NOT A GOOD NOR A BAD START
Day 1: 22nd December 2017, Friday, Ipoh – Gerik (130km)
Everything was packed and ready to go. Although, we didn’t have as many things as what we would be needing for seven days. There was a lot more things we needed to buy, so, we decided to cut down the packing list to as short as we can to minimize storage weight and just proceed to buying the things needed to buy along the trip.
We were going on a seven-day trip to seven different places with only our motorcycles. We are Amirul Ashraf bin Mokhtar and Mohammad Amran Sahab bin Nordin and this ride is called Tujuh Tengkujuh.
Our first destination is Gerik, Perak. I myself was on a customized black KLX 150S scrambler and Amran also took his black KLX 150 2011 Kawasaki. We started the ride off around 6.30am from Ipoh. As the ride begins, so was the thrill.
Gerik from Ipoh is about 130km. We didn’t go fast as we weren’t in a rush. The fastest we went was 120km/h but mostly below it. We made a few stops along the way to Gerik. Stopped for gas, then took a break at Kuala Kangsar, and took another break at Lenggong for breakfast around 10.30am. While having breakfast, a lady at the stall gave us some dates she got from Mecca while she was doing her umrah. The gesture warmed our hearts instantly.
After Kati, we had to go slow as it was very very windy. I would say 80km/h max. We had lunch as soon as we arrived in Gerik. Amran ate a lot saying he was starving.
As we were about to continue, my motorcycle wouldn’t start, the battery was dead. We took it in a workshop nearby and was lucky enough that they had a lot of experience with KLX. My ass was saved by this 58-year-old shop.
Then, we went for Friday prayers and after that, we took a little ride around in the woods.
We were staying at an old friend’s house, Ahmad Faisal bin Jamaai (Chai), and spent the rest of the night catching up with him. Chai is one of my oldest friends. I’ve known him the year 2000. He worked with JKR. He’s also a former member of the Ooi & Comrades team. He’s also the co-owner of Ooi & Comrades Pomade. He was wondering how did two normal Ipoh dudes ended up in Gerik, when our reply was that our motive was just to see how’s life for him over there and what’s his daily routine. That night, we chatted non-stop till dawn. A while back, riding together as a group around the country was originally our dream. The Ooi & Comrades team.
But you see, in life, no matter how well we plan things, we are not in control of what’s going to happen. You might set a goal hand in hand with a person. But when the time comes, you pursue it with some other person. The thing is life will always work its way. I may not start the ride with Chai, but at one point in pursuing it, we eventually meet by staying at his house. Life works that way.
I could say the most memorable thing while being there was a meal we had at a stall in Gerik, chicken soup. It was the best chicken soup I’ve ever tasted.
Not going to lie, from the beginning, we were a little scared, afraid of what would happen to us. I mean we are still just normal people pursuing something we’ve never done before. But no matter what, we’re going to finish what we started.
Six hours of tears
Day 2: 23rd December 2017, Saturday, Gerik – Bachok (225km)
Came the break of dawn, we did our Subuh prayers and got ready to continue our ride. Our next stop was Bachok, Kelantan. We said farewell and thanked our friend for his amazing hospitality. We started the journey at 7.45am. We passed by the Royal Belum State Park. As we reached the rest stop along the east-west highway across the Titiwangsa main range, it was slightly drizzling and there was thick fog. And before we knew it, a miracle happened. As we pulled up in our parking spot, a car pulled up right beside us. The family got out of the car and it turned out to be my cousin! We were all surprised along with the fact that i haven’t seen them in years. The ride wasn’t even close to ending yet and it was already meaningful.
We decided to stop and take a break hoping the rain would stop any soon. After almost two hours of waiting, it was still raining. We couldn’t wait any longer. So, we continued our journey towards Jeli, Kelantan, with my spotlights turned on the whole way. It was about 2pm when we stopped again for a drink at a stall at the roadside and did our prayers at a surau nearby.
