Saturday, December 19, 2009

60 Days of FUN - Thank You My Friends

Auto Venture - A Summary. " All Good Things Must Come To An End"

Overview. My auto venture covered exactly 60 days, two third of my journey with Neo Chian and one third with my family members. It was a lifelong experience which will edged in all our memories . Borneo Island was extremely challenging as we crossed into uncovered territories and sailed across rivers and the Java Sea in different environmental conditions, in different transportation modes. We met many people and friends who have been extremely friendly and helpful. We had a few near accidents but GOD was with us. Will highlight my most memorable time in each of the countries and places I visited. The people who made our trip that more interesting and memorable.

BRUNEI. I have been in this country for many years and my most memorable occassion is the dinner we had with Pehin Mohammad , Pengeran Ibnu and his Generals. These friends of mine are so warm and helpful, it was the best place to start our journey. Our SAF friends and Singapore Embassy, in Brunei, add to this warmth . Empire 6 stars hotel was more than worth the stay. Thank You My Bruenian friends.

EAST MALAYSIA - Sabah and Sarawak

SABAH. Mt Kota Kinabalu's sunset and breakfast under Pine trees was the coolest moment of this trip. And the rolling Oil Palm estates that travel for miles was an eye opener. Places of interests includes:
1. Mt Kota Kinabalu - never forget the " sunset " and morning breakfast under pine trees
2. Danuem Valley - challenging and robust to get there. Not sure I will make it there in later years. The forest and suspension bridge over a fast running river was an excellent place for Qigong. Want a quiet retreat from out of the world - go there.
3. Sandakan - heard about it but didn't understand how rich and developed.

We have Han Tiong and Yen Ching to thank for their guidance and his care in monitoring us until we were in Kalimantan. Thank you Han Tiong and Yen Ching.

SARAWAK. Amazingly rich - economically and culturally. Like Brunei- go and take a look. The towns are well developed and shows gracious living in many of them. Places of interest includes
1. Miri and into Bario - thought Miri was " Mini " but not so. Miri is a beautiful town and morning coffee at the market place was fun wathing retirees playing chess and sipping coffee.
2. Bario- Rice field , long houses and out into the deep of Sarawak. Life goes on with simple living. Extremely poor electricity and water supplies. But GOD is with them all the time. Want to see healthy old folks in the 90s and 100ths . Go Bario
3. Bintulu - didn't have the chance to stay there but the building architectures were interesting. Will spend time - the next visit
4. Sibu - Biggest market in Asia. See to believe
5. Kuching and into Entikong. Kuching is about the most developed in East Malaysia. 5 stars hotels lined this town. Night life and entertainment aplenty.
6. Road into Entikong , our gateway to Kalimantan was intriguing. The experience to cross thru Customs, Immigrations, Police, buying insurance with little " manageable fuzz " reflect the preparedness of my partner Neo Chian. Can't imagine if we were denied entry.

Friendly Cautions. Contrary to warnings by many to be careful , the Malaysians are much more friendlier than in Peninsula Malaysia. The people and the tribes welcomes you and are eager to tell you more, esp in BARIO. Thank you my Malaysian friends.

INDONESIA. Kalimantan, Bali, Central and Western Java

KALIMANTAN. This is the highlight of phase one of our journey. Compared to Java, Kalimantan is still very much underdeveloped. The towns are however active , crowded but very unclean, except for their " Toilets " -the Chinese should learn from these people on toilet behaviors.
1. Singkawang - Good to see my relatives and ex home to my wife, Michelle , and my in- laws. The kheks dominates this town and the local food can't be emulated elsewhere. Char kway teow and kor loh mee the teochew style were mouth watering. Thank you Ah Keong and Ah Lang
2. Pontiananak - Want to see a crowded town , not well organised but a sea port providing the lifeline to major part of Kalimantan. Easy to reach - direct flights from Singapore
3. Batu Lichin - Small sea port and coal mining areas. Never forget the 40 hours on board PT Kirana from Balikpapan stopping at Batu Lichin and then to destination Surabaya.
4. Banjarmasin - Relative " Amien " was most hospitable. Arrange for the " River Market ", monkey island, bird nest rearing house and local foods. Population of 1 million people, predominently muslims. Worth a longer visit. Thank You Amien
5. Balikpapan - Oil and Coal country, the people there are well off. Thanks to nephew , Sunny, for arranging accomodations and visit to places of interest. Could have visited the Coal mines.
6. Samarinda - Go see the biggest " Islamic Educational Center " and perhaps the largest mosque in Indonesia. Compound of 600m x 400m. This town is richer and bigger than Balikpapan
7. Tenggaran - Old heritage town but upgraded into modernisation. My opinion - nicest city / town in Kalimantan

