Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Rafflesia Ride: Part 2

The early riser...

Preparing breakfast
Our camp
 I woke up at 06:00am.
And my camping habit is to get the stoves fired-up and prepare breakfast.

That was the first order of the day. There were instant noodles where I blended a few packs of Japanese Udon and rough vermecelli
There were some left over chicken from last night's dinner where I had added it onto the soup base.
By 07:30am, breakfast was served with a cup of hot black coffee.
This is luxury by today's standards and a far cry from eating lousy food.
By 08:00am, the gang was ready and we were supposed to ride out back to the deer farm to meet up with Captain Yew, Siang's friend who had generously hooked us up with Mr Chung, the farm owner.
Captain Yew was with his teenage son and a friend who drove up from Kuala Lumpur.
We set out to the farm and split up at an asam laksa stall up in the hills before Adeline's Resort.

The team having breakfast

Riding out to the deer farm
At the Kandu caves near the deer farm...
Rolling out 

We had a smooth ride and met up with Mr Chung, Captain Yew, his son and Steve, a luxury car workshop owner.
After a brief conversation, we took a group photo and rode out.
Before we did that, I asked Mr Chung for a favour, and that was to stock up on beer and ice.
We gave him some cash and his staff and obliged by driving his pick-up truck to a local hypermart to get the essentials.
After the formalities, we set out towards the camp.
Half-way through, Angela developed a puncture on her Pacific Reach.
I radioed Michelle and helped Angela with recovering her bike.
Lucky for us, we had the Biologic seatpost pump that made life really easy.
After fixing the flat tire, we rode up to the asam laksa joint where Roger and Patric were already waiting..

Asam Laksa for the soul: the awesome noodle treat
The detour..

Our plan was to have lunch mid-way and ride towards the Rafflesia conservatory. 
This means, no big feast back at camp. 
I was told by Mr Chung that his wife had prepared a big lunch to welcome their additional guests.
After feasting on the asam laksa, we rode towards Kampung Orang Asli Hulu Geroh.
This is an additional 5km from the junction leading to the campsite.
The terrain was undulating and with each crank on the chainring, we progressed slowly towards our destination.
Once we reached there, my plan was to locate a grocery shop and purchase some chilled soft drinks.
We were lucky to find a grocery shop and I feasted on some Coca-Cola while Michelle had the last remaining 100PLUS isotonic drink.
While we parked our bikes at the Rafflesia visitor's centre, a Semai woman came up to us and asked if we were with the same group of hikers who came in earlier in the morning with their Mitsubishi Pajero vehicle.
This sounded like the birdwatchers who camped below us.
I asked the lady on the going rate for leading tourists to the Rafflesia site and she told me that the minimal charge was RM22 per head.
I found this to be reasonable and since we were there, Roger and Patric were not going to bug out as it was their opportunity to witness the largest flower in the world up close...

Hiking up the hill

In full bloom: the Rafflesia of Hulu Geroh
The opportunity of a lifetime...

I concur with what Master Siang had said about the Hulu Geroh experience.
Mr Chung's luxury farm house and generosity is something that money can't buy.
And that if we made it to see the Rafflesia in full bloom, it would be something that would put a smile on our faces as we talk about it for a long time.
So, at the visitor's centre, we agreed to join in the hike by hiring the Semai guide at RM22 per head. 
She told us that we were lucky to be the only group on the day to hike up a 1.5km trail to witness the Rafflesia in full bloom.
And she was right.
We worked our way slowly up the trail and after 20 minutes of hiking, the path became narrower and steeper.
Slowly, I climbed my way through a steep hill to reach its plateau where the group were taking pictures of a sole Rafflesia in full bloom.
Patric was fast to declare the Rafflesia Ride a success.
I was glad that we made the right decision to hike up the hill. 
At my age, I pushed the physical threshold. My knees and left ankle, which was damaged in a road accident 12 years ago had taken a real bashing. Nevertheless, it was mind over matter as I slowly ascended the hill to see the Big Ass flower.
I felt a sense of achievement by making it back to the visitor's centre in one piece.
For the birdwatchers, their hike ends with a ride back to campsite.
As for us, the road head is long and winding.
The weather held up until we reached camp where later in the day, we had to make a critical decision..  

