Back to The Singapore!

This is one thing I can brag about the place I work at: our team went abroad for vacation, fully paid by the faculty! Normally we would have annual vacation with domestic destinations. However, after two years of saving money and going nowhere, in 2015 we went to Singapore for vacation. The catch: the committee decided that it would be a low-budget backpacker-style vacation. It was hard to leave my wife and son of 3 months old behind, but Singapore is one destination I couldn’t miss.

Universal Studio (photo by Ricky)
Universal Studio (photo by Ricky)

So, about 15 of us flew from Bandung on 31st of October morning (food review featured in my friend’s blog!). The flight was very smooth, and we landed in Singapore 1.30 PM local time. From airport, two rented vans picked us up and drop us at the Universal Studio Singapore (USS). We didn’t actually enter the USS. Instead we took some pictures in front of the spinning globe (remember, it’s a low-budget vacation). Not bad. Afterwards, we all went to the Bunc@Radius hostel to check in and take a short break.

About 5 PM, we walked to the next venue: National Museum of Singapore. The museum was about to close at 7 PM, so we could only see some parts of the museum. My group had a chance to see the history of Singapore, from when it was still a village up to when separated from Malaysia. At 6.30 PM I had to leave the group, since I had an appointment with some friends at Paya Lebar at 7. Fortunately, a Circle Line MRT train took me there in less than 30 minutes.

High School Friends (photo by Eric)
High School Friends (photo by Erick)

I met my friends from high school Benny and Erick at Paya Lebar Square, just outside Paya Lebar MRT station. We used to meet several times when I lived in Singapore before, and it was nice to meet and talk with them again. As recommended by another friend, we had dinner at Keisuke Ramen, that served a delicious Japanese pork ramen with unlimited boiled eggs and bean sprout pickles. The broth was creamy and oily, so we decided to walk around the neighborhood to alleviate the heavy feeling in our stomach. One destination was City Square Plaza, which was famously known as the “Indonesian maid central”, since domestic workers from Indonesia often go there to buy stuffs. There was a famous fried chicken restaurant with long queue inside, but our stomach said no. We wrapped up our meeting with coffee at Toast Box.

Returning to the hostel, everyone was there already and ready to sleep. I, too, decided to sleep early, since I would go again in early morning the next day.

Block 24
Block 24

On second day, I woke up as early as 5 AM, took a shower and got a breakfast with Chandra at a nearby Indian coffee shop. We ordered an egg onion roti prata and teh tarik. The taste of prata with curry brings reminiscence of the old days when I lived in Singapore for almost 4 years. Nice. We went back to hostel, but shortly afterwards I went out again, now to visit my former landlord (which I simply called auntie) near Commonwealth MRT. I promised to come at 8 AM, but arrived at the MRT around 7, so I spent another hour buying stuffs at Sheng Siong supermarket and another nostalgic breakfast of toast, egg, and coffee. Then I went to Auntie’s house at block 24. Her daughter reminded me that due to her condition, it may take some time for her to open the door when I rang the bell. It was nice to meet her again, although a bit sad knowing that age has caught her up. After an hour of chat, I asked to leave since I had to join the group at Chinatown. En route, I took a chance to visit the Blessed Sacrament Church that I regularly visited when I lived in Singapore. Conclusion, things didn’t change at the neighborhood that I lived at.

I then took bus 961 to Chinatown, where the rest of the group were there for shopping. I did some sight seeing but didn’t manage to buy any souvenirs. After about an hour exploring Chinatown, we went to the Red Dot Museum, where various well designed products that won red dot design award were exhibited. Different compared to my previous visit few years ago, this time more smart home products were exhibited. Entering the air-conditioned museum was also a refreshment, after walking around Chinatown in hot and humid air. Few hours inside the museum, we went for lunch afterwards. We went to the (supposedly) famous Maxwell Food Centre, which featured in a BBC article my friend shared to me. However, since I crave for different variations of Singapore food, I chose the Chinese rojak and popiah instead.

Merlion Park (photo by Ricky)
Merlion Park (photo by Ricky)

From there, we took a bus that headed to the Merlion Park. We planned to take group picture in front of the Merlion statue. As expected, there were plenty of people enjoying the view, or taking picture too (with rhetoric pose of their mouth trying to swallow the water thrown from the Merlion’s mouth). After taking picture, the group split up. Half of us returned to the hostel by bus to take rest, while the others (mostly females) went straight to Orchard road for shopping. Only when I about to reach the hostel, I realized that if you want to wander using public transport in Singapore, you have to walk, a lot.

I managed to sleep for almost an hour, before leaving the hostel again with my friend Chandra to visit Funan DigitaLife Mall. It is a mall that houses various electronic / gadget shops, with Courts being the biggest one. While Chandra couldn’t find the bargain he was looking for, I managed to buy two original X-box Live games for my unlocked X-box console at home (story here). There were several games of perhaps already shown at the shelf for 2-3 years, and priced reduced down to $10 each. I was tempted to buy the more recent games like Grand Theft Auto, but the two titles I bought was much cheaper and safer for my 3 months old Desmond.

