On 10 Feb 2020, I joined my ex-colleagues from SMRT and others for a cycling trip in Pengerang Johor. There were 23 of us in this annual cycling pilgrimage which started in Feb 2000 and it runs consecutively for 20 years except in year 2006 when the organiser Train Captain Hisham was hospitalised. This is the 20th anniversary cycling trip. I joined them in this trip only after I left SMRT about 7 years ago.
Needless to say, it was full of nostalgia when I met some of my ex-colleagues after so many years. We had a lot to catch up and reminiscing over the past where we were once comrades in arms working as frontline staff round the clock providing essential transport services to the public. We overcame Y2000, Haze, SARs, H1N1 etc. Now they had to face the latest deadly contagious Wuhan virus or Covid-19 as they move the trains daily for millions of people.
Each of us paid $90 for this trip. $30 for the 2-way ferry from Changi Village to Tanjung Pengelih. $60 for lunch, high tea, dinner, breakfast and chalet at Tanjung Sepang beach resort. We also get to exercise, enjoy the lay back country side scenery and fresh seafood not to mention the camaraderie and friendship.
We gathered at about 7.30am at Changi Village Hawker Centre for breakfast. Around 8.30am when all of us arrived, we moved over to Changi Ferry Terminal where we booked 2 boats to cross over to Tanjung Pengelih, Pengerang. We departed Changi Ferry Terminal around 9am and managed to reach Tanjung Pengelih around 10am. After clearing customs and a short briefing by the organiser Train Captain Hisham on the safety aspects of cycling such as always keep left and ride in a single file. Don’t treat the road as if it’s your grandfather’s road etc. Ride slowly at your own pace as we had lots of time.
After taking a group photo, we set off towards Sungai Rengit town around 10.30am and after one hour of hard riding under the scorching sun, we took a break under the shade of some trees. We had covered about 20 km so far and the time now is 11.30am. We took a short break waiting for the slow riders to catch up as we re-group again.
Around 12 noon, we set off together again heading towards Sungai Rengit which is another 5km away. It used to be a small sleepy town when I last visited more than 7 years ago for its famous lobster and cheap fresh seafood and I stayed overnight in one of the small hotels. Now it’s buzzing with much activities with many new buildings extending beyond the town centre. I see many workers from the nearby oil refinery plant having their lunch and moving around.
We adjourned to a nearby restaurant just next to the sea shore. We queued up for our lunch with plenty of food especially different types of fresh fish to satiate our hunger. As we partook our lunch we could hear the loud incessant beating of the powerful waves against the wall of the restaurant. The monstrous waves seemed jealous of us enjoying our meals as they summoned strong winds besieging us. We had to raise our voices talking to each other to counter the loud banging of the waves and the strong gusts of winds blowing at us. But we were contented. Where else could we enjoy a cheap delicious meal right next to the sea line back home?
We lingered for about an hour after our lunch when 3 of us – Simmon, Bob and myself strayed away to look for beer nearby. Each of us bought half a dozen cans of beer for ourselves. The 4th Chinese in the group i.e. Boyan Cina aged 69 years being the most senior doesn’t drink. Interestingly there were only 4 Chinese amongst the 23 of us. As Boyan, Simmon and Bob are regulars of this annual cycling ritual and as Singaporeans, we all get along with each other well!
From Sungai Rengit town, we cycled slowly overcoming few torturous slopes before finally arriving at Tanjung Sepang beach resort for our one night stay. That’s approximately 35 km from the Tanjung Pengelih Ferry Terminal to this beach resort. The chalet barely few metres away from the South China Sea is spacious and could easily accommodate 4 persons. It’s air-conditioned with hot and cold bath and a big plasma TV. It’s only RM280 for a night’s stay or RM70 per person which is about S$23! As I’m sitting at the veranda writing this blog post, the unrelenting strong sea breeze and incessant pounding of the waves chorusing with music from my portable speaker and cans of beer intoxicated me to nigh heavens. Click the link to Tanjung Sepang Beach Resort here.
My blissful sensation was cut short when the organiser Train Captain Hisham dropped by to remind us of dinner at 8pm. Hisham is looking forward to his 55 birthday soon. He’s trying to hand over this job of organising the annual Pengerang cycling trip to someone after taking over from ex-TC Hassanudin whom took over from TC Bernard. Still no successor in sight as he soldiered on year after year till this time round on its 20th anniversary.
TC Hisham and Bobby recounted the list of Train Captains’ misfortunes. Easily 29 have departed to the nether world with 23 on severe medical issues. For us it’s a serious wake up call to slow down and take life easy before we add to the growing list of unfortunate TCs. We were deeply engaged in tracking our colleagues’ destiny when Bob had to remind Hisham it’s time to go for his evening prayers before we proceed for our dinner.
After some snacks of goreng pisang and tapioca washed downed with thick milk tea in the afternoon, we decided to explore the beach and chalet grounds. Since it’s extremely low tide, I carried my Brompton all the way – approximately 100 metres away from the shore to a piece of rock which is the prominent landmark of this beach resort. Together with Bob, we managed to take some priceless photos on that rock.
The whole afternoon we spent our time enjoying the majestic beauty of the sea and its natural rustic setting with incessant sea breeze blowing at our faces not to mention the consistent crashing of the furious waves in the background. As city dwellers we hardly ever experienced such relaxing moments so near to nature.
It’s only 5 min ride from our chalet to the small fishing village where we had our dinner. TC Hisham already made advanced booking for our dinner at one of the small eateries which cater to the local fishing community. He gave them a budget of RM30 per head. Total cost of about RM700 for the food and free flow of drinks. 4 of us shared 6 dishes comprising Tom Yam soup(super spicy), fried onion eggs, steamed fish, chicken cooked with veggies, fried big prawns and stir fried kangkong with garlics. For S$10 each, we had a Malay Tzi Char 6-course meal plus water melon and unlimited drinks.
Having our filled with such delicious traditional meal, we slowly cycled back to our chalet to relax and continue our vigil till the wee hours. At the back of our minds we knew that our brief sojourn was ending soon as time marches on relentlessly when sooner than we realise had to bid farewell to such an awesome place.
Barely few hours of sleep saw us gathering at the beach sitting on the carved wooden benches made from huge tree trunks enjoying the spectacular sun rise. The huge tide was coming in fearlessly enveloping that landmark rock where we posed for pictures yesterday afternoon. We could only watched helplessly as the huge rock was sucked and covered with the incoming waves at high tide!
It’s now time for our last breakfast meal at the small eatery. This last meal as with all the prior meals and one night chalet stay are all covered by the S$60 each of us paid to the organiser Train Captain Hisham.
After breakfast @10.30am, we were getting ready to cycle to Tanjung Pengelih Ferry Terminal heading back home. Thus ended our annual cycling pilgrimage to this beautiful beach resort far away hidden in one corner of Pengerang. Till next year Feb we shall come together again to retrace this cyclists’ holy grail where only we share and appreciate with a common objective of fun riding and camaraderie!
PS – This annual cycling trip is by no means exclusive. Everyone is welcomed to join us. We warmly welcome you. Hopefully my write-up will inspire you to join us in our next trip.
☝️Group photo taken at Tanjung Sepang beach resort before we check out and head back home.