Friday, August 28, 2009


We woke up early. We had breakfast delivered to the room and enjoyed the room service without any extra charge. We packed and were ready to roll out to begin the tour. But it was not to be so soon. Muhamud's rear tyre had a flat. His first test on this tour.

I usually carry 1 spare tube on a short tour of a week. Muhamud too brought one spare tube. However, his spare tube was useless. The valve was too big to insert in the bike rim. Sometimes these are the little things one took for granted. This would be something he would not forget on his future trips.

So out came my spare tube. OK, can fit his rim. Now I would be without a spare tube and it would not be a comforting thought. So, he made sure he carried along the leaked tube to be repaired. In Indonesia, there are plenty of "TEMPEL BAM" stalls along the road. "Tempel" means patch. "Bam" is tube in Indonesian language.

The effort delayed us for about 30 mins. So after a quick photoshoot in front of the hotel, the two brothers were off for our 6-day cycling tour of Minangkabau country. We headed for Solok, roughly 60 kms east of Padang. From there we would head for Danau Singkarak for our overnight stay.

In the early morning of Saturday, traffic was still manageable and we made good progress. We came across a TEMPEL BAM stall just after about 10kms of cycling. This was in Marapalam.

Back home, you go to a bike shop to repair your puncture and you would be offered to purchase a new tube instead. There is no money in patching tubes. Not so in Indonesia. Their method though crude, worked.

The process started with heating the plate where the patched tyre would be placed under pressure. While the plate heated up, the area around the puncture would be sandpapered and a tar-like glue was spread evenly around. Then, a small patch from an old tube would be placed on the puncture to close the hole. To ensure complete air-proof, the patched part would then be screwed down to the hot place and heated up to ensure a good bind. The heated plate would be constantly checked.

Then began the wait for the patch to be good. No timer required. Through experience, the repairman knew when to remove the tube from the hot plate, otherwise we would have a melted tube. The whole process took about 20 mins. Cost to us was IR 5,000 (RM1.50), 10% the cost of a new tube.

While waiting, we struck a conversation with a salesman selling Proton cars. The showroom was opened a month back and they had sold 7 Wajas. I failed to jot down the price sold in Indonesia, but I believed it is cheaper than the Waja sold in Malaysia. Toyotas and Hondas are the more popular brands here.

Moving on, we came to a market. Being a weekend, the road was choker blocked. The spill over closed one lane of the two-lane road and we had to push the bike. There were just too many heavily-laden lorries too competing with the other vehicles.

I had told Muhamud earlier that a steep hill awaited us. Just like on my earlier trip, I bet he did not figure out how steep the hill would be. So there it was, looming up ahead waiting for these two cyclists.

To attempt to climb would be a folly. We had no records to beat, nor anything to prove to anyone. Safety always remain priority number One. Cycling up would raise my heart-rate to max, a situation I would want to avoid, especially since the heart beat will stay maxed for a considerable length of time.

We waited for a suitable vehicle to come by and to request for a lift. Luck was on our side. 15mins into the waiting, a passenger van stopped near us and a passenger alighted with several bales of fruit products.This left some space in the van. Inside there were still 3 schoolchildren and 1 lady. Putting the 2 bikes in would cramp their seating position. It is of course common for passenger vehicles in Indonesia to carry non-passenger items. I recalled at a village near Cilacap on my Jogjakarta trip last year, a van carried tree trunks!

So in my imitated Indon language, I negotiated with the driver
"Bisa bawa speda ke atas Pak, ke Setinjau Lauik" pointing my hand to the top of the hill.
"Bisa" he said.
"Berapa Pak?" He knew we were not Indons.
"Berapa Pak mahu bayar?" He asked back. This guy is smart. He knew he did not want to under-quote.
"40,000". I knew he would have accepted if I play hard. But I did not want to.
"50,000" he countered. What's an extra RM3.50. Done!
The next challenge was to fit the 2 bikes in the space. The 3 schoolchildren and the elderly lady were helpful. They make space at their expense, and they did not seem to mind.

