Thursday, October 30, 2008


I visited Taman Negara 22 years ago. That was in 1986. Then, I brought Rafeq, my eldest son when he was 8 years old. I had some friends from Peremba who joined me for the trip. I could not even remember whether the Kuala Tahan community existed then. So, at 36 (in 1986) I took the leisure ride in a boat to reach Taman Negara. Now, at 58 I cycled to Taman Negara. Not bad eh! Alhamdulillah.

Having rested well, and changed into out leisure outfit we were ready for tea. We wanted to try another floating restaurant. Our lucky day. The restaurant we chose was having an open house, more accurately an open restaurant. Remember it was still Syawal. We were not quite sure we heard right. We asked, to verify. "Betul. Jemput lah makan. Kalau datang besok, kena bayar lah" said the lady owner. So, apa lagi. We makan tak tertahan di Kuala Tahan lah. Mee Kari, Mee Hoon and assortment of delicacies plus coffee and cordial was laid for guests and we enjoyed the hospitality.

Took us a while to eject ourselves from the restaurant but we need to continue on and cross to Taman Negara. I can't help wondering why this ASTRO disk had no permanent installation. I was also wondering whether the pair of sports shoes was an added antennae to increase clarity of ASTRO programs in the interior.

And there was also this rather cute cub-chai, vying for attention with the ASTRO disk. EPY 77 number plate caught us guessing from which planet this cub-chai came from.

Anyway, we were soon on the passenger boat and within a minute we were across to Taman Negara.

First stop was the Jabatan Perhilitan to pay for our entry permit of RM1 and RM5 for a camera. The buildings are new, the hotel had changed management and there were additional chalets. I could only see foreign tourists as hotel guests. Local tourists opted for the cheaper alternative across the river at Kuala Tahan, us included. Anyway, I can't imagine spending RM200 a night when my entire 4-day cycling trip here cost much less! Apart from the new builings, Taman Negara had not changed much from 22 years ago.

The multiple language signboard to welcome visitors was an indication of the demography of foreign tourists. I passed several tourists. Some sounded Italian and some sounded German. Taman Negara is after all internationally known.

There were the other signages showing both directions and distances to places of interest.

I recalled on my first visit, visiting Bukit Teresek and taking a boat to Kuala Trenggan where we overnighted in a camp-site. There was no Canopy Walk then and this time around, we missed it too. We were 3 hours too late. It closed at 3pm. I wondered why it had to close so early.

I recalled dipping and bathing in Lubok Simpun. I envy those who had done the 55km trek to Gunung Tahan which would take several days. While I probably can "tahan" the adventure, my interests now lie not with extracting leeches from my body. My love is now on two wheels - have bike will travel.

This sign attracted my attention. "WHAT THEY BREATHE OUT, WE BREATHE IN. CONSERVE IT". I wished someone would etch out a bicycle on the signboard. Would complement the message well!

The chalets were well laid out, spaced in 3 rows. One row had the backs fringing the jungles. The middle row offered the garden view both front and rear. The other row had the backs overlooking the river.

The wilds are allowed to roam, rightfully so. Do not expect to see any tiger roaming in the compound. Monkeys generally are more adaptable species hence they had the right of way in Taman Negara.

We visited the hide. There was a lone foreign lady, patiently waiting for some animals to come out to the clearing for a drink. Armed with a video camera, she was hoping to capture some exotic animals so that back home she can tell all those arm-chair travellers what they had missed. She would be unofficially the ambassador to Taman Negara. That is why conservation and preservation is paramount.

It was getting quite dark by the time we left the hide. Lights from the floating restaurant across the river in Kuala Tahan were calling us back. It was a rather short visit to Taman Negara. More accurately, it was a short visit to the Taman Negara Park HQ. Taman Negara is huge. Activities are varied. Googling Taman Negara will provide you with tons of info.

I crossed back to Kuala Tahan with the pleasant memories that this part of the country is still well preserved. My wish was that the river was not of Teh Tarek color. Well, one can't have everything, but one can have most things if one set goals to get them.

Good-bye Taman Negara.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008



We retired early. After 140kms of cycling, sleep came easy. The body hibernates in a jiffy. Day 2 ride would be about 70kms, half of yesterday's distance. So there was no sense of urgency to start early. We awoke to a fine day. The heavy rain and storm the night earlier cleansed this part of the world where we were now.

We cycled to the town in a leisurely fashion, looking for breakfast. Somehow, Roti Canai seemed to be the common desire. It wasn't long before we found our breakfast cafe. It wasn't mamak, it was a Pak Haji who skillfully converted the dough into roti canai, a skill he must have acquired as an apprentice in a Mamak shop decades ago. This Pak Haji must have also learned the art of managing, to finally open a restaurant he proudly can call his. A great marketeer he was too.

As soon as we sat down, a crispy roti chanai was served. "Sample" this Pak Haji said. Crispy indeed. As we enjoyed extra orders of roti canai, half-boiled eggs and nasi lemak, the Pak Haji was giving some jungle "petua" since he knew we were heading for Taman Negara.

Before departing, we booked a hotel for our return journey. The Rest House was fully booked for the wedding.

