Recording Attendance

As a lecturer, one of my responsibilities is to record students’ attendance. At least for me, this data can be used later to determine whether I should give lenience to some of them in special circumstances.

COVID-19 changes that definition of “attending”. One can just show up at the beginning of a virtual class then leave, switch his/her screen to a computer game, or leave the presentation open while he/she is playing a mobile game. That is why for my classes, I don’t really care about the students attending. I even allow my students to record their attendance, a feature that fortunately provided by the university IT department.

Mid-term and final exam, however, are different. They are more “sacred”, hence I took extra steps on ensuring my students attend the class. Again, I cannot ensure that they are present during the whole exam. I also cannot fully ensure that they do not cheat by working cooperatively or being worked by someone else (a.k.a. joki).

However, it is possible to record some kind of authenticity. I can ensure that each student is present and, well, alive and doing well, at the time of exam. This may help prevent some weird situation in the future, like, giving a degree to a deceased or even a non-existent person. This may sound like a joke, but if we’re being honest, most likely nobody from the university side have ever met freshmen of 2020 in person!

To perform such attendance record, I called each student by name at the beginning of exam. When a student’s name is called, he/she has to turn on his/her camera and answer “hadir” (present), so his/her face is spotlighted in the Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or whatever platform used.

Below is an example of such recording.

This was the third attempt of recording this semester. It took about ten minutes to call and record about 47 students, and as you may see in the video, there were some interruptions and imperfections along the way. Earlier attempts took 15 minutes, because I didn’t use Microsoft Teams’ native app, hence video didn’t show up very quickly.


Yes, I will fix your computer (for $250/hour)

We, computer programmers, all have this mantra: “No, I will not fix your computer”. It made sense, because we study hard to solve complicated problems, that is solvable by having a machine works for us. Fixing computers and networks are the job for the IT people. It was engrained to me when I graduated and stayed there for some time.

Fast forward, I worked, took a master degree, tried to make a startip, taught in university, and build commercial websites, and things change. I don’t take that mantra so much anymore.

Let’s see some of the IT problems:

  1. Internet does not work because cable is unplugged. What you had to do was to check the if there are blinking lights both on the PC side and the router. Looking from another point of view:
    • How can we avoid such problem and repetitive checks? One solution is wi-fi. Some computer scientists developed robust protocols for wireless connectivity. Businessmen popularize wi-fi, and today general consumers don’t have much cable problem anymore.
    • How can we automate troubleshooting? Some programmers at Microsoft developed Windows Troubleshooters. Though it is not very popular, but they did some problem solving exercise using computer programs.
  2. Finding the proper drivers. It was common problem that a hardware does not work because the driver did not exist. It recently occurred to me that I couldn’t connect to internet because the Wi-Fi dongle needed a driver that should be downloaded from the internet.
    • Again, those programmers are developing some standard, to ensure that minimal driver is required to make OS work with hardware. Plug n Play, they said.
  3. Data loss of computer reformat. Do you remember the days when your Windows is full of junk it had to be reformatted and reinstalled, and repeated again every year? One problem is to backup the files, and restore them afterwards.
    1. You may know that they are plenty of storage solutions nowadays, and they are competing each other (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.) Who built them? developers

So my point is, even the silliest IT problem nowadays, can be seen as a potential problem to solve with a product / software / app.

However, I do understand that you should not waste your time doing so much of IT works (if you’re a programmer). That’s why you should also consider to charge some money (except if it’s your mum and dad). You will be surprised that some people are actually willing to pay some large amount, if you ask for it. It’s a win-win anyway: they get their problem fixed, and you get money and potential problem to solve.

covid-19 indonesia travel

Sentul Meeting: My First Travel in COVID-19 Situation

I noticed two extremes in how my acquaintances respond to COVID-19 stay at home notice. At one end, those who stay at home as much as possible like there is zombie apocalypse. At the other end, those who think that social distancing is nonsense and COVID-19 is a conspiracy. This story is for those who goes toward the first end, to show you what is going on outside.

Me and my team helped the Ministry of Education developing a simple mobile app for their World School Debating Championship 2017 event, as well as the 2018 Festival & Lomba Seni Siswa Nasional (FLS2N, or the National Art Festival and Competition for Students) online competition portal. The 2018 project was a complex and challenging one, as some provinces decided to use the classic on-site competition while other provinces decided to go online. 2020, COVID-19 came and everybody must go online. Long story short, our team was invited to Sentul, Bogor, for meeting with the committee and judges, to prepare for the part of the FLS2N and debating (LDBI & NSDC, Lomba Debat Bahasa Indonesia & National School Debating Championship) 2020 full-online competition.

My team member refused to go due to fear of COVID-19, so I as the team leader, had to go alone (I kind of miss those day when I was not a leader and can throw responsibilities to my boss). My wife was also worried and upon returning I would not be allowed to go to office before 14 days, but well, the show must go on.

I started driving to Sentul around 8 AM, and the traffic was very clear, comparable to those at 2019 Lebaran time (where most of people are outside the capital city), so that was one benefit of the stay at home policy. I arrived Sentul at 10.30, 1.5 hours earlier than schedule of registration at hotel. I spent my time at Starbucks to reply to e-mails and video call with my team. I chose Starbucks since it has the lowest risk to contract the virus, compared to other places like Dominos, KFC, or a bakmi (noodle) restaurant.

