Cycling Malaysia: Istana Jugra & Morib, Selangor

Early last year Eka and I made a trip to the west coast of Malaysia, to test some touring gear we were planning to use in Spain. We’d done a ride hugging the coastline when we first got our Birdy bikes, but we were keen to see how well our Apidura and Restrap gear would work on a weekend spent purely on the bikes. This was also the first long ride for my Reach Racing, which allowed me to match Eka’s pace thanks to a nice set of upgraded components. With the new (pre-loved) bike in the Folding Tales stable and our new touring gear, we were raring to hit the open road. 

In truth, this was not our first ride to the Morib coast. Our first was with a group of cyclists on a mix of fixies and foldies, with only one road bike riding together. But it was a big group, and we joined a ride organised by someone else. It was quite a physically and mentally taxing ride from Petaling Jaya to Banting, with a mid-ride climb up to Jugra hill. We spent the night in Banting before heading to Morib beach the following morning, and cycling back to PJ later in the day. I am still unsure how I finished the ride in one piece, because I really was ready to drop by the time we reached the edge of the city. After all, it was one of our first long ride weekends in the scorching sun.

When riding with other cyclists, obviously you must take into consideration the fact that you cannot control a lot of the elements of the ride. This time, we opted to do the ride on our own so we could plan it and be responsible for ourselves in case anything went wrong or in case we had to deviate from the original schedule if we were too tired to go on (i.e. in case yours truly decided to cop out and call an uber/take the train back). Giving up is one thing, doing it in front of an audience is something else altogether. In retrospect, perhaps not wanting to be the weakest rider was the only thought that go me through that first ride! I was the only woman in the group anyway (seems to always be the case!), so there was no way in hell I would be fitting into the stereotype.

Day 1: The road to banting

If you follow our three Instagram accounts (Eka, Nadiah & Maya) you will know that we have done a number of fun rides to the new village of Jenjarom before, so we already knew the route to Banting through quiet kampung roads and palm oil plantations. It's a much more pleasant way than going through the busy areas, since there is less traffic and way more green to look at along the way. Our starting point was Kota Kemuning, where we left our bikes in front of a 24-hour mamak shop. This is the one great thing about Malaysia, because if you have a word with the local staff who run the place overnight, they're usually nice enough to keep an eye on your car while you're away for a night or two. It's even better if you're a regular patron of the eatery, which is situated near GW Cycle Boutique, whose owner Fei sold us our Birdy bikes and frequents the place a fair bit.

From there, we cycled 10 kilometres through residential areas of Kota Kemuning to the flyover that takes you out of the township of IJM Rimbayu. It's a bit tricky to find, but if you pay attention to our route map at the bottom of this post you should be able to get there alright. It's not marked unfortunately, and you could get lost trying to find it if you're not familiar with the area. There will be a guard post and a short gravel road before you reach the flyover, which gives you a nice view of the oil palm plantations and the township on either side of the South Klang Valley Expressway, and of course the highway itself. I usually use this spot to catch my breath or eat my first snack of the ride while Eka fidgets impatiently, particularly if I haven't had a heavy breakfast beforehand. 

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The normal route cycle tourers take is to weave through Teluk Panglima Garang, but this time we opted for an alternate way instead. Since we had a bit of a distance to cover, we circled further south around Jenjarom to go straight into Banting instead. The second phase of our ride involved zipping through ten kilometres of quiet oil palm plantation roads, which was somewhat shaded. It was then another 10 kilometres to Banting town itself, where we had something to eat at McDonald's before picking up the keys to our Airbnb in Morib (Great jacuzzi, go check it out!). 

I'm not going to lie, by the time we left Banting town it was already scorching hot, and I was starting to feel a bit faint. Heading further west towards the coast took us through the more authentic (and several degrees cooler!) kampung area, which was a real sight for sore eyes. Here, we could see all manner of wooden houses nestled in between lush greenery, a stark contrast to where we live nearby downtown Kuala Lumpur. When we reached 40+ kilometres we found Jalan Istana Lama, and we knew we were on the right track. The road has a big archway welcoming you into the historical area, you really can't miss it. 

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We went straight in to explore Istana Bandar Jugra, once the residence of the Selangor Sultan for three decades from 1905. From an architecture point of view, it is primarily of Malay design, infused with a blend of Indian, Islamic and European features, as well as influences from the Chinese craftsmen who built it. It's a beautiful but a tragic kind of place, and maybe a bit eerie because it was so empty. You're free to wander in and out of most rooms, and sometimes the caretakers will be around to chat with you or show you around. It looks somewhat derelict really, like it was restored once but is in need of another round of sprucing up. I couldn't help but feel sad about the state of the complex.

From what I've read, apparently there was a family tussle over the property, but I'm not sure how accurate these rumours are. There were supposed to be portraits on the walls, tracing the lineage of the royal family but they weren't there during our visit. The interesting thing is that I've read a number of accounts by bloggers who've reported paranormal happenings there, even bizarre sightings, but I'm glad to report that Eka and I were both unaffected. We're thankfully not blessed/cursed that way, and I hope that doesn't change!

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We also visited the nearby Sultan Alaeddin mosque, which was being restored at the time. I'm not entirely certain if the restoration work has since been completed because we haven't been back to the area. Since there wasn't much to see because of the ongoing work, we took some quick snapshots and continued on past some mangroves, Kampung Sungai Buaya, Permatang Pasir and Jugra Hill.

