When Route Hunters was first started, the mission was to portray Malaysia as a driving paradise, a motoring destination of the South East Asia region. We wanted to snuff out and catalogue every driving road our nation has to offer under one hub. Basically akin to a real life version of the Initial D series. And since actively starting things out in 2014, every one of our exploration and cataloguing activity has culminated to this very moment. A road trip, a grand tour to end all grand tour, and with the best enthusiast group I’ve come across so far. Welcome everybody to Peugeot GTi Club Malaysia’s Tour De Peninsula.
The Peugeot 208 GTi owners will unanimously agree that the best trait of the car is not its design, creature comforts, or even power. Yes the GTi is the class leader in all these aspects, but the true magic, the true reward to GTi owners is the way it attacked our Malaysian B Roads. It’s the single most addictive trait about this car. The owners, me included, can’t get enough of this hence why our tyres don’t last more than 1 year at best.
It’s become an annual tradition amongst the GTi owners to organize a major drive each year. In 2015 we to a B road drive to Penang, and in 2016 things became serious with a drive to Phuket. This year though we had to find something to top it off, hence the round-the-peninsular tour.
The idea was pretty simple, a coast to coast run from west to east, and east to west to make one loop of the Peninsular. This journey would cover 9 states, visit two coasts, and scale the Titiwangsa mountain range twice. All in all, 1711km of pure driving fun. Route Hunters was there as the route master and marshal for the journey. As Deadpool would say, Maximum Effort on B Roads (mostly) using the best tool we have, the 208 GTi. Along with the GTi’s are the support cars consisting of spares and technicians from Peuget Setia Alam and Peugeot Butterworth, great guys! The support vehicles are the Peugeot 2008 and 208 PureTech, a 508 saloon and the debut of the face lifted 208 GTi on Malaysian roads. This is going to be good.
Start at Setia Alam.
The folks in Advant Speed Setia Alam, Peugeot sales and service centre were kind enough to open their doors with some fresh Nasi Lemak at 6am in the morning for us to get the cars stickered and prepped. They even had the tech team at hand to ensure the cars were all in ship shape before rolling out. We will be driving all the way from Setia Alam to Kuantan via Negeri Sembilan across the felda plains of southern Pahang.
Setia Alam to Putrajaya via SKVE
After a quick brief on the rules of the trip (safety first) we rolled out from Setia Alam towards Pulau Indah. Since it was a working Friday at 9am, we opted to take a ‘scenic’ way around to get into Pahang via Negeri Sembilan, as most of the highways would be clogged with traffic. The drive took us via the Shapadu expressway into Port Klang and towards Pulau Indah. Then it was a steady and easy cruise along the SKVE. This highway is very beautiful and picturesque, especially during sunrise and sunset on the Pulau Indah Bridge. Some parts of the highway though especially between Teluk Panglima Garang and Putrajaya the road has sunk in at a few spots that can easily be a serious hazard for those who are not used to this stretch of the road. Other than that it cuts through beautiful oil palm plantations, marshlands and lakes as you get closer to Putrajaya. Traffic is pretty scarce as well, with easy curves.
We stopped for fuel at the Putrajaya Shell station and ensured all the cars had their tanks brimmed to full. Since we were running behind time, I wanted to ensure that we reach Rompin and then Kuantan by sundown. From Putrajaya, we slowly trickled into rush hour traffic at Sg Ramal and sneaked into the Hulu Langat road towards Pekan Batu 14. This is where the fun begin, our first stretch of B-road starts. Most of the participants are no stranger to B roads in their GTi, but some owners needed a quick intro on what exactly we were going to achieve. What better way to do so than via Kuala Kelawang.
Pekan Batu 14 to Jempol via Kuala Kelawang
I’m used to driving on Kuala Kelawang via Jalan Sg Tekali multiple times, but having my mirrors filled with tarmac hungry GTi’s was something else! It was a different level of intimidation and pleasure at the same time.
Kuala Kelawang is relentless on the tyres and cars suspension. There are some high speed bumps that can throw a poorly set up car off its line. A well sorted out car like the GTi, no issues, just point and shoot. The tarmac on this stretch is new and it’s a lot easier to drive hard than before.
It was all fun and games for the rest of the crew with their GTi’s, I had my work cut out with the 208 PureTech, which was what I was pedalling as the marshal car. It’s no slouch, in fact none of its rivals can match its pace out here by a country mile. But against a convoy of GTi’s it was like a bunny running away from a pack of wolves. A rocket bunny never the less!
The eco-based tyres were not up to standards for the demanding twists of Kelawang, but as we reached the main town, I gave the tyres and the rest of the convoy time to catch up to their breaths over lunch.
