Home            indonesia - jun/jul/aug 12
:: indonesia ::
 
 
27 June 2012

Did you know – Bicycle dimensions for a touring bike is completely different to that of a normal road bike or mountain bike.  Our bikes are made by Surly and we’re using the ‘Long Haul Trucker’.  A ‘no-frills’ bike which should be able to do the job.  For excellent service and good advice on the Surly bikes, go to Brixton cycles in London.  Read more about our bikeshere.

Before we could even say ‘get on yer bike’, it was time to pack up once again and make final preparations for our next adventure.  I still don’t know how we actually decided on this one, probably another one of those ‘spur of the moment’ ideas.

I think the whole idea started just before Christmas 2011.  We were always going to do another trip; it was just a matter of how and when.  We played around with a few ideas of which one was to go on my motorbike.  We chatted about it all for a little while and before we knew it, we were standing in Brixton cycles, talking to the very helpful staff, test riding some of the bikes and getting the correct frame size.  Just like that, in a blink of an eye, we were committed to it all.  We paid our deposit and were told the bikes will be ready to collect the next week with all the changes we asked for.  It was as easy as that, or will it really be?  Only time will tell.

We were very fortunate in that we didn’t have a lot to pack up.  Sarah (our good friend Craig’s soon to be missus!!) very kindly offered her flat to us when we arrived in London, fully furnished. It was so convenient and saved us so much time and effort when we left.  Thanks Sarah, for letting us stay there, it was really great of you and we appreciate it a lot!  Craig also very kindly offered to take us to the airport.  This saved us so much trouble of getting a taxi big enough to get us, two bikes in boxes and all our luggage to the airport.  Thanks Craig, for taking us to the airport, and seeing us off.  A great friend and we’ll certainly miss you and Sarah!  Our other good friend, Alun, also joined us for the first 10 days in Bali.

Craig picked us up at 7.30am on Tuesday morning, fingers and toes crossed that we will not hit any major traffic delays.  Traffic was heavy on the M25, but we made it to the airport with enough time.  Our flight was at 12 noon and we made it with plenty of time.  The check-in line quickly got busy and we got in just in time. We decided to fly with Malaysian Air, seeing that the price was reasonable and you are allowed to check bicycles in as ‘checked baggage’.  They charge £35 for a bike up to 15kg, and £75 for a bike over 15kg.  Off course, our bikes weighed more than 15kg each.  The check-in lady wasn’t having the best of days; she almost made us pay excess baggage, even though our total weight was within the allowance.  Our hand luggage weighed almost nothing, but checked in baggage was over the allocated 20kg.  Luckily, with a bit of persistence, and convincing her to think with her head instead of blindly following the letter of the law, we managed to check in without any further dramas.

Our flight was pleasant enough, and we had a short stop-over in Kuala Lumpur of about an hour before we boarded our short 3 hour flight to Denpasar. Bali airport is small and wasn’t too busy when we got there.  We arranged for a 60 day visa in London, so avoided the queue to buy the visa on arrival. By the time we got through immigration, our luggage was already off loaded.  To our horror, my bike box was open.  Two things immediately raced through my mind.  What is broken/lost, and did someone add a little ‘gift’ to my box to take through customs.  Perhaps something they didn’t want to take through themselves.  I made sure to make an immediate scene as to why the boxes were open and got some of the airport staff to have a look and I filed a report with them too.  Rather safe than sorry.  I had a quick look into the box and all seemed fine, and it looked like all the bits were still there.  Thank goodness I used cable ties to secure everything together.  Anyway, after filling in forms to say the boxes were open when we got them and to say that we’ll be taking the bikes away without inspecting them, i.e. not knowing if there’s any damage, it was time to head for customs. Everything goes through an x-ray machine and we managed to cause a bit of a hold-up getting the bikes through the machine and managed to hold everyone up a little bit, just enough for the custom officers to want to get us out of there as soon as possible.

We also managed to catch up with Alun who arrived on his flight within minutes of us landing, and we spotted him in the baggage reclaim area.  So after all the drama of completing forms, going through customs, it was time to get some taxis to the place we booked.   This was another challenge.  They only have small taxis and we had to make do with taking two and tying the boxes to the roof.  We finally made it to our guesthouse, in one piece and with everything intact.  Time for a shower and a snooze!
 
 

08 July 2012

Did you know – Indonesia is comprised of 17,508 islands of which only a third are inhabited; some are shared with other countries. With a population of 238 million, it is the fourth most populous country on Earth and the largest Muslim country (86 per cent of Indonesians are Muslim). More than half the population lives on Java, making it the world’s most densely populated island. The other big population centres are Sumatra, Borneo (shared with Malaysia and Brunei) and West Papua (shared with Papua New Guinea). Indonesia is home to more than 300 ethnic groups but most speak Indonesian, a variant of Malay developed in the Twenties by nationalists and adopted as the official language after independence.

We managed to have a decent night’s sleep and the jet-lag seems to be under control as well.  The time difference to the UK is 7 hours and 6 hours to SA.  I think we’ll be over the jet lag by the end of the day.  Indonesia has different time zones with an hour difference between Bali and Java, and also between Java and Sumatra.

It was time to put the bikes together, fingers still crossed that everything would be ok after finding my bike box open. We managed to pack the bikes in a way not to have to disconnect the brakes or gears.  This meant that we only needed to take the pedal off, remove the handlebar and also the front pannier rack with the mudguard.  All-in-all, not too much to do. Putting everything back together didn’t take too long either, with the exception of the front mudguard.  It was a tricky affair lining it up properly. Tightening one side of the guard has an effect on the other side, so you have to do it in stages.  Anyway, after playing around with it for a bit, it was all good.  Alun went for an afternoon snooze in the meantime which gave us some time to go for a short test ride.  We had a quick 30min ride around Seminyak and everything seems to working the way it should.

Seminyak is about 8km to the north of the main tourist area of Kuta. I think it is all part of the greater Denpasar area anyway.  We stayed in Seminyak for 3 nights before heading to Kuta.  Our stay in Seminyak was very uneventful.  There’s not a lot going on there besides from the beach area and one or two temples to go to.  We strolled around aimlessly, not doing much.  The best plan of action we could think of to get use to the warm weather and humidity.  The temperature is around 30 every day with humidity of 70 – 80%.

