08 December 2013

When Travel is the Journey, not the Destination

Five years ago when I started having money for traveling, I really cared about how many places to go in a short time, to maximize my holiday. I would feel wasting of time and money if I didn't visit all the must-visited places in one city/country. I was also careful to not visiting the same places I had been to.

One day in 2009 when I was traveling oversea in a big group with my friends, we visited a glamorous giant casino and suddenly separated into 2 groups. One group, including me, walked around the place, played some games, took photos and so on. The other group, to my disappointment, was only sitting and talking each other in Starbucks. Come on, what's so special drinking Starbucks in this country, not even a local coffee? You could find many Starbucks cafes in other countries, even in our own.

Fast forward to 2012 when I was traveling solo in Tokyo, I was walking around Asakusa, Ueno, Ginza and Akihabara in one day. In Akihabara, I suddenly felt tired and then entered.... Starbucks. I suddenly wanted to drink a good coffee that I used to drink. I just wanted to sit down, take a rest, write my journal there and watch those local people in the busyness of Akihabara. There were more places to visit, hence I stopped there and enjoyed my peacefulness.

In 2013 when I went to Kuala Lumpur (KL) for business trip, I had one free day to walk around KL before meeting my colleagues. I already planned to visit some places I hadn't been to, such as KL Tower, Zoo and Bird Parks, some lakes and museums, and even Batu Cave which is quite far from the city. In the end, none of them was accomplished, haha!

Before arriving in KL, I contacted a friend there (read the story here) and made appointment to meet up. Fortunately she was available for the whole weekend and taking me around with her car. Instead of visiting above mainstream tourist places:
* We passed by a luxurious hotel where our favorite Korean celebrity once stayed there during his concert in KL.
* We had her favorite Japanese dessert.
* Since we both love Korea, she took me to Korea Town in Ampang, where we had Korean foods for dinner and I bought my favorite Korean instant coffee.
* We went to IKEA.
* She drove and showed me around Bukit Damansara and Bukit Kiara, suburb areas where the wealthy Malaysians live.

None of them related to tourist attractions in KL, right?

We also went to KLCC to see the beautiful Petronas Tower and Lake Symphony. This is a favorite tourist place, but I had visited it before with my husband. As I told before, I usually didn't go to my been-there places. But now I know, there will be a different experience in each visit with a different accompany. It felt different watching the lighting musical fountain with my husband, and with my friend (and later with my colleagues). With this friend, I bought some fruits from convenience store, had a picnic along the lake, and talked about our life. I love visiting above places where my friend often goes in her daily life: Korea town, her favorite Japanese dessert (which to me tastes like all common bubble teas mushroomed in Jakarta right now), her rich friend's house in Bukit Kiara hehe... I really enjoyed it, and I didn't feel disappointed at all to miss all KL tourist attractions I had planned to visit before.

What I am about to say is, I finally realized that traveling is not all about the destination, it is more about the journey. I am still listing down places to visit when I go traveling (in case I have enough time and money :p), but I won't be disappointed if I cannot go to all the places. If I know friends living there, I prefer to meet and chat with them, rather than finishing my to-visit-list. I prefer letting them, rather than me, decide where to go because they are the locals. I may know more about the places from books and internet, but they understand more the local culture. I go slowly, not rushing my time. If I find myself enjoying one museum, I will let myself be in that museum for long time.

"I just want to enjoy my coffee, please!"

If I find myself enjoying Starbucks coffee in a new place, I will sit and enjoy my Starbucks.

04 December 2013

Pulau Harapan, 21-22 September 2013

Thousands Island located in the coastline of North Jakarta actually does not have thousands of islands, but only 110 islands. Among these 110 islands, only few islands can be visited for recreation. They are the nearest islands that can be reached from Jakarta city, yet I'd never been there before. I finally had a chance to visit there last September, and directly went to few of the furthest islands haha. They say, the further and more isolated one place is the more nice it would be, right? We stayed in Pulau Harapan (in English means Hope Island), and hopped on-off 7 islands around it.


