Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Tomorrow 1st Oct, my wife and I will have a long flight with 3 stopovers to Dublin. A 2-hour transit in Dubai on Emirates and a 3-hour wait at Heathrow for connecting flight to Dublin. We will be in Dublin and do a little of Europe for the 3 weeks that we will be there. Thank you Mimi, for your invitation! Mimi is our youngest baby!

Mimi's elder sister, Shakira joined her in Dublin 2 weeks ago and they had celebrated the Hari Raya Puasa together. Shakira will be there for at least 2 years to pursue her degree in Cinema and TV. I hope she will remain there for couple of years to gain working experience before returning home, just like what Mimi is currently doing there.

2 years ago we stayed in Dublin for a month. Have we not have enough of Dublin? In a way yes. But we will never have enough of our children! To me, they remained my little kids...ha..ha...

My respected elder Pak Chik Hassan expects me to cycle there, together with my kids. Sorry Pak Chik, this is a cycle-less trip. When I do Europe on my own, Insyallah, then that will be a different story.

Anyway, Dublin is a cyclist haven with dedicated cycling lanes in the city. If only, and if only....we have this in Malaysia!

Mimi told me Dublin recently introduced a park-and-cycle facilities, just like in Paris. Will I try out the facility? It goes without saying.

So Mimi and Ila, here we come!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


30th October : Pariaman back to Padang

This day would be the final lap in our round-trip from Padang back to Padang. Quite a number of my cycling tours were arranged in this manner, i.e. returning to the starting place, so long as I did not take the same route back to where I started.

The advantage was in ending the trip at a familiar place, and at the same hotel. More importantly, I could leave the bicycle bag which weighed 2kg at the hotel. One might think 2kg is nothing. On a fully laden bicycle, any kg we could shave off is a bonus. Of course, a bigger bonus would be to shave off the extra kgs from our own tummy!

We left the hotel 10 mins before 7, after breakfast. The street was almost empty. The only people up and about were parents sending their kids to school, or kids walking to schools.

We did not expect anything exciting to see on this last lap and we actually covered the 60kms quite fast. We did however, as usual, stop for lunch at quite an upmarket Rumah Makan Lamun Ombak. This restaurant is a popular stop for tourist buses and travellers. It is clean and could sit in excess of 100 customers. The name "Lamun Ombak" struck me as not quite in place as this restaurant is not located anywhere near the sea. If it had been "Lambong Ombak" we would not have stopped here for lunch. We would not want to throw out what we ate kerana dilambong ombak!

Anyway, after 6 days of Nasi Padang we settled in for a change. We opted for Murtabak Mesir. We were happy with our choice but we were not really in the mood to ask the origin of Murtabak Mesir.

At the outskirts of Padang, the usual noise, dust and vehicles welcomed us back to the city. We wished we were back in the hills of Danau Maninjau, with its fresh air and crystal clear streams. Wishful thinking!

Padang hosts an annual international dragon boat race. We have plenty of time to kill. We have not seen a dragon boat race.

The venue was one of the river channels that lead out to the sea. We spent about 30 mins here before making our way back to Hotel Jakarta. The room we stayed on our arrival was taken up by a Malaysian contingent participating in the boat race. So they offered to upgrade us to a larger room, giving us a IR50,000 rebate.
There was really nothing much more to do except to kill time loitering around the city.

Back at the hotel, we packed up ready for our return flight the following day.
The bikes went back into the bike bags, ready for the journey home after serving its masters well for the last 7 days.

Overall, it was another successful trip. I got to revisit the Minangkabau region for a second time and my brother got a first hand experience of Minangkabau culture. His second trip would be arranged with his family. Good family man he is!
For those planning similar cycling tours, here are some ballpark figures we spent for the entire trip:
Accomodation : IR1,630,000
Transport : IR 180,000
Food (for 2) : IR 650,000
Till then.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Danau Maninjau to Pariaman

Another easy ride was in store for us today. It would be slightly more than double yesterday's distance from Bukit Tinggi. From the hotel, we would cycle 14kms to Muko Muko. We would be having a constant view of the lake on our left as we cycle to Muko Muko where the lake ends. From there it would be a very generous downhill.

The spillover from the massive lake form kilometres of cascading stream passing through several villages as we spin downhill. One can feel the fresh and cool ambience of the hilly landscape and hear the continous rumbling of the stream as it made its way to the sea. As usual, we would be in no hurry. We would slowly meander down to the plains below and play with nature - two "old" boys on bicycles.