It was time for our very short first ride to Kuta.  It was only about 8km, but seemed a bit daunting nevertheless. It was already hot and humid by the time we left around 9.30 in the morning.  Alun arranged for a taxi, and armed with address details and his hotel booking, was on his way in no time, no doubt enjoying an air-con drive there. We, on the other hand, were getting ready for our first test, the very busy streets of Bali.  Armed with our whistles around our necks to get the attention of the other person if shouting can’t be heard, we were off.  A little bit wobbly to start with, getting use to all the weight on the front wheels again.  It is fine once you get going, but it is the get-going which is the tricky bit.  This is especially true when there are loads of motorbikes and cars all around you.

Little Australia, that’s the only description needed for Kuta.  Around every corner, in every shop, you see them. To make things worse, all the locals think we’re Australian too, greeting us with a very bad ‘Gday mate’, or ‘How you going’.  This assumption, as well as thinking you always want a massage, or want a taxi to a massage ‘spa’, or a massage in a taxi (who knows…) is enough to drive you bonkers very quickly.  To be fair though, they only trying to make a living.

After our initial shock of thinking we’re in Brisbane somewhere, we decided to explore a little.  Alun spotted a very nice place on the beach where we had a drink the one morning, and this very quickly became our spot for doing nothing over the next few days.  A routine developed very quickly, with a leisurely breakfast in the morning at our hotel, followed by a walk around Kuta and then the ‘mandatory’ drink at our spot by the beach.  This was normally followed by an indirect stroll back to our hotel for a bit of afternoon relaxation with some reading and talking nonsense.

Our time in Kuta was coming to an end, it was almost time to head inland to Ubud. Our first impression of Bali was not that great to be honest, and I’m yet to understand what the big fuss is all about.  Just about all the beaches we went to were really dirty, with polluted water from the city running into the sea where it’s supposed to be prime beach area.  I don’t think they’re doing themselves any favours by not cleaning up anywhere.  This together with the Bali bombings of 2002 seems to be a good recipe for the travel industry dying out eventually.  This tourist ‘hotspot’ is quickly becoming lukewarm.  I really hope not for their sake (yikes, only a week into the trip and already a bit negative; will have to change that attitude very quickly!).

Ubud (about 35km north of Kuta) was our next destination, and our first proper ride.  The idea was to get away early in the morning, but this didn’t really happen.  We thought we would be out of there by 7.30am, but only managed to leave around 8.30am; just in time for the heavy morning traffic.  We couldn’t even pack the bikes the previous night, because we were on the 2nd floor and it is near impossible to carry the heavily loaded bikes down the stairs.  After yet another wobbly start, we were on our way.  This time a bit further and luckily relatively flat too.  We were aiming for around a 3 hour ride, but most likely a little bit longer with the traffic and having a few rest stops.  The roads were very busy, with motorbikes whizzing past, overtaking, undertaking and generally doing what they want.  Besides from that, they all seem very patient, and the driving mentality is very similar to what we found in Egypt.  Only worry about what’s ahead of you; things behind you don’t really matter.  Once we got out of the city area, things became more pleasant.  There was still a bit of traffic around, but it seems like the drivers are actually quiet considerate and patient.  If they can’t pass you, they sit behind you until it’s relatively safe to pass.  They don’t seem to want to ‘force their wors’, as Mandy like to say.

We eventually made it to Ubud, taking a little bit longer than what we planned originally.  We found our pre-booked homestay without any problem and were pleasantly surprised. Very nice room, with a fan and also very clean - what more can you ask for?  Ubud is a lot different to what we’ve seen so far in Bali.  It looks cleaner, the little ‘Warungs’ (like a café/restaurant) are nicer and lots of nice little shops.  There are a few tourist attractions like the Monkey forest, lots of markets selling all sorts of tourist memorabilia and the local royal gardens.

Coming to Ubud also meant that it was almost time for Alun to head back to London.  It was really nice to have him with us here in Bali, and it also forced us to relax a bit first before heading off.  And so it all came to a very quick end for Alun’s time with us and it was time for a sad good bye.  Thanks Alun for joining us, and for entertaining us with some of your priceless ‘off the cuff’ remarks and for making us laugh so much.  Have a good flight back and watch out for those custom officials!  We’ll see you back in London.
 
 

18 July 2012

Did you know - One of the strangest products of Indonesian agriculture involves the farming of the Asian palm civet. These small, cat-sized mammals are fed coffee berries and their faeces are collected and washed to make kopi luwak (civet coffee). The action of their stomach enzymes lends the resulting drink an unmatched richness of flavour that has none of coffee’s usual bitterness. As a result it is the world’s most expensive beverage, fetching up to £500 per pound.  In 2008 an espresso made from kopi luwak went on sale at Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square, London, for £50 per cup.

The Sunday after Alun left was our first real test.  It all started very well with a nice flat road followed by a short downhill.  We were only about 2km away from Ubud when reality struck and we realised that this cycling business will not be a walk in the park.  We had to get off and push up 2 very steep hills through some of the valleys.  Not a good sign for the day.  We had looked at our route profile the previous day and decided that we were only going to do 17km to a small town called Tampaksiring where there are a couple of temples to visit.  We made it in relatively good time, starting our day just before 8am and getting there around noon, climbing from 200m to about 600m.

The town (if you can call it that) itself is nothing special, typically run down place, with some shops selling food, motorbike repair shops and some shops to fix a flat tyre.  We very quickly realised that our original plan to stay here for the night wasn’t going to work.  There was only one homestay close to the town, and that was about 1km down the hill again, and we weren’t that keen to go down the hill, just to have to come back up the following day again.  So after looking at the temple and having some lunch and a rest, we decided to tackle the rest of the hill the same day.

It was time again to get on our bikes and head for Penelokan, a small town close to the top of the volcanic crater and Lake Batur.  It was tough, oh so very tough, with a continuous climb from 600m to just under 1500m.  There were absolutely no downhill bits and also no flat bits.  Just climbing and climbing the whole time.  The cycling gods did look after us a bit I suppose.  Instead of the high humidity and 32 degrees of Ubud, the temperature started to drop a bit when we got to about 800m.  It slowly started to cool down a bit with a bit of mist in the air.  I think the temperature went down to about 20 degrees. Goodness knows what it would’ve been like to do this hill if it was hot.

