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.

singapore travel

Singapore with Family

After a few years, I finally had a chance to visit this red dot again. This time complete with my wife Yun, two kids Des and Pat, and in-law Tan; for summer holiday. Bringing a daughter of 7 months, staying in budget hotel was no longer an option. Interestingly enough, when searching for a place to stay for family (4 adults and 1 infant), higher range hotels provides better price compared to regular ones. This is because those hotels usually have family rooms, in which booking one family room is cheaper than booking two regular rooms even in lower range ones. Our choice boiled down to Hotel Clover at 33 Jalan Sultan.

Somebody’s going to get fined here

An unfortunate incident happened on our departure from Bandung. The flight that was supposed to take off at around 4 PM was delayed up to 8 hours, because one of the earlier flight had a “runway excursion”, i.e. one of the wheels was out of course and gets stuck in the grasses. We were still lucky because the airport was convenient enough for us to rest while waiting for the delay.

Friendship was built while waiting for delay

We landed in Singapore at around 2.30 AM local time, took a taxi to hotel, checked in, then finally slept at 4 AM. This was slightly worse than our previous trip to Singapore, where I had to stay until 2 AM, because our luggages were left in our cab.

Somebody was really exhausted

I earlier promised my parent to pick them up at the airport, because they took a different flight from Jakarta and landed at 8 AM. However, due to this unexpected circumstance, I cancelled the plan and waited at the hotel instead.

Knowing I did not have to pick them up at the airport, I woke up at 8 AM. Feeling very thirsty, I went out to find some bottled water to buy. It was relatively early in the morning, hence the best bet was hawker centres, i.e. the traditional “food courts”. I managed to get 4 bottles of 650ml water for $1.4 each from a drink stall. Rather expensive, but that was the best I could get. When everybody else woke up, I realised that I need another bottled water, and food for my family’s breakfast. I found 1,500ml bottled water for $1.5 each from another drink stall. A better bargain I thought! Until I found another small shop that sells 1,500ml bottled water for $1 each, the best I could get in Singapore.

Interior of Hotel Clover 33

Later during the day, we were all ready. Des insisted on taking an MRT ride, because I have promised so since days before. We then took a walk to Bugis MRT, through the Kampong Glam’s Arab Street and the infamous Masjid Sultan. Not really a good idea especially for Desmond, who didn’t find it interesting. We walked a bit further than it should, encircling the Bugis Junction before we finally found the MRT entry. We took a ride of one station only to Lavender MRT, then took a bus back to the hotel.

Daddy and son bus ride

After a bit of rest, we headed out again, this time a bus ride to Chinatown. It was dawn when we reached there, and we bought some oleh-olehs to bring home. In Chinatown, Des insisted to have an ice cream. We wanted to film De being mocked by the infamous Turkish ice cream guy in Clarke Quay, so we headed there. Interestingly, he managed to control his anger when being mocked. We headed home afterwards, feeling exhausted.

Second day, I had an appointment at 9 AM to meet my old friend Rit, who lives in Jurong East. I was lucky my mom texted at 7, telling that my dad was about to go out to have breakfast. Otherwise, I could have overslept, due to the exhaustion from the flight delay before. I was still late. My mom and dad already gone out for breakfast when I was ready, and I could not contact them. I decided to have breakfast alone across the street, in a cafe called “Nanyang Old Coffee”. The lady, who seemed to be the manager, was very friendly. I ordered the traditional Singapore breakfast set, and it was really nice.

I and my parents started the long journey to Jurong East at 8, but miscalculated the journey time hence late by half an hour. Rit family still welcomed us happily, and his wife served us home cooked Indian sweets and savoury snacks, the best I had after a long time. I forgot all the names, but one resembles the Indonesian potato perkedel. Among all topics we chatted, one being how expensive the cost of school for young children in Singapore, especially for foreigners.

