Saturday, 26 March 2016

Pontian Wantan Mee - Myth Debunked! (26 March 2016)

Rooting for Superman!
Seriously no idea when YL took this photo!!!

Waiting for Zoe

Still waiting for Zoe!
The wait continues.....
Better power Zoe with Kopi O next time!
Gas powered???

We left Pan Kobo cafe with stories of Mount Kinabalu climb hovering over us. Andy had just returned from the Unesco Heritage Site whose picturesque peak had graced so many RM100 notes! Malcolm had scaled it twice while Janet had done it three times!

Andy was asked to lead and pace us while VT volunteered to sweep. Just gliding towards Southgate, TH was already impatient to overtake him! We were either too slow or TH just could not resist making full use of his mass!!!! Don't brake and waste the momentum!

It was pretty obvious from the start that we were of varying speed. Setting the pace at 25kph, Zoe could not keep up long enough. VT and Thomas fell back to ride with her to ensure her safety.

Soon, it became crystal clear that while Andy tried to lead, he was just a tad too fast! Malcolm prefers to keep a distance while Claudine enjoys drafting behind a big man! TH and YL enjoys playing with speed, sometimes overtaking everyone, sometimes riding behind Andy. While Janet could not keep up, she refused to fall back, often finding herself riding alone!

We rode through the scenic kampung route and Uncle Lim's durian farm only to see many cars parked on the road shoulders. It was too early for durian so it could only be for Ching Ming, a tradition of sweeping the ancestral tombs!

We reached Pekan Nanas' shell station quickly though Zoe swept by Thomas and VT took slightly longer to arrive. TH who was playing with speed earlier came in together with them! His bike chain fell off twice even though the bike was recently serviced!

After Pekan Nanas, we rode towards Pontian. Through the few traffic lights along the way and heavy traffic, we soon lost everyone! Thankfully, everyone were riding in pairs.

TH and Andy riding way ahead....

Claudine drafting behind Malcolm for wind resistance and security. He carries with him a can of C2 gas spray, a sort of tear gas spray...

YL was pulling Janet ....

Zoe swept by VT and Thomas, arrived at Pontian with a declaration that she will be boarding the bus home!

Meanwhile, Elaine who had driven to Pontian for her periodic supply of fresh seafood had recced breakfast for us. She was quick to inform us the popular Wantan Mee shops of A, B and C were not open. It was either we were too early or they were closed for Ching Ming too.

It was established later that Heng Heng was open for business and YL knew the way. We made a beeline there just as they were pushing the folding doors open!!!

Not concious to Pontian or southern styled Wantan Mee, we ordered the generic ones which comes with cheap tomato sauce! The noodles though al dente, were commendable but nothing spectacular. They come with red char siew that was neither charred nor barbecued. The meat looked like they were just rubbed with some red colouring and cooked over a pan. It was an injustice to the real char siew for this has created a bad impression to the juicy sweet meat!

A bowl of wantan soup is served together with the noodles. While the Wantan fillings are tasty with a tinge of salted fish, the Wantan skin are left wanting....they were slightly too thick.

Another horror is the fishballs served with the wantan!!! The teochews' craze for fishballs must have prompted them to kill this noodles which is traditionally Cantonese by origins!

Besides the much talked about Pontian Wantan Mee, Heng Heng also serves pre-packed otak-otak. Again, they were edible, rated slightly below good!

For brewed beverages, we have to self serve from the corner coffee shop though we do not need to return the cups!!!

TH shared my sentiments about the noodles. In fact, he had tried Sin Kee's noodles which he rates it as slightly better only.

After debunking the myth of this so called famed noodles, we left for Pekan Nanas. Along the way, we spotted a strange stall that sells live, fresh water fish hanging from clear plastic bags!

We arrived at Pekan Nanas' fruit juice stall for some juices and coconut water. It seems the Kopi O at Pontian had powered Zoe up. She arrived in no time.
We took a last group photo with Pekan Nanas' iconic pineapple. A tribute to the latest movie, Batman vs Superman, we all rooted for Superman. With seniority comes respect, after all, our Oldman is 1 year older than his rival!!!

After posing but not flying, we meekly left the grounds on two wheels. We were riding well within sight of each other until TH had a puncture somewhere after Uncle Lim's. VT, Thomas and Andy stopped to help him while ushering the rest to carry on.