We eventually made it to the top, after a lot of breaks and stopping.  It was starting to get dark and we made it just in time and still had to find a place to stay.  All I can say is that it was a hell of a day, and it was a struggle, but we made it.  I’m not exactly sure how Mandy managed to do it – I could see that she was giving it her all!  Respect where it’s due – Mands, not sure where you got the strength from, but one thing is for sure, there’s not a lot of people I know who will be able to do what you just did with a fully loaded bike weighing 40kg.  I’m really proud of you.  I’m sure we will have more hard days, but not sure if anything will top this one!

We did absolutely nothing the following day, besides from eating, sitting around and massaging our legs for an hour or so to try and prevent stiffness and also to try and prevent my knee from giving me any problems in the coming days.

Our next stop was a seaside town called Lovina, just past the bigger regional town of Buleleng.  This was also a long day, with some more climbing to do (about another 300m in 10 km) first thing in the morning followed by a nice long downhill back to the coast. The downhill was also hard work, especially on your wrists and arms, and the fact that you have to concentrate a lot because it was very twisty, on the brakes the whole time, dodging trucks, cars and bikes on the corners.  We had to stop frequently on the downhill too, to make sure our brakes and rims don’t heat up too much (I managed my top speed today too, an impressive 51km/hr. The bike is a bit of a handful with all the weight on the front wheel).  Eventually, the last 10km downhill was pleasant, being able to enjoy the scenery and ride.

Lovina is a small town on the coast and not a lot happening there.  It is a place where you come to do nothing, exactly what we had in mind.  We still haven’t recovered fully from our massive day climbing and decided to take a few more days to recover here.  We found a nice little place to stay, with a nice pool area and close to the beach.  We stayed here for 3 days, catching up on some reading and relaxing a bit.  I also managed to service our little MSR stove.  It started to play up a bit when we used it on our trip to Holland earlier in the year. It was time to replace tome of the O-rings; it was p!s$ing out petrol as soon as I pressurise the fuel bottle and connect it up.  After 30 min, cleaning it up, replacing the O-rings and lubricating the bits, it was good as new; boiling water for 2 cups of tea in under a minute (2 minutes tops!)

Our relaxing stay in Lovina came to an end very quickly.  We were on the road again, heading west to the port town of Gilimanuk, to get a ferry to Java.  It was still another 2 days’ worth of riding to get there, but feeling refreshed, we were ready to tackle it.

Food plays a big part in cyclist lives, and this also applies to us.  We’ve seen some different types of fruit while we’ve been here, and thought it was about time to supplement our rice and noodle diet (ignoring the very nice mahi-mahi fish and tuna we had the last few days) with some of it.  We decided to try 3 different fruit – snake fruit, sawo and star fruit.  Our least favourite was probably the snake fruit.  Not bad tasting, but nothing too special to rave about.  The sawo fruit was nice, albeit a bit unusual.  It’s got a high latex content and your lips get all sticky from eating it. When ripe, the fruit is extremely sweet with almost a malty flavour.  It almost tastes like caramel or a mix between pear candied with brown sugar; definitely good for an instant energy boost.  Star fruit was definitely our favourite.  The fruit is extremely juicy, with similar consistency to grapes. They are sweet, with a tart, sour undertone.  It tastes like a mixture of apple, pear and citrus fruit.  It’s a very nice and refreshing fruit.

We had a very nice and quiet ride through some national parks on the way to the ferry.  The ferry between Bali and Java runs 24 hours a day and about every 30 min.  We didn’t hang around and was on the ferry in no time after getting our ticket.  The ferry goes to a place called Ketapang, about 8km north of the town called Banyuwangi where we were going to stay for a couple of nights.

We immediately noticed that Java is busy and the 8km ride to Banyuwangi was an eye opener.  The road was narrow and bumpy, with lots of busses and trucks around.  So far, they seem to be fairly considerate and patient behind you if they can’t pass.  I’m sure that will change as we travel further.

Our original plan was to head to the southern part of Java and see if we can get to some of the beaches there.  After looking at the route and altitude profiles and also reading some other blogs, we decided to rather head to the northern part of Java.  This looked to be a lot flatter.  The only thing is that we’ll backtrack the last 8km from the day before.  A small price to pay though if the rest of the route will be relatively flat compared to the south.  We spent the next day in Banyuwangi.  The task for the day was to clean the chains on the bikes, hopefully prolonging the life of the chains too.  A little task which takes a long time to do - with the old toothbrush, chain degreaser and rag in hand, it took almost 2 hours to clean both chains.  It is a rewarding job though, seeing the clean chain afterwards and the difference in pedaling too.  Everything is so smooth and quiet when the chain is clean.  We also noticed what sounded like motorbike racing in the distance.  Being a bike fan, I twisted Mandy’s arm to take a walk with me to see what was going on. We soon came across what looked like some sort of street race.  We decided not to risk watching it though.  The part of the track we saw was a straight of about 50 meter with a hairpin bend at the end.  The awareness of safety is almost non-existent here.  The spectators were standing on the hairpin bend, and the only thing separating them from the riders was a few small sandbags and another 1 meter or so.  I know health and safety is a bit over the top in the UK, but rather that than this bunch of hooligans.

So after our unusual breakfast of sweet scrambled egg, toast with the crust cut off and coffee with about 20 teaspoons of sugar, it was time for us to go back the way we came into the town.  Little did we know that this was going to be our longest (and our hottest) day on the road yet.  Again, the town we wanted to stay in turned out to be almost nothing.  We did have a rest there though with a well-deserved ice cream and ice cold drink to get out of the sun.  The temp gauge on Mandy’s computer was reading 45 degrees after all. We ended up doing just over 90km for the day.  A long day in the saddle, that’s for sure.

We had a nice ‘lie-in’ the next morning, waking up just before 10.  We only had 30km to do and it was all flat.  Our destination was Pasir Putih, a local beach destination for the city folk of the larger cities in the area. This place is extremely ordinary, with over-priced accommodation and not good value for money compared to other places we’ve stayed at before.  We even had our first introduction to the ‘Mandi’ – no, not Mandy’s distant Indonesian cousin, but just a fancy word for bucket and water to wash yourself.
 
 

29 July 2012

Did you know – The Komodo dragon (also known as Komodo monitor) is found on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Padar.  It is the largest species of lizard, growing up to 3 meters in some cases and weighing on average about 70kgs, sometimes up to 130kgs.  There are 4 times more male than female dragons in the wild.  The meat-eating lizard can consume up to 80% of its own bodyweight in one sitting. The dragon can run up to 18 kph in short bursts.  They grow about 30 years old in the wild.  The saliva of the Komodo dragon has over 50 types of bacteria, and the victim will usually die within 24 hours of blood poisoning.

