Posts Tagged ‘Indonesia’

The Indies Heritage Hotel was so nice, I spent most of the last 3 days in it ! At about $55 a night plus breakfast, not only was it the deal of the decade, there was no need to unnecessarily get sweaty outside. Besides I’ve seen the temples, the royal palaces, the choked shopping streets etc etc. Only the mundane last few days of a bike trip errands to do.

Troll the bike shops for bargains and rare hard to find retro bike parts. Secure a bike box for Mr Shrek for the flight home, and meet up with some Singaporean biker friends who were in Jogja for the weekend.

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Chicken porridge is a staple street food in Java. This is the much nice looking hotel version. 2 bowls of this and I’m ready to churn the pedals. Well not quite as there are other dishes for breakfast.

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Weather beaten but you get the point. A waiting box for bicycles at the start of traffic lights. Very thoughtful.

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I drop by the biggest bike shop in town. 3 shophouse units and an apartment above where the owners live. Unfortunately no bike box to give away.

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Plan B. Yes they have a box. A sharp eye will notice that some bikes are built from the frame up. That’s a lot of work, but maybe not for the older gent here.

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A box a retrieved from another shop across the street. Nicely folded, and tied with a carrying handle of sorts. $1.50. Now I have to cycle back to the hotel to leave it there. And my back pack is already full of some purchases from the previous bike shop.

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These 2 guys drove all the way from Jakarta. They had a gala time squatting and pointing to the parts on my bike. They took a photo of me so I returned the favour. Now I just need a bunch of women with toned legs to do the same. Squat and gawk at the bike.

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I spot a German brand Stevens at another old shop in town. Check out the floor tiles. Old. This place still has a brand new, but unridden Alpinestar cro mega mountain bike hanging on the wall. I estimate that it’s a 1990 or earlier model with 7 speed Shimano Deore DX parts. Rp 6.5 million or just under $700. Awesome deal if you’re a fan of elevated chainstay mountain bikes. Don’t think that bike is heading anywhere as I saw it on the wall back in 2009. Alam Baru did lighten my wallet though. A new crank and some brakes set me back Rp 1.2 million in one afternoon. For some perspective, I had 8 million when I started the trip.

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A pedal van. Yes get 3 friends and you have a 4 human horsepower VW van. These and many others have discovered LED technology and I guess therein lies the novelty. Pedalling around the town square, with blinking lights, in the cool of the night. Me? Back at the hotel surfing 6 movie channels from HBO.

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Jogja street graffiti.

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Jogja SUV. Severely utilised vehicle.

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The boys and I ride 30 kms on a Sunday to Parangtritis Beach south of town to drink coconut juice and watch the raging surf of the indian Ocean.

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More quiet contemplation, surf and tattered tarps. And yes, cheap Indonesian cigarettes.

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In this scene there are 3 very relaxed musketeers left, downing Jogja tea and cigarettes as No 4 had to rush back to the hotel, pack up and head to the airport. With 30 kms left to backtrack and check in, in 3.5 hours, I’d be quite worried as No 4 was.

First, he had to endure a bit of teasing as to why he did not book a return flight for tomorrow, a very relaxed Monday? Leaving the beach all 4 were furiously pedalling like a TDF time trial….in search of a taxi back to town. There were none this far out by the Indian Ocean.

There was a pick up full of elderly local cyclists heading back and I stopped them, asking of they could take one more on a fancy folding Brompton. No, they were really full to the brim. A quick call was made to a friend asking him to send a taxi from town, 30 kms away. That’ll take some time. Another 20 wasted minutes. So the 4 continued on their time trial as I slowed to take more photos.

While doing so, I spot a white Vios taxi at a crossroads. I jumped on my bike and chased him down, well lucky for me and No 4, he was at the junction taking his time moving off. I told him to head to town and keep a look out for 4 cyclists on very small wheels. One of them would be very pleased to take his taxi to town and thereafter to the airport. It would be a very big fare for him to. Airport runs are a big deal. Rp 80k if from a fancy hotel. No meters. I also found out that daily rental was only Rp 150k ! 2 airport runs and that’s more or less covered. Compare that with a S$140 / Rp 1.3 million a day rental back home.

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This was earlier in the day, a second breakfast for the ever hungry boys.

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A final shampoo and hot spray bath for the bike. Got quite a bit of volcanic gunk and sand from the ride to the beach.

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The shrink wrap cost more than the box, but hey at $4.00 it was peace of mind as the cardboard was soft and flexy. None too strong as I would like, and Changi Airport in Singapore would probably charge a whopping $15 or so for this service.

