FROM IPOH TO KUALA LUMPUR, VIA THE CAMERON HIGHLANDS
If you are cycle touring in Malaysia (or planning to) and are heading towards Kuala Lumpur, a fantastic way to avoid the busy roads and get a break from to heat is to detour through the Cameron Highlands. Even though some of the climbs can be demanding, the magnificent scenery and the fresh air will give you an entirely different insight into the Malaysian way of life and culture.
The following route will take you from Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur through the Cameron Highlands. It spans over 7 days, with rides length ranging between 30 and 90km. Each stage details distance and meters climbed, with some suggestions on accommodations and the best places where to grab a bite.
- IPOH – TAPAH (65km; 350m climb)
Ipoh is quite a large town and a good base to spend a day or two enjoying the local sights – the old town is a pleasure to stroll through and to enjoy Ernest Zacharevic’s impressive street art. Drop by the tourist office for handy maps. Also, Ipoh boasts a couple of surprisingly good quality bike shops if you need a spare tube, or if your steed is in need of a check-up.
From Ipoh take road 1 out of town and follow it for 32km. The road is quite busy but fast-moving, with plenty of food and drink pitstops opportunities. Once you reach Kampung Batu Karang, turn left at the junction on road A119 and follow it until you reach Tapah, for about 34km. The A119 is a beautiful side road taking you straight through the countryside, quaint villages and rolling hills. There is a short 2km climb, 100m up, with stunning and quiet winding roads and a fun descent.
In Tapah, accommodations options are fairly slim. We stayed at Hotel Kawan, with decent rooms, AC, kettle, and fridge for 95RN ($23 incl.tax) and offered us to keep our bikes safe in the reception hall. There are a couple of cheaper options, such as Khazanah Hijau Homestay, with basic rooms and friendly hosts.
Food-wise, there are a few good Chinese restaurants, with tasty and cheap dishes and very popular with the locals. The absolute favorite is Restoran Khiong Kee (closed on Wed), famous for its wild boar and marmite chicken dishes. Other good local choices include Restoran Shi Zhi Wei and Gerai Rosydah Nasi Campur, about 100m fro each other.
2. TAPAH – RINGLET (47km; 1100m climb)
From Tapah the only way up is on road 59. The climb is very gentle and steady, with an average gradient of 3.4%. Refreshments are sold at roadside shops, with a frequency of 2/3km between each other. Opportunities for food and restaurants can be found at the 24/31/47km mark.
At the time of writing (Sep 2018), we found Ringlet to be significantly short on accommodation options, with the “Yellow House Apartments” being the only one in the area. Located next to Shell gas station, on the way out of town, it is a quite comfortable homestay (albeit not the cheapest), with kitchen and washing machine. It is a proper apartment, located on the second floor, with no lift. In our opinion, pushing to Tanah Rata would be the best option.
3. RINGLET – TANAH RATA (loop through the tea plantations; 33km; 700m climb)
No visit to the Cameron Highlands is complete without visiting the magnificent tea plantations and strawberry farms dotting the area.
On leaving Ringlet, the first 5km are nearly flat, whilst the remaining 7km to Tanah Rata has an average gradient of 5%, with some steep bends.
For an easier and more leisurely ride, we left our bags at the guesthouse in Tanah Rata and kept on climbing up to the Boh Tea plantation to then return to town.
In Tanah Rata, there is plenty of accommodation to choose from. Bear in mind that the Cameron Highlands is a popular tourist destination among local and international travelers, and prices are therefore fairly inflated.
Father’s Guesthouse was a favorite of ours, with an on-site restaurant and fantastic hospitality, for 28$ a night.
If you are on a tight budget and own a tent, a few km out of town there’s a Forestry Camp Site.
4. TANAH RATA – SUNGAI KOYAN (93km; 700m climb)
This stage is fairly long and quite draining. Whilst our online maps promised a long and fun descent, that wasn’t the case. The road goes up and down endlessly, up and down short and sharp hills. After Ringlet, there are no shops or restaurants until the 73km mark. Expect, however, great scenery, a wide road with barely any traffic, and the occasional road cyclists and sports cars.
In Sungai Koyan, Inap Desa Homestay is one of the 3 sleeping options in town, and it has a restaurant on site. It gets really busy over the weekend and it would be wise to call them in advance. The only other accommodation in town is Perwira Homestay. Not the cleanest, but it has AC, fridge, and lovely and caring owners. They even brought us some freshly cooked food, which was a welcome surprise.
The village is predominantly Muslim and I’d recommend dropping any expectations to find that well deserved post-ride beer.
5. SUNGAY KOYAN – RAUB (53km; 300m climb)
From Sungay Koyan take the C5 to Raub. This secondary road makes its way through extensive palm plantations, gently following the rolling hills. It passes through several villages, with many restaurants and shops.
Raub town has a weird urban layout with 3 different districts separated by hills. In each of them, there is a wild choice of hotel and local restaurants. We stayed at Hotel Raub, with clean rooms, AC, and a safe place to store the bikes (double room, 22$).
6. RAUB – BENTONG (33km; 200m climb)
The ride from Raul to Bentong is short and fairly easy, with rolling hills and more palm trees. It is mainly farmlands and we didn’t come across a plethora of shops. However, the ride is short and can be tackled in a couple of hours max. Why such a short ride? Well, we don’t particularly enjoy riding into capitals after a huge day on the bikes so we tend to split that up. In this case, Bentong has the added bonus of a free hot spring, the famous Bentong ginger variety, and plenty of tasty food to indulge in!
We stayed at Tras Mutiara Hotel ($22 for a double), slightly out of the city center, with clean and modern rooms, and safe storage space for the bikes. However, there is plenty of choice in the same price range if you prefer something closer to the main action.
7. BENTONG – KUALA LUMPUR (77km; 600m climb)
At this stage, one last climb stands between you and Kuala Lumpur. Leave Bentong on road 8 and, at the big roundabout out of town, follow the 68 towards Kuala Lumpur. This is the old highway, which goes up the valley and over the pass, and it is largely unused thanks to the ongoing construction of a much bigger highway. The proper climb starts 20km into your ride, winding through forests and away from the traffic. There are a few pretty lookouts but no shops where to buy drinks/food. The top is around the 40km mark and, just before that, you’ll find many fruit-vendors and a McDonald’s (still alright if you are in desperate need of coffee!).
The descent on the other side of the hill is winds through a beautiful and not-trafficked forest; in fact, it is so quiet that you might even find a large group of monkeys lazying in the middle of the road! Keep following the 68 until you are far well into the capital and the unmistakable Petronas Towers solemnly arise on the horizon.
MAP AND CLIMBS PROFILE