Sunday, July 27, 2008


Day 3 - Onwards to Glagah

Well, I didn't doze off till dusk though the gentle breeze in the shade was most welcoming. At this point, I wasn't quite sure where I would be spending the night. I had chalked 60kms of my usual 100km a day ride. If I had to carry what this villager had to carry, I may not make a 100kms today.

I continued on. I seeked direction to the nearest losmen by the beach. Two men resting in a shade suggested GLAGAH. It's a beach but they could not give me a rough distance. I showed them my map and they pointed roughly the location. I thought my map was pretty detailed.

His direction indicated that I would reach a "perempatan" at a town called PALBAPANG. I had problem initially understanding his term "perempatan". I thought he meant "penempatan". Only when I reached Palbapang did I realized what he meant. "Perempatan" is a cross-junction of 4 roads. Later, I had no further problem when I asked a girl for another direction and she said "pertigaan". That would be a T-junction.

I had always admired Indonesians for their accurate use of words and their love at acronyms. I recalled a joke someone told me that a Maternity Hospital is Rumah Sakit Buatan Lelaki! That's taking it a little too far. I have yet to see any RSBL on my journeys in Indonesia.

Before reaching Palbapang, I noticed a Javanese wedding reception.

3 "warriors" in their traditional clothes were in waiting. I called them warriors because they carried the keris, not visible from the front but carried them on their backs.

So I approached them "cautiosly" with a big smile. "Bisa Pak ngambil gambar? Saya dari Malaysia, ngak pernah pengalaman kahwin begini!" Oops...lucky they didn't reply "Bisa cuba Pak.....". And if while replying they would have displayed their keris menacingly, then I would have no choice but to oblige! Ha...ha...

I would have prefered these Javanese recepetionists at the wedding to pose but under the watchful eyes of the warriors, I took a quick snap and certainly not happy with the result.

Bananas were hanging freely at the entrance to the house. Good for carbo-loading. I enquired about the bride and bride-groom. One of them mentioned that they were at the "gereja". I assumed this is a Christian-cum-Javanese wedding.

Reaching Palbapang past noon, I was ready for lunch. Saw a mid-size restaurant and landed myself there. Lunch was mee soup. I reconfirmed my final destination with one of the customers. He said it was about 20kms away. I would pass Srandaan and Trisek before reaching Glagah.

I therefore had plenty of time to kill and therefore spent some times in the restaurant, topping up my teh-o ice. Chatted up the owner who himself confessed he had not be to Glagah before. I proceeded on and the onward journey was the usual padi-field country.

Reaching the junction that leads to the Glagah beach, I chanced upon another Javanese wedding. This time, there was traditional music and I video-taped this occasion. The sound of the gong and gamelan is always soothing. Indonesians are great singers too. So was this lady, singing for the crowd.

The beach was roughly a kilometre from the road. Quite similar to Parang Tritis, the winds were strong too but there was also a sheltered bay. There were a few fishing boats in the bay. This one below caught my attention with its name "TAQWA". It was so apt. Fishermen risked their lives daily to earn a living. And with such a small boat and the rough sea and wind of this Javanese sea, the danger would be multiplied.

Judging from the crowds at this beach, Glagah is popular with the locals. Families came for picnic. I noticed this facility provided by an enterprising local. 100% air tawar to bathe after soaking in the sea. And dont forget to perform your prayers too! It also catered for wayfarers like me - AL' MUSAFIR

And there were several losmens here. I checked out these losemens as I cycled past and decided to settle in for the day at this one. It was new and clean. For IR60,000 (RM24), a great bargain.

Finally, I got myself a losmen quite close to the sea. Indeed a worthwhile third day in Java.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


DAY 3 Part 2 - Onwards from Parang Tritis


From Parang Tritis, I back-tracked towards Bantul. I recalled passing a road that would head west, the direction I would be heading for. At a cross junction in Kretek, I asked for direction from a policeman manning the junction. So far I came across two nicotine-sounding places.

"Mau kemana Pak?" asked the Policeman

"Cilacap" said I

"Seorang aja?" I nodded

"Oh...masih lumayan jaraknya"

"Ya, tapi saya bercadang tiba esok" in my best Indonesian slang

"Ya, jalan ini bisa" the policeman pointing to the left. "Hati hati Ya Pak!". I smiled. I thanked him, both for his direction and his sincere parting message. And during the course of this journey, knowing that I travelled alone, I received several more "Hati hati Ya Pak" from people on the road. It's said with utmost sincerity. Never for a moment did I felt insecure from this parting message. I felt a sense of caring and a sense of "wishing you well". I felt good.

I was into padi-field country, wide open space, as flat as fields should be. Every where, there were activities. I recalled my tour of Minangkabau country in November as I cycled through the padi fields at Danau Singkarak.

The major means of transport for the villages were the classic bicycles, the ONTHEL that I first saw in Candi Prambanan. They were all very old and rustic looking. These bicycles must have served their masters for decades.

I can't help but admired these two bikes huddled together - his and hers. Through thick and thin, the farmer and his wife would be toiling the good earth that returned them with good harvest. They would have cycled together, inseperably chalked hundreds of kilometers, from young till old age. They would remain together till death do they part. So romantic!

This would be the moment too that I regretted trading weight for convenience. If I had brought my heavier Canon EOS with the accompanying telephoto and wide-angle lenses, I could spend a few hours photographing here.

The day was just marvellous. The sky was blue, the clouds great and most importantly, the subjects were aplenty. If only I had my Polarizer filter and of-course my EOS.

I cycled on.

I stopped at a small group of 2 ladies and a man extracting padi from the stalks. I was quite used to see farmers thrashing or beating the padi stalks into a container. In Kelantan, we called it "Mmukul padi". In my teenage years, scores of farmers from my kampong would temporarily migrate to Kedah seeking work in the large padi-fields of Kedah. They would go there to "mmukul padi and "ngetae (harvest) padi".

But what would you call the activity that used cycling technique to seperate the padi from the stalks? "Ggateh padi" I guessed! And this is what they were doing. Certainly less strenous and the cardio benefit was immense. Forgot to check whether they were using Shimano 105 or Dura Ace group set...ha..ha..!

I chatted with bapak Sugiyanto. Pretty educated. He wrote down his address in my notebook and I promised to send him his pose and also the photo of his wife "cycling the padi."

I complimented that the Javanese are hard-working people. The lands were never left idle. The moment the padi got harvested, the field would be cleared of the left-overs, re-tilled and prepared for cash-crops. The channels they dug were also in perfect alignment, dug by hand. Maize, chilly, tomatoes would be planted as soon as padi harvesting was over.

As the weather was heating up, I decided a shelter would be ideal to peel a few oranges I brought along to fill my stomach. A well deserved rest and a short snooze. Pray I dont wake up at dusk.



The map above was scanned from the Jogja city map found at the airport. My planned trip was to cycle south to Parang Tritis beach, via Bantul. Then, I would swing west to end at Cilacap.
Returning from Prambanan on Day 2, I decided it was time to head out into the countryside and explore. I would first travelled South of Jogja to Parang Tritis. Then swing west to my ultimate destination at Cilacap, roughly 200 kms from Jogja. I chose not to take the main highway. Instead, from the detailed map that I had, compliment from an Indonesian friend, Bapak Rachmad, I planned to cycle and seek out the villages as much as possible. I knew I could also rely on people on the road, who would usually point me in the right direction.

Day 3 being a Sunday, I anticipated less vehicles on the road. I left early. Paid IR80,000 for my 2-night stay and headed out into Marlioboro. No sooner had I reached the street, I was greeted with loud music. Part of Marlioboro was closed. Sundays would be aerobic days for residents! Shame on us lazy bones who hugged our pillows on sunday mornings.

Every age group were there. Old, not so old, children, mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers. It was a great sight to see population of various generations gyrating to the beat of aerobic music, most with un-cordinated moves but all for one purpose - the pursuit of a healthy activity.

This man above wore a self-explanatory T-shirt, and he "danced" ever so sloooowwwllyy and you know why of-course. Alhamdulillah, I'm still "Ostine free"!