After Funan, we walked towards Esplanade, where we planned to meet the rest of the group plus Ronny and Tina for dinner. Ronny was my senior during my undergrad at UNPAR, and he was interested to meet the rest of the group, too. I also know Tina, his wife, during my stay in Singapore for almost four years. Ronny arrived around 7 PM, but the rest of the group had last minute plan change. They were late to depart from the hostel and wanted to see the laser show at Marina Bay Sands at 8, so they decided to postpone dinner after the show. Since I, Chandra, Ronny and Tina were already there, we had our dinner at Makan Sutra.

Ronny and Tina, acting as the host, kindly bought us large portion of various Singapore dishes like fried rice and fried cereal prawns for sampler. That inspired me and Chandra to also bought large portion of different foods instead of a single portion meal. I bought an oyster omelette while Chandra ordered a murtabak. What a sumptuous dinner! After dinner, we went to Bugis Junction, where the rest of the group had finished their show and enjoying dinner at KFC. Yes, the Kentucky Fried Chicken. Some members of the group felt enough with Singapore food and decided to have regular food like they have back in Bandung. About 9 PM, we went back to hostel (while Ronny and Tina to their home) to rest.

Gemalto Appli Team (photo by Fong Huat)
Gemalto Appli Team (photo by Fong Huat)

Last day, I woke up early once again to meet my ex-colleagues from Gemalto. We agreed to meet at Ya Kun Kaya Toast Fusionopolis, a few hundred meters away from the office (since I didn’t have access to the building anymore). We agreed to meet at 8 AM, but it turned out to be too early. Cynthia, Hermanto, Keng Kun and Nicolas came and we had a nice talk together. After an hour of coffee, I decided to walk them to office since I had enough time and a chance to meet other people. In front of the office building, my friend kindly called the others inside the building to come out to meet too (since I don’t have access to enter the building), and had a selfie together. It was very nice to meet again old friends, but time prevented us to talk longer. They had to work, while I had to go back to Mustafa Center near the hostel to join the group.

In Mustafa Center, I bought some oleh-oleh myself and helped my friends pick their own. If you haven’t been there before, Mustafa Center is a huge department stores that sells various things from groceries to electronics. The downside is that they packed so many stuffs in a relatively small building, so navigating from one place to another inside the building can be challenging. However, I did found what I was looking for there: a classic Casio watch. It was a model from the 90’s, and I was quite astonished that Casio still produced it (and the manual is actually available online). Being an old model, it was difficult for me to find that model outside Mustafa Center (there are plenty of shops selling it, but mostly are imitations).

Nearing noon, I was starting to get hungry while the rest was still hunting for oleh-oleh. I decided to leave the building and looking for food. Mustafa Center is located in the Little India area, hence what I could find was Indian food. I was tempted to have the proper India food at some restaurants, but remembered that I have spent my Singapore dollars lavishly for the past few days. I decided to have a more Singaporean dish: mee goreng.

We had time until around 3 PM before we had to leave to airport. I then spent the time visiting Raffles City shopping mall to have a snack and a little sightseeing, followed by walking through the Bugis Street market with the group. On our way back to hostel (where we had to meet before leaving to airport), the rain suddenly poured, and we had to stay for a while at Sim Lim Square. I had a bad experience with Sim Lim, and warned the group to not buy anything there unless they know what they are looking for. Shops in Sim Lim Square were actually known for problems with their customers, and interestingly some consumer association organization had provided a brochure that listed the good and the not-so-good shops, based on customer complaints.

After the rain had eased, we walked again to hostel, and departed to airport. We arrived quite early and had plenty of time before boarding. I spent the time sitting lazily in a sofa and reading local newspaper Straits Times, one thing that I miss from Singapore. The flight back to Bandung was on time and smooth, and I enjoyed healthier options for dinner, since I had been eating a lot in the past few days.

Update: Spelling fix on a friend’s name

Review: Trans Bandung Raya Buses

Trans Bandung Raya
Trans Bandung Raya

I and Jovan are involved in a project called KIRI, which maps Indonesian public transport routes and build navigation system upon it. For that reason, we tried to take Bandung’s new armada of Damri buses in order to understand better about them. These Damri buses were interesting, because they had a fresh revitalization, and from outside it looked better than Jakarta’s TransJakarta buses (actually, more like Singapore’s SBS Transit). Moreover, I also played with Portal Data Indonesia‘s API where live GPS position of some of these buses are available for public.

Bus Interior
Bus Interior

We planned to take a bus from Alun-Alun Bandung terminal, heading towards Kota Baru Parahyangan. However, an officer at the terminal told us that the bus heading to Kota Baru was still using the older buses. We then decided to take another bus heading to Ciburuy instead. Where in the world was Ciburuy? We didn’t know, but our adventurous spirit told us to take it anyway.

