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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

indonesia travel

Review: Trans Bandung Raya Buses

Trans Bandung Raya
Trans Bandung Raya

I and Jovan are involved in a project called KIRI, which maps Indonesian public transport routes and build navigation system upon it. For that reason, we tried to take Bandung’s new armada of Damri buses in order to understand better about them. These Damri buses were interesting, because they had a fresh revitalization, and from outside it looked better than Jakarta’s TransJakarta buses (actually, more like Singapore’s SBS Transit). Moreover, I also played with Portal Data Indonesia‘s API where live GPS position of some of these buses are available for public.

Bus Interior
Bus Interior

We planned to take a bus from Alun-Alun Bandung terminal, heading towards Kota Baru Parahyangan. However, an officer at the terminal told us that the bus heading to Kota Baru was still using the older buses. We then decided to take another bus heading to Ciburuy instead. Where in the world was Ciburuy? We didn’t know, but our adventurous spirit told us to take it anyway.

Inside the bus, it really look like a brand new vehicle. There were not so many seats inside, but rather designed to accommodate more people standing, especially during peak hours. There was an LCD screen, displaying the name of current bus stop, and interestingly also showed estimated distance to the next stop when the bus is running (I suspect through automated calculation with GPS position). When I said bus stop, it was actually a “virtual bus stop”, as these buses generally allow passengers to board and alight anywhere along their route. There were also a simple route map of this bus, where each stop are marked by an LED light that blinks when the bus in at that location. Pretty neat feature, comparable to Singapore MRT trains. Other feature was a digital clock, a simple yet very useful feature to those not wearing watches like me.

However, even with the new buses, they still work old-fashioned ways. There were no electronic nor mechanical payment system, hence the kenek (bus assistant) still collected the fare manually (and without receipts). Normally just after boarding he will ask you where do you want to alight, and decide on the fare. There was a space reserved for disabled people, but some passengers used it to put their stuffs instead (there were no disabled passenger during our journey, anyway). It was understandable, since some of the passengers were sellers from traditional markets. A sound system was installed, and we were lucky that the driver put on some western music from the 80’s. An Changhong brand LCD TV was also installed, but never turned on during our journey to Ciburuy.

Situ Ciburuy
Situ Ciburuy

After about 90 minutes journey, we reached at Ciburuy. There was a tourist attraction called Situ Ciburuy, a huge lake with an island in the middle. However, it was very quiet (perhaps due to fasting month) so we decided to just take a another journey back to Alun-Alun. However, since it was almost noon, we decided to stop at midway Cimahi to have lunch (we were not fasting) and meet an old friend there. Our decision to stop midway turned out a pretty good decision, as the quality of this bus is significantly worse than the first one.

Just after departing from Ciburuy terminal, the driver played a very loud dangdut (local disco) music. I don’t mind hearing local music, but a disco music along a bus journey can be stressing. Every now and then, the bus stopped in random places in order to attract new passengers to board (so-called ngetem). What worse was, that the driver assistant overcharged us by 50% during our journey back. To complete our misery, the digital clock showed the wrong time. Jovan tried to silently complain through an SMS hotline number, but found out that the bus code for this bus had been torn off. Ouch. He persisted and took note of this bus license number instead. It was D7807AA. There you go, don’t take that bus.

The last bus trip that took us from Cimahi to Alun-Alun was much better. Actually it was as good as the first bus we took (only that it also played dangdut music instead of 80’s western).

In conclusion, these new buses provided a good alternative to travel in and around the Bandung city, especially for its convenience during traffic jams. There were 3 routes served by these new buses: Dipati Ukur – Leuwipanjang, Alun-alun – Ciburuy and Elang-Jatinangor.

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!

australia travel

Singapore-Australia Trip (Part 2)

Continued from Singapore-Australia Trip (Part 1)

Remember that Daniel left for good and was bringing back all his stuffs from Brisbane? On this last day at Brisbane, we prepared ourselves to go to the airport for a Sydney-bound flight. Me and Daniel spent about half an hour trying to squeeze in our bags in the car trunk. The car was not so big, so even with most bags in trunk, we still needed to carry some others  with ourselves inside the car. At the airport, we had to reorganize these bags, as the airline policy states maximum of 25kg per luggage.

Upon arrival in Sydney, I went straight to the car rental office while the others collected the checked bags. For our stay in Sydney, it was my turn to get the car from the rental office, for a simple reason: it’s $25/day cheaper, compared to had Daniel had done the job. In Australia, the rental price is differentiated for renter below and above 25 years old for insurance reason.

From airport we went to the apartment we rented to check in and leave our stuffs there, and moved again to a Chinese Food restaurant near the University of New South Wales. My cousin Maureen recommended this area for looking for Asian food, as the university hosts many Asian students studying here.

Very Windy at Kiama Blowhole
Very Windy at Kiama Blowhole

After lunch, Daniel brought us south to see two major attractions: Nan Tien buddhist temple and Kiama Blowhole. Nan Tien is one of the famous temple in Australia. Unfortunately, the temple was already closed when we got there, as it was already 5 PM. We could just see the tall pagoda from outside, and moved again to Kiama Blowhole. Kiama Blowhole is a hole-shaped cliff next to the sea, where the wave from the sea crushed the hole and sprung upwards. It was very interesting to see, but the wind was so strong we couldn’t stay very long there.