We celebrated arriving at our next town with a bit of ‘westerness’.  We saw a sign for KFC as we came into the town centre and came across it later that night.  We couldn’t not go in seeing that we’ve been having a variation of rice every day and no real protein in our diet with the exception of some soya and tofu every now and again.  It was a nice change for me, but Mandy unfortunately left there a bit disappointed. Anyway, at least we know what’s on offer there now and we won’t hurry back.

My hair was also becoming a problem these days.  3 weeks of growth is unheard of, and very evident by my ‘helmet hair’ after a day’s riding.  I’ve been looking out for a barber shop for the last few days and eventually came across one in Probolingo.  Much to the amusement of the barber, I insisted that he takes it all off.  One of the beast deals I’ve had so far.  I’m still not sure how the payment works.  It looks like you pay what you think the haircut is worth, because there is only a tip box at the entrance, and nothing else.  After trying to get the price from the guy afterwards and being very unsuccessful, I decided to give him 5000 Rupiah (about 40p).  He seemed impressed with that; a bargain from my point of view.

Probolingo to Pasuruan was luckily a short day for us, at 38km.  We decided to get a room with a fan that night, seeing that it wasn’t that hot (or maybe because our ride was shorter).  It all went well until about 2am, when we both woke up from fireworks and the late arrival of the people in the room next to us.  They continued to ‘celebrate’ their arrival with the tv being set at, what seems to be its highest volume, blissfully unaware that their neighbours are trying to sleep.  I had to go and remind them (with the appropriate stern face) that they are not alone in the hotel and that there are other people trying to sleep.  Thankfully, he turned it down without putting up a fight.  To top it all off, the fan in our room decided to pack up and we couldn’t even open the windows because of all the mozzies (no, not Muslims - well actually, maybe them too, seeing that they all seems to be awake at night during Ramadam and making as much noise as they want to, with no care in the world for anyone else).  We eventually fell asleep again and woke up the following morning feeling almost more tired compared to arriving there the previous day.

It was yet another busy, noisy and hot day from Pasuran to Mojokerto. Staying on the main roads means that the scenery is the same everywhere we go – this is unfortunately necessary at the moment, because we won’t have enough time to cover the distances we need to if we don’t.  One village seems to flow into the next one, with no visible sign of it being a different place.  After lots of breaks during the day, which included a little snooze in the shade after we’ve had something to eat at lunch time, meant that we got to the next town a bit later than we thought we would.  Just as we entered the town, we came across a nice place to stay for the night. They were busy putting the finishing touches to the hotel and I manage to negotiate a discount for the standard room.  The owner was very nice and decided we deserved the suite (one of the bigger rooms) for the same price, an offer we couldn’t refuse.  Our stay here was made even better by the fact that we had proper cold milk with our tea and coffee the following morning.  The owner’s wife was very pleased with our stay there and insisted on taking some photos of all of us the following morning before we left.  I get the feeling we’ll be featuring in some of their marketing material, bikes and all!

 Mojokerto to Nganjuk – riding on a Sunday is definitely quieter on the roads than any other day of the week.  This is similar around noon on a Friday when the people are supposed to be at the Friday prayers in the mosques.  When we stopped for a lunchtime break, it wasn’t too long before someone living close by took an interest in us.  He was a young guy who just finished university and could speak a fair bit of English.  He was telling us how difficult it is to find work in Indonesia and also how corrupt the government officials are, for example, to find a job as a teacher or something similar will cost the person looking for the job loads of money.  A year or two ago, it was about 150 million Rupiah.  He thinks that the going rate is now almost 200 million (almost £14,000)– absolutely shocking.

We found a nice place to stay for the night, but we always seem to choose places to stay which are very close to mosques, or maybe the mosques are just everywhere.  Sunrise is about 5.45am, and the first call for prayer is at the very unsociable time of 4.30am.  Once everyone is up, the day starts, and we have little chance of getting back to sleep. We had to start using our earplugs; they seem to help a bit (that’s if I don’t somehow loose mine half way through the night).  We were also blessed with breakfast served in our room this morning with a knock on the door at 5.50 with tea and coffee and something they call a roti.  In this particular case, almost like a toasted sandwich type of thing with butter (or rather margarine) and sugar.  All of this meant that it was our earliest start yet. We were out the door and on the road at 6.30, even managing 30km on a quieter road.

We decided to have a rest day after we arrived in Ngawi.  We’ve had 5 days of continuous riding, and my knee is starting to feel a bit twitchy and uncomfortable at the end of the day. This could only mean one thing, time for a bit of massaging again.  We spent the rest of the afternoon and following day doing nothing.

Ngawi to Solo was 85km.  This time the start wasn’t quite as early as 6.30.  We did manage to get away just after 7 to try and get a few good hours in before it gets too hot.  It normally gets hot around 10 – probably between 30-35 degrees in the sun.  If all goes well, we average about 15km/hour. This means that most of the riding can be done in the morning, with maybe an hour or so after lunch.  The hottest part of the day is probably between 11.30 – 13.00. 

I suppose Ramadam isn’t such a bad thing for us.  It seems to have an effect on our weight (or at least I think it does, combined with the cycling)…We don’t really have a big lunch, only some fruit (mainly bananas, orange/mandarin, some mangoes and starfruit, and some peanut snacks, biscuits and ice cream from 24hr Indomart shops.  This and about 3-4 liters of water and our own mix of Isotonik and vitamin c.

We came to the conclusion few days ago that we won’t be able to go to Sumatra.  The distance is just too big, and we only have 30 days left on our visa.  As it stands, we’ll need to get a move-on to make it to Jakarta before the visa runs out.  We will be taking a 26 hour ferry from Jakarta to Batam islands (which is still part of Indonesia) and then another shorter one to Singapore.  We don’t think this is such a bad thing – I’m sure we’ll be ready for a change by then, especially the food.  You can only have so much Nasi Goreng!!!  At least there will be a bit of Indian food in Malaysia too.