Starbucks has a pretty good policy towards COVID-19 prevention. Markers on the floor helped people who queue to keep a distance one another, all customers were scanned for fever and required to wear mask. I brought my own tumbler, and asked to put my tumbler in a plastic bag that the staff held, in a way that the staff would never have to touch my tumbler at all during the process. This ensured germs or virus from one customer does not contract to the next customer.

At 1 PM, I arrived at the hotel and registered. As I traveled alone, the staff said that I will be assigned a roommate. At this point I realized that to achieve global survival from COVID-19, people must work together. If my roommate was the conspiracy theorist like I said earlier (unfortunately he was not), I would have a much higher risk of contracted with COVID-19 even though I follow all hygiene and social distancing recommendations).

From the hotel itself, they have implemented various measures to limit spread of the virus. Mask and plastic gloves are compulsory while you are inside the restaurant, and guests are not allowed to take their food by themselves (yes, including to prevent those guests who pick the food to their plate, then change their mind and return the food to the tray). Guests are also not recommended to use the swimming pool (which some of them did, anyway). When I entered my room, the blind was largely opened, allowing sunlight to pass through at maximum level. When I closed it that evening (I don’t want to see ghosts at night), they reopened the blind next day.

As for the meeting itself, COVID-19 briefing is held at the first night. My roommate complained that it was a waste of time, but the organizer told me that such briefing is compulsory for holding the on-site meeting. During the meeting, it is not possible to 100% perform social distancing. At one time people have to open their mask and speak close to the partner for a secondary discussion. Other time, you have to lend your smartphone to your partner to show an image stored in your phone. After all, the goal of having on-site meeting is to overcome the difficulties in discussions due to social distance.

There is not much story to tell other than those, since the meeting was held for two nights only. One thing for sure, when I returned home, I decided to isolate myself from my family, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.


Hacking for good or evil?

My employer started asking their employees to perform online attendance recording during this work from home period. Basically I just need to login to a website and confirm my attendance.

As a developer, it is easy for me to create a computer script that runs every morning and simulate me clicking the buttons to perform the attendance confirmation. And to be honest, I was tempted to do that.

But then again, what good will it do? I may get the pride of being able tricking the system. I may share the source code so other employees, good and bad, can use the automation. The employer will notice that, and they may put a captcha to prevent it.

Then, for the honest people, they will have to go through the captcha every time they want to confirm attendance. That, may be, not what I and you want.


Guest Post: Desmond School Day

This is a guest post from my son. Not translated to English. Please ask Bing / Google Translator to do it for you. Thanks.

Yang kesatu: belajar. Yang kedua: makan. Yang ketiga: berenang. Udah.

Hari ini belajar ca ci cu ce co. Habis itu bermain. Bermain lego. Setelah itu menjahit. Habis itu main miniset bunga. Miniset bunga dibentuk-bentuk. Bikin semacam kendaraan yang ada roda. Udah cuma segitu aja.

Setelah itu makan bekal apel.

Setelah itu di sekolah bajunya dibuka, diganti dimasukkan ke kantong kresek. Setelah itu berbaris depan kelas. Setelah itu turun ke lantai satu. Habis itu duduk di tangga lepas sendal. Setelah itu berenang dari besi pakai ban di tengah lompat ke air. Habis itu pulang, dijemput mama, mamanya dipanggil sama Ibu Guru Dila. Udah.

indonesia theme park travel

Jakarta and Malang Trip

Every year, our team at PT DNArtworks Komunikasi Visual spend a few days for company outing outside our city of residences. The team itself is split into Jakarta and Bandung team. While in previous years we met at our destination, this year we met at Jakarta, and flew together to Malang.

The Bandung team, seven of us, were supposed to meet at the train station in the morning. However, one member Carissa cancelled last minute, due her illness and an important life event that would happen a few weeks later. Therefore, six of us traveled to Jakarta by Train.

Picture of Bandung team in the train
The guy in the back seemed to be happy to be included in the picture.

We arrived at Jakarta three hours later, and took a Blue Bird cab to our Jakarta office in the Serpong area. As usual, picking the right taxi was difficult, due to illegal taxis pushing us to use their service instead.

After arriving at the Jakarta office, we had some light discussions then headed to O! Fish restaurant chain nearby. They serve western style seafood menu, with healthy options to cater concerned millennials’ need like me. The most interesting option for me was to replace potato with quinoa seeds, a food normally consumed by body builders, at least in Indonesia. We then had a team photo.

DNArtworks full team in one picture
All is full (photo by Daniel)

We spent another few hours at the office, then Bandung team headed to a hotel nearby in Alam Sutera area. We had dinner in a Manado restaurant called Sarang Oci, which was not disappointing at all. The best part of it was klapertaart for desert.

Bandung team at dinner table
Bandung team at Sarang Oci

The next day, we checked out early at 4.30 and took another Blue Bird cab to Halim Perdana Kusuma Airport. At this point we noticed that for a group of 5 or 6 persons, it is less expensive to take a Blue Bird van compared to GrabCar 6, since Blue Bird charges the same price for small and large car. The flight from Halim Perdana Kusuma to Malang’s Abdul Rachman Saleh airport was slightly delayed but generally smooth.

Our tour guide was already there at the airport to pick us up with his minibus (commonly called by its brand: Elf). Without further delays, we went to have a simple Javanese lunch near Jawa Timur Park (Jatim Park) 3 then went to the Jatim Park 3 itself.

