Friday, August 29, 2008


Day 7 would be my last day in Jogja. Tomorrow would be sayonara. So this day saw me waking up early as usual, with a fixed program of visiting Borobudur. Borobudur would be 50kms from Jogja. In the early morning that I left my losmen in Marlioboro, the weather was still cool. Traffic was just building up as office-workers were making their way to work.

I had some bread to prop my stomach, planning to have a good breakfast upon reaching Borobudur. Traffic police were seen at most junctions as I cycled along the main road to Borobudur.

About 20kms from Borobudur, I came across this welcome sign SELAMAT DATANG DI JAWA TENGAH. I stationed my bike against the stupa, the symbol that is synonamous with Borobudur and took this shot.

Later, I branched off from the main highway towards Borobudur. When I arrived, it was still pretty early. The restaurants were just about to be opened. I went into one, Nasi Padang breakfast (what else!) Had my fill and made my way to the parking lot. I paid the parking fee and parked my bike besides the parking office. The attendant gladly accepted my helmet and glove for safe-keeping. "Bisa Pak" when I request them to leave my helmet at the office.

Almost immediately, I was approached by a lady offering for sale, caps and hats of various colors. "Panas Pak" confidently telling me, probably noting that I "need" it more than others. I bought a hat, thinking that I could also use it for gardening back home. No sooner had I completed this transaction, a young man approached me. He must be thinking this man is "easy meat". "Sobenir Pak" offering me a replica of Borobudur. "Terima kasih, tidak mahu". He followed me and continued to offer, the price reduced with every "tidak mahu". Noting that I was no easy meat, he changed tactic.

"Biar saya jadi guide untuk bapak. Saya bisa ambil gambar untuk bapak". "Terima kasih, tidak mahu".

"Nanti tidak ada orang nak ambil gambar untuk bapak. Guide disini harganya 40,000. Saya murah aja Pak". This guy was persistent.

"Berapa?" aha, I was weakening.

"Ikut suka bapak"

"Rumit kalau begitu. Berapa?"

He became my tourist guide. I was glad I employed him. His name is Solikin, a young man in early 20's, recently married. So, I finally got a chance to pose. And pose I did!
Pose # 1
Before entering Borobudur

Pose # 2

Pose # 3
At the Stupa

Solikin could not qualify as a tour guide. He did not know much about the history. But he knew how to take my photos. He was smart too. He enticed me with a trip to see Mount Merapi, that elusive volcano that I failed to capture on my train ride to Solo. He said we would rent a spedamoto, travelled through the villages to Kaliurang, one of the foothills of Mount Merapi. Offer was too good to refuse. We started bargaining again!


"Terpulang pada Bapak", noting that this same statement worked earlier!

"Ngak boleh begitu. Berapa ongkos sewa spedamoto?"

Soon, we left Borobudur and I found myself a pillion-rider, headed for Mount Merapi. Dear elusive Mount Merapi, here I come!

We passed several villages. Solikin took shortcuts which only the locals would know. The weather was grey with threatening rain. It was cool. Passing a stream, I noticed black rocks. It was larvae from past eruptions. The lands here though were fertile from the volcanic ash. Vegetables abound.

The road began to climb and the Yamaha was protesting as we headed up and up towards the foothills of Gunung Merapi. No signs of Merapi. The weather was misty and I was feeling chilly. We reached the foothill and I was greeted with this view.

Merapi had eluded me once again! It was a wash-out. On a clear day, Merapi would be visible from this look-out point. The caretaker was sympathetic. "Tunggu Pak, mungkin matahari keluar dan cuaca bertukar. Nanti bisa melihat Merapi". So I waited, and waited, and waited.

While waiting, we went into the office. He invited me to visit the bunker.

Made of very thick concrete, the bunker would be the safe haven for staff should Merapi erupt. Entering it gave a feeling of being trapped. One could even feel claustrophobic inside it. There was also a viewing window made of very thick glass to view the larvae flow. It also had a thick hatch to close the window. Would it stand the massive heat of molten rock? I certainly would not want to be there to test it.