Getting to Yogyokarta (locally known as Jogja) from Solo meant we were just about half way through Java.  We have about another 650km left before we get to Jakarta from Jogja.  Our plan was to have at least 3 nights here to give our legs some time to recover and there are supposed to be a few tourist things to see in the city.  Even though we’re getting use to cycling a lot, we’re not even close to being really cycling fit.  Our plan was however short lived – our 3 nights will most likely be 4 nights now.  As expected, I picked up a stomach bug a couple of days ago.  Not wanting to be outdone, Mandy decided to join in the fun and also showed signs of the dreaded stomach bug.  We’ve been lying low the last 2 days (literally) and getting our energy back up. Luckily, this little episode is nothing compared to our escapades we had in Kazakhstan (yet) where we both went to hospital and stayed there for 3 nights.  Unfortunately for all of you, there won’t be any embarrassing photos with me in paisley hospital pyjamas, 2 sizes too small.
 
 

6 August 2012

Did you know – The Borobudur temple’s name originated from the words Boro meaning temple or shrine and Budur meaning above the hill.  The temple was built in the 9th century above the hills as a stepped pyramid and was made of more than 2,000,000 andesitic rocks.  Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles sparked interest in the temple in 1814 (the then British ruler of Java).  Borobudur has since received extensive restoration work, with the largest piece of work carried out between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government with the help and support of Unesco.  It is now part of the Unesco world heritage list.

We were very fortunate - our stomach bug turned out to be not as bad as the time before.  We were both still feeling a bit under the weather and weren’t really up for the challenge of local food.  We were both craving a bit of western food, and this very conveniently led us to the most western type food you can imagine.  Yes, that’s right, we found McDonalds and a Big mac meal was the order of the day.  To do our ‘Westerness’ proud, we also decided to stick to similar ‘normal’ food over the next couple of days - we even managed to get some nice sautéed vegetables and mash.

We felt well enough the next day to venture out and decided to find a few sights on our bikes.  It almost felt like we had to learn how to ride bikes again.  The bikes were sooo light, and the steering so nimble and quick.  It’s amazing how quickly you get used to a heavy load.  It felt really weird to be riding without baggage.  I think I almost felt a bit safer with all the luggage on – maybe because we are more visible on the road.  We couldn’t find any of the sights we were looking for, so we ended up in one of the shopping centres.

Yogyokarta to Borobudur (one of the Unesco world heritage sites), was a shorter ride of 40km.  Even though the ride was shorter, it was mainly up.  Nothing serious though, but enough to make us work a bit, seeing that our energy levels weren’t back up to their optimal levels yet.  Our timing was perfect when we left, joining everyone in the morning rush hour.  So much traffic, noise and pollution.  You really have to concentrate the whole time and have the 360 vision switched on. With all the heightened senses, you unfortunately also see things you don’t really want to see first thing in the morning.  We just had a little break and got on the bikes when this ou ballie (old man) appeared out of this little alleyway or a gate (couldn’t really make it out).  All he had on was a shirt which was a little short for him.  This meant we got an eyeful of the dangly bits – not a great sight for us who were still feeling a bit poorly.  To give him credit, at least he made us laugh.  The last 10km or so to the temple was very pleasant.  We found some quieter roads and it was mainly downhill.  The type of hill where you don’t have to hold on for dear life, the type where you can relax and look around a bit, cruising down at a leisurely 25-30km.  Before we knew it, we made it to Borobudur.

The one and only reason to stop in the town of Borobudur is to visit the Borobudur temple – a Unesco listed heritage site.  The Unesco listing also means that there is a hefty entrance fee of $20 compared to the local price if 30,000 Rupiah (about $3).  The visit to the temple was very nice and really an amazing place to see, with all the stone carvings and stupas.  It is also a nice and quiet place with big grounds to walk around.

Borobudur to Kalangang was a 62km ride.  We use a few websites (as well as our Garmin maps) to try and work out our routes for the days. Google map is one of them, as well as the very useful bikeroutetoaster.com.  The bikeroutetoaster also uses similar maps to Google, but the main difference is that you get elevation profiles for your route too.  We decided to try some of the even smaller roads to get some peace and quiet and loaded some routes onto the gps.  These were roads not covered by my gps maps.  As it turned out, the routes were very small and very steep in some places.  We pushed through some of the hills, and while having a rest break, one of the local boys came whizzing past on his scooter, only to brake suddenly when he saw us.  All he said to us in his broken English was ‘not good’.  We had a fair idea what he was talking about, the road ahead of course.  As soon as he stopped, he was off again, only to come back again a few minutes later.  I flagged him down and jumped on the back to go and have a look at what lay ahead and to see if we should turn back before we commit ourselves to the actual route.  We weren’t too far past another possible route to take which is a bit longer, but will be easier.  As it turned out, he was absolutely right.  The tar road ended not far from where we were taking a break, and was replaced by a bumpy and very rocky footpath type road.  To top all of this off, there was a very steep long decent on this too.  Good thing he stopped and warned us about it, otherwise we would’ve carried on.  We decided to rather turn around and take the longer route.  This meant a few hours of ‘wasted’ cycling time, but what can you do.

The quieter roads also meant that chances of finding a hotel of some sort to stay in would be slim.  We started to look for a camping spot about 2 hours before sunset.  We had about 45 min left before sunset when a girl came past on her scooter and started to chat to me.  Her English was good enough to have a conversation.  She eventually asked where we’re going and I said that we are looking for a place to put our tent for the night.  As expected, she offered for us to come and stay at her house. Before we committed, I made sure to ask a few times…”but will it be ok to put our tent in your garden?”.  No problem she said, and 5 minutes later we had our camping spot.  It turned out to be her sister’s house, with the village hall opposite.  They said we can put our tent on the piece of grass in front of the hall.

It was a small village, with about a 100 people living there.  This was a blessing in disguise – we very quickly became the local attraction and the sister said that the whole village will come and have a look at us, because they have never had a tourist there.  The village police officer also came along to ask us a few friendly questions and insisted in taking down some passport details so that he can answer his supervisor’s questions.  It was a pleasant night, and our first camping experience here in Indonesia.  Even though we were on show for the night, as soon as we said we wanted to go to bed, they all left us alone (they even gave us some nice yummy spicy snacks).

We woke up at 5.30 the next morning to get an early start.  We were getting breakfast ready and in a blink of an eye, everyone was out again to have a look and to make sure everything was ok.  Some nice oats and coffee was the order of the day and they left us alone again when we wanted to pack up. They get up around 3am during Ramadam to have breakfast and then go to the mosque to pray before going back to bed.  No wonder we see loads of people sleeping during the day.  We thanked them for letting us stay there and managed to be on our bikes by 7.30.

