These Malaysians cycled all the way from Perak to Thailand


The writer (fourth from left) with his cycling buddies (from left) Sebastian, Tony, Bong, Soh, Eric, Matt, Smiley and Hon, with Marcus taking the picture.

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Late last year, my friends and I went on a cycling trip from Kuala Kangsar in Perak to Betong in Thailand. The cycling distance was approximately 160km, and I had been looking forward to it for quite some time.

There were 11 of us on the trip, and we had chartered a bus to take us to Kuala Kangsar from Kuala Lumpur as early as 3am. Most of us fell asleep during the drive, but we were all pretty refreshed by the time we arrived at our destination at 6am. Unfortunately, one cyclist – Chye – had to return home immediately due to a family emergency.

After a hearty breakfast, we rode around town and did a bit of exploring. Kuala Kangsar is the royal town of Perak, famous for some monuments like the Victoria Bridge.

Located in Karai, Victoria Bridge is one of the oldest railway bridges in Malaysia that was constructed between 1897 and 1900. It was built across the Perak River to serve local tin mining companies. While the old bridge is no longer in use, its adjoining footbridge is still open to small vehicles like motorcycles, and pedestrians.

The structure is quite stunning; we took the opportunity to walk through the old bridge with our bikes, which proved to be quite a feat as we had cleats on our shoes.

Sebastian, our trip organiser, had aimed to reach Betong by evening, going through Sauk, Lenggong, Gerik and Pengkalan Hulu. None of us had traversed this route before, so it was pretty exciting.

The group had to take shelter from the rain twice while on their journey.The group had to take shelter from the rain twice while on their journey.

The ride from Kuala Kangsar to Lenggong, under an overcast sky, took us through gentle undulating country roads, flanked by rubber estates and jungles. We marvelled at the idyllic village houses with their spacious compounds.

Less than an hour into our ride, we entered the Sauk-Lenggong bypass where we then cycled in a single file along the straight road.

Eric, nicknamed “train-head” for his speed and tendency to lead, headed the peloton throughout the journey. Occasionally, shouts of “car back” from Smiley, the only female cyclist in the group at the rear of the peloton warned of approaching vehicles.

Meanwhile, we also had Marcus, who dedicated himself to being the team’s photographer and videographer.

At Tasik Raban Bridge (also known as Raja Muda Nazrin Bridge), we took some pictures as there were some scenic views of the huge Tasik Raban near Sauk.

In Lenggong, we stopped for a break around noon, where we enjoyed delicious traditional wonton noodles cooked over firewood at Loh Dee Wan Ton Mee.

It was here that we became a little worried about the weather. Threatening clouds loomed overhead and we still had 100km ahead of us. True enough, half an hour into our ride after lunch it started to rain and we had to look for shelter. Fortunately, we got to a petrol station just before it poured heavily. We were stranded for slightly more than an hour at the station.

It was already past 3pm when the rain finally tapered off, and we could continue with the ride. But we only rode for a little more than an hour before getting drenched in the rain again.

We quickly sought shelter in an empty roadside stall about 5km from Gerik. Unable to continue and standing there in our soaked clothes, we were feeling miserable and shivering.

At one point, we even huddled together for warmth.

The writer at Victoria Bridge in Perak.The writer at Victoria Bridge in Perak.

Ironically, we were actually in a village called Kampung Air Panas!

When the rain finally eased up, we decided to try our luck and continued with the ride. It was still drizzling by the time we got to Gerik, which was at 6pm.

We got some buns to fill ourselves up for the 45km-long ride to the next destination, Pengkalan Hulu.

We had to proceed cautiously due to the wet road conditions and water puddles.

We were only about 25km away from Pengkalan Hulu but there were uphill climbs ahead. It was dark by then, and we were cycling on what seemed like a deserted road. I was in one group with Tony and Marcus, while Matt, Smiley and Sebastian were a short distance behind us. Soh and Bong were together most of the time, but at some parts they cycled solo.

The rolling terrain surprised everyone including Sebastian, who had done the initial research on the route.

Tired but determined, we pressed on, going through many ascents and descents, moving toward the border checkpoint. The thought of anyone sliding off into the ravines chilled us.

Cycling in total darkness is scary!Cycling in total darkness is scary!

We finally reached Pengkalan Hulu at around 10pm. We regrouped and proceeded to the checkpoint situated high on the plateau of the Thai-Malaysian mountain range border.

After the checkpoint, we cycled through a winding, downhill road to Betong town where we had a satisfying dinner. At our Airbnb, we chatted about our adventure late into the night, even though we were really tired. Soh had a bit of a fever, but luckily we had brought along some basic medication.

In the morning we were all energised and explored Betong town ... but not with our bikes. Instead we hopped on the tuk-tuk, which was easily available.

There are lots of activities to do in town, and the food scene is really vibrant. We didn’t have any problems communicating due to the town’s high number of Thai, Chinese and Malay people.

The highlight for us was a visit to the Chantharattanaram Monastery, where we experienced a cold flower bath (“mandi bunga”) and received blessings from the priest.

We stayed in Betong for two nights, before heading home in our chartered bus.

Despite cycling 160km from Kuala Kangsar, enduring rain-soaked conditions and a daunting 25km in darkness, we cherished the memorable experience, testing our stamina and teamwork in a journey full of camaraderie.

In Betong, the group of cyclists was able to relax and unwind, and check out tourist attractions, like this giant mail box.In Betong, the group of cyclists was able to relax and unwind, and check out tourist attractions, like this giant mail box.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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