A seismograph to measure the movement of Merapi was on, 24 hours a day, monitored by the care-taker. It looked primitive by today's sophisticated system. The monitor showed moving graphs. To a layman, the graphs looked pretty similar to those in any hospital when your body is wired for medical observation!

I continued waiting. My tour guide Solikin was patient. He could wait the whole day he said. After all, his day's earning was already secured. Merapi remained elusive. Past lunch hour, I told him we should head back to Borobudur. A final glance at the foothill. You have won, Merapi!

We had another round of Nasi Padang at another restaurant in Borobudur. Later Solikin brought me around to visit his village and view Borobudur from another angle. I took a shot of him with Borobudur in the background.

It was getting late in the afternoon and after saying goodbye to Solikin, I decided to take the bus back to Jogja, with my bike as additional luggage. It was a fruitful day. Merapi would have to wait another visit, another time.

I ended my 1 week exploring Jogjakarta and its surrounding on a satisfactory note. I loved the countryside. I loved its people. I loved its food. I loved its crowd. I blended in well. Alhamdulillah. I carried the fond memories with me on this "becak".

Selamat Jalan. Sampe ketemu lagi

Saturday, August 16, 2008



I had planned for a "light and easy" day on Day 6 with a trip to SOLO. It will be "light" as I would only carry my camera. It would be "easy" as I will take the train to SOLO. The train is actually a komuter train, much like ours in K.L. but it's called PRAMEX, short for Prambanan Express. PRAMEX runs every 45 mins (I think) Marlioboro - Solo - Marlioboro. Where I lodged in, it was only a 5 mins walk to the station.

The morning crowd was there, commuters going to work. It was just like those occassions when I took the KTM Komuter from Subang Jaya to KL. Only the sceneries were different. The morning was cool. About 20 mins in the train, I could faintly see Mount Merapi on my left in the far distance. Capturing Mt Merapi on my camera was a total disappointment. It would otherwise been an excellent view if visibility was superb. Padi-fields continued to dot the landscape for most of the journey. So, Mount Merapi had eluded me this time.

Recalling back while planning for this trip back home, it was a toss between flying in through SOLO or through JOGJAKARTA. I chose Jogja because the flight was cheaper. It could have been Solo too. Jogja is just about 50kms away from Solo. One wondered why Air Asia chose to fly to both cities.

SOLO had a tint of nostalgia, not because I had visited it before. The nostalgia of SOLO got to be from its classic BENGAWAN SOLO, the keroncong that I hummed and sang in my teenage years. The lyrics goes like this .......

Bengawan Solo....Riwayatmu ini
Sedari dulu jadi... Perhatian insani

Musim kemarau, Tak seberapa airmu
Dimusim hujan air.. Meluap sampai jauh

Mata airmu dari Solo....Terkurung gunung seribu
Air meluap sampai jauh.....Dan akhirnya ke laut

Itu perahu...Riwayatnya dulu
Kaum pedagang selalu... Naik itu perahu

Searching the Wikipedia, I got the following info on Bengawan Solo:

Bengawan Solo is a famous Indonesian song about the Bengawan Solo River, which flows through central and eastern Java, Indonesia and is that island's longest river.

The song describes the legendary river in a poetic and nostalgic way, that it is surrounded by mountains, its sources are near the city of
Surakarta, that it ends in the sea, and that the merchant class always makes use of it.
Written in 1940 by
Gesang Martohartono, it is in the local kroncong style, a popular folk style with influences from Portuguese. The Japanese, who occupied the country during World War II, brought the song with them to Japan after returning from the war. There, and also in the rest of Asia and later worldwide, the song became very famous.

The song's widespread popularity began soon after its composition, and locally it is strongly associated with the period of war occupation and the society of the times. In 1940 Gesang, then a young, destitute and untrained musician, composed the song on a bamboo flute and began to sing it at local functions and gatherings in his hometown of Surakarta.

It soon became well-known and liked among the local Javanese community; the song then achieved national acclaim after it was broadcast to a wider audience by various radio stations.

