Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
asia events indonesia

Bali Back to Back

I had a chance to visit Bali twice within a few months.

Lebaran Family Trip

First was during the Lebaran holiday, in which I can absolutely say no to all my work. With my wife, son, and mom-in-law, we spent 4 days of colorful vacation in Bali. Considering our 23 months old boy Desmond, we wasn’t really kiasu about taking early flight to Bali. Instead, we took a 3 PM flight, that led us to 6 PM arrival time in Bali. Upon landing, mom and Desmond had their dinner at the airport, being afraid of starving in the middle of traffic jam. Yunnie wanted Nasi Pedas Ibu Andika for dinner, so she and I decided to delay our dinner. However, learning from the traffic jam that actually happened, we cancelled the plan and had dinner at a restaurant near our hotel instead. To console ourselves, we bought some peanuts and beers (a bit of luxury back in our hometown) to end the day in our room (after Desmond fell asleep, of course).

Beach Life
Beach Life

Next day was beach day. After breakfast, we walked to Kuta to enjoy the beach. Desmond was very happy playing with the sand, Yunnie was enthusiastic in finding pretty shells to bring back home, while I played with the water. We spent more than two hours at the beach, then back to the hotel. Turned out our hotel was close to a popular food spot called “Sate Babi Bawah Pohon”. The bad news was to order some portion of it, I had to queue for about 45 minutes. We won’t risk Desmond to fall asleep before lunch, so he had their lunch inside the hotel restaurant, while the Sates are reserved for the rest of us.

We continued by buying some oleh-olehs at Krisna. It may confuse foreigners as it’s just a huge building selling snacks and clothes. However, for Indonesians it’s more than enough for them to buy all kinds of oleh-olehs all in one place. Then, we beat another traffic jam to go to Nasi Pedas Ibu Andika, the food Yunnie had been craving at from the previous day. Yunnie was the happiest, but mom was not really happy as the menu was all to spicy for Desmond (well, Desmond was happy too, he didn’t care). Therefore, after Nasi Pedas, we walked again about 1 km to find a “decent” food. KFC was the choice, and now Desmond and mom were both happy.

Penyu Island
Penyu Island

Third day, we traveled to another hotel. It’s a hotel that’s much closer to the airport, so we wouldn’t have difficulty catching our morning flight the next day. After leaving our bags at the reception, we took a cab to Tanjung Benoa, where an (overpriced) boat took us to Pulau Penyu (Tortoise Island). Aside from tortoises, the island also hosts snake, cockatoo bird, iguana, and other various animals. For lunch, we headed to the Pirate Bay restaurant at Nusa Dua. The waiter were hectic, not ready for sudden peak in visitors during lebaran. Many customers were complaining of their food not being delivered on time, and when I asked for a menu, the manager answered with pessimistic tone. Finally, he gave the menu after he was sure that I am okay to wait for an hour before our food was delivered. The food was (as usual) overpriced but not disappointing. Last night in Bali, we had a simple Chinese meal and a gelato to wrap up the day.

Last day, we woke up really early to catch our 8 AM flight. Desmond was still sleeping when we left the hotel, but very happy to play when he woke up at the airport. The flight was smooth, and we were back in Bandung in no time.

WSDC Business Trip

WSDC 2017 App

About a month after our first trip to Bali, I had a chance to visit this Island of God again. Our team had been trusted to build the mobile app for the World School Debating Championship 2017 event (if you’re curious, you can download the Android or iOS app). Me and my colleague Tommy arrived in Bali on 31 July evening, one day before delegations arrived in Bali. We then had a meeting until midnight, for final preparation.

Second day was absolutely boring for us. Most of the other committees were busy and the app was in the process of being distributed to the delegations, so no actual work was needed. Most of our time was spent inside our room in the Inna Grand hotel, while we occasionally walked to Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel, where most committees and delegations are located (+/- 500 meters apart).

WSDC Photo Session
WSDC Photo Session

Third day, activities were starting in the event. There were requests from the committee of pushing announcements to participants’ mobile devices, one killer feature of our app. We also published daily newsletter prepared by the team to the app. Having get used in Bali, we walked further to look for good food for our lunch. We wanted to have a babi guling (roasted pork) as recommended by Google Maps and walked 1 km from our hotel. Too bad the place was closed for religious ceremony, and we had regular satay for lunch instead. In the evening, we joined the other committees and delegations to go to Institut Seni Indonesia Denpasar for opening ceremony. The ceremony was grand and Tommy was astonished with the performances.