One fine Saturday, we were a group of 10 people (5 from Jakarta and 5 from Bandung), gathered together in a gas station near Muara Angke harbor around 6 AM to meet the guide I had booked before. Muara Angke harbor is located right next to a fish market which is often watery or flooded. The smell is really bad. You should be really careful to not step your shoes on the mud there, because the smell would stick on you forever long time. You should arrive in the harbor before 5 AM because after that the traffic, which passing crowded fish market, get really really bad, and you could miss the boat.

We followed our guide to the boat that would take us to Harapan island. He didn't give us any tickets, no ticket checking also inside the boat, so I guess that's how it worked. The wooden boat had 2 levels and was packed with people. We had to squeeze our butt to fit in and sit comfortably for the next 4 hours! It boarded from Muara Angke harbor around 7.30 AM, and stopped by in Pramuka Island about 2.5 hours later. Some passengers went off in this port, made the boat seem a little bit roomy. To kill the time, we played card, phones, ate (maybe just me), and slept.

Playing Boggle Slam Card Game

Arrived in Harapan island, I phoned the tour guide leader, Pak Wawi. I got the recommendation about him from a friend Elly. The guide we met in Muara Angke before was one of his men, and only responsible to take us safely into the boat. Pak Wawi then asked another one of his men to lead us to our accommodation. I was expecting Harapan island a bit like Gili Trawangan island in Lombok, but they were different. Harapan island did not have beach like Gili Trawangan. It was also more packed with inhabitants whose houses were very close to each other and rented out for tourists. Our accommodation was the back part of people's house. We got one big room and one smaller room (both with mattresses), one bathroom, terrace, aircon and a gallon of water. Both mattresses were only fit for 5 people, so the rest would sleep on the carpeted floor. It was not fancy, but enough. I wonder if there is any luxurious place to stay in Harapan island.


The agenda for that day was snorkeling in the sea around 2 PM until sunset. We had about 2 hours to take a rest, played games and had lunch. There was GSM signal but no internet data. The meal for lunch was cooked by Pak Wawi team, and delivered to our place together with dining equipment (plates, glasses, spoons and so on). They served rice, veggies, chilies, fishes, cold syrup (a piece of heaven in that super hot weather) and fruits. It was more than enough.

Then they picked us up for snorkeling. The snorkeling gears were all provided by them based on our measurement we gave before. First stop was near Macan island. Everyone (maybe except our 2 real diver friends hehe) was a little bit scared to jump into the sea for the first time after few years (one of us even hadn't tried snorkeling before), swimming slowly trying to adjust our breath and view underwater. The water was so clean and we could see many kinds of fish and corals. Second spot was near Tongkeng island. Here, the underwater view was even closer and better. One might be careful tho to not swim and not be scratched by shallow corals. The third and last snorkeling spot was near Bintang island (in English means Star). Just like its name, in this island we could find a lot of Starfishes. Not just in usual orange color, but also blue Starfishes. Enough with the snorkeling, we headed to Gosong Perak island to watch sunset. Gosong means sandbar, and Perak means silver. This very small island didn't contain anything else except sandbar and white sand beach. Oh, and a 3G signal! Haha everyone started to tweet, path and post everywhere.



09 September 2013

How Lee Seung Gi Gave Me a Friend

It's all because of Lee Seung Gi. I watched his concert for the first time in Seoul in December 2011. When I exchanged my ticket in ticket counter before the concert, I saw a girl seemed having problem with her ticket. She was alone talking in English to the staff worriedly. Just out of curiosity, I approached her thinking perhaps I could help her (later I know she speaks Korean better than I do :P). Apparently her name in credit card which was used for purchasing the ticket was different than her name in passport, so the staff couldn't give her ticket. But after talking to the manager, finally they allowed it.

We then had 10 minutes talking to each other before the concert started and before we went to our seat which was faraway from each other. She's Malaysian traveling to Korea for 1 month at that time, and the concert was a final event in Korea she would attend because the next day she would fly back to Kuala Lumpur. We didn't take our pictures together, I only asked her to take my picture in front of Lee Seung Gi banner using my phone. We didn't change our name and contacts, so I was pretty sure we wouldn't meet each other in the future.

