Friday, June 14, 2013

Tour de Southern Most Tip of Mainland Asia


Group picture before rolling off

The Asia continent is the largest land mass in the world and if this cycling event has sounded intimidating to many, the opposite is actually true.  It was to be my first organising a leisure cycling tour to this idyllic region in Malaysia from Singapore.  Instead of cycling from Singapore and navigating through the busy road in Johor Bahru, I chose to transport everyone by coach and then commenced our cycle in Pekan Nenas town in Pontian region.  This is the safest option and that is key.
In all there were 18 of us comprising 15 ladies and five men including me and the total distance covered was about 70 km and over two days.  It was a leisure ride, not meant for speedsters and the route is mostly flat.  But importantly, there was no heavy traffic to contend with.
The cycling tour was scheduled on 8 June, Saturday and we had to gather outside Outram MRT station for our coach by 0630 hrs.  I cycled about 10 km to the pick-up venue from my house and I arrived well before 0630 hrs, 0545 hrs to be exact.  It was still dark and no one seemed to have arrived yet.  One by one, everyone arrived and they were early too.  It was past 0600 hrs, I still did not see the coach yet and admittedly, I got a little jittery.  I then decided to contact the driver to check on his whereabouts, just in case.  He was to travel from Johor.  He told me he was somewhere in Orchard and by my reckoning, should arrive in 5 mins time.  Our coach arrived at about 0615 hrs and very quickly, we started to load our bikes first.  Everyone was very co-operative, helping one and other though many met for the first time.  In this group, I know just a handful.  Choon Hwa, Yennie,  Jeanette and Florence who have had participated in some of my previous cycling events and for the rest, I was meeting them for the first time.  When we were done, we were off before 0630 hrs.  I was hoping to avoid the jam at causeway if we were to leave later, given it is still a school holiday period. 
Much to my relief and probably it was still early, it was smooth sailing at SIN side.  We reached the Woodlands check point at about 0700 hrs and soon, we were on the way to Pekan Nenas town.  The journey will take us an hour after clearing the Johor immigration.  In our group, we had Mohri-san from Japan and he had brought some Japanese fruits for us to sample during dinner.  Well, he is in on-line fruit delivery business and he was hoping to secure some orders from us.  I made an introduction of Mohri-san while on the coach, to break the ice for him.  Mohri-san was actually worried how was he to cope when he thought he was required to cycle and at the same time, carrying a heavy load (his fruits formed the bulk of the weight) on his back.  I realised that he did not read my itinerary clearly.  He thought we had to cycle from Outram and all the way to Tg Piai and without support vehicle too.  I had a good laugh but from his expression, I can see he was relieved when he realised our ride was not a tough one.  Nonetheless, he was game enough to go despite his initial fear.
Hearty 'ba-ku-teh' breakfast in Pontian
 
We arrived at a ‘bak-ku-teh’ (pork rib soup) shop in Pekan Nenas town and I understand from my Johor buddy, Chua Poh Kok who provided the coach and the support logistics that it is a famous ‘bak-ku-teh’ eatery in this part of the town.  As we did not have any Muslim or vegetarian cyclist among us, everyone could enjoy a hearty ‘bak-ku-teh’ meal together.  It was indeed savoury.  We still can find alternate arrangement had we have Muslim or vegetarian cyclists with us, no big deal either. 
Flat and scenic route to Tg Piai
 