Jatim Park 3, the latest of the park series, is a very big area, hosting several thematic parks like The Legend Stars park, Dino Park, and Museum Musik Dunia. On our trip, we visited The Legend Stars park, which surprisingly took more than two hours to explore, even by skipping some attractions. The park mostly shows replicas of various famous people and buildings from around the world. It was clear that the park was built to cater the need of most Indonesians to get the best spots for taking pictures. Some of the replicas like President Jokowi have a very good detail and worth to appreciate.

Pascal pretending to take note of what President Joko Widodo is saying
That is not real Jokowi

After Jatim Park 3, we visited another park, that is the Museum Angkut (transportation museum). Similar to The Legend Stars park, the museum were mostly filled with replicas of various vehicles, ranging from trains, airplanes, and cars (mostly sport cars). At certain times, they presented live attractions, like the one I saw at 3.30, where they showcased 3 sport cars drifting on the road. Overall, the museum was huge as well and it will take time to explore everything, and even longer if you take pictures in different spots.

Sport cars show in Museum Angkut

We had early dinner at a bakso (meatball) warung called “De Stadium” which looked humble from the outside but turned out “famous” as it is frequently visited from celebrities around Indonesia. Just before dawn, we headed to our hotel for our first night, De’Boutique Style Hotel. We had a chat at the social area in the hotel, while tasting Malang’s Cwie Mie and Tahu Petis, then went to bed early.

Just before midnight, we woke up and checked out from the hotel. With our luggages in the van, we headed to a small town called Tumpang. From there, we transferred to three 4WD jeeps that would take us to the Bromo mountain area.

Picture of two jeeps in the dark
The jeeps that brought us to Bromo mountain area

We arrived at the viewing point around 3.30, and waited another hour to view the sunrise. While waiting, we had some hot drinks and instant noodles to warm our body. The price for the meal, though expensive, was not that bad. It was the cost of toilet usage that surprised us: IDR 5.000 for regular use and IDR 10.000 for a shower. We found out later that they cannot make a well due to the high sulphur concentration, making the water practically unusable. This made them to buy water transported from somewhere else hence make the cost higher. The view of sunrise was amazing, but however good the camera is, it will not capture the breathtaking view if you were there yourself.

Panoramic picture of sunrise in Bromo
Panoramic picture of sunrise in Bromo
Pasir berbisik, a large sandy area we visited after the sunrise.

We had simple lunch at a warung nearby, then traveled another 3 hours to our next destination: Plataran Bromo. Plataran Bromo is a rather up-class hotel, which is located near the peak of Bromo. It is not too far from the spot we visited in the morning but our Elf can’t navigate through such road, hence we had to take a longer route.

Even the longer route was very nasty for our Elf. There were so many sharp turns and steep ascends, making the drive difficult and slow. We took the wrong turn twice and had to spend a few more minutes only to turn around. When we arrived at Plataran, the driver decided to just stay overnight there. He would rather sleep in his Elf rather than going back and forth such difficult route to pick us up the next day.

Picture of Plataran Bromo from afar
Our hotel complex from afar. Picture taken the day after, after cycling a few hundred meters.

The view and facilities of the hotel was actually very nice (and expensive). We had a family room with a pool, but the water was just too cold for swimming. They provided complimentary fresh fruit, which unfortunately attracted flies. Espresso machines and various tea bags were also available. Considering the price food in this hotel was just too expensive (IDR 120.000++ for a fried rice!), we started to think how to get food in this remote area.

The best option we found at that time was three of us to borrow a bicycle each (free) to cycle 2,4 km to the nearest warung we found on Google Maps that sells basic meal options. Seemed hard, but not impossible we thought. It was 3 PM, and we decided to start cycling at 4, to give time for some of us to explore the hotel area. One group went to the lobby to play billiard, another group went to the hotel-owned glasshouse. I myself stayed at the hotel to write this blog.

A few minutes later haze started to come, wind started to blow strong, and at 4 it was raining hard. I texted the group whether we wanted to continue buying food or switch to another plan. The glasshouse group replied that they were stuck inside the glasshouse due to the heavy rain. I offered them to walk there to bring some umbrellas, but when asking the reception the route to the glasshouse, he offered to pick them up with car. What a delight!

The glasshouse team was successfully rescued, and it was time for a free afternoon tea at the restaurant. We had our light snacks while discussing our alternative plan for dinner. It was too late to cycle there, since we could not take risk cycling after dawn and the strong wind didn’t look like it’s going to stop soon. There were no go/grab-food drivers available around. We also crossed out the option of borrowing the hotel’s car to buy those cheap dinner (we are Asians, we had to save our face). The tour-provided Elf was not an option too, since we didn’t to trouble our driver furthermore due to the difficult road conditions.

DNArtworks Team at the hotel restaurant
The team spending few hours for afternoon tea

As a backup plan, we ate more portions of the snacks provided, which ended their service at 6 PM. Then Daniel suddenly had this idea: Contact the warung’s WhatsApp number listed in Google Maps. Long story short, we managed to order the food with an ojek to deliver the food to our hotel. Daniel, Hizkia, and Eko waited at the lobby for the food to come, while the rest went back to our villa. The strong wind didn’t stop, it made scary whistling sounds and throw some small objects outdoor. Thanks to the strong foundation of the villa we stayed at, we felt very safe inside.

