Lenggong valley has UNESCO world heritage archeological sites and, equally important to me, isn’t far from the island of Penang where we spent two happy weeks.
This made it the perfect target for our Lenggong valley motorbike tour: a loop starting and ending in Old George Town – another UNESCO heritage – and crossing Taiping, Kuala Kangsar, Lenggong, and Salama.
We rented a scooter from Mr Lim at Stardust Café. For 35MR/day (€7,5) we got a very decent Honda 125cc that “can drive many many kilometers, lah!”.
Day 1: George Town – Taiping
We set off at 9:20am and by 9:21am I realize it’s too late to avoid the Malaysian scorching sun.
Georgetown is very, very humid and very, very hot. From what I could experience in the two weeks we spent there, this is the main downside in an otherwise very great place to be.
Penang island is connected to mainland Malaysia by a ferry and two bridges.
We choose to ride Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge, that with its length of 24km it’s one of the longest sea bridges in the world!
And if you wonder, like me, which one is the longest then look no further than the China-Macau-Hong Kong new bridge: 55km to bring the two special autonomous regions even closed to lovely mamma China (and possibly a bit less autonomous).
But let’s go back to Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge. It carries a modern highway with a separated motorbike lane. It’s an easy ride (under the scorching sun) and I’m the only one excited about it.
On Malaysian highways, there are ‘umbrella-stations’ for motorbikes, that are basically parking areas with a roof.
Useful when it’s raining, they were a life-saver for us when tired of riding (under the scorching sun).
Anyway, our plan is to avoid highways because they’re boring.
We do visit the gas station, where we have a bah-pau and drinks before abandoning the highway for a more scenic road to Taiping.
A few km later, we’re driving on the old motorway, realizing that there’s no scenic road to Taiping unless you consider trucks, traffic lights, and industrial areas as scenic (under the scorching sun).
I’m impressed by how developed this area is, but we also ride next to what looks like Malaysian jungle.
I spot a road-killed baby leopard, and a monitor lizard in the middle of the road. Or maybe there were not a leopard and a monitor lizard. Hard to say (under the scorching sun).
At noon we stop in an area with a few food options, from KFC to local nasi kandar, and we luckily choose the latter.
This is not a place that sees many foreigners and using a few Indonesians words triggers large smiles on the faces of people working here.
But some English is spoken everywhere and language has not been an issue at all.
We resume driving for one more hour (under the scorching sun) then I realize that my arms are very red. I’m burned and I haven’t put any sunscreen.
We stop a few km before Taiping and this time, unfortunately, we opt for a KFC – but just for the A/C.
The last stretch of our drive (under the scorching sun) crosses the beautiful lake gardens, the main reason I’m back to Taiping.
- I booked the room for the wrong date (one month later);
- the previous owner, a friendly Englishman with a Malaysian partner, is long gone.
This makes me sad as I start questioning the difficulties of mixed-relationships, and can someone really be uprooted and live in Taiping?!
After more than 110km (under the scorching sun) we’re tired.
In the evening we buy flip-flops that don’t make my feet bleed anymore, and we have a tasty char kuay tauw in one of the many hawker centers around town.
Day 2 – Taiping
The lake gardens are the main reason I wanted to come back to Taiping. Actually, I wanted to run in them.
I leave the hostel soon after 7am, with a very nice early morning breeze and my running shoes.
I run 10km around the gardens, and they are as magnificent as I remember them!
As in any South-East Asian park, there are hundreds of people walking, doing tai-chi, or exercising following the beats of energizing aprés-ski music.
We’re lazy for the rest of the day.
Day 3 – Kuala Kangsar – Lenggong
Taiping’s streets are quite during the day (under the scorching sun) but they came alive at night when the most absurd vehicles are speeding on them.
Tuned cars, motorbikes without exhaust, it’s the second night that I sit on my bed thinking about the Monza F1 GP at the times of 3.0L V12 engines (if you know what I mean) (under the scorching sun).
We hit the road around 7:30am, full of joy and excitement.
Direction: the royal town of Kuala Kangsar.
In less than one hour we’re entering the city ready to discover what made it sultan’s favorite…. but:
- there’s a tourist information center, but it’s closed on weekends (!)
- the Royal Palace (Istana Iskandariah) can only be visited on special days
- the Sultan Azlan Shah Gallery has been closed for renovation for the past two years
- the Perak Royal Museum was, well, under a huge scaffolding being rebuilt because of termites!
Our visit to the royal town of Kuala Kangsar ends up with a royal lunch with excellent biryani rice and teh tarik.
All in all, Kuala Kangsar was a disappointment but as usual, if you don’t go you don’t know.
And the Masjid Ubudiah mosque was pretty:
Lenggong Valley is calling and we seek some fresh air.
There’s now a highway crossing the valley, but we opt for the scenic kampung road crossing the villages even if in most parts the old road is the new road.
The valley isn’t any fresher than the rest of Malaysia (under the scorching sun) and we reach Lenggong by mid-afternoon.
The museum is pretty nice, and kudos to the administration for giving a house to such as important historical find, rather than shipping it in a national museum in the capital!
Sadly, the caves where these discoveries were made are now closed and guarded because they got vandalized with graffiti and phallic signs.
You can visit them on an appointment, by making contact a few days in advance.
In the evening we have steamboat, aka hotpot: a Chinese cooking tradition where diners cook their own food in a hot pan with boiling broth.
By coincidence, the family running our hotel is there too.
“We have an Italian friend, Marco!” and they show me a picture of them together with Marco Ferrarese and his wife Kit, that we meet a few days before in George Town!
Marco was the inspiration for this trip with his Lenggong valley travel guide.
Total distance: 240km
Day 4 – Lenggong – George Town
It’s Sunday and it’s time for us to get back to Penang.
Our ride starts at 7am, and our body feels an unusual sensation: it’s chilly!
We turn left on the A6 towards Selama and this is definitely a great motorbike ride going up & down the mountains, next to waterfalls overlooking the valley.
Quite TOP, if you ask me (and since you’re reading my post, you do ask me).
Reaching Kulim, we realize that the magic is over as we’re back to urbanized areas.
The last touch of romance is the ferry crossing from Butterworth to George Town.
Total distance: 370km
All our pictures here.