I was wrong.

Five months later, still in Korea, I was in a day trip to visit a green tea field in the southern part of Korea. The trip was managed by a Korean Language community in Seoul and participated by about 40 people (mostly foreigners who had attended one of Korean classes in that community), including me and my Indonesian friend. Inside the bus, I and my friend was talking in Bahasa Indonesia when a girl in front of me suddenly greeted us. She heard we're speaking in Bahasa Indonesia which was similar with Malay and said she's from Malaysia. We chatted a little bit, then we're off back to our minds.

I don't know why suddenly I remembered the girl I met in Lee Seung Gi concert and had the feeling that this was the same girl. But wasn't that girl already going back to KL? I took the courage to ask her, "hey did you come to Korea last year?" She looked surprised and said yes. I asked again, "Did you watch Lee Seung Gi concert?" We both changed our surprised looks. She was like, "no way, you are that girl!" It's an amazing coincidence.

Apparently she came to Korea again that year for traveling for another 2 months (how nice!), and homestayed in Korean family VERY NEAR to my officetel! Good thing we met that day and still had 1 month to hang out and do these things together before she went back to KL: eat out few times, go to see Lantern Festival, climb up Bugaksan, travel around Jongno-gu, and watch movie. She even stayed in my place for few days. And of course, we were fangirl-ing Lee Seung Gi all the time xD


07 August 2013

Flying to Kuala Lumpur

This was my second time I went to Kuala Lumpur. But not like previous trip by bus from Singapore, this time I was taking flight from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) for business trip. My Garuda Indonesia flight was quite empty. There's not much people traveling at that time maybe because of fasting month. Without being asked, the flight attendants gave a meal box for fasting people to take home. But it's not the case for every Garuda flight. In other flights, sometimes we need to ask them if you want the packed meals.

As you may know, Garuda is the official partner for Liverpool FC. I saw in their shopping magazine, they sold Liverpool FC merchandise inside the flight: Shawl, Cap, Hat, and Nametag holder. I really liked to buy the Hat for my husband who's a fanatic of Liverpool FC. But when I asked for it, they said they didn't have stocks for all Liverpool FC merchandise. Too bad. I'll try asking again on the flight back. Don't they realize there would be a big purchase of Liverpool FC merchandise especially after their friendly tour to Indonesia last week? Maybe not.

Arrived in KLIA. KLIA consist of 2 buildings:
  1. Main Terminal Building (MTB) where immigration, customs, arrival and departure halls and some flight gates located
  2. Satellite Building (SB) where many flight gates located. Both building had shops, and were connected to each other by Aerotrain (same like Skytrain in Changi Airport Singapore).

KLIA Aerotrain

My Garuda stopped at SB, so I needed to take the Aerotrain to MTB to pass the immigration. Before I made my way to immigration, I had to do 2 things: to stop at one of duty free shops to buy a bottle of Baileys Irish Cream for a colleague in Malaysia (one passport can only buy one bottle of alcohol), and to buy a Malaysian prepaid mobile phone number.

For mobile phone number, I approached Digi booth, one of telecom providers in Malaysia. I already knew what I wanted to buy: Best Prepaid card cost RM8.5 with RM5 credit inside, and additional RM15 for 7 days data plan unlimited, total would be RM23.5, cheap right? But the Digi guy said the cheapest prepaid card now cost RM26 with RM15 credit inside. With additional RM15 for data plan, the total would be RM41. RM15 credits was too much, but the guy insisted there's no cheaper package. I should have bought it in Digi counter after the immigration. Over there, my colleague got the package of RM26 with RM5 credits and 7 days data plan.