The Rafflesia Ride: Part 1

Lure of the Big Ass Flower...

I picked up some literature from the Malaysian Nature Society's HQ in Jalan Kelantan.
One in particular, had struck my interest.
It was about a community development programme in Hulu Geroh, Gopeng, Perak.
There is a trail at this remote orang asli village that yields some spectacular natural attraction.
The said flora is the Rafflesia, which is one of the biggest flowers in the world.
I came across this during a trip to the Crocker Range in Sabah.
That was back in 1997 when I visited Keningau with some scientific officers from the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Linking a natural curiosity with a ride..

To map out a route, I worked on Google maps. 
Terrain wise, this area is pretty hilly.
Later, I contacted the country's leading Bikepacker Master TT Siang and asked of his opinion.
Siang has been to this part of the world and also agreed to co-host the ride. He later arranged for a ride and also contacted his friends in Gopeng to seek accommodation.
The plan was simple. Drive to Gopeng  in Perak, link up with a group of birdwatchers who also joined us for the stay at a private farm near Hulu Geroh.
And it was also a very straight-forward trail - some 11km ride from a deer farm where we parked our vehicles.

Patric and Michelle in Gopeng, Perak
No country for small bikes.. 

I've been drawing some flak for not inviting newbies for my rides.
This is apparent with tough trips requiring self-support and hauling your own luggage.
At this juncture, I am not keen on baby-sitting beginners. 
That's a lot of work in catering to high expectations. From previous experience, leading rides for newcomers seems to be like charity work where people expect organizers to treat them like paying customers. I got fucked by a shithead for telling him off during the World Car Free Day ride. 
So, that said, I've been really careful in selecting my ride companions. 
No issue with Michelle my wife as we are very comfortable with our own pace and timing on the road. 
For the Rafflesia ride, I invited Roger Teoh and Patric Yee, both whom I had been working with on my Perak Man Ride from Ipoh to Lenggong.
The four of us made a really tight team.
Then, there's Master Siang and his spouse Angela. Both seasoned bikepackers.
The Rafflesia ride is more of a bikecamping trip, so, in this case, most of the cyclists are well-equipped. 
Roger and Patric are pretty new to the scene, but I like their attitude and honesty.
We made plans to meet up in Gopeng, then link out with another group on their four-wheel drive vehicles. 
Then, from Gopeng town, we head towards a deer farm and ride out from there.

The paip besar Gopeng is a known landmark in this neck of the woods...
In the Big Country...

We had rigged up our Dahon Speed P8 and TR. 
Both bikes had clocked-in some impressive mileage and this is one of those occasion where we put our bikes to the test by riding offroad.
We could have rode our Jetstreams, but this time round, since there were some gear-hauling with our Ortlieb panniers, we went to our trusty Speed P8 and TR.
The packs were rigged with camping gear, cooksets and food.
Whether we liked it or not, we were going to rough it out.
Barely an hour into noon, we set out towards Hulu Geroh. The countryside ride brought back many pleasant memories and a group of seven cyclists including Mr Chung, our host, was easy to manage.
We rode towards Adeline's resort up in the hills. 
The elevation gain here is about 779-metres and I must say that the route is not for beginners.
On the average the gradient is about 6 degrees with 17 degrees as the steepest incline along the route.

Taking snapshots at Adeline's resort

Rock'n Rolla terrain: The undulating terrain from Gopeng to Hulu Geroh

Pushing the last 3km towards the private farm...

Our generous host had prepared lunch for us at his farm.
Mrs Chung is a darn good cook as she had prepared a few dishes including some fresh fish from Mr Chung's farm.
We had three more kilometres to clear after rolling down from Adeline's resort.
Siang said that although the ride is only under 11km, it felt longer because a portion of the trial is offroad.
For this, he brought his trusted Birdy Disk, while Angela rode a Pacific Reach folding trail bike.
The only guys with large bikes were Roger and Patric.
We took about one and a half hours to reach the farm and when we got there, a feast was already waiting.. 

