Tuesday, 28 November 2017

One local destination a month - Part 10 : Huda's Haven Resort, Ulu Rening, Selangor

I have to start this instalment of my local destination series with an admission that it is a biased post. The resort that I'll be writing about belongs to a good friend of mine whom I've known since university days. Having said that, I'll invite readers to have a look at other independent reviews that can be found on Facebook and Google Maps.

Huda's Haven Resort is a rural holiday venue located amongst hills and green jungle in a quiet little village called Kampung Ulu Rening near Batang Kali in Selangor. While the place is next to a jungle, it is only about an hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur, making it an ideal place for that quick getaway from the bustle of city life.

There is a cool and clear stream along the resort's boundary where you can enjoy a refreshing dip. If you prefer, you can also relax in the swimming pool where the water is fed naturally from the stream. The pool has barrier hoarding around it, so it is possible to restrict access for certain duration and make it muslimah-friendly.

Other facilities that are available include a small field suitable for futsal, a fishing pond where you can catch some patin or talapia and a multi-purpose hall which doubles up as a karaoke room. If you fancy some rugged riding, get on an ATV and explore jungle tracks that lead to a waterfall.

The resort presently has 12 rooms in different configurations and sleeping capacity. All rooms have a/c, attached bathrooms with hot shower and TV. You can also opt for a more adventurous digs such as gazebos and tents. Overall, the place is ideal for large groups, family gatherings and team-building stints.

I am not a beach or island guy. Which is why beach resort holiday destinations such as Bali, Perhentian or Tioman have never appealed to me. I prefer adventure locations and eco-resorts. Huda's Haven suits me nicely. I have been here a few times but those were short visits only. I hope to come again and spend a longer time. I have yet to take that ATV ride and explore the waterfall.

Huda's Haven is accessible by car. If you come from Kuala Lumpur, you can use the North-South Expressway (exit at Sg Buaya/Serendah), use the old Federal Route 1 (the new Rawang Elevated By-pass now open) or use the Sg Tua - Ulu Yam road via Selayang. The resort is also marked on Google Maps but if you are navigating using Maps, then please set your destination to Klink Desa Hulu Rening and follow the resort's signboard from there on. The last kilometre to the resort passes through private land and therefore not indicated in the app. A short stretch of this track is unpaved but still drivable for most cars.

Further details of the resort (rates, availability, meal options etc.) can be found on the resort's website and Facebook page at the following links :

- Website : Huda's Haven
- Facebook : Huda's Haven Resort

Standard rooms in a 2-storey block. Visited 10 October 2017

Standard rooms on a single floor

Dining hall and multi-purpose hall

View from new chalet units under construction. ATV parking in the foreground

Cool and refreshing Sg Hijau beckons you

Time to savour nature

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Waiting game...

I wonder what percentage of our daily hours awake is spent on waiting?

Waiting for the bus or train...
Waiting for the monthly paycheck...
Waiting for someone to make a decision...
Waiting for politicians to make good their promises...
Waiting for medicine to be dispensed...

Mobile blogging while waiting at HSA Polyclinic pharmacy

Friday, 27 October 2017

One local destination a month - Part 9 : Kuala Gandah and Temerloh, Pahang

The Malaysia Day (16 September) public holiday fell on Saturday. I decided that it was a convenient time for us to drop by two places I have read about before but never had the opportunity to visit.

1. Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre

Deep in the Krau Forest Reserve in central Pahang, there exists an animal sanctuary run by the Wildlife & National Parks Department (more famously known by its Malay acronym Perhilitan) dedicated to saving the lives of elephants. While it may be located deep in the jungle, the conservation centre is surprisingly quite easily accessible. Kuala Gandah is only about a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. About 80% of the distance is on a tolled highway and the remainder on a narrower rural state road.

On that Saturday morning, we left Shah Alam after breakfast and took a leisurely drive to Kuala Gandah. Traffic was initially heavy on the Gombak-Bentong section of the highway but once we passed the Karak Toll, the drive was smooth and easy. We exited at Lanchang and from there followed the road signs to Kuala Gandah. The drive on the rural road was even lonelier. We did not pass many cars and it crossed my mind that the sanctuary might be closed on public holidays.

When we reached our destination, I needn't have worried. The elephant conservation park was open. It was still quite early and visitors were only starting to stream in. There was ample parking space when we arrived but later on in the day as we wanted to leave, the large parking lot was packed to the brim. It showed that the place was much more popular than we first thought.

Entry to the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre is free but visitors are required to register at the reception. They do however welcome voluntary contributions, which are properly recorded in the registration form.

This elephant sanctuary is a very good effort by Perhilitan. Apart from taking care of orphaned or displaced elephants, their work includes relocating elephants that encroach and cause damage to oil palm plantations. Perhaps it is more accurate for me to say that it is the plantations that have encroached into wildlife habitat. Anyway, it is good to know that the world's largest land mammal is being given proper protection here in Malaysia.

This preserve is not meant to be a tourist attraction but allowing the general public to come visit is a good step in educating people on the plight of these animals. Each afternoon, visitors can watch a group of elephants taking a bath in the river that runs through the park. Tourists can join in the bathing fun by paying a nominal fee. After the river dip, the elephants then parade to a performance area where the mahouts show some skill in handling their charges. At the end of the show, the audience is given the chance to feed the elephants with fruits and sugar-cane sold by the park's staff.

This simple show is not to be compared to the full-fledged tourist events held in other countries. The chance to be close to such huge and gentle animals is well worth the half-day spent.