It took some time for the food to come. Around 8 PM, the reception called our room, saying that a courier came to bring our food, under the name Mr. Daniel, and we had to pick it up at reception. I immediately called Daniel, who were supposed to be at the lobby to wait for the driver to come. Daniel and friends picked up the food, and we had a lovely dinner. It turned out later, that people entered and left the lobby, making strong cold wind enter the lobby when the door was opened. They decided to play billiard instead in a separate room, while asking the warung to inform them when the food is about to be delivered. The warung didn’t inform them.

I slept early that night, to safe my energy after being drained the days before. I was surprised myself to know that I could sleep really well amid loud chatter from the living room, cold weather, and loud wind whistling. The bed was just too comfortable. Just like my wife said:

Price don’t lie

Pascal’s wife

Around 4.30 in the morning, I already woke up and couldn’t sleep anymore, due to sudden realization that my bedroom window (more of a glass wall, actually) points to east, and I could have a chance to see the sunrise. However, due to the clouds the sunrise was not that beautiful. I wanted to have a morning exercise, but the wind was still too strong and cold. An hour later, I decided to just go outside anyway, borrowing the bicycle and climbed to a hill just across the hotel. Even only for about 200 meters, it was an exhausting journey due to the cold winds and steep climbing.

I was glad that I was back at the hotel without passing out. After a while, I went out for breakfast with Daniel, followed by the others. There were so many options available, but I opted mostly vegetables and fruits, because I have had too many junk food the days before. We took some group pictures at the hotel, then checked out.

Group picture at the hotel lobby

Our minibus took us back to town, where we had simple lunch, then moved again to the airport. The flight was smooth, and we arrived in Jakarta earlier than expected. We waved goodbye to Jakarta team since we had to take another train trip to Bandung, which marks the end of this year outing.

indonesia nature travel

Glamping at Ciwidey

? Klik untuk versi Bahasa Indonesia

The faculty I work at has a yearly schedule of paid vacation together. The last time I took part at this kind of vacation was to Singapore in 2015. Normally employees are allowed to bring family members along, but may or may not need to pay, depending on the number of employees who decide to not take the benefit. I had been absent from two years of faculty vacation because the destination was too far, which made it unsuitable for my relatively young kid.

This year, the committee chose Lakeside Glamping in Ciwidey, which was just two hours drive from Bandung. That destination made sense for me, Yun, Des and Pat to join. However, their first destination before glamping was Kawah Putih, a volcano crater just 30 minutes before the glamping area. With Pat only being 8 months old, I decided to not join the group for this first destination, because the smell of sulphur may be too much for her. Therefore, I drove my own car instead of joining the Unpar bus.

Glamping: portmanteau of glamorous and camping and describes a style of camping with amenities and, in some cases, resort-style services not usually associated with “traditional” camping.

Kawah Putih. Photo by Pak Eli.

I started the journey from home at 12 noon. The traffic was relatively nice, with occasional congestions along the way. About half an hour before reaching the glamping site, we passed through winding roads as the road was located at the side of a hill. Slightly more difficult to drive, but the view was just wonderful!

We arrived just a few minutes after 2 PM. The rest of the group was already checked in and enjoying their time at each tent. My family was allocated a family tent, along with my dean Pak Fer and his wife Bu Yan. We unpacked our luggage, took a brief of rest, then headed out to explore the glamping area. The area was hilly, costing extra energy to walk up and down, but the view was also beautiful. I had my late lunch of a portion of siomay, while Des had his snack of cup noodle. As you can guess, food was overpriced, with one cup noodle at IDR 15.000!

Panoramic picture of the glamping site. Our tents on the right. Photo by Fla

Desmond was happy playing with the rabbits, and Yun was happy with selfie spots. I was happy with the fresh air. In the morning earlier, my friend Pak Wal told me a story about him walking to Dago Atas area and view the breathtaking waterfall, a “Wonderful Indonesia” type of view. Now in this site I found myself surrounded by this Wonderful Indonesia view.

Feeding the rabbit
“Pinisi” boat-shaped restaurant, connected with Pinisi bridge

Before dawn (or Indonesians love to call it maghrib), we headed back to our tents and took a shower. The air was cool and the water was cold, but it was still bearable for me. After shower, we had dinner together at the Pinisi restaurant. The food was too “standard” in my opinion, probably overshadowed by the other facilities provided. The restaurant had a very nice ambiance. The deck was a perfect place to enjoy the night, while watching the sky and the stars.

Photo by Ray. Well, it’s Ray in the picture, so technically by someone else with Ray’s camera.

Even before sleeping, I was confident enough to wear short and training shirt (those shirts with small holes to allow airflow) with standard blanket to sleep. Only at 11 PM, I woke up, realised that it was not enough at all. I felt very cold, and doubled up with jeans and jacket (which were cold as well because it was not yet used). Only after an hour I felt warm enough to sleep. I woke up at 5, had a morning chat with Yun, then took a walk around the site at 6. It was interesting to note that after sunrise, it was warmer outside the tent.

We had breakfast at that same Pinisi restaurant. However, breakfast was much more luxurious compared to last night dinner. Porridge, green bean soup, coconut rice, fried noodle, toasts, are some examples. I and Des had breakfast earlier, while Yun and Pat was still sound asleep. The porridge and its condiments were separated, so I reserved a bowl of it for Pat. I then ask Pak Jan’s help to keep an eye on the bowl so the waiters would not clean them, while I walked back to my tent, waking Yun’s up and ask her to go for breakfast before the time is up.