We bought some extra provisions - mineral water, kek pisang, biscuits for carbo-loading along the route. We rolled off about 0930 and it was getting warm. We headed towards Maran and at the 10th km, branched off left into Padang Piol Felda Scheme which ultimately led to Kuala Tahan.

A quick photo shoot was in order at the signboard showing Taman Negara, 56kms away.

Curious but shy kids were amused at these 5 "old kids" posing at the signboard. They must be wondering about the significance of the signboard. Pretty ordinary to them. I took several shots of them, darting in and out of my camera range shyly. I managed to catch this pose. I always make it a point to show them the shots I took and never missed to see their innocent smiles.

Leaving the signboard intact, we continued on and were greeted by a rolling hill, the first of the many that we would encounter.

The graph below showed there were more rolling hills on this route than yesterday's 130km road.

Indeed, on a superbike revving a 750cc (or above) on this twisting rolling hills would be a joy. On a bicycle, burning those unwanted calories and sweats oozing out from your helmet while you tackle the uphills was a feat, but a very satisfying one. And when you get to the top and the slope was in your favor, you free-wheeled down sometimes reaching 60kph. The wind in your face quickly dried the sweat and your body temperature dropped and you feel sheer joy. Then you gave a thumb-up

and you gave a smile.

Then, another uphill greeted you. The whole process began again, on and on and on. It was, as Acid commented, a mental game.

But there would always be the joy of stopping for a break. It could be just a cool shade by the parit where you find a comfortable gradient to lean back and stare into nothing. Or better still, if you can find a great cool shady stop as well as help the economy of the kampong folk, like this "jagung" break.

The jagungs were steaming hot and we were hot too. Two hots cannot equal to joy. We took our time as time was on our side. The jagungs were sweet because it was fresh, plucked only a day before. What we usually get in the city would probably be a week old, after all the distribution channels from plucking to eating.

Then it was another rolling hill. We had covered 50 odd kms and the sun was beating.

It was about 3pm when 3 of us, Acid, Man and self took another rest reaching the top of a hill. Acid playfully posed for a lift! Or was it a thumbs-up for his first maiden touring, in preparation for our 14-day ride in Sulawesi in Jan 2009.

Man was in his natural self. I like this man. He is very adaptable to the surroundings. He loves off-road biking. He loves solo rides. He carried the bare minimum. He can sleep anywhere, and everywhere. He loves his "cancer break". He's natural!

After 20kms of coninuing rolling hills, the three of us arrived Kuala Tahan at 4:10 pm. The 2 Zuls arrived earlier. Kuala Tahan was a hive of activities with both locals and tourists. First on our agenda was the late lunch at the floating restaurant. No 5-star restaurant can beat this no star ambience. Natural breeze from the river helped cooled our temperature. The strong current flowed beneath. Occasionally the floating restaurant gave a gentle rock as the waves from passing passenger boats passed by. We were ready to spoil ourselves and put back the thousands of calories we burned. We had no guilty feeling about food. We deserved this.

Fully satiated, we stop for a quick photo shoot to record our arrival.

Then it was off to AGOH CHALET to check-in, to park our "horses", to shower, to change to fresh clothes and later, to explore Taman Negara.

An exciting evening would await us.


Distance : 71.8 kms
Ride Time : 4hrs 10 mins

Avg Speed : 17.3 kph

Avg Temp : 28 C

Monday, October 27, 2008



A potpouri of 5 cyclists agreed to do a 4-day trip to Taman Negara, starting from Bentong. The plan called for a start from Bentong Rest House where I had earlier obtained permission from En Nasaruddin, the Manager, to park the cars there. There were 2 Zuls, 1 Man, 1 Acid and yours truly, who agreed to do the journey. Acid and I met Man for the first time. Acid met the 2 Zuls also for the first time. We were therefore almost "new" to each other, but the bonding for a common interest would always be strong, whatever interest one pursues.

From Bentong, we planned to overnight in Jerantut. On Day 2, we planned to cycle from Jerantut to Kuala Tahan, the gateway to Taman Negara. The next 2 days would be a back-track of the same route.

By 0805 we pushed off. Cars securely locked, bikes checked and nothing was left behind. We free-wheeled down from the Rest House, situated on a small hill, into Bentong town. The cool air and little traffic made the start a pleasant one. Monitoring my POLAR HRM-cum-cyclometer, after 2 kms the road began to climb gradually. At 7.5km the altimeter was showing 94 metres and within 3.5kms, we climbed to 192 metres. I was on my lighter gears to reduce my heart-beat. The younger cyclists would not have problems and thereafter it was a small roller-coaster of ups and downs, nothing difficult.

The above data was downloaded from my POLAR. The green graph is the terrain we encountered for the 140kms ride from Bentong to Jerantut, lowest at 67 metres above sea level and highest of 192 metres a.s.l. The red graph is my Heart Beat per minute, with a high of 164bpm and a low of 100bpm for the entire journey.


I have passed this way several times before, on other cycling trips back to Kota Bharu. I was therefore pretty familiar with the villages that I passed through. Somehow, the "digging village" escaped me before!