I moved on towards my first destination, Parang Tritis. PT is a beach-front and I told myself, if the location is suitable, I'd spend my first night here. Located about 30kms south of Jogja, it was a pleasant ride through several kampungs.

Reaching Bantul, a town about 15kms from Jogja, I was greeted by this "warrior" by the roadside. Guessed I had to behave here. "Permisi Pak" !

As if the "warrior" was not enough, another "face" was looking at me as I continued my cycling! "Ngak bikin apa-apa Pak. Tumpang lalu aja Pak. Bisa ya Pak" And as I said in my earlier posting in Minangkabau country last Nov, everything in Indonesia is "poison"!

It was also harvest time and I would see the harvesting-related activities throughout my journey to Cilacap.

There was this river that captured my attention. If this was Solo, this could be Bengawan Solo...ah...that beautiful song of yesteryears.

Arriving at Parang Tritis beach, I was greeted with fierce winds and waves. I must add, very fierce winds. There were signs forbidding swimming in the sea. Earlier, I was imagining booking myself into a cozy losmen, relaxed by the beach, read a book and write while gazing at the setting sun.

No losmen, nor any dwelling was built by the beach. Where I was standing, the wind was so strong that it swept up loose fine sand. Worse, the fine sand glued onto my oily bike chains. So I make haste and had to move on. Good-bye setting sun.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008



When one travels alone, one is at liberty to alter the route at one's own fancies. That's the beauty of solo travel, amongst other reasons. My itinerary was quite flexible, either to start moving out of Jogja into the countryside today or to remain in Jogja. I chose the latter. I decided to cycle to Prambanan and visit the Prambanan Temples first. Since Prambanan is under 20kms from where I lodged in, it would be an excellent introduction to more cycling in the days ahead.

I woke up early as usual, but breakfast was painfully late. The locals probably had breakfast at home, so eating shops were few and opened late. I was in no hurry, but my stomach was in need of top-up in a hurry. It was however, only at 9am that I managed to have breakfast. People here are like the Kelantanese. They have rice for breakfast, not Nasi Berlauk or Nasi Dagae but Nasi Padang look-alike. I called it look-alike because it lacked the usual arrays of the numerous dishes typical of Nasi Padang.

I cycled around Marlioboro and the surrounding areas to familiarise myself with this section of Jogjakarta. After all, this would be my base. I would return after a few days of my cycling out to the countryside back to Marlioboro.

The route that I took to Prambanan covered a distance of 24kms and just within 1 hour I was there. Paid IR1,000 to park my speda. My speda had no lock but somehow I was quite confident that it would still be there when I returned.

Candi Prambanan is a World Heritage site. A World Heritage site is a site designated by UNESCO as being of special historical, cultural or natural importance.

Looking at the structure up-close, the temple was constructed out of massive slabs cut to the shapes and sizes that eventually formed the temple structure. It would be a massive project of great effort and commitment. Human capabilities are immense. These slabs would have to be cut from boulders using tools which would be very inferior by today's equipment. Without the CAD drawing that designers and architects of today could not do without, one wondered how the people of the ancient, built great buildings that stood the test of time.

This period was the school holidays and there were already crowds arriving for the visit. Entry fee was IR8,000, very affordable to everyone.

There were still massive slabs scattered around in one area. There was an earthquake several years earlier and some parts of the building were brought down by the quake. Refurbishment work was under way and visitors were fenced off at certain locations.

The whole area is big. There is also a musuem within the complex and a mini-theatre where one could watch a video presentation of the history of the temple complex. There was also a courtyard and I chanced upon a function, which included a fashion show. On this trip, I planned to travel light and therefore carried Raqim's (my son) trustworthy Panasonic digital camera. If I had carried my heavier EOS Canon, I could probably spent sometimes photographing these beautiful Javanese .......... clothings

A nice cozy restaurant was also found in the complex. Slightly upmarket by Indonesian standard, it was mainly patronage by foreigners, me included. It had a nice ambience with plenty of local artificats and crafts. What caught my eyes had to be the Othell speda. I need to research why it's callled an Othell.

And I would see plenty of these spedas as I cycled past the numerous villages much later in my journey.