Inside the bus, it really look like a brand new vehicle. There were not so many seats inside, but rather designed to accommodate more people standing, especially during peak hours. There was an LCD screen, displaying the name of current bus stop, and interestingly also showed estimated distance to the next stop when the bus is running (I suspect through automated calculation with GPS position). When I said bus stop, it was actually a “virtual bus stop”, as these buses generally allow passengers to board and alight anywhere along their route. There were also a simple route map of this bus, where each stop are marked by an LED light that blinks when the bus in at that location. Pretty neat feature, comparable to Singapore MRT trains. Other feature was a digital clock, a simple yet very useful feature to those not wearing watches like me.

However, even with the new buses, they still work old-fashioned ways. There were no electronic nor mechanical payment system, hence the kenek (bus assistant) still collected the fare manually (and without receipts). Normally just after boarding he will ask you where do you want to alight, and decide on the fare. There was a space reserved for disabled people, but some passengers used it to put their stuffs instead (there were no disabled passenger during our journey, anyway). It was understandable, since some of the passengers were sellers from traditional markets. A sound system was installed, and we were lucky that the driver put on some western music from the 80’s. An Changhong brand LCD TV was also installed, but never turned on during our journey to Ciburuy.

Situ Ciburuy
Situ Ciburuy

After about 90 minutes journey, we reached at Ciburuy. There was a tourist attraction called Situ Ciburuy, a huge lake with an island in the middle. However, it was very quiet (perhaps due to fasting month) so we decided to just take a another journey back to Alun-Alun. However, since it was almost noon, we decided to stop at midway Cimahi to have lunch (we were not fasting) and meet an old friend there. Our decision to stop midway turned out a pretty good decision, as the quality of this bus is significantly worse than the first one.

Just after departing from Ciburuy terminal, the driver played a very loud dangdut (local disco) music. I don’t mind hearing local music, but a disco music along a bus journey can be stressing. Every now and then, the bus stopped in random places in order to attract new passengers to board (so-called ngetem). What worse was, that the driver assistant overcharged us by 50% during our journey back. To complete our misery, the digital clock showed the wrong time. Jovan tried to silently complain through an SMS hotline number, but found out that the bus code for this bus had been torn off. Ouch. He persisted and took note of this bus license number instead. It was D7807AA. There you go, don’t take that bus.

The last bus trip that took us from Cimahi to Alun-Alun was much better. Actually it was as good as the first bus we took (only that it also played dangdut music instead of 80’s western).

In conclusion, these new buses provided a good alternative to travel in and around the Bandung city, especially for its convenience during traffic jams. There were 3 routes served by these new buses: Dipati Ukur – Leuwipanjang, Alun-alun – Ciburuy and Elang-Jatinangor.

OCBC NISP Park

Park Surroundings
Park Surroundings

There is a small park, at the end of Jalan Cipaganti and Jalan Dr. Setiabudi. Not sure what the park name is, but an OCBC-NISP logo was carved at one stone in the park, giving a hint that the park was funded by the bank. Hence the name of this post, to appreciate its contribution to city of Bandung. Note that I am not endorsed whatsoever by that bank.

It is a small park, but looks like well-maintained. The area has a shape of a triangle, as it is located in between of Jalan Cipaganti that splits into two directions of Jalan Dr. Setiabudi. The park consists of two levels and connected by a staircase, following the elevation contour of that area. Some stools were provided for visitors to sit and enjoy the surroundings.

I went there in the morning around 7 AM, and it was very refreshing, as there were not many vehicles passing by. However, I wouldn’t recommend to go there in the afternoon or evening, especially during weekend or holidays. Both Jalan Cipaganti and Jalan Dr. Setiabudi are usually super crowded during that time, serving tourists who want to go to Lembang on the northern side.

There were not many visitors in that morning, only me and a lady who went there only to cross the street. There were, however, some homeless people sleeping in the park. And that sparked a wild thought in my mind, that those people are actually closer to nature (and perhaps happier) than me, who sleeps in concrete walls.

The OCBC Carved Stone
The OCBC Carved Stone

There are some amenities around the park. McDonald’s and Morning Glory cafe should provide good meals, and there is also Supermarket Setiabudi that sells groceries. Does buying takeaways from that shops and consume them at the park sound like a good idea? I should try next time (not during Ramadan, for sure).

As usual, this park is accessible using local angkots, mostly those heading to Ledeng/Lembang or Ciumbuleuit.

Bandung Electronic Center

The old and new BEC
The old building (top) and the new one (bottom)

While waiting for my wife doing her pilates at Limijati Hospital, I went to a well-known electronics shopping mall in Purnawarman road, Bandung, the Istana BEC (Bandung Electronic Center). It was on Saturday, so the traffic was awful. On one occasion before, it took 45 minutes to drive from hospital to BEC, while on that day I decided to walk and spent only 15 minutes.

While BEC had been there for a few years, it was recently renovated to extend the building with a newer one. From the outside, the difference was very contrast, as the new building were filled with more lavish lifestyle outlets. The old building still housed electronic shops selling smartphones and computer stuffs.

Not Samsung Shop
Those are not Samsung Offical Shops

On the inside, the abundant electronic shops in the old building attracted more people. The new building was less crowded, with many electronic shops yet to open. Instead, some famous outlets like Kiliney Kopitiam and Excelso were open for business. Especially in the old building, don’t get fooled if you see more than one shop of a certain brand, as they are actually a local shop, borrowing the brand logo to make it look nicer.