Then, we continued towards Machang, Kelantan. The rain continued until 6pm. Amran led the whole way because he could navigate in the rain as he had a waterproof phone case. Thankfully he came prepared. We rode in the rain for 6 hours straight. We were soaking wet and shivering. While riding behind him, I realized how great it was not having to lead the way, because it gave me a slight freedom to actually look around and see the view, relaxed for once, instead of having to focus on the path. We took some shortcuts through the village and as the rain stopped, so did we, to watch the sunset while having the drink I packed earlier at that stop in Jeli.
While watching the sunset, there was a guy having his evening jog. He stopped and had a chat with us. He told us that he was training for a hike he was planning on in Nepal sometime in April 2018. “I’m glad to see such bravery in people who want to try something new, to take a step further and self-challenge” he said. Positive things just keep appearing despite facing obstacles after obstacles throughout this ride.
We then continued towards Bachok through the shortcuts we thought was easier. Little did we know, there was about two hours more ahead of us. A lesson here is not to simply take shortcuts without asking around.
As soon as we arrived in Bachok, my motorcycle battery died again. And thank God, it died right when we reached a mosque. I wasn’t aware that the battery couldn’t hold the spotlight on as long as Titiwangsa to Jeli went. Then, we met a young man. He was smoking a cigarette. He told us that the workshops around here are closed at this time of the night. Which was 8pm. Strange enough comparing it to workshops back home. But anyways, he said that he could ask this one mechanic he personally knew, to open up his shop and help us. And so, we accepted his help. I took the battery out myself and we took it to the workshop to charge.
Our original plan was to camp out. But the people there told us otherwise because it was monsoon season and it was very windy. Plus, it was still raining so we didn’t have a choice. We spent the night at the mosque and got ourselves comfortable. And by that, I mean taking our wet clothes off and putting only a towel on, hung them up to dry, and took a bath.
When travelling, do whatever goes. Know that you’re an outsider and you don’t really have much options. You can only depend on yourself. Every help you get is really just a bonus, sent from God.
After we settled down, we were starving. As a traveler you would usually go for a meal that is originated from the place you go. That’s what I wanted. But instead, Amran bought KFC because it was easier, faster, and just right around the corner. Then, we slept through the rest of the night at the mosque. Things didn’t went as planned but so far, I am glad to receive all the help needed.
Day 3: 24th December 2017, Sunday, Bachok – Kuala Terengganu (139km)
Yesterday was quite a tough day. But today, things turned around. Amran woke me up from a good deep sleep that morning. Maybe I was so tired off riding in the rain. But we continued as planned, to ride after dawn straight towards our next destination, Kuala Terengganu. Everything went smoothly. Although I woke up to a million mosquito bites on my arms and legs, I had a good breakfast, nasi dagang. The ride was amazing.
As we reached a place called Penarik, we were in awe. The road was by the coast and the breeze gave me a relieved but inconceivable thrill, and it brought me that wanderlust feeling. We had a 62km long of a breath-taking beach view. It felt like one of those movie scenes where you just take off for a ride along the coastal roads and there’s wind in your hair. Although, it was quite windy despite being on a bike. And with the speed that we were going, we wouldn’t get blown away as much if we were in the north. We were going about 70 to 90km/h unintentionally. If the wind wasn’t as hard, I’d say my motorcycle’s the problem. Thankfully my motorcycle was in a good mood.
We stopped at a shed to have a meal break. Again, the same thing happened. I told Amran to buy some food hoping to try some good local seafood snacks when he got back and brought lots of cucur udang (prawn fritters) and cendol, the two common food easily to be found back home *sigh*. I ate anyway and we gave some away because there was too much for us.
If you ask me, I’d say Penarik has the best road for a significant ride experience.