Delicious breakfast

Des was impatient and ask me to go with him to the Golesat, a gravity powered car race. Yun just started breakfast, so we split up. At the Golesat start point, we met some of my colleagues. Pak Fer and his wife Bu Yan, Pak Rus and his wife Tante Nel were among them. Pak Fer, Bu Yan, me and Des rode the golesat down the hill. At the finish line, we were entitled a car ride back to the top, where we started. Pak Fer and Bu Yan decided to not take the car, because they wanted to walk to Teras Bintang, a spot to see the scenery, about 1 km walking distance from there. Des, who didn’t seem to understand the situation made a special bond with Bu Yan and urge her to come with him back to the starting point, potentially ruining their plan.

En route, I called Yun to see if she was interested to visit Teras Bintang as well. She was interested, so we could all had a ride to Teras Bintang using my car. At the starting point, I let Desmond play with my colleagues, while I picked Yun up and walked to the parking area. I drove my car and pick the rest at the Golesat starting point. Pak Rus and Tante Nel joined too, making it a full house.

Probably the youngest and the oldest lady in the group
Des and his favourite auntie
Dean, vice deans and the boy

Around 10.30, we packed our bags and prepared for checkout and lunch. Lunch was so-so, just like dinner. At 1 PM, we took a group photo and I said goodbye to the others, since I would again drive my own car. The traffic back to Bandung was significantly worse than the day before, since it was on Saturday. I already felt very sleepy that night, and that night my sleep time broke the record of 11 hours.

singapore travel

Singapore with Family

After a few years, I finally had a chance to visit this red dot again. This time complete with my wife Yun, two kids Des and Pat, and in-law Tan; for summer holiday. Bringing a daughter of 7 months, staying in budget hotel was no longer an option. Interestingly enough, when searching for a place to stay for family (4 adults and 1 infant), higher range hotels provides better price compared to regular ones. This is because those hotels usually have family rooms, in which booking one family room is cheaper than booking two regular rooms even in lower range ones. Our choice boiled down to Hotel Clover at 33 Jalan Sultan.

Somebody’s going to get fined here

An unfortunate incident happened on our departure from Bandung. The flight that was supposed to take off at around 4 PM was delayed up to 8 hours, because one of the earlier flight had a “runway excursion”, i.e. one of the wheels was out of course and gets stuck in the grasses. We were still lucky because the airport was convenient enough for us to rest while waiting for the delay.

Friendship was built while waiting for delay

We landed in Singapore at around 2.30 AM local time, took a taxi to hotel, checked in, then finally slept at 4 AM. This was slightly worse than our previous trip to Singapore, where I had to stay until 2 AM, because our luggages were left in our cab.

Somebody was really exhausted

I earlier promised my parent to pick them up at the airport, because they took a different flight from Jakarta and landed at 8 AM. However, due to this unexpected circumstance, I cancelled the plan and waited at the hotel instead.

Knowing I did not have to pick them up at the airport, I woke up at 8 AM. Feeling very thirsty, I went out to find some bottled water to buy. It was relatively early in the morning, hence the best bet was hawker centres, i.e. the traditional “food courts”. I managed to get 4 bottles of 650ml water for $1.4 each from a drink stall. Rather expensive, but that was the best I could get. When everybody else woke up, I realised that I need another bottled water, and food for my family’s breakfast. I found 1,500ml bottled water for $1.5 each from another drink stall. A better bargain I thought! Until I found another small shop that sells 1,500ml bottled water for $1 each, the best I could get in Singapore.

Interior of Hotel Clover 33

Later during the day, we were all ready. Des insisted on taking an MRT ride, because I have promised so since days before. We then took a walk to Bugis MRT, through the Kampong Glam’s Arab Street and the infamous Masjid Sultan. Not really a good idea especially for Desmond, who didn’t find it interesting. We walked a bit further than it should, encircling the Bugis Junction before we finally found the MRT entry. We took a ride of one station only to Lavender MRT, then took a bus back to the hotel.

Daddy and son bus ride

After a bit of rest, we headed out again, this time a bus ride to Chinatown. It was dawn when we reached there, and we bought some oleh-olehs to bring home. In Chinatown, Des insisted to have an ice cream. We wanted to film De being mocked by the infamous Turkish ice cream guy in Clarke Quay, so we headed there. Interestingly, he managed to control his anger when being mocked. We headed home afterwards, feeling exhausted.

Second day, I had an appointment at 9 AM to meet my old friend Rit, who lives in Jurong East. I was lucky my mom texted at 7, telling that my dad was about to go out to have breakfast. Otherwise, I could have overslept, due to the exhaustion from the flight delay before. I was still late. My mom and dad already gone out for breakfast when I was ready, and I could not contact them. I decided to have breakfast alone across the street, in a cafe called “Nanyang Old Coffee”. The lady, who seemed to be the manager, was very friendly. I ordered the traditional Singapore breakfast set, and it was really nice.

I and my parents started the long journey to Jurong East at 8, but miscalculated the journey time hence late by half an hour. Rit family still welcomed us happily, and his wife served us home cooked Indian sweets and savoury snacks, the best I had after a long time. I forgot all the names, but one resembles the Indonesian potato perkedel. Among all topics we chatted, one being how expensive the cost of school for young children in Singapore, especially for foreigners.