The tasty lunch treat

Chilling out in the stream.. 
Our expectations were blown away.. 

Mr Chung our host had built a small enclave for his family and guests.
We were truly honored to stay at his property and he didn't charge a single cent for this.
In fact, he was happy to host us.
As a gesture of goodwill, I gave him a Mora knife. He was happy to receive the gift and told us that we could come and stay at his farm anytime..
After a heavy lunch, we prepared our bedding for the night.
Since we don't need to set up our tarp shelter, I chose a spot at the farm's shelter to set up our thermarest sleeping mats over a ground sheet.
As time progresses into the early part of the evening, I began to prepare dinner.
This was a simple affair as we brought our own food.
I prepared a vegetable curry dish while Patric worked on frying some kangkung leaves.
Dinner was served before nightfall and we spent the entire evening catching up with a conversation.. 

Master Siang sharing his thoughts during supper at the farm..
Round about midnight, we decided to call it a day.
I set up my sleeping quarters with Michelle and before we knew it, we were already fast asleep. Another day looms ahead as we prepare to ride back to the deer farm and later, cycle to the Rafflesia conservatory area in Kampung orang asli Hulu Geroh.

Friday, January 25, 2013

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013: Part 2

And off we go!

I made my way to the rider's pen with Mohd Radzi, a fellow folding bike cyclist and Michelle.
There, we met Kheng from BaikBike who took part in the ride.
I saw him two years ago at the VIP suite he waved at me while his colleague Alan took a shot.
We chat a bit and met an elderly couple from Mantin, Negeri Sembilan who are into touring rides. 
They were courteous and friendly.
Since we were right in front of the first bunch, there was a good view of the 48km challenge participants arriving at the finish line. 
After a brief wait, I saw The Star Cycling team making their grand entrance. To me, it was mission accomplished. The boys had completed the ride this time and as a team. I couldn't have asked for more.

Near mishap: A cyclist breaking his fall during flag-off at the Community Ride

Nasty accident: A roadie being treated by a paramedic in Jalan Raja Chulan
A chance to ride in the city...

We had always looked forward to cycling in the city.
At least eight of the main roads in Kuala Lumpur was closed for the cycling event.
Irate motorists, some, who were ignorant to the road closures had tried to break into the cycling path. 
Good thing was the traffic cops who did a wonderful job in preventing the motorists from mowing down the cyclists.
We did two laps (12km a loop) and on the first round, we saw some fellas getting down from their bikes, totally exhausted.
The ride from KLCC to Jalan Raja Chulan was a breeze. 
When we reached the Lake Gardens, the undulating terrain begins to take its toll.
Inexperienced cyclists had dropped like flies. 
Well, this brings me to the topic of cycling etiquette.
When you are running flat, please veer to the left and let others pass.
I nearly rammed into a girl who was struggling with the long climb towards Tugu Negara.
Well, when you think that's the least of your worries, the next big one was the ride to Bukit Tunku. This series of hills claimed more people, especially the weak ones.
One-by-one, they dropped like flies.
Paramedics who were stationed along the route got their hands full.

Jet-powered: Michelle riding along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman

Jubilant: The Taiping Foldie Fans

Another set of medals! 
Better timing..

We did okay on the 24km ride
Well, it was a breezy one actually. Along the way, I met some really interesting folks. Mohd Radzi and I rode all the way and completed the loop.
After collecting our medals, we linked up with the Taiping Foldies gang and indulged in a conversation before we got shooed away by one of the event roadies.
I made my way to a shaded corner and received a phone call from The Star's photographer Chan Tak Kong about heading to the VIP hospitality suite. 
The Star team were there munching away. They were truly like Rockstars.
Chan did an excellent job with the photos.
I went to the hospitality suite to meet up with the boys and met Julius Evanson, OCBC's corporate comm's main man.
Then, OCBC's Director/CEO Jeffery Chew came by. 
I told him that I had booked and paid for next year's ride and a Bike Park where no bicycles are allowed was a bad joke.
All that Public Relations gig done, I made my way back to the real cyclists and took off to Kampung Baru for an early lunch.
After a good meal at Restoran Ros in Jalan Raja Alang, we rode towards Brickfields and headed to the Federal Highway motorcycle lane for our ride home.. 