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The very early 7.30 am departure has it’s rewards. The mountains around central Java bathed in the morning light. Here’s Merapi in it’s almost dormant state with other lesser volcanoes west of it. Hence the attraction to ride a bicycle around them.

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Days 7 & 8

I finally have a full ‘rest’ day on this trip. Rest meaning I don’t ride to another town, wake up later and basically have no plans, sort of, for this day.

Such days are important on extended bike tours, physically and mentally. Physically the body needs to rest from the routine of packing, eating, cycling and finding a place for the night. Mentally, there’s a break from looking at maps, navigation, reading the weather, getting lost, etc. Usually a rest day is called for every 3 days of the trip, but there are many variables in this set equation also.

Thankfully I have not been too stretched out on both aspects as my distances are shorter than normal for my bike trips. Yesterday’s 125 kms was a test whether I could still ride more than 100 kms and I’m glad I passed. Although I prefer not to ride in the dark for a late check in.

Today I am just going to chill, except that I have placemarked some  Surakarta or Solo bike shops in my phone. Let the games begin !

Click on the individual photos for my detailed comments.

Leaving Solo was a breeze. What was surprising was the thick fog that enveloped the city in the early dawn hours. It would have been great to ride through that but with only 70 kms to go, a 7 am start was not going to happen. I have cable tv and a hotel breakfast to attend to.

Sometimes I am all packed the previous night so that I don’t have to pack  too much in the morning. This was also a non event.

As there’s only one main highway between Solo and Jogja, I did not want to ride the same traffic choked road again. So I did my best to find a parallel country road. It was not easy as both are big cities in their own right and expanding into the countryside with each passing year. 65 kms isn’t vast in Java. At least, as always the towering peaks of Merapi and Merbabu loomed over the western horizon. They were omnipresent till the late afternoon clouds and haze enveloped them.

I think I got about 20 kms of pottering in the ricefields before the dreaded highway appeared. Well better 20 than nothing. Java is a heavily populated island. Even in the countryside there were lots of people, with the only saving grace being slower traffic on the smaller narrower roads.

I got into Jogja proper in very good time. Well there was a slow leak in the front tyre which had also seen better days. The sidewalls were tearing and so I found a shady spot away from zooming traffic. Tyre and tube were replaced together. Yes I carry a light foldable 1.5 inch spare just for moments like this.

A quick soak in the pool of the Indies Heritage Hotel before dinner was a wise choice as the following Saturday and Sunday meant only one thing. Weekend crowds at the hotel.

Tomorrow, I get reaquainted with Jogja, last visited in 2009 and 1997.

Days 4, 5 and 6.

The photo collage format in the last 2 previous posts do not  leave much space for detailed photo captions so I’ve switched to this. Individual large photos with space below for a photo essay type of post.

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Choked traffic on the way into Magelang. Like all cities, the shoulder is just another lane. Fair game for everyone. Irritating as well I could easily pedal faster than this bunch of crawlers. Close by is an intersection to the right which leads to the highland town of Wonosobo and the mystical Dieng Plateau.

Dieng was in my plans but a to and fro journey of another hilly 300kms meant another 3 days at least.Dieng itself lies at 2000m with very basic accommodations.  I contemplated taking some form of transport but heck, nice and cold as it was I visited Dieng in 1997, so it was easy to head for Magelang just down the road.

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On the southern suburbs of Magelang whose city center of shady narrow roads and old shops did not entice. I’ll see that the next morning when it’s brighter and drier. From this junction one of my preferred hotels was still about 3 kms south. Then my eye caught sight of that huge hotel with a Carrefour and KFC next to it. Bingo! Rode up to the lobby and the manager stepped out. Dried and cleaned myself before going in. Already the manager asked the security guard to put my bike in a safe place, like in his guard room. Great!

One small problem. Sure there were room, but at what price? A million rupiah ! What?!? S$103. That or ride another 3 kms in the wet. Well surely there was a weekday discounted rate for a tired wet hungry cyclist? There was, at Rp530,000. Almost half price. Over budget but not drastically. Done deal again. A room that would easily cost $250 and up, back home.

Had dinner at the adjacent mall’s food court and a quick walk trolling the shelves of Carrefour ended the day. Stock up on some drinks, snacks or fruit. On a solo bike trip it is quite vital to have a place to walkabout after dinner, more so when it is raining outside and you don’t want to battle the elements after a nice shower, much less cycle out again to look for dinner, unless it is absolutely necessary.

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The room as you can see was very luxe for a bike tour, and I still don’t exactly know where it is, the bike I mean ! 2 bolsters too. Now since I am paying over $50, I might as well get to the roof on the oh so high 9th floor for some mountain photos. There was a roof top bar, littered with the previous night’s party.

