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2 Hours of Graduation, 8 Days of Fun / Part 2 – Road Trippin’

This is part two of the story. You can read the first part here.

Pekalongan Station

After spending quality time in Singapore, It was time to go back to Indonesia. I went to Bandung with my girlfriend using an AirAsia flight. Still having euphoria from the celebration, I spent a bit more of money by booking the hot seat at the front row. I felt lucky as the one seat beside me was empty, so I had some extra room. Until a guy from the back seat came in and took the seat. Fortunately, he agreed to move back after I convinced him that the seat is for hot seat passengers only. When the plane landed at Bandung, I realized one more benefit from the hot seat purchase, which is a faster waiting time at the immigration checks. There were only 2 officers on duty, hence arriving later at the gate contributed significant amount of waiting time.

I spent two nights in Bandung, and at the third day was the time for another trip to Pekalongan. It is a small town in Central Java, where my parents once lived their childhood. It is well known as Batik producer, but as I found out it’s also a heaven for seafood lover, thanks to its proximity to the ocean and low living cost. When I was younger, my dad used to take me there by car. We usually spent 1 to 3 days on the road. Not the whole day of course, but we tended to stop and stay overnight in the towns we passed by to enjoy them. This time, the ritual didn’t seem to be feasible anymore and the best option was to take a train!

About 7.30 in the morning, both of us boarded the train to Pekalongan. Unlike the years before, the Bandung-Pekalongan train this time took a much longer route by catching up the rail from Jakarta on the northern side. This means huge maintenance cost saving for the company, and longer journey time for the passengers (but on the brighter side, more scenery to see!). We arrived in Pekalongan about 2 PM, having only about five minutes to alight as the train was scheduled to go again to Semarang

After meeting the rest of the Singapore team (my parents, brother and his girlfriend), I freshened up by taking the legendary Es Teler at Jalan Dr. Cipto, followed by another desert es duren (durian syrup with ice). At late afternoon, we spent some time at the beach. It was not as clean as Sentosa beach, but at least there were not so much tankers there. In the evening, we went to a restaurant near the beach to have a big seafood dinner. For less than S$ 10 per person, we had grilled fishes, whole squids (more than just the rings), salad, and kangkungs (water spinach).

The beach at Pekalongan

In the morning next day, we went for another culinary trip: a soto tauco (traditional spicy soup) at a small alley near the Es Teler restaurant. In the afternoon, we had another famous food from Kombor’s restaurant: chilli crab. Not really similar to the chilli crabs in Singapore, their crabs have less meat but better sauce. We tried to burn our fat afterwards at a local franchise of the Time Zone arcade center. After one hour of games, we started to get bored and went back home. Turned out that my aunt just bought a carrom discs for the table that she had had for a long time. Hence we started to spent another hour playing the game (even without precisely understanding the rules). Evening was another chance to taste various local foods in Pekalongan. We started by having swikees (frogs) cooked in various ways for dinner, followed grilled toast (yes, it was really grilled using charcoals!). As for the “dessert”, we had martabak. It was sold by a guy named Ibrahim, who we thought first came from middle east for his figure. Turned out that his father came from India.

I’ve been talking too much about food, haven’t I? Anyway, unfortunately on the third day we had to go back to our hometowns. My girlfriend went back to Bandung while I went to Jakarta along with my family. It was another train trip, but this time much faster. It only took about 4 hours of journey. In Jakarta, me and my brother spent some time to watch a live soccer game by our old friends. Finally, I took a flight back to Singapore in the evening. It felt so fast, though in the end the story worth two posts of blog.

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2 Hours of Graduation, 8 Days of Fun / Part 1 – The Fine City

The Commencement Ceremony

After 2.5 years of part time study in NUS, I have finally got the right to retrieve my master degree and participated in the graduation ceremony. The ceremony, or “commencement”, is one thing, but it was the time where people who are close to me came to Singapore to celebrate with me. And this serious business turned into an exciting plan when I found out that the room rate for a hotel in Sentosa Island is not much different than the ones in city. And so I booked the hotel at Sentosa for 4 days of fun, and only 2 hours of commencement (wait, you said 8 days? well, keep reading…).

My parents, brother, and our girlfriends arrived at Singapore on Sunday afternoon after a 1.5 hours of flight from Jakarta. Carrying big bags with us including myself, we took a maxi cab straight to the hotel to check in. We stayed at Siloso Beach Resort, just next to the Wave House Sentosa. It’s would be a perfect place (it’s a stone throw away to the beach), if only there are no tankers resting at the sea, practically covering most part of the horizon. The rest of the day was spent walking around the beach, followed by shopping at the Chinatown area. In the evening, we went to my landlord’s house, who was very kind to invite us for a home-cooked dinner at her house. Few hours later, we left her house with the hope to catch the 9 PM Crane Dance attraction. Unfortunately, the machine was down for maintenance on that day, leaving us only to watch the Lake of Dreams at 9.20 PM. It was okay.