We headed back to hotel with a Grab ride, prepared the rest of the group (Yun, Tan, and Des), then headed again towards Commonwealth, where I promised to meet my former landlord (an old lady / auntie) and her daughter Chr. I had created a special bond with her family, with her being my only landlord during my past four year stay in Singapore. On the opposite side, I first rented the room with a friend Ron at this house. However after a few months Ron moved out, leaving me as the only tenant.

A picture of me and my landlords, 8 years ago

We stopped at Tiong Bahru for lunch, with the plan to visit auntie‘s house afterwards. Just like before, I thought I still knew Singapore and I was wrong. We were late by an hour, because I chose bus instead of MRT. We were still happy to meet each other. They kindly served us some finger foods, but the best part was durian, a fruit that tastes like heaven for some people, but smell like a toilet for others.

A picture of me and my landlords, after 8 years
When I lived in Singapore, these kids did not exist

After this small reunion, we headed back to hotel, but en route stopped at Orchard. I decided that we stop at the beginning of Orchard Road, with the hope that we could explore the whole street. However, we spent more time than we should at the first shop Isetan, and finally had dinner there and went back to the hotel directly.

Third day, my parents’ flight was at 8 AM, hence I woke up at 6 to take them to the airport (at this rate, I could wake up at 5 the next day). My dad had a little problem with the automated immigration, but after little talk with real human, the problem was solved. After being ensured that they had no other problem, I took an MRT heading to Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church, a church that I used to visit several times when I worked in Singapore before. I was again late, but still managed to be there for the mass. I also met an acquaintance Lun, who gave me a tour of the church.

Mass at Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church

After church, I took a bus to Bukit Batok MRT, where I met my old friend Han. Han promised to visit us at the hotel, but it was a coincidence that he visited another church that was nearby, so we took the MRT together to my hotel. We had a nice long chat along the way. Near the hotel, we bought some Indian food, bungkus (take away); and had them in my room.

Three of us, from Ilmu Komputer UNPAR

Han needed to go back afterwards, since he have family to take care. Upon leaving, I also left the hotel with him, bringing dirty clothes to wash at a nearby laundry. Thanks to Google, I found this 24-hour self-service laundry, that operates when you pay the $5-$15 fee using $1 coins. I had saved several coins to use in this laundry. However, it turned out that they had changed the policy, that they no longer used $1 coins, but a special non-refundable coin that only works for their machine.

We also met Ron and his wife Tin at Bugis Junction. If you remember, Ron was my roommate before, when I lived in Singapore. He also came with Pau, his partner in business. It was unexpected, but we had a short business talk on this occasion. It was an interesting talk, but I had to cut short because I owed my family a quality holiday time, which was partly lost due to the flight delay incident.

We then went to Garden By The Bay, trying to get a view of the light show that started at 7.45 PM. For this summer holiday, the light show was themed “Toy Story”, which also served as an advertisement for an upcoming movie with the same name. It was an astonishing view, indeed. However, since it was on Sunday, it was very crowded there. After the show we wanted to get a taxi back to the hotel but the queue was too long. We took a bus instead. followed by MRT. Des was already too tired, that I had to carry him around.

Just before the show

Upon reaching the hotel, it was late in the night. Me and Yun rushed to Golden Mile Food Complex, to buy food for ourselves. Not many stalls were still opened, but we managed to get a portion of satay, fried rice, and noodle. To our surprise, Des was still awake when we got back at the hotel. That was a good news, because he could still had his dinner before sleeping. While preparing to sleep, I asked everyone to not wake me up in the morning, and let my body wakes up naturally.

Fourth day was the nice and easy day. I woke up significantly later, so do the others. We planned to go to both the National Gallery and Merlion Park. As the weather was good, we decided to visit Merlion first. However, upon reaching there, Des found River Cruise boats sprawling around the river and asked us to ride one of them. We cancelled our plan to the gallery and rode the boat instead. We stopped at Clarke Quay and had lunch there.

View from the boat

On this fourth day, Des’ interest for MRT ride has gone, and he preferred bus instead. Therefore, after lunch we went all the way to National University of Singapore by bus, with 45 minutes bus ride to Kent Ridge Terminal. From the terminal, we took the internal shuttle bus to visit the department where I studied before, that is The School of Computing (SoC). It didn’t change much since I left 8 years before. From SoC, we walked to Central Library and took another bus to Clementi MRT station.

Son of an alumnus

Tan craved for durian, after she had one at my landlord’s house. I remember Chr told us to not buy from a rather touristy spots, but rather from traditional markets. I still remember people selling durians around Clementi MRT, next to Fairprice supermarket and just across the street from the Clementi sport center. The durian seller was no longer there, but after a walk further towards the neighbourhood centre, we found one that sells $50 for 3 portions of durian. It didn’t disappoint us, the durians were very sweet. We went back to our hotel afterwards.

Somebody found heaven on earth

On the last day, I spent some time in the morning for a run. I used to run regularly when I lived in Singapore. I ran half regularly when Des was born. Now with 2 kids, I almost never run regularly. This morning was a good opportunity to remember the old days and be healthy. One thing nice about Singapore is that the government has built so called “park connectors” which is a very good spot for running. I ran along the Kallang river, with the beautiful view of the national stadium and Golden Mile complex.

