Staying at De Kock Hotel, Hunting the Gadang Clock Tower

Driver: “Donny, just get off here, okay? This car will turn to right, then car will run further away from downtown“.

Me: “Oh Okay, Uda. No problem for me

I was lowered by Annanta Travel on Veteran Street, I sat for a moment and stretched muscle stiffness after sitting in the back seat for eight hours. The white statue of Tuanku Imam Bonjol on his horse became the first sight which entertained my arrival in Bukittinggi. The “Paderi War” Leader spreaded charisma, valiantly without sound.

T-junction of Veteran Street, Pemuda Street (left) and Ahmad Yani Street (right).

After two days felt scalding heat in Pekanbaru, now I enjoyed Bukittinggi’s cool air. Now I was free to direct my camera to every where without sun sting. I had to occasionally stop because city contours which are up and down, making me gasped for breath with backpack’s burden on my back.

Entering Teuku Umar Street, which began to decline.

From a distance, I continued to look each other with a young blond girl who was sitting to enjoying the afternoon on big motorcycle. I predicted that she was precisely sitting in front of De Kock Hotel where I would stay in it.

It was true, arrived right at the big motorcycle was parked, I was confronted to hotel lobby in the form of a cafe, then young girl followed me and hurried to reception desk. It seemed like she was a hotel staff on duty that afternoon.

I would sleep on second floor of that simple dormitory.

Me: “Hi. Were you in Samosir four days ago?, I think that we stayed at a similar hotel, Bagus Bay Homestay”.

Noah: “Oh really? Yes, I was in Samosir four days ago”.

Me: “I’m Donny. I am an Indonesian traveler. What is your name?”.

Noah: “I’m Noah form California”.

Me: “Are you on vacation, No? What do you do in America?”.

Noah: “Yes, I’m on vacation. I am an engineer at oil company. What is your job in Indonesia? “.

Me: “Marketing”.

Noah: “What marketing?”.

Me: “I work in field, meet customers, and sell products”.

Noah: “Oh, you aren’t marketing. You are a sales. How about your income? Good income? I work with good income but with high risk in America … hahahaha”.

Me:” Yes, of course, I’m a salesman. I got a lot of money from my work”.

That was Noah, my new friend in Bukittinggi. Incidentally we were the only two who staying in the dormitory room with five single beds.

—-****—-

I sat in the lobby, a medium-sized bottle of Coca Cola managed to freeze my sweat after walking in a kilometer. That afternoon I intend to visit Gadang Clock Tower which is only half a kilometer to northwest of hotel.

Around 17:30 hours, I started to moving and carrying camera towards Gadang Clock Tower. I chose to walk through Yos Sudarso Street which tends to be flat and then descending on Istana Street.

Novotel’s old building.

Directly across from Novotel is Bukittinggi Plaza. I just quietly stood in mall courtyard to enjoy the beauty of Gadang Clock Tower. Sabai Nun Aluih Park, which was under the clock tower, was covered with a tight project’ iron sheeting. Apparently, There was park renovation.

96-years-old clock dedicated to secretary of Fort de Kock (old name of Bukittinggi).

As its name “Gadang” which in Minang language means “Large”, this clock tower is twenty-six meters in high with four 128-years-old twin clocks which was directly brought from Rotterdam via Bayur Port.

Operated by a Brixlion engine whose its twin is in Big Ben, London.

Was designed by Radjo Mangkuto, Gadang Clock Tower was made with 4 levels. The lowest level is the officer’s room, second level contains a clock’s ballast pendulum. Clock is placed on third level and the uppest level is tower top where clock’s bell are placed.

I was happy, being able to see Gadang Clock Tower which since I was a little boy, I only knew it through my elementary school textbook.

Annanta Travel from Pekanbaru to Bukittinggi

Staying up late with a true friend.

The last evening in Pekanbaru became a nostalgic session in durian aroma and a savory portion of fried Malon (Manuk Londo-a type of quail) which looked plump on a plate. This was a meeting which I deliberately prepared with a durian businessman that I didn’t know how long we didn’t meet, before leaving Pekanbaru tomorrow.

