events indonesia

Vocational Schools Art Festival

The Indonesian education ministry has this department called Pusat Prestasi Nasional (Puspresnas, National Achievement Center) that holds various competitions for students in Indonesia. One of their program is the FLS2N SMK (Festival dan Lomba Seni Siswa Nasional untuk Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan). It roughly translates to Art Competition and Festival for Vocational High Schools, though during the pandemic “competition” part is thicker than the festival counterpart.

A play from Rizakustik, one of the judges for solo guitar.

It all started many years ago when our team was asked to build the online competition system for FLS2N SMA (similar, but for regular high school students). I admit that it was a huge failure, mainly because (1) we did not understand fully the competition system and (2) huge resistance from provincial governments to not use the online system. In the end, the system was practically useless and works of many students submitted to the system were never, viewed let alone judged by the judges.

Composition from Dhanang Guritno, one of the judges for song composition.

Fast forward to 2020, when COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Pusat Prestasi Nasional department was, I assume, in total distress. Everything had to be online, and I was lucky that my team is in their contact list. We had a few weeks to bring the old system back to cater the competition online. My team was awarded the project for vocational school, while the regular school was handled by another team.

There are of course some challenges working on this project. But just as Morgan Freeman, I mean Nelson Mandela, once said, “It seems impossible until it’s done”.

It seems impossible until it’s done

Nelson Mandela

With only a few weeks before the system was actually being used, I was lucky to have a half-baked system. However, it also turned to be a disadvantage as well. Since the architecture was well set, adapting to new requirements become slower and need extra care to not introduce regression (errors due to change in the code).

Solid metal song from Ponco Satrio, one of the judges for solo singing

Actually working with art judges is also another challenge. Unlike science where it’s easier to differentiate right answers from the wrong ones, giving score to art product is in some part subjective. At the same time, Pusat Prestasi Nasional needs rationale for each score given.

In 2020, most challenges actually came from half-preparedness of the system. There were some bugs that caused extra work. For example, the automatic detection of students’ school identity resulted in many students registered to come from Kepulauan Seribu, a regency in Jakarta.

In 2021, we were glad to being awarded the same project again, and we have fixed those major mistakes we did in 2020. However, there came another challenge: more provinces (about half of all provinces in Indonesia) were ready for and chose their own selection mechanism, hence untracked within our system. Therefore most of the participants from those provinces must be inputted manually to the system. We are lucky to have a dedicated staff from Puspresnas who has the knowledge and capability to ensure those participants are well recorded.

At the time of this blog writing, the national judging has just finished. From past experience, the national judging is much easier, since there are only at most 35 participants being graded for each division. As you may see when reading this post, I inserted some music that was actually made by some of the judges. Below are more videos from the judges.

As you may have seen above, I inserted some products of the judges. Below are more example of their products.

indonesia outside singapore singapore

In Search for Kopitiam Aroma

As you may have known from this blog, I spent a fairly amount of time in Singapore, and its culture has a special place in my heart. One of the many things I miss is the Singapore kopi (coffee) and kopitiam (coffee shop).

In Singapore (and Malaysia), kopi is actually not a plain coffee. It is coffee with condensed milk. When I moved back to Indonesia, I tried to satisfy the need for nostalgia with Nescafe instant coffee and local condensed milk. As time goes by, I realized that it was not the same. Then I used real ground coffee, making the taste richer and more original.

However, things changed again when I bought Singapore-brand Cafe 21 instant coffee. I tasted something different that I could not find in a local ground coffee. After posting that finding on Facebook, my Singaporean friend Don opened my mind that such taste actually comes from the margarine that was used to roast the coffee. So I began searching for more, the “nanyang” coffee.

I tried the supposedly real Nanyang ground coffee, which in most cases come in bags, like the tea bags. Ah Huat Kopi O is one example. However, it somehow does not taste and smell the same. It’s just plain bland. The reason is still a mystery for me until now.

In this last occasion, I bought the Toast Box ground coffee “powder”, which does not come in bags. There is a slight nanyang aroma when I made the coffee using V60 coffee filter, but it was still far from perfect. The surprise came when I left the residue for about an hour. Just when I was about to throw the leftover away, I smell that unique aroma of the kopitiam! Therefore, my conclusion so far is: the kopitiam aroma actually comes not from freshly brewed coffee, but from the leftover coffee.

So this “Screw the French Press, we’ve got the socks” poster at most Ya Kun Kaya Toast stalls now makes very sense for me. The socks keep the leftover from the first brew, to the next, and the next, and so on!

Disclaimer: this conclusion does not come from a scientific study, nor it is peer reviewed.

covid-19 indonesia travel

Sentul Meeting: My First Travel in COVID-19 Situation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Guest Post: Desmond School Day

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

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

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

Setelah itu makan bekal apel.

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

indonesia theme park travel

Jakarta and Malang Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bandung team at dinner table
Bandung team at Sarang Oci

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

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

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

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

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

Sport cars show in Museum Angkut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Price don’t lie

Pascal’s wife

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

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

Group picture at the hotel lobby

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

indonesia nature travel

Glamping at Ciwidey

? Klik untuk versi Bahasa Indonesia

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

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

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

Kawah Putih. Photo by Pak Eli.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delicious breakfast

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

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

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

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

indonesia travel

Kereta Api Priority Class

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

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

Let’s find out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

events indonesia religious

Catholicer Seminar Trip

Bandung Station. Anything weird here? :)
Bandung Station

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

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

Dinner at A&W
Dinner at A&W

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

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

Darren opening the session
Darren opening the session

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

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

Prayer for Chris
Prayer for Chris

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

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

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

This weird Soya Bean
This weird Soya Bean

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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