Monday, October 22, 2012

Rogue Rider - Project Taiping - Port Weld, Part 3

Destination: Port Weld
I've been fascinate with Kuala Sepetang - the present name of Port Weld where one of the earliest railway line in Malaysia was built.
There's nothing left of the steam engine railway but a marker stone with the numbers '1885' inscribed on it.
After a good night's sleep, I woke up ahead of the alarm bell.
On my mind, the thought was to pack as light as possible and not miss out all the essential items for the ride.
This is also a short ride covering about 12.5km.
With the bike all set up, I made my way to town and had my breakfast.
It was a piece of tai pau (large Chinese dumpling), a plate of siew mai and a cup of Kopi-O kau.
While I was having my meal, I can hear some old-timers talking in the background. 
They were gossiping about the size of my bike.
Then, after I got up to strap on my helmet, another old-timer had asked some question in Hokkien. 
I don't have a clue what he was talking about and rode off.

Hallelujah for the GPS!
Having a Garmin EDGE 800 strapped on my handlebar, I was confident of carrying out the solo ride to Port Weld.
My mind was focussed on two things: keep on going and stay safe.
I keyed in 'attractions' and the Port Weld Railway Station came on-screen.
After pressing 'Go', the GPS led me towards the outskirts of town and to a flyover leading into a village.
It was a safe and smooth ride - literally on a straight line towards Port Weld.
I rode past two other villages, an oil plam plantation, underneath a bypass on the North-South Highway.
The route joins with the Taiping - Port Weld road and later, I learned that I had cycled on the actual railway line. The tracks of course, were long gone...

The road to Port Weld
Taking a break off the Taiping - Butterworth route


The oldest trade in the village
Port Weld is know for its charcoal kilns.
Generations of people here had worked on producing charcoal for local consumption and export.
I made a detour into the area's famous charcoal kilns and found one at the edge of the industrial area.
A middle-aged couple, who were really friendly had strucked a conversation with me. We talked a bit and they gave me permission to photograph mangrove lumber being processed into charcoal. What a trip!

At the charcoal factory

A worker preparing mangrove timber for smoking

The earthen kiln where the wood is processed into fuel
Big shrimpin!
Kuala Sepetang is well-known as a seafood production centre.
The symbiosis between mangrove and the marine life is obvious here.
Shrimps thrive in the muddy coastal area which also serves as a buffer during violent storm.
In short, this is truly the 'river of life'.
Port Weld, on the other hand, is a just a small town with many commercial fishing landing site.
I found a shrimp processing centre owned by a Malay family and spoke to them.
They were nice enough to allow me to capture the activity on camera and as we were talking, I was told that the Mee Udang shops are usually closed on Fridays. What a bummer!
But, as a saving grace, one of the ladies pointed out to me a stall off the main road that serves a killer shrimp noodle dish.

Shrimping is a big income earner for this village
A man sorting out his catch
Port Weld at last..
It took me somewhere between two to two and a-half hours to ride to Port Weld.
When I got there, there was a hive of activities.
I cycled past some of the seafood processing centre and found that this is an excellent place to just hangout and take pictures.
My intention was to find the a stone marker that says: "Port Weld" and snap some shots there before pushing off.
With the GPS, it was no sweat.
I set my camera, took some shots and was on my way.
Before heading back to Taiping, I wanted to try the Mee Udang and did just that.

Historic: The remnants of the railway station

Sumptous: The prawn noodles
A simple meal
I found the stall and ordered a bowl of noodles.
The owner was just happy to oblige.
Now, I am not a big fan of prawns. But having tasted this simple dish, I must say that the ingredients are fresh.
The shrimps are sweet and crunchy: an indication that it was a fresh haul.
And my bill came up to RM9 including a drink. This was really a treat and I hope to patronise the stall again in a follow-up trip.

The way back..
After a meal, I rode towards the Matang forest reserve.
There, I met a forest ranger and spoke to him about the accommodation facility.
Seems that a chalet costs RM80 per night (for three guests) and bookings have to be made in writing a month in advance. I'll pass on that and perhaps organize a day trip to walk on the planks on this facility.
Satisfied with my findings, I rode back towards Taiping on the busy Port Weld - Taiping road..
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