We travelled back north to Sydney, where we stopped at a local supermarket, again to buy ingredients for our dinner. We had a simple western style dinner, then took a rest, for another adventure the next day.


On the fifth day, we went to the infamous Blue Mountain area. For starter, we visited Wentworth Waterfall lookout to see some scenery. However, the main event for that day was the Scenic World. It was a tourist attraction where visitors can walk along the forest, as well take some rides available. We first took the cableway, that gave us an overview of the venue as well as transported us down the the Jamison Valley. From there we took the walkway that goes inside the rainforest.

After about half an hour of walking, we went back to the top, but this time using the scenic railway. It was like a regular railway, but the track climbed up with 52 degrees incline! Back on top, we had a quick lunch, and continued with riding the skyway. This skyway transported us across the valley of 270 meters deep. From there, we could see the Katoomba Falls, Three Sisters rock formation, and the Jamison Valley itself. This skyway also featured a transparent glass floor, where we could see the valley right below our feet. At the other side, there was not much to see, so we just took some pictures and went back.

By the way, this Three Sisters has an aboriginal story behind it. The legend says that it came from a three sisters named Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo who lived in Jamison Valley from the Katoomba tribe. They fell in love with three men from neighbouring tribe, Nepean. However, marriage was forbidden by tribal law. Those men were unhappy and used force to capture these three sisters, leading to major battle between the two tribes. An elder turned these three sisters into stones in order to protect them. However, the elder died and no one could bring the three sisters back from their form. (Note: story adapted from Wikipedia)

A short drive from Scenic World, was the Echo Point. It was a place where people could get a closer look to the Three Sisters, and even walk there. However, to really get to the Three Sisters, one must walk through 800 steps, known as The Giant Stairway. It was not really worth it, so we just took another pictures at the Echo Point.


We ended our trip to Blue Mountains and headed back to Sydney, but stopped at Hornsby to visit my cousin Maureen & her husband Hendro. We haven’t met them for few years and were happy to see them, especially their son Axel who had grown so fast. We had dinner at a Thailand restaurant nearby. I had the chance to taste the green curry, a traditional Thailand dish that I once often had when I lived in Singapore.

On our way back, we passed through the city of Sydney to take a glimpse of the Opera House, as well as to get familiar with our destination in the next morning. Upon reaching the city, we were surprised with a bright flash of light. It turned out that this was a flash for an automatic photograph at a toll gate, to take picture of our license plate. In Australia, most vehicles are equipped with a small device that enables toll roads to be paid electronically. Our rented car didn’t have this device, so the gate reverted back to the old-fashioned way: record the license number.


The next day was the sixth day, and we hadn’t even saw a real koala in Australia! Therefore in the morning, we headed to the Koala Sanctuary, just a few minutes from the city of Sydney. Aside from Koalas, the sanctuary also hosted other Australian animals, like kangoroos and wallabies. Every few hours, the officer would let us touch and take some pictures with the koalas.

Google Sydney
Google Sydney

Few minutes before noon, we headed back to the city of Sydney. While Daniel and my parents went to see a relative, I had a chance to meet my friend Andrian and Prima who work at Google Sydney. I once visited Google’s office in Sydney long time back, but turned out that they have moved to a new building. Andrian and Prima took us for a short tour, then stopped at the cafeteria for lunch. For those who doesn’t know, Google provides free meals for their employees (and their guests). Lucky me to know some of Googlers!

We visited the Paddy’s market afterwards. This place is a market specialized for Australian souvenirs, ironically sold by mostly Asian businessmen. Being made in China products, the price is much cheaper than ones found in other tourist attractions. I and Yunnie bought a travel pillow and some kitchen utensils to take home.

Churros at Sydney
Churros at Sydney

We walked again, towards the Opera House and passing the harbor area. It was about 5 PM, so we walk along with office employees, who had just finished their work and on their way home. Opera House during the day was not much different compared to at night, but we didn’t waste the chance to take another pictures.

From Sydney, we drove to Wahroonga, where we met a distant relative, uncle Tjiu Giap. I personally hadn’t met him before, but he was a very nice person. He welcomed us as we were his special guests, and brought us for a Chinese food dinner nearby. What amused me was that his wife also started an innovative business of “rondofile“, a patented design of file holder, that allows one to write on the paper even while being held securely inside the holder.

On the last day, we only packed our stuffs and headed to airport for our journey back to Indonesia. I and Yunnie checked in first, as we had earlier flight, while the others flew 2 hours later. Upon check-in, the officer asked us whether I and Yunnie intentionally picked a separate seat. Air Asia flights do not guarantee persons traveling together will have seat next to each other, unless by paying some amount. As we didn’t pay for that, we simply said no, it was automatically assigned. Surprisingly, the officer gone the extra mile by moving our seat so we could sit next to each other. A simple gesture that really made our day!

It was another long flight, but at least it was a day flight. We transit for few hours in Kuala Lumpur, where we met our college friend Aswin. We met just in time before his flight to Jakarta for a friend wedding, so we didn’t chat a lot. At this airport we also managed to get some meal for dinner and brought some jellies to bring home. Then we continued the flight to Bandung, and finished our journey.


Note: most pictures in this blog were taken by Daniel. You can check out his portfolio at this address: