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.
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.
This Chinese New Year was different than before. I called most of my relatives by phone, instead of visiting them. This is because, me and my wife Yunnie had a flight to catch at 11.40 AM. Yes, we were in another journey. This time we were on a trip to visit my brother’s baptism ceremony in Brisbane, Australia, plus a short transit at Singapore.
Imagine any TV serial theme song playing in…
What I didn’t tell most of my friends was, I had 7+ hours of transit in Singapore. Well, to fly from Bandung to Brisbane we had two choices: through Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. KL didn’t sound very interesting, as the airport is super far from the city, and the budget terminal doesn’t have that much of perks. Aside from better airport, travelling to city is relatively easy: enough time to show Yunnie some of the interesting places in the country I lived before. I also selected one person to visit in the remaining time, and finally decided to visit my former landlord (Auntie) and her daughter (Christine).
When we landed at around 3 PM, the first thing we planned was lunch. With many food stalls, Lau Pa Sat seemed a good option. So we took a train to get there. Unfortunately, upon arrival we found that the place was under renovation, and there were only limited selection of satay stalls open. We then took a bus to go to Esplanade theatre, hoping to find another food there. We finally had our meal at Thai Express. As it was the Chinese New Year (CNY) day, only limited choices of menu were available, and we were charged a whopping price of $50 for two persons.
After lunch, we took some pictures at the iconic Marina Bay Sands and Merlion statue nearby, and continued our journey to Auntie’s house in Commonwealth. As our schedule was really tight, we took a cab to get there. Luckily the driver was also in a rush, so the trip only took a few minutes. The driver warned us that finding another cab on CNY will be troublesome, which proved right when we were looking for a cab from Auntie’s house.
We spent some time at Auntie’s house for some chat. It’s been a long time since last time I met her. When I was in Singapore for almost four years, I lived in her flat. Age had caught her, but she was still in good condition to accept guests. She could even served us soft drinks, despite her weak legs condition. After a few minutes, we moved again to Christine’s house.
It was actually difficult to find a cab from Auntie’s house, hence we were slightly late at Christine’s house. Everyone was waiting for us for the Yusheng ceremony. It is a Singaporeans’ gesture to welcome the new year. A dish, consisting mixed vegetable salad and raw seafood, are thrown up using chopsticks, symbolizing a never ending flow of prosperity. We then had dinner and another good chat, with topics ranging from a recent riot to COE prices. With our body fully reenergized, they drove us to the airport, to catch our next flight to Gold Coast.
It was an overnight flight, a 7+ hour overnight journey. I should have slept at the plane, but it was difficult since I was too excited to get to Australia. Yunnie seemed to enjoy her sleep peacefully, so I spent the night by walking around the aisle every now and then, or waiting the sunrise to come up.
We landed at Gold Coast airport just as scheduled, 8 AM local time. It was very crowded and time consuming at the immigration and custom, as the Australian government are pretty strict on importing food and plants to the country. There was one interesting type of check, where about every 10 persons were asked to stand in line, while the officer brought down a dog to sniff each of the person and the hand carries. It was interesting, especially in the modern age where most labours have been replaced with machines.
My brother Daniel and my parents were already waiting for us at the exit gate. Daniel drove us to see around Gold Coast for few minutes, then headed to Brisbane, where we were about to stay for few days. At Brisbane, Daniel brought us for lunch at a small Indonesian restaurant in Cooper Plains called Sendok Garpu. It could be that I was very hungry, but they served the best Bakwan I had ever had, even better than what I found in Indonesia.
We headed home afterwards, to an apartment where Daniel has stayed for months. We took a quick shower, before leaving again to the church for final practice of Daniel’s baptism the next day. On the way, I and Daniel search a good baptism name for him, as I would be his godfather (yes, you read it right). In the end, we picked Peter Damian, who was declared as Doctor of the Church. We reached the church, and (mostly Daniel) started the practice. It was very exhausting, blaming the long flight and the hot sunny weather in Brisbane.
After 1-2 hours of practice, Daniel and I was ready for baptism ceremony the next day, and we all went to New Farm Park, one of the parks in Brisbane. There was a small dock, and from there we took a public ferry that transported us to another part of the city, while enjoying the river surroundings along the river. Interestingly, this ferry is integrated with TransLink public transport ticketing system (similar to EZ-Link in Singapore), therefore some residents are also using this mode to transport them back home, as well as to relieve the stress from work.
We alighted at South Bank, where there was a market selling interesting stuffs. One of them was a real banana, stuffed with various fillings like chocolate, hazelnut, etc… The interesting part was, that the peel was still there, making it look just like a regular banana from outside. We also didn’t miss the iconic attraction of South Bank: the Wheel of Brisbane. It is a giant Ferris wheel that allowed us to see the entire city of Brisbane from up to almost 60 meters above the ground. Daniel took us just in time to see the sunset, from the top of the wheel. That summed up South Bank, and we went back with the same ferry, continued with Daniel driving us home.
As eating out in Australia is expensive, Daniel had got used to cooking at home. For that night, Daniel had just learnt a new recipe: Vietnamese Spring Roll. It was a mix of various fresh vegetables, chicken meat, scrambled eggs, wrapped with a special Vietnamese wrap. Yunnie normally doesn’t like non-mainstream food like this, but thanks to the exhausting flight we had the previous night, she easily grabbed few portions of it. As a person who likes any food, I had even more portions. Yummy!
