Lemak breakfast. Switched on my PDA media player and settled to listen to some motivational THE SECRETS audio. In the cool morning, the mind can absorb. There were not many vehicles yet so early and it a pleasant ride. 20kms out of Gua Musang, stopped at the purpose-built R&R for a quickie but find no reason to fill in the stomach yet. Made pretty good progress, perhaps because there were not many areas to stop for a rest. I have travelled this road many times in a car. The Felda settlements didn't seem that far apart. On a bicycle, it seemed ages before you arrived at each settlement. I looked for a fruit stall to buy some bananas for quick energy. There was none, until much much later.

The sun had been kind at some areas. Cloud cover helped at some stretches, but the rolling hills were there. Vehicle population started to increase, including the dreaded timber lorries. I counted no less than 30 timber lorries overtaking me. Must get my Director General friend in FRIM to convert that into daily statistics and the hectares of cleared jungle.

The rape of the jungle. I stopped to photograph the Kelantan river from a bridge. The teh tarek colour (kau kau type) of the river is testimony of this rape. Did any one care? I had planned for a canoeing trip down Kelantan river as one of my goals. I'm not quite sure now whether this will still remain as one of my goals. About 10 years ago, I did the a 3-day Sungai Nenggiri white-water with some friends. The Teh Tarek color wasn't this "kau".

I do not drink Teh Tarek. Somehow I feel bloated even at the thought of it. I always settled for my favourite, Teh O Ice, no matter what other attractions there may be. Not even made in Kelantan Sarsis @ RM1 a bottle, even if it claimed to be BERKAT!

At the junction to Dabong, I finally stopped for lunch. Time was 1230 and another 40kms to Kuala Krai, my destination for the day. Had a long good rest at the warong. Having done several solo rides, I had now mastered some art of resting (sleeping) while seated and such breaks freshen the body tremendously. By nature I don't snore (unlike one brother-in-law), so my bliss is non-disturbing. There were no other customers except for three police personnels in a blue cheloreng. I don't quite understand why blue cheloreng. Surely the color of the jungle had not changed!

Anyway, back on the road, if I had overnighted in Bertam, I would be coming out through Dabong. The road would probably be even lonelier but perhaps with more picture opportunities. Anyway, I photographed the road signage for future reference on mileage. This is an "unfinished" project for me.

I took another long deserved rest in a mosque, 20 kms before K Krai. As I later made my way into K Krai town at about 1815, a strong smell of Satay filled the air, with a big crowd at this huge warong. I know where my dinner is going to be. Look for a hotel, freshen up and then "attack". But I could not find a hotel, none! I can't believe it. A phone call to my brother and a return call later, indeed there is no hotel here. But, there is a motel by the Lake Garden. Yes, K Krai may not have hotels, but can boast of a Lake Garden. I have noted it earlier as I cycled into the town. So, "attack" first and lodge later.

The motel, tucked within the Lake Garden is an old place, probably a government building -RM60 a night on triple sharing. I however failed to bargain for one-third of the price since I was only 1 person. Anyone wants to share? The motel is quite a cool place, lots of old and big trees and a lake. Plenty of joggers too.

After a good bath, and the early Satay dinner, I settled for 2 left over bananas I bought earlier. A phone call from Rahman Zakaria @ 2100 hrs went unanswered. I was already in dreamland.

Total Riding Time : 6hrs 40mins
Average Heart Rate : 130 bpm
Max Heart Rate : 164 bpm
Distance: 121.6 kms
Av Speed : 18.2 kph
Max Speed : 57.8 kph

30th March 2007

Kuala Krai - Kota Bharu (65 kms)

Today will be a short ride to my final destination. My brother will cycle with me today. The wife drove him to RV with me. 7 kms after leaving the motel, we crossed path. He will ride his road bike and I will have to play catch up. I offload my 2 panniers into the car and was immediately 10kg lighter, but still 10kg heavier than his TREK.

Breakfast was to be on the way. His wife was tasked to find the breakfast warong. It came 10kms after our ride and the right time, just past 0800. Nasi Berlauk was on my order, plus the ever favorite Teh O Ice.

I contacted Rahman Zakaria after noting his missed call in the morning. He planned to welcome me on the road and we promised to maintain contact of my whereabouts. By the time he called, I was roughly 20 kms from KB, and by the time we met, I was 7kms to Kota Bharu.

He brought his entourage and 3 young coconuts. Rahman has a way with young items! Even his youngest is 7 months old. Need I say more?

Anyway, we agreed to RV at my brother's house and savoured the fresh young coconuts there. We were not disappointed even though 2 coconuts were too young. The air kelapa was just perfect. Thanks a million.

Another goal accomplished. Yet another in April is keenly looking forward to.

Sawadee Kap!!!