Unlocked doors through the bar and open rooftop. So much for security. At least the skies were clear in all directions and I get to see a nice sunrise over Merbabu and Merapi. Breakfast was amazing, for Magelang and I had my fill.

Going to skip or snack for lunch till I get to the outskirts of touristy Borobudor via some small village roads. A ride of only 40 kms or so, great for checking out at 12 noon, my latest ever. Lots of lounging around with my latest friend, whose initials are HBO.

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The morning’s papers confirmed what I saw on Indonesian TV about a month before the trip. A crazy lone sniper in Magelang itself who targeted only women. Schoolgirls were not spared. To date 13 dead, and I asked the hotel security guard about his take. He said there was more than one sniper ! The police had detained one and another was still one the loose.

Nothing to worry about, he said. Only women were his targets. I felt slightly assured as long as the MO did not turn to moving targets like a bicycle tourist. No wonder the streets of downtown Magelang were desolate and shops shuttered in the late afternoon yesterday.

Out of curiousity I rode those streets and narrow lanes among shophouses and small businesses after checking out. Seemed normal to me except more police presence at some corners. Adios Magelang as I headed south on a road parallel to the main highway.

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Passing by a well fortified church and school reassured me a bit.

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Solitude on a bike lane in suburban Magelang

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You know you’re in the villages when bikes start to carry grass feed for the cows.

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Closer to Borobudor, I cross a few bridges and scenes like this appear below. It’s still mid afternoon and I have lots of time to scout around for a place tonight. The ‘town’ around Borobudor has sprout out just to fulfill one purpose. Housing and feeding visitors to the temple, so there are scores of cheap accommodation and restaurants near the entrance. Those looked too dodgy and I rode further out to find some cottages in a nice garden down a side lane. Aah the benefits of cycling, don’t like a place, pedal on to seek another.

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I was not disappointed once they showed me the room. 2 rooms in a building with a central chilling living room in the middle where the bike slept. This was sort of a mid range place for those wanting to escape the basic homestays outside. They had a price to match $45 and no lower.

Pricey for the lone traveller but just nice for a couple, with 2 breakfasts. Clever me, I ordered 2 breakfasts the next day. An Indonesian one for me and a western one for me also, but to go and have somewhere down the road.

The girls running the place didn’t mind, gossiping away in a slight American accent, no doubt learnt from passing tourists that make Borobudor so popular.

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Easy access for the bike to the bathroom meant that it got a shower too, my post dinner workout. A ride into the strip outside in the drizzle reminded me of my past travels in Java. Dark roads, dim lit bulbs fronting push cart stalls and people gathered in small groups quietly tucking into a light dinner. Brightest lights in town belonged to the ever present Alfa Maret convenience stores. I got my usual supplies and had to ride fast back to the hotel as heavy raindrops signalled a night storm on the way.

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The soothing pitter patter of rain on the bathroom’s roof was reminiscent of my other stays in Bali, where opened roofed bathrooms are the norm. Bathing under a coconut tree.

I was loving the alternate type of stays I was getting on this trip, very comfy with air conditioning, fast wifi and especially Indonesian cable TV with at least 6 movie channels. Though the quality of US movies can be debated at length, it did make the pre sleeping hours much shorter.

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Morning has broken, with sunshine even.Bucolic with roosters crowing. Made checking out a little bit slower, but I have a long day ahead. Let’s see whether I have the mojo to do 125 kms or so.

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Before actually getting onto the main roads southeast toward Jogja and Solo, I potter around the backroads of Borobudor. Very quiet and car less. I chanced upon a much touted sunrise viewpoint after 1o kms. The road above also leads to 2 very pricey resorts, in the countryside, hence the lack of potholes and even a guiding white line, non existent on other lesser village roads.

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Hah, the temple as seen from it’s north from across padi fields and not a parking lot of vehicles and ringed by souvenir stalls.  No US$25 entrance fees for foreigners like me. In any case I visited in 2009 when it cost US$10 and $2.00 for locals. Guess which ticket i bought in my best indonesian accent. I am told that they now check passports. Game over.

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Paid Rp 10,000 for a post sunrise climb. Not 300 m as the ticket seller told me. It was more like 500m as I sweated like no tomorrow. Left my loaded bike at the parking lot, locked of course, in front of the ticket booth. Well the view of the countryside was nice but not nice enough for a 3 am wake up call. Sunrise view is done.

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The little morning’s jaunt added another 20 kms to todays massive 125 kms. The longest day’s ride on the trip. By now I was fit enough to manage this. After some kms in the country, it was time to bite the bullet and hit the highway with a faster average speed. Speed is traded for scenery which is not a bad thing. It also tests one’s tolerance for people and their driving or lack of driving skills.