After our breakfast, we proceeded to offload our bikes, geared ourselves properly and at about 0930 hrs, off we went.  Everything was in accordance to plan.  I was the lead cyclist while the Hylux truck driven by Chua’s brother and assisted by his son, Henry will cover the rear.  I had a briefing to all and always the same old remainder, “cycle in a single file”, “have your helmet on” and “stop if you are tired”.  The Hylux truck was sufficiently stocked with 100 plus and mineral water to keep everyone hydrated throughout. 
We turned into to a new road that will lead us all the way to Tg Piai.  The main road that will lead us to Tg Piai and Kukup has too many cars and it is also longer.  This new road is generally flat, no pot holes or cracks and it has much lesser vehicles.  On our first day of ride, we will only cycle 50 km at most.  We cycled past some chicken farms and kampong houses.  It is a scenic sight, good to cycle at a leisure pace though the weather was getting a little hot as the day went by.  John who came with his wife, Sheela wanted to go faster.  John is a young man and he has good body physique.  I was hoping he will not find this group too slow for him.  I told him to look out for signs that point to Tg Piai in case he went too far ahead.  I had to cycle at a leisure pace to keep most of us closer together.  At some point, we were chased by three dogs.    I stayed back a while just in case the dogs did really attack some of the cyclists.  Fortunately for us, the dogs did not attempt to attack but merely to scare us away.   
We made two brief stops for drinks.  Everyone seemed to be in high spirit and nobody had indicated he or she wanted to drop out any moment.  In this group, there were 11 of us aged 50 years and beyond and the oldest one is 66 year-old.  Despite her age, Audrey keeps an active lifestyle and she is quite a strong cyclist too – hats off to her!
About 10 km to our destination in Tg Piai, I decided to cover the rear while the Hylux vehicle will go in front to ensure the faster cyclists know where to turn and stop.  Elsie, another not that young lady seemed to have some difficulty managing her mountain bike and she was lagging behind the rest.  I was covering her from behind.  With grit and determination, she still managed to arrive at Tg Piai.  Another surprise element was Florence.  She was in the middle of the pack throughout and she was on her ‘Brampton’ foldie.  The first time she followed me was to Batam which was just some months ago.  She was really struggling then but this time, she has improved much.  Bravo! 
A monument at Tg Piai
 
Group picture at Southern Most Tip of Asia
 
Everyone reached Tg Piai well before 12 noon.  I then proceeded to make arrangement for all of us to visit the national park.  We were to walk to the point which is the southern-most end of mainland Asia and take a group picture for memento sake.  I even readied nicely designed certificates certifying we were at the southern-most end of mainland Asia with all our names imprinted to be presented to all when we settle at our chalet.  At the juncture, we had only covered less than 40 km.  I then asked the group if they wanted to cycle another 13 km to Kukup town to clock more mileage or take the coach.  Only two persons opted to take the coach while the rest will cycle to Kukup town where we were to put a night there.  
When we arrived at Kukup town, we proceeded immediately for lunch first.  The resort operator, Eric was already waiting for us and he showed us to our tables.  It was seafood lunch and it was another sumptuous meal.  I even met an old friend there.  Ah Seng who owns Kukup seafood restaurant happened to be around on that day.  He could not recognise me at first.  I then jostled his memory going back to the days when our ship landed in Kukup in the late 90s and phew, he remembered everything.  We lost contact for more than 10 years, time flies man.  Instead of cycling our bikes to the chalets, Ah Seng graciously allowed us to store all our bikes at his restaurant. 
Sunset at chalet
 
From the verandah of our chalet (Photo from Wendy Leong)

After lunch, we then took a short cruise to a fish farm before heading to our resort called Kukup Ocean Resort.  It was a Saturday and the boat was quite packed with other holiday makers.  Finally, we managed to check-in to our chalet.  Everyone was delighted that the chalet I had chosen was the best in that cluster.  It is newly built, and we had the second level unit all to ourselves.  There are 4 big rooms to be shared among us.  The five guys took a room and the ladies had the three rooms.  Our unit which can easily accommodate 30 people is sited at the furthest end of the chalet which overlooks the sea.  In the common hall, there is a nice karaoke system and there is mahjong game available too.    
While lunch was taken not too long ago, Eric brought up some afternoon snacks for us.  Some of us gathered at the veranda, chatted and at the same time munching the snacks away.  It was a relaxing afternoon till dinner time.  Choon Hwa, Jeanette, Meow and Tang En started the mahjong game which they continued after dinner. 
It was BBQ dinner, yet another savoury meal.  We did not have lift our fingers to do anything, Eric and his workers barbequed for us which they then served to us.  We just used our mouths to feast on the food.  Mohri-san brought out his tomatoes and his prized winter melon.  I understand that winter melon can cost more than S$100.  I liked most is the tomatoes which are sweet, unlike the local one.  He even brought some Japanese tau sau buns too.  We really enjoyed the dinner. 
'Kong Min' lantern that took off
 