We planned to leave at around 8 am. By 7:30 our panniers were already secured to the bikes. We now need to secure our stomach. Breakfast menu was simple. I caught Muhamud looking forlonly into the distance of Danau Maninjau. Perhaps he was missing his home and family. An elder brother was certainly not an emotional substitute. On my solo trips, I did experience such lonely moments. Absence anyway, makes the heart grow fonder.

The sign on the picture below may say "Selamat Datang". For us, it was "Selamat Jalan" Danau Maninjau. I don't know whether I will come back this way again.

Numerous fish-farms greeted us along the way to Muko Muko. Fish farming, besides padi planting is one of the major occupation of the people in Danau Maninjau. For sure, the folks here will not go hungry, recession or otherwise. Two staple food are in abundance here - fish and rice.

Muko-Muko boasts of a mini hydro-electric station. The station took advantage of the abundance of water of Danau Maninjau and the generous drop in elevation that naturally speeded up the turbine as water from the lake poured out into the stream. I am no engineer, but I believe my theory is sound!
And we have plenty of sound. The roaring stream of crystal clear cold water chased us as we spin downhill towards Pariaman. The winding downhill was a joy for these two old boys on their bicycles.

We just have to stop at this place to dip our feet and wash our faces in the stream.

and we did not dare each other to cross this swinging bridge to the other side
This is Kampong Lubok Sao. A kilometre from where we stopped, we had to stop again.

We came across a fish breeding farm. This must be the freshest of the fish farm.

Part of the fresh stream was diverted into seven concrete ponds. This provided constant water flow into the ponds where Ikan Mas Majalayar are bred.
There were hundreds of these fish of different sizes in these concrete ponds. It was a sight to see when the workers threw the pellets in.

We spent almost 30mins here, watching, soaking in and talking to the workers. A small hut provided shelter with a barbeque pit. These workers certainly appeared very healthy and nourished! It was not difficult to know their source of nourishment.

Enquired about the price, it would be IR20,000 (RM6) per kg. 1 kg will get you 3 or 4 fish. They had a wonderful weighing machine too. For a moment I thought it was some kind of weapon.

Cheap though it would be, there was no way for us to buy these live fish and hoped to bbq them somewhere along the road. So we cycled on. Several more kilometres of downhill, we came to 'fresh valley" - Lembah Segar. We were in luck. It was a rest area. And we saw a restaurant.
So Muhamud is no longer homesick.

It was too early for lunch but certainly ok for coke-break. Coke and ikan bakar for IR28,000. So we got our wishes at Fresh Valley.

By the way durian was in season too. We passed so many durian stalls on the route. I told Muhamud that we must continue to support the locals. He was obviously not a durian lover. Neither was I. At times though, there are cravings. This was one such occassion.

Once we reached the plains heading to Pariaman, the landscape became monotonous. We passed several small towns and and passed this "lady" giving us direction to Pariaman. In my earlier blog, I said I would not want to argue with her. I did not argue with her this time around too!

Pariaman is a town by the sea. Unfortunately there are not many hotels here

We settled in into the most expensive hotel for this entire trip. Hotel Nan Tongga Beach damaged us IR300,000 (RM100).

Tomorrow we would ride to Padang and would complete our round-trip back to Padang
Hotel : Nan Tongga Beach Hotel
Rate : IR300,000
Distance: 79 kms
Av Temp: 29 degree C

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


25th July 2009

Today would be another interesting ride. There would be 1 fast downhill followed with 1 uphill push and another 1 fast downhill as we make our way from Bukit Tinggi to the lower altitude of Danau Maninjau. In between would be rolling hills through several villages.

The drizzle yesterday was gone. It was a great day for cycling. Today's destination Danau Maninjau, is a short distance of 32kms from Bukit Tinggi.

The altitudes recorded on my Polar (below) shows the terrain we would cover over the 30 odd kms. The sharp drop at almost the end of the journey is the winding downhill of Kelok 44. Kelok 44 is the famous 44 sharp downhill corners from 1060m above sea level to 422m when where Danau Maninjau is.

Elly Kassim, the famous Indonesian singer of yesteryears has a song penned for Kelok 44.

Bidding farewell to Hotel Bagindo, we pushed off heading towards Lubang Jepang for Ngiarah Sianok (Ngiarah Canyon) where we would have our first downhill. It would be a mini version of Kelok 44. The village we passed before the descent was already alive with parents sending their kids to school. Traffic was just slowly building up. We had our hands constantly on the brakes to slow down the speed as some parts of the road was wet, always careful not to jam the brakes to avoid skidding. The canyon whizzed past rather quickly and in no time we were down to the bottom of the canyon. Had a quick stop for a photo shoot on a bridge before we moved on.