Lovely welcome billboard at the reception lobby. Visited 16 September 2017

We saw this young bull munching on the bark of the tree

The juvenile pachyderm enclosure

A cool dip on a hot day

Mahout or elephant handler

Feeding time

2. Pekan Sehari Bandar Temerloh

From Kuala Gandah, we took the old Federal Route 2 towards Temerloh where we spent the night at a simple but comfortable budget hotel in the middle of town. The purpose of visiting this town by the Pahang river was to experience the weekly Sunday market that's purported to be the longest in Malaysia. It is held every Sunday morning from 7am to noon along a stretch of street next to the river bank. It is where the local farmers and smallholders from the surrounding areas come and put up their products for sale.

The hotel where we stayed was just a few minutes drive from the market location. Online tips suggested that we get to the market as early as possible because parking would be difficult to find. We left the hotel just as the day was breaking and found a very convenient parking spot. However, only a few stallholders were just setting up shop, so we spent a few minutes walking by the river bank to enjoy the early morning light. We later stopped for breakfast at a food stall which had just opened for business. We were literally the first customers. The stall had a decent selection of food on sale which included nasi lemak and nasi dagang. Taste wasn't too bad at all.

As we sat for our meal, other customers came and quickly occupied the adjoining tables. Apparently, most are regulars of the stall and the cheerful banter between the stall owner and his local patrons was a delight to hear. I had a hard time straining my ears to understand the local dialect.

After finishing our breakfast, we began our stroll along the weekend market. There were so many varieties of local vegetable produce I've never seen before. Some of them with names that I've never heard. Of course, being an inland town and by a large river, there were many stalls selling freshwater fishes. Temerloh after all, is famous for ikan patin.

My better half bought some of the greens which we would not be able to find in Johor Bahru. These include a few types of pucuk and cendawan. We were tempted to buy some udang galah, which, at RM40 a kilo, was way much cheaper than what we can get down south. In the end, we stuck to buying vegetables and other less perishable items. The famous sambal hitam Pahang was one of them.

We did not cover the whole length of the market because by then, I reckon we had walked more than two kilometres. My arms were already aching from the multiple purchases my better half had made.

It was an interesting morning in Temerloh. I hope to be able to come and visit again soon.

Early morning at the edge of Sungai Pahang

Different types of freshwater fish on sale

Petai, jering, pucuk paku, cendawan and many other greens with names I know not

Bunga kantan in bloom

Smoked, dried and salted fish

Friday, 20 October 2017

Swedish wash bag

Self-service laundry in Malaysia has been in the news for the past few weeks. A laundry operator in Muar decided to cater his business to Muslim customers only. Somebody picked this piece of news and decided it is worth spreading, or to use the latest cliche, to viral it. It became a source of debate between Muslims and caused some degree of animosity. Which sadly to me, is a bit of pity.

Anyway, this post is not about that issue although I admit that it's worth an in-depth discussion at another time. I'm posting a simple observation of a laundry I frequent when I stay at my brother-in-law's house in Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam.

What I've seen is that the majority of customers bring their dirty laundry in those unmistakable blue over-sized Ikea shopping bags. I'm guessing that this observation would hold true at other self-service wash stations in Klang Valley. You can't fault the Swedish furniture maker for producing a truly versatile bag.

Such a scene is not yet evident in laundromats in Johor Bahru. But with Ikea opening a new store in Tebrau sometime next month, it wouldn't be surprising to see more JB folks using those familiar blue bags to haul their laundry.

Swedish laundry bags in blue

Tie the bag handles to the washer door

Thursday, 5 October 2017

The last race has been run...

The final race for the Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit was run last Sunday. The race was won by Dutch driver Max Verstappen for the Red Bull Racing team.

I watched the full race on television, which was something I have not done for a few years now because my interest in F1 racing has waned. However, I thought that it would be nice to view this so-called finale just for the memory. As it turned out, Max won his second victory in F1 on the day after his 20th birthday. That was something of a feat. At that age, I still had not possessed a driving license. Of course, that's not a reasonable comparison. Max comes from a racing family. He starting driving go-karts when he was just four and a half years old.

Max is trained by his father, Jos Verstappen who was a Formula One driver himself. Jos was relatively unsuccessful in the sport, having achieved only two podium finishes (3rd place in the Hungarian and Belgian GPs in 1994) in a total of 107 races. His drive for success did not diminish and he turned to mentoring his son to achieve what he had not managed to do. That takes some dedication.

I have not actually watched a live GP race at Sepang before. The tickets are too expensive for me. Furthermore, I think there is more knowledge to be gained by watching the race on TV where the informative commentaries tell you plenty more than you get by sitting in the grandstand and looking at speeding cars running around in circles. But that's just me.

Nonetheless, I can tell you that I have been to the Sepang Circuit once. It was at the official opening ceremony of the race track on 9 March 1999. A friend of mine who worked with Malaysia Airlines had managed to get some free passes from his friend at Malaysia Airports Berhad (who at that time, was the owner of the project). The ceremony was held in the evening, around 9pm if memory serves me right. Having said that, I can't remember much else of the event except for the final fireworks at the end. It was quite an impressive display, as fireworks shows are meant to be. I was seated in a reserved area of the grandstand together with some employees of MAB.

As the fireworks sputtered the final flashes of lights, I overheard an MAB staff next to me wistfully mutter, 'There goes our bonus for this year. Up in smoke..."

With the final F1 race run after 18 years, let's see what becomes of the Sepang Circuit from now on. Let's hope that the whole investment does not go up in smoke.

The sticker pass that's still stuck to my car's windshield to this day