The next day, four of us went to the Universal Studios Singapore, while my parents preferred to go shopping as they have been there before and a second visit is not that interesting anymore. I didn’t expect to be that crowded inside the theme park on Monday. But it was. Except for the Spielberg’s effect showcase, Shrek 4D and Water World, it took about and hour to wait in the queue (and less than 10 minutes in the ride itself). The most exciting attraction was, as before, the Mummy’s roller coaster. At the end of the day, we didn’t ride the infamous Battlestar Galactica, cowardly backing off when we saw that the estimated waiting time is at least 1.5 hour. In the evening, we headed to nearby Vivo City mall to buy some souvenirs, as well as to have dinner at the Food Republic on the top floor. I always like to dine here for its oldies-themed interior design. We then met my parents who were there since afternoon and went back to the hotel to finish the day.

Trip to Universal Studios Singapore

The third day was the commencement day. Since it was held in the afternoon, I spent the lazy morning swimming at the hotel’s swimming pool. There was a man made waterfall beside the swimming pool, giving a natural feeling, although a bit awkward. After a late breakfast, we walked at the beach, again lazily enjoying the scenery and the breeze before we had to go for the commencement. About 12 noon, we went to NUS to have dinner at a cafe in Mochtar Riady building. This is a new building owned by the Business School (while they gave their older COM2 building to School of Computing). Then, shortly before 2 PM we took internal shuttle buses to go to the venue at University Cultural Center.

The commencement itself was good and well managed. But perhaps it was too formal to me. It’s more difficult to wear the gown, compared to what I wore in my undergraduate commencement. The seats were arranged in a somewhat random manner, hence I didn’t know the guys who sat next to me. While this is quite normal given the large number of students, it just gave me an idea of a facebook app that retrieves the friend connections from facebook (with student’s consent, of course) and tries to group students with their friends as close as possible. Anyway.., the current seating arrangement turned out to be not so random for some people. The guy who sat on my left turned out to be a good friend of the guy on my right, hence they spent most of the time chatting with each other with me in the middle. After sometime I politely asked one of them to switch place with me, to allow them chat easier and give a relieve for me for not being a man-in-the-middle. The best part of the commencement was, of course when it ended and I had the chance to meet and greet each other and took pictures with fellow graduates I knew. It was such an exciting experience, realizing what we have been through together and finally got the fruit of our labor.

The night was again spent by lazily enjoying the beach, as this was the last night in Singapore. At the next day, most of us went back to Jakarta, but me and my girlfriend took a separate flight to Bandung. Yes, I indeed took the flight to Indonesia! I actually decided to take more leave and spent the whole week for vacation instead of just watching them gone and spend the rest of the week at the office cube. And then the next 4 days of adventure begins! (to be continued…)

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Jakarta & Bandung Trip 2011

Me & Monas
Me & Monas

After finishing my last semester in NUS, it was time for a long break! This time, I visited Jakarta and Bandung for about 9 days. A luxury I couldn’t get during the semester term.

First stop was Jakarta. I took a flight in the morning from Singapore, and arrived around noon. After landed, I searched for my dad who picked me up at the airport. While I was looking for him, I saw many adolescent girls looking very excited waiting for something. Out of curiosity, I asked one of them what’s happening. She answered “Super Junior is coming!” with a look that says something like “Oh my God! You really don’t know what’s happening? Are you from outer space?”. I only saw the car they rode from distance amid the hysterical fans, but didn’t see the Super Junior members. I didn’t know them beforehand, anyway.

During the 4 days in Jakarta, I didn’t really go to interesting places. I spent most of them for quality time with family and by cleaning up my stuff that I left untouched while in Singapore. One of the task was to dispose a very old 486 desktop computer (from the year 1994). It turned out to be a difficult task, even my friend who works on a project that accept old computers for donation thinks that the specification was too low. I also tried to help my dad to remove a tree stump that lies at our front yard. The root has grown so deep it threatened to spoil the the water pipe under the soil. It was a task that looked easy but turned out to be very difficult. The root was thick and had forked into many smaller ones, making it difficult to pull out. In the end, we gave up and decided to try buying a kerosene to kill it slowly instead.

On Tuesday, I went to Bandung to meet my girlfriend, but it became some kind of breaking my diet plan in a culinary trip. Most of them involved having local meals that only found in warungs and home made cooking. On one occasion we had dinner at a modern cafe located next to a mosque, making the ambiance a bit awkward during prayer times. After almost four years (when I left Bandung), this city has been getting more cramped than before.