K.Kelawang to Muadzam Shah via Jempol
After a hearty lunch at the local Mamak restaurant in Kelawang, we proceeded towards Jempol. The next leg of the drive was a seemingly straight stretch towards the Muadzam Shah town in Pahang. This road appears dead straight on the Malaysian map, but what it doesn’t show is the elevation change. This is overtaking paradise.
The sights on these roads are nothing short of spectacular. If you ever need to head to Kuantan, Rompin, Sungai Lembing or even Cherating, I’d highly recommend this route. Its scenic, it’s endless in its view of the horizon, and it’s not that hard to maintain a safe pace. For city dwellers who wish to take a weekend trip away from the city, instead of getting stuck in the typical Karak Highway crawl, or pay excessive toll on the LPT, best to take this scenic route out. Yes, if you’re heading towards Kuantan it’s a big turn, but isn’t the journey part of the fun?
Which was precisely the fun these guys had with their 275Nm of torque under the hood. Overtaking long line of trailers was a breeze, and was very safe. We didn’t have to spend too long a time on the opposite lane and can overtake most of the traffic with complete ease.
For urbanites who are not accustomed to overtaking on these kind of roads, here’s a word of advice on how to perform overtakes safely.
First, maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. Not only does the distance help you to see traffic beyond the vehicle over the both side of the vehicle, it also serves as a run up to gain sufficient momentum to overtake the vehicle in front of you.
If you’re driving a manual car, make sure you’re in the right gear. It will help you accelerate easier and safer to clear the vehicle in front. For automatic car users, there’s no need to plough the accelerator pedal, just a firm press would too to overtake.
Make sure you overtake in a straight line, and not out of turns or approaching a turn, as you have no idea what’s coming around the bend.
When you overtake make sure you indicate to the right first to alert the vehicle in front and behind you that you’re going to overtake. Also indicate left when you want to join in to your lane again.
Lastly, some truck drivers will alert you if it’s clear to overtake or not. If they indicate to the right means it’s not clear to overtake, while indicating to the left means it’s clear to overtake. A friendly double tap honk is a good way to say thanks.
Muadzam Shah to Pantai Hiburan, Rompin.
The Petronas station owner at Muadzam Shah is a real good lad. He had us on Facebook even before we reached Rompin, with our pictures and the Route Hunter pages tagged. How he caught on to us is beyond me but goddamn this guy is good!
A much needed toilet break later we blazed towards the coastal town of Rompin. The roads to Rompin from Muadzam Shah is more rutted and worn over by weather. It’s more curvy than the earlier stretch but all good fun thought. The key thing here is to watch out for the rampant number of monkeys that cross the road.
It’s after all roads that cut through marshlands and whilst the scenery can be beautiful and the roads even more so, wildlife can be plenty.
At about 4pm we reached the Pantai Hiburan in Rompin for the obligatory drone shots and photos. The beach is pretty empty and it’s located in such a way that you can almost drive it up to the sands.
We were supposed to dine at Rompin for lunch but because of our casual start time we had to press on towards Kuantan.
Rompin to Kuantan via Pekan
There was two hidden surprises for us at this stretch. I thought it would be an uneventful drive up to Pekan but my god were the roads gorgeous!
Most of the drive routes were right by the coastline and you can see the azure blue glow of the South China Sea forming the panorama of the view ahead and on the side of you. Since it rained earlier we also got to witness a strange weather phenomenon called cloud iridescence. It was the first time me and the others have seen one. Caused by ice crystals or small moisture formation above clouds, it’s quite a sight to behold!
The temptation to edge closer to the beach was overwhelming, we had to get close to the beach one more time since the water at rompin seemed murky. We got our second take soon enough. By chance I led everyone down a small coastal road and that in return lead us to a hidden gem of a cove. It was a beautiful place with white sands and clear waters. Only one issue. Litter, litter everywhere! It’s one gotong-royong away from a travel icon but that has to wait for another day.
With the sun setting fast, we cruised past the Royal town of Pekan, the mighty Pahang river twice and into the bustling town of Kuantan. Kuantan, to me, feels like the Inverness of Malaysia, and it’s really come a long way since I first visited this place back in 1992.
Settling in for the night.
The team was pumped after the first day drive. Having confined to stop and go traffic, clogged highways and bad roads, it felt really good to stretch the legs of our hot hatches across the Peninsular along with fellow owners and enthusiasts. We could not wait to drive the next day! As the sun went down and clock ticked past 10pm, we felt a sense of achievement driving this epic road, bring it on Day 2!