Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kundur Goondus no more...

Goondu - Singlish word that means silly & inexperienced person.

One of the things I enjoy doing is to share the joy of touring with the friends I meet. A few months ago, I met up with Rich and Clarence and a few other blokes who do a usual Friday morning ride to Changi Village. While cycling in Singapore at the Park Connectors is beautiful, it is good to break the routine and cycle somewhere new. I find it sad that there are some people who are happy with routine and do the same thing over and over again, especially when it comes to cycling. This is quite silly as there are so many lovely places around Singapore to explore. Thus, I organised a Kundur Island ride just 2 hrs ferry away from Singapore in quiet Riau, Indonesia on Apr 11.

Although there were quite a few folks who expressed interest initially, only Rich and Clarence showed up which is not a bad thing. We met at 730am with our 3 Dahons at Batam Fast counter at Harbourfront and got our one way ticket to Sekupang, Batam where we hopped on to our connecting ferry to Tg Batu, Kundur. Prices have gone up quite a fair bit - S$29 for ferry, S$10 for bicycle tax and in Indonesia S$15 (100,000 rp + 30,000rp port tax) for local ferry.

We arrived in Tg Batu at about 11am and headed straight to Gembira Hotel, the Hyatt equivalent in that quiet town where 2 stars = luxury. Our suite which had one king bed and a single costs only S$38 (300,000rp) was very spacious and offered clean sheets and a lovely balcony.

Lunch was at the best Wanton Mee stall in town which was truly delightful. The wait was long but worth it. We took our time to enjoy our huge bowl of noodles. With a very full stomach, we explored the town on foot.

Our first stop was the Vihara Dharma Shanti Chinese Temple where I recognised that friendly temple keeper. Mr Tan was very happy to see us and welcome us to have a look see. The camera was kept busy with many interesting subjects to photograph. It was very nostalgic walking through the many mom and pop shops too, but the afternoon heat got oppressive and there were no aircon cafes at all!

A quick nap in our cool suite revived us and we did an evening ride to Kundur Beach. I had always wanted to explore this and was so pleased that I finally got to do it. The ride there is easy, head north for about 5.5km and take a left at the fork. Another 1km or so, there is another fork, take left again and proceed on 5km. The beach did not disappoint and we just soaked in the view.

There are a few huts at the end of the road which offer fresh coconuts and local food/snacks. The sandy beach and waters looked really inviting and I regretted not jumping into the waters. This is a must do next time. Watching the sunset here would also be very special but that meant riding in the dark, something I would not recommend especially with new folks on board.

Dinner was at a Teochew Che Char stall where the Chef had a flaming wok. We enjoyed home cooked dishes of ginger chicken, fish head in soya sauce, stir fried pak choy and a lovely salted veggie soup with rice and washed down with cold Heineken.

The feast was a very reasonable 190,000rp (S$25). Rich retired back to the hotel but Clarence and I went to try the local delicacies at the night carpark which became a food paradise. We had satay and Kundur's version of KFC, which was remarkably crispy and not oily.

The great plus of cycling holidays is we sleep really well and that night was no exception. We all woke up bright and early and I took Rich for an early morning ride around town. I always enjoy seeing the quiet start of a brand new day and took lots of pics. We linked up with Clarence and had breakfast along Jalan Usman Harun.

Here, many local Chinese goodies were offered and there was just this old time friendly atmosphere that is priceless. On offer were Kway Chap, Chai Tow Kuey, Bak Koot Teh, Wanton Mee, Chicken Rice, Char Kway Teow, Bee Hoon and many other types of goodies.

I was intrigued when an old 76 Datsun Cedric pulled up and the driver came here to hang out with his mates over coffee. It would be so interesting to find out what the early days were like in this sleepy hollow.

Before we set off north to Urung, we dropped in a bike shop to buy 3 bells as souvenirs. We saw this on an old bike and this bell makes the most beautiful 2 tone sound. At S$6.50, it was a steal and I want to use this as a doorbell for my home. The 8am ride to Urung was an easy 20km through quiet and well paved roads. Riding through small villages with friendly folks was therapeutic. We took just over an hour to do this and the familiar huge pineapple icon welcomed us to Urung.

As usual, we hung around the jetty area and had lovely refreshments there. Clarence who was then feeling unwell had enough of cycling, and that was unfortunate. I respected him for his honesty and for his adventurous spirit. He had just taken up cycling recently. Clarence kindly said to go ahead without him but like Marines, we do not leave anyone behind. Our original plan was to ride another 30km to Selat Belia however it was providence that there was actually an Urung -Tg Balai ferry that was leaving in 45 mins time (10am). I'm always amazed at how God walks in front of us!

Such is the fun in bicycle touring - when we change plans and just go with the flow! I was excited to do so as that would be my first time on this ferry. Local ferries are usually cheap and at 25,000rp (US$2.50), it was a steal. Problem was that it was rather overloaded and with nearly 50 people in a small boat, it was a tight squeeze. I asked Clarence if he could swim should the boat sink, and he said, "No". Gulp! However, our 3 foldies rode first class on top of the roof, hand holded by the very kind deck hand.

We arrived at Tg Balai with plenty of time to spare as our return ferry to Spore was not till 2pm. This gave us amble opportunity to see the town. First things first was to book our tickets home and this was 170,000rp and a further 60,000rp for tax (US$24). Then, it was a ride up to the new Esplanade which has the distinguish 9 yellow pillars which I think represent the 9 pillars of Islam.

We also went to see the old Dutch Naval Officer quarters which was perched strategically up a hill, offering commanding views. It was a ride through the busy town of Tg Balai next before we ended up at my favorite Nasi Padang restaurant. Simpang Raya.

The plumb owner, a jovial and warm hearted Mak Chik (Auntie) welcomed us and brought a whole lot of fiery dishes on our table. We took our time to eat and drank buckets as we were sweltering from the heat. Her food did not disappoint and we ate like piranhas. The bill came to be only 190,000 rp and we left stuffed to the gills.

Our return trip was uneventful but what caught us by surprise was being welcomed by George when we exited Harbourfront. He was supposed to come along with us but had to pull out due to a medical appointment. We had drinks with George and he sent us home. Such amazing generosity and friendship! If anything, I'm really grateful for all the wonderful friends, old and new I get to make in my cycling adventures.

It looks like I have to re-do this trip again, at least for George as he still remains a Kundur Goondu.


It was a privilege to meet Clarence. He was a keyboardist of the rock band Speedway in the 1980s. They were a very popular group and their song Come Sail Away captures the spirit of freedom we enjoy on ships or bikes...


mibiciyyo said...

After seen all the picyures and great food I'm planing my next trip to Kundur

Taiwoon said...

wahhh nice entry. I also want to be a Goondu!