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.