Sunday, 6 June 2010

gpslog in batam - nagoya

gpslog in batam - nagoya
Originally uploaded by jon crel

My somewhat odd trip around the Nagoya district, difficult to keep track of where I am, thought the eastward loop was north :-) The eastward was through a vast residential area the other side of a high ridge from down town Nagoya. Although it looks as though I reached the sea, I just seemed to be on a large flat delta, with rivers and streams crossed by bridges as the road ran east. The residential area is very chaotic, with lots of dirt roads running between small houses, of varying quality of construction. Chaotic traffic and lots of mopeds, all very friendly, all a bit surprised to see a foreigner on a funny bike, but all very friendly.

dahon in batam

dahon in batam
Originally uploaded by jon crel

A cycle ride into the northern part of Nagoya, beyond the ridge, mostly residential, with a shanti like feel. Many unmetalled roads, slightly demanding for this bike. Massive levels of traffic on the main roads.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Cycling in Indonesia

Not too bad, the main roads are usually good quality and quite well maintained, but the layers of metalling mean you can get a disconcerting rounded shoulder, so need to keep away from the edge. Also the layers of metalling means there is a bit of drop off to the dirt. When it rained the slippery greasy slope started to scare me, I've slick tyres on this bike. Still the rain was great and refreshing, although I got pretty filthy. Another oddity, the ad hoc warning sign on the road is to stick a piece of foliage on your car. Interesting, one might think of it as camouflage... Cars are fast, but the slow lane is dominated by mopeds, so its generally not as bad as it would be (in the UK for instance). Mopeds carry massive loads, looks like desks, and 6ft long posts across the bike, but as these come up behind you have to rely on the common sense and skill of the rider. In fact the driving isn't bad, although passed by hundreds of cars I didn't have the bad experiences of drivers that I would probably have in the UK for that volume. 'Fraid the proportion of nutters in the UK is growing faster than elsewhere. Many bikes carry two (a lesson in vehicle efficiency the UK could learn). Many families, mum, dad, and one or two children in the middle. One moped had a guy playing a guitar in the back. Hmmmm live music from the back seat. You can often have a chat with them at the junctions. Pretty nice way of getting round, they are usually very friendly and interested in the bike.

In the city just heavy traffic and dual carriageways. Road names are visible, but without any sort of map you just have to ask people the way, everyone wants to help but only 30% have the language skills to do so. Hmmmm, seems that 'Stan' is the generic name for foreigners, maybe I misheard. Maybe British soldiers from Singapore were always 'Stan'. (Actually now I think its 'Mister', just caught the final syllable).

Singapore to Indonesia

Yesterday I took the trip to Indonesia, I'm going to stay here a couple of nights. I bought the ferry ticket to Batam the day before from Penguin at the Harbour Front, costs SG$40 return, and yesterday I cycled down there (through the rain, which is refreshing and not unpleasant in the warmth). Packed my bike in its bag, and checked it in. Caught the ferry (a high speed medium sized boat), and it raced through the waters, round Sentosa and down to the island, dodging between the huge number of commercial carriers anchored around SG. (Wonder if Southampton was like that at one time?). We arrived, I paid for my expensive Foreign Exchange visa, £19 paid in sterling, and got a 10000 IR back). I've already got a hotel booked, and I know it can't be too far away, but not been able to find a map anywhere (even Google maps is blank). Picked up the bike, and the guys at the luggage pickup said "oh, you the one with the bike", how did they know? Its in its black bag, turned out Customs were interested. Had to pay SG$2 to have bag carried from the boat to customs. Having decided it was just a nutty foreigner they let me take it away without any problems. Assembled my bike outside the ferry hall, much to the amusement of the locals (and no doubt the chagrin of the taxi drivers). So I rode out in the belief I'd be able to work out where the town centre was. Trouble was I could'nt see signs for the city, Batam centre actually means the ferry port. I asked a few people, but difficult to get an idea of where it is. Rode out down a dual carriageway, passed large commercial buildings set in acres of woodland, hmmm feels like a city, sort of. Local buses trolling past in both directions. Past the Politeknic (sic), commercial shopping centres, busy roads with lots of traffic, both 4 and 2 wheel (though mostly motorised). After about 20km I really had to decide the signs of city were getting fewer and further apart. I had a great lunch in a food centre, about 70p. Stopped at a petrol station looking for a road map. Eventually got talking to a couple on a moped who gave me extensive directions, (easy to follow as I recognised many places as I'd passed them earlier :-). Took the dual carriageway journey back, passing, and passed by, a few cyclists, look like Singaporeans tho, they have all the gear. But then I'm back at Batam Centre, and still don't know where the city is, anyway got a better steer as everyone knows Nagoya (Centre) (and now I know why as its the big commercial shopping centre in Batam), and I got to my hotel in about an hour (its probably about 20 minutes by bike but I went on a few tangents :-). The hotel is a running down Spa hotel, but very convenient, its down a mostly unpaved track. I thought it was cheap but the spiel I got on arrival made me realise I'd probably paid more than I should (about £25 a night B&B), on my Internet booking. Not bad, reasonable room size (ya need that to keep the bike), massive walk in shower (hmmm, better clean the bike tonight!). About 3 star I'd guess. No room Internet, but free wifi in the foyer so that is OK. Chatted with home on Skype. Walked round the Nagoya Centre (a block away). Chinese style street lighting, which I kinda prefer really, but a little difficult to thread between the mopeds. At least mostly they have lights. Clearly you can get a lift on these if you don't want to pay for a taxi. Food in Nagoya Centre not fantastic, had a tiger beer and fried noodle in a 'better' restaurant ('cos that was all that was open at nearly 2400) cost about £2, and not much better than I could make. Usually the more expensive the place the worse the food! I paid $128 in SG for dinner with my two colleagues, and it wasn't as good as the $6.50 I paid in the Harbour Front food court.

Writing this at breakfast, good range of Indonesian food, but lousy coffee and juice. Preparing for a long day, cycle round the city and along the coast is my intention, see what I can see! Think in this map less city (even the malls don't have maps), I think the compass is going to be my friend. Probably GPS too. Well this is the nice thing about cycling, you have to be self sufficient, and you really get to see a place!

Cycling in Singapore

I worked in Singapore last week, doing our periodic moderation activity with Informatics. I took my bike along, but had very little time to get out unfortunately. Singapore isn't too bad to cycle in (and there are quite a lot of cyclists around). In the city the roads are mostly one way, which is a pain as a cyclist. There is often a bus/taxi lane on the left which isn't too bad to use to cycle, although it often turns into a left/straight ahead lane at the junctions, which leaves you with the quandary of how position yourself safely. As some motorists do not indicate when in the lane, its often difficult to predict their behaviour. Many cyclists use the pavements, there are a few do not cycle signs, but mostly I think using the pavements is accepted. There are also a lot of mopeds of one sort or another, so motorists are typically aware of two wheel traffic. Outside the city there are often cycle lanes on pavements, in the residential areas. So, on the whole not too bad.

Folding bikes are allowed on the MTR, but only after 8pm or during the weekends. The MTR is a great public transport system, you don't realise how fast it is until you cycle the same distances.

So Singapore suffers from the same problems as many countries, too many fast uncrossable roads, too many large 4*4s and other fantasy vehicles. However its somewhat easier because of the good public transport infrastructure, and the limits on the number of vehicle licences.