Crossing the stateline

Spare the postponement, cheap-assed stuff in the Cycling Pack, I'd say that I've truly enjoyed myself.
Now that the OCBC Cycling event had gone regional with the OCBC Cycle Asia, I hope to ride in Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines someday, with expenses out of my own pocket of course!

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013: Part 1

A ride way overdue..

The 2013 OCBC Cycle Malaysia ran its second installment here in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
Originally slotted for Jan 12, it was postponed to Jan 20.
Despite all the hoo-haas, the show went on smoothly.

I paid a visit to the cycle pack collection centre at the intermark hotel in Jalan Tun Razak,
There was a Cycling Lifestyle village here, which looked like a pasar malam.
My colleague Kevin Tan nearly had a heart-attack when he was told that his team was not registered for the ride.
Now, after making a few phone calls, things were back to normal.
In my case, I had everything under control. I registered myself and Michelle way in advance and received an email from the organizer to inform me that my cycling pack is ready.
It was a Friday and I spent the next 24hours in Port Dickson, managing my section's team-building event.
On Saturday, my wife called me to say that the pack was filled with crap. Even the T-shirt was a cheap-assed cotton tee unlike 2011's dry-fit tee, which was tastefully done. 
Anyway, I wouldn't expect to be treated like a Rockstar like most media people who expects OCBC to drop on their feet. 
The Star Cycling Team boys, man, they are the VVIPs!
They were given a spot at the Corporate team challenge. In my case, I did the right thing by paying for the Community Ride (24km)

Kevin and Ruey Chan of Le Run Industries at the Bike Village

The crowd, making a beeline to collect their cycle packs
From the wok into the frying pan

I fought sleep depravation, physical exhaustion to head home from Port Dickson, the venue of my section's team-building event.
After a hike up Cape Rachardo's Light House and winning the best team in the event's adventure race, I made sure that everything was allright before heading back to Subang Jaya. 
It took me an hour to get home and just a few hours of sleep before we head to KLCC for the OCBC Cycle Malaysia event.

A car-free affair...

This year, we planned to cycle from our home to the city centre.
The plan was to ride from our house to SS19 and link-up with Andrew Ng, a fellow cyclist.
Then, we ride towards the Federal Highway motorcycle lane and shoot straight to Bangsar and down towards Lebuh Pudu where we make the climb towards Jalan Raja Chulan.

Listen up!: Mrs Samo giving the Queen a piece of her mind... 
Riding out to SS19 from our home in USJ26, Subang Jaya

Arriving in Jalan P.Ramlee

We woke up at 04:00am, set up the bikes and 30minutes later, we were on the road. 
Traffic was light in the wee hours of the morning, but I am on high-alert for drunk drivers.
The journey to our RV point was smooth.
While waiting at a traffic light in USJ 4, we saw Andrew and I gave him a blast on my bike's airhorn.
We continued to ride towards the city and it took us about an hour or so to hit Bangsar from Petaling Jaya.
The rest was a smooth ride towards Jalan P.Ramlee as we made our way to the KLCC area in search for breakfast.
After some futile attempt, we made our way back to Jalan P.Ramlee and had a meal at a mamak restaurant.
While we ate, the first batch of cyclists were flagged off..

On duty: The Star photographer Chan Tak Kong

Michelle at the start/finish area...

At daybreak, we saw more cyclists at the scene.
Some were our friends as we caught up and indulged in a conversation, while we wait for the 24km community ride to begin..

Thursday, January 17, 2013

24-hours in Singapore: Part 3

On the road again..

