Thursday, 23 November 2017

Gunung Daik Mountain Festival. Singkep & Lingga Highlights

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I was in Pulau Singkep and Pulau Lingga for Gunung Daik Festival 2017. One of the signature events of the annual festival is the 35 km mountain biking trail through the hills and villages near Dabo (Singkep) town. I didn't bike this time but am inspired to start training 😁 Over 100 cyclists from Malacca, Johor, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore joined the Indonesians for this year's event from 19 -22 Nov.

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Singkep and Lingga Islands are part of Indonesia's Lingga Regency which is part of Riau Province. The Lingga Regency islands are about 100 km - 120 km south of Singapore. The easiest way to travel to Lingga Regency from Singapore is by ferry (as there are no scheduled air links, at the moment).

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Our first stop in Lingga Regency was Singkep's Jagoh ferry terminal. Jagoh is four hours by fast boat south of Batam Island which in turn is one hour south of Singapore (so total time at sea is about 5 hours). The weather was bright and sunny, and all our boat rides were smooth and comfortable.

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At Singkep's Jagoh ferry terminal, fishermen bring in their catch of the day on little wooden boats and sell them directly to buyers from restaurants or fishmongers who come on motorcycles.

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Singkep Island (757 km²) is about the same size as Singapore (719 km²). According to the 2010 census, 41,000 people lived on Singkep Island mostly around Dabo town where we spent three nights.

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Singkep and Lingga Islands used to have a tin economy but the mines had closed since the 1980s. Today, most people engage in farming and fishing. There is some (swallow) bird nest production - you can hear the characteristic chirping of swallows when you walk the streets of Dabo Singkep. There is also growing tourism which Lingga Regency hopes to promote as the islands have much natural beauty and historical significance as a key centre of Malay culture.

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The retail shops around Dabo town mostly cater to basic everyday clothing, transport and food needs of locals.

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There is a small fish and vegetable market.

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I didn't see any petrol stations - there are probably very few. But, petrol and diesel are sold everywhere in plastic soda bottles and cans at street side motorbike workshops and also provision shops.

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Life in Dabo is simple, peaceful and relaxing.

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In Singkep, the two major hotels are One Hotel and Prima Inn. Some of us were put up in One Hotel (which is roughly 3-star).

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Others were accommodated in Prima Inn (also roughly 3-star). One Hotel is equipped with lifts whereas there are only stairs in Prima Inn. Prima Inn provides intermittent wifi and at the lobby only.

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One of our favourite hangouts in Dabo town was a local coffee shop just across the street from Prima Inn known as Bintang Timur. It's a Hainanese style kopitiam, the kind we find throughout Singapore and Malaysia.

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Bintang Timur is run by Mr Yang together with his mum and helpers. The Yangs are Hakka. Mr Yang's father who founded Bintang Timur learnt the coffee trade from a Hainanese master. The Yangs speak Bahasa Indonesia, Hakka and Mandarin.

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Bintang Timur kopitiam has been in this same location for over thirty years - the quintessential corner kopitiam (coffee shop in Hokkien language) of Singapore, Malaysia and around here in Indonesia. Their clientele is a cross section of the local population in Dabo Singkep.

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Mr. Yang brews coffee with the same long throat steel kettle and coffee sock used in Singapore and Malaysia.

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The familiar steel tank and coffee pots were fabricated in Singapore. In decades past before they were mostly phased out by the 1990s, Singapore had a thriving light manufacturing industry and most coffee shops and restaurants from Johor in the north to Singkep in the south were equipped by the workshops of Singapore. Singapore made restaurant equipment and machines were famous for its quality.

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Bintang Timur serve their kopi in these traditional thick ceramic cups and saucers which were also imported from Singapore.  The flavour and aroma of Bintang Timur's kopi is very similar to the "white coffee" we find in Johor from JB and Pontian to Muar and Batu Pahat.

Made with Robusta beans from Lampung in Southern Sumatra, the aroma is very mild. The beans from Lampung are roasted at Bintang Timur twice a week. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to observe the roasting this time.

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The body is light-medium and the flavour is quite pronounced and distinctive (reminds me of Kheng Guan Hiong in Pontian Johor). The locals drink their coffee with a lot of sugar or condensed milk. If you prefer less sugar, just mention it when you make your order.

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Unlike in Singapore and Malaysia where kaya and butter toast is staple, Bintang Timur does not serve it. They do have soft boiled eggs eaten with dark soy sauce and white pepper. The flavour of the egg was mild and it was done around 80%.

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Bintang Timur serves a variety of local light dishes and snacks from local suppliers.  There is a samosa similar to epok epok with greasy crisp, slightly chewy skin. There is a little bit of savoury spicy filling in the airy samosa.

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I like this pulut panggang - glutinous rice with fried grated coconut and dried shrimp filling. It is not too greasy, the tender glutinous rice has a slight chewiness to the bite and it has a bit of sweet toasty flavour from the grilled banana leaf wrapping. The mild savoury sweet spicy flavour of the fried grated dried shrimps and coconut balanced the sweet glutinous rice.

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The round brown biscuit in the middle is Cakar Ayam or chicken scratching because it looks like a ball of bad handwriting 😄 Cheryl bought it at the market to share with us.