We headed back to hotel with a Grab ride, prepared the rest of the group (Yun, Tan, and Des), then headed again towards Commonwealth, where I promised to meet my former landlord (an old lady / auntie) and her daughter Chr. I had created a special bond with her family, with her being my only landlord during my past four year stay in Singapore. On the opposite side, I first rented the room with a friend Ron at this house. However after a few months Ron moved out, leaving me as the only tenant.

A picture of me and my landlords, 8 years ago

We stopped at Tiong Bahru for lunch, with the plan to visit auntie‘s house afterwards. Just like before, I thought I still knew Singapore and I was wrong. We were late by an hour, because I chose bus instead of MRT. We were still happy to meet each other. They kindly served us some finger foods, but the best part was durian, a fruit that tastes like heaven for some people, but smell like a toilet for others.

A picture of me and my landlords, after 8 years
When I lived in Singapore, these kids did not exist

After this small reunion, we headed back to hotel, but en route stopped at Orchard. I decided that we stop at the beginning of Orchard Road, with the hope that we could explore the whole street. However, we spent more time than we should at the first shop Isetan, and finally had dinner there and went back to the hotel directly.

Third day, my parents’ flight was at 8 AM, hence I woke up at 6 to take them to the airport (at this rate, I could wake up at 5 the next day). My dad had a little problem with the automated immigration, but after little talk with real human, the problem was solved. After being ensured that they had no other problem, I took an MRT heading to Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church, a church that I used to visit several times when I worked in Singapore before. I was again late, but still managed to be there for the mass. I also met an acquaintance Lun, who gave me a tour of the church.

Mass at Bukit Batok Presbyterian Church

After church, I took a bus to Bukit Batok MRT, where I met my old friend Han. Han promised to visit us at the hotel, but it was a coincidence that he visited another church that was nearby, so we took the MRT together to my hotel. We had a nice long chat along the way. Near the hotel, we bought some Indian food, bungkus (take away); and had them in my room.

Three of us, from Ilmu Komputer UNPAR

Han needed to go back afterwards, since he have family to take care. Upon leaving, I also left the hotel with him, bringing dirty clothes to wash at a nearby laundry. Thanks to Google, I found this 24-hour self-service laundry, that operates when you pay the $5-$15 fee using $1 coins. I had saved several coins to use in this laundry. However, it turned out that they had changed the policy, that they no longer used $1 coins, but a special non-refundable coin that only works for their machine.

We also met Ron and his wife Tin at Bugis Junction. If you remember, Ron was my roommate before, when I lived in Singapore. He also came with Pau, his partner in business. It was unexpected, but we had a short business talk on this occasion. It was an interesting talk, but I had to cut short because I owed my family a quality holiday time, which was partly lost due to the flight delay incident.

We then went to Garden By The Bay, trying to get a view of the light show that started at 7.45 PM. For this summer holiday, the light show was themed “Toy Story”, which also served as an advertisement for an upcoming movie with the same name. It was an astonishing view, indeed. However, since it was on Sunday, it was very crowded there. After the show we wanted to get a taxi back to the hotel but the queue was too long. We took a bus instead. followed by MRT. Des was already too tired, that I had to carry him around.

Just before the show

Upon reaching the hotel, it was late in the night. Me and Yun rushed to Golden Mile Food Complex, to buy food for ourselves. Not many stalls were still opened, but we managed to get a portion of satay, fried rice, and noodle. To our surprise, Des was still awake when we got back at the hotel. That was a good news, because he could still had his dinner before sleeping. While preparing to sleep, I asked everyone to not wake me up in the morning, and let my body wakes up naturally.

Fourth day was the nice and easy day. I woke up significantly later, so do the others. We planned to go to both the National Gallery and Merlion Park. As the weather was good, we decided to visit Merlion first. However, upon reaching there, Des found River Cruise boats sprawling around the river and asked us to ride one of them. We cancelled our plan to the gallery and rode the boat instead. We stopped at Clarke Quay and had lunch there.