Despite a few hours of sleep, I managed to squeeze in some much-needed "Zzzz's".
And there, smack in the early part of the morning, I hauled myself out of bed, packed everything and went down to Queen Street for my breakfast.

Keeping in touch: Tablet and Cellphone

A decent meal: Queen Street prawn noodles
I picked the Ibis hotel on Bencoolen Road for its strategic location.
You can access various parts of the Singapore's downtown area from here.
I knew that it was not hard to locate a place to makan and found a stall selling prawn noodles at Queen Street.
After a good fill, I went back to the hotel to check my emails. The good thing was this - they had free WiFi connection which made life a breeze.
The plan was to meet Stanley again, head for lunch at a stall near middle road.

Last-minute shopping...

I made a beeline to Camper's Corner.
There, I bought a Gregory sling bag for my wife.

I also splurged on a pair of Chaco sandals and two Gregory stuff sacks that were on offer.
Later, we had lunch and moved on to the City Hall area where I scored a 1:43 limited-edition Hotwheels Batmobile.
To what I least expect, I was kinda pleased with the stuff I bought.

The Ibis hotel on Bencoolen Road

The prawn noodles stall

The awesome rail-link

After all the shopping was done, I had a drink with Stanley and parted ways.
What I did was jump into the East-bound train that shoots straight to the airport.
The fare was around SG$3.50 which is much cheaper than taking a cab.
Travel time was round 40-minutes and I found myself checking-in a the terminal.
Right in front of me was this Chinaman with a Caucasian dude.
He seemed to have an attitude with his sunglasses on and a bluetooth headset which is permanently plugged into his ear canal.
I offered him the place in front of me and this dude went on yapping.
At the airport, I spent some time checking out the shops.
And man, speaking of World-class, Changi has it all.

The train to the airport

Waiting for my flight..
My ride home..
Bye-bye Changi..
Load up, or starve!

There are loads of food outlets in Changi airport.
I picked Starbucks for a beef loaf sandwich and a cup of coffee. 
Sat there on a bench and watched the world go by and when it was time to board, I made my way to the gate.
And there was this middle-aged Ah Beng again, bluetooth headset on the ear, talking loud, telling the whole world about his day in Singapore.
Way I see it, if this dude is such a hotshot corporate big-wig, he should be flown in on a G-5, not the cheapassed Jetstar.
Even at KLIA, this moron continued with his antics, talking really loud on the headset. Hands-free kits are for driving, not walking and talking. What a shithead! 

Just happy to be home..

I cleared the immigration and customs and went straight to the carpark. 
My parking bill for 36-hours was RM82.
Beats the hell out of waiting for a taxi and I am just happy to drive home to my waiting dogs..

24-hours in Singapore: Part 2

Lots of catching up to do..

After a hearty meal courtesy of Dr Peter Chua, Stanley and I walked back to the Camper's Corner. 
There, we met up with Sesh Anthony, a good buddy of mine who is also one of Singapore's premier knife collectors.
We shared a mutual case where a Permanent Resident dude had taken many of the Singapore knife collector's for a ride.
The straw that broke the camel's back was Conman using a signature line on his profile in an on-line board in bad taste.
It is sad to hear that the guy who was implicated in this case was so nice to the bugger.
We had a few beers at Camper's courtesy of Calvin Tay, the outlet's owner.

Coming a long way....

I've know Calvin since 1989.
His shop was at the Paradiz Centre in Selegie Road.
My first purchase from him was a Teva sandal. Since then, I've been frequenting his outfitter's store which is now located at Waterloo Street.
Calvin has been in business for more than 23 years, so, I think he's been doing a lot of things right.
His flagship outlet is the Arcteryx store in Chinatown.

Calvin, having a go at my book..

Cool stuff: Gregory backpacks at the store

The store's interior

A staff at the payment counter
And so they say...