We all rode back via the kampung route again but this segment sees Malcolm still riding strong though complaining of a pair of legs that does not belong to him anymore!!!! And... Zoe, needing another pick me up Kopi O. Somehow, we all managed to get back home safely but the four men left behind enjoyed a drink at Amin's before the final push!

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse - Come watch the wolf howl!!! (23 March 2016)

Directly 2 weeks after the Total Solar Eclipse, there was another cosmic alignment! This time it is the Penumbral Lunar Eclipse!! Riders and not astronomers, we gathered at Pan Kobo Cafe hoping to watch the phenomenon while we enjoy a leisure ride.

Someone in the chatgroup has suggested a picnic. This idea fired up a few people into motion.

On the night of March 23, Sue came to feed an army! She came with boxes filled with nasi lemak and mee siam!!! Besides that, she brought a plastic bag filled with fried chicken.

Claudine came with homecooked nasi lemak and fried chicken for her family and a little extra to spare. Kiwi brought a box full of grapes. Irene brought banana cakes, Ailly bags her chips, Zoe contributed yam cake and Siew Guay came with fragrant smelling satay!

While Sue and VT were seen eating the whole night through, many others had come after their dinner hence most food were left untouched!

Chin Po Lim and his wife

We started riding our loops when dinner was done. It was a family fun ride. Kiwi, Jane and their daughter; Chin Po Lim and his wife; Irene, Tan and Lucas; Zoe and her daughter; Wong and another lady; Claudine, VT and Rygel; Sue, Azmi and Amri; though Amri was not feeling well and had to leave with Azmi! There were the singles too .... Jolin, Khan and Siew Guay.

Siew Guay who was recently robbed off her Cannondale bike came with her new "steel" horse. She had just bought a Specialized Amira bike and the Lunar Eclipse was her very first ride!!!

Sadly, the weather was not cooperating with the hopeful astronomers. The moon was totally eclipsed by the clouds throughout the phenomenon. And.....the only howling that was heard was coming from the laughter of the riders!!!

Taiping Heritage Ride ( 17-20 March 2014 ), Day 4 - Au Revoir my beloved hometown!

We picked Berenda up for breakfast after her early morning solo ride around the Lake Gardens. Our timing was perfect as Derek and Tze were just setting off for Ipoh. We bid them a safe journey home!

We just had to savour our frothy milk tea again before our journey home, so we went back to Kwan Seong coffee shop. This time, we had their yummy curry puffs, sticky glutinous rice, nasi lemak, curry mee and of course, the wantan mee again!

After breakfast, we dropped Berenda off at Flemington hotel again. She had arranged a late check out and will wait for May to pick her up for their trip up Bukit Larut aka Maxwell Hill. This time, she bid us a safe journey home as she will be the last to leave Taiping. Her bus is scheduled to depart at 9 pm.

Leaving her to be entertained by May, we went back home to pack. Then we left our beloved hometown......right after a stop at our favourite cendol stall!!!

Friday, 25 March 2016

Taiping Heritage Ride ( 17-20 March 2014 ), Day 3 - The Ride Begins !!!

Cupcake and a piece of history!
Taiping Prison
Land Office housed in an old building
The old New Club golf course
Charcoal Factory
Logs are brought in through the river
They are pretty heavy!
Smoking NOT Burning the logs to make charcoal
Smelling the smoke to know if there are still moisture in the logs
Inside the kilns
The heritage ride begins!
Climbing up the hillock to the District Officer's home
Nope, we were not invited to have tea!
The ride continues after the rescue!
Kuala Sepetang
Mangrove swamp
Traditional roti kok
Tai Chien's popiah
Tai Chien's Char Kueh Tiau

VT, Rygel and Claudine left Golden Hill just before day break. It was totally dark and they had to rely on their lights to find their way. They passed the army camp on their left and Lakeview Garden on their right. Soon they hit the hill that has always been there since the dawn of time.

This hill used to be a deterrent to many ordinary cyclists heading for town. As most kampung folks uses bicycles as a mode of transport rather than a sport, bicycles used to come in the standard fixies in the heydays. Most riders never made it to the top, riding. Most will start pushing their bikes midway!

However, on the eve of the Spring Equinox in the Year 2016, the 3 riders managed to get to the top easily. Of course, with modern technology and a little training, hills are no longer an issue to many! That is, if you have enough gears and muscle strength to play with!!!