The next day, I had the chance to wake up later, as we didn’t have any plans before the baptism ceremony at 10. When I woke up, Daniel already prepared us regular American breakfast set: toast and bacons. We went to church afterwards, and attended the baptism ceremony. The committee held a social lunch afterwards, where people brought their own food to share with others. Daniel himself brought the same bakwans we ordered from Sendok Garpu. Sadly, this also served as a farewell party for Daniel, as he would leave Australia, at the end of this trip.
Also on this occasion, I met Arnold, a long time friend. While we both joined Canicomp (Canisius Computer Club) at high school, we separated afterwards as he continued his study in Jakarta and Brisbane. I myself moved to Bandung and Singapore. It was nice to exchange stories of ourselves after a very long time. It was interesting to note that we didn’t really talk about computers anymore. We talked more about our life, as well as interesting spots in Brisbane. He also recommended several interesting places, one of which Mt. Cootha, where we could see the entire city of Brisbane.
After the religious stuffs, we continued the day by visiting the downtown of Brisbane. It was nice to see people spend their time enjoying the scenery and other people passing by. We walked to Southbank -where we took the Brisbane wheel the day earlier-, and back to the downtown. In downtown, we grab some Churros at Daniel’s recommended San Churro cafe. Though expensive, it was very delicious. We closed our downtown trip by visiting a local supermarket, to get another ingredients for our homemade dinner. Yunnie also brought several Indomies, for our supply of homesick relievers. It was a simple dinner, followed by a good night sleep.
To welcome the morning, Daniel brought us to Mt. Cootha even before sunrise. We planned to see a beautiful sunrise from the mountain. It was just a 15 minutes drive from our house, but unfortunately it was cloudy at that time. We didn’t manage to see the sunrise, but at least we could see the entire city, just as Arnold promised. We then went back, had some breakfast, and headed to Sunshine Coast, where Daniel we had barbecue for lunch. We picked a very good spot where we could see the ocean clearly, but it was very very windy. After a few trials of keeping things in place, we gave up and moved to another place where there were less wind. The view was not as good, but at least we could cook. After lunch, we moved to the former place to grab some pictures.
In the evening, we were mostly at home. Most of us took a rest that evening, preparing ourselves for Sydney trip the next day. Meanwhile, Daniel was very busy collecting all his stuffs, as he would leave the house he has lived – for good. There was this bike that he had owned for months, too good to trash it, but too big to carry back home to Indonesia. Being a new man for others, he finally decided to just give it to his friend (Canisians: pun intended).
Though located in the Little-India area, the nearest MRT is Farrer Park MRT. To go correctly to this place is a bit tricky. When I first came in, I went to the “wrong” Mustafa, which I thought was the correct one, as it was a shopping center as well and use the same name. The “wrong” one also located just at the main road, so you can easily spot it. But this “wrong” one does not have as complete items as the other one. For the “other” one, you need to follow the main road for a bit, then turn left (if you go from Farrer Park MRT) to a small alley then enter from there (you will pass “Mustafa Cafe” before you find the entrance)
The 3-level store (including basement) has a lot of varieties. From the regular items that you can find in Fairprice or ShengSiong, to jewelries, perfumes, clothes, bags and Italian-chocolates, they are available here at an affordable prices. If you are Indian girls/women, you can find lots of Sarees here also. If you don’t like Sarees but still Indians, don’t worry because there are a lot of packed Indian foods as well: Maggi-s, Muruku, etc.
Last time when I was there, I bought an old-fashioned Casio watch for only $23, but hey! it’s water resistance! The other time I bought 3 packs of Lindtz chocolate for $10, with the catch that it was two months left before expiry. But I expect to eat those chocs in few weeks anyway.
Electronics are good also. Though not cheaper than Sim Lim Square, but the quality is better. for t-shirs, they have them, but I’d suggest to buy at Orchard Road instead (cheaper).
Conclusion, Mustafa is a shopping haven if you have limited budget or don’t really care about brands. But be in mind to fill up your stomach before you go here as meal are generally expensive here.
Mustafa Centre is located at N° 176 Syed Alwi Rd, Singapore 207704
In contrary to popular belief, going to Johor Bahru from Singapore is inexpensive and hassle-free for Indonesians (and other ASEAN countries nationality).
To go there, you can take a bus from either Jurong East, Kranji, or Woodlands MRT. I usually take SBS170 from Kranji. The price is around $1 per ride. Expect some congestion in Malaysia immigration if you go on weekends, especially on daytime.
Before going, be sure to see the alighting point. Buses from Singapore can alight in one of two terminals: Kotaraya or Larkin. I prefer Kotaraya since it’s closer to Singapore and have more attractions (in fact, I’ve never alight at Larkin).
Meal is inexpensive compared to Singapore. Usually they have the same nominals but halved currency! Last time I ate for lunch for only RM 5, or $2.5, for a fried rice plus orange juice. Even if you shop you get cheaper prices (I saved $5 when buying an Anlene milk!). The two shopping malls worth to visit are City Square (high-end) and Plaza Kotaraya (low-to-med, but has a supermarket).
If you seek nature, you can go to the nearby public park to the west of immigration checkpoint. Inside you can also visit the zoo, Sultan’s palace, mosque, etc. The beach is located even more west at Danga Bay. I visited there but only during the afternoon. Good to try during the night as it is famous for the nightlife. To watch movie you may try the Cathay Cinema in City Square. The price is around RM 10 for a movie.