PT Kirana. The 40 hour humbling experience staying on board with the majority poor was a real experience. Be prepared for the shock effect if you come from a developing or developed country. It has a humbling effect and helps you to reflect how fortunate you are. But GOD has HIS WAYS to look after everyone.

BALI - Need no further recommendations. The Europeans, in particular, love this mystical sunny island endowed with cultural diversity and richness. The beachlines and the mountainous characters provides different experiences and fun. 10 days in Bali was not enough for us.

Central and Western Java . We were lucky to have in-laws in SOLO. From there we radiate in all directions, covering Jogjarkarta, Malang, Surabaya, Probolingo and the many attractions.
1. Mt Bromo was unforgettable. Within 3 months, I went to this retreat area thrice. Will love to organise little group to visit in 2010. Not forgetting Pacet the mountainous drive thru Apple plantations, vegetable and padi plantations, hot springs and visit to Batu and Malang
2. Jogjarkarta Beaches. Palangtritis black sand dunes, Krakal and Baron beaches and its hugh waves was worth a drive , especially thru padi plantations and vegetable plots . Was a educational program especially for Patrice to see the authentic " kampongs " , stream and rivers and the narrow tracks that links to humblr dwellings and onto highways.
3. Boroburdo need no special introduction. With hotels now established in this area, staying there for a couple of days will be possible.
4. Royal Graveyards. Saw these in Samarinda and in Solo. Sultans and descendants of these places and the late Pak Harto are places of visits , quite unusual for the normal tourists. Culturally enriching
5. Solo. Don't underestimate this town. Very well developed, it is also culturally rich. My three weeks there allows me to see so much and yet it is still not enough
Thank to brother and sister-in-laws, Pak and Ibu Daradjadi for having us and sister-in-law, Connie and Totok , our local knowledgeable tour guides

Next Auto Venture. Well got to get back to work first. Perhaps, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and China could be interesting options. Until then, may I thank all my friends, particularly Neo Chian , and relatives for the friendship , their guidance and their patience with us over the last 2 months.

LANTERNS IN MOTION. My core biz in providing lantern shows in the region. Watch out for my new Blog if any show comes along.

May I wish everyone A Blessed Xmas and A Happy and Healthy 2010.
Thank You and GOD BLESS.

[ps. Anyone who needs informations on the places we covered, I will be more than happy to share other details, photographs and the Dos and Don't . Bye

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Padi Fields and Black Sand Beaches

Day out to Southern Jogjarkarta.
We decided to give Patrice and ourselves a bit of education on padi planting and how humbly some of them lives, sweat and eat in the fields. Also to see Black and White sandy beaches.

Padi planting in sequence.
Pic below shows a whole nursery bed of young padi plants ready to be planted. Farmers gathering them in bundles and then placing it in rows along the padi fields. With a string to guide the linear planting, the farmers then go around and plant 2 to 3 stocks at a time. A back breaking task for most of us and them too

Petak :According to some of the workers they will take a team of 4 to 5 workers to plant a " Petak " , measuring about 20 x 20 metres over 3 hours. They could plant up to 4 x petak a day at 70,000 rp per petak. Each worker therefore earn about 40,000 to 50,000 rp ( S$ 7 ) a day.

Padi harvesting is normally after 3 months. The padi fields are then used to plant corns, soya beans and chillies which will take another one to two months before harvesting. The ground is now hardened and the earth would have to be tolled again for the next padi planting. In the meantime, young saplings are being planted concurrently with the corns etc so that they are ready for the next padi planting. They have improved on their planting methods and fertilising it - resulting from 2 to 3 harvests a year. Sometimes during extreme dry weather they plant sugar canes on some plots. Sugar canes takes a year before harvesting

Pic below shows Padi field workers clearing their wheats. School children in a nearby school and team of 4 workers having their break.