There was this village called KG TANAH BERCANGKUL. Perhaps that was how the pioneers who came here opened up the village, with their bare hands and cangkul their way to make the village.

Other pioneers could have come and used the same traditional method, but would not be able to claim that theirs was also "tanah bercangkul". So I guessed they decided to call their village KAMPONG GALI.

Without proper surveys, some would have dug too far from their claimed boundaries and therefore were reminded to dig somewhere in the middle. Hence, KG GALI TENGAH was born.

Again, without proper surveys, they could have dug crooked. The chieftain would again reminded them to dig straight, so that you can then call the village KG GALI LURUS.

Durian was in season. While Durian and cycling do not quite match up, my eyes were also scouting for a Durian stall. There was none, and now I know why! With just one tree for the entire kampong, there would not be any durians for sale.

As we continued our cycling, the weather was heating up. A shower would be great to cool the body, but you would not want to disturb the birds having their dip.

The Bentong - Raub - Benta road was devoid of shade. It was almost a straight stretch, with very ample road shoulders, a plus for cyclists. It was a trade-off we accept - no shade but ample road shoulders.

We arrived Benta at 1230pm after completing 70kms. From here we would branch off to Jerantut. A cool shaded rest area at the Petronas Station in Benta was a welcomed sight. What was not welcomed was the non-existence of any retail outlet at the Petronas station. A lone refrigerator was empty, not even a bottle of mineral water was sold.

We had a good rest here. We were also hungry, and as we cycled into the Jerantut road, the cool shade was a welcomed relief. The road was winding, much like the old Gombak - Bentong road. Traffic was light too and we enjoyed this stretch inspite of the hunger pang.

Everyone was focussed on an eating stall. After 4 kms of the winding road, we came across a village KAMPUNG BUDU. Aha, and there was one stall about 10 metres from the road.

A group photo was in order. Next to the stall. Yeap, you guessed right what I asked for. What? No BUDU in Kg Budu? I just can't believe that. I made a remark. A man at the stall jokingly said there was no Kampong Budu in Kelantan either! I smiled and made a mental note to check it out. Budu or no budu, we cleaned up the stall of the chickens and fish and refills of 100 plus and mineral water. Then it was Jamak Zuhur and Asar at the nearby mosque, followed by a 15 mins siesta.

We reluctantly continued on. We were roughly half-way to Jerantut. Another 60 plus kms awaited us. The road gradually climbed as it wound its way up and soon another rest was in order. Acid sure knew how to maximise rest and recreation, anywhere, including at the petai stall. We brought "ong" to the stall. Several cars stopped by to buy petai. Me? I was quite shy to tell Acid that petai was not on my favorite list though I can readily "hirup" the budu!

At this time, the two Zuls were no where in sight. They rode much faster than us. Man decided to accompany the two senior citizens though he could easily be upfront with the Zuls. Here is Man, with the mountain range in the foreground.

And here is Acid, strong enough to waive at me as he cycled past

At 1615 hrs, we stopped at a stall in Kg Batu Balai. The owner said this kampong is a Kelantanese village, mostly related to Tok Guru Nik Aziz. Every one spoke "french" here. She said, even the orang asli spoke "french". It actually struck me earlier. I noticed most of the kampong folks spoke Kelantanese, but I thought I must have chanced upon them. I didn't have time to be a historian. We still had 30kms to reach Jerantut.

Roughly 6 kms into Jerantut, the rain came. We cycled in the rain, our panniers weather-proofed. We were soaking wet when we reached Jerantut Rest House, where I had earlier booked in for the night. A good bath thereafter and we borrowed the caretaker's van to go for dinner. The Rest House could not provide food as it was busy preparing for a wedding the following day.

We retired early, ready for Day 2 tomorrow to Kuala Tahan (Taman Negara)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


First Syawal was here. For the last 3 Syawals, we missed our youngest baby who celebrates away in Dublin...sob....sob.... We had the remaining 3 with us at home. We hope to have our baby home next year for Raya, but only for Raya.

It had also been a while we took a family pic, so here goes. From left would be Rafeq the eldest, then Ramli the oldest. Then comes Shakira the third, followed by Muna the wife-cum-mother and Raqim the second. Baby is missing of-course but hopefully Rafeq will provide an addition to the family next year.

After the usual morning Sembahyang Raya Aidilfitri and the wife-cum-mom's cooking of lontong, ketupat and Johor delicacies, we were ready for our usual routine of berziarah, kekubur dan kerumah emak saudara dari clan Johor. Delicacy Kelantan and ziarah di Kelantan will be on third day Raya.

My mother-in-law Hajah Zabedah bt Abdullah stayed with us until her death. She was buried at Perkuburan Kiara at Taman Tun.

In April this year, we lost another family member, Allahyarham Wan Husin Wan Hamzah, my "biras" . He was also buried at Perkuburan Kiara. Al-Fatihah.

We moved next to Perkuburan Petaling Jaya where my wife's eldest sister was buried. Allahyarhamah Huda bt Haji Kassim passed away at an early age of 32, succumbing to a long illness.

Semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat Nya kepada keluarga yang telah mendahului kami. Amin.