We arrived in Kuala Terengganu around 2pm. As we first took sight of the place we were going to stay, I was a little bit concerned. I knew it was to be a small wooden house but, but I didn’t expect it to be so small and so old and outworn. I didn’t mind it, I was just worried. But, I spoke too soon. The minute we stepped inside of it, it felt so warm and welcoming. The house was so beautifully decorated and cozy. We were staying at a cabin owned by an acquaintance of mine, Azram Norhakim, called Rumoh Kayu Bed & Breakfast. Picture this. He used kain batik as curtains which shades sunlight beautifully, put lots of books at one corner for reading, placed a giant world map on the wall along with other interesting wall decorations, and had a warm homy smell you can never find in normal urban houses. Being at this point, I felt like cancelling the next destination to stay here a little longer.
Azram Norhakim, or Awang as people call him, is a traveler as well as a musician. This was actually the first time I had a conversation with him. He is now in his 40s whilst I am in my 30s. But back then when I was in my 20s, he was a pretty deal those days. He came from a small town with big dreams when he decided to move to KL. It was hard for him to self-develop in his small town when the locals there were very judgmental in many ways. To him, the little things that makes life happy, is what really matters, and is enough for him. When it comes to having a conversation with him, topics will definitely go deep. He’s a very polite person. Learnt a lot from him, about life and local culture. I also think he is a little bit of a perfectionist. He’s a good interior designer and he particularly did his place in a very orderly manner.
WANDERERS FOR THE DAY
Day 4: 25th December 2017, Monday, Kuala Terengganu
We wanted to see how the real Kuala Terengganu is like and coming to my friend, Awang, is the right thing to do. He basically knows everyone and everywhere in Kuala Terengganu. He brought us to the best places to eat, the best places to shop, and the best batik making in town. Here’s a slight twist, we didn’t take out our bikes. Instead, we wandered around town with uber or walking.
The city has over 250,000 residents and most of them are Muslims. The city was so beautiful and so worth to visit. There was a lot of interesting places insight. We saw the Crystal Mosque, Islamic Heritage Park, the Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque, and the Terengganu State Museum. We also went to the central market called Pasar Payang and Chinatown. Not to forget, Bukit Puteri. It is located in a strategic location, overlooking the estuary of Terengganu river. It was used as a lookout point in facing enemies, especially those who come from the sea. During the 1800s, Bukit Puteri was used as a stronghold during the civil war. There were still some old canons up there.
Awang also did took us to one of his favourite shops, selling old vintage stuff. One that caught my eyes instantly was an old printing machine that was used to print books. Awang himself loves to collect vintage stuff to accessorize his cabin.
VISITING PEOPLE’S MINDS
Day 5: 26th December 2017, Tuesday, Kuala Terengganu
There was a whole lot more things to do and places to go on our trip list. Unfortunately, we had to stay in because I wasn’t feeling well. So, with all that plans put on hold, we chilled at home and had long conversations with different people. We were exploring people’s minds instead of exploring the city. The environment there was different. The people were very rousing and friendly. Even when we stayed at home, the area was like party. Right in front of the cabin was a stall and it was filled with good friendly people. Not to mention, there’s an A&W nearby.
As day turned to night, we chilled at the stall and made friends with a bunch of surfers. They told us many things, including a suggestion that we should change our plans and take a different route. They had planned to go surf the next day at Penarik and they had invited us. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make that happen because it was out of our way.
We also hung out with some friends from Terengganu whom I personally knew from my past. Nu’man Siddiqy, Muhamad Azam aka Togey, Fazrein, Mohd Hishammuddin aka Dean, Arif, and Mohd A Arif aka Ipin. They were friends of my old housemate, Rafaei Razali, from when I lived in KL. Surprisingly, they too said that we should take the route that the surfers mentioned earlier.