Fourth day, I stayed in the hotel until lunchtime, as I had video call meetings with my students. Tommy went out with the committees to watch the first day of debates. At lunch time, I went to visit them at SMAN 1, one of debate venues. Tommy was not really impressed with the debate, with most of the time trying to not get asleep. At night, we had dinner at a simple seafood restaurant near the hotel. The restaurant, named “Mak Beng” was interesting, as it only serves one type of set menu: steamed rice, fried fish, and fish soup for IDR 45.000,-.

With the Jokomobile
With the Jokomobile

Fifth day, I woke up early to have morning run as usual. What was unusual, was many soldiers with their rifle were standing around the beach. Furthermore, entrance to the hotel building was guarded by another soldiers and metal detector. It turned out that our president Joko Widodo was staying at the hotel, to attend an event in Bali. After 15 minutes of waiting at the lobby, there were no sign of Mr. Widodo, so I decided to just take a picture with his car. Afterwards, I let Tommy having his personal time in Kuta, while I travelled to SMAN 7 to watch one debate match. It was an interesting debate between Czech Republic and Uganda on the motion of “This House would deny tax-exempt status to religious institutions that refuses to appoint female leaders”. It was interesting to note that Czech Republic, being located in Europe, took the Catholic Church as the main example during the debate. Uganda on the other hand, tried to insert Islam into the discussion, at least at the end of the debate. Major religion of Uganda is also Catholic, but I believe they understand more the situation in the third world countries. Unfortunately, they still lost to Czech Republic on this debate.

The day was closed with so-called “Cultural Night”. Located at Inna Grand Hotel’s pool side, each country opened a table showing their culture specials including local foods. Sweden offered me an innocent black jelly that turned out to be super salty liquorice candy (and watched me cringed with a big smile). Germany, having lost both matches that day, had a small note “At least we’re good at football” written on their table. Two handsome Qatar guys offered a super nice dates with their thawb (special Arab clothes). What surprised everyone was after about an hour of cultural sharing, a DJ came out and start playing loud music (bet you won’t find it in WSDC official newsletter). Though it’s debatable whether this is in line with Indonesian culture or not, it did manage to let everyone released their tension, dancing to the beat but cleanly without alcohol.

Last day for me, I took a last picture of myself in Bali, in front of WSDC background. I had to come home early before the event finished at 11 August. Though my flight was at 13.20, I left hotel as early as 9.00 to buy some oleh-olehs. My Garuda Indonesia flight managed to entertain me with an episode of Big Bang Theory, a sitcom that I have not watched for a long time.

I really hope to visit Bali again sometime. It never ceases to amaze me.

Categories
indonesia travel

May Day Jakarta Trip

It was only a few days before my trip to Jakarta, when I heard the news that Uncle Peter passed away. For me, he was one interesting uncle, for his love of travel and the culture of Indonesia. When I asked him to help propose my then girlfriend in Bandung, he had this idea of bringing our big family to stay in Pangalengan, few kilometres outside Bandung. Other than known for its cool air,  Pangalengan also host the house and tomb of Boscha, one renowned Dutch scientist whose name is used as the name of Bandung’s observatory. From him also, I watched my first angklung performance at Saung Angklung Udjo.

Unfortunately, even after rescheduling my train to the earliest trip at 5 AM, I still could not make it to his funeral. That left me, my son Desmond, his mom Yunnie and his grandma with another plan.

Lovely backyard

Our first trip with our driver Pak Didi upon reaching Jakarta was to Aunt Gwan’s house, sister of my late (biological) mom. We “had to” visit her to take a family photo that we ordered earlier (the photo served a good excuse to come and visit, where these days physical visit can be easily replaced with chat apps). Her late husband was an architect, and he gave a lot of wooden touch to this house, making it more like a villa rather than a house. Combined with Aunt Gwan’s warm hospitality and her age, this visit really slowed down my pace of life. Servings of Siomay Mami (est 1988) gave reminiscene of old times, where she used to cook these for us when I visited her house, 20 years back. Desmond was also very happy to play around the house with Aunt Gwan and his loyal helper Ambu. Time ran fast and suddenly we had had spent 2 hours there, and had to move again to our next destination.

Next stop was Aunt King house. Desmond fell asleep on the road, and continued sleeping upon reaching Aunt King’s house. However, thanks to Jakarta heat he woke up a few minutes later; which was a good news. Other than he wouldn’t have extra energy to play with us past bedtime, he also could play around in Aunt King’s house. As usual, he climbed up and down the stairs, and explored the house. We didn’t have much time to spent there, and moved again to my brother Daniel’s house to pick up my dad, who had just came back from cemetery.

