Friday, October 7, 2016

EWAR Day 2 - Tanah Merah to Jeli. Easy 45km warm up ride before the climbs


Pic KC

Pic KC

How women should be dressed here in Kelantan. Pic KC

After a lovely and restful sleep at the Humaira Hotel, we were fresh as a daisy. It was one of those mornings that we got up when we got up. Sleeping in an aircon hotel room beats any aircon overnight bus anytime! Today was to be an easy day not because we planned it, but because we had to. Sometimes during a tour, the terrain is such.  Either a 45km or a 125km day including a 50km mountainous climb. We had plenty of time and that afforded us to get to know Tanah Merah better and to ride slowly to smell the roses.

KC's signature laundry line - a must have if you want your clothes to dry quickly!

I always like to check out the #1 restaurant in any town and the trusty Tripadvisor pointed us to Selera Tepi Sungei, which was 2.5km south of our hotel.  The name translated to loosely "taste at the river's edge" and with such an exotic name, that was our choice for breakfast. We rode our Fridays there through the sparse morning traffic and the cool breeze really worked up our appetites. Upon reaching the restaurant, we were disappointed to see the beautiful building closed. However, they do have a restaurant beside it opened and we were very pleased to be able to sample their excellent Kelantan Nasi Kerabu - bluish rice with finely cut mixed veggies, served with curries.

This place is apparently very popular with the locals and you can't go wrong when you see an eatery that is filled with locals. Next to us, a family was out for their morning breakfast just like us and I could not help but noticed a man with 3 women, presumably his wives which is quite common in this culture here in Kelantan.

My eye caught sight of a very distinguished looking man dressed in his finest with a white skull cap buzzing the tables, clearing, wiping and cleaning and decided to have a chat with him. Turned out that he was the owner and Mohd Hafiz was very pleased to meet us. He insisted that we take a look at his new building that was locked and got his staff to opened it for us.


Entering the spanking new building, we were blown away at how well decorated the interior is. It certainly looked like it belonged in KL or even Spore with its upmarket colour-coorrdinated furnishings. Enchik Hafiz went on to bring us upstairs where he had a grand hall for wedding ceremonies complete with a King and Queen platform.

For some reason, he took a liking for us and went on to share his admiration for Singapore - a country with no natural resources and yet manage to create wealth for its people and next to the late Kelantan PAS leader, Nik Aziz, his #2 hero was Lee Kuan Yew. As it turned out, Mr Hafiz was a Thai citizen from across the border and shared with us the challenges he faced running his business in Tanah Merah. It was easy to see that if anyone wanted the best restaurant for their wedding, Selera Tepi Sungei is the obvious choice. Their wedding package starts at only 1.5 the price of a MacDonald's Happy Meal!

We went back to our hotel to pack up and it was hard to leave the beautiful Humaira because we knew that in the days to come, our accommodation standards will be dropping very drastically. KC's engine was in full revs all ready to go and we set off at about 1030am.

We took D28 which was a small quiet road that led to the notorious Highway 4. The ride to Jeli was flat and easy but the sun was really starting to work overtime. I was very pleased to have don my Da Brim, which provided a much appreciated shade. As KC remarked, it is like riding with a small umbrella. Traffic was light and that made the journey much more pleasant.

We stopped at a local bakery for a break and some freshly made buns and iced tea. It was interesting to see buns baked using charcoal and not in an oven. The owner proudly opened up his contraption to reveal the buns and it is good to see such ingenious innovation.

Pic KC

One of the joys of taking it easy on a tour and not rushing to our destination is the ability to interact with the environment, to stop to take pics, admire scenery and talk to people as well. Being a car enthusiast, it was great fun seeing many cars from the 60s, 70s and 80s in this part of Malaysia some running, some sadly rotting in car yards.

As we cycled passed a country garage, I noticed perched in the air near it was a Datsun 160J SSS known as the 710 series. We immediately stopped to take a few pics and admire this classic which in its glory days, was one of the fastest cars available for the masses. It had twin carbys and boasted an independent rear suspension, which was way ahead for its time.

Image result for datsun 160j sss 1977 review

It was also interesting to cycle past a sign that led to Sungei (river) Satan and we decided that it was best to keep going on the straight and narrow towards Jeli. Still, we could not help wondering how that river got that name!

Pic KC

We finally arrived 5km from Jeli town to 2 hotels that was recommended - D'Jeli and Jeli Inn. We had a look at the first one D'Jeli and despite the early advertisments on the road, it looked a little disappointing. The reception staff were not very happy to see us but when I asked to see a room, the lady obliged very mechanically. It was 70rm, a reasonably price but it was really out in the boon docks and the rooms smelled of cigarette smoke. Somehow, the pink rooms also turned me off!

We rested there for a while, helped ourselves to free ice, then decided to check out Jeli Inn. Unfortunately, this hotel ceased to exists and we could not find it at all. Further down the road from there 100m or so on the right was another hotel but they wanted 100rm and the place looked really run down. The promise of a home stay in a newish house got us riding there only to find it deserted and a quick call on the phone number given yielded no results.


So despite the warnings from CGOAB that reported these were the only accommodation options in Jeli, we decided to chance it and ride the 5km to Jeli town. If anything, we would be able to get a good lunch and always come back to Hotel Pink Jeli.  The road to Jeli had a long climb and that was most unexpected. That only got us more hungry and we were blessed to find an eatery along the roadside which seemed popular. 

We were not disappointed with the Malay rice and curry dishes, and later a bunch of Polytechnic students came to sit with us. They were studying Fish Farming or Aqua Management and seemed like a friendly lot. They reminded me of my student days which were fun and carefree. Something inside me decided to buy them lunch and I was so surprised that it costs only 37rm or S$12 for 8 of them. The boys were very well mannered and seemed grateful and I was happy to be able to give them a small blessing.

We asked them if they knew of any hotels in Jeli. "50m just by the mosque are a cluster of shops and there are small hotels there... " said one of the boys in Malay. We were very happy to hear that and wasted no time to check it out. Turned out that he was right and we saw a brand new hotel, The Rimba Kasih next to Agro Bank. 


The rates were 70rm for an aircon room with attached bathroom and it looked like nobody has slept in it yet. It even had an ironing board and a cat with her kittens roaming along the corridors. The downside was that the owner's father was still hacking and banging in the other rooms but we were assured that this will stop soon. What really winged it for us was the warm reception we received. Also, it helped that below was an eatery and they were happy for us to park out bicycles safely inside.

Being a hot day, we really appreciated this ice dessert called ABC - Air Batu Chumpor which meant Mixed Ice and it really cooled us down fast.

Pic KC

After a quick shower and laundry, we took the opportunity to check out our surroundings on foot. Jeli is truly a very quiet town and all the shops were closed. Even the bus terminal had only one bus, parked and locked. Not sure if it was because it was Friday, which is the rest day here in Kelantan. But what blew us away was the sight of the mountains in the horizon and the glorious golden sunset.

Pic KC

Dinner was a simple Thai Muslim affair where I had fried rice and KC had noodles which were quite satisfying.

We were elated when they offered fresh juices and we drank that gratefully.

We slept early for tomorrow, the climbing begins! It had been a very easy going day and life in the slow and easy lane can be very special as well.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.

 This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 2:24

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