From KLIA, I took KLIA Express to go to KL Sentral. It cost RM35 and reached the city in less than 30 minutes. There was another train going to KL Sentral called KLIA Transit. It was cheaper but it stopped in few stops before KL Sentral. From KL Sentral, I took a taxi to Bukit Bintang area. To take a taxi there, one should get the ticket first in the taxi counters, cost RM2. That time there were 2 taxi counters waiting for me: Budget Taxi and Premier Taxi. The budget taxi didn't have meter but used a flat price. While Premier Taxi used argometer. Of course I opted for Premier Taxi. On that Saturday afternoon, KL traffic was not too different than Jakarta traffic. The taxi cost me RM27 from KL Sentral to Bukit Bintang area where my hostel located.

My business trip to KL was officially started on Sunday and finished on Thursday, but I extended it one night before with my own additional cost. I planned to visit few tourist attractions that I hadn't been to and to meet a friend. I didn't need a fancy accommodation, it's only for sleeping for one night. So, that Saturday I stayed in a cheap hostel near the hotel I would stay for the next 4 days.

The name of the hostel was Irsia Bed and Breakfast. I paid $17 for one night in single room with shared bathroom, including breakfast. Every room door was painted with countries flag. I got a Sweden room. The small room had no window nor aircon, but it had 1 air circulation fan, and 1 cooling fan. It was quite neat and comfy. The location was just beside Berjaya Times Square, so I told my friend to meet there after I finished checking in.

She's a Malaysian, but we met in Korea. What did I do in KL with a local is an interesting story. How I met this friend is another more interesting story. I will write it in the next post. 

14 July 2013

Trick Art Museum: Seoul vs Jakarta

Actually this is a little bit related to my previous post: Dapuraya. After looking for peci in other places, we finally decided to buy the one we saw in Pasaraya. When we paid in the cashier, I read a brochure about the benefits of Pasaraya Passport. Remember, I had it after my first visit to Pasaraya before. Other than for collecting points, Passport could be used for discounts in parking fee, and 50% discounts in entering Trick Art Museum in the 7th floor.

I stunned. Entering what? Trick Art Museum, isn't it the one I'd been to in Hongdae, Seoul? It's an exhibition or gallery with tricky paintings. The objects in the paintings looked alive, or you can be part of the paintings. I love to take pictures with this kind of Trick Art, for example: Angel Wings. I definitely will come for a visit next time.

My third visit to Pasaraya was with my sister to specially come to Trick Art Museum. We also went together to Trick Art Museum in Seoul, so she's my partner in crime for this kind of thing.

05 July 2013

Dapuraya

It was started when my husband (fiance at that time) and I were buying peci (a moslem hat) for our wedding. One of famous places in Jakarta to look for moslem clothes is Al Madina in Pasaraya Blok M shopping center. After browsing around, we decided to think and search in other places first.

We then had lunch in Dapuraya, Pasaraya Food Court in basement. It was the best Indonesian Authentic food court ever! There were MANY stalls selling unique Indonesian foods, from heavy meals to traditional snacks and deserts. Now they are expanding with Dapuraya 2. I became more excited when I saw Ayam Penyet Ria stall, my favorite Indonesian restaurant when I was living in Singapore. Everytime I had a hard time, Ayam Penyet Ria always could heal me. I immediately ordered the original smash chicken from Ayam Penyet Ria, and Tempe Mendoan from other stall for snack. Authentic, delicious, but not too expensive.

Ayam Penyet Ria

When I paid for the foods in the cashier, the girl offered me to create Pasaraya card for free, only by filling up a form. I like collecting cards, so yeah I took it :p Maybe this card, or they called it Pasaraya Passport, would give me benefits in the future.

Not only the foods, the decoration was also nice. All the stalls had ethnic design. And the best part was the backsound: Indonesian traditional songs. I believe foreigners would love to eat here. This mall, with tagline "The Pride of Indonesia", also selling Indonesian batik clothes in the 4th floor and traditional handicrafts in the 5th floor. It's a little bit pricey but convenient and not too crowded to shop. So, after shopping some souvenirs on the 4th and 5th floor, try the local foods in Dapuraya.