Kalangang to our next camp spot was as flat as a pancake.  It was a good ride of about 65km on the coastal road. We were about 2km away from the sea the whole time, but the road was very quiet and very good for most of the part.  We probably had about 10km of bumpy and potholed bits, but overall a very pleasant day.

We also reached a big milestone for us - we clocked the 1000km mark today. I can’t believe we have come so far already.  Not knowing what to expect in the beginning and trying to take it easy with my knee and to make sure we don’t do too much too soon.  Thankfully, we’ve had no real problem yet with additional injuries and we try to listen to our bodies and have rest days when we can.

The rest of our day was really uneventful, maybe with the exception of when we tried to refill our water supply, seeing that we would probably camp again.  We managed to find a school with a tap and filled our foldable bucket with water to filter into our water bottles.  It wasn’t long before the local school girls noticed us sitting opposite the road.  It didn’t take long for the pointing and giggling to start either.   It is almost like they try and stalk you, inching closer.  One of the girls made a move and ran into the school grounds behind us, pretending to take down the school flag.  This was all a bluff off course.  She was only trying to get closer to us to have a better look.  All her friends followed.  Before long, they were all hanging over the wall behind me watching our every move, still giggling away.

With our water supply refilled, we set off again, in search for the next camp spot.  It looked far more promising for the night.  There was a section of the road which was a lot closer to the sea and we took the first road we found that we thought would lead to the beach.  This turned out to be a very good move.  We found a very nice and secluded spot under some trees, about 5m from the beach, where we pitched the tent, and locked the bikes to a tree.  It was nice and early still and we managed to relax a bit first before setting up the camp spot for the night.  Not having had lunch yet either, we decided an early dinner was in order.  It was one of those nice one-pot dinners - this time we had some fettuccini with fresh beans and tinned mackerel, just what the doctor ordered.

We finished eating and washed up just as the sun was setting (just before 6).  We took some time out to enjoy the sounds and smells of the sea after another hot day on the road.  The early starts were also starting to catch up a bit and we decided it was probably a good idea to get to bed early that night (yet another early start the following day).  We watched one episode of 24 on our laptop before a new record ‘going to bed time’ of 7.45pm.  A first for everything…

From our camp spot to Cilacap was another 65km.  This was all along the coast, so meant to be flat, with the exception of about 10km where we had some seriously steep hills.  We got up at 5.30 again and were on the road by 7.30.  We managed to finish the first 20km of the day 12.30, completely and truly knackered.  I swear, both our bikes are picking up weight as we lose it.

I think the first 20km of the day was harder than our 3rd day’s riding, with the 33km climb from 200m to 1500m.  There was a discreet ‘4x4’ sign painted on the road as we started the climbs.  This wasn’t a gradual climb like that day – these hills were ‘I’m going to break you if you try to conquer me – don’t even fucking try it’ type of hill.  To make things worse, we had to do it 3 or 4 times.  The first was a little taster of only 80m climb.  This was followed by bigger and bigger climbs.  This was a physical test like I haven’t really had before (and we have both run some half marathons as well).  Mandy had some good words of inspiration for herself at one point(she needed so much inspiration that I won’t dare repeat it on here).  I laughed so much hearing it in the distance behind me that I almost dropped my bike.

Mandy always made fun of me because of the little bits and bobs I carry with me, of which one is a 2m piece of paracord.  This little piece of ‘fun and jokes’ came in very handy on this day.  Luckily I remembered I had it in my bar bag and I decided to tie the two bikes together and help Mandy push (tow) her bike up the road.  There were loads of times when we could only manage 20-30m at a time before we had to rest.  When we were ready to go, it felt like I was getting in the lock position in the scrum just before you engage – knees bent, bracing yourself for what’s to come.

We made it though, by hook or by crook.  Once again Mands, goodness knows where you get your strength and determination from.  I certainly know there aren’t a lot of girls I know of, who will be able to do what you did today.  Well done and a great effort, I’m really proud of you!! 

I did make Mandy promise not to ever laugh at my ropes again, otherwise she won’t have use of them in the future.

After our little test of a day, we found a nice 3 star hotel in Cilacap.  I managed to get the price down by about 30%, which made it an excellent deal we couldn’t turn down.  We managed to eventually watch some of the Olympics for the first time (after missing the opening ceremony) and catch up on a bit of rest.  We even had our own tea/coffee facilities in our room and a bar fridge ‘nogal’.  This was definitely a step up for the travelling gypsies.  This place was so posh; we even got fresh milk at breakfast, another first here in Indonesia.

We had a look around town the following day, but there was nothing special going on.  We did find a little café though with some really nice roti canai (we had it in Malaysia for the first time).  It is like a light fluffy pancake type thingy which you can have as savoury or sweet. We off course had to have one of each.

Cilacap to Ajibarang was a shorter day of about 45km.  We decided to treat ourselves to a beer today after our ride (we’ve been looking for some beers for the last few days, but couldn’t find it anywhere, not even at the 24-hour Indomarts), even though it is Ramadam and the fact that we can hear the mosque man doing the afternoon call to prayer. Mind you, I don’t think that really matters where we are staying  - our hotel is a stark contrast to the last couple of nights.  We don’t even have a key for our room, and while sitting on the ‘stoep’ having our beer, a ‘lady of the night’ came tootling in on a bicycle and promptly went into the room 2 down from us.  She reappeared after 20 min, got on her bicycle and was off…Mmmm, I wonder what she was doing here…

We have about 450km left to Jakarta and we have about 2 weeks to do this in, so it should be a bit easier going over the next couple of weeks, fingers crossed.
 
 

16 August 2012

Did you know – SPECIAL EDITION; It’s that time of the year to wish my Dad a very happy birthday for 13 Aug 2012.  We hope you had a great day and it would’ve been great to spend the day there with you. 

Having the world’s largest Muslim population means that Indonesia has countless mosques.  The mosques are mainly used for prayers but there are a few mosques which have different functions, e.g. some are only used for Friday prayers, others for prayer meetings from Sunday to Thursday and a mosque for memorial events in Islamic history. The modern day Mosques have very little decoration and no seats; they normally have a high dome over the pray hall and inside you will find a niche in the wall showing the direction of Mecca, a pulpit and a stand to hold the Koran. 

