The Second KUANTAN160

This time the event was organised officially by MOTAC (Min of Tourism & Culture, Pahang) & Pahang State Government. Personally I am very happy because the programme is still on for the second year. This time I am not the key person and therefore have less responsibility. I took up registration (with tremendous help from Azam & IIUM team headed by Hasmanizam) and also the design/web. This year we used PayPal as payment portal for better payment option even though by doing so, we were charged 4-5% from the total amount.

The planning stage was OK but for me, this time round I am working with someone else as ‘The Boss’ hence some decisions were delayed. But of course all were for good reasons. We also need to fullfil certain interests that will benefit MOTAC & government e.g. high number of participants to booth popularity. We accepted the challenge with caution because we knew, the more people cycling on open roads, the more dangerous it will be, and therefore the more preparation required.

This year, the challenge started even with online registration. As we were new to the system, I personally configured certain things wrongly. The PayPal system also not as smooth as expected. It blocked many transactions for various security reasons. Now I realized that actually not many people used to online payment.

Asking people to register & later to manage their very own personal info also was a challenge as people used to ask us to do that for them. And Malaysian especially, maybe too used to manual registration & therefore preferred bankin or cash registration.

However the most common problem was people simply NOT READING instructions.

The event went pretty well as far as my personal assessment is concerned, but not perfect.

The most challenging part was the technical aspect of it which was the heart of the event. From planning the route, testing few options, planning water station, changing the places many times, trial rides with various parties, asking help from various agencies, handling bureaucracies and so many tasks. I respect my colleagues who were managing those things.

We got problem with vendors we hired. Those already agreed to send canopies, chairs & tables ontime failed or simply refused to do so for no reason. The factory we booked for thousands bottles of mineral waters also closed on the day we were supposed to collect the water (even when they were the one who scheduled the collection date). All happened within 24-36 hours prior to the event. WOW!

Some marshals we engaged also did not turned up. So we really tahnkful to the remaining marshals who worked extra hard, did extra shifts to ensure the running of this event.

Almost 1900 registered but only about 1200++ started the ride. It puzzled us of the too many DNS. Some riders claimed they did start. But our timing system captured otherwise. We installed intermediate check point even though that caused us so many obstacle. Despite that, some riders still cheated. They just cheated themselves actually.

This year, we gave medal & cert to anyone who passed the designated counter. It was up to them to accept them or not. Some, actually only very few of those failed to complete 160KM ride refused to accept them & we really respect the decision.

All in all, it is one tiring event.

As a non professional event managers, we did OK but if given a choice, we prefer to ride with other people that to manage this event.

We really hope for the third KUANTAN160 on 1st June 2014, we could hire professional event manager with better or world class timing system. However the main issues are, will the riders also come with world class cycling etiquette, not cheating, follow all instruction (if they even read the instruction)…and more importantly willing to pay more for the better service (I hope).

Snow Mountain

I just came back from a 6 days trip to Taiwan. We managed to climb Jade Mountain (Yushan) in 2011 which is the highest mountain in Taiwan, and this time we climbed Snow Mountain (Xueshan).

Only me & Ali went to the mountain. It was supposed to be 5-6 people trip, but the rest didn’t able to make it for various reasons. Since I already paid almost RM1000 for the AirAsia flight, it would be a waste of $$$ if I cancel the trip.

Day 1, upon arrival, the first thing I did was purchased a data package from Taiwan Mobile. At Terminal 2 Taoyuan Airport, turn left from the arrival hall. You should be able to see an area where few telcos are selling their product. I bought 10 days unlimited data package for 800 NTD. Many people were buying, so expect some times before you could get your turn. Then we bought Kuo-Kuang bus ticket to Main Station. The ticket cost us 125 NTD. Initially we planned to book e-Go bus to Wuling Farm for the next day but we realized that we need to book at least 5 days in advance and it should be a part of travel package from Go Travel (Go Travel is located at the Main Station). After asking few people including from the friendly staff at Taipei Bus Station (beside Taipei Main Station – i.e. the railway station) we went to Kamalan’s bus express and booked tickets to Yilan.

Note: Basically one should differentiate Main Station (which is the train station – including HSR), Taipei Bus Station (multiple stories bus station – very impressive), and Terminal A & B bus station (where one can get the bus ticket to airport)

That night we plan to stay at Happy Family Hostel, but the owner got mixed up with our booking. Therefore he topped up some money & asked us to stay in a hotel about 1.5 KM away instead. Even though we had to walked extra kilometers, but at least the room was much better than the hostel.

The next day we rode the first bus to Yilan, but upon arrival at Yilan, we missed the 7:30 AM bus to Wuling. Therefore we had to wait the next bus at 12:50PM. It was a public bus. It took about 2-3 hours to reach Wuling. The most challenging part of this Taiwan trip is the weather….it was raining on Day 1 till the day we started climbing. At Wuling, we had to walk about 1 KM to the police station in the rain. However we managed to settle the the mountain permit there (we already have the park permit applied earlier online). Thanks Allah, we managed to hike a van to the camping site. Thanks to Mr William & family for the ride. Else, we had to walk 4 KM in the torrential rain with more than 30 kg luggage to the campsite. We rent small tent (Area B) for 1000 NTD. I was so tired. Cooked the spaghetti and I slept early that night, a bit demotivated due to the rain. Was thinking not to climb the mountain at all. Thanks to my partner, Ali who encouraged me to proceed.

The next morning, the weather however was pretty nice. So we proceed to the trailhead, about 2 KM hike from the camping site. There we watched the safety video & handed over the first set of documents prepared by the police. We started the journey at about 9 AM.

