Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Freewheeling down Kintamani volcano, Bali

Can't get any better than this!

Snake skin fruit - taste between a cross of pineapple and apple but looks like garlic.

Students excused from PE. Can you spot why?

Roast Pork marinated in spices. A Baliness must eat! Some would disagree...

Kintamani Lake

The name Bali evokes all sorts of mystical and exotic impressions and rightly so. Hindu in religion, it has its unique blend of culture and traditions. Some call it the Island of the gods. Its people are easy going, friendly and relax and the food though is Indonesian, is spiced up differently.

Throw in great surf beaches, green terraced rice fields, skilled traditional artisans mix with world class hotels, spas and a plethora of superb restaurants and pubs, no wonder it attracts tourists from all over the world.

For Perth folks, this paradise is but a 3 hour hop and no wonder it is easily the no. 1 destination for West Australians. I had the privilege of having some father and son bonding time these few days in this beautiful island and we decided to stay in Ubud, the heart of art and culture.

Exams are over and tonnes of "schoolies" (High School graduates) make their annual pilgrimage to Kuta Beach for some fun in the surf and sand. Throw in hormones, alcohol and drugs, we were not keen to join the party.

I wanted a homestay and ended up at Ubud Dreams, right in the heart of Ubud town on Monkey Forest Rd but yet off a quiet street.

Ms Titik is a jolly young lady boss who is very friendly and helpful. No wonder her place earned top reviews in Tripadvisor.

Planned to stay for 2, but ended up 3 nights because I felt like it was home. The only bug bear was we could only have the aircon room for the first night, and spent 2 other nights in the fan room. It took a while to get used to the tropical heat once again but at A$22 a night for the 2 of us with breakfast, we can't complain.

This morning we signed up for a 30km bike ride with Bali Eco Cycling Company. They picked us up promptly and Made, our guide, welcomed us warmly. We were driven in a comfortable bus to see some fantastic rice terraces.

We then were taken to the top of Kintamani where we had breakfast over the spectacular view of the volcano and the crater lake. It was breathtaking! 1600m also meant cool weather which was absolutely delightful.

Next stop was a tour of the coffee plantation and we were given a thorough explanation of the various coffees and plants grown in this cooler part of Bali. Luak Coffee, made from the droppings of the Civet Cat, is cultivated here and is the world's most expensive coffee.

No wonder the unique coffee made it in the Bucket List of Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Not being a coffee person, I tried it and sadly couldn't appreciate it but I enjoyed particularly the choc coffee. I was getting restless and fortunately, no more detours and we were taken to the starting point of our ride.

The field had about 50 bicycles and we had to select a suitable one. The company provided helmets as well and we took some time to adjust the bikes to make sure all was ok. Made gave us a thorough safety briefing which was important.

I chose a shining bright yellow MTB with disk brakes for Jem and I. It proved a good choice as it was relatively new and had great stopping power.

Made led the pack of 10 and there was a sweeper as well. It was fantastic gliding down at 25kmh, zipping past villages, temples, friendly school kids, lush green rice fields along the quiet back roads. We stopped at a Baliness home and saw how the family of 19 lived.

They had a bamboo based business and it was interesting to see how they made it into all sorts of things. Continuing on, two young Ozzie teens in my group were having a lot of fun racing each other and doing all sorts of theatrics on their bikes. They were pretty skilled but I hung back a safe distance. Crashing at 30kmh + downhill can truly spoil a great holiday.

The highlight for me was riding through the padi fields and a MTB proved itself through the muddy paths. Serene, breezy and a sense of freedom were felt as we admired the priceless view and I understood why the Bali people, though seemingly lacking in material things, were so rich in community and spirit.

We were privileged to see a team of rice harvesters and learned that they are only paid US$4 a day plus some rice for their back breaking efforts. Yet, they were all so gentle and never fail to break out in smiles for us pesky tourists, interrupting their day's work.

We ended our ride by crossing a small river and our team took the bridge while another team rode across it on their bikes. I felt a tinge of jealousy as it looked so much fun. There was an optional 8km ride to our lunch spot and it was not for the faint-hearted as it was mostly uphills. Of course, I put my hand up and despite being the oldest of 5 (3 strapping teens + 2 men in their 30s), I joined the testoterone charged brigade. This proved quite fun but demanding especially after 20km + of easy downhills and one middle-age American guy dropped out after 10 mins, so technically, I wasn't last! Jem reckoned this was the most fun bit.

