Joined: Feb 2008
Location: KL, Malaysia
Malaysia -KL to Cameron Highlands via Raub
This is a trip I've been wanting to do for a while but never had the time. Others on here have already done it, and I thank thank them for giving me the info I needed to find the roads.
Unlike most Asian countries Malaysia is not overpopulated, in fact it imports about 3-4 million workers every year to meet the shortfall in demand for labour. This may explain why there are very larges parts of the country that are pretty empty, and why the major road systems are concentrated in the coastal areas with only one major highway connecting the populous west coast of Peninsular Malaysia with the oil rich East coast.
Biking in Malaysia is good, hot but good. Once off the major arteries traffic is sparse, but because the plantations need good quality roads to get the products out, the quality of internal roads is very high and therefore good for bikes. Add to that the thousands of square km of plantations that on the most part are accessible to dirt and adventure bikes and you have an excellent potential for biking.
The only real down side is that the mid day sun can be fatiguing if wearing motorcycle gear. But with the emergence of “mesh” you can now be protected and be cool at the same time. Although when it rains it really rains, rain tends to be short lived here, so you get wet (remember to have money, etc, in a plastic bag….) but you dry out within half an hour and the rain cools everything down also.
Haven ridden many of Peninsular Malaysia’s great roads, it has been interesting to follow the progress of about 150kms of new road that has been under construction for the past 4 years in a region that until now would have taken a 400km journey to connect points that are only about 70km apart. What’s great bout this new road is that it literally goes through the middle of Malaysia’s fantastic “highlands” a series of maintains and hills wear the only inhabitants are hill tribes and plantation workers. At one point I rode at least 40km without seeing any sign of life, ire to be honest. The scenery is out of this world, the central plains that fall from the highlands are still large spreads of virgin tropical rainforest, with teak trees as big as I’ve seen in Borneo and Sumatra.
As I live in KL my journey started by getting onto the new Duke Highway that take me from where I live near Jalan Duta to the northeast of KL and the start of the E8 highway that connects KL to Kuantan and the East Coast. As its 8 on a Friday morning the city traffic is pretty busy, but most of it going into KL, where as I’m heading out, going east out of KL you immediately climb into the cool hills and jungle towards Genting Highlands, a monstrosity of concrete in the cool hills that overlook KL, here under the watchful eye of Mahatir a well connect Chinese Malaysian entrepreneur built a casino in a land where gambling is illegal, and became rather rich, it’s a mecca for mainland Chinese and Singaporeans, Malays are not allowed in…. the scenery up there is great but Genting itself is a eyesore visible from the city 80km away on a clear day. Luckily I bypass the turnoff and head towards Bentong where the real adventure and the real Malaysia begins.
Turning off the highway at the junction for Bentong West, avoids 15km of further highway and also allows you to pass junk yards that have Morris minors and ford popular's amongst their decaying finery.
Heading though Bentong following the signs for Raub, makes for an interesting contrast to KL that is just 40 minutes away, Bentong is a market town, probably the young people like in all Malaysian towns just want to get out to KL at the first opportunity, but these places have character, and the people are friendly.
Raub is my first destination, the road from Bentong is good as it’s a main artery that serves the whole of central Malaysia going to Gua Merseng and Kuala Lipis then on north all the way to Kota baru and the border to Thailand.
I stop in Raub, until now, this is my favorite Malaysian road, and my journey often ended here. I’d only once gone further that Raub, all the way up to Kota baru. Normally KL to Raub is one of my early Sunday morning excursions; there is a great small coffee shop that serves Roti Chanai (Roti Prata) just off the town football field.
As there are no signs for the new road, I check with a traffic cop just to be sure. I should be heading north from Raub, towards Sungai Koyan on the C5. I saw the sign post while doing my lap of the football field on the way to the coffee shop. The policeman confirms my route and tells me to turn right after Sungai Koyan.
The road out of Raub is new for me as the main road going to Kuala Lipis is a different route. The road quality is excellent and the scenery fantastic, nice Malay houses with vegetable gardens and bougainvillea everywhere, I come to the small town of Cheroh, The policeman had said to keep going, but actually like in most small Malay towns the rout is quite obvious and deviations are sign posted. The road continued to Sungai Koyan, another small town dominated by surrounding plantations, so the town itself consisted of the kind of hard wear shops, wood merchants, welders and mechanics you’d expect that supported plantations and farming. There were of course schools and local government offices, I didn’t stop as I was fed and watered already. At the end of Sungai Koyan was a road to the left sign posted for Pos Betou, this was where the real new road started, and with a new a high quality surface and brand new electricity poles on either side it wasn’t difficult to work out that this was the new road. Again though there was no mention of the final destination on this road which is Cameron Highlands.
Up until Sungai Koyan there had been traffic and people about and on the road, not crowded, but at least something, now all of a sudden the road was clean and empty, like although it existed and connected people, as there had been little connection before, people just had not got use to using that road.
The road was fantastic, windy, often shaded by jungle or hills, backdrops of jungle of plantation…. About 20 km is you came to a sign that says Pos Betou School to the left, but it’s obvious the main road leads on so I don’t explore Pos Betou, although I did stop for a picture of a plantation settlement that I assumed was Pos Betou.
Pos Betou is the last real settlement until you hit the later end of the new road and wind through the market gardening centers close to Brinchang in the Bertam Valley which is the loop of road that basically forms Cameron Highlands and Tana Rata.
The bit in between is well…..stunning, I have never (or at least can no longer remember) seen jungle vistas like this, and the road, empty, winding up and down hills, over rivers, viaducts, bridges……..certainly my photography lacks the quality required to show you.
Arriving at the northern end of this route, you enter the Bertran valley and the km after km of market gardening enterprises that form backbone of Cameron Highlands economy along with the tea plantations and tourism as a hill station.
However for me the arrival of civilization was not welcome, I wanted this road to last another 100kn or so, because I was engulfed in the solitude and ire loneliness of the place, I was in one of them in-depth think plains that only a long quiet motorcycle ride can take you and people and other traffic were not part of the play taking place in my head…but end that road did.
I would say the vegetable growing starts a good 20 km into the valley before the road connect to the Tapah – Tana Rata road, and if by any chance you are a love of Land Rovers this is a place for you to visit, there were literally hundreds of land Rover pick-ups of all ages and conditions, and clearly these were the work horse of choice here, never have I seen so many Land Rovers in one area ever. And did some what explain why I have never seen a good Land Rover pick up for sale in KL, and I’ve been looking. Obviously everything is taken up here where I guess prices for these sort after animals are kept high by supply and demand.
After arriving at the Tapah road I headed south down the badly surfaced and busy main road out of Cameron Highlands towards Tapah and the expressway back to KL that was boring and needs no comment. All in all close to 500km in 8 hours and a fantastic road discovered. A good day
"don't wait for your boat to come in... swim out and meet the bloody thing"