The melodies of the song also appealed to both the occupying Japanese soldiers, and the non-Indonesian prisoners (mainly Dutch civilians) in the internment camps. The song was taken back to Japan by the returning soldiers, where it (with the lyrics translated to Japanese) gained great popularity after various singers such as
Toshi Matsuda released recorded versions of it which became best-sellers. The song has become almost synonymous with the perception of Indonesian music in Japan.

Solo was formerly known as SURAKARTA. But I guess I don't want to delve too much into the history.

By the way, there are now 2 songs that relate to my 2 cycling trips in Indonesia thus far - Ayam Den Lopeh (Minangkabau) and Bengawan Solo (for the current trip).

I will be doing a 15-day cycling trip to Sulawesi in Jan 2009. I should start searching for the appropriate song for Sulawesi, something Bugis.

Anyway my mission to SOLO was not to discover the river Solo. It was to visit the Kraton, once the palace of the Sultans, now turned into a musuem. There would be lots of history of its glory days. But as I said earlier, I was not on a historical journey. I was just one solo cyclist exploring a small portion of the Nusantara.

I arrived quite early. The Kraton was not crowded. As I entered, there was a certain quietness. I stopped at the first hall with several artifacts. This "DANDANG" caught my eyes. Shaped like a bell, the display explained that its a rice pot, a mighty huge one. It could probably feed 100 people at one serving, me being the 100th person!

Other artifacts filled up the rooms - armours of war, weapons such as bows and arrows, pistols and rifles and spears. But I was in no mood for war. I came in peace.

I prefered to imagine the lifestyle of the Sultans and his royalties. There appeared to be a strong western influence. This horse-carriage for instance would be more apt carrying the Queen of England.

And when I posed in front of it, I could be grossly mistaken as the Javanese stable-boy! The medal on my neck would be for long outstanding service. Hah!

And there was this Roman statue at the entrance to what I termed as the grand hall. It was difficult to relate the relationship between the Roman Empire and the Sultans of Java.

Across this grand hall was another "wakaf". I imagined that this was where the commoners wait, when paying homage to the royalty who could be in waiting at the grand hall. I must emphasise that this was purely my own story and imagination.

For entertainment, there were of course the court musicians and entertainers - mannequins dressed in the Javanese cultural dresses.

I caught the display of a "rebab". I called this the local violin, similar to the design of the rebab found in Kelantan. One wondered whether it was the Kelantanese who ventured this way or the Javanese who ventured the South China Sea and landed somewhere in the east coast of Tanah Melayu.

As I said earlier, I would not delve into history. There were of-course many other artefacts on display. Having toured the Kraton, I had some glimpse and perhaps some understanding of the life-style of the royalties in the early years of Java.

Making my way out of the Kraton, I noticed this traffic-light. It had outlived its usefullness but remained proudly there.

And there was this girl manning a small stall with an equally small dacing. I had to ask what she was waiting to weigh. You won't believe it. She was a small-time goldsmith. She bought gold! Included in her wares were some chemicals she used to measure or test the purity of the gold.

I smiled thinking of my mother's gold she wore on her arms. Perhaps I could stay in Solo for a year with one piece from her gold!

There was also this satay stall selling SATE KAMBING MUDA. I loved both satay and mutton but did not venture to try "young goat satay". Being young would have its virtues, but there would also be its pitfalls.

And Indonesia would always be remembered for its large monuments. This one caught my eyes. Would have been one of the fallen heroes. I zoomed in into the shot. I did not want to go too close. "He" had a gun!

I did not stay too long in Solo. Having toured the Kraton and a little sight-seeing, I took the PRAMEX back to Jogja.

Tomorrow, I would be cycling to Borobudur and wrap up my week's stay in and around Jogajakarta.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008



Cilacap is a town by the sea. Pretty modern and pretty big. There are several big hotels. I arrived by bus from Kroyo a day earlier, at about 4pm. I immediately asked for direction to the beach and cycled there looking for a losmen.
Fishing is a big industry here. There were the huge fishing boats moored at the jetty, meant for deep sea fishing. These fishing boats reminded me of my birthplace. My late father was once a fisherman, in a small village by the sea off Tumpat. I grew up as a fisherman's son, tasted a little bit of hardship in my growing up years. However, my father prospered and later owned several boats. Life became a lot easier. I tried deep-sea fishing once and I threw out everything from my gut. I recalled longing for solid ground the whole night i was rocked from side to side, up and down. That must have been my longest night. And I was 16!