So Muhamud sat in the rear with the other passengers and I was in front with the driver. I had all these funny stuff hanging on the front screen.. Amongst others, the "baboon" or whatever the creature was, was staring into my face.
The driver too had items hanging in front of him. Could he drive safely with all those items blocking his view? "Ah, di Indonesia semua nya bisa Pak". Indeed, pray nothing happened, otherwise it could be very "bisa" for us. By the way, I had purchased a Public Accident policy for both of us, a must in my travelling check list.

Checking my altitude on my Polar cyclo-cum-heart rate monitor, we were at 80m above sea level at the point of taking the van. We started at sea-level from Padang. In no time, the altitude was clocking higher altitudes and by the time we reached Setinjau Lauik, we were at 1,000m above sea-level, over roughly 8 kms distance. IR40,000 (RM14) for two passengers and 2 bikes were indeed worthwhile.

Setinjau Lauik is a view point. "Setinjau" would be "meninjau" in BM and "Lauik" is I believe the Minang version of "laut". Indeed from this view point, one could see Padang below and could also see the Indian Ocean.

Setinjau Lauik was not actually the peak. There was another 2kms of uphill but my contract with the driver was only up to Setinjau Lauik. He was reluctant to go beyond. Well, a 2kms push would be manageable.

The air was pleasantly cool and breezy which makes the effort of pushing less tiring. We came across a welcome sign, welcoming us to Kabupaten Solok. We stopped for a photo shoot, up above my pose were "fruits" hanging from the pillar. I prayed theses "fruits" would not suddenly ripen and fall off. If it does then Muhamud, my younger brother would enjoy free fruits, at my expense!

Of course, we joked about it. If only they were real fruits! Anyway, when we were at the real peak, the signboard below was for real. We need not care whether "MINTUO" or "MINMUDO".

We just felt we deserved this!


24th July 2009

Padang in Sumatera was in my itinerary for July 2009. It would be a second visit for me, a first for my younger sibling Muhamud. Reaching out for a brochure, I learnt that 2008 was Visit Indonesia year. A year late. It matters not for we do not expect a welcome ceremony for 2 inconspicuos cyclists doing a cycling tour of the Sumbar region, better known as the land of the Minangkabaus.

I did not find out what Sapta Pesona meant, found on the brochure. I do know though that this second visit was because I was "terpesona" with this region - with its people, its culture, its landscape and its food!

As this would be the first "pesona" experience for my younger sibling, we would tour the same route that I toured solo during my first ride back in Nov 2007.

Day 1 would be the ride from the airport to Padang. This will be a short ride. Day 2 would be Padang to Danau (Lake) Singkarak via Solok. A hilly terrain awaits us.

Day 3 would be a ride around the lake to Pagaruyung where we would drop in to the Minangkabau-style Palace and later proceed on to Bukit Tinggi. After Pagaruyung, another hilly terrain route before Bukit Tinggi await us.

Day 4 would be a rest & recreation day in Bkt Tinggi before we moved downhill to Danau Maninjau on Day 5. I hope to secure the same hotel by the lake in Danau Maninjau and visit the birthplace of the famous Ulama Pak HAMKA.

Day 6 would bring us to the coast, to Pariaman where we would overnight before cycling back to Padang on our last leg of the tour.

As the AirAsia plane circled for touchdown, I could see a long coastline of Padang. I recalled a phrase we coined - between the mountain and the sea. Padang is flat, but wait till one reaches the hinterland. The mountain would smile at these two mere mortals on a fully laden touring bike.

My focus shifted to a "robin-crusoe" island off the Padang coastline. Would be a prime location for a boat-wreck castaway story. Can't do a bike story though, for how on earth could a bicycle got there in the first place! Even the great P Ramlee couldn't direct such a story. Such was the wild idea in my head. Dreaming is free, I smiled at myself.