Before that I got to tete a tete with 2 lovely ladies taking a break with a knife and a papaya. They probably woke up before dawn and were chirpy in giving me directions to everywhere but the main road. Then they argued among themselves which was hilarious, but not when one has a knife in hand.

I sort of knew they way, cross that bridge and turn left. Reconfirmed that with my Maps.Me app. which did not show a river that small. After being triple sure I thanked them and left.

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After happily cycling about 15 kms only in trying to avoid the highway, I was greeted with this bit of graffiti. Just lovely.

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Volcanoes are taken very seriously in Java. Here is one of many enlarged canals, just in case lahar flows from Merapi, gets out of hand. It did erupt in 2010 and the surrounding villages in the danger zone and even cities like Jogja were not spared. Covered in grey ash for weeks on end.

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At lunch I got the least sweet of these offerings from the menu. Plain ol coconut juice. No sugar added, they do that sometimes. The rest could keep me awake for a week. Indonesians do love their desserts and drinks very sweet.

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Entering the messy roads of Jogja and this was not even down town, but a larger ring road meant to divert traffic to the surrounding areas. I had planned the final 3 nights in Jogja but decided today to press on to Surakarta or Solo, for 2 nights, which was another 50 kms or so east of Jogja. At one point it got so bad that I jumped the road dividers and cycled against very minimal traffic on the other side. At least I was now not cycling at 10 or 15kmp/h.

One of the reasons for the snarl just 10 kms from Solo were road works at 5 pm! Actually they had finished resurfacing the road and the road crew were just relaxing and chilling in their vehicles taking up the first lane, oblivious to the 5 kms of traffic behind them. You’d think that they had the brains to move those vehicles aside, or to a side lane, but no….just continue the mayhem the next day.

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Merapi shows it’s eastern flank near sundown. So I’ve circumvented it from 3 o’clock back to 1 o’clock. Imagine a round clock. I missed the 1 to 3 o’clock portions.

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After 125 kms, I get to Solo one hour after sunset at 6.30 pm. The Fave Hotel (there are 2 in town and about 50 all over the country) booked online for the princely sum of $33 plus breakfast. My wallet is not complaining.

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Pretty in pink and the window faces west, towards Merapi. Cant get enough of it, and of course they have cable TV ! A long shower and slow satay dinner at the hotel cafe ensued. I don’t want to leave this building unless absolutely necessary !

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Days 3 & 4

Left the choked roads out of Semarang on a quiet Sunday morning. Headed south inland and 3 steep climbs awaited me. Instantly cooler in the shade of big trees, as sweat poured out like a leaking shower. The last 2 days must have been too easy, with minimal cycling and maximum eating and snacking.

Destination. The hill town of Bandungan, very close to one of the country’s amazing sights. Gedong Songo. A cluster of 9 ancient Hindu temples or candi in the hills high above the sweltering plains. 1250m asl to be exact.

After 30 kms or so on the highway, I turned right into a smaller road that wound it’s way into the hills. A wonderful 90% drop in traffic, and an increase in rural scenery laid before my front wheel.  For the first time padi fields and wooden huts reminded me of Bali. I detoured into smaller concrete roads, with even better scenery and zero traffic.

The climb was only 9 kms, before Bandungan showed itself. A small crossroads village market, that hugged the hill sides meaning flatter roads and easier cycling. Time was certainly on my side. That was until a sudden thunderstorm had me heading for shelter at a disused fruit stand, just 1 km from the Kusma Hotel down the road.

It poured for almost an hour non stop. Then the roof of the stall started to leak. Doing nothing my tummy started to rumble like the thunder in the mountains. I did not really have a lunch, just drinks and snacks from Alfamaret. Cold drinks and freezing AC to boot. They are a Godsend for cyclists and there must be a few thousand outlets in the country.

Just as I was running out of patience, the rains eased and I rode gingerly on the wet and slick roads out of town. The Kusma Hotel was set nicely on a hill side and I got a room facing south and the mountains. Gorgeous views of Mt. Merbabu’s north face and Mt Merapi just behind it.

Like many resort towns in the country, there’s a slew of sleazy ones whose main attraction is the horrendous karaoke parlour and attendant bunch of women in tight clothes.

Seeing that it was a Sunday, and loads of traffic that was leaving Bandungan back to the cities in the plains, it was time to negotiate for a better rate. A deluxe room was going for Rp 500k / $50 way beyond a single traveller’s budget. Reception was nice enough to dangle me the local rate. Rp 300k. A very done deal. Only 2 other rooms out of 20 had guests.