Across Cilacap is an island, Nusa Kambangan. There is a prison there, something like The Alcatrazz. I did not venture there though I was told ferries ply there. Reason? Simple. Stay away as far as possible from prison!

There were of-course small time fishermen here too. They would venture a few kilometres off the coast and return daily. Their sampans were similar in design with those found at Glagah. These pictures were taken on my arrival in the evening and boats would have returned with their catch.

I decided not to stay too long in Cilacap since I have only 2 more days before flying back. I would need these 2 days to visit Solo and to tour Borobudur.

I found out express buses ply Cilacap - Jogjakarta daily. I booked the 10am bus, paid IR40,000 for my fare and another IR40,000 to the conductor for the bike, without receipt. I didn't want to argue with him though but I suspect he pocketed the bike fare.

The journey was in air-conditioned comfort, traversing the major road link to Jogja, passing several major towns of KEBUMEN, PURWOREJO and WATES. On my way to Cilacap, I had travelled the coastal village roads and I was glad I did that.

Back In Jogja, I cycled from the bus terminal back to Marlioboro. This time around, I decided to stay at a little bit "upmarket" losmen for IR75,000 a night. Reason? A lounge where I can sit and read and write.

Tomorrow would be solo in SOLO.

Sunday, August 3, 2008



Continuing on, I was soon into sugar-cane country. I didn't realize the sugarcane plants could be so tall. It's twice a man's height. In my case, perhaps 2.5 times my height!

I saw this traditional house by the road. There weren't many of such houses. The roof edges had a "horn-like" finish. There were no one around for me to ask the significance of the horns. Back in Minangkabau country, the sharp ended roofs were symbolic of the kerbaus (buffaloes) horns. I could only guess that probably here the locals reared goats, hence smaller horns.

And there was this well-kept graveyard with vacant plot. It appeared that the vacant plot was prepared for planting, though there was still no sign of any plantings yet. For hardworking Javanese, tilling the graveyard for planting would not come as a surprise.

As I cycled on, I saw a sign pointing to a beach. I took the turn and cycled in, passing through a village. A Tsunami warning for evacuation was displayed. The southern coast of Java was also ravaged by Tsunami. This reminded me of my Phuket ride in Apr 2006 where Tsunami evacuation notices were also prominently displayed.

My first goal today was to reach Tg Karangbolong, which would be a promontory by the sea. I would decide from there whether I would proceed to Cilacap the same day or would break the journey here.

As I took a short rest, I saw a mountain range on the skyline. I was telling myself that the mountain range would probably tapered off before I reached Tg Karangbolong. Fresh from the killer mountain of Chiengrai in May, I was not too excited at the prospect of another climb so soon.

I was on a bridge when I shot the picture of this estuary. I was nearing Tg Karangbolong. I loved this view!

However, up ahead, the view was menacing. Beautiful but no thank you! The hope for the mountain range tapering off was merely wishful thinking. I sensed I would be going right smack into it. How high, how far was anybody's guess.

As I crossed the bridge, I entered a roundabout. The sign showed 40kms to Cilacap and about 10kms to Karangbolong and I had to turn left. It was past noon. The thought of overnighting at Karangbolong vanished as I arrived there. There were no indication of much activities. And no sooner had I passed Karangbolong, the road snaked upwards. The slope was manageable as I reached the first peak. Not so bad I thought though my Polar was already showing a higher heart beat. After a short downhill, I came to another uphill. I cycled on but it was getting heavier. Both the bicycle and the breathing felt heavy. Up to a point, I stopped for a breather. It would have to be a push from there on. I pushed and pushed, corner after corner and always hoping the last corner would be the last.

I finally reached this DESA SRATI, hoping this would be the last peak. Trying to cheer myself up, I told myself that I would find good food here - GULAI SRATI ! "Srati" in Kelantan dialect comes from the same family with "itek" or ducks. Srati is a delicacy in Kelantan and how I longed for it now.