Minangkabau International airport, roughly 25kms from the city welcomed you with that familiar Minangkabau-styled architecture. Collecting our luggage and bike-bags, our first task was to assemble our bikes. Our cycling tour would start from the airport. As expected, we attracted a small crowd of friendly locals. It took us under an hour to assemble the bikes.

As we cycled out of the Bandara (Bandar Udara) as the Indonesians called their airport, Muhamud was getting his first taste of Padang traffic. I had experienced that on my earlier trip and therefore was easing in into the habits of the Indonesian drivers, especially their mini-bus drivers.

I made no advance booking and as we entered busy Padang city, we were scouting for a hotel by the sea-front. It was a futile search and after sometimes, we settled in at Hotel Jakarta Makmur.

We were greeted by this sign on the reception desk. We smiled to each other. Two men in the same room would need no "buku nikah" as evidence.

We were happy with the hotel as there were ample storage space for our bikes. And there was a restaurant a few doors away, guess right - NASI PADANG what else.

All criterias met, we were ready for a good bath, a good rest, a great makan and a slumber sleep. Tomorrow promised an eventful day.



Ride Distance : 25kms. Flat.

Av Temp : 32 degrees C

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Let me state upfront that I am not a teacher, well not in the way students would address as "Cik Gu". In our own way, we are all teachers. At the very least, to our children.

Yesterday I visited a friend, someone I knew recently. As recent as 2005. Of course time is relative. Apart from meeting him in 2005, and several phone calls between then and now, this is my second meeting with him. I really don't know whether he will qualify me as a friend. I hope he does! I do!

He heads the Institiut Perguruan Bahasa Bahasa Antarabangsa (IPBA), located in Lembah Pantai, neighboring Universiti Malaya. "MU" as we used to call Universiti Malaya is the menara gading I graduated from. It has no relationship with the footbal club somewhere in UK.

So as I drove up to Lembah Pantai, some memory of my undergraduate days in MU filled my thoughts. It was not difficult to locate the entrance to the Institute where my friend is the Pengarah. I was busy asking for direction to the Pengarah's office from the friendly guard that I failed to notice a bold sign at the entrance.

As I climbed the stairs to his office, a beautiful sajak was hung on the wall. I took a quick read. On my way down, I would give this sajak a click on my Nokia phone camera.

Seated comfortably in his office, I got to know my friend a little better. A PhD holder, he had now been entrusted to manage IPBA. IPBA runs 5 international language programs for teachers - English, Japanese, Spanish, French and German.

Dr Mohd Sofi had been a teacher all his life, also after graduating from MU. He had remained true to his calling. When he retires next year, he could look back with pride of those many students that will continue to call him "Cik Gu".

Later in the conversation, he proudly produced me a book he authored. Back in 2005, he set a goal to write this book - "A CASE FOR A CASE". The title may lead one to ask whether this is a law book. No. It was Dr Sofi's argument that case studies as a methodology to teach teachers should be adopted. I cannot elaborate further about the book as that was Dr Sofi's last book in his possession and he cannot part with it to give this friend.

I now have two friends who have given/shown me books they wrote. I have none to offer in return.........yet!

I guessed he was a bit disappointed that I missed the banner at the entrance proudly claiming the pride of being a teacher. I certainly did not miss it on my way out.

I penned back here the sajak and dedicate it to all the teachers who had taught me and to all other teachers living or blissfully in permanent rest. I also dedicate it to a silent teacher in Batu Rakit.

