Uphill climbs probably quite aptly describe any given endeavour throughout the week. However, joy upon joys, it was the weekend, and the physical ascent along the paths of Bukit Kledang in Menglembu, Ipoh would be merely a bit of leg-stretching before the stunning vista that – we were told – welcomed us near the peak.
In this case, we didn’t even have to endure the hardship of climbing the slopes ourselves, as many a local might choose to do on weekends. The beast of burden ably propelling us to the top on this occasion was the powerful Isuzu MU-X 2.5 SUV.
As Malaysians, us included, are wont to do on any occasion possible, food and drinks are always on the agenda. We decided to pack along a small bit of supplies for this outing, handily packaged into various Coleman storage solutions we were using. In the boot, we had with us the handy Coleman 5-gallon water carrier to keep us hydrated and the stylish and useful Coleman Soft Cooler Backpack that could easily keep our drinks chilled for up to 12 hours.
To show us the way up Bukit Kledang, we brought along the super bright Coleman Battery Lock Headlamps with multiple lighting modes and LED bulbs that never need replacing!
Kicking off with a 45-minute westward drive from our weekend’s accommodation in Tambun, we had aimed to reach the peak of Bukit Kledang by sunset, which according to Google’s estimates, was just past 7:30 pm. All in good time, it should seem.
If one isn’t local to a particular area, threading one’s path to a destination usually requires the use of satellite navigation, and in this case we were no exception and our little knowledge of Ipoh certainly needed bolstering. So, out came the smartphones.
At a glance of the online map, it appeared that the most direct route would be to trek right along Jalan Tambun, then along Jalan Sultan Iskandar which cuts right through the heart of town (ah, the glorious food nearby…), then through various townships which would have presented far too many opportunities to make wrong turns. Enter Waze and Google Maps, the now-perennial saviours of the geographically lost.
Our digital guides recommended a further-arcing but far more straightforward route northwards along the North-South Expressway, then turning off at the Jelapang North highway exit. However, as often is the case, software is only as good as the accompanying hardware and vice versa.
In this case, the occasional signal glitch en route seemed to want to lead us on a 56km detour via Kuala Kangsar, even before the subsequent 20 km towards our eventual hilltop destination. This wracked our out-of-town nerves, especially with the sight of the looming dark clouds.
Nevertheless, the Jelapang North exit was found and peace of mind restored. The subsequent Ipoh-Lumut Expressway can be likened to a broadened trunk road, one that facilitates a pleasant flowing rhythm for something as big and heavy as our seven-seater 4X4.
As we ebbed and flowed along that Ipoh-Lumut route, the taps of light rain seemed to have opened up just that fraction more, but you know what? We were carefree, cruising along with three smartphones’ worth of Bluetooth-ed music as we all took turns at the jovial jukebox that was the Isuzu’s music player. The swing and whirring of windscreen wipers just seemed to add to the sense of adventure.
Motivated by the thought of an enthralling Ipoh skyline, the prospect of the arrival was just as tantalising as the journey itself. At the back of the big beast was our dear friend’s famous iced tea brew, suitably chilled in the Coleman insulated pack. Thirst quencher served with a great view – now that’s a treat.
But first, the climb up Bukit Kledang. There are various points at which hikers and joggers can stop for a breather along the 7km route to the peak, but we aim right for the top where a radio transmission tower is located. As intimated earlier, the Isuzu MU-X did all the heavy lifting for us, a job that took a little over 20 minutes.
Online recommendations said to come in a 4×4, and despite the paved road all the way to the top, we certainly saw why. It would have been a proper workout just walking up a part of the stretch. The peak that was the radio tower didn’t prove to be much of a view, but its grey silhouette against a not-that-much-lighter-grey backdrop made for a slightly haunting sight itself. That just meant we had to detour a little downwards and voila – Ipoh was in sight.
And so we parked up, stretched our legs for real, and generally soaked up the hilltop atmosphere for all its lush greenery and crisp air. To the Coleman Soft Cooler Backpack! Our delectable bottle of nicely chilled, home-brewed iced tea beckoned.
Between refills of our hardy plastic cups, the predominantly orange glow of street lamps from flatter topography below bore a certain, intangible enchantment. Like a sort of life lesson, as if to say there is beauty in seeing the bigger picture – even if it is ostensibly man-made.
Being from out of town and wanting to enjoy the moment, our party of four lazed about the vantage point until failing light, which was our cue to head back towards town for dinner.
The magic of beautiful surrounds is that keeping track of time just fades from priority; only something as primal as actual hunger could draw us out of our reverie.