This extension I believe would attract new visitors and serves as a new tourist destination in Bandung. However, at the same time it risks making the already crowded Purnawarman road even more crowded. You can actually help, by taking public transport whenever possible.

Breakfast at Waroeng Ethnic

Waroeng Ethnic (sorry for minimalistic photo)
Waroeng Ethnic (sorry for minimalistic photo)

Semester break was approaching, and I tried to push myself to get a daily dose of exercise. This time, I ran from McDonald’s Setiabudhi to upper Ciumbuleuit. The route was very inclined and just 2.5km already exhausted my breath. And my stomach too.

As for my stomach, I decided to get a breakfast at a nearby café called Waroeng Ethnic who serves both Asian and Western Cuisine. This café had been around for many years, but I almost never went there for breakfast. It was actually one of the few cafés that open in the morning.

For this occasion, I ordered a steamed wheat bread with kaya jam and teh poci (tea in a pot). It took about 5 minutes wait for the tea to come, and another 10 for the bread. It was okay to wait, thanks to the serenity of the surroundings in the café. The café was actually divided into two sections: the upper deck which is closer to the main road and easier to access by foot, and the lower part inside a house which is easier to access from the parking lot. Apparently, more people coming with a private vehicle, leaving the upper deck pretty quiet.

Okay, now about the food. They served me 2 (or maybe 3?) slices of warm wheat bread, partially cut in small rectangle shapes. The kaya jam is on top of the bread, and it was rather an Indonesian style (with pandan taste), rather than the Singaporean no-pandan version. For tea, they used a Lipton’s Yellow Label. It was a good bargain for its price of Rp 6.000,-, considering yellow label is rather difficult to find in Bandung and only available in upclass supermarkets. However, the portion of one pot (serves about 3-4 cups) was too much for one person.

That bread and tea cost a mere Rp 20.000,-. Though a bit expensive for breakfast, I think it is understandable considering the quality of the food.

Waroeng Ethnic is located at Jalan Ranca Bentang, 300 meters from the main road Jalan Ciumbuleuit. You can take angkot and stop at the main road, then a little walking exercise to the café. Be aware though, that the angkots there only operates on (more or less) 6.00 to 17.00 local time.

Warung Kopi Purnama

Warung Kopi Purnama
Warung Kopi Purnama

It was quite a hot day, when I and my wife explored Jalan ABC in Bandung for a new water dispenser (Jalan ABC is known for the abundant electronic shops). We went from one shop to another to get a good bargain, and exhausted us when the time approached noon. We knew we need to have lunch soon.

My wife had the idea to have our lunch at Jalan Alkateri, which is very close to Jalan ABC. It was because Jalan Alkateri is home for the infamous Mie Kocok stall. Unfortunately, after reaching the end of Jalan Alkateri, we couldn’t find the Mie Kocok. Instead, we found a small cafe called Warung Kopi Purnama.

As we got inside, I found a certificate from TripAdvisor. “This must be a good cafe”, I thought. The cafe interior bears the theme of Indonesia in the 1950’s. I ordered a nasi lengko while my wife had gado-gado. As usual, I looked for coffee options. The waitress offered kopi susu (coffee with milk), but I prefered the plain one. The coffee was quite strong and harsh, similar to those sold at Kopi Aroma Banceuy.

After finishing our meal, we went to the cashier to pay, and found out that the owner of this cafe is sibling to the owner of Warung Ethnic at Jalan Rancabentang. As a lecturer in Unpar, I sometimes went there for lunch and actually they share some similarities at some point.

Jalan Alkateri is quite small and may you may have difficulties parking your car there. As an alternative, you may use public transportation.

Healthier Way to Work

After reading an article about health recently in local newspaper, I decided to add more exercise to my daily routine. It was challenging, given my busy schedule.

One alternative I tried today was to stop earlier on my angkot trip to UNPAR, and spent the rest by walking. I stopped at one end of Jl. Setiabudhi, and walked along Hegarmanah street and some small alleys towards the office. I could have took Ciumbuleuit street for shorter route, but the air in Hegarmanah route was significantly fresher.

More greeneries in Hegarmanah street.
More greeneries in Hegarmanah street.
The sign was deceiving, the building was under construction
The sign was deceiving, the building was under construction
A cafe that provides breakfast
A cafe that provides breakfast
Japanese Cuisine, yummy
Japanese Cuisine, yummy
A small alley with simple gate
A small alley with simple gate
Another view of the alley, reminded me of a scene from Fast 5 movie
Another view of the alley, reminded me of a scene from Fast 5 movie
Some reminder about nationalism
Some reminder about nationalism

You may also check the route here. Note that you must use public transport to do this. Otherwise, parking your car would be a problem.

Have a nice, healthy day!

Personal Message for KIRI Users

PascalDear friends, (geser ke bawah untuk Bahasa Indonesia)

I am Pascal, the guy who run KIRI (http://kiri.travel). Through this post, I would like to say a great great thank you to everyone who use and/or support KIRI.