I saw this very colorful mosque minaret on the way to Prambanan but decided to capture it upon my return since by then, the sun would be in my favor. Must be quite an effort to paint the minarets.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


JULY 4TH 2008 (Day 1)

A mountain peak loomed above the clouds on my left, as the Air Asia plane prepared for landing at the Adi Sujipto airport at the outskirt of Jogjakarta. Could that be Mt Merapi, the active volcano that last erupted in 2006? I did a mental note to visit Mt Merapi. The mountain range make way for flat fertile land as the plane lose height and Jogjakarta came into view. Somewhere in the plane's belly was my trusty Merida MTB, converted into a touring bike, my means of transport for the next 7 days as I explored a small portion of Java Island. Java is so huge that it would take months to soak in all the various landscapes and culture, and its people.

Touching down in late afternoon, a flower girl was waiting, certainly not to garland this lone traveller who only had his bicycle as companion. But sometimes, we lived on hopes and its hopes and faith that kept one going.

I quickly looked for a spot to assemble my bike. A taxi driver, hoping to bag me as a passenger approached, but wasn't disappointed that I would have my own transport. He was still friendly when I asked for direction to Jogjakarta. Welcome to Javanese hospitality.

It took me about 45mins to assemble my bike and rode out into the traffic. The ride was pleasant enough, traffic slightly heavy. My destination would be Marlioboro, only 10kms away. Noticed the almost similar spelling with a nicotine brand.

Spedamoto (motorcycles) were in large numbers but surprisingly I didn't notice any "rempit-like" behaviors. Bechak (trishaw) were also present in large numbers.

Wan Malik, a seasoned traveller, was in Jogja a few weeks earlier. He had booked me into Losmen Pak Budi. A losmen is a real budget accomodation, down to the very basic. Losmen Pak Budi is located in a lane (called Gang), a stone's throw behind the busy and famous Marlioboro street. The Gang boasted several other losmens of different sizes and price ranges. Though called a "gang", there were no gangsters as I made way in the gang. There were on the other hand, activities typical of a small narrow street.

For one on a cycling tour (hence a real budget tour), Losmen Pak Budi therefore met the criteria to a tee! It had to be the cheapest of the cheap --- memang cheap skate la! One night stay costs me the price of one spare tube, IR40,000 about RM15 ha...ha...

"Checking in" upon arrival, Pak Budi and his wife welcomed me with a glass of warm tea. Morning and evening tea were included in the rate. My room, which is a room in Pak Budi's house, came with attached mini bathroom-cum-squatting toilet with a water-filtered tap. A thick cloth tied around the tap was the "filter". Mosquitoes (though not in large numbers) came with the package on my first night. A gentle comment the following day got me a mosquito repellant which worked wonders.

I showered, refreshed and tested the bed. Bed OK and clean. I had to lower the windows otherwise the kids playing outside could peep in. A good rest and very soon it was getting dark and the stomach was ready for food.

I made my way into Marlioboro street. It was choked with jay-walkers and peddlars selling anything and everything. The already narrow road were made worse by the becak and the horse-carriages. It was after all Friday night and following day is a weekend. I took a quick tour, not wanting to stop too long for the peddlars to invite me to their stalls. I need to look rather disinterested and I was actually. My focus guessed right....makan.

Nasi Padang (what else) was available.


19TH JULY 2008
It started with an unofficial gathering a week before. A wedding invitation from a classmate, Rahim Hj Mohd. Six classmates from GEST (Government English School Tumpat) attended the wedding. There were Majid, Razak, Beng Gee and yours truly with our spouses. Coming solo were Heng Tao and Kamaruddin. Our unofficial meeting of old classmates felt that it was time for another meeting of old friends. Beng Gee kindly agreed to sponsor and we would hold it in July. Come August 1, Kamarudin would be flying back to South Africa where he "lives" until his wife gets transferred to another country.

Being an efficient retired Senior Police Officer, Rtd SAC I Dato' Wee Beng Gee (the official version) quickly sms'd the proposed gathering at Restoran Baloh, located somewhere in Damansara. Menu? What else if not Nasi Dagae and Laksae and Akok for desert.