View from the boat

On this fourth day, Des’ interest for MRT ride has gone, and he preferred bus instead. Therefore, after lunch we went all the way to National University of Singapore by bus, with 45 minutes bus ride to Kent Ridge Terminal. From the terminal, we took the internal shuttle bus to visit the department where I studied before, that is The School of Computing (SoC). It didn’t change much since I left 8 years before. From SoC, we walked to Central Library and took another bus to Clementi MRT station.

Son of an alumnus

Tan craved for durian, after she had one at my landlord’s house. I remember Chr told us to not buy from a rather touristy spots, but rather from traditional markets. I still remember people selling durians around Clementi MRT, next to Fairprice supermarket and just across the street from the Clementi sport center. The durian seller was no longer there, but after a walk further towards the neighbourhood centre, we found one that sells $50 for 3 portions of durian. It didn’t disappoint us, the durians were very sweet. We went back to our hotel afterwards.

Somebody found heaven on earth

On the last day, I spent some time in the morning for a run. I used to run regularly when I lived in Singapore. I ran half regularly when Des was born. Now with 2 kids, I almost never run regularly. This morning was a good opportunity to remember the old days and be healthy. One thing nice about Singapore is that the government has built so called “park connectors” which is a very good spot for running. I ran along the Kallang river, with the beautiful view of the national stadium and Golden Mile complex.

That is the Kallang Stadium

After running, I joined the others, preparing our checkout from the hotel. We planned to visit Jewel Changi before flying back to Bandung. However, thanks to the kids and the many oleh-olehs that need to be packed, we ran out of time and cancelled that plan. We even had to have lunch in a rather upscale restaurant inside the airport, because it was the only choice given the time constraint. It costed a whopping $51 for three portions of food and drink, but on the bright side, we managed to get one coupon of Changi Millionare draw.

Unlike the earlier flight, this return flight was not delayed too long, and we arrived in Bandung well before dawn. I was happy about this trip, but learn one thing: traveling with kids is so much different compared to flying alone. Getting prepared in the morning, airport check-in process, as well as exploring the city takes at least twice amount of time than traveling alone. There were so many places I failed to visit and so many other friends I failed to meet, but still grateful for this wonderful time out.

End of trip

Update: Grammar fixes for first few paragraphs.

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

singapore travel

Singapore Family Trip 2014

Singapore Trip
Singapore Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Singapore River
Singapore River

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

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

Softshell crab
Softshell crab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sentosa Luge
Sentosa Luge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

singapore travel

Singapore Once Again

After four months in Indonesia, I went back again to Singapore for a super short trip. I indeed had planned to visit this tiny country once again since I still had a bank account to close, some personal belongings that I left at a friend’s house due to baggage weight limit, and an X-box + Kinect that I won from a lucky draw. Yes, you read it right, an X-box + Kinect. I won it since I used my Nokia E52 to read my hotmail messages, and of course registered my email to the Microsoft-sponsored lucky draw. Considering the number of people in Singapore using Nokia and has a hotmail account, I consider myself very lucky 😉

I didn’t tell most of my friends about my trip, as the schedule was very tight. Taking advantage of Indonesia public holiday on Friday, I flew to Singapore in the morning, arrived about 2PM and went straight away to the hotel to drop my luggages. I then went to the nearest DBS branch in Bugis to close my account there, hoping to reach there before the bank closes. I made it, and followed by buying some gifts for my relatives at NUS central library. To my surprise, I was entitled for 5% discount as an NUS alumni. I then moved again to Clementi mall, to buy some grooming and dental care goods not found in Indonesia. It was still crowded as before. Lastly, I went to Choa Chu Kang to meet my friend there, also to pick up the X-box. We went for dinner at the nearby Malay restaurant, just next to Choa Chu Kang Park. It was a very nice restaurant with a kampong (village) ambiance. Unfortunately it is going to close soon on early April. About almost 10PM, I went back to my hotel, a one hour journey to Geylang.

