The Indonesian education ministry has this department called Pusat Prestasi Nasional (Puspresnas, National Achievement Center) that holds various competitions for students in Indonesia. One of their program is the FLS2N SMK (Festival dan Lomba Seni Siswa Nasional untuk Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan). It roughly translates to Art Competition and Festival for Vocational High Schools, though during the pandemic “competition” part is thicker than the festival counterpart.
It all started many years ago when our team was asked to build the online competition system for FLS2N SMA (similar, but for regular high school students). I admit that it was a huge failure, mainly because (1) we did not understand fully the competition system and (2) huge resistance from provincial governments to not use the online system. In the end, the system was practically useless and works of many students submitted to the system were never, viewed let alone judged by the judges.
Fast forward to 2020, when COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Pusat Prestasi Nasional department was, I assume, in total distress. Everything had to be online, and I was lucky that my team is in their contact list. We had a few weeks to bring the old system back to cater the competition online. My team was awarded the project for vocational school, while the regular school was handled by another team.
There are of course some challenges working on this project. But just as Morgan Freeman, I mean Nelson Mandela, once said, “It seems impossible until it’s done”.
It seems impossible until it’s done
With only a few weeks before the system was actually being used, I was lucky to have a half-baked system. However, it also turned to be a disadvantage as well. Since the architecture was well set, adapting to new requirements become slower and need extra care to not introduce regression (errors due to change in the code).
Actually working with art judges is also another challenge. Unlike science where it’s easier to differentiate right answers from the wrong ones, giving score to art product is in some part subjective. At the same time, Pusat Prestasi Nasional needs rationale for each score given.
In 2020, most challenges actually came from half-preparedness of the system. There were some bugs that caused extra work. For example, the automatic detection of students’ school identity resulted in many students registered to come from Kepulauan Seribu, a regency in Jakarta.
In 2021, we were glad to being awarded the same project again, and we have fixed those major mistakes we did in 2020. However, there came another challenge: more provinces (about half of all provinces in Indonesia) were ready for and chose their own selection mechanism, hence untracked within our system. Therefore most of the participants from those provinces must be inputted manually to the system. We are lucky to have a dedicated staff from Puspresnas who has the knowledge and capability to ensure those participants are well recorded.
At the time of this blog writing, the national judging has just finished. From past experience, the national judging is much easier, since there are only at most 35 participants being graded for each division. As you may see when reading this post, I inserted some music that was actually made by some of the judges. Below are more videos from the judges.
As you may have seen above, I inserted some products of the judges. Below are more example of their products.
As you may have known from this blog, I spent a fairly amount of time in Singapore, and its culture has a special place in my heart. One of the many things I miss is the Singapore kopi (coffee) and kopitiam (coffee shop).
In Singapore (and Malaysia), kopi is actually not a plain coffee. It is coffee with condensed milk. When I moved back to Indonesia, I tried to satisfy the need for nostalgia with Nescafe instant coffee and local condensed milk. As time goes by, I realized that it was not the same. Then I used real ground coffee, making the taste richer and more original.
However, things changed again when I bought Singapore-brand Cafe 21 instant coffee. I tasted something different that I could not find in a local ground coffee. After posting that finding on Facebook, my Singaporean friend Don opened my mind that such taste actually comes from the margarine that was used to roast the coffee. So I began searching for more, the “nanyang” coffee.
I tried the supposedly real Nanyang ground coffee, which in most cases come in bags, like the tea bags. Ah Huat Kopi O is one example. However, it somehow does not taste and smell the same. It’s just plain bland. The reason is still a mystery for me until now.
In this last occasion, I bought the Toast Box ground coffee “powder”, which does not come in bags. There is a slight nanyang aroma when I made the coffee using V60 coffee filter, but it was still far from perfect. The surprise came when I left the residue for about an hour. Just when I was about to throw the leftover away, I smell that unique aroma of the kopitiam! Therefore, my conclusion so far is: the kopitiam aroma actually comes not from freshly brewed coffee, but from the leftover coffee.
So this “Screw the French Press, we’ve got the socks” poster at most Ya Kun Kaya Toast stalls now makes very sense for me. The socks keep the leftover from the first brew, to the next, and the next, and so on!
Disclaimer: this conclusion does not come from a scientific study, nor it is peer reviewed.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.