Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Road trip 3 ( Cameron Highland - Gua Musang )

We were not sure what should be our next stop, since we never tried taking the highway from Kampung Raja to Kuala Lipis, we decided to take that route. Years ago, the highway did not exist, it was an unpaved trail through the highland jungle, only hard core 4x4 enthusiasts traversed the trail all the way to Gua Musang.

Today, the highway has enabled the clearing of land for agricultural purpose along the highway. Sadly, it is done in the hap hazard manners, there are no planning, no proper governance. The method of farming is destructive and clearly unsustainable.

The highway extended beyond the farmlands and into the jungle, very soon we find ourselves to be alone on the highway for kilometers. Signs of human settlements are few and far in between, it is such a contrast from the crowded cities. Without any maps or GPS to guide us, we have to trust the road signs as there were no one around to ask for directions! So we just drove on.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Road Trip 3 ( Pantai Senangin - Cameron Highland )

On our way from Pantai Senangin to Cameron Highland we decided to take a short detour to the famous Kellie's Castle at Batu Gajah. There has been many articles written about this half completed and half ruined mansion, but for myself and my family, this is our very first visit. It is odd to see an European style mansion in the middle of plantation estate land, but it was an impressive sight with its commanding location on a small hill.

The building was designed to include an electric lift to be housed in the tower on the right, which would have been the first in Malaya. The lower flat rooftop is actually the floor of an unfinished indoor tennis court, which means the final structure should be taller in order to enclose the tennis court. The main rooms in the first floor have hidden exits and narrow stair ways that would provide an escape route for its inhabitants should some intruder tried to attack from the room's front door.

After we were done with the castle, we moved on and drove towards Cameron Highland via the Simpang Pulai way. This is the first time I am taking the campervan to climb up a hill, I expected the campervan to struggle due to the weight of the body and the stuff we were carrying. To my surprise the 1.8 litre engine was able to pull effortlessly without having to down shift too often, it will never win any drag race but it has the grunt where it counts.

From Batu Gajah, we took the Simpang Pulai way to reach Cameron Highland, this is the so called "second link" in addition to the route from Tapah. The road is wider and less winding compared to the old link from Tapah. The weather at Cameron Highland was cloudy and rainy when we reached Tanah Rata, we parked our campervan at the car park of the forestry campsite behind the golf course. This site is managed by the forestry rangers and they usually charged nominal RM10 per tent for the campers who camped there. The rangers were perplexed to see our campervan, but since we did not pitch our tent there but we merely parked our vehicle at the car park, we got to camp there for free!
There forestry campsite is probably one of the best kept secret in Cameron Highland, it is secluded and tucked away between Tanah Rata and Brinchang and yet the both the town center is within walking distance from that site. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Road Trip 3 ( KL - Pantai Senangin )

The first 2 road trips were really overnight trips where I drove the campervan to, stop for a night and then go home the following day. What I really wanted to do is to take my campervan on an extended trip, going from place to place. The campervan is not the most comfortable thing to travel in because it does not have proper car seats and the aircon is not very effective during hot days. However it does have one thing in its favour, you can stand up and walk around and make yourself a cup of drink or even go to toilet if you need to, while it is moving! Now try doing that in a regular car! Moreover, my children are seasoned travellers and they know how to entertain themselves on an extended journey.

After much planning, my wife and I decided that our first stop shall be Pantai Senangin near Lumut Perak. We have never been there, all we know was that the beach is nice and it is free of commercial development, no public amenities, so it is perfect for campervan. As for the second days and third days.... we will decide on the run and see how it goes. After all, there's no hotel booking to worry about.

From KL, we decided to take the coastal road of Selangor to reach Perak. In the past I have always taken the PLUS highway to travel north, but this time I have decided take the by ways and a less travelled road, why hurry when there's no check in time? By the time we reached Perak, it was already near evening time and took some guessing to find the way to Senangin, as it is not a clearly marked destination. We found the place to be undeveloped, there wasn't even a proper paved road there. There was a small fishing village and soem privately owned chalets and thats about it. The water is crystal clear and beach is fantastic, unfortunately the place is strewn with garbage left behind by people on day trips.

Again, I parked the campervan right at the beach for the best view, but I have to careful not to get stuck in the soft sand. When night time came, the temperature dropped quickly and cold wind blew form inland towards the sea, making the aircon redundant. To our surprise, cars started to arrive around 9pm and they brought campers and anglers who took up spot at the rocks to fish all night! By mid night the beach was full of anglers and campers. The land mass across the sea is Pangkor Island.

The following morning, the sun came out and temperature started to rise and we found the place to be infested with flies, not just at the spot where we camped, but whole beach was full of flies. Later, a local guy told us that the entire district is having the same problem. Not wanting to deal with the flies, we decided to move on. I promised to myself that I will be back to this place soon.

We had a brief family discussion, where to next? Since we have been taking the campervan to the beaches, why not try the highland? Ok, lets do it! The nearest highland is Cameron Highland and so it became the next stop for our road trip.

On our way out, I decided the make a quick stop at the Sungai Manjung river where the Jambatan Permaisuri Bainum bridge spans its width. Unlike estuaries in Selangor, the water quality here is much much higher, and I can picture myself taking a dip in the water. Now try to imagine doing the same thing in Klang river.... The spot where I took the photo is at the river bank next to the bridge, it is the kind of spot that you will not notice if you are on a hurry to cross the bridge.

On a side note, the porta potty in campervan was full, so it is time to empty it. It is dirty job, but someone got to do it and it is me. I stopped at a petrol station and lugged the potty to toilet to empty it. Ability to hold your breath for long time is a must for this job! My sister-in-law bought the thing for me in Australia, it consists of 2 parts, the top is the seat and also stores the flushing water, the bottom is the waste tank that holds around 20 litres. It is a great thing to have in the campervan, and it is indispensable when there are no public amenities around. The problem is that when it gets full it need to be emptied, the manual claimed that the chemical works to neutralised the odour for disposal. Unfortunately the chemical didn't seems to work as advertised, perhaps I have not added the right amount to the waste tank. Whatever the reason, it became the most dreaded job for me when travelling in the campervan.