Yep, I stayed in Geylang. For those who doesn’t know, it is a very famous red district area in Singapore. However, it also a best location for transit in Singapore if you are on a tight budget. Cheap accomodations, relatively near to airport, and lots of girls.. I mean, food. If you happen to visit Geylang, don’t forget to try the frog leg porridge and char kway tiau. Anyway, I stayed at Fragrance hotel at Lorong 10, which was surprisingly clean and convenient, for a hotel that lies at the heart of red district area.

The next day, I left in the morning to have a nostalgic local dish roti prata. I used to have that for breakfast near the office when I worked for Gemalto. After breakfast, I took a bus to Mustafa Center to buy some souvenirs. It is interesting that at the entrance, they put LCD screens showing the estimated number of people inside the building, and the maximum number allowed. I am pretty sure this was due to an audit by the Singapore Civil Defence Force that showed the building is very dangerous when there is a fire, as too many people are allowed inside the building.

From Mustafa, I went back to the hotel and take another bus to meet my former landlord. I could have taken bus #51, but I took #100 instead with about 5 km longer route but passed through many interesing places in the city area. En route, I stopped at Alexandra Hospital to buy some dental floss at the pharmacy. Me and my landlord had lunch at her house, and she was very kind to bought us local delicacies like bak kut teh and cakes from the famous Tiong Bahru market. My landlord also gave me several letters sent to me but delivered to her house. Among them are: a due-to-incomplete-address returned personal letter that I sent to Germany, and a $12 check from SingTel because I paid too much for the last month’s mobile internet bill. Too bad I didn’t have time to go to the bank again to cash it. May be I should spend another few hundreds of dollar to visit Singapore again to cash it? 🙂

After lunch, I then met my former colleagues and have another lunch at Geylang (I planned for just some snacks, but you know, it’s difficult to resist foods that bring nostalgic memories). We talked a lot about our lives, other colleagues in the office, and my projects in Bandung. After lunch, my friend offered me a ride back to the hotel, but I preferred to just walk, to see once again the street of Geylang.

That concluded my mission in this short trip to Singapore. As I had unused buffer time, I spent the evening by enjoying massage at North Bridge road (there are nearer alternatives in Geylang, but it is not wise for a “clean” person like me). It felt very relaxing, especially after walking almost non-stop for the last two days. After which, I skipped dinner and went straight to the hotel to rest early, for I had to wake up early in the morning, catching the 9 AM flight back to Bandung. To another adventure!


article singapore

Sayonara Singapore!


It has been almost 4 years since I moved to Singapore, and that is not a short period. Shortly I will be leaving this so-called red dot country to start a new journey in Indonesia. There were ups and downs during my stay here, but all gave a wonderful experience.

It all started when I joined Gemalto, early 2008. I arrived here with my dad, to meet Ronny who became my roommate for about a year. He just graduated from NUS, and looking for an inexpensive room before securing a job. To save money, we shared a non-airconditioned room near Commonwealth MRT, living with the landlord who is an auntie (old lady).

Though Ronny moved out after about a year, I stayed at the very same place for the rest of my life in Singapore. The place is not exceptional, though. I didn’t install an air conditioner, and since it’s located next to a main road, it’s quite noisy during the day and sometimes at night. At some months, the room temperature at night can be up to 35 °C, leaving the bed drenched with my sweat. However, I am the type of person who prefer to accept things and avoid troubles (or as the Chinese says, cincay), so I kept staying here. Anyway, what doesn’t kill you just make you stronger, no? The good thing about it is the location, being near to MRT, my office, campus, as well as Orchard road; all accessible within 20 minutes. And here’s a little secret for you to save money, if you can live peacefully with a single auntie or uncle, usually the room price will be discounted, since it’s more important for them to have someone to talk to than the money itself.

The cincay policy also applied to my job, which I have been taken also for the whole life in Singapore. It is very clear until today that working in this company does not give you a lot of money, but instead more of experiences, upgrades (in term of trainings) and flexible working hours. There is one thing I was trying to prove, that you don’t have to work late to perform well at work. I am glad to say it proved well, at least in the work environment I was. The key is to give as much as your time in the office hours to work, and strive to optimize the way you work to make it even more efficient and effective. It is also important to spend your time outside the office hours not to work, so that you’ll start afresh when you work the next day. And lastly, especially in Singapore, be prepared to accept your colleagues saying “Wow, your team is always relax one, never go OT (overtime) what!” (Singlish pun intended).