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and it is believed this was when the Holy Quran "was sent down from heaven, guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation".  It is during this month that Muslims fast for the entire month.  During the Fast of Ramadan, strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours.  At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar.  On the evening of the 27th day of the month, Muslims celebrate the Night of Power.  When the fast ends it is celebrated for three days in a holiday called Id-al-Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking).  Gifts are exchanged and friends and family gather to pray in congregation and for large meals (to the best of our knowledge, this information is correct – however if not, please let us know).

After a mediocre sleep in the brothel, we decided to start the day with some oats and coffee instead of the standard affair of fried rice.  It’s nice to have something plain for breakfast instead of a fry-up, but a fry-up you don’t really feel like.  If it was bacon and egg, then it would’ve been a different story. Finding bacon here though, well…I think we have a better chance of finding a river which isn’t polluted.  The thing with oats though, almost guaranteed to be hungry within a couple of hours.

We thought it might be a day of lots of hills but turned out to be ok. We had a few small ones at the start of the day, but the rest was not bad.  The last part of the day was nice and flat and we were on some quiet roads for a change.  We also had a bit of a tailwind helping us along, but it was very hot. 

The villages or towns we travel through are mostly the same, with the exception of each town having its own little industry going.  We saw a few unusual ones too, like a town dedicated to brick makers, or what seems to be the entire population of woman in the town processing small red onions.  The interesting one was where they were making rope out of plastic.  The plastic they use was from what looks like big grain sacks.  They pull this apart and start spinning this into strands – almost like making silk. They keep on spinning these together to eventually make some very thick rope.  

The start of the day from Ketanggungan to Cirebon was on a very bad potholed road. The first 10km slow going for us, having to dodge the potholes and the bikes, cars and busses, all of which is trying to do the same.  It was still better on the smaller, less busy road with potholes, rather than the very busy main roads.  We found nice hotel in centre of Cirebon with a KFC right there too.  We decided to treat ourselves (if you can classify KFC as a treat…?) with Colonel Sanders secret recipe, seeing that we didn’t want stall food again, i.e. Nasi Goreng, or in plain English, fried rice.

The rest of our rest day was pretty uneventful, with the exception of some great news from Pam (Mandy’s sister).  She managed to pass her final ACCA exam.  An excellent achievement, well done Pam!  I know how damn hard those exams are.

The ferry schedule from Jakarta to Batam (to get a ferry connection to Singapore) is very sporadic to say the least.  Our visa for Indonesia ends on 25 Aug, and the 26hr ferry for Batam leaves Jakarta on 24 Aug.  That means that we arrive in Batam (which is part of Indonesia) on the day our visa expires.  It probably would be ok, but who knows. So, we decided to try and catch the earlier ferry from Jakarta, which leaves on the 15th of Aug.  This means we’ll have to get our act together to get to Jakarta on time.  Time to put ‘voet in die hoek’. We will have to cover 260km in about 3 or 4 days.

The route planning from Cirebon to Karangsinom was definitely not our best effort (it was at the planning stage though).  It looked like smaller roads on the maps we use, but it was full of trucks, busses and all sorts.  Most of the road was two lane dual carriage, but there was absolute no hard shoulder.  Our concentration levels were almost at an all-time high for the day.  It was a long day in the saddle, doing over 70km, with lots of little breaks to get out the sun and away from the traffic. 

We had very limited choice of accommodation, only passing 2 hotels on the way, and we definitely didn’t feel like looking for a spot to camp in the heat. In any case, it was flat everywhere with rice fields as far as the eye could see, so no real place to ‘hide-out’.  We stopped at what looked like a business hotel in the Karangsinom area.  The sign outside proclaimed 3 star facilities.

It was ok, but on the ‘value for money’ scale, not that great.  We didn’t get a good start to the day.  We went for breakfast at 6.30, but there was no breakfast in sight.  It still being Ramadhan meant that everyone was up at the sparrow’s fart (or even before that) and they polished everything off.  We just about managed to get a cup of coffee from someone.  The rest of the staff weren’t doing a lot either. Most of them were asleep on the couches in the lobby of the hotel.  One particular guy was really enjoying his morning sleep with his stomach hanging out and his one hand down his pants.  This wasn’t what we needed on what turned out to be our longest day yet in the saddle.  We covered 105km from Karangsinom to Karawang.  Now we’ll be able to do the Cape Argus cycle race, no problem, even on a fully loaded touring bike.

Once again, the roads were very busy, constantly being cut in front of by taxis and busses.  The taxis would come speeding past you, only to immediately pull in front of you and stop right there to pick up or drop someone.  It really was (and still is) very frustrating; if only they could be as considerate as the taxi drivers in South Africa.  We had to use our whistles again so that people, cars and taxis can maybe hear us, or if we’re lucky enough, see us.

We decided to have a good lunch and rest, seeing that we planned to do extra 30km to get to Jakarta earlier.  The one long rest stop wasn’t enough - we also had to have a second stop about an hour or so after lunch because it was just too hot.  We could feel our flabby bits turning into crispy bacon strips.  We ended up resting at a garage in a nice shady spot for about 45 min to wait for the midday sun to disappear.
 

Our last 15km of the day was very busy as it was getting to rush hour and we were getting closer to the town we wanted to stay in.  We found a massive hotel - it must’ve been a very grand hotel in its heyday, with a big swimming pool and loads of big rooms, massive restaurant, but like so many other hotels here, very run down.  It was however very conveniently located opposite a Carrefour (French supermarket chain with a presence in Indonesia).  We went to look for some dinner and cold beer, but came back with our tails between our legs, empty handed.  It looked like no beer was being sold in the town because of Ramadan.  We ended up with our ‘favourite’ dish again in the hotel restaurant, Nasi Goreng.

We did the extra 30km the previous day in order to try and reach Jakarta on a Sunday instead of Monday to try and avoid the Monday traffic rush. We started around 7.30 and roads were already busy – it’s hard to believe it’s a Sunday morning.  Don’t these people ever stay at home?  The closer we got the city, the worse the driving skills got again and we had to rely on our whistles again a lot of the time.  Poor Mandy had a close call with a bus that chose to ignore her or maybe didn’t see her…who knows.  I suppose this is the only way we can gain the experience of how to cope in the mad traffic.  We’ll be facing this sort of driving in a few countries still, with Vietnam and India springing (or is that leaping) to mind.