A quick cleanup and I was ready for a 6 pm dinner and a very early night. A simple fried rice with bits of chicken and 2 very black cups of coffee  at an unbelievable Rp 31000, just over $3.00.

Back to a newish 1 year old room, my only ‘companions’ were fast wifi and a dozen movie channels ! This was going to be de rigeur in all the hotel I stayed at. Not that I’m complaining.

Day 4’s weather was gorgeous, as all early mornings in the mountains should be. Let it rain in the late afternoon when I’m in or nearing the night’s hotel. I had to make an early start if I wanted more time to see Gedong Songo and still be back in time for breakfast which ends very early at 9.00 am. It was going to be tight. 5 kms to the start of a steep 3 km climb and back. Photography was going to be my time stealer, as always, but the views were worth it.

After about 2 hours of pottering around Gedong Songo and it’s marvellous setting, it was time to leave. Got back to breakfast 30 mins late and of course the restaurant was bare. No matter, checked out and headed downhill to Ambarawa, whose railway station/museum ate up another hour or so of sightseeing. 2 pm and I’ve clocked a massive 12 kms.

Saw ‘Pauline’s Bakery’ on Google Maps the previous night and headed for it for a snack. As I thought, a Chinese establishment fronted by local Indonesians. No heavy sleep inducing lunches this trip, just snacks to get me thru the daylight hours. I was not disappointed.

A ‘lumpia’ or fried spring roll (so good I took away another 2) a nice sweet slice of ‘kueh lapis’ or layered butter cake, and another unknown peanut stuffed sticky concoction, and a canned Nescafe, all consumed at a lone table inside Pauline’s. $4.00 for the whole lot. Burp !

I’m set for the 40 kms of highway to Magelang ‘city’

Then I saw a sign for a lengthy detour to a coffee plantation and resort. The former Losari Resort now rebranded as the Msea Still Resort. Cycled through some bucolic country lanes far removed from the busy trafficked ones. Drats, a big hill to climb to reach it’s gates. No cycling up to the reception, a huge converted railway station building, transported piece by piece to a hill top. Parked the bike where the staff do, A discreet parking lot hidden in the trees. A uniformed guard helped across the narrow road, whistle blown and a red flag up, even without any traffic at all.

Cleaned myself up and ordered a latte. Rp47.5K after taxes. Or $5.00. It was so pricey but good. Better still they refilled my water bottle with ice and water. I love posh places. Saw just another guest in the dining room.

Now temptation crept in. How much for a night here? They only have villas and the 20% tax levied here could get me a room in Magelang or elsewhere. So about $$240 with breakfast. That was about 33% of my whole trip budget and I have 7 more nights to clear.

Magelang here I come, rumbling thunder in the distance and all. I pedalled away as some raindrops fell.

 

Days 1 & 2

A 10 day solo trip into Central Java. Started at Semerang along Java’s north coast. A sizable city. a smaller version of East Java’s huge Surabaya, best seen from a slow bicycle, especially when city roads are choked with traffic, technically making cycling faster and saves one the hassle of dealing with public transport and the accompanying fare hikes for tourists.

Right from the city’s smallish airport, (2 immigration counters) I got a taxi booked from an airport taxi booth to my hotel 5 kms away. Rp 50,000 or $5.00. Initially wanted to fix the bike at the airport and ride into town, but the expected 40 deg C temps forecasted for the middle of May,  was deterrent enough. I could do all that in the comfort of my AC room.

Being in a biggish city, with a Dutch past and having arrived in the late afternoon meant that 2 nights in Semarang was a given. There was no way I could see the sights, check out at 12 noon and ride to the next destination. Well I could have done that but that meant not much time left for uncertainties like getting lost or dealing with inclement weather and reaching a hill side town in the dark.

I sort of got this bike touring thing down to a pat. Have ample time when in a strange city, or when leaving it.

Semarang has an old town feel, notwithstanding a few skyscrapers and glitzy malls. Spent quite a few afternoon hours in the actual old town itself. Crumbling Dutch buildings,with quiet neighbourhoods and back roads away from the choked main roads.

On this particular Saturday, there was a flea market and closed roads which made walking and slow cycling a joy. You could see the kids making full use of the peace without cars and other traffic in front of their homes.

I spotted a couple of chic coffee places with great air con and wifi. What more could I ask for?  Tokodeco was set in a 2 storey conservation building and the iced single origin Sumatran coffee I had was heavenly. $3.00 whole dollars.