That is the Kallang Stadium

After running, I joined the others, preparing our checkout from the hotel. We planned to visit Jewel Changi before flying back to Bandung. However, thanks to the kids and the many oleh-olehs that need to be packed, we ran out of time and cancelled that plan. We even had to have lunch in a rather upscale restaurant inside the airport, because it was the only choice given the time constraint. It costed a whopping $51 for three portions of food and drink, but on the bright side, we managed to get one coupon of Changi Millionare draw.

Unlike the earlier flight, this return flight was not delayed too long, and we arrived in Bandung well before dawn. I was happy about this trip, but learn one thing: traveling with kids is so much different compared to flying alone. Getting prepared in the morning, airport check-in process, as well as exploring the city takes at least twice amount of time than traveling alone. There were so many places I failed to visit and so many other friends I failed to meet, but still grateful for this wonderful time out.

End of trip

Update: Grammar fixes for first few paragraphs.

indonesia travel

Kereta Api Priority Class

As you may have known, PT Kereta Api Indonesia launched Priority class for at least a few months back. It is intended to be better than already good executive class, and only available on selected time / destination. The price is twice the the price executive class (+/- IDR 250.000,- for Jakarta-Bandung one way) so before spending that extra amount, I tried to search the internet to find out what I would get. There was not much useful information out there, other than articles written based on (supposedly) PT KAI’s press release. Hence, I wrote this article to try giving some more useful information.

First, what did I consider as “not useful”? The article I found said there are free snacks provided. Good, but does it worth my 250k? Long time back if you go for executive class you would get a piece of bread and a mineral water in plastic cup. Mini bar that provides free coffee and tea. Will the coffee be as good as Air Asia’s “Altitude Blend”, or just instant coffee. The silliest information was “toilet inside the car”. Executive and business class also have toilet inside the car. Does Priority has the toilet in the middle of the seats?

Let’s find out!

I went to Jakarta for a business trip, and the return trip was late enough to have that Priority class available. Since half of the fare was paid by the company, plus 25k discount from travel agent, I decided to upgrade to Priority.

Boarding took longer than the other classes. They held us outside until they finished cleaning the car interior. Of course they also clean cars from the other classes, but this one need to be really clean, I guess. The car floor is covered with carpet, giving a lavish look. However, this Priority car seems to have come from an older “Kereta Api Wisata” car. Age does not lies, and you can see taints on the carpet and other equipments.

Video and audio entertainment system is provided for each seat, but the titles are limited. At least, they have this “Just for Laugh” series that was aired in executive class long time back but not anymore now. They also have “Toy Story” movie from 1995! Perhaps movie licensing is too expensive today. Legend says free Wi-Fi is available, but after entering my personal details as prerequisite, it failed me by not connecting to the internet.

The minibar, as promised, serves free coffee and tea. To be precise, they provide hot water and you can make yourself instant coffee, tea, or even bandrek (ginger drink). Be a good passenger and don’t do as I did, that to bring hot water down the aisle to your seat. If you are unlucky, turbulence will let your hot water spill unlucky passenger next to you when you walk. The coffee selection were instant coffees, both sweetened and pure.

Shortly after departure, the attendants distributed the “free snacks”. One pack consisted of two Holland-Bakery brand breads, one pack Mr. P peanuts, and a bottled water. Not bad at all. The real deal was the free-flow kuping gajah snack (literally elephant’s ear) at the minibar.

First time I wanted to try the toilet, it was closed for maintenance, so I had to walk towards the executive class to use their toilet. How shameful. About an hour later, I could already use the priority toilet. It did look like a hotel’s toilet, but not a five-star hotel one. Perhaps three-star. For sure, the room was significantly larger than the toilets in other classes.

That’s all I can say about the Priority Class.

events indonesia religious

Catholicer Seminar Trip

Bandung Station. Anything weird here? :)
Bandung Station

Time has changed. It has been a long time since I last wrote a longer story (How are you? Have you been reading longer blog posts, lately?). Anyway, I share here my journey to Jakarta, to attend a seminar held by Catholicer, an organization that promotes fusion of technology and Catholic. My department, Teknik Informatika, had made some kind of cooperation hence I and some students visit their seminar for this occasion. Read along!

The girls, Ellena & Evelyn, was the first to arrive at the train station. About 10 minutes later, I arrived and helped them print their boarding passes, then we all moved inside the train platform. Chris came shortly after, but Joshua was nowhere to be seen. He texted that he was stuck in traffic, and I asked him to take a gojek for a quicker journey. 15 minutes before train departure, he hasn’t arrived yet so I asked the other kids to get into the train. Joshua finally arrived 5 minutes before departure, and we (mostly I) relieved, because he was responsible to keep our money and pay the meals while we were in Jakarta. We were all using economy class, similar convenience with executive but with less legs space. I was actually allowed to buy executive, but the students were only allowed to buy economy, and different class means different car. That is ironic, because the students who pay for my salary gets lower class than me, but well, life is not fair.

Dinner at A&W
Dinner at A&W

The train arrived at Gambir only a few minutes before 15.00. We took a TransJakarta bus to Hotel 88, where we stayed for one night. The seminar started at 19.30, so it would be too late to go back to Bandung at the same day. An hour of bus ride, and we arrived at Hotel 88. We had a short 1 hour break in the hotel, then walked another 1 km in the residential complex to A&W restaurant, where we had our dinner.