Almost every time I went to Bandung, I spent some time to watch movie in the cinema. During this time, there was some disagreement between the government and the movie distributor, making the blockbuster movies unavailable everywhere in Indonesia (well, except at the pirated DVD stores). It was quite a pity, but on the bright side it filtered out the mainstream movies that sell by their visual effects, and leaving the good movies that focuses on the story. In the end, Source Code and Scream 4 was quite satisfying to me.

I also spent some time to visit the university where I studied for my undergraduate. There were new buildings, making me and my girlfriend lost for a few moment before finding out the department we were looking for. It was very nice to see the professors that taught me and some former colleagues (I was working part time for 2 years in the university). Things haven’t changed much but I regret that I already forgot the names of some of them. The most nostalgic part is, well, the food. After having traditional fried chicken for dinner, we went for a second round at a nearby soup stall.

On the last day, I took a train back to Jakarta, to catch up the flight in the evening. I arrived around 10.30 but had to wait about one and a half hour for my parents and brother to come. They were taking another train from Pekalongan. While waiting, I went to the nearby tourist attraction: the national monument, a.k.a. Monas. It is interesting, because while I was born and raised in Jakarta, that was only the second time I went to Monas for at least 15 years. The first time was during the elementary school study tour. I was taking several pictures for this blog when a local seller came to me and tried to speak in English with me. I replied in English, too, until he asked me where I come from and I answered “Jakarta”. He looked a bit surprised, this crazy Jakartans still want to go to Monas?

About one hour later, my parent came. We then had a quick lunch, followed by rest at home. And in the evening, I flew back to Singapore. End of trip, was surely a pleasant break

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Travel Marathon Recap

That five weeks has been very interesting to me. I’ve flown four different return trips (two were company paid), to five cities in four countries, using five different airlines. At some point I felt like George Clooney in Up in the Air movie. Two of my journeys were recorded in my blog, but I don’t feel like writing the other two, hence let me just do some recaps and point several interesting things here.

The first airline I took was ValuAir. Compared to few years back, they had rearranged the seats so that the cabin could contain more seats. Unfortunately that also meant lesser space for my legs. On the bright side, the seats were new and clean. The next flight was Air Asia, but there was nothing special about it. As usual we were served by prettier flight attendants and was subject to flight delay due to unavailability of the airplane.

Air France was the first non budget airline I took after several years. Generally they had a good service and delicious meals, especially on their long flight (my flight was from Singapore to Paris). The shorter flight (Paris to Napoli) used smaller planes with only snacks provided but same hospitality.

On my Beijing trip, the company provided me Air China, which was surprisingly unsatisfying. With larger cabin size compared to budget airlines, they provided only two restrooms for economy class. As you can imagine, I had to queue for few minutes before I could answer my nature call. And as you can read in my other post, there was an incident during my flight back to Singapore, where the engine stopped just before we taxied to the runway.

For my last trip to Indonesia, I tried to use the Indonesia’s national airline Garuda Indonesia. Whilst the online booking process was harder compared to other airlines, I was truly impressed by the revamped on board services they had given. Costing only +/- SGD 250 for round trip to Jakarta, the plane was equipped with brand new seats and in flight entertainments (though the flight was only 1.5 hours long). Free local newspapers were also provided before we boarded the plane. Unfortunately the last flight back to Singapore was plagued by almost two hour of delay.

Effect on Weight
Just few weeks before my first travel, I bought a digital weight scale with the interest of tracking and trying to reduce my weight. With help of Excel, I managed to plot a chart of my daily weight. Though until now the weight reduction program has not been fruitful yet (partly blame to the travels), but when combined with my travels the chart has become more interesting. A copy of the chart is shown here, with real values blurred for privacy reasons 🙂 however, I can tell you that the distance between the lowest and highest point is 3 kg.

The straight lines determines the oversea travels, since I don’t have access to my scale. On my first trip to Indonesia, it did not affect much on the weight. What was contrary to my initial assumption was my Napoli trip turned out reduced my weight significantly, though I ate a lot of pasta and pizzas there, and sometimes double dinner in the plane due to time zone shift. The Beijing trip gave more body fat to me, since there were more beers and fatty and oily foods (you know, Chinese food..). I also gained weight on my last trip to Indonesia, especially due to the fact that this was my final trip during this year summer break.

One conclusion I can take from the statistic is, your body may well use your calories reserve during long flights and jetlags. Therefore when you want to reduce weight, try to spend more time on planes 🙂

English Grammar
Finally, if you think that the English grammar in my blog posts is awful, well, you’re not alone. My friend Paulus who noticed the same thought that I should revisit basic theory of English by reading some English grammar books for high school students. Kindly enough, he gave these books during my latest visit to Jakarta. Therefore you can expect my grammar improves on the next posts (will be a challenge for me..) Thanks Paul!

If you think that nothing is wrong with my grammar, well, you’re not alone too. I think that my grammar is still at acceptable level 🙂