From December 2013 to November 2014, we logged 207.672 routing requests, i.e. more than 200K public transport navigations were helped by us. Though this number may not mean that much for a startup company, I am very grateful than we may have helped people 200K times in their daily live!

You can help us too. Currently we do not accept donations, but here is how you can participate:

  1. If you haven’t used our service, try it at http://kiri.travel (it’s free!)
  2. Spread the word, tell everyone that this website exist! We didn’t spend that much on advertising campaign, and believe that word of mouth plus quality app will do the job.
  3. Tell us any problems or suggestions you may have! Send us an email to hello@kiri.travel
  4. Should you live in a city where we haven’t supported yet, you can contribute by filling in the routes yourself. Drop us an email!

A great thank you too to the people who helped me inside KIRI: Budyanto, Jovan, Kevin, and Eric!

We have several interesting plans for 2015, therefore keep update by following us on Twitter at @kiriupdate or use our site regularly. Happy New Year!

Best regards;
Pascal


Teman-teman,

Saya Pascal, manusia yang menjalankan mesin KIRI (http://kiri.travel). Melalui post ini, saya ingin menyatakan banyak banyak terima kasih kepada semua yang menggunakan dan/atau mendukung KIRI.

Dari Desember 2013 sampai November 2014, kami mencatat 207.672 permintaan. Dengan kata lain, lebih dari 200 ribu navigasi transportasi publik telah dibantu oleh kami. Angka ini mungkin tidak terlalu seksi untuk sebuah startup, tetapi saya sangat bersyukur bahwa kami mungkin telah membantu orang-orang lebih dari 200 ribu kali.

Anda juga dapat membantu kami. Saat ini kami tidak menerima donasi, tetapi inilah cara Anda dapat berpartisipasi:

  1. Jika belum pernah, cobalah situs kami di http://kiri.travel (gratis!)
  2. Ceritakan ke teman Anda, beritahu bahwa situs ini ada! Kami tidak menghabiskan banyak uang untuk kampanye iklan, dan percaya bahwa mulut ke mulut dan aplikasi yang berkualitas adalah iklan terbaik.
  3. Beritahu kami jika ada masalah atau saran! Email ke hello@kiri.travel
  4. Jika Anda tinggal di kota yang belum kami dukung, Anda dapat berkontribusi dengan mengisikan rutenya. Hubungi kami!

Terima kasih banyak juga kepada orang-orang yang membantu di dalam KIRI: Budyanto, Jovan, Kevin, dan Eric!

Kami memiliki beberapa rencana menarik untuk tahun depan, karena itu tetaplah terupdate bersama kami. Follow @kiriupdate di Twitter atau gunakan situs kami secara berkala. Selamat Tahun Baru!

Salam;
Pascal


Sorry for long post,here’s a potato: 🍠

Singapore Family Trip 2014

Singapore Trip
Singapore Trip

That morning, I somehow pushed myself to go attend a mass, although the weather was perfect for another sleep. Probably because I wanted God to bless our trip to Singapore. Yep, after a long time I was finally back to Singapore again, even for only 4 days. After the mass, I joined my wife Yunnie and my mother-in-law Tan for a road trip to Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport. The trip from Bandung to Jakarta took about 3 hours with my wife driving half of the trip.

We waited for another hour at Soekarno-Hatta before we met the rest of the group: my sister-in-law Yeny, her husband Teddy, their son Aristides, Teddy’s mom Ceem, and Ceem’s granddaughter Adellyn. We then checked in, and at around 6.30 PM took off and flew about 2 hours to Singapore. Since we used a budget airline, the seat was randomly assigned and turned out I sat alone separated from the other group members. On the bright side, this was a chance for me to take some rest, since I would be their tour guide in Singapore. Of course lah, I had spent almost 4 years in Singapore before!

We landed at Changi Airport around 9 PM Singapore time. I originally intended to take them to the Lavender Food Square for traditional Singapore meals. However, considering most food stalls would have closed when we reached there and that the kids may have been very hungry by that time, we finally chose Changi Airport’s Burger King for dinner instead.

We then took two cabs to our hostel at Lavender Street. I, Yunnie, Tan, and Aristides were in one cab, while the rest took another cab. My cab arrived earlier at the hostel and we started checking in. We stayed at a backpacker hostel, where the eight of us shared 6 bunk beds in one room. Finally we could get some rest before our adventure the next day, I thought. When the other cab arrived, I realized that I was completely wrong. Seeing that the other group bringing their suitcases down, Tan suddenly realized that we left two of our suitcases in the cab’s trunk!

We were panic, since we did not take note of the cab’s number, driver’s name, nor the taxi company name. Yunnie and Ceem somehow recalled that the cab’s color was either brown or red, and I recalled that it was a 7-seater cab. With help of the hostel receptionists Su and Min, and Changi Airport’s hotline, we got to a conclusion that there were two cab companies having their fleet with brown/red color: Prime Taxi and SMRT Taxi. I then called them and reported to the left baggage department, who broadcasted the report to all drivers. Should the driver noticed it, he would reported it immediately. However, after a few minutes, there were no responses from both companies. We also tried to call other cab companies (just in case), with zero results as well.