Monday, March 26, 2007


25th MARCH 07

My brother in KB laughed when I told him I was going for a Ahmad Jais concert. He warned me that AJ may single me in the crowd to come on stage. Why me? Firstly, I'm somewhere near AJ's era, plus or minus a few years. Secondly, he thought the crowd will be small and I'll stand out amongst the crowd. We laughed heartily together. But I have the last laugh! Firstly, AJ is not my era. He is 71 and I was just breaking my teens when he cut his firt album in 1961. And the crowd - a sell out for the entire 3 days of his live performance at Istana Budaya.

I bought the tickets for wifey and myself 2 weeks earlier, assuring us of good front seats. With 20% discount for senior citizens (tq), the tickets didn't burn a big hole in my retired pocket. Skeptical I was. Would Istana Budaya filled up for a 71 year old veteran singing all the lagu irama Melayu & Asli, and not for a 1 night stand but a 3-day affair?

A couple (Mohar and wife), seated for a quick dinner with us prior to the show, bought their tickets on the day of the show. They were lucky to get 2 seats, right on the top tier, probably furthest away from the stage! I know what Mohar will do for future concerts. The couples love concerts and theatres.

Anyway, skepticism aside, it was FULL. EVERYDAY, with repeat audience too! For me, it was the first time to hear and "sing" with him live.

I sang his numbers very often (I mean used to), mainly in toilets. The echo of the toilet enhances my vocal chords. Those day, we dont have echos from Karaoke sets to give us that "feel great" sound.

Dressed in his trademark white suit with matching white shoes, the first number Umpan Jinak Di Air Tenang was indeed the umpan (bait) for what's coming for the next 2 hours. Crowd response was spontaneous. If one studies the titles of his songs, it's almost all romanticism and frustrations in love. Good for the teenaged souls but not to be overdone. We had DiAmbang Sore, Kucupan Azimat, Berpisah Jauh, Menanti DiAmbang Syurga, Keciwa Juga Sudah Nya, his all time high note Gelisah and a sad Bunga Ku Puja Di Petik Orang.

Datuk Ahmad Jais' "must hear" songs were all there, accompanied by a 60-strong National Symphony Orchestra led by Mustafa Fuzer Nawi, an accomplished conductor. The veteran singer told the crowd he requested from the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee to re-record P. Ramlee's Azizah, a song from the film Penarek Beca. If P. Ramlee is still alive, he would have endorsed his approval many times over. AJ was just fantastic.

We had actor Zulkifli Zain and actress wife Normala seated besides us. They too were in their elements, applauding and at times singing along, just like I did, just like the majority of the crowd were doing.

The 60-piece National Symphony Orchestra led by Mustafa Fuzer Nawi provided the live-wire musical backing. S Atan and Pak Ngah did justice to their accordions with an intro for one of the songs. Saxophonist Razak Rahman too presented a number.

Haziq of the AF fame rendered Halimun Malam and sang it like a veteran. He also duet with AJ in a catchy Potong Padi. Accompanied by the Istana Budaya dancers, they brought us back to the kampong of yesteryears.

Datuk Yusni Hamid completed the invited singers. This evergreen lass (now 61) gave a number and later duet with AJ for Budi Setahun Segunung Bintang.

Present to give moral support were thePenyanyi 60an in the likes of A Rahman Hassan and wife Azizah, Andrew Goh the singing Baba from Malacca. From Singapore came Kasim of the La Obe fame and Zam Zam. There were also M Ishak, Adnan "something" and I believe Afida Es. These Penyayi 60 an were invited to the stage at the end of the show.

All in, it was time and money well spent. Accolades to Istana Budaya, a purpose built theatre and musical complex. I have since registered as a rakan Istana Budaya. With that, I expect to be advised through emails of future events and hoped to patronise some, if not all.


SAT 17th MARCH 2007

It was supposed to be a surprise for my mother. It was a suprise, arranged. A cousin in Sg Besi called that 2 other cousins from our kampong in Tumpat are in town. While here visiting their children, they were also looking for my mother's whereabout.

My mother's whereabout? That sounds as if my mother is a pretty mobile lady! She's 84. And she can't even use a mobile phone. The doctor told us her imbedded pacemaker may be affected by the mobile phone waves...or something like that.

Anyway they came, about 5pm. My mother was in the living area, her back to the house entrance. Her sharp ears heard a familiar voice, a voice she least expect to hear, here in Subang Jaya. In Tumpat, perhaps.

She was overwhelmed by surprise, when her 4 nieces flocked to her. Two of them, she rarely met. Some tears involuntarily trickled. Tears are her second nature, both in times of happiness and sadness.

I am happy for her today, and everyday. I am thankful she is well, relative to her age and her pretty good recovery from her stroke. I am thankful she finds comfort staying with me, as with some other sisters and a brother. I thank my wife for making her mother-in-law very comfortable in our house. Above all, I'm thankful to Allah I still have her. But, we can never do more than what she had done for us, no matter how hard we try. Let there be no regrets though for the lack of trying.