Pak Didi and Desmond, ready for lunch

Just before reaching Daniel’s house, we had simple lunch at nearby market. Local dishes ketoprak and soto served to satisfy our hunger. At Daniel’s house, Desmond once again climbed up and down, playing with Daniel’s basket ball, guitar, electronic candles, an empty jar, TV remote control, you name it. Since Pak Didi had to pick up my (step) mom from his office, we didn’t spend too much time here and headed home to Bintaro.

We spent the rest of the day just by staying at home. That night, I had the best sleep for few weeks. Not because my home is less convenient compared to mom’s house, but because my brain managed to switch to vacation mode, and I did not have to worry about work when I woke up the next day.

The next day was Sunday, so we started our day by going to the church nearby. My mom and dad, who were faithful Catholics, witnessed that we didn’t really pray and concentrate to God in church; well at least if Desmond is around us. He climbed up and down the chairs, walked here and there, and asked to use the elevator (which actually was meant for senior citizens and pregnant women, not healthy children) many times. Good thing that we managed to take him for blessing during communion.

I’m not sure who is older, my dad or this building

After church, we visited the historical Ragusa Ice Cream shop. Yunnie had learned about this place from some travel blog, and wished to bring Desmond to try the ice cream there. Unfortunately, Desmond fell asleep again en route, kept sleeping when we were there, and afterwards. I had had their ice cream before several time, but already forgot the taste. My order of mint ice cream was wonderful, recommended if you like to try something different. For those who likes normal tastes, I would recommend Tutti Frutti.

For lunch, we visited Mlinjo Resto, a Pekalongan restaurant in Tomang. All sorts of Pekalongan dishes from the regular megono, sriping and soto to the unusual pecak cucut and cumi hitam. Again, unless you have an adventurous taste buds or came from Pekalongan, not all dishes are for you. Note that my mom, dad, Yunnie and her mom were from Pekalongan.

After lunch, we headed back to Daniel’s house. Not having anything much to do that Sunday, he was considering to go out with us if possible. Uncle Chris and his friend were there when we arrived; a good chance to meet another relatives during this trip. Daniel’s wife Bianca was there, too; making it practically a full house. Desmond climbed to the second floor once again, and took some cookies from that empty jar he played yesterday (it’s filled now). He also once again interested with the basketball, and Daniel gave him a present of a new, cleaner, rugby ball instead (thanks, Daniel!). About one and a half hour there, we left Daniel’s house, to go to our next stop, Aeon Mall BSD City. We had been longing to go there for some time, since we understood that it was big shopping mall. Daniel and Bianca decided to not come along, since it was already too late.

Posing at Aeon Mall BSD City

I did not really like the shopping mall, even upon entering the parking lot. There were too many cars queueing to enter the mall, and the number of people inside, especially at the supermarket, were even worse. We were about to buy some bottled water, when we witnessed ridiculous number of people waiting in line to buy either sushis or puddings, despite the relatively expensive price. After a few minutes wondering around what to do next (shopping malls are more or less the same), we then decided to go upstairs to find playing area for Desmond. There was a place named Playtime, where for IDR 100K, children can spend 2 hours inside the playground of more than 10 types of activities. Needless to say, Desmond was very happy inside. We then had a simple dinner at the (overcrowded) food court and headed back home. Even so, the outward traffic was so congested, filled with people leaving the shopping mall. Having Desmond being so excited, I jokingly asked my mom in law to bet that he would not fell asleep until we got home. I thought I would win when he jumped here and there inside the car, only to find that he did fall asleep just a few minutes before reaching home.

We left for Bandung the next day. As it coincided with the Labor Day (a.k.a. May Day), where demonstrations are usually held in city center, we departed early from home. Fortunately we arrived on time at Gambir station, and everything was smooth for check in and trip back to Bandung. Just before the train started running, we heard demonstrators already yelling out their oration, but we were already safe inside the train.

To finish off, these photos show many of Desmond excitement even when returning to Bandung. He likes to play inside our dogs’ cage, but when he was wearing a tiger costume, it’s just too cute to not take the picture.

 

In memoriam, Uncle Peter Nugroho

Categories
singapore travel

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

Categories
indonesia travel

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.

Categories
indonesia park places

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.

Categories
indonesia places shopping

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.

Categories
dining indonesia

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.

Categories
dining indonesia

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.