The lobby closed at 11 PM, and the receptionists went back to their house to sleep. Therefore it had to be me and Yunnie who waited at the lobby’s couch, in case that the driver realized it and returned the suitcases to the hostel at night. At the same time, I and Yunnie silently prayed that the driver would be kind enough to return the suitcases to us. Close to midnight, fatigue caught us and we fell asleep. About 2 AM, the driver we had been waiting for finally arrived. He woke us up by knocking at the door, and I quickly welcomed him and the suitcases. With the suitcases returned, we finally could sleep peacefully.

The next morning, we woke up early at 6 AM and after an hour went out to nearby Lavender Food Square for breakfast. For nostalgic reason, I had the traditional Singaporeans breakfast menu: boiled eggs, toasts, and coffee. Yunnie, who ordered Singapore noodle, kindly shared her breakfast with me too. Yummy! While the rest was finishing their breakfast, I went to a nearby 7-Eleven to buy some EZ-link cards for us to take public transport in Singapore.

Singapore River
Singapore River

After breakfast, we rushed to take bus 857 heading to Singapore Flyer. Everyone except me and Yunnie were to catch a tour bus heading to Johor Bahru’s Legoland theme park. Upon reaching the Flyer, we had to run a bit, since the tour bus departed at 9 AM. Luckily they managed to catch the tour bus before it was too late. After being on the rush, I and Yunnie spent a few minutes sitting at a bench by the Singapore River.

Afterwards, we took a bus to the classic Indonesian tourists destination: the Orchard Road. I showed the roadsides and shopping malls to Yunnie, but she wasn’t really impressed. I myself also a bit disappointed since I couldn’t find the $1 potong ice cream along the road. We then took a break at Lucky Plaza basement food court, where we bought two glasses of Bandung to refresh ourselves. I realized that there was an Indian food stall at the food court, so I didn’t waste the chance to buy some food. I ordered a Southern Indian meal package, complete with the naan bread and masala sauce. Afterwards, we wandered around the basement to buy some souvenirs.

Softshell crab
Softshell crab

After being re-energized, we walked again and this time heading to Plaza Singapura. It was one of the place where Thai Express opens for business. Yunnie had been wanting to eat there, after her first encounter during our trip to Australia. We ordered the infamous soft-shell crab for main course and mango & sticky rice for dessert.

After lunch, we went back to the hostel and took a nap to pay our sleep debt due to the missing suitcases. We ended up sleeping for 3 hours before realizing that it was almost time to pick the Johor group at Singapore Flyer. We rushed out and took bus 857 one more time.

At Singapore Flyer, we arrived earlier than the Johor group. Luckily there was a Ya Kun Kaya Toast stall nearby. I ordered the French toast and coffee for another culinary adventure, also because we wanted to sit at their chairs. I also bought a jar of kaya jam to bring back to Bandung (which finally ended up in the airport trash can, since it was forbidden to bring it inside the cabin). After about 30 minutes waiting, the Johor group finally arrived.

We then went to Esplanade for dinner at the Makan Sutra. It was very crowded so we had to sit separately at two tables. I and Yunnie ordered chicken satays, but exchanged food with the rest, who ordered fried rice and other menus. One ordered Filipino’s pork belly, and I had the chance to try it too. Too bad we were all too tired so we didn’t really spent the time to enjoy the surrounding scenery. We went back by bus 145, which is easier since we only had to walk a few meters to the hostel after alighting.

That night had not ended for me and Yunnie. We walked again to the Mustafa Center, about 1 km from the hostel. I originally intended to buy a casio watch and X-box games, but with limited time I ended up buying only several packed foods to bring back to Indonesia.

The next day, I woke up a little earlier than the others. At around 5.30 AM, I went out for a morning run. From the hotel, I ran through Lavender Street and finally ended up at the Singapore Flyer (route here). It was nice to see other runners along the way, as there are not as many runners back in Bandung. I arrived at Singapore Flyer before the sunrise, then took a bus to go back to the hostel.

Back at the hostel, we were all getting ready for the second day of trip in Singapore. We had breakfast at a nearby kopitiam, who sells Chinese vegetarian food as well. While the rest had their vegetarian noodle and vermicelli, I consistently had traditional Singapore breakfast with coffee. Moreover, I also let them to taste another iconic Singapore drink, i.e. Bandung and have a slight taste of the traditional breakfast.

We walked again to Boon Keng MRT station to take the train to Vivo City. Yep, we were about to visit Sentosa island! This island, marketed as Asia’s favourite playground, has a special meaning to me. I used to visit this island almost every weekend, as its proximity to Indonesia’s Batam Island allowed me to get Indonesia’s mobile signal. Therefore I could make a phone call to my ex-girlfriend (now my wife) with a much cheaper price compared to international call.

Sentosa Luge
Sentosa Luge

I took the group to walk along the Sentosa boardwalk to get there, which turned out to be a bad idea. At Sentosa, they looked very exhausted after walking for quite a long distance. However, playing games like the Sentosa Luge and 4D Adventure eventually soothed the pain.