But today is a joyous occassion. Short as it may be. Let it be forever.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


12th & 13th Mar 2007

What a great sharing! 16 enthusiastic participants.

Change is never easy. Goals have been set, action plans laid, the course to be stayed, and soon the trumpet will be played.

One sets his mind to hold a PhD and loves Louis Armstrong. One pursues the first degree while yet another, an MBA. A "laser" hoped to mellow down. A great number wants to shed many kgs. Then, there is the spiritual goal and a few will be early to bed and early to rise!

ALL looked forward to perform their best - for self, for family and for organization.

Thank you all for the very active participation and touching testimonials. I believe they came from the heart!

Till we meet again.


Friday, March 16, 2007


2 weeks after my return from cold Dublin, I was already itching for some local visit. Kuala Gula had been in my "To Visit" list for quite sometimes. An opportunity came by when I had to facilitate a training session up north in Seberang Jaya.

Checking out from the Hotel early on 14th March, I proceeded via the old federal road after Juru. I passed Taman Markisah, where I spent a night in it's surau during my Road to 55 solo ride back in 2005. Proceeded on towards Nibong Tebal and Parit Buntar until I saw a sign to Kuala Kurau. I passed through the small fishing town of Kuala Kurau and a new bridge across Sungai Kerian cut the journey tremendously. I had wanted to spend some times in Kuala Kurau itself, to capture the local happenings. I didn't. So it will be another day, another time.

Kuala Gula certainly can't boast of any "gula". However, an old sugar factory now converted to an oil palm processing plant provide indication what it probably was before. Where have all the "gula" gone to? I guess, that's again another day and another time!

Upon arriving at the Kuala Gula complex, I was greeted by 2 Milky Stork. Local name is Botak Upeh...hmmm.... As they stood still spreading their wings, I thought these were replicas of the birds welcoming visitors to the complex. They were real allright!

If one expect to see birds here, one will be in for a disappointment. I made my way to the Chalet Peranginan to ask for info. The complex is privatised. To enter the office, one must remove one's shoes. I had prefered a friendlier receptionist too, a young male. I did capture one bird in the mudflat just by the restaurant. Without the telephoto, this shot will have been another disappointment.

You need to rent a boat to go out to where the birds could be seen. Rate ranges from RM60 -RM250 for 10 adults for trips lasting between half-hour to 3 hours. There were only 2 of us and the rate is inflexible. Fair enough, as fuel will be about the same and the boat operator still got to spend the same time for one or ten people!

We decided against boating out but settled for an informative visit to the information centre. We were in luck as a group of students were there, briefed by Encik Ishak, one of the staff of the Centre. As we say it, we "tumpang sekaki". A well documented VCD presentation was very informative. Unfortunately, it wasn't available for sale. I have made a jotting to make some suggestions later.


Kuala Gula forms part of the Matang mangrove forest reserve, comprising vast stretches of tidal mudflats. The mudflats are important sites for feeding, nesting and roosting of waterbirds. 166 species of birds including migrant birds had been recorded here. Mammals such as monkeys, rats, bats, otters, silver-leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaques, dolphins (yes dolphins!) had also been recorded, along with monitor lizards, python and mangrove snakes.

What about birds! Plentiful the right time. I saw ALL, in the brochure. For armchair travellers, here they are! Enjoy them.

The birds are abundant between late August till late April every year. The peak will be between October and December when thousand of these shorebirds can be seen. Another day, another time in October perhaps.

Accomodation can be arranged at Chalet Peranginan Kuala Gula. Contact No: 05-8905481.

To get here fast, take the PLUS highway exiting at Bukit Merah (from North) and at Taiping (from South).


Just outside the perimetres of the chalet complex was a small fishing jetty. I befriended a fisherman, Encik Don. If we had arrived an hour earlier, we could have photographed some large sting rays, said he. Sounds like a fisherman story, you know...about the fish that got away! So I took his mobile number. I would like to witness another stingray - another day, another time.

Several ladies were fitting hooks onto a pole. The hooks were attached to the net. The net is especially designed to catch stingrays that dwells at the sea bottom. For the effort, they were paid RM1.00 per pole. On a day, the effort can reap them about RM30.00. Encik Don narratted stories of fishermen pierced by stingrays while lifting them out of the water. During my scuba-diving days, I made a point to maintain comfortable distances with poisonous sea creatures, i.e. a distance comfortable to the creature. In their habitat, we must pay great respect as we are the intruders.

Ikan duri and crabs freshly caught were waiting for pick-up. I was never an ikan duri fan, and the crab causes an allergy. Giving reasons for not buying was therefore easy.

And where there are fish, there are cats. I couldn't resist taking them away but they were well protected by the angry mother. So instead, I took their pictures and everybody were happy, including the mother cat!

It's also great to know that efforts are made to replant and replace the bakau trees. After all, what's the mangrove without the bakau trees.

All in, it was an exploratory visit. I plan to revisit, on my faithful 2-wheels when I will spend several more days touring the area.