—-****—-

Morning came together with chewing toast from Ganda Bakery, which remained since my arrival in Madani City (other name of Pekanbaru), tasteless but still quite delicious to eat.

Smartphone ring which I was waiting for finally arrived.

Is this Donny?“, he shortly said.

Annanta Travel, Sir?“, I briefly replied and asked.

Yes, Don. What is an easy landmark to find the hotel?”, he asked in detail.

Quickly reflex, I ran to reception desk and handed my smartphone to the staff on duty. Somehow the staff explained to driver. As I understood, they spoke in Minang language.

Ten minutes later, a black Kijang (Toyota’s varian) which labeled “ANNANTA” stopped its engine roar in Sri Indrayani Hotel courtyard. Saying thanks to reception staff, I left the lobby and entered travel car in right rear seat.

Snack and mineral water provided by travel agency.

Do you understand Javanese language, Uda (mention for brother in West Sumatra)?“, I was curious because driver played Didi Kempot’s song which stored on his blue flashdisk.

Ah, I don’t really understand, Donny. Just tunable to listen it“, he was laughing.

Ha ha ha“, I laughed off.

I became the first passenger who he picked up. I just enjoyed every step on gas pedal into narrow alleys and streets in some housing complexs to pick up five other passengers. On second taking, I finally found my seat couple, a smiling grandmother who only could speak Minang language. Meanwhile, the last passenger was a stocky young man who seated in the front seat next to driver.

Situation in travel car.

222 km journey would be taken in 7 hours interval and through the famous Kampar River. Pekanbaru-Bangkinang highway was like a street race track like Monaco Circuit. Annanta Travel was so swiftly moving among heavy and slow-goods trucks. Grandmother who sat next to me only occasionally smiled to face me while enjoying this single race.

Entering Payakumbuh City, I kept awake. Didn’t want to lose a brief moment when passing a scenic spot. It was none other than Kelok Sembilan. I was so fascinated when I crossed this overpass, along 2.5 km and as high as 58 meters. Tall, dashing and charming to everyone who passes it.

Fascinated when Marshall Sastra and David John Schaap peeled it off on a Indonesian TV program “My Trip My Adventure”.

Overland journey for USD 11.8 passed 4 Regencies (Kampar, Rokan Hulu, Lima Puluh Kota and Tanah Datar) and 3 Cities (Pekanbaru, Payakumbuh and Bukittinggi) and leaved a natural beauty which is tempting to my eyes.

A trip which only provided a lunch break. This morning toast wasn’t longer able to withstand hunger, even wind had acquired my stomach. That afternoon, Minang’s typical black rendang (West Sumatra’s typical meat with spices) became my dining companion. This was the first time I felt rendang in its origin land.

Annanta Travel, “The Fast” from Sumatra.
Uwan Labuak Bangku Restaurant in Lima Puluh Kota Regency.

Rain began to fall when the trip entered Bukittinggi City through Tanah Datar District. I started to get ready to got off, because Annanta Travel have last destination in Padang. I was dropped off at Veteran Street, right at T-junction with Tuanku Imam Bonjol (Indonesian national hero) Monument in the middle.

Arrived in Bukittinggi.

Towards dark, I must head to De Kock Hotel.

Bus INTRA from Pematang Siantar to Pekanbaru

I left Lake Toba by a taxi (in Jakarta, it may be called “omprengan”.…(using minibus to transport passengers) for USD 3 with 1 hour 50 minutes travel time. It finally led me to visit a new city … yes, Pematang Siantar. The city that I never think to visit it.

The taxi dropped me off in Parluasan area, an area which famous as hoodlums producer in Indonesia. Horrific, but for me this was an extraordinary mental experience.

The driver drove me right across INTRA bus office on Sisingamangaraja street. A INTRA bus parked to upload passengers makes it was easy for me to make sure that I didn’t get it wrong.

INTRA office

Hurrying up and heading to ticket sales counter then paid for my ticket which was ordered by phone call a day before. Fearing if my order didn’t recorded and I could miss Pekanbaru in next day.

Buy a ticket here !….You better order at least a day before departing

Thank to God, my name was in list and I gave USD 17,5 to exchange with a sheet of ticket to Pekanbaru … Yes, welcome Pekanbaru.