After my first few days in Singapore, I visited a friend who had spent more than 4 years in Singapore, and he gave me this wise advise “You’ll get bored here in just a few months”. It is true that one can get easily bored in Singapore. Singapore may have more shopping malls compared to Jakarta, or larger than the town of Kuta (Bali), but everything here seems to be, well, in order. I don’t know how many times I got lost in a new HDB (residential) area, because all the building looks the same. When I go to work, I take the same bus through the same road everyday, unlike in Jakarta where you have to find alternative roads everyday due to traffic jams. Having said those, there is small hope to go out of boredom in Singapore. If you have more cash, flying abroad to nearby places in Asia is a good option. Otherwise (or if you want to save), it’s also good to look for alternative interesting places in Singapore, as you can see in my blog posts. Public parks and museums are good start, and they are usually free or very affordable.

Photo by Egon
Photo by Egon

It was surprising at the beginning to know that Singapore is in the top 10 of highest life expectancy countries in the world, despite the stressful life here. However after spending few months here, the reason became clear. People really care about their health, watch what they eat, and do physical exercise – a lot! Countless of marathons are held every year, also running events with lesser distances like 5km and 10km. Realizing that me and my family has history of hypertension, I started to follow the healthy habit. I started with the child’s play distance 1-2 km, until my boss told me that running shorter than 15 minutes would not have significant impact to the heart. Despite whether it’s true or not, I started to push myself to run longer, up to 7km. For variation, I also went swimming in nearby swimming pools, which is ridiculously very cheap, ranging from $1 to $2 per entry. Finally, I managed to gather few fellow Indonesians to play futsal almost weekly. Ironically that futsal sessions led me to a knee injury that forced me to get a surgery and absence from sport for few months (see the story here). Despite that, I am glad that I now have the physical and mental capability of living a healthy habit, which I look forward to keep when I am back to Indonesia.

Last but not the least, life is not complete without friends. And one of the most important friends I knew here was those people from Institut Teknologi Bandung. Starting from a friend I knew in a project back in college days, she introduced me to several other friends from various departments in that university. All being new to this country, we were close together in our early years. We even managed to visit Phuket together for a vacation. Unfortunately, after that few years each of us started to settle down, and occupied by different priorities: me taking my master degree, a guy committed to his girlfriend, a lady getting married, others went abroad for study, and et cetera. However we do try to meet once in a while during birthday celebrations and keep in contact through social media means.

Well, those are a bit of story of my life in Singapore. When I post this, it should be few days before I leave the country. Whether I will still write in this blog, that’s a question for me, too. Thinking about the places in Indonesia that I can write about…

article singapore

Get lost, in the name of development!

If there is the time I don’t like Singapore, it could be this weekend. It happened few days before my last day here, so it could be bias though. However, read on and you judge me.

Last Saturday, I went to the library to read a book I was interested at. I went out from home at 9, but forgot that the library actually opens at 10. This was not the first time I arrived too early at the library, but this time was different. Few months back, when I was too early, I just stop by a nearby hawker center to get a cup of coffee while doing something productive with my laptop. But this time, the hawker center was not there anymore: it was demolished and replaced by construction of new HDB. All right, there’s no hawker center, but I remember there was a small park nearby with chair and table made of stone. So I went there, only to be disappointed since they were not there anymore. In the end, I spent the waiting time by sitting at the floor in front of the library, as with other fellow nerds who wants to be the first people inside the library when it opens.