Leaving Semarang was not easy. The city has mountains at it’s southern backyard. A bunch of volcanoes that separate it from Java’s southern coast. I was also not at my fittest. A case of too much input and not enough output. Hence one of the reasons for a bike trip. Ride a whole lot, and eat sensibly all I want.

3 big climbs loomed just as I left the city limits. They were not that steep but with luggage any cyclist would know that another 50% more effort would have to be put in, just so you don’t ride in the embarrassing single digit speeds.

I actually stopped and rested outside a palatial hotel. It was shady and sent in a posh residential district.  Immediately the winds here were much cooler than the lowlands. I was lucky too as not much later a convoy of Harleys zoomed by. I thought a thunderstorm was looming.

Nah, just your average moneyed Indonesian out to show the world their expensive toys on a Sunday. The convoy was led by of all people, the traffic police! An outrider would go ahead, stopping all traffic, so that the convoy could pass and even run red lights. This has sparked some outrage on social media as to why some are more equal than others to the extent of paying the police to clear traffic for them.

After 30kms I found my riding legs and stopped at a ‘milk factory’ It was jam packed and I guess a place to go for a family outing on a Sunday. Got a cold yoghurt and left.

The turnoff for the mountains was just opposite it.

More than just a fancy book title, the island’s swankiest highland village has morphed into a must visit for every visitor. New hands will go ga ga over the town’s market square and shopping. Having just an hour or so to do that, they buy up handicraft and trinkets by the bus load, before returning to their buses and day tours of the exotic Balinese countryside.

Old hands watch and ponder, from a discreet restaurant, hey we were like that once maybe 20 years ago. Me? I try to avoid the place like the plague, but then again like the book says, the place is a ‘mood’ Catch it in your right ‘mood’ and soon you’ll be an old hand, never wanting to leave, save for the odd bicycle ride into the countryside. Useful things those state of the art bicycles.

Sublime sunrises

Dinner mood just after sunset (spot our wheels)

Ubud’s market is a real market before the daily transformation. Locals hustle and bustle for their daily needs from as early a 5 am. Messy, grimy and with suspicious odours. I’ve yet to enter  their deep dark and dank below road level areas. You hear the odd gripes about rising prices and shrinking portions. Locals buying in bulk seem to do so for their businesses mostly restaurants. They’ll pass the costs on to their customers.

On one very hot morning, wife is thirsty and insists on a cooling coconut drink. I am quoted Rp 30 k for one. No point haggling, it’s almost US$4.00. We walk away and the price drops to 20 K. I cross the street to a local warung and get a cut up coconut. Rp 10 K. I’m sure the locals pay less, but the thing to note here  is she’s thirsty and water wont do.

Come sunlight and say after 9 am, the produce market changes into the tourist market. This is a good time to be there. Mess cleaned up quickly and in it’s place, neatly laid out souvenir stalls waiting for the huge white tourists buses from the south to disgorge their contents.

My mood insists that I make a last visit on the very last day of each trip. People watching at it’s best. Plus photo ops galore. Intelligent mood dictates that we find our lodgings as far away from the town center as possible, which we cleverly do. And of course having a folding bike handy really beats walking 2000 metres just to get lunch or dinner or a new bikini.

A bikini shop in the heart of Bali's artistic and cultural universe

Seen at Periplus Books, not the Ubud library, there's none

Human beings being made monkeys of, at the Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. On a bicycle get there before 0800 hrs and you save Rp 20,000 as the ticket guy isn't there yet

He's in a hungry mood

BBQed honey coated and roasted ribs @ Naughty Nuri's Warung. We couldn't get a table at 3.15 pm. Unlike the poor kid in the bus, we got to smell it !

Ibu Oka's babi guling in Ubud. 8 whole pigs are sold in a day at this one tiny stall. There are others ??

Go pig out

Or better still, go cycling

Behind this bucolic scene at the Ubud Palace's lotus pond, there are 2 dozen tourists wanting a photo of pink flowers

A more private moment in someone's garden

Happy moods are the best 😉

yes, whatever works for you.....

I once did a tally of the days and nights I’ve spent in Ubud. It added up to 62. That was in 2000, so that figure is severely outdated. There’re lots more, hidden somewhere in my trip diaries, waiting to be counted.  For simplicity’s sake, I’ll just double that figure. East Bali and Amed is looking good these days. It’s peaceful, quiet and with a spider web of roads and trails waiting to be to be explored on a mountain bike. It could just be the next place to stay a while.

