How it begin.
My fellow GTi comprador’s are a real hardworking bunch. Its nigh on impossible to grab hold of them for a TT Session. I tend to getaway on weekend drives thanks to Route Hunters on a regular basis, but these guys, mostly in high responsibility jobs (admin, engineering, health ministry), rarely get out to stretch their legs and their cars.
So Ben from the GTi group came up with this brilliant idea a few months back of doing a mega road trip to Penang with an overnight stop. A quick TT meet up at the Starbucks in MidValley and we started throwing in crazy ideals like booking a holiday villa by the seafront and what not. Of course one can dream but reality usually is far more modest. On Saturday morning when we set out it would seem that way, but what we had waiting for us far exceeded our expectations.
Saturday Morning 8.00am
Ok perhaps I was a little behind time, thanks to my co-pilot and snapper. But in the quaint neighbourhood of Taman Desa, we were packing up with the much needed breakfast and early morning banter whilst planning out on how to drive.
Ben and his girlfriend, Dr Aren and his wife, and CK, the senior member of the team. This guy is proper old school, like The Expendables team member, and an avid B road fan. We had no planning, no survey, we just had a general idea on where we wanted to drive. It was unanimous that it would be B Roads throughout until we reached Ipoh, and we’d figure out our path again from there. We had no datelines, timing, nothing. We just got in, walkies tuned to the same channel, and off we went.
KL to Tapah
We started off from Taman Desa with CK leading the way, through Mahameru, into Jalan Duta, then proceeded to Jalan Ipoh. From there it was straight into Selayang and en route towards Rawang. After trekking across Serendah, Batang Kali and Kerling via Route 1, with many interesting trivia’s shared by CK, we reached the town of Tanjung Malim for the first stop.
It was only after Serendah that the traffic mellowed and the roads started flowing much better. Thanks to the 275Nm torque we get in our cars, overtaking was such a breeze, and safe too. I did not have to resort to caning the engine to the redline either, just between 2500-3500 rpm was enough for me to squeeze through.
After Tanjung Malim the roads were even more interesting and sweeping. Not that I paid much attention, my passengers and I were too busy singing our lungs out to tunes on the MP3 player throughout the journey. As we approached Tapah, I suggested to CK to trek away from Route 1 and into an off track that would be more interesting, something to really let the GTi’s play truant.
See its Dr Aren’s first time on the B Roads with his GTi, which he bought after me. And the good doctor had yet to have a chance to fully explore the car’s natural talent of devouring B roads. So in a gas station outside Tapah, I took over the lead of the convoy and took a rather interesting detour. This was sort of a Baptism moment for Dr Aren on what Route Hunters is all about.
The Detour (The Chenderiang Road)
Last year whilst on a company trip to North, I could not help but realize that there was a really interesting looking road on the map and it started not too far from where I was in Tapah. A few wrong turns later I found the entrance of the road, and what I had stumbled upon was freakishly entertaining and scary. The A19, which becomes the A119 that links Tapah to Jeram via the sleepy hollow of Chenderiang has to be one of the best routes I trekked on a long whilst. Its narrow, twisty, smooth and goes through some amazing and ‘interesting scenery’
Well for starters you can be forgiven to think that it’s a dead end as it seems like it leads into the heart of a Chinese cemetery. Yes, on either side of the road that starts from Taman Anson is basically the final resting place of fallen souls. A timely reminder of what lies ahead. Beyond that though its proper hot hatch test bed. It was really worth the detour. I will detail this route more in Episode 7. Thanks to the ‘Human GPS’ I had in my car (You had only one job Mohan!), Ben and I took the wrong turn whilst CK and Aren were waiting up the road for us to turn back at the end of the Detour. It was for good thought, we grabbed a few astounding shots at the U turn point.
Lunch in Ipoh
When you lunch in Ipoh, there’s only two real options. One, is the Nasi Ayam joint. The second, is the notorious Nasi ‘Ganja’. For international readers, Nasi is malay for rice. And yes, Ganja translates to precisely that. I can’t say if they do mix marijuana in the curry or not, but a plate full of said dish will have you on a mild high in under 20 min’s flat.
Stopping for lunch in Ipoh gave us time to reflect more on our French Hotties. Dr Aren’s epiphany on the GTi’s cornering prowess really rammed home the point that he had made the right choice going for this car. Despite trekking at a rather brisk pace on our less than perfect B road surfaces for the last 200 km for nearly 4 hours, none of us had any sort of discomfort, or body aches. But this was all about to change when we stepped into the car, stomach full of the rasta rice.
CS Euro welcomes us to Penang
Since we had taken our own sweet time up to Ipoh, we figured we would use the highway for the last leg of the upwards drive. After a fuel top up and the washroom pitstop at bukit merah, we flexed the 200bhp blown 1.6 4 pot and got to Penang by 4pm.