So this day, saw a long overdue arrival of 15 classmates, some have not met one another for several years while in between some of them, have not met each other for a good 30 years.

The guest of honor had to be Mr Tan Kok Hong. No free high-tea for the Cik Gu for he was "invited" to say a few words. At a sprightly age of 73, we the "boys and girls" of his Std 1 class of 1957 certainly could listen to words of wisdom and health from Mr Tan. We all recalled Mr Tan as a great athlete. Back in 1960, he did 10.9 sec and 21.9 sec respectively for the 100m and 200m event in a sports meet. His 200m record is still standing till today! Syabas Cik Gu.

Something told me that LINDA WEE and SITI ESAH may not have met since they left school. It's moments like this that makes meeting up with old friends forever meaningful. Linda is a retired nurse and Siti remained a faithful housewife eversince she left school.

On the opposite pole, Kamaruddin (left) and Wan Mamat had been in touch regularly though Wan Mamat retired in Trengganu and Kamaruddin is a jet-setter who had been living overseas for a considerably long time. Back in 2005 when I was doing my cycling tour around Peninsular Malaysia, Wan Mamat had been one of those who kept track of my progress and invited me to speak on Cycling for Health to his KETENGAH staff.

And here we have Kamaruddin inviting friends to come visit him in South Africa. Just pay for your flight tickets there and he'll be the host. We unanimously agreed that we'll have to wait for Air Asia or Firefly to fly there before we plan a visit program.

Razak (left) and Rahim were two sportmen of yesteryears. I recalled Razak as a superstar in his prime days, an athlete as well as a great footballer. What happened to him now is best to ask him.

Rahim, another great footballer though, remained with little excess baggage. Rahim retired as a sportscaster with RTM. As a sportscaster, he retained his youth. I recalled once he wanted to interview me for a golf tournament held at Saujana, where I used to work. While I used to be on air regularly, I refused to be interviewed by him. I didn't think it would be easy for any Kelantanese to speak proper bahasa when he knew the interviewer is also a Kelantanese! Kawae takut gelechoh wei!

Two other classmates are Aw Heng Tao (right) and Gan Eng Thuan. Heng Tao is a PERFUSIONIST. Know what profession it is? Well, it's the person who handles the heart and lung machine for someone undergoing a heart bypass. Er...Heng Tao, we hope we only meet you during occassions like this old boys gathering or at IKEA or One-Utama.

I'm sure Gan Eng Thuan, an active golfer would agree. He now manages a transportation company, rightly so after retiring from KTM recently.

Another retired Sr Police Officer is Rtd SAC II Dato' Majid Abdullah. He was an import from Pt Klang. His late father was transferred to Tumpat as a Train Driver in the late 50s but made Tumpat their permanent resident. Majid's spoken loghat is not a suspect having lived and schooled in Tumpat until he joined the Police Force. He retired as Deputy CPO Negri Sembilan and now lives in Seremban.

Wee Cheng Boon (Alwi Abdullah) retired as MAS fleet manager, managing the MAS vans that picked and drop the pilots, stewards and stewardesses. He was one of the band-boys in Tumpat, contributing his vocal chords during concerts and talentimes.

And then there is Ang Lian Lian who speaks perfect Queen's English. And why not? Lian is married to orang putih lah and together with hubby Mike, had travelled almost all the beaten tracks of this world. I kept touch quite often with Lian because of our common interest in travel.

I had left Tumpat when Lor Ean Sor (left) came to join the class. She's a real-estate agent. I believe she had left Tumpat a long time ago but still maintained her loghat when talking to her classmates.

I had to leave Rosli Salleh last. Look at him. Slim since before. Sour grapes like us called him skinny. Jet black hair and plenty to show off to us mere mortals. I asked him whether it's original and he challenged me to pull the hair. Sorry babe, I don't caress men's hair....yeach...too greasy too.

And he had the attention of the ladies too.

Anyway, all good things must come to an end. Before we parted companies, a group photo is a must.

First, only the classmates with Mr Tan

Then, surely must also be with the spouses

Till we meet again, hopefully, with everyone here and many others.