The tour concluded with the much appreciated ice cold towel and a most fitting hot lunch of delicious Baliness food. Satay, tempe, veggies, duck, chicken all cooked with exotic spices eaten with rice and noodles, washed down with ice tea and a lovely fruit dessert.

The bus took us back to our respective hotels and this is probably the best thing to do here in Bali for us cyclists - freewheeling down Kintamani! Certainly a must do in this beautiful island paradise.

23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. Acts 17:23-25

Friday, November 25, 2011

4 & hopefully more!

Another birthday for Lovethefold has arrived! It was 4 years ago that I wrote my first post on 26 Nov 2007. Time really flies. Its always good to take stock on an occasion like this to do some reflection.

This blog is largely a personal journal of my cycling journey and it has been great fun sharing with you what I am up to. I am humbled that LTF has attracted a greater readership since last year, from 3000 a month to 6000 hits average. It takes discipline and hard work (and I lack both of these, help!) to churn out an average of 2 postings a week but if doing so inspires you in a small way to get on your bike, meet new people and explore undiscovered and unfamiliar places, then its my delight to press on.

Pic fm Google Images

The major rides I did for the year include:
Dec/Jan - Laos, Bolaven Plateau ride with Celia, Wei and Mike.
July - Thailand, Mekong ride with Rod, Ken, Kenneth, Christoph, Joshua, Taiwoon and Mike.

Pic fm TW

Sep - Malaysia, Malacca with Chris and KC.

Pic fm KC

Oct - Australia, Margaret River ride with Patrick, Kenneth and Christoph.

I continue to have my weekly Wed rides in Perth with 3 to 4 great friends, and in Singapore when I return for holidays, I do ride quite frequently too. One highlight that has happened is meeting up with the Love Cycling Spore Group led by Taiwoon and cycling advocate, Francis Chu. A real joy to make new friends like Matt Chia, a talented photographer/Go Pro-er!

Pic fm LCSG

They have a membership of over 700 folks and ride almost every Sunday! They are a bunch of wonderful people and I am very honoured to be a small part of this special group, though I'm pretty much a newbie there.

Pic fm LCSG

I have been a good boy and added only one bike to my already crowded stable - the Bike Friday Pocket Sport.

Pic fm CW

I have not ridden it much as it still sits in the box stored snugly in my store room in Singapore. That certainly must change and I will use this drop bar beauty in future adventures. I am also researching e-bikes as I believe this is the future, especially when one gets a bit older and a bit of help is appreciated.

First half of 2012 has 2 trips lined up already. My faithful buddy Chris and I have teamed up for our first organised tour. We are both ardent tourers (he more so than I) and know many great rides around Asia and what better way than to pool our resources and share this with others.

Pic fm TW

In Jan 2012, we are leading a Northern Thailand winter ride to Chiang Mai and its surroundings with a total of 12 folks in this most scenic part of the Land of Smiles, near the Burma border.

Pic fm CW

Then in March, I will be joining a ride organise by George Lim from LCSG to Taiwan, the Mecca of folding bicycles. I have never been there so the chance to savour Taiwan's beauty is something I really look forward to.

Pic fm - taiwanincycles.blogspot.com

We will also be attending the International Bicycle Show in Taipei so that should be heaps of fun. It will be exciting to see whats the latest and bestest offerings.

There is another trip in early July either to Bali, Indonesia or Vietnam but lets see how that pans out and Mike is pining to go to Yunnan in China come Oct.

So it looks like a full year ahead in terms of cycling and I cannot but be grateful to God and my family to be given these wonderful opportunities to enjoy and share my passion. I am humbly reminded that life is short with the passing away of my good friend and ride buddy Paul in April. Then, there are those who have moved on too for one reason or another... Treasure and enjoy the people we have around now while we can!

I trust that you will continue to enjoy following my adventures and do write to me if I can be of any assistance to you (lovethefold at gmail dot com). It will be a delight to get to know you and read of your adventures too.

Pic fm TW

May I wish you the time of your life as you head out on the saddle with your friends and make special memories together as life unfolds before us, with God paving ahead for us. Deo Volente, perhaps we will meet on the road soon?

You have done many miraculous things, O LORD my God. You have made many wonderful plans for us. No one compares to you! Psalm 40:5