In my second visit to Dapuraya, I ordered Ayam Penyet Ria, Tempe Mendoan (these 2 foods become my must-eats here), Pempek, Es Pisang Ijo (green banana ice), and Bung-eo-ppang (붕어빵)! Bungeoppang is a Korean snack formed as fish filled up with red bean, usually sold during winter. This is a little bit out of concept of Dapuraya. Their tagline is "Authentic Indonesian Kitchen", but they also sell Korean, Japanese, Philippines, Italian and German foods. One disappointed thing during my second visit was they played Adele's songs instead of Indonesian traditional songs :(

Es Pisang Ijo

Bungeoppang

Dapuraya is surely gonna be my favorite place to eat!

07 June 2013

Accommodation in Bandung

I lived in Bandung for 4.5 years until 2008, and since then I occasionally went to Bandung only 1 day for every visit, because it's only 2 hours driving from Jakarta. Sometimes 1 night staying in my friends' house. So if anyone asked me which good accommodation to stay in Bandung, I would be clueless.

Last February I went to Bandung again. But this time I went there for 4 days (3 nights) with my younger sister. After some searching, I booked and stayed in these 2 places while in Bandung: Rumah Ebo Guesthouse and Dago Highland Resort. I am going to review both places here.

26 February 2013

My Favorite Korean Food: Dak Galbi (Part 2)

Remember my recent post about a new Dakgalbi restaurant opened in Jakarta? Apparently, there was a newer Dakgalbi restaurant in town. Seigo Dakgalbi, was just opened one month ago in Tebet Green mall.


Inside the restaurant

Not like Yoogane which is a chain restaurant originally from South Korea and focusing only in Dakgalbi, Seigo Dakgalbi is a general Korean restaurant that only exists in Indonesia and offers a lot of varieties of Korean foods. Not only Dakgalbi, they also have famous Korean foods like Bibimbap, Sundubu Jjigae, Bulgogi and famous street snacks like Kimbab, Tteokbokki, Odeng, and Twikim.


17 February 2013

Winter in Chuncheon

From Ice Festival in Hwacheon, I and my friends continued our trip to Chuncheon, the capital city of Gangwon-do province. We took the bus from Hwacheon bus terminal to Chuncheon train station bus stop (30 minutes ride). From there, we took city bus to Myeongdong street (10 minutes ride), a popular street of fashion, foods, and clubs in Chuncheon. The name Myeongdong is the same with the most happening place in Seoul too. Our destination is Dakgalbi Street. Chuncheon is famous for Dakgalbi, a spicy marinated chicken ribs. We had dinner in one of Dakgalbi restaurants over there. The portion was bigger than in Seoul, and it was more delicious. Another famous food from Chuncheon is Makguksu, a spicy cold noodle.

In the Dakgalbi restaurant where we had dinner, we asked the owner where the nearest Jimjilbang (찜질방) was. He then gave us the address, and we took taxi from Myeongdong to there. Jimjilbang is a public bathhouse in Korea that's opened 24 hours. It is usually equipped with uniform (pink for woman, blue for man), hot tub, shower, sauna, spa, massage table, ondol-heating floor and mats for sleeping, snack bar, TV, and so on. People can use all the facilities and sleep overnight for only 6000-10,000 won. That's why it is a favorite place to stay overnight for budget travelers.

That was my first time going to Jimjilbang. Shower, sauna and hot tub were in separated between men and women, while lounging and sleeping area was mixed. In the shower room, I felt so awkward being naked in front of other women and seeing them naked too, but they looked so natural and not really care. Maybe if I visited Jimjilbang more often and already used to it, I wouldn't care anymore. In the sleeping room, it was also awkward laying beside strangers. At night, I was laying besides my friend and a woman, but when I woke up in the morning I found a man beside me. I left my friend who's still sleeping there (she was also shocked waking up to find a man sleeping besides her :P), and went down to the women floor. Apparently there was a sleeping room too in that floor, but unfortunately it was not equipped with heated floor. That's why it was so cold and not so many women sleeping there.

We then checked-out from Jimjilbang, and continued our journey to explore this city. We didn't have any plan, we just walked randomly. After grabbing some breads for breakfast in Family Mart, we walked to the what it seemed like a train station. Apparently our Jimjilbang was located near Chuncheon train station! There was Tourist Information Center outside the station, and we collected some brochures. After quickly reading some of them, we decided that we should check Soyang River Dam, the biggest dam in Korea. We took bus 12-1 from a bus stop in front of train station. About 20 minutes later, we arrived. The dam was located between mountains, and the sky was clear, it was so beautiful!