Over the years, I heard a lot of people bitching about shopping for outdoor goods in Singapore.
"Expensive" is a word that I never grow tired of hearing.
Camper's Corner survived on providing their customers the best names in the outdoors business like MSR, Arcteryx, Chaco and Gregory packs.
I wish there were outfitters in Malaysia who could do the same, but having seen the cost factor in terms of freight and taxes, we are way behind..

Meeting the knifenuts..

Singapore's knife collectors are low-profile people.
I met a few guys a couple of years ago and kept in touch with them and man, these guys have real purchasing power.
We went to a mall somewhere in the outskirts of town to have dinner.
Stanley forked the bill and we indulged in a decent conversation until it was time to call it a day.

Good company: The Singapore knifenuts

Sesh and his companion Adeline
We talked a bit about setting up a forum for the Singapore collectors.
But its up to Sesh and Eugene, his friend to lead the way.
Pumped-up full of beers, I staggered back to hotel to catch some sleep.
Man, those strong Belgian beers do knock you out!

24-hours in Singapore: Part 1


I haven't been to Singapore for over a year.
Having said that, I don't really missed anything.
Recently, I felt that it was time to pay a visit to a couple of old friends.
Partly, to hand them my book and re-connect with my contacts.

A simple plan

I booked a flight via Jetstar Airways. 
Boarded their flight to Singapore from Sepang before and felt that this is one of the best budget airlines around.
A return flight costs RM167.96 inclusive of taxes.
This is by far, cheaper than taking a bus or train. Driving is out of the question due to time constraints.
But the killer here is the hotel.
I didn't want to bother my friends and booked a room at the Ibis hotel in Bencoolen road.
For a night, it costs RM497.75.
This is by far, the costliest traveler's hotel I've stayed in.
As for the schedule, I've planned to meet up with three people.

Flying over Muar in Johor

Minimalist: My pack

Over the Southernmost tip of Asia: Tg Piai in Pontian, Johor
Drive, Park & Fly

Michelle, my wife had suggested a drive to the KLIA carpark, leave the car overnight and pick it up the next day.
A return trip on a cab would cost more than RM100.
So, the parking tip was rather sound.
I drove over to the KLIA,parked and checked-in at the row to board my flight.
Boarding was at 07:50am, so, there's plenty time to burn.
KLIA as it seems, is a boring place. Nothing left to do, but wait.
When the boarding call was made, I made my way to the pre-booked seat. Very cramped and just nice for a short-haul.
When the plane took off, I realised that after 15-minutes, it was cruising over Muar in Johor.
I watched as the vessel had crossed Tanjung Piai, the Southernmost tip of Asia and made its landing approach at Changi Airport at the eastern side of the island republic.
Before the trip, Michelle had warned me about the 7kg hand carry baggage limit. 
Seems that everyone was hauling shitloads of stuff and I was the one who traveled lean.

Moving on with the mission...

My first destination was Ngee Ann city.
Went to the Takashimaya shopping mall and helped myself to some yakitori.
Later, I took the train to City Hall MRT station and tried to look for the New Balance concept store. My attempts were futile.
Took a walk to Waterloo street where Camper's Corner is located and found my old friend Calvin Tay.
I gave him a copy of the Food Trail book which I also autographed and was rewarded with some Belgian beers.
The plan was to meet Stanley Tan, a fellow Malaysian and link up with Dr Peter Chua, an old friend of mine..

Peter and my book

Chimay, a fine Belgian Beer 
With Sesh (left) and Stanley (right)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Garmin EDGE810

Garmin's latest bicycling GPS: The EDGE810
A timely upgrade...

Garmin introduced their flagship bicycling GPS - the Edge800 two years ago.
It was well-received and regarded as one of the best training and navigational tool around.
This year, the GPS manufacturer had upped the ante by introducing the Edge810.

Connectivity features

Users are able to link the Edge810 with their smartphone and upload the ride statistics, routes and other information live.
This feature eliminates the need to plug in the GPS unit into your laptop for a direct feed to
Another useful feature is the Weather display. You an achieve this by linking the unit with your smartphone through the Edge weather connect apps available for IOS and Android users.