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From Penang to Pangkor

through BM, Kulim, Selama and Taiping


There are only a few roads to travel from Penang to Pangkor. This page is written after I did a specific road by bicycle. However, it is an excellent alternative to do by motorbike or car too. Traveling this road by public transport can take a few days.

The road described on this page goes, roughly from Penang to Kulim, Selama, Taiping and the to Pulau Pangkor. It's for a large part a very unknown road, especially for foreigners but even many locals don't know this road too.

Just outside Butterworth you will find amazingly beautiful flatlands
Just outside Butterworth you will find amazingly beautiful flatlands

Penang to Kulim

One can argue about the beauty of Penang but everyone sooner or later has to leave Penang. Even the locals go to the mainland every once in a while. There are two ways to leave the island to Butterworth: the famous Penang Bridge, pride and joy of Penang and the ferry. If you travel by bicycle the bridge is not possible (though I know people who cycled it), forbidden for bicycles.

The ferry goes regular all through the day. After the ferry there are two ways to get out of Butterworth. Both ways go right through the city and both are not pleasant.

You can follow the direction to Kulim and Gerik, which leads you quickly out of the city. When you follow this way, you will use the motorway that eventually leads to Baling and Gerik (and Thailand's Betong). You follow the motorway until Lunas. Here you go off the motorway and follow the direction to Kulim. But wait, this way you can skip Kulim! After the junction, follow the direction Kulim but stay on the road to Selama. You will leave Kulim to your right side.

Looking from a new bridge towards the Taiping Hills

Looking from a new bridge towards the Taiping Hills

The other way out leads through the busy Bukit Mertajam. Although it may seem strange, as a cyclist I prefer the motorway but Bukit Mertajam has a few good things to visit. Of course there is the historical St. Anne's Church. On my bicycle site I wrote some about St. Anne's Church and the relic within the compound.

 

Personally I don't find BM so interesting. For the most it's just another busy city though there are some nice Chinese temples to visit, especially on the hill top.

The little road to Selama and Mahang
The little road to Selama and Mahang

The road through BM and to Kulim is usually very busy and not very interesting. Kulim, contrary to Bukit Mertajam is quite pleasant. The city has more warmth than BM, and the center is pleasant. Plenty of shopping centers and hotels are available but apart of this there's little to make you feel excited. It's however a good stop before going south to Taiping (and if you are cycling, you will want to stay a night here).

The best hotel in Kulim without any doubt is Seri Malaysia Kulim, part of the Seri Malaysia Group of Hotels and conveniently located in Kulim's city center.

Kulim to SelamaMonkey at Taiping Zoo

In Kulim you will have to follow the road to Lunas, Baling, Gerik and the Kulim Hi-Tech Park. After a few kilometers you will find a junction. Left goes to Lunas, right to Parit Buntar, Selama and Serdang. Almost immediately it gets quiet. The road is mostly flat and swindles through jungles and plantations. Although the busy cities of Kulim, BM, Butterworth and Penang are in a range of no more then 45 km, it's as local as you can imagine. The only thing that reminds you of the 21st century are the asphalt road and the occasional bus, truck or car passing by. It's an oasis of peace.

There are hardly villages (kampongs) on this road. There are three ways to Selama. The first starts early after the junction. It leads along the hills to Mah  ang through Kilang Baharu. It's very scenic.

From here go to Kampong Selarong Panjiang and visit the Sungai Sedim, white waters (my photos got lost in a computer crash last year), very soon I will go again and visit. You should be able to stay in nearby Mahang but you can also camp out near the white waters. Mahang is nearby'

 

The second way to reach Selama is a bit further on the K21. Follow the road to Serdang until you reach a small junction (about 10 km from Serdang) and go left (the board will direct you to Mahang and Selama). This road is even more quiet. Passing a few little kampongs and a few little hills, you may think you are lost in the middle of nowhere. This road is in fact shorter then when you would follow the main road to Serdang and go left there.

From Selama to Taiping, more wide excellent and empty roads
Penang to Pangkor: from Selama to Taiping, more wide excellent and empty roads

That is the third road. It's a little hilly but very beautiful too. If I say "hilly" I mean that there are a few short not very steep climbs. There are not much places to eat or drink around here. In fact, it's best to bring enough water. The distance from Kulim to Selama is 50km.

From Selama to Taiping, more wide excellent and empty roads

Bridge near Bukit Merah on the road to Semangol

Selama to Taiping

Selama is a two sided town. One part is Selama Kedah, another part is Selama Perak. They are separated by a little river. It's a sleepy little town with little to offer but there are a few nice places to eat and apparently there's a homestay though last time I was there (June 2008) the place seemed to be abandoned. On the Kedah site of town there's a few small restaurants and shops plus the market. Across the river there's a nice Chinese restaurant on the right (east) side of the road in a newly build shopping area (late lunch and dinner). Balai Datuk Maharajalela

From Selama to Taiping is 47 km and all you have to do is  stay on the A7. The road signs are clear.

All along the road from Kulim to nearby Taiping you will see lots of monkeys. They are usually not afraid of cars but run for bicycles as they see these things seldom. There's plenty of birds, don't be surprised you will see eagles in the air, kingfisher in different colours.

Here you also have a good chance to see monitor lizards of some serious size. Some parts after Selama cross thick jungle and this is where these animals live. On the riverbanks you will see sometimes hundreds of mudskippers.

The closer you come to Taiping, the busier it gets. It never gets really busy but compared to the almost empty roads around Selama any traffic becomes "busy".

Just before Kamunting there's an interesting pavilion to see: Balai Datuk Maharajalela, 6 km north of Taiping. I haven't been able to sort out what this place really was and as it is not open to public, there's little additional information further. I was told this is one of the oldest buildings in Perak.

However, in front of the building, there is a huge kris in the ground which implicates it belongs to the Sultan of Perak.

At the stairs there are two canons guarding the place. Sadly it's all quite rundown.

The building is a typical traditional Malay styled kind of pavilion.

Balai Datuk Maharajalela Balai Datuk Maharajalela
Two details of the Balai Datuk Maharajalela, 6 km north of Taiping

This building could easily be transformed into a serious tourist attraction of Taiping. But only the privileged few traveling from either Gerik or Kulim/Selam to Taiping will ever see a glimpse of the lost glory of this place.

After the Balai Datuk Maharajalela it's a a few kilometers to Kamunting. Here you can decide to follow the scenic road to Taiping and arrive in Taiping near the Zoo and the Lake Gardens. Or you travel through Kamunting city in the direction of the railway station. Obviously I choose the first.

Front view Balai Datuk Maharajalela
Front view Balai Datuk Maharajalela

For a detailed description of the road to follow from Taiping to Pangkor, please read further on this page.

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