As we chatted on, a topic came up about anxiety disorder. Nu’man Siddiqy had been through a lot having anxiety disorder. In 2016, he had his first anxiety attack during the fasting month at a restaurant. He felt so out of place. He suddenly felt like he was floating and drowsy. Swallowing food was so hard. His heartbeat rate became faster and he felt suffocated. He thought he was going to die. After that attack, he didn’t take a single step out of the house. He became scared of going into the public. Then, he tried seeking help from a traditional massage doctor. He was advised to stop drinking ice water or sweetened drinks. He also started avoiding crowded places especially malls. Then, he had another attack in 2017 while he was doing his tarawih in a mosque. He suddenly felt so anxious of his surrounding and he had trouble inhaling. He immediately went home. After that, it got worse. He had zero confidence to go out alone. For months he stayed home. Having anxiety disorder turned his life upside down. He was at a point that he couldn’t think of anything positive. He then went to a doctor and he was suggested to see a psychiatrist. He had been seeing a psychiatrist for two months straight.
Sometimes, the ones who seem normal to the eyes are the ones facing major problems. Be grateful for your health and well-being. Also, don’t disregard the ones in need of help. Anyways, it was a night well spent indeed. And we enjoyed the company.
LOST AND FOUND
Day 6: 27th December 2017, Wednesday, Kuala Terengganu – Ipoh (416km)
After thinking and thinking, we thought it would be best if we packed up and start our way home through a different route than what was planned. While being in Terengganu, we’ve heard several people telling us about this particular route. It goes through Tasik Kenyir, and through Gua Musang straight towards Ipoh. They told us the view throughout the route is breath taking. The scenery of the greenery and the lake along the road is a ride-or-die worthy scenery. And so, we did. We scratched our original plan, including to visit a friend’s cafe called Ombok Cherating Surf Cafe, we planned out our new journey, and packed up our stuff the night before.
We woke up at 5am, got ready our bikes and our bags, and checked ourselves out. Three nights for RM 60 is such a bargain if you ask me. As we were about to take off, it rained. So instead, we decided to have breakfast first. At 9am, we decided to start our journey, with the rain still falling. Pumped full tank before Sultan Mahmud bridge and head straight towards Tasik Kenyir.
Amran told me that we can’t go faster than 70km/h because the wind was strong. We took the road towards Setiu which leads to Tasik Kenyir. After Tasik Kenyir, it was Sungai Qawi, and then Kuala Berang. They weren’t kidding. The view really was amazing. Although it was showering, we enjoyed the ride and the view.
Before reaching Gua Musang, Kelantan, my motorcycle broke down again at a small village called Aring. The other problem was that I wasn’t with Amran. I left Amran 10 mins further to rush towards Aring because I knew that my motorcycle wasn’t going to hold much longer. I couldn’t call him so I texted Farah, my wife, also Amran’s sister, to call him. Surprisingly, a lady picked up the phone but the call wasn’t really clear and got cut off. So then, I went back to look for him, worried.
I stopped at a shed because my phone died and I knew that my motorcycle couldn’t hold up any longer. Around me was nothing but 40km of palm trees. Except for a tiny lodge, like a small house, enough to fit one person, with a small glass window that is barred for safety. In it was a lady with nothing but a portable powerbank. I asked for help and looking back at me strangely, she said that it is unusual to see outsiders wandering around here. She lended me her powerbank and told me that there’s no power source around here. The area was numbered section by section and every section, there’s a small lodge for one guard to supervise the entering and exiting of the forest. Which explains her job. As for me, I was in Aring 1.
I was surprised when she told me that there was a gas station nearby. I thanked her and went straight to the gas station. It was one of those gas stations with only one gas pump, in the middle of nowhere, like you see in movies. Thankfully there was also a workshop. I texted Farah for any updates and she said that Amran was already way ahead. I immediately texted Amran and told him I was at the workshop, in case my phone died.
Amran showed up two hours later. I immediately asked him about the lady picking up his phone earlier. It turned to be a collision between two signals.