As they started their descent, a lone car parked next to the entrance to the Officer's Mess caught their attention! The car was blinking like a Christmas tree with its headlights and signals turned on. Peering through they noticed it was Claudine's mum!

May had started on her first rescue of the day! After bidding the threesome a safe journey, May had gone into the house to find VT's helmet lying on the table! She had come to deliver the helmet!!!

With VT's safety finally secured, we sped down the hill to the cross junction. Ahead of us was the Taiping Gaol, established in 1879. On our left was what used to be SK Convent Klian Pauh, a school built on half bricks, half wood structure. Today though, the MOE has rebuilt and renamed the school SMK Klian Pauh.

We rode across this junction and entered the fringe of Lake Gardens. We passed the backyards of SMJK Hua Lian. This school was recently awarded the Top 10 best results for STPM by the MOE.

Passing the school, we circumvent the outer ring road of the Lake Gardens. We passed the lily pond, in full bloom; the zoo; the crumbling rock gardens; the lone concrete slide that still stood the test of time!!!!

Finally, we arrived at Flemington hotel a little ahead of time. Berenda and Tze were already at the breakfast table. Derek though needs some time to prim himself!!

Berenda was apologetic, inviting us in for coffee but VT was bent on buying his Chee Cheong Fun again. So, it was decided that we should give Derek some leeway since we were actually early ourselves!

When VT returned, we all proceeded to Furama Hotel for our second pick up. Raymond though was still setting up his bikes! He asked us to go ahead without him!

Bidding him farewell, we left. This time, we rode along Pusat Penjaja Taiping and Bomba. Then, we rode towards Larut Matang casual market but turned left to the new market instead. Everyone were staring at our odd assemblage. Transformer bikes were strange enough let alone the Bromptons which folds to a stroller size!

Ah Heng was happy to see us again. On our request to see the ice breaking machine, he readily put up the show for us!

One round of toast was not enough. We had to order two rounds altogether though Aunty was a bit stingy with the kaya today!

Raymond could not make it to his Chee Cheong Fun. He was that ...... LATE! We had to leave it with Ah Heng for Claudine's mum to pick up later.

On the ground floor again, we all suit up for our ride. But wait!!!!! Not before Tze reapplied her lip gloss!!!!!!!! Our Brompton Beauty was indeed in her best elements with full makeup, fake lashes, and a tennis skirt??

Our Heritage Ride begins....

We rode through the Lake Gardens this time, taking a short cut through the skating rink. The whole place was abuzz with people. The young, walk or ride on the pathway made out of interlocking tiles. The older folks spent their time practicing Tai Chi. Some were seen using bright red fans and wooden swords!

We passed the Roman pillars that has graced many wedding photos....

We passed the 2 bridges that crosses the lake. The wood timbres has since been replaced with concrete slabs!

Again, we came upon the lily pond. Here, Derek spotted a Proton car key on the ground. It was attached to a key chain with the car number plates, giving us the assumption that it is a rented car. Spotting no one in distress, we decided to take the key along with the intention to drop it with the police later!

This time, we rode to the World War 2 Memorial. After a quick stop which sees the three Singaporeans looking a bit spooked, we left for the old New Club swimming pool. As we rode towards it, we passed the base of Maxwell Hill, the old quarry, the abandoned car park for the patrons of the club, the Hindu temple and the stream beside the road.

We made an abrupt stop when we spotted a troop of monkeys scavenging for food from a pile of rubbish left behind by the worshippers. They were so agile walking on the electric cables. We spent some time taking their photos and they spent some time observing us warily.

When we were done, we rode ahead to the temple grounds. Up on the hill behind locked gates were Vishnu, Ganesha and other Gods. There was a caretaker sweeping the grounds and keeping it clean.

Down by the river where prayers for the departed are done, was a mess of decaying flowers! A few white loin cloth in the stream leaves a tell tale sign that the remains of a loved one has been properly set free in the waters. No wonder this whole place was abandoned as a picnic spot!!

We rode past the entrance to the abandoned New Club swimming pool. This pool had a unique feature as it was built incorporating the giant boulders of the hills. Therefore it does not have a proper rectangle shape. Besides, the water from the pool is drawn from the stream making it very cold to swim in!

At the end of the road was the water treatment plant. It was a secured area and of course we were denied entry! We did not have time to check out the pool on our descent as Raymond and his family were already waiting for our arrival at the entrance to the District Officer's home.