Noon was approaching, so we started looking a place for lunch. I remember there was a Koufu food court at the Palawan Beach, so I took them there. However, to our dismay the food court was closed for renovation. We ended up buying microwaved frozen chicken rice from 7 Eleven. Finally we played 4D once again before leaving Sentosa.

From Sentosa, we stopped for a while at Harbourfront Centre to buy bakwa and other souvenirs to bring home. From there, we moved on to Clarke Quay where we had to separate for a while. Everyone except me had their early dinner there, while I spent some time to visit an old friend Christine near Serangoon MRT. After a short chat, I returned to Clarke Quay to join others for dinner at Bayang restaurant. As recommended by the others, I chose fried rice for dinner. It was nice, but a bit overpriced.

We then walked along the quay, and stopped at the infamous Turkish ice cream stall. It is famous for the seller who cleverly mock the customers before handing out the ice cream. Aristides, Adellyn, me, and Teddy took turn being mocked up by the seller. We also spent some time to watch people being thrown and swung at the Singapore GX-5 and G-MAX.

After everyone was happy enough, we went back to the hostel by bus 145, and took a good rest, as we would go home the next day.

In the morning, the hostel was already crowded with many Filipino people. Turned out they were all came from a company that sells well-being products, and came to Singapore for an expo. I had a little chat with one of them and quite sad to hear that there were a typhoon going on in Philippines with many victims involved. As the time of writing, the typhoon seemed to have eased out.

SH 9655J, thank you sir!
SH 9655J, thank you sir!

About 7 AM, we were all ready and took two cabs to go to the airport. The driver in my car was very friendly and talked a lot about Indonesian presidential election and other topics. I told him the story about our left suitcase, and ask his permission to take a picture of his taxi number plate just in case. He then told more stories about other left baggage instances he encountered. Normally, he said, unclaimed baggage will be donated after 14 days. When we reached the airport, he even asked us to double check that all our bags are with us.

Since we still had a lot of time and had our ticket electronically checked in, we took some time to enjoy our breakfast at the airport. While the rest were having Chinese food at Ruyi, I and Yunnie once again headed for Killiney Koptiam to buy traditional Singaporean breakfast, this time with addition of Mee Rebus. Thinking that we still had ample time, we walked leisurely to the immigration gate for check in. To our surprise, we were not allowed to enter the immigration area since we needed to have our documents verified by the Air Asia counter prior to immigration.

The document verification took some time, as there were a lot of people waiting in line. Queue in the immigration area also cost us a few minutes. That left us only few minutes before the airplane departed. Not wanting everyone to be left by the airplane, I left the others and took a sprint to the boarding gate to notify the Air Asia representative to wait for the rest. The others then could run at their own pace. Fortunately, although the representative refused to exend the boarding time, everyone arrived on time for boarding. We then flew to Jakarta nicely, ending the Singapore trip.

Trivia: check your luck and knowledge about Singapore. Based on the information provided in this post, can you guess at which hostel we stayed? Answer in the comment section and share with us how you managed to guess it!

Singapore-Australia Trip (Part 2)

Continued from Singapore-Australia Trip (Part 1)

Remember that Daniel left for good and was bringing back all his stuffs from Brisbane? On this last day at Brisbane, we prepared ourselves to go to the airport for a Sydney-bound flight. Me and Daniel spent about half an hour trying to squeeze in our bags in the car trunk. The car was not so big, so even with most bags in trunk, we still needed to carry some others  with ourselves inside the car. At the airport, we had to reorganize these bags, as the airline policy states maximum of 25kg per luggage.

Upon arrival in Sydney, I went straight to the car rental office while the others collected the checked bags. For our stay in Sydney, it was my turn to get the car from the rental office, for a simple reason: it’s $25/day cheaper, compared to had Daniel had done the job. In Australia, the rental price is differentiated for renter below and above 25 years old for insurance reason.

From airport we went to the apartment we rented to check in and leave our stuffs there, and moved again to a Chinese Food restaurant near the University of New South Wales. My cousin Maureen recommended this area for looking for Asian food, as the university hosts many Asian students studying here.

Very Windy at Kiama Blowhole
Very Windy at Kiama Blowhole

After lunch, Daniel brought us south to see two major attractions: Nan Tien buddhist temple and Kiama Blowhole. Nan Tien is one of the famous temple in Australia. Unfortunately, the temple was already closed when we got there, as it was already 5 PM. We could just see the tall pagoda from outside, and moved again to Kiama Blowhole. Kiama Blowhole is a hole-shaped cliff next to the sea, where the wave from the sea crushed the hole and sprung upwards. It was very interesting to see, but the wind was so strong we couldn’t stay very long there.

We travelled back north to Sydney, where we stopped at a local supermarket, again to buy ingredients for our dinner. We had a simple western style dinner, then took a rest, for another adventure the next day.