12 February 2013

Ice Festival in Hwacheon

Korea has never-ending festivals. They are very creative in making festivals on every season, including winter. On January last year I and my friends went to one of their famous festivals in winter season: Ice Fishing Festival. I was so excited, not just because this was the first time I went fishing, but also because we're doing it on top of icy river. This festival is also called Sancheono (산천어) Ice Festival, because Sancheoneo (means mount trout) is a kind of fish that we can catch there. This festival is held annually in January, when the river in Hwacheon is really frozen. Hwacheon is one of the cities in Gangwon-do province that is well known as the fastest ice freezing place in the country because of cold valley wind and clear water.


I and my friends went to Hwacheon using public bus from Dong Seoul bus terminal. There was bus every 30-40 minutes, and it took about 2.5 hours to get to Hwacheon Intercity bus terminal. The terminal was just 10 minutes walking distance from the main spot of Sancheono Ice Festival. We looked for a guesthouse or motel to stay in this area. We didn't book it in advanced, but we could find a cheap good motel there even though it's a holiday season.

 

08 February 2013

My Favorite Korean Food: Dak Galbi

Last week I just discovered a new Korean restaurant in Jakarta. It looked familiar so I stopped a little, and stunned. It was Yoogane (유가네), the famous Dak Galbi restaurant in Korea!

Yoogane store in Citywalk Sudirman, Jakarta

Dak Galbi (닭갈비) is marinated spicy chicken dish normally mixed with some vegetables (like cabbage and onion), sweet potato (goguma 고구마), and rice cake (tteok 떡) together in a hot plate. Dak in Korean means chicken, and Galbi means rib. Nevertheless, they don't use rib in the dish. In Dak Galbi restaurants, like Yoogane, the dish is being cooked directly on customers table. They put the raw chicken meat that has been marinated with some kind of chili sauce, together with other ingredients on the hot plate. Waiters are going around each table to stir the dish for about 10 minutes. Don't worry, even though it looks scarily red and spicy, but it is not that spicy. Below was some pictures of Dak Galbi I ate in Korea.

Still raw (@ one of Yoogane stores in Seoul)

22 January 2013

Udo Island

Still from Jeju series, about my traveling to Jeju Island in July 2012. Many readers asked me about Udo Island. I think this island deserves a separated post.


View Larger Map

How to go to Udo Island?

From Jeju City Bus Terminal, take a bus bound for the East Coast (Dongilju) in platform 4, and get off at Seongsan Port bus stop about 1.5 hours. From Seongsan Port, take ferry for about 15 minutes to one of ports in Udo Island: Cheonjin Port (or also called Udo Port) and Haumokdong Port. Last time the ticket lady gave me ferry tickets that went to Haumokdong Port and came back again from that port. I guess that's the soonest ferry I could get at that time. I don't know what's the difference between those 2 port, but either way the price ticket was the same, 5500 Won including 2 way ferry tickets, Udo Maritime Park entrance ticket and Udo Island ferry terminal entrance ticket. There was no exact hour printed in the ferry tickets (only date), so we're free to take any ferry throughout the day. This ferry was quite big which can also take cars to Udo Island (with additional ticket).

Transportation around Udo Island

Arrived in Haumokdong port of Udo Island, there were many vehicles rental places waiting: bike, scooter and ATV. The price varies among rental stores, so you can bargain it. Usually it would be around 5000 Won/hour for bike, 15000 Won/hour for scooter, 20000 Won/hour for ATV. One of the reasons I would like to visit Udo Island was for scooter-ing around the island, and I heard we did not need driving license in that island. But the owner of rental store I went said I needed driving license to rent a scooter. He suggested me to rent a bike instead, but I refused. I only had 2 hours time, biking around the island (from reviews I read in the internet) would take more than 2 hours.