We found the KL team waiting for us at the agreed rendezvous. They were an even quirkier group than the Brompton group! 2 Carry Me's bike for the younger 9 and 11 year old kids and another 3 Strida's for Raymond, Jess and Kai Ying, the Taiping folk were treated to a circus performance today!

Inescapably united as a team, we took a quick group photo outside the Taiping New Club, one of the oldest clubs in Malaysia. It has since gotten a face lift though the location remains the same.

While we were busy assembling ourselves for group photos, Claudine spotted a police patrol car. It was time to handover the car key to the authorities. But, it was not an easy handover!

The police car passed us on 3 intervals going up and down the hill. Claudine jumped and waved at them each time they passes through. Finally, the crazed woman had to throw herself in front of the moving vehicle to make it stop!!!

Duty done, we proceeded to the D.O's home. Located at the top of a hillock, it used to be the home of the Assistant British Residence. The locals enjoy climbing this small hill as a form of exercise. It is accessible via a proper tarred road, a steep narrow footpath or a trail starting from the playground below.

When we were done ogling over the old house, we rode down the hill and turned in the public car park by the Lake Gardens. This location used to be entrance to the government resthouse. Well operated and managed by the government starting from the 1950's up to 1970's, their concepts are almost similar. Usually located on hillocks with colonial styled architecture, the rooms comes with standard ceiling fans and wicker furniture. Sadly, by the 1980's many resthouses deteriorated into disrepair! Taiping resthouse was one of the many that was eventually abandoned and torn down!

We descended to the old golf course to get a better view of the Taiping Gaol. This is the first prison in Malaysia. It is used as a detention center for prisoners with long sentences and also performs executions on prisoners sentenced to death!

Today though, was another peaceful day! Besides our own team, the surrounding grounds was devoid of any beings. We did not have any strange encounters with any wandering spirits of prisoners past!

Not feeling spooked at all, we went to retrieve our bikes. 2 white butterflies were twirling and fluttering low around us for the longest time! Like an old Irish saying, "Butterflies are souls of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory!" Was it trying to send us a message from the spirit world???

Meanwhile, our hopes of transcendence was broken by the wail of Raymond's youngest daughter. She was pushed down by her cheeky brother. Raymond had to console her by giving her a piggy back ride up the slope. Little girl on a Carry Me bike was appropriately carried by her Daddy!!!

Our next stop was at the Perak Museum. We did not go in to see the displays but instead took quick photo shots of the building, in colonial architecture. We also took the opportunity to use the clean toilets located behind the museum.

After that, we were just too happy to proceed to Tai Chien coffee shop for their famous popiah and yummy CKT. May, Ryan and Raymond's in laws were equally happy to see us as they have been waiting for our arrival for more than half an hour!!! VT was already half way through his CKT too!!! We had left him to repair his puncture at the D.O's home!!!

The team is finally complete! This time, we went to the Taiping Railway Station. This current location is not the site of the first station. In fact, the first station, built to service the Taiping-Port Weld railway line was located at the current SK King Edward VII. It was somewhere between the 1890's to 1900's that the station was relocated to the current location at Jalan Stesen!!

Nevertheless, the railway station was still worthy for some photos. Sadly, the background was marred by the new tracks built for the Electric Train System!

After the railway station, we left for Antong Coffee Factory. Unfortunately, they were not roasting coffee today. Nevertheless, they were still conducting tours on how their coffee is processed.

Finally, we were ready to begin our ride to Kuala Sepetang aka Port Weld. We went through Aulong's Jalan Izzudin Shah aka Thomson Road, rode past the Aulong police station, then turned left into Lorong 49. Here, we hit Jalan Simpang Halt and took the right turn.

We travelled along Jalan Simpang Halt for a good distance until we hit Jalan Kampung Dew. This is a major cross junction with traffic lights. We rode across to the Hindu temple when the lights turned green.

Meanwhile, things have started falling off from Raymond's many bikes. First a water bottle at the start of Thomson road, then something else near the SJKC Hua Lian which saw him turning back to check. Much later, along the old railway line.....a rear light!

This could be an omen that there will be 3 falls today!!!

Derek was the first to fall! Riding across to the Indian temple, he turned to check if the rest were following. A speed bump across the road followed by a car coming out from the temple made him loose control. He did a panda roll which helps to minimized his injury. Even his built in stereo continued to belt out "Stayin Alive" song!