We were told that Xueshan’s trail is easier than Yushan. That’s why we brought heavy camera gears. I personally bring D3, 50mm, 14-24, 70-200 & tripod. That is already about 15 kg of weight. Overall, I was carrying about 30 kg of luggage. In retrospect, the trek is OK provided you don’t carry too heavy like we did. So we faced a lot of problem carrying such weight to reach 369 Cabin, about 7 KM away.

After 2 KM we reached Chika Cabin. I met one big group of local hikers, and one couple from Norway & Australia. We took some rest at Chika & continued the journey at about 11 AM. After less than 1 KM me & Ali already separated. I continued with my pace until 12:30PM. Then I prayed Zuhr & waited for him, but after 30 minutes Ali still did not show up. So I continued till the Crying Slope (KM 4). Again I waited for Ali but it started raining….and since there was no shelter, I decided to continue moving. The rain never stop. I reached 369 Cabin at 5:45PM. Immediately find my sleeping area & changed the wet cloths. At about 6:30PM a ranger approached me & checked my documents. I told him that Ali still had not arrive. At 7:30PM he came & checked on me again & asked about Ali. When I told him Ali still has not arrive, he began to worry. He called few friends, asked me a lot of questions, and finally decided to give Ali till 9PM. If not they will searched for Ali, but by 8:07PM, Ali arrived. What a relief! Seriously with more than 30 kg load, it was very tough trekking and definitely not easier than Yushan.

Me & Ali had a good chat even though almost all people had slept. We only went into our sleeping bag after we had our dinner. We decided not to trek to the summit too early in the morning. And we made a correct decision!

20130407-055947DRJ_1211

 

The sunrise was superb! The cloud was dancing. The air was so fresh. We spent about 1 hours shooting the sunrise. Then we cooked our breakfast. Being so happy with the weather that morning, we decided to attempt the summit!

At 8AM we started climbing. It was a 4 hour walk, initially trough the beautiful Black Forest, then the cold and tough climb to the summit. There were patches of snow, and that was enough to make us very excited. We reached the summit slightly over 4 hours time.

We took few photos and even perform Zuhur/Asr prayers there.

20130407124948We thank Allah. We could not achieve this without His guidance & permission. We know, we don’t have the strength.

After less than one hour there, we descended. Ali took many photos. As for me, I was simply happy shooting with my Sony Xperia Z. We took only 2 hours to reach the cabin. To our surprise, there we just us left in the cabin plus one new Taiwanese couple occupying the other wing of the cabin. That night we slept in a very cold condition. The temperature was -2C!! I can feel the cold air creeping through my sleeping bag.

On the third day of trekking, we decided to descend early. By 5:20AM we were already on the move. I set quite a high pace (for my self actually). Took an average 25 minutes per KM. We reached the trailhead in less than 5 hours! The office was close. So I just slipped the second set of document into the pigeon box. We managed to get help from a couple who were visiting the trailhead to send us to the bus stop. We waited the bus, but instead of taking the 1751 bus to Yilan, we took 1764 bus to Luodong as it was the first to arrive, and according to the driver we can get to Taipei from there too. Yes, true enough, at Luodong, we rode Kamalan’s bus to Taipei!

That night we stayed at Happy Family Hostel & had our dinner at Ali-Baba Restaurant. About 2KM walk from the hostel. We had briyani for dinner.

The next day, we visited Shifen Waterfall at Pinxi District. It was fun being uncertain of what to do as everything are in Mandarin. But we still managed to get to the waterfall & shot some photos.

20130409-144010DRJ_1445That night we planned to celebrate by eating beef noodle at 101 Tower. We thought in 2011 we ate the halal beef noodle there but we were not able to locate the restaurant. It was also so frustrating not being able to go to the next restaurant because the taxi driver could not read English! Therefore, we decided to go to Ali-Baba again, and again, an Indian delicacy for the second night! :(

However we learnt the lesson. We got back, and Ali remembered than he had printed the address in pinyin. So the last day in Taipei, we got into a taxi & went straight to the address. Yes! We managed to get each of us a bowl of super delicious halal beef noodle at Ai-jia (Yusuf) Beef Noodle. And the best part was, the lady owner treat us instead. To all muslims searching for halal beef noodle in Taipei, don’t miss this place.

At 12 noon we went back top our hostel, get the bags & went to Terminal A (infront of Main Station – the East side) and boarded a bus to Toayuan Terminal 2 airport. That was the end of our 6 days wonderful adventure in Taiwan!

 

 

Genting Highland – Finally I did it!

Climbing is never my strength. Whether by foot or bicycle. But yesterday I got the opportunity to Genting Highland, one of the toughest bicycle climb in Malaysia. And I did it. Not with a good timing but I did it.

Why climbing Genting is so special? Because from Goh Tong Jaya roundabout to the top, the road is private. Own by Genting. So they don’t allow cyclist to cycle up their road due to some nasty accident last time. Only during Le Tour de Langkawi they allow cyclist to ride and I had a great moment & chats with the policemen.

The four of us drive from Kuantan as early as 4AM. We reached Genting Sempah R&R at about 6:30AM. Performed fajar prayer, changed into our jersey & had the breakfast. Met many friends there. At about 8:30AM we started the climb. The first 2KM was already very tough for me & I was worried that I might not even reach Goh Tong! Then my friend told me that I was using big chainring! Oh…..maybe someone changed the gear when testing my bike at Genting Sempah.

Once I used my 34T, I can climb comfortably until the temple! Starting from that switchback, my speed dropped tremendously & I stopped many times. My heart maintained at high rate. Nevertheless, finally I reached the summit. But I need to climb few more & had to walked the bike down some dangerous descend to reach First World Hotel.

Thank to Roslan who volunteered to drive the car because none of use would want to cycle down.

Overall, it was indeed a great experience and I would like to repeat it again next year.