After dinner, some of us bought the ‘kong min’ lanterns from Eric.  Before setting off the lanterns, we penned some well wishes for good luck.  Other guests at our resort and nearby played with firecrackers and light up fireworks too.  It just reminded me that as if it was still Chinese New Year period.  Slowly, each of us went about doing our own things.  Some continued with their mahjong, some went for the karaoke while the rest retired early to bed.  I sat around at the hall listening to the karaoke songs but at while later, I was too tired to carry on.  I decided to retire early.      
Breakfast was ready before 0800 hrs.  It was still raining when we got up and the weather did not seem to look fine for the whole day.  We were to move out at about 0915 hrs, picked up our bikes at the seafood restaurant by 0930 hrs.  The rain suddenly stopped, the dark cloud seemed to move away and clear sky appeared again.  What a day to start our ride.  Anyway, it was a long ride and we only planned to cycle about 20km to Pontian town where we will end our ride.
Auction taking place at Pontian market
 
Just before 1000 hrs, I led the group to Pontian market.  I intended to make a brief stop at Bugis Museum but I missed the place.  There was no prominent sign for me to identify.  I was pedalling in front, making sure I did not go too fast and Audrey, the most senior one in our group was just tagging behind me.  Boy, she is such a strong rider.  Not to mention, John was always way way in front.  I knew we had covered more than 15 km and we were getting very near to the town.  Do I stop or just press on?  I decided to cycle on till we reached the Pontian market at the very least.  When we reached Pontian market, we had already covered slightly more than 20 km.  We made a tour to the Pontian market to witness some auctioning.  Instead of noises made like a typical fish market auction, it was 'hush hush' affair with a person whispering to the middleman who was keeping note.  I was told that the auction is opened to close circle of people in the trade, not meant for public.  It was certainly an eye opener for all of us who were visiting for the first time .  We stayed for about half an hour before walking back to our coach to load up our bikes.  Our lunch was fish ball noddle, dried or soup at a popular local eatery in Pontian town. 
After our lunch, it was shopping and massage time at Bukit Indah.  We even stopped by for durians while travelling to Bukit Indah.  Three hours were allotted for shopping and massage, plenty of time to while away.  Choon Hwa had to leave early to attend a wedding dinner.  She took a public bus at Bukit Indah Shopping Centre which will bring her back to Singapore.
Our dinner was taken at Orang Asli Restaurant but we waited more at least an hour.  It was super super packed with people.  When we finished our meal, it was already past 2000 hrs and we were caught in a massive jam on the Johor side.  Luckily for us, our coach can managed to manoeuvre around the heavy traffic but still, it took an hour just to clear the Johor side.  I dread to think the jam at Singapore side but fortunately, it was all clear at Singapore side.  Soon, we were on the way to Outram MRT and at about 2200 hrs we finally reached our destination.  I still had to cycle home from there. 

This capped another enjoyable and safe outing for us.  I am fully satisfied with the final outcome.  I must thank my friend, Chua and his staff at Prima Sierra Holidays for all the arrangements and I shall look forward to another cycling outing soon.    

1 comment:

Ting Chun said...

Hi Collin
Thanks for taking care of me,Sorry I was last but manage to make it.Wish I would join u next time again.I have share with my friends abt.this kukupocean.willyou be able to arrange for us if we are interested to go Segamat durian trip and stay kukup for one night.Email me if u can jul.20-jul.21.Give a quotation.(20 to 30 pax)