Selamat jalan Bukit Tinggi. Sampe ketemu lagi.

From the valley, it was a steep climb of 3kms. So, we did what was sensible to do - push the bikes up the slope.

And after the push, the poor bike needs the rest. Ha...ha

Continuing on, we passed several more villages along the route. I recalled passing Kampong Pisang. It is obvious what the main crop here is, except that in the early morning, no one was enterprising enough to open a stall yet. We continued on the rolling hills and just 6kms after Bukti Tinggi, we climbed back to 935m.

We passed a milestone indicating we were 11kms from Maninjau. Padang was a cool 151kms away. We would reach Padang 2 days later.

I came across this man washing clothes by a pond. The pond was fed by running water but the water was murky. Just wondering whether he would have a good wash. Also wondering where was his wife to do the washing?

The much anticipated Kelok 44 finally came to view. We were at 1057m, higher than Bukit Tinggi. There was fair warning to drivers at the beginning of the descent. First on its list was to give priority to the oncoming (climbing) vehicle. Second notice was to horn at every corner (bunyikan klakson setiap tikungan). Waduh Pak, speda saya ngak ada klakson. Kalau gitu, guna aja klakson asli.....

Muhamud caught me making taking some notes on my journal before the descent.

The journey downhill starts at Kelok 44, hence its name. Danau Maninjau came into view the moment one starts the downhill. We did not immediately start the descent though. We first stopped at a warong for a bottle of coke each and some local delicacies. We were in no hurry, after all we were going downhill. On downhills speed can reach 60kms/hour if we dared. On tight corners, it was crazy to attempt it. I have reached such speed on my racing bike doing the Ulu Langat route.
We stayed at the warong for sometimes. We were absorbing the panaromic view of Danau Maninjau down below. There were occasional cool breeze passing through the warong. This cool peaceful feeling glued us longer to our seats. Just enjoying this moment was bliss. I could sit here for hours and write my thoughts.

Reluctantly, we bade goodbye to the friendly owner and his wife and started our roll down. Corner after corner we took, hands firmly on the brakes and eyes ever watchful for on coming vehicles. Every corner is numbered and as the number drops, so does the altitude.

And within the confines of the narrow strips of land in between the corners, padi was ripening. This is one industrous aspect I noticed of the Indonesians. Land is usually maximised for cultivation.

And Danau Maninjau welcomed us at almost every corner.

Villages dotted the slopes and at one corner, these kids caught my attention. Initially, they were shy to be photographed but the parents gently urged them on to pose. And when you show them their pics on the camera screen, they laughed. Simple joys. They braved a wave at us as we started pedalling and we waved back.

At one section, I told Mahmud to go ahead while I took position to capture him negotiating a corner. It was a wrong corner to choose. There was diesel on the road. No sooner after I captured this shot, he was sprawled on the road. I was too surprised (and worried) and did not capture another shot of him sprawled on the ground. Otherwise it would have been a great shot to blackmail him in future. Ha..ha. Anyway the brotherly concern was too spontaneous. Lucky there were no vehicles following him. Just a minor scratch.
Soon we were at the foothill and heading for the Hotel Tan Dirih by the lake which I stayed in on my earlier trip.

We were unlucky. It was fully booked. We cycled further up and decided to stay at Hotel Pasir Panjang Permai. This is a bigger hotel, and with size comes the price - IR230,000 a night for a lake-view room. Tan Dirih was IR175,000. Either hotel, we had these views by the balcony.

Danau Maninjau is smaller in comparison to Danau Singkarak. Both are volcanic craters, filled with water fed from various streams in the mountain. It is 8kms at its widest and 16kms in its length.

Later, we had a slow lunch. I do not mean we took our time to eat. The food took its time to arrive! However the view cooled our patience and we could still gave a smile when the food finally arrived.

Next on our must visit was Bapak Hamka's musuem, about 8 kms from the hotel. We cycled there but the weather was threatening. We managed to find a shelter at a warong and waited out the rain, a good 45mins of heavy rain.

So Muhamud got to visit Bapak Hamka's residence-cum-muzuem and I was hoping to meet the caretaker I met on my earlier visit. I was disappointed. Anyway, the write-up on the muzuem can be read from my earlier blog.

We cycled back to the hotel in the drizzle with a great reminder that this world is for us to plant for harvest in the world after.

Hotel : Pasir Panjang Permai
Rate : IR230,000
Ride Dist : 32km
Avg Temp : 26 degrees C