Hitting the road


As published in the Star Weekender and Star Online Travel & Adventure, and allmalaysia.info, 5 May 2007


Ever wake up on a Saturday morning feeling adventurous? Well, drag the friends out of bed and get a-rollin’.

You do the whole nine-to-five thing all week, so the least you can do for yourself during the weekend is hit the road.

Trust me, it’s the perfect way to de-stress, being out of the city, letting the miles roll by. With the right company, and soundtrack, you could be on your way to a perfect weekend.

Here are five ideas to tease the road trip junkie in you. The best part of it all is that you don’t need a passport!

Idea #1 – Putrajaya

One of the easiest road trips you can do with your family (and camera) is to Putrajaya – and for good reason.

Putrajaya is a living gallery with its abstract and modern sculptures abounding in parks and on the boulevards.

The place is designed with the future in mind. This is reflected not only in its artistic buildings, but its geography and bridges too. Despite being one of the most modern places in the country, Putrajaya has 12 parks to boast of including a botanical park and even wetlands.

Driving to and around Putrajaya is an adventure in itself.

It is located about 45 minutes from Kuala Lumpur and is a labyrinth of surprises. Don’t be afraid to get lost here; the worst you can do is miss an exit and end up among the golden rice fields of Banting, or on the rustic roads of Dengkil.

Either way, it is a trip of interesting panoramas and certainly something to talk about at the office come Monday.

Idea #2 – Ipoh

A couple of months ago, I found myself negotiating the small roads of southern Perak with a bad map in hand and getting lost. I was on a single lane road that ran through a rubber plantation and an oil palm estate.

After what felt like 10km or 20km, the trees gave way to an endless expanse of the most glorious green rice fields I have ever seen. The sun shone brightly overhead and far in the distance I could see tiny wooden village houses.

I made my way from Bidor, through Teluk Intan, and up to Pasir Salak. Along the way, I counted the different fruit orchards I passed. Durians, rambutans (and they were in season too!), bananas, mangoes, pineapple, dragonfruit and whole plantations of coconut trees.

Quite overwhelmed, I felt as if Ipoh welcomed me like an old friend when I finally got there.

Idea #3 – Penang

One weekend, I dragged a bunch of friends in my tiny Perodua Kelisa to Penang!

The festive season madness and the school holiday rampage aside, the North-South Expressway is usually a delightful drive. Stop at the Restoran Jejantas in Sungai Buloh for breakfast, then Tanjung Malim for mid-morning coffee and after that, Tapah for lunch.

As you approach Ipoh, look out for the Lata Kijang waterfalls along the highway as it glistens in the sun.

Before you know it, you’re in Butterworth and at the very edge of the iconic Penang Bridge. Driving around an island is a bit of an adventure. No matter how lost you get, you eventually get to where you want – just that you’ve taken a bit longer to reach.

When you’re about a hundred miles away from everything you are familiar with, it really does not matter where you go or how you get there.

Idea #4 – Kota Baru

Here is an idea for those who are interested in a long weekend break: drive to Simpang Pulai, and from there, take the newly built highway and head towards Cameron Highlands.

This place is always a refreshing place to be, no matter what time of year. Have a spot of tea at the extensive plantations, celebrate with a vegetable steamboat and have some strawberry ice cream for dessert.

Your adventure does not end there. Start early the next morning and wend your way to Gua Musang in Kelantan and then Kota Baru for some fresh seafood on the beach.

The third leg of this road trip is said to be among Peninsular Malaysia’s most scenic drives: a drive on the eastern coastal road.

Traversing Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang, you will pass quaint fishing villages, makeshift stalls by the beach that sell kampung snacks and mile upon mile of scenic sea and sky all the way to Kuantan.

And anyone knows that when you are in Kuantan, a feast of otak-otak and ikan bakar is in order!

Complete the loop by taking the East-West Expressway from Gambang back to Kuala Lumpur – but don’t forget to stop at Temerloh for some assam tempoyak patin.

Idea #5 – Malacca

Going south for the weekend is a recipe for gridlocks. But, you know what – so what!

I suggest you take the trunk road from Bangi to Nilai (for a secret shopping getaway), and from there to Seremban. Contrary to its somewhat subdued reputation, Seremban transforms into quite the idiosyncratic town over the weekend, which makes for an interesting hunting ground for knick-knacks.

Oh, but don’t stop there. Get back on the road towards Tampin and onwards towards Malacca town.

Hidden among some of the overflowing antique shops at Jonker’s Street are some of the strangest trinkets dating back to early Malaya.

From tiny silk shoes for bound feet, to rust-covered colonial coins, to funky earrings – it’s all here. Even if you end up empty-handed, the experience will be worth remembering.


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