We finished our dinner early, and arrived at the seminar venue at 19.00, half an hour early. Nobody was there in the lobby, only a few chairs and a desk with statue of Mother Mary on top of it. For a few minutes I thought we were about to do some rituals rather than a seminar. I climbed the stairs to 2nd floor, and found familiar faces: Darren (the organizer) and Kevin (the speaker). Thank God there were many chairs upstairs arranged neatly for a seminar. We went down to take the students upstairs, and had some nice conversations before other guests were coming in.

Darren opening the session
Darren opening the session

The seminar itself was divided into three sessions. First session was led by Kevin, who works for Facebook. He works on React Native project, a framework that allows a developer build both Android and iOS app at the same time. In this seminar, he talked about building stellar user experience in mobile. Five major points were introduced, including usability and attention to details, among others (I forgot the others). However, those five boils down into one keyword: care. One needs to care about its users, to give them the best experience in using the mobile app developed. With that, the five points will eventually follow along.

The second session was doing the rosary prayer together, led by Nesya. However, it was done in a unique way: using a mobile app called “Beads“. It is a mobile app that simulates beads, with some additional features. It can show you the text for the prayers, in case you forgot. For each bead, you can also choose to pray for someone else intention (which can be requested with the same app). I particularly like the animation when you pray for someone intention, where a shining dove will fly away from the bead. One thing I worried about using this app, is that having WhatsApp notifications coming in while praying, breaking away my concentration.

Prayer for Chris
Prayer for Chris

The final session was led by Darren. He talked about spiritual centered design, an extension of human centered design. He argues that when somebody designed something, his/her subconscious mind may affect the design. For example, if a graphic designer designing smiley icons for an app while he/she is angry, it may affect the result (the smileys may look rather frowned, for instance). He followed along with an exercise, where were grouped into 3 persons each and have someone “interrogated”. This one fellow would be asked by another fellow about what is his/her dream before die. The asker will have to dig as much information by asking more questions. Meanwhile, the third person in the group should stay silent and observe, I think with the intention to find out the real answer not easily seen if you are actively asking.

When we finished, it was already 10 PM. We had a short networking session but I was too tired to continue longer, so I asked the students to go back to the hotel. If you are interested, see the interactions in this Facebook video.

The next morning, I woke up really early because I had to attend the baptism ceremony for my nephew, Dylan. It was held at Gereja Katolik Santo Laurentius, 20 km away from the hotel. According to Trafi, a public transport app, I should walk about 1 km, took a TransJakarta bus from a bus stop called “Kebon Jeruk Toll Gate”. For information, toll roads in Jakarta are forbidden for pedestrians, and last time I saw (few years back) that so-called bus stop was merely a toll roadside where people commonly gathered, rather illegally, to take the bus. The bus that serves the route to Gereja Katolik had a one hour interval between trips. Those two reasons were enough to stop me midway my walk to the bus stop, and changed my mind to take a GrabCar instead, although the fare will be 10x more expensive, even with discount.

This weird Soya Bean
This weird Soya Bean

With GrabCar, I arrived earlier than scheduled, and I decided to spend my time waiting at Pasar Delapan, a local market near the church. I was looking for something to bring back to Bandung, and decided to buy a gigantic fried meatball. It was priced IDR 39.000,- while the regular one was a mere IDR 7.000,-. I bought one for my wife and kid, and bought another one to share with my parents (also for me to try). Although expensive, the special meatball was worth the price, with more portion of shrimp and chicken meat. I also tried a black-soya-bean-cappuccino, another unique menu in the market. For me it’s a recipe for disaster in taste, but may be it tastes nice for everybody else.

15 minutes before the ceremony started, my parents picked me up, and went to the church together. The reason I asked my parents to pick me up is that I was bringing a backpack and a laptop sleeve bag. Going to a church with those bags, may attract weird looks from people, as we had history of some churches getting suicide bombed in the past years. Putting my bags in the car instead would make things less complicated. The ceremony itself was held without a mass, hence the church was filled only with relatives of those who were being baptized. I was both surprised and delighted to see some of my relatives whom I have not seen for some time, including Aunt Gwan (read previous story here).

Congratulations Dylan and Proud Parents!
Congratulations Dylan and Proud Parents!

After baptism, Dylan’s dad (Daniel, my sibling) took us to a nearby restaurant, Sinar Medan. It was a quite OK Chinese food restaurant, but the best part is that they have air conditioner! Even with Bandung temperature getting hotter in the past years, the heat in Jakarta was still worse. I did not pay too much attention to the taste of the food, as I was busy chatting with relatives I rarely have a chance to meet. Aunt Gwan holds regular arisan (meet ups) and after knowing my wife is 8-month pregnant, she promised to hold the next arisan in Bandung, shortly after my wife give birth. I was also surprised to see Richard’s twin boys were happy to play Play-Doh by themselves instead of looking at gadgets while we were having our meal.

At 11 AM, it was time to say goodbye. Aunt Gwan had some other appointment at the church, triggering everyone else to realize that we also have another stuffs to attend. I took another ride with my parents to Senayan City, where my mum works, then moved along to Gambir train station for my train back to Bandung. The train back to Bandung was slighty nicer than our depart trip, since it was almost dawn hence it was not as hot as our departure trip. However, the legs space was as cramped as before, reminding me that life is not fair to some people.