Around here there is also a stretch of man-made fishing ponds, which were clearly very popular considering the number of cars parked haphazardly in the area and the many men who pay to fish there. And since we were already near the coast and running parallel to the Langat River, we also passed through a number of small fishing villages/communities at the river mouth that all had a fairly lively local community. 

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By sunset, we'd crossed through a bit more of oil palm plantation land, and reached Pantai Kelanang after clocking around 60 kilometres. It's not a particularly nice beach since a lot of campers use the space, meaning there's a fair bit of trash around. If you do stray from the main beachfront area, you'll get a nice stretch of mangroves where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the setting sun. Another 10 kilometres later we reached our Airbnb apartment at the Gold Coast Morib International Resort. Since we were tired, we had a seafood dinner at the nearby Golden Sea Restaurant and had a soak in the jacuzzi before going to bed. 

I will issue a note of caution here though. There was a fairly loud poolside party there that night, so there was no way I could have fallen asleep early regardless of how tired I was. Thankfully they wrapped up around midnight, so I eventually got the rest I needed to cycle home the following day. If you want a bit more of a quiet place, maybe the nearby Kampung Endah homestay is a better idea. Eka and I might do that next if we make the trip there again.

Day 2: Goodbye Morib!

The next morning we set out a little earlier, so that I wouldn't be hit with heat exhaustion by the end of the day. We opted to ride through a closed stretch of the road to Pantai Kelanang, which has been affected by erosion. We ate breakfast on the sand under the trees with a view of the sea, had a quick iced tea each afterwards and continued retracing parts of our route from the previous day.

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We crossed the Langat River after the 30 kilometre mark at a different spot to reach the outskirts of Teluk Panglima Garang, stopping along Jalan Klang Banting at a roadside stall to cool off. Clearly our early start didn't make much of a difference, because it was a hot day! At this point, I just wanted to head home and take another shower. Thankfully Eka had done his research about where to stop for lunch when the sun got a bit too strong, so we made a pit stop at Mansion 1969 for a bite to eat. 

It's located near a junction approximately 2.5 kilometres away from Jenjarom, and is very easy to miss if you’re not familiar with the area. It has a somewhat plain wood facade painted black, but once inside you'll see a lot of vintage collectibles and some local artwork on sale. The place has a well crafted menu of both local and western dishes and an extensive drinks menu that did not disappoint. I had a glorious steamingdish of otak-otak rice and scarfed it down in record time. I spent our remaining time there nursing my drink, trying to put off leaving the airconditioned restaurant/cafe.

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Eka eventually succeeded in convincing me to continue on our way (booooo), so off we went again into the searing afternoon sun. At that point I was also wondering why I was putting myself through such torture, a thought I frequently have on our longer rides. Next up we opted for a so-called shortcut through oil palm plantation land yet again, to avoid cycling on the busy main road. It was Sunday early afternoon after all, and a lot of people were then driving to and from a late lunch.

We had reasoned that a slightly longer route in the shade of oil palm trees was the better option. In retrospect it wasn't the greatest idea, since my Reach Racing is not meant for off-road riding because it doesn't have the same heavy duty suspension system as Eka's Reach R20. Eka however thoroughly enjoyed barrelling through the uneven earth and gravel roads of the plantation land, unknowingly leaving me behind since I had to pick my way more carefully.

*If you're wondering why that was the case, read my review of the Reach Racing, which compares the capabilities of the two bikes that you see in our pictures.

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Finally we found our way out though, thankfully without causing any damage to either of our bikes. I also realised later that I was quite lucky not to have gotten a puncture going through the area. Nearby Jenjarom we hit a jackpot in the form of a watermelon stall right next to a bus stop. By then we were both feeling somewhat bonked thanks to the heat, so we opted for a drink each and a quick break. Somewhat recharged, we kept going.

On our way back to Kota Kemuning we got to enjoy some quiet kampung roads yet again, and a pit stop at a petrol station which had more cold drinks and a fairly clean toilet. Thanks to the bumpy off road section of our ride, I had already developed a serious shoulder ache at this point. Trying to shrug it off, I got back on the bike and continued pedalling. And pedalling. And pedalling some more. I may sound a tad melodramatic, but it really did feel like we were never going to reach the car. 

Eventually we reached the end of the oil palm plantation though, and soon enough saw the beginnings of a fiery sunset in the distance. By then, the flyover that took us back to IJM Rimbayu and Kota Kemuning was within sight, and we continued on through the last 20 kilometres back to our starting point. To sum it up, the weekend riding to and back from Morib was more endurance than anything else, since 90% of the route was flat. The only climbing you will do is the flyover at the edge of Kota Kemuning and the bridge crossing the Langat River, both completely do-able if you pace yourself properly.

In the end, we made it back to the car with all limbs, sanity and our good humour intact. Not too bad for two foldies on 20" wheels!

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Route reference - Day 1

  • Start Kota Kemuning

  • Finish Morib

  • Distance 70km

  • Grade Flat and easy

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Route reference - Day 2

  • Start Morib

  • Finish Kota Kemuning

  • Distance 74km

  • Grade Flat and easy

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