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Josephine did a beautiful sketch of Cakar Ayam that is certainly no chicken scratching 😄 Cakar Ayam is a sweet dessert made of strips (like short wires) of sweet potato fried and dunked in caramelised sugar. It tastes sweet and is hard and crisp.

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Needless to say, we also explored the area around One Hotel and Prima Inn for more food.

We tried a couple of fried kway teow/ mee / bee hoon stalls. There was a nice toasty taste from good wok hei and lovely aroma from caramelised garlic and dark soy sauce. Fried with vegetable oil, the fried noodles were quite greasy. There was only bean sprouts and noodles. The savoury taste was relatively flat as it did not have layers of flavours from blood cockles, eggs, fish cake, Cantonese wax sausage, nor chives. There was a slight pepperiness.

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Of course, we had to try an ikan bakar stall. The fish brushed with savoury spicy sambal and oil were grilled over charcoal. The sambal was milder in flavour than the Johor variety (which is savoury sourish spicy) but was robust enough to over power the fish's natural flavours. We had a variety of grilled fishes including rabbit fish, and of course, stingray.

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The zhi char stall served up a variety of satisfying home style dishes and is very similar to its average counterparts in Singapore and Malaysia.

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Martabak Manis is a form of apom balik (crispy pancake) with a choice of fillings of crushed peanuts, grated coconut, chocolate rice, grated cheese or boiled corn.

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Those Bakso Ayam balls were huge 😮 It's a hard boiled egg wrapped with minced chicken meat. We didn't try this, but will do next time 😄

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Roti Bakar Bandung. Its a loaf of white bread with hinged slices slathered with a choice of condensed milk, cheese, jam, chocolate sauce, margarine, peanut etc. The loaded loaf is then browned on a greased flat iron griddle. Sugar overload 😱

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After all the good food, we were all energised for the fun biking trail which is the highlight of the annual Gunung Daik Festival.

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The biking event was very well organised thanks to good co-ordination between government agencies and private sector. The hospitable people of Lingga Regency were supportive, committing lots of resources and energies to ensure a fun and safe experience for all the participants.

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Police outriders, marshals, water points, first aid posts, ambulances, evacuation of stragglers, washing points, delicious food, post ride entertainment etc. The organisers thought of everything - thank you and kudos to them.

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After the fun biking event, our hosts brought us to Pulau Lingga which is an hour away from Pulau Singkep by boat. Lingga Island (889 km²) is bigger than Singapore (719 km²) in size and has a population of 16,651 according to the 2010 census. Daik, the capital of Lingga Regency is here on Lingga Island. Quiet today, Daik was once the centre of Malay influence and culture, its influence reaching Pahang from here. Hence, Lingga Regency is known as Bunda Tanah Malayu - Mother of Malay Land.

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Museum Linggam Cahaya has a large collection artifacts from Lingga Regency, most of which are contributions of local residents. It's a treasure trove for history buffs interested in the history of Lingga Regency and also our region as the Malay Sultanate based in Daik ruled Riau, Johor, and Pahang from here in pre-colonial days (1600s).

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The famous Daik Mountain is in the background - the signature "ears" on the right of the range slightly obscured by low cloud. Daik Mountain is 1,165 metres or 3,822 feet high.

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The ruins of Istana Dumnah built by Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Alamsyah in the 1860s. It was abandoned in the early 1900s, left in disrepair and crumbled into a pile of weathered bricks and cement.

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Replicas of the large community hall and grand palace were built steps away from the ruins. The grand buildings of Istana Damnah in its old glory are open for public visits.

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The once exclusive royal bathing pool of cool, clear mountain water from Gunung Daik is today open to the public. We can see Spanner Bard fish frolic in the pristine water.

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👉 A relaxing getaway in Lingga Regency is interesting for me as I enjoy natural beauty and food of Singkep and Lingga islands. The people here are hospitable. Lingga Regency has many significant historical sites which give us insights into the context of our region's past. I also look forward to enjoying sports like biking and trekking in Lingga Regency's mountains.

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If you are a cycling enthusiast, you may wish to note the annual Gunung Daik Festival in Singkep and Lingga islands in your calendar.

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I hope I can join you in Singkep and hopefully ride the Gunung Daik Festival trail next year. Look how cool KC is - it is never too young or too old to start biking 🚲 A trek up Gunung Daik is another activity I hope to experience.

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(Note: Look out for future posts where I will share greater details about the natural attractions, historic sites and more food in Lingga Regency 😋)

Date visited: 19 - 22 Nov 2017

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5 comments:

  1. Wow.... So fantastic short getaway to lingga.... Mmm the food look so yummy and make me hungry while reading it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes yes I want to go back soon and explore more :-D

      Delete
  2. Hello sir. Can you share another journalist member follow trip lingga 19-22. I from cyclist johor

    ReplyDelete

I firmly believe that taste is subjective and so, warmly welcome differing viewpoints as it makes this blog better :-D But, I disapprove negative comments that are anonymous or hide behind fake identities. I feel that that is unethical in the same way as speaking ill of others behind their backs. I look forward to all your comments :-D Thank you. (Date: 18 Dec 2015)

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