But there was only one sundry shop. No Srati but plenty of Roti! Since it was pst noon, I decided to take a long rest here and "eat" the Roti. With each bite, I imagined it as Srati. I smiled. I was conscious that no one saw me smiling while eating Roti. My memories went back to 1996 on a train ride from Bangkok with my brother, bound for Golok. The cafe in the train served very delicious food. We saw mouth-watering fried chickens but they were non-halal. We were hungry. We joked that we would eat our bread and visualized that we were biting off the fried-chicken with every bite. Same scenario, different place. I wished my brother Mahmood was with me in Desa Srati now!

The sundry-shop owner told me there were 3 other hills that I need to cover before I crossed over the range. How steep would be a matter of perception. For the owner, quite used to tackling the hill on a motorcycle, it would still be effortless. I saw no bicycles on this road.

It was a great downhill for about 3kms and then I was again pushing the bike. As I stopped for a breather, there was this old passenger van from the opposite direction that stopped almost where I was. The driver reversed. He off-loaded old tree-trunks and was ready to go my direction. God send! I put my bike in and hopped in too. I was sure glad of the timing. We were speeding up and down towards Pantai Ayah. Who cares about the steep slope anymore. The driver could only gave me a smile when I asked why the beach was called Pantai Ayah (Father's Beach).

I could have over-nighted here as there were losmens availavable. However, I felt I should proceed on to Cilacap. Reaching Pantai Ayah and looking back at the hill that I had just crossed, I was more than happy to give an extra tip for the van ride.

For the extra tip, I got extra information. Buses to Cilacap were readily available but I first got to make my way to KROYO. After waiting for about 15 mins, the last bus to Kroyo arrived and I transferred myself from a van to a bus to Kroyo and onwards to Cilacap.

Saturday, August 2, 2008



I paid for my one night stay when I checked in. This would free me to leave at the first light of dawn if I wished to, without the need to disturb the caretaker of the losmen. The sun was just breaking the horizon when I got ready to leave. I posed for this pic to remember this "Primitif" Losmen. Nothing primitive about it. I enjoyed my stay in a clean room. I had some biscuits purchased earlier to fill my stomach for the early ride.

This day was MONDAY, Monday blues for city dwellers. Back home at this hour, the highways would have been choked with traffic. Over here, people went to work too. They have no Kancils, MyVi's, BMW's or the Mercedes. They all cycled only one kind of vehicle - the ONTHEL. And they got aerobic exercises on the way to work.

It was a nice sight to see. In groups of 4 or 5, they cycled together to work. Their "panniers" were empty. Almost all wore their multipurpose "helmets". Their hardened hands would not require gloves. Certainly no padded pants necessary for their bottoms. They were born with their "Shimano shoes". Barefooted they cycled, most of them. I doubt it was due to poverty. It was more for practicality. Their cycling attires were their working attires. As I photographed them, they were also looking at this overdressed traveller. In their minds, they must be thinking, "what an expensive to cycle".

When the day was over, on their return journey, they would be carrying loads that only their steel ONTHEL bikes could carry. These bales of padi were heavy. I saw a man requiring help trying to right his ONTHEL laden with the padi bale. I actually missed capturing a man carrying a wooden bed precariously on his bicycle!

I reported earlier that once the padi was harvested, cash crops replaced the padi. Here, a couple and their daughters were manning their smallholdings. The shrub-looking plants were "cabae" in their Indon language, or "cabai" to us. The taller plants were maize.

They also had an economical way of frying the maize. I'll use the acronym PALD - Peel And Let Dry. It would also be eco-friendly. This is what I called "a-maize-ing".

The crops were also in abundance. It should be, with bold advertising like this one. TONG BES, TUNG SAR - Tongkol Besar, Untung Besar. Again "a-maize-ing"!

I would like to add....KAN NYAK, DAN SAR - Makan Banyak, Badan Besar! Just like the lady in the ad. Didn't she resembled our very own Pop Diva?

Just across the road of this advertisement was a restaurant. I stopped here for my breakfast, my eyes still on the Tong Bes...Tung Sar