Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Exploring the deep south of The Riaus - Day Five, Kundur at last!

KC putting up a brave front before battling the seas

I was surprised to see Roslan our taxi driver waiting for us at the Armanda Hotel lobby at 6am, ready to whisk us to Jago to catch our ferry. It was a miserable morning, with rain pouring and the sun still in bed. Somehow, putting our foldies in the back was a bit more difficult than the last time, but with a bit of jiggling, everything was good. Guess we were still not fully awake yet. Neither was my camera.

The early morning drive was very special as the sun fought to break out of the dark rain clouds. Both Matt and Darren were still catching up on their Zzzs as our Kijang made its way northwards. KC and I seemed bright eyed and enjoyed the beautiful coastal views.

At Jago, we had a simple breakfast hoping that Ms Grabby, yesterday's pretty waitress, would offer us some bright smiles to start the day. It was not to be as she seemed like the weather, gloomy and a tad crabby. Matt had his theories for the change in behaviour but I rather not write those down. It was straight forward to get the tickets and at 725am, we boarded the familiar ferry with our foldies once again, on the roof. Bad weather meant that the ride was a bit slower and rougher but we didn't mind it one bit. We clowned around until we got tired. I had a good snooze on the ferry and at 1140am, the bustling port of Tg Pinang appeared.

It was pouring cats and dogs when we got out of the ferry and my first agenda was to decide where to go next. I enquired from a friendly ferry employee who spoke Chinese what were my options. My heart sank when he said the ferry to Tg Batu, Kundur had left. We were too late. It was 1215pm already and no ferries were going anywhere for the afternoon. We had to stay here for the night. However, instinct and experience taught me not to take such advice as Gospel truth and I went to the ticket counters to enquire once more.

As it turned out, God's angels were in front of us. I just shouted "Tg Batu, Tg Batu!" and one ticket seller responded if I hurried, I would just be able to just make the 1230pm. With a loud halleluah, I happily paid for the tickets and she called the captain of the boat to wait for "empat orang naik sepeda" (4 blokes with bikes). Seemed the bad weather caused the small ferry to be delayed till 1pm and that gave us adequate time to go get some takeaway lunch and do the necessary. I always know that God loves us so much, but this is yet another co-incidence, or God-incidence to affirm this.

This 1230pm ferry to Tg Batu has 2 stopovers. First one at Galang which is the southern tip of the Barelang Highway and the second at Moro, a very tiny fishing village on an even tinier island. With four 200bhp engines, this ferry really flew and with the bad weather and choppy seas, we felt like we were on a rough bombing mission over Germany on a B17. The pounding of the waves made it sound like anti aircraft fire were exploding all around us and it was most exciting!

Foodie Matt outdid himself as our humble packet lunch of rice turned out to be finger licking good. He had opted for the premium class which had everything in it. Fried chicken, veggies, potato cutlet and egg. We gobbled it all down hungrily as though it was our last meal, before the leap into battle. It was hard though to eat with the boat bouncing away.

While enjoying my 5 star lunch, the famous bridge #6 at Batam showed up and that got us really excited. It was nice to stop at the Galang pier, where I visited 5 months ago and an old man with a songkot got out. He was the only passenger to get off.

The B17 then powered its way to Moro and first impressions were not favorable. This small town seem to be infested with those swallow farms, huge angular grey buildings with loud bird sounds. They were there to harvest the bird's nests that fetch a prince's ransom, at least in China. A whole load of people came on board and we headed to our final destination - Tg Batu. The rain was still present but thankfully getting lighter. When we finally got to Tg Batu, we have been on the boat for nearly 7 hrs! It was great to be on terra firma at last.

Tg Batu is home ground to me and we made our way to the usual Gembira Hotel. However, I remembered the karaoke that blasted through the night and decided to try another newer place, Berlian. For US$18, they offered us a huge VIP room and that sealed the deal.

As we checked in, we went for a bite and had some fried noodles. The famous wanton mee stall was closed so that would have to wait. We toured the 2 horse town of Tg Batu and ended up at the old jetty. Here, the hull of a disused 007 police boat laid since the 1990s. Itching to get our legs moving after sitting down in 2 ferries for one whole day, we took a ride to the countryside.

After Sengkap, the views were nothing to shout about but after 3km along quiet roads, we spotted a group of boys playing soccer. This provided for live entertainment and we marvelled at the simple joy of friends coming together to have fun. Some came by bicycles and even though the price tags of our bikes were on different end of the pole, we were one.

Returning back to our hotel, we noticed a big celebration that was about to begin. The Vihara Dharma Shanti Buddhist Temple was having a Getai show and there was a big stage put up, loud sound system set up and roads blocked off. We bumped into a very famous actor/getai performer in Singapore, John Cheng. He was having dinner with his group in a coffeeshop and when he saw that we recognised him, he cheekily said, "Wa si Kandang Kerbau sa-e a (I was born in KK Hospital)." 

As we were still early for the show, we took a ride to explore the northern part of town. Interestingly, another event was happening, though on a much smaller scale. The HKBP Batak Church was having their Christmas celebrations and a bunch of adorable young teens all decorated like Christmas trees waved to us as we cycled by. They kindly invited us to join their service and when I asked how long it lasted, she said till midnight! It was fun to talk to them and I was surprised they knew the Gangnam dance from Korea. That got everyone prancing around! We took photos together only to discover later that one of the girls was rather cheeky with her middle finger. She needs reporting, she does.

The Getai show drew practically everyone in Tg Batu and numerous stalls selling pop corn to trinklets sprouted up. It was certainly a carnival atmostphere and seems like everyone had pots of fun, from kids to the seniors. There was a performer belting out chinese songs gyrating in her black tights, and she captivated the audience, particularly the older men.

Then John Cheng appeared and the two got along like a house on fire. Preferring a quieter type of environment, we left the Getai and had a nice dinner at the town's hawker center which I named "Newton Circus". 

We had all sorts of great food like Satay, Fried Chicken that tastes better than KFC, Mee Goreng, Curry mee and of course, the obligatory Avocado Shake that we grew to love.

At this stage, poor Darren was not feeling very well so it was to be an early night for him. We later discovered that his trip to Barelang a weekend ago saw 3 of his mates infected with Falciparum Malaria, and sadly one of them is seriously ill. If Darren was still sick tomorrow, we would just take a ferry back to Singapore and end the ride. So with some medication given, Darren went to bed and the rest of us followed suit. Bouncing off the waters the whole day can be rather tiring... we slept with prayers in our hearts for Darren that he would make a full recovery.

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