We got into Jakarta just after lunch and struggled to find a place where the bikes would be safe.  They all wanted us to leave the bikes outside on the busy roads, telling us that it will be ok there, because they have staff there 24 hours a day.  Mmmm, no chance of that, your staff might be like the one we caught with his hand in the cookie jar, or was that in his pants?  After riding around for about 2 hours we managed to find a hotel that could help us out.  One of the other hotels in the chain had a more secure area with 24hr security and not close to the road, where the bikes would be out of sight (and hopefully out of mind).  This was definitely our best bet out of the lot.  Luckily we have good locks with us.

Jakarta dished up some nice food for a change.  We went to one of the numerous local Chinese restaurants and had some good beef ginger and some beer to celebrate our arrival in Jakarta.  A stroll after dinner took us past a few weird and wonderful food stalls, some of which had spitting cobras for sale, with the bloody knife on the block, waiting for the next victim.  It’s said that eating cobra, especially drinking the beating heart in a shot of the local brew, is supposed to make you strong – I think we’re strong enough though and will probably stick to cycling for now.  We also unfortunately saw someone selling a slow loris, poor thing.

We managed to get our ferry tickets the following day without too much hassle, thanks to the friendly manager at the hotel we were staying at. We thought we had to buy the tickets from the Tanjung Priok ferry terminal, but after a few phone calls by him, he said we could get it from the Pelni office in town. He ordered a taxi for us and we were on our way within a few minutes.  A process we thought would take almost half a day ended up taking us only about an hour.  The experience of driving around town in a taxi is so different to what we’ve experienced on the bikes.  The overall experience of the country will also be vastly different from the comfort of a taxi or air-con bus.  Our stress levels were close to zero in the taxi and we couldn’t smell any of the smelly drains and pipes and rubbish lying around.  So this is what it would feel like to be a normal tourist?

We had one spare day in Jakarta for some sightseeing, but to be honest, this was enough for us.  Maybe we’ve just had enough of the country, who knows.  We didn’t do too much besides from looking for new ‘luggage bags’ for the ferry.  We found something similar to what we used on the plane from London to Bali, but a lot stronger this time.  We will be keeping these in order to use them again when we fly.  They fold up small enough and aren’t heavy.  I’m not too sure about the designs though, but Mandy keeps reassuring me we won’t look like nobs.  I still think they’re pretty naff though.

The ferry departure time was 10am and we had to be there 2 hours before departure.  We decided to leave the hotel at 7am to do the 12 km to the ferry.  Good thing we gave ourselves a bit of time, as it wasn’t that easy to navigate to the ferry terminal, having to avoid the highways.  In our rush to get to the ferry, we didn’t have time to stop at a shop for some snack for the ferry.  This was one of those ‘told you so’ moments where we knew what had to be done, but never did it.  Only one way to learn I suppose and that is by experience, albeit it not a great experience.  The ferry trip is 26 hours long, and everything was almost 3 times the price on the ship.  Luckily we made sure we had enough water with us.

The ferry trip was definitely so-so.  On the surface, it looked relatively clean, but once you sit down on your bed and see what’s really going on, then it’s a different story.  We decided to abandon our allocated spot and look for a cleaner and more comfortable spot somewhere else.  We did find one which was better, but not that great.  The price difference between our economy ticket and a cabin was huge.  Cabin prices were almost 6 times as much, so we thought it’s time to toughen up and grin and bear it.  Not a lot of grinning going on, more bearing I would say - the toilets were grim and smelly and the place had a distinctive stink to it after a couple of hours  Some toilets were a bit better where it wasn’t so busy on the ferry.  The overall air quality in the place must’ve had real bad effect on me, because my chest was a bit sore for a few days after we got to Singapore.  Probably a combination of the damp air and smoke (even though there were no smoking signs everywhere).

On the bright side, our food was included in the price.  The joys of having food tokens were short-lived.  The food they served was definitely not ‘Michelin’ quality, although we couldn’t really complain too much about the variety.  Lunch was plain rice with a little fish; dinner was a small fish with its head on and some plain rice. Breakfast on the other hand had some good plain rice and a bit of fish (a bit small though).  Our final lunch had a bit of sauce with, you guessed it, plain rice and a little bony fish.  Luckily, and not to be outdone by the chefs on board, we had our own fish with us…tin of chilly tuna and also tin of chilly tomato mackerel.  Tasted like gourmet food compared to the bony fish…
 
Our arrival at Batam couldn’t come quick enough.  Much to our surprise, we arrived on schedule or even 30 min early. Getting off the ferry was a lot easier than getting on.  We packed our bikes on board and the stairs down weren’t too steep and there weren’t many either.  We could simply wheel them down the stairs.  It was only a short 5 min walk to the ferry terminal to Singapore. Arriving at the terminal, everything already seemed a lot better and everything looked new and was super clean.  We quickly bought our tickets for the 45 min ferry to Singapore and were ready to go.  We’ve been looking forward to this for the last week or so.  Indonesia started to sap the energy from us far too quickly and often.

Final thoughts – We had no idea of what to expect from Indonesia.  I somehow thought the whole place would be this idyllic island setting.  How wrong could someone be?  Bali was very nice and good starting point for us in Indonesia.  We needed a bit of a rest since finishing up at work and thought it would be a good place to do that.  It was also nice to have our good friend Alun with us for a little while too.

Indonesia as a whole is probably not the best country to start a cycle tour if you are still novices at it.  We felt like we were thrown into the deep end as soon as we reached Java.  The population is very dense and there is not a lot of space left there.  The road infrastructure is good considering the amount of people and cars, but isn’t great from a cycling perspective.  The driving is nothing to look forward to either.  It was difficult for us travelling in Indonesia, but it was also enjoyable to some extent.  Most people were friendly, but the ‘Hello Mister’ did get very annoying at times, especially towards the end.  The main drawback for us was the constant traffic and driving standards and most of all, the pollution (for all those moaning about Euro emissions control, thank your lucky stars) – not only air pollution, but also all the rubbish everywhere, especially the rivers.  The country is cheap, but standards aren’t great.  Then again, can’t expect too much if you look at what you pay.

I’m glad we came here to see what it’s like, but won’t rush back for now. I think our experience may have been completely different if we weren’t on bicycles.  Travelling in an air-con bubble would’ve given us a completely different experience….onto Singapore!