Jika hari ini seorang Perdana Menteri berkuasa
Jika hari ini seorang Raja menaiki takhta
Jika hari ini seorang Presiden sebuah negara
Jika hari ini seorang ulama yang mulia
Jika hari ini seorang peguam yang menang bicara
Jika hari ini seorang penulis terkemuka
Jika hari ini siapa sahaja menjadi dewasa
Sejarahnya dimulakan oleh seorang guru biasa
Dengan lembut sabarnya mengajar tulis-baca

Dimana-mana dia berdiri dimuridnya
Disebuah sekolah mewah di ibu kota
Dibangunan tua sekolah Hulu Terengganu
Dia adalah guru mewakili seribu buku;
Semakin terpencil duduknya diceruk desa
Semakin bererti tugasnya kepada negara

Jadilah apa pun pada akhir kehidupan mu, guruku
Budi yang diapungkan diulangi ilmu
Panggilan keramat "cikgu" kekal terpahat
Menjadi kenangan ke akhir hayat

Usman Awang 1979

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


"To my dear friend and kaki, ARZ". Signed 1 Dec 04. This was authographed by the author of the above book. The prologue of the book reads as follows:

In the name of the Almighty, the Most Merciful and the Most Benefiecient!

This book is dedicated to:

Our parents who did the best they could for us
Our brothers and sisters who so often made way for us
Our teachers who guided and taught us
Our friends and colleagues from whom we learned so much
The authors of all the books we have read, and
Everyone else who directly or indirectly made us what we are today

"WE WISH WE KNEW ALL THESE WHEN WE WERE TWENTY YEARS OLD" was addressed to Along, Azah, Abang, Nana and Ain. These are the children of the author and his wife. The book was for them. It was From Mama and Papa.

Mama is Zuraidah Abd Aziz. Papa is Anwar Batcha bin Ibram Ghaney. I penned this blog in memory of my dear friend, Anwar.

The 9 chapters of the book revealed its sole purpose, that of guiding his children to the right path, for here and the hereafter:

Chapter 1 : Personal Development

Chapter 2 : Goal Setting

Chapter 3 : Time Management

Chapter 4 : Health

Chapter 5 : Mental Development

Chapter 6 : Family

Chapter 7 : Financial Management

Chapter 8 : Religion

Chapter 9 : Putting it all together or The End

It encompasses "The Wheel of Life" that I teach in my Personal Leadership Training program.

Anwar walked what he wrote, as in Chapter 2, to set goal to write this book. Most others, me included, still have manuscripts floating somewhere in the big clutter of Things To Do.

It was at about 9:30pm on Aug 4 that I received a call from June, my ex-secretary. I was then at the GH in Kota Bharu, preparing to bring my mother's body back home. My mother died at 8:40 pm. That night, I lost my mother and I also lost a dear friend.

I knew Anwar was not well as I spoke to his wife on 23rd July. I went off to Padang on 24th July, returning on 31st July. I had planned to visit him in Seremban on my return. But as fated, I had to fly back to KB to be with my mother on 2nd August.

I am glad that this year, I met him not less than 3 times whenever he came down to KL. He would call and we would have lunch together.

One of my memories with the late Anwar was our trip to Taman Negara with our other office colleagues in the late 80s. Photo courtesy of June.

Al-Fatihah (Anwar on extreme left)

“ …………….. and no one knows what he can expect tomorrow and no one knows where on earth he will breathe his last …………..” Luqman, 34


The "ERU" family was our most immediate neighbor in Kg Dalam Rhu, Tumpat where I grew up. The family was amongst 3 other Chinese families within our neighborhood. Abe Eru as we fondly called the head of this family operated a sundy-cum-coffee shop.

The couple had 5 children. We knew the children only by their Malay names. The eldest is a boy, goes by the name of Yusof. He converted and logically retained the name. The second child is a daughter. She goes by the name of Mek Jah (Khatijah). Next was Mek Nab (Zainab). She too converted and I believed retained her name. Fourth was a boy. He goes by the name "Leng". Later I discovered his name was Tiu Boon Ling. Back then, I thought it was a shortened name for Halim! The youngest was a girl. We knew her as Mek Yoh (Rokiah).

I used to play with Yusof as he was about 4 years my junior. My little brother and sisters would be closer to the other younger siblings who were about their ages.
When I left Tumpat in 1967, I would see less and less of them. But the Eru family remained family friends.