After brushing off sand from his body, Derek was ready to go again. We travelled down a piece of history....

This road was once the first railway line in Malaysia. Connecting Taiping to Port Weld, it was built in the heydays when tin was an important export and the British needed an efficient system to bring the ore to the port and the workers to the settlements. It has since been dismantled and the route resurfaced with asphalt.

A very narrow, very straight road, it rises higher than the houses alongside it. We travelled for a good distance until we finally hit the North-South highway. At this point, we have to go through an underpass to get to the other side and continue thereafter.

Meanwhile, Raymond's youngest girl was already feeling tired. Riding on a Carry Me with a single gear, she was working harder than most of us. Besides, playing the swings with her brother at the museum playgrounds had drained her considerably. Raymond needs to cajole her to get her moving.

The rest of the team arrived at the underpass intersection and waited for regrouping. The clock starts ticking and the seconds extended to minutes, to quarter of an hour , to almost half hour??? One by one, everyone started to get off their bikes. Some sat by the side of the road, some stretched....everyone took swigs of water....

Derek brought out his electric fan and hung it around Rygel's neck! They shared a short moment of bonding.

Claudine flicked out her phone....

Mayday call to May!!!!

May was on her way to Kuala Sepetang to meet the riders for lunch. With her was Ryan and Raymond's in laws. May swings into action, agreeing to wait at the end of the road where the old railway line meets the main road to Kuala Sepetang.

Now, if the distressed does not reach the rescue point, they will never get rescued. But the distressed was still NOT within sight!

Berenda suggested backtracking to find them. This way a message can be carried that help is on the way. It may motivate the distressed to ride a little faster!

Following Berenda's suggestion, Claudine went into action. She rode back a few hundred meters to find Raymond's little girl standing alone with her bike. Her daddy was a little further behind, coming out from a person's yard!!! Whatever it is, Raymond's daughter had a burst of adrenaline. She started riding very fast to reach the waiting group. She arrived to an encore from the group and was handed the prized fan by Derek!!!!

After giving her a good rest, we continued our ride. As we went on the underpass, Raymond's youngest girl had a fall. She did not see the speed bump across the road!!! Only suffering minor injuries, she continued all they way to the rescue point.

May not only collected her little ward! She even called for another rescue car!! Her friend, Sim will meet us at Kuala Sepetang itself.

The 10 remaining riders continued their ride to Mr Chuah Charcoal Factory for a pre-booked tour. Mr Chuah himself is a USM graduate who quits the corporate world to give back to society. With his immense knowledge, he incorporates science in his methodology. He throws in a few punch lines every now and then to make it a fun tour!

After the factory tour, we proceed to lunch at Restaurant Tepi Laut. It was fun watching the fishing village from above the restaurant while we relish in fresh seafood.

Later, we went on a boat tour. Unlike many boat companies in Malaysia, this one is commendable as they provide life jackets to every passenger. We made a quick stopover to pick up some tourists from a kelong then continued on to see the eagles. They swoop down to feed when food was thrown into the sea.

Our boat tour continues up the river to see the mangrove swamps, village homes on stilts and village life. Our guide explained to us the boats of varying sizes and different codes are for different purposes. Some are for shrimp fishing, squid fishing, deep sea fishing, etc.

When we finished our tour, we went back to retrieve our bicycles, parked at Claudine's old neighbour. This time, Raymond's son called it quits and entered Sim's rescue car. As for the rest of the remaining team, we made our way back via the same route.

Riding back along the old railway line, following closely behind Kai Ying, Claudine had a misjudgment and fell. Kai Ying was nervous with oncoming traffic on a narrow road. She hesitated to stop but was ushered to ride slowly ahead. Between the stops and the go's, Claudine fell and grazed her knee!!!

The team made a final stop for cendol but sadly they were already closed for the day. With that, they took a final photo of the oldest market in Malaysia and bid each other goodbye, promising to meet again for dinner!

After a good wash up and short rest, we met again for dinner at Mr BBQ. Raymond came .... LATE again after a few hiccups! He did not realize the place is actually so near to Furama hotel and drove out instead. When he finally arrived, there was a huge crowd and with hungry children, he left for hawker food instead!

The night ended for the 3 brommies at a spa, enjoying a 2 hour massage. As for The Choongs, they had their last round of chicken noodle soup only to get a message from Raymond asking for supper!!!