From a previous post on food, it’s also possible to dine in a different restaurant everyday for a month in Ubud, but we now know the good from the less good  (thankfully we were spared the bad ones)

We will leave the island soon, and with the impending departure, the mood is sombre as we have to deal with traffic, immigration and crowds at the air port.

http://www.ubudvillage.com/ubud.html

Weak hearted foreign visitors are taken aback and may be  shocked by it. Others with stauncher differing faiths express mixed feelings from disdain to downright fear. Kids will have nightmares. Camera happy people like me can’t get enough of Bali’s Ogoh Ogoh.  And only in Bali would you find hedious, gigantic paper, foam and plastic ‘monsters’ parading the streets till midnight as part religious cleansing ceremony, part celebrations and mostly an excuse for a good party.

A traffic stopper ogoh ogoh (back in 2003)

It happens once a year during the March or April full moon to herald in a new year,  after the most intriguing of all Balinese celebrations, where ironically nothing happens. This is the day of Nyepi or silence. 24 hours of quiet. People stay indoors, eat quietly indoors, no sounds, no conversation, no lights (except candlelight) no cooking, no frolicking  (ie, behave or abstain) and meditate. The more devout will also fast for a day.

Basically no one goes out, the streets are devoid of people and traffic. (save for emergency vehicles) This applies even to tourists and village pecalang or ‘enforcers’ make sure that the rules are strictly enforced. Out driving with no good reason ?  Your keys will be taken and you’ll have to walk home quietly. In recent years with the influx  of mass tourism,  the Balinese are dead serious about Nyepi and the airport is shut down for 24 hours. No flights in or out.

What’s the significance of all this, you ask ? Well it’s simple yet bewildering. With such silence for a day, the demons and malevolent spirits will think the island is devoid of life, and thus leave to haunt another place. Balinese demons are that naive for a day. Yet the ogoh ogoh prevail and have their boisterous street parades on the eve of Nyepi.

Welcome to Bali, misterrr

Rangda is a grotesque wicth queen that devours children like snacks

She has, to be polite, underwear and cuticle issues

2 tongues ?

Some are too detailed !

Sadly, we were not in Bali at the right time, just about a month after Nyepi. I cannot fathom 24 hours of plain doing nothing, not even with fast wifi, which in Bali is intermittent at best, but who knows one day in the future. Apparently there are even more, but sombre celebrations in the days after Nyepi and invitations have been ‘expressed and offered’ to me for the whole period  🙂

We saw the remains of Nyepi, that is the many ogoh ogoh left to flounder in village halls and street corners. Those that were not spectacular enough, did not win any best ogoh ogoh contests, and thus were not burnt at midnight.  Some were rotting and as freinds assured us, have no spirit or ‘power’ left in them.  Months of handiwork gone and it’s mind boggling that about 20,000 ogoh ogoh all over Bali are made and then torched at midnight before Nyepi.

Here's a rude one


Food glorious food

Posted: June 2, 2011 in Bali Road Trip 2011
Tags: , ,

What went in ……………burp !    Click on photo to drool

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Honourable mention(s) below, and sincere apologies to the countless others by the road side and local markets (the kind where flies are trapped inside the food showcase by a plastic sheet and the same fingers that handle the food, handles your money)

http://www.ubudgoodfood.com/

http://www.tutmak.com/


http://www.bali-travel-life.com/bali-buddha.html

http://www.bali-travel-life.com/cheap-ubud-restaurants.html

http://pulaukelapa.webs.com/aboutus.htm


http://www.hoteltirtagangga.com/restaurants.html

http://restaurantamedbali.com/

Cycled 35 kms for this ! http://www.kopibali.com/products.htm

Hot tip : If driving around Bali, stock up at Hardy’s S’Mart on whoslesale priced bottled water. We bought 24 x 1.5 litre bottles and made the earth more plastic-ky. More apologies…..

Our road trip was getting a touch predictable as we stuck to the main roads for fear of the ‘dreaded potholed village road, I think it’s this way shortcuts’ Funny we never had this kinda problem when cycling, as well, when cycling villagers seem more friendly are more open to ‘let’s help the poor silly touris suffering on their bicycles’ Not that driving was that bad really. It was just getting to be ‘same same’ (a Thai invented phrase actually)

Heck we have two foldies in the back enjoying the bumps and views too. After a week, the car did 715 kms and my tikit did 208 kms (100ks of which, after the car was returned) The Cappu, well, does not have an odometer.

Onwards to Bali’s far east are a string of fishing villages lining the coast on the driest part of the island. A small broken road circles the half blown off top and massif of Gunung Seraya, with dizzying views of the Straits of Lombok. This is a great 50 kms road to cycle across, and yes I did it in both directions during my lifetime.

Almost a decade ago there was pretty much nothing here, except for the Vienna Beach Bungalows and restaurant, a most unBalinese operation that catered to those wanting to get away from it all. The attraction along this coast was and is like Pemuteran 140 km in the west coast, snorkelling, diving and sailing. The area is as lost as one can get in Bali without heading out on a jukung/outrigger to Lombok.