The second disappointment came when I was about to meet my friends at Raffles City mall. I came the earliest, so I had to wait there. Given my recovering leg condition, I preferred to find for a place to sit. Similar story, I remember that months before there was a convenient place to sit in front of a small man made waterfall (and the way the water fall is programmed in such a way it can form simple pictures), just few steps from the MRT entrance. It was not there anymore, and guess what, it was replaced by yet another shop. There was another free place to sit at the basement, but as expected it was full of people. It was very obvious that if you want to sit in that shopping mall, you have to go to one of the cafés there and buy an overpriced drink. There were plenty of seats, unoccupied. Luckily, I finally found a sofa at a CD shop, where I could sit for free. But as you know, the future of physical music stores is gloomy, so I expect that sofa won’t be there anymore in near future.

Lastly, another incident on this Sunday, where I was about fight boredom by having dinner at my favorite Japanese food restaurant, Sumo House. Located in Clementi, it claimed to have the  “cheapest sushi in Singapore”. The restaurant occupies a small building with other shops, you can say it as a small plaza. Compared than the newly built Clementi Mall, this mall is a bit old and unpopular. And perhaps that’s why they were already closed when I tried to visit the restaurant. Almost the whole building was closed, leaving only 7-11 and KFC. It’s sad that I couldn’t have dinner there for the last time.

Well, there’s always another point of view to look at this problem, and the same problem happens in other countries, too. That’s a fact that we have to accept, but, quoting a reader comment in a local newspaper about Cantonement Close HDB tear down… “In our efforts to evolve, do we sometimes forget to stop and sniff the flowers?”

medical places singapore

Alexandra Hospital / ACL Reconstruction

A statue at Alexandra Hospital
A statue at Alexandra Hospital

For the past few weeks I’ve been preparing several important changes in my life. One of them is my Anterior Cruciate Ligament reconstruction surgery, which occurred few days ago. Flashback to August, I twisted my own knee while playing futsal with friends. The next day I went to see a doctor who said “this is very clear, you need a surgery”. I was really surprised and literally said to the doctor “oh shit! really?”. Along the way, I understood that surgery may not be necessary if I live a sedentary lifestyle, but highly recommended if I want to continue doing sport. In the end, I decided to get a surgery, given the fact that I’m still in Singapore (with world-class medical facilities) and some (initially I thought “most”) of the expenses are covered by my employer’s insurance policy. So I started meeting a specialist Dr. Siow and the physiotherapist Vineet regularly at Alexandra Hospital. I had an MRI scan and several sessions of consultations and physios before securing the surgery day on 12th of October.

Though I said no need at the beginning, my parents insisted to come to Singapore to accompany me during the surgery (which I later regretted saying no at the first place). On the evening before the surgery, I went to pick them up at the airport. Then we stayed at a nice little hotel Pasir Panjang Inn. I could’ve gone back home, but since I had to report to the ward as early as 7.00 AM, I preferred to stay with them for convenience. Luckily, it was easy enough to get from the hotel to the hospital, with only one public bus trip.

I arrived at the hospital around 6.30 AM, but the ward I supposed to report at was still closed. It opened few minutes before 7 and I registered right away. The nurse asked me some questions like my name, IC number, and what kind of surgery I will be getting on (seriously, they asked this several times to ensure they did the right surgery to the right person). She also taught me how to communicate pain severity post operation, from level 1 to 10 (“at 10, you’ll cry already”). Afterwards, I changed to hospital robe and went right away to the pre-operation room.

Inside the pre-operation room, the anesthesia doctor explained me that I will get a general anesthesia, which means I would be going to sleep throughout the operation. So she injected a small tube to the vein at my wrist, to allow the anesthesia to flow into my blood vessel. She also explained that another drug would be injected to my groin (ouch) to make the right part of my legs go numb, helping to ease the pain post-surgery. Then, the operation team doctor approached, verified me for last time my particulars and the type of operation I will have. He then marked my right knee with a pen so that they won’t cut the wrong one, and told me that he would shave my hair on that area. I was then brought to the operation table, ready for surgery. A doctor injected some tranquilizer to help me calm down. But they saw me still uneasy, so they injected another one, and…

The next thing I remember was waking up by the doctor calling my name and asking if I was okay. I was feeling very drowsy at that time but managed to answer her. Then I asked her if they had done the surgery on me. She said “Yes Pascal, it’s over”. So I sighed a relief. On the next few hours I was still feeling drowsy and very nauseated. I vomited my lunch and dinner, and practically sleeping the whole day. The doctors kept asking me if I feel any pain on my leg, which I don’t have. In the next morning I persuaded one doctor to reduce the dosage of the painkillers with the hope of less nausea. But eventually it went away already, anyway.

