My late paternal grandfather was born in Bagansiapiapi, on the east coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. Growing up, I’d hear all sorts of stories about his childhood before he moved to Singapore around World War II.

The snippets I heard fascinated me so much that I read whatever I could find on the internet about the Chinese families who lived in Sumatra in the early 1900s.

I also asked my extended family about what our family was like in Indonesia, and I discovered all sorts of things.

My great-grandparents were originally from China and settled in Indonesia. They were fluent in both Bahasa Indonesia and the Hokkien dialect. Their main source of income came from the rubber plantation they owned, in addition to fishing.

All these stories made me want to visit the area but I never acted on it until it hit me one day: What if I cycled solo from Singapore to Sumatra to visit my grandfather’s place of birth?

The idea grew in my mind and I became excited every time I thought about it. 

I knew I had to make it happen. And I decided to go big – since I was going to be in Sumatra, why not make the whole journey across the island and head to the northernmost tip of Indonesia on Sabang Island, in Aceh?

When I told my friends about my plan to cycle solo from Singapore to Aceh, as expected, they were worried.  

They asked me: “Why not just stick to Malaysia? You don’t know Bahasa Indonesia, what if you get lost? Do you even know what’s in Sumatra? You’re a small Asian woman, who knows what could happen?”

I took note of their concerns but I still felt it was an important adventure to embark on. No one else I knew had done it, but I wanted to give it a go.


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