As usual we had no reservations. With new resorts popping up like mushrooms after heavy rains, we soon deduced that the going rate for a newish place, plus AC, hot showers and breakfast for 2, was about Rp 200 K (US $25) and highly negotiable in this low season.

These were in season and I had to succumb after 7.5 days

Fleeing the dreaded dark cloud of moisture

Da beach of black volcanic sand

Where we stayed, they have just 2 rooms, with No 3 under construction

The usual places to stay were becoming ‘too famous’ with rave reviews from travel websites and the all knowing Looney Planet. Sadly some were suffering the ill effects of being too well known and service and standards were not up to par with their ever increasing room rates. Well they had a good run and had a lot of my custom especially  when we show up with a group of 10 perpetually hungry mountain bikers in tow. With the popular spots in Bali, there’s always a new hotel or restaurant to try out. It all depends on how much effort you put in to find them.

With your own transport/AC car, it’s a miniscule malady. Park car and ask wife to go out and check rooms/prices. On a bike trip, wife hides in the shade while, after many many kms, hubby climbs more stairs in SPD shoes to make enquiries. Can’t win them all, I guess.

View from the balcony

Cloud watching (great alternative to slow/no wifi)

As we were 30 minutes too early for lunch at 12 noon, a kiasu S'porean coyly copied 10 jazz remixed CDs into I tunes.

Sails Restaurant along Lean Beach is the place where other hotel and restaurant bigwigs come to dine, http://restaurantamedbali.com  We spent many a daylight hour there, and one rain soaked dinner (a first for us) after which we had to drive back in the dark through flooded streets and across one river bed, which was not there a few hours ago. It was after all the ‘dry season’ of late April. In retrospect, it was better that the car got soaked than our bicycles.

3 cars = 15 diners, quick run !

Over polarized restaurant views

Boss wife and boss lady of restaurant

His

Hers (it's fishy)

His again, obviously (mucho porky)

New World Tourists (those are the bike models from Bike Friday) The couple from England were almost dehydrated

A fully loaded tourer enjoying his 30 kms of down hills

Mrs :  “Wow, 2 guys on touring bikes and rolling downhill at that ! Aren’t you jealous ??”

Me :    “Do you have to rub it in ??”

Mrs :  “What happened to your plan of cycling down hill while I drive ?”

Me :    “You didn’t offer to drive?”

Mrs :   “You didn’t ask enough”

Me  :    “I thought I did !”

Mrs :   “Yes but you said that the clutch was ‘low or loose’ and the hand brake’s broken and………that I navigate well since  you can’t read the small small prints on the map”

Me :     “Don’t really need a map yeh, it’s all in here (points to head)

Mrs :     “Don’t trust my driving??”

Me  :      (very softly) “Uh huh”

In retrospect we’ve done all the down hills we’ve cared to do on other trips, but as I wonder now, with a tinge of regret, how fast would a Bike Friday tikit roll before I am reminded of my mortality ? I guess we will never know…..

Lazy mammals

Not too shabby a view from our porch. Pity the sunshine was in short supply, then again it was just 7.30 am

My new big toy. The place does not have fans or air conditioning, as the sea breezes always blow in once the sun is up, our host reassured us. Boy was he right, we checked out at a very late 1.00 pm after my kite felt tired. In the next bungalow, there's a Japanese tourist sweeping the floor with a broom that comes with each room. Wonder if she'll do ours ?

Far off the beaten track lies a little gem, best reached with your own transport or much nicer on a touring bicycle, http://www.geriasemalung.com/english/index.html

We wanted to stay 2 nights, but alas, our room was booked for the second day and we had to scoot ;-( (we did stay 2 nights back in 2008)  They have a constant flow of Japanese clientele to fill their 4 rooms, as the Balinese owner’s wife is Japanese. That explains the Zen like touches in the lush garden and a black volcanic stone hot tub in a corner, and a large manga collection in their library.  GS is in Desa (village) Ababi and we passed through Desa Budakeling (an as the crow flies short cut across a few semi dry river beds)  In Malay, those names are quite funny. 😉

Next stop. Amed by the Straits of Lombok, and a scenic and shady down hill section that goes on forever…..sigh…

The line's maxed out at 800 metres (and my camera's zoom at 210 mm)

Tirtagangga's endless rice fields

The straits of Lombok in bad weather

Turn on your speakers, courtesy of the Geria Semalung folks, http://www.geriasemalung.com/page/s_gal/cnddsa.html

So much better light in the afternoon