Walkway
Walkway

On the fifth day, we went to the infamous Blue Mountain area. For starter, we visited Wentworth Waterfall lookout to see some scenery. However, the main event for that day was the Scenic World. It was a tourist attraction where visitors can walk along the forest, as well take some rides available. We first took the cableway, that gave us an overview of the venue as well as transported us down the the Jamison Valley. From there we took the walkway that goes inside the rainforest.

After about half an hour of walking, we went back to the top, but this time using the scenic railway. It was like a regular railway, but the track climbed up with 52 degrees incline! Back on top, we had a quick lunch, and continued with riding the skyway. This skyway transported us across the valley of 270 meters deep. From there, we could see the Katoomba Falls, Three Sisters rock formation, and the Jamison Valley itself. This skyway also featured a transparent glass floor, where we could see the valley right below our feet. At the other side, there was not much to see, so we just took some pictures and went back.

By the way, this Three Sisters has an aboriginal story behind it. The legend says that it came from a three sisters named Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo who lived in Jamison Valley from the Katoomba tribe. They fell in love with three men from neighbouring tribe, Nepean. However, marriage was forbidden by tribal law. Those men were unhappy and used force to capture these three sisters, leading to major battle between the two tribes. An elder turned these three sisters into stones in order to protect them. However, the elder died and no one could bring the three sisters back from their form. (Note: story adapted from Wikipedia)

A short drive from Scenic World, was the Echo Point. It was a place where people could get a closer look to the Three Sisters, and even walk there. However, to really get to the Three Sisters, one must walk through 800 steps, known as The Giant Stairway. It was not really worth it, so we just took another pictures at the Echo Point.

Family
Family

We ended our trip to Blue Mountains and headed back to Sydney, but stopped at Hornsby to visit my cousin Maureen & her husband Hendro. We haven’t met them for few years and were happy to see them, especially their son Axel who had grown so fast. We had dinner at a Thailand restaurant nearby. I had the chance to taste the green curry, a traditional Thailand dish that I once often had when I lived in Singapore.

On our way back, we passed through the city of Sydney to take a glimpse of the Opera House, as well as to get familiar with our destination in the next morning. Upon reaching the city, we were surprised with a bright flash of light. It turned out that this was a flash for an automatic photograph at a toll gate, to take picture of our license plate. In Australia, most vehicles are equipped with a small device that enables toll roads to be paid electronically. Our rented car didn’t have this device, so the gate reverted back to the old-fashioned way: record the license number.

Koala
Koala

The next day was the sixth day, and we hadn’t even saw a real koala in Australia! Therefore in the morning, we headed to the Koala Sanctuary, just a few minutes from the city of Sydney. Aside from Koalas, the sanctuary also hosted other Australian animals, like kangoroos and wallabies. Every few hours, the officer would let us touch and take some pictures with the koalas.

Google Sydney
Google Sydney

Few minutes before noon, we headed back to the city of Sydney. While Daniel and my parents went to see a relative, I had a chance to meet my friend Andrian and Prima who work at Google Sydney. I once visited Google’s office in Sydney long time back, but turned out that they have moved to a new building. Andrian and Prima took us for a short tour, then stopped at the cafeteria for lunch. For those who doesn’t know, Google provides free meals for their employees (and their guests). Lucky me to know some of Googlers!

We visited the Paddy’s market afterwards. This place is a market specialized for Australian souvenirs, ironically sold by mostly Asian businessmen. Being made in China products, the price is much cheaper than ones found in other tourist attractions. I and Yunnie bought a travel pillow and some kitchen utensils to take home.

Churros at Sydney
Churros at Sydney

We walked again, towards the Opera House and passing the harbor area. It was about 5 PM, so we walk along with office employees, who had just finished their work and on their way home. Opera House during the day was not much different compared to at night, but we didn’t waste the chance to take another pictures.

From Sydney, we drove to Wahroonga, where we met a distant relative, uncle Tjiu Giap. I personally hadn’t met him before, but he was a very nice person. He welcomed us as we were his special guests, and brought us for a Chinese food dinner nearby. What amused me was that his wife also started an innovative business of “rondofile“, a patented design of file holder, that allows one to write on the paper even while being held securely inside the holder.

On the last day, we only packed our stuffs and headed to airport for our journey back to Indonesia. I and Yunnie checked in first, as we had earlier flight, while the others flew 2 hours later. Upon check-in, the officer asked us whether I and Yunnie intentionally picked a separate seat. Air Asia flights do not guarantee persons traveling together will have seat next to each other, unless by paying some amount. As we didn’t pay for that, we simply said no, it was automatically assigned. Surprisingly, the officer gone the extra mile by moving our seat so we could sit next to each other. A simple gesture that really made our day!

It was another long flight, but at least it was a day flight. We transit for few hours in Kuala Lumpur, where we met our college friend Aswin. We met just in time before his flight to Jakarta for a friend wedding, so we didn’t chat a lot. At this airport we also managed to get some meal for dinner and brought some jellies to bring home. Then we continued the flight to Bandung, and finished our journey.

 

Note: most pictures in this blog were taken by Daniel. You can check out his portfolio at this address: http://dnartworks.com.au