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, selling...you 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.