Educational attachments. Indonesian secondary and high schools organise attachment programs for their students to live and work with the farmers, hawker centers, shopkeepers, etc for 3 to 4 days. The student pays about 150,000 rp for such programs . They would eat, sleep and do the works of their adopted parents . These programs give the children a feel of the laborous works the lower income people are going through to earn a living. Aim to to make the students understand the hardships one has to undergo and teaching them to appreciate what they have.

Flexible Living in HUMILITY. We visited Nana's ex house keeper NINIK and noted that she is happily settled . With the little monthly income , they were able to build their home in phases. Note that the wall is cemented half-way and she told us that the other part of the wall and the roof shall be put in place once they managed to save sufficient fund.

Note the living condition

BARON and KUKUP Beaches.
There are quite a number of beaches along this entire southern coastline, south of Jogjarkarta. What is most interesting is that Kukup beach has white sands while the rest are black sandy beaches. Rocks and little islets stands out just off the shoreline and those who loves corals - you can have your choice if you care to survey the shoreline. Waves are ertremely strong and " No Swimming " signboards are prominently displayed.

Pantai Krakal is another popular beach which provides excellent BBQ fish which Michelle and her sisters were having for lunch.

Corals are seen right at the shoreline and the waves provide very strong Negative Ions , especially good for Qigong exercises, since we are all very short of negative ions

Baron Beach . Warungs flood the entire seafront on this black sand beach. We tried the BBQ fish which were real fresh. Michelle wants to laze around someday and become the warung owner. The waves were particularly strong and the locals " Do Not Swim " along this beach as many drowning cases were reported.

Perangtritis Sand Dunes Beach. This beach is located south of Jogjarkarta and is famous for its Black Sand Dunes and black sand beach. Along the way in, hotels at budget pricing can be seen. This beach is a popular weekend get away for families and esp for thousands of tourists and expatriates living in Jogjarkarta. We were supposed to just do a day trip but couldn't resist the sunset scenery and horse carts rides , esp for Patrice, till sunset

PERANGTRITIS Black Sand Dunes - Beach Front
Youth groups having their fun at the beach. The little swimming pools ( about 10 ) are constructed using simple canvas sheet. What is most interesting is that they dug some 20m down and are able to draw water for the pools - and FRESH water said the locals.

Grey or Black Sand ? If you look at the entire dry area, the sand looks grayish in color. However below the thin top layer, you can see the true black color sand. Digging a big heart shape volcanic crater and showing proof that it is actually black sand.

Sunset :Michelle and Patrice riding a horse cart along the Parangritis Black Sand Beach
20,000 rp for a 15 mins ride along the water edge and watching sunset was a real cool experience. Later on we too had a ride.

Solo - Breakfast , Wet Market and Istana

Authentic Satay Kambeng Breakfast at Solo's most popular Pak Samin's satay warung was an adventure by itself. The dishes were prepared in different forms - satay sticks, fried mutton and mutton curry to go with rice at 8am. According to Pak Samin (seated with us ) breakfast at his stall starts at 6am and we were already late. If you are not a mutton lover, avoid it. If you love mutton, well it;s Yummy.

SOLO's PASAR GEDEK . Sunday morning - we decided to visit Solo's largest market. The building was fairly big and the market place spread beyond the main building itself, flanked by 2 streets. Areas are allocated according to different products - fruits, pork, fish, chicken, beef and mutton, vegetables etc etc.

The market was packed , showing the economic well being of the Solo people.

Knives and axes in different assortment. Fruits and groceries and sausage skins for stuffing of meats to make into pork sausages.

Breakfast was Soto Ayam (chicken )
Solo's Pasar Gedek. A fairly large market which is rather colorful

Pura Mangunegaran. This palace located in the city area is more than a heritage. Commonly known as the second home of Solo, the current Sultan is still live behind this building. Pic shows the entrance , the main hall and a beautiful bird cage. As it was crowded, we decided to visit it another time.

KRATON SURAKARTA. This is a large palace and there are many many things to see. Some of those that attracted me and for which I can use, perhaps, for my future " Lantern Shows are : Javanese Wedding and Arabic Guards guarding the Palaces

Javanese Kris. A craftsmen and his helper pumping oxygen to heat up the furnace for burning the steel. Javanese are known to carry their knife behind their back unoffensively.

The Hall that display Royal carriages used by different Sultans over the years.

Royal Horse Carriages

Royal Kitchen Rice Pot