Sitting in a waiting room, my gaze was fixed on my watch and INTRA office yard … Never seen when He arrived, from right end of bus office yard He shouted for me. Happy, meet old friend.

His name is Andy Erwin, we met on Hop On Hop Off (HoHo) bus in Kuala Lumpur in 2013. Since it, we have been friend and I never thought that I could stop by to his home….an umpteenth surprise on my journey.

waiting room at INTRA bus office

Waiting for four hours wasn’t a pleasant thing, it would be nice to go around city. Incidentally, Erwin was ready to take me around by his motorbike. I won’t discuss what I got for 4 hours journey in the city, I’d better tell it in another article.

After returning from my exploration in city which famous for its “war veteran bentor” (bentor is public transportation in Pematang Siantar which using old Harley Davidson) , I went back to INTRA bus office and was ready for departing to Pekanbaru. Thanks Erwin for brought me to sightseeing Pematang Siantar.

Slowly I started to get in INTRA Bus. It is embedded in my mindset that I must ready to ride this land roller coaster all night. There is a lot of info which I have gotten in internet that this “running box” will run very fast through roads towards Riau. Indeed, drivers from Sumatra are very well known for their high adrenaline in driving cars or buses. I’ll also tell you later when I couldn’t sleep when riding ANNANTA travel from Pekanbaru to Bukittinggi which is just as crazy in its speed.

That soft seats that I will occupy for 14 hours to travel about 600 km towards Pekanbaru.

I said that this bus is very comfortable, as comfortable as Jakarta to Solo buses (Jakarta is capital city of Indonesia, Solo is my hometown in Central Java) that I often ride when going to my hometown.…Well, you just know my origin.

It will become perfect if a socket under my seat is functioning, so I can just write on laptop or just charge my camera which is low battery. Unfortunately, all socket on all seats didn’t work.

Of course, I can’t enjoy night views out there because condition was really dark. I can only enjoy speed of bus in preceding every vehicle in front of it. This driver is amazing.

On next day, I could see real views from suburb of Trans Sumatra Highway.

Gardens belonging to residents

Or economic growth was seen from appearance of these shop houses.

Only 1 or 2 traffic jams which I encountered along the way because there was a road renovation, so all vehicles had to queue with other side to get through half of road.

Entering Pekanbaru city, bus began to slow down because urban traffic would certainly be more dense.

It wasn’t a terminal like I imagined where I will be taken down. But it was only a non-permanent building which is the final destination of INTRA bus:


A restaurant with a row of clean toilets.

After cleaning my body then I was exiting the building, I was offered by motorbike and taxi drivers to head to downtown. But to avoided a high price, I prefered to use online transportation services to go to Hotel.

I put my backpack and started exploring “Madani City” (madani city is another name of Pekanbaru city)

Bus INTRA dari Pematang Siantar ke Pekanbaru

Perjalanan meninggalkan Danau Toba menggunakan taxi (di Jakarta mungkin disebutnya omprengan…menggunakan mobil Avanza untuk mengangkut penumpang) seharga Rp. 40.000 dengan waktu tempuh 1 jam 50 menit akhirnya mengantarkanku untuk mengoleksi kota baru…..yes, Pematang Siantar. Kota yang tak pernah terpikirkan untuk ku kunjungi.

Taxi menurunkanku di daerah Parluasan, daerah yang konon terkenal sebagai produsen preman di Indonesia. Ngeri-ngeri sedap, tapi buatku ini adalah pengalaman mental yang luar biasa.

Si sopir mengantarkanku tepat di seberang kantor bus INTRA di bilangan jalan Sisingamangaraja. Satu armada INTRA yang sedang terparkir untuk menaikkan penumpang memudahkanku untuk memastikan bahwa Aku tak salah tujuan.

nih kantor INTRA

Bergegaslah kaki menuju loket penjualan tiket untuk membayar pesanan tanpa notifikasi lewat telpon sehari sebelumnya. Khawatir pesananku tak tercatat dan bisa-bisa Aku melewatkan Pekanbaru di keesokan harinya.

Belilah tiket disini….lebih baik pesan minimal sehari sebelumya

Bersyukur namaku ada disana dan kuserahkan Rp. 235.000 untuk bertukar dengan selembar tiket menuju Pekanbaru…..Yes, welcome Pekanbaru.