Peugeot CS Euro, Butterworth’s 4 S centre, and their Marketing Manager Sean, had a whole greeting party prepared for us, with drinks and a full detailed tour of their 4 S centre. I particularly liked the fact that they have rooms that could serve as temporary offices / workstations for the clients who have to spend the day at the service centre, and you get to view whatever work that goes on to your car from the viewing gallery positioned above the workshop. I’m a grease monkey and I need to see what’s being done to my car, this is my ideal layout. If only I lived in Penang.
After a quick photo shoot, we proceeded towards the jetty’s for the mandatory ferry crossing. And since Ben had taken the opportunity to get some minor work done to his car, he had to opportunity to spend time in the new Peugeot 308, in the form of an extended test drive. I would love to say a few extra things about the 308 but that can wait for another day.
The Ferry Crossing…..
Ever since the first day I came to Penang when I was about 6, I’ve always dreamed about doing the ferry crossing in my own car. I have driven a few cars on and off this ferry but never in my own car. To be doing it in a Peugeot 208 GTi was amazing already. To do it with a few more GTi’s and a whole lot of friends was something else entirely.
For some you’d think “it’s only a ferry ride, what’s the big deal?” Yes its true, but perched on the side of that ferry deck I’ve reflected on all kinds of high’s and all time low’s in my life. On some days life had really felt dark and gloomy despite basking under the afternoon sun. And yet, today I stand with the company of these fine machines and fun loving friends, it shows that there’s always hope even at the darkest of days.
After disembarking, we strayed from the rest of the convoy and headed towards the Waterfall Temple for some spiritual time. At that time the rest of the convoy proceeded to purchase some Tambun biscuts and checked in into their accommodation. At sundown we all gathered at the Heritage 1926 Hotel in Jalan Burma for dinner.
CS Euro know how to party
The feast thrown by CS Euro was well beyond my expectation. I had no idea we were in for a feast like this. Joining us was also the Peugeot community of Penang, who are a vibrant bunch themselves. The dinner consisted of signature duck soup, fish assam curry and assam prawn dishes. I still salivate thinking back to the taste we had, so I’d stop writing about it and let you guys ogle the pictures. Even right down to the sago and gula melaka desert it was downright amazing. It was the first time I had been to Penang and not touched a single plate of Nasi Kandar. I simply had no room left!
Once done with dinner we proceeded to Karpal Singh Drive for a photoshoot sessions. Mostly 208’s, two 308’s and one nicely tweaked RC-Z driven by the Predator himself. When car guys start to banter, we never stop. We keep going on and on about everything on our cars, mods, top gear, service, drivers on the roads, and more car talk. So reluctantly we bid our goodbyes to our fellow Lion Tamers from the north and proceeded to start our silent trek on the B roads for the night stint.
The race to dawn
Cruising on a Saturday night on the brand new Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge is both serene and sensuous. The bridge curves left and right through the entire stretch with no cars in sight. Either side of the bridge is the vast expanse of the Malacca straights stretching into the darkness. It was a mesmerising sight that laid ahead of us. With no traffic in sight. This is one of those moments where your head automatically plays Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence.
Upon crossing the bridge, we jetted down in the darkness towards Taiping. A quick visit to a relatives house and a superb supper consisting of one of the best Char Kuey Teow in the Peninsular (they’ve appeared in Master Chef or something like that). I settled into the night shift as we trekked out of Taiping using the B roads. Here on out though I passed the driving duties to my co pilot Mohan.
It’s not every day you get to be the passenger in your own car. Especially not at night. With the Panoramic roof open, we cruised pass Padang Rengas, Kuala Kangsar, Enggor, Sungai Siput, Chemor, Ipoh, Simpang Pulai, Kampar, and eventually Tapah.
The best thing about B roads at about 2 pm and above is that it’s completely void of traffic, bar the odd delivery truck or car. Even these traffic though are usually made out of regulars, who trek these routes day in day out. They know every nook and canny of the road and are usually freakishly fast, kind of like the real life Takumi’s and Bunta’s. You will learn a lot by following the legitimate ones and you will realize that your pace would have increased drastically and your effort at the wheel reduced. But only with the best.
I proceeded to get some much needed shut eye and let Mohan do the work at the helm. After Tapah though I took over from him and did the final leg on the highway as once again we were pressing for time and both drivers were getting a little more tired than we’d like to be. Accompanied by sweet tunes and a can of RedBull, I proceeded to pedal on until we reached KL.
By the time we hit the Jalan Duta toll it was already about 5 in the morning. When we got to our breakfast point at Pekan Batu 11 on Jalan Cheras, we were totally spent, tired, but yet very satisfied. The car was ticking as it cooled down after such a trek. The front looked like a combination of Bugs Life and 300. The rims were coated with brake dust. The white paint on the body was more like beige. But after my shower I knocked off completely with the satisfaction knowing that I had done a Mega journey in a mega hot hatch. A real chilli padi of a car. But as any proper petrol head would think right now, “where can I go next?”