Too bad I didn't take any pictures at the hospital.
Too bad I didn't take any pictures at the hospital.

I was ready to be discharged about 11 AM, but waited until my parents came about an hour later. We then had lunch and went back to the hotel to have short rest and pick up my clothes. Then, we went back to my house to clean up the room, preparing it for few weeks of disabled person staying there. After few minutes, we headed to Orchard for shopping and dinner (on second thought it sounds like a crazy idea, noting that I was just discharged at the very same day). Finally, my parents sent me back home, also to meet my landlord for a short chitchat.

Few minutes later, sadly, my parents had to go back to their hotel, to get some rest before leaving Singapore on the next day. And I started my journey of recovery and rehabilitation for up to 6 months…

places singapore sport

East Coast Park Cycle

Not exactly today's picture, but it was taken at East Coast, and coincidentally I wore the same shirt.
Not exactly today's picture, but it was taken at East Coast, and coincidentally I wore the same shirt.

As a human being, I need cardio exercises regularly to keep the blood flow in the highway. However, due to my knee injury, it’s not recommended for me to do jogging, except a very light one. One alternative is to cycle, for which I have tried to do it in gym. However, riding a static cycle proved to be super boring. “Hills” are simulated, but what I see were only a small room.

Therefore this weekend I decided to go to East Coast Park for a real cycling. It took at least an hour journey by public transport from my house, so there were temptations not to go too, especially without my friends joining. I started in the morning around 10 am, and was lucky to have a friendly weather. The rain poured heavily earlier, leaving only the cloud and cool temperature when I cycled.

After renting a $10 bike, I started cycling towards the eastern side, trying to get to the corner of the park. The east corner is not an end itself, since it’s connected with a park connector towards the Changi Beach Park. However, it was too long of a journey, so I decided to go back. Then I cycled towards the western corner, but before I reached it (the corner as shown in the map), I was blocked by a construction site, which I remember had been there at least last year. So I returned back to the place where I rented the bike.

All in all, it took me about an hour to complete the 22km cycle covering the whole east coast park. It was surprising that the cycling was relatively effortless, most probably because I cycled in normal pace and of the scenery I can’t find daily in the concrete jungle of Singapore.

singapore travel

Independence Day Present: Free Bus Trip

Today is Indonesia’s Independence Day. But it has nothing to do with the story, anyway. Just happened to see something not so ordinary on my bus trip to Orchard Road.

After finished working in the office, I went to Orchard Road to buy some personal stuffs, riding bus N° 14 sitting on the upper deck. In the first few minutes of the trip, I heard several times banging noises as the lower part of the bus seemed to hit the road. And when it stopped several people at the bus stop were seen looking at that lower part, like something is wrong.

Few stops later, the bus stopped completely and I heard from below the sound of the machines beeping as people tapping out. Few people who were sitting at the upper deck started to come down, but I kept waiting as it was only 1 stop ahead to my destination. After few minutes, the waiting time for people to alight didn’t seem to be normal anymore and I decided to come down too.

Below, turned out that the driver was asking people to tap out at the machine that reads “Vehicle malfunction, free ride” and giving a receipt. I gladly tapped out to cancel my earlier payment and retrieve the receipt. However, what I first thought as a receipt turned out to be a complimentary additional bus trip. I then used it to take the connecting bus to my destination. It may be a waste since I only used it for 1 stop ride. But turned out the driver didn’t take the receipt from me, so I am entitled to at least one more complimentary trip, I guess… 😉

And please forgive me for lack of posts, I just injured my knee I couldn’t go out too much recently.