Duduk di ruang tunggu, tatapku terus tertuju pada jam tangan dan halaman kantor bus INTRA….Tak pernah melihat kapan Dia tiba, dari ujung halaman sebelah kanan Dia berteriak memanggilku. Senangnya hati, bertemu teman lama.

Namanya Andy Erwin, Kita bertemu diatas bus Hop On Hop Off di Kuala Lumpur pada 2013 lalu. Semenjak itu Kita berteman dan tak kusangka Aku bisa mampir ke rumahnya kali ini….kejutan kesekian dalam perjalananku.

Ruang tunggu di kantor bus INTRA Parluasan

Menunggu empat jam bukanlah hal yang menyenangkan, alangkah baiknya Aku berkeliling kota. Kebetulan ada Bang Erwin yang dengan motornya siap mengantarkanku berkeliling. Aku tak akan membahas apa yang kudapatkan selama 4 jam di kota itu, lebih baik kuceritakan di artikel lain saja.

Sekembali berpetualang di kota yang terkenal dengan “bentor veteran perang”nya ini, Aku kembali ke pool bus INTRA untuk segera berangkat menuju Pekanbaru. Thanks bang Erwin atas 4 jam waktunya mengantarkanku mengenal sejenak Pematang Siantar.

Perlahan aku mulai menaiki Bus INTRA. Sudah tertanam di mindsetku bahwa Aku harus bersiap naik roller coaster darat ini semalaman. Banyak info yang kudapatkan di dunia maya bahwa kotak berjalan ini akan melaju kencang membelah jalanan menuju Riau. Memang begitu adanya para sopir di Sumatera sangat terkenal dengan adrenalinnya yang tinggi dalam mengemudikan kendaraan. Nanti juga akan kuceritakan bagaimana ketika Aku tak bisa tidur ketika menaiki travel ANNANTA dari Pekanbaru ke Bukittinggi yang sama gilanya dalam hal kecepatan.

Kursi empuk itulah yang akan kududuki selama 14 jam untuk menempuh jarak sejauh 600 km menuju Pekanbaru.

Kubilang Bus ini sangat nyaman, senyaman bus-bus Jakarta-Solo yang sering kunaiki ketika mudik ke kampung halaman…..Nah Kamu baru tahu kan asalku dari Solo…..Solo coret…melipir dikit….SRAGENtina.

Akan menjadi perfect apabila stop kontak yang ada dibawah kakiku itu berfungsi karena Aku bisa saja menulis atau sekedar mencharge kameraku yang sudah sekarat baterainya. Ternyata stop kontak di semua bangku memang tidaklah berfungsi.

Tentu Aku tak bisa menikmati pemandangan malam di luar sana karena kondisi benar-benar gulita. Aku hanya bisa menikmati kecepatan bus melahap setiap kendaraan didepannya untuk didahului. Luar biasa si Sopir ini.

Keesokan harinya baru Aku bisa melihat gambaran sesungguhnya dari potret pinggiran Lintas Sumetera.


Kebun-kebun milik warga

Atau geliat ekonomi yang terlihat dari penampakan ruko-ruko ini.

Hanya 1 atau 2 kemacetan yang kutemui sepanjang perjalanan karena sedang ada renovasi jalan, jadi kendaraan harus bergantian dengan sisi yang lain untuk melewati separuh badan jalan.

Memasuki Kota Pekanbaru, Bus mulai melambat karena lalu lintas perkotaan tentu akan lebih padat.

Bukan sebuah terminal seperti yang Aku bayangkan dimana Aku akan diturunkan. Melainkan hanya sebuah bangunan non-permanen inilah yang menjadi tujuan akhir si INTRA:


Sebuah rumah makan dengan sederet toilet bersih.

Selesai bersih-bersih dan keluar bangunan itu, Aku diserbu para pengojek atau taxi-er untuk menuju ke pusat kota. Tapi untuk menghindari mahalnya harga, Aku lebih memilih menggunakan jasa transpotasi online untuk menuju ke Hotel.

Kutaruh backpack-ku dan mulai kueksplore “Kota Madani” itu.