I balek kampong regularly even after making Selangor my home. It was on one such trip home that my late mother told me to help one of Abe Eru's sons. I was told that after the SPM result, Abe Eru's son left home to work as a welder in a shipyard in Singapore. His SPM result had strings of A's. With no contacts, he went off to Singapore.

We got him back. I brought him to KL, a first timer for a boy from Tumpat. I got him a job in the bank, stayed with me until he established friendship and rented a house. He is now a happily married bank personnel in a managerial position.

When my mother was in the hospital, I decided to contact the youngest daughter Mek Yoh to inform her mother Mek Eru. She is now 74. Her husband Abe Eru died 7 years ago.

They both came and stayed together with us in the hospital. I recalled telling her to go home as she was showing signs of fatigue. She refused and stayed on.

Some may say it was out of gratitude. I would say not. It was a genuine bond, established over the years that we were neighbors.

We had been 1 MALAYSIA long before


My late father Hj Zakaria Ahmad died 27 years ago. I was just starting out in life at 32. I had one son then, Rafeq. That would be his first grandson from me. People closed to him called him "Pok Mudo". I don't know how or why he is called so.

My second son Raqim was born a week after he died. He started life difficult, as a fisherman. At an early age, I had a taste of the life of a fisherman's son. He prospered and life got better, much better. Alhamdulillah. However I never had much opportunity to serve him.

At the time of his death, my late father left his wife (my mother) at age 57. She was known to us as "Mek". People closed to her will call her "Mok Mudo", obviously an extention of her late husband's "Pok Mudo" title.

Halimah bt Mohamad, my mother, survived him for 27 years. On 4th Aug 2009, my mother passed away at age 84.

At the time of her death, she had mothered 9 surviving children - 2 boys and 7 girls. I am 4th in line, but the oldest boy. The 9 children gave their mother 33 grandchildren. The grandchildren further gave their grandmother 36 great grandchildren. So all in, there are 78 of us. I contributed 4 to the statistics.

When my wife delivered Rafeq, our first baby in 1978, she was there together with my late mother-in-law.

Then, we were living in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail. My elder sister, Ramlah had a house a few doors away from mine in Taman Tun. Conveniently, my mother would commute to and fro from both houses. When I had my second son Raqim, my mother occasionally stayed in within her travelling routine visiting her other children.

I cannot recall accurately how long she stayed in the family house in Kg Dalam Rhu, Tumpat after my father's death. When most of her children moved out of Kelantan seeking livelihood outside, she would spend plenty of times travelling and living with her children.

When I moved to Subang Jaya in 1988, she lived with me. It was a good 5 years, living together with my mother-in-law. As my daughter wrote in her blog, it was the exciting period of two affable ladies living together. Most time it would be my late mother-in-law in her bahasa baku Johor trying to decipher what my mother was trying to say in her deepest Kelantanese loghat! Over the years, my late mother improved her bahasa baku with 2 or 3 English words thrown in!

My 4 children had been lucky. They had their grandmothers to dote them, both living together in the same house.

My late mother-in-law died earlier in Oct 2003

Also in her blog, my youngest daughter recalled her moments with my late mother by the beach in PD. Well Mimi, that's you (in your swimsuit) with Mek, frolicking in the water.

And that's Ila with Mek.

As she grew older, she decided it was time for her to return home. We got her a full-time maid to attend to her daily needs. Most times, she would stay in my brother's house in Kota Bharu, alternating with the other childrens' house. I returned regularly to visit her. My last visit was on 7th July 2009.

My mother died at 8:40pm on Tuesday 4th August, 2009. ALL her children and the in-laws, most of her grandchildren and great grandchildren were by her side when she breathed her final breath.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I am back in Kota Bharu since Sunday night. My mother is not well. She has been in hospital since Saturday afternoon. This time around, the whole family members are back.

The hospital earlier wanted to operate on her for an intestinal blockage. Last night, the specialists decided against the operations, citing her age and her current medical conditions.

The family accepts what's best for her.

Kita merancang. Allah menentukan.