After those two hours of charging my motorcycle battery, we had to make our move by hook or by crook. The mechanic told us that my battery couldn’t hold up until Ipoh. But we took off anyway. It was 5pm. We passed Chiku town and Gua Musang straight towards Cameron Highlands. At 6.30pm, we stopped at the side and took a brief smoke break.
We arrived at Cameron Highlands around 8pm and stopped right before we used up all the gas because we had no cash on us and we couldn’t risk what’s left in our tanks. Little did we know, there was a car parked behind us. An Indian guy got out of it and asked us if we had a problem. We were a little anticipated (with no cash in or pockets and everything), but turned out, he was kind enough to offer some help after we explained our situation. I was on the phone earlier asking for help from Amran’s brother who lived in Cameron Highlands. Unfortunately, he lived on the other side of town and will take about 45 mins just to get to us. We had no choice but to accept this guy’s help. He insisted that we go the gas station nearby and he would fill up both of our motorcycles. And so, he did. We insisted on paying him back through bank transfer but he refused. His name was John and he was a very kind man.
With whatever we gathered from our pockets, we had enough to buy two bottles of water. After catching our breath and hydrate, we went straight back to Ipoh. As we arrived in Ipoh and realizing the trip was over, I thought I should’ve gone straight back home to my wife and son. But instead, I felt like going one round through town before going home.
Then, it hit me. I saw how perfect this town is. It is the town that I should give back.
A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD
Day 7:28th December 2017, Thursday, Ipoh
As you can see, we got back one day earlier than what we originally planned. We also changed towards a different route halfway through the ride.
After it was over, as what would happen to normal travelers, the ride got me still in bed, thinking. What is Ipoh? What is actually going on with Ipoh? After years and years of living in Ipoh, I still have those questions on my head. I’m not really sure if I could explain it, but here’s a try. All these while, I’ve been doing so many things around here. I’ve tried so many things to bring Ipoh forward and to create a strong community among youth. What I understand now is that everything I did that I thought was tough to pull off and was more than good enough for this city, is actually nothing. “Most people don’t discover what’s most important in life until they are too old to do anything about it. They spend many of their best years pursuing things that matter little in the end.” Beautifully said by Robin Sharma, an author.
You see, this city is perfect on its own. The placement is perfect. The buildings are perfect. The greenery is perfect. The name itself is perfect. There’s never a problem with it. The only thing that matters is us, the people who are responsible for this city. Not me, not you, but all of us who live here. We are responsible to be our best selves towards this city. Everything we do defines us and what we do for this city. As Robin Sharma said in his book The Secret Letters of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, “Choose your influences well”. He elaborates “We do not move through our days alone or apart from the world around us. And so, we must be aware of the things and the people we allow into our lives. These positive people will inspire us to be our greatest selves.”
If we were to talk about the time in history when Britain ruled this city and they discovered the unlimited source of lead, they actually haven’t got that much out of us. Overtime, Ipoh have made so many outcomes and some of these outcomes have made this city in the to-visit-list. Ipoh is like a big land that is about to get bigger, with explorers that is about to grow older, and with fruits that are about to ripen.
Everything we do, we put hope and love into it. We all hope. We all love. These are the essentials of everything we do. “How well you live comes down to how much you love. The heart is wiser than the head. Honor it. Trust it. Follow it.” Spoken beautifully again, by Robin Sharma. My biggest influence.
Special thanks to:
Ahmad Faisal Bin Jamaai (NOT A GOOD NOR A BAD START)
Azram Norhakim (Rumoh Kayu B&B)
Muhamad Azam aka Togey
Mohd Hishammuddin aka Dean
Mohd A Arif aka Ipin
John from Cameron Highlands (LOST AND FOUND)
Mohammad Amran Sahab bin Nordin (Ride partner)
Megat Zulfadhli (Photo editor)
Aina Inani Nor Salehen (Story editor)
Also never ending thank you to:
My parents and my in-laws
My wife and son
Debut family & friends
Amirul Ashraf Bin Mokhtar.
*based on true events