20 October 2014

Only in Seoul #2: Building and Monument Attractions

Hello, this is the second post of my Only in Seoul series. Check it out!

Seoul Tower
Also called Namsan Tower, this is a mandatory place to visit other than Gyeongbokgung. You haven't been to Seoul if you haven't visited this place. It is located in Namsan Mountain where you can see the beautiful view of Seoul city (especially at night). On its terrace, there is a famous Locks of Love area where couples write their name and vow in a padlock to express their love. Better not visiting this tower alone because you will end up being desperate seeing all the couples xD I've been to this place 4 times: first with only myself which I regret it a lot, second with my family when they came visiting me in Seoul, third with my Indonesian friend who's on holiday and her Korean friend and forth with my brother who came to visit me. In all those 4 times, I didn't go up to the observatory hall. This tower is already located high on Namsan Mountain, so we can see the beautiful Seoul city even on the terrace.

Seoul Tower

06 October 2014

Only in Seoul #1: Historical Cultural Attractions

This is the first post of Only in Seoul series, my version's list of places to visit in Seoul. I usually give people this list when they asked me where to go in Seoul. This time is about the historical and cultural places you should visit in Seoul. Let's start!

This is the main palace of Joseon Dynasty, the last and longest-ruling dynasty in Korean history. You haven't been to Seoul if you haven't visited this place. Since I love history and culture, this is one of my favorite places in Seoul and I've been to this palace 4 times! First with myself when I just came to Korea, second with my family (mother, father and sister) when they came to visit me, third with my brother who came to visit me also, the last time with myself again after watching Korean TV show 1 Night 2 Days episode Gyeongbokgung. On that episode, the hosts visited Gyeongbokgung and revealed some interesting facts about this palace which I wasn't aware before, so I went there again to check it by myself, plus this time I took the free English tour they provided. You can appreciate more the beauty of this place when you know the stories.

Geunjeongjeon (the main throne hall of Gyeongbokgung) between Mount Namsan and Mount Bugaksan in the background

In Gyeongbokgung you can also try wearing Hanbok (traditional Korean clothes) and watch the Opening Gate, Royal Guard Changing and Closing Gate ceremonies, all for free. There are 5 grand palaces in Seoul, but if you only have time to visit 1 palace, you should visit Gyeongbokgung. And Changdeokgung. Hmm I cannot decide between these 2 palaces, but okay, maybe Gyeongbokgung. But seriously if you can visit 2 palaces, then Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung. Here's why Changdeokgung is a great palace to see.

24 September 2014

Interesting Library in My Dream

Last night I had a dream about National Library of Singapore, one of my favorite places in Singapore (nerd!). I had posted about it here 5 years ago, on how I started to join membership in the central library. How was it going then? Well, turns out I used the membership quite often for the whole year. I might not visit the central library anymore (that was the only one time I went there) because it's quite far from my apartment, but I often went to 2 library branches near my apartment.

The first library branch I often visited was Bukit Batok Public Library. The place was not big but it had enough books that made me hard to choose which ones to borrow first. The library was located on the 3rd floor of West Mall, a mall just outside Bukit Batok Bus Terminal and Bukit Batok MRT Station (red line), That was the nearest MRT station from my apartment, so I passed it almost everyday. I usually stopped by that library at night on my way home from office.

While on the weekend or when I had more time to spend, I usually visited Jurong Regional Library near Jurong East MRT Station, one station away from Bukit Batok MRT Station. This library had its own 4 storeys building that made it the biggest public library in Singapore. I really loved visiting this library and could spend the whole day there. Whole day? So you skipped lunch? No, no, just like National Library, this library had Hanis Cafe where you could study and read books while having some meals.

The dream I had last night actually took place in this Jurong Regional Library. I saw this place getting bigger; not just a building anymore but a complex. In the middle of it, there was a Ruin of Taiwanese American Post Office. So random, right? Was that for Taiwanese descent who'd changed citizenship status into American, like many Korean Americans out there? And why did these people need their own post office in Singapore? On the street in front of this post office ruin, many small cute white owls, like Hedwig but smaller, dancing in a beautiful forms. Not just small owls in there, many big white owls were also flying above the bookshelves. When my friend (suddenly I came with a friend? I thought I was going there alone) asked me to explore one of many doors with "Business" written on it, I said hold on I wanted to take a picture of the big owls which were now flying across the road. Some people crossed the road carelessly without waiting the green light, but I was waiting there patiently even though the road was empty, because you know, we were in Singapore, land of many rules. My dream stopped there.

Perhaps I should give Jurong Library a visit next time I went to Singapore.

28 August 2014

The One With All The Wisdom

I just took a quiz about "What Type of Traveller Are You?" from HostelWorld.com, and I got this result. Somehow it's true.

The other possible results are these:
The YOLO Fiend 
People may judge you for using this word, but you don't care. You don't get to travel much, but when you do, everything excites you. You seize every opportunity and you never use the word 'no'...sometimes you can't help but look around and think 'How did I get here?'. Your constant positviity is infectious (you always have a companion cheering you on) and you live every travel day as if it might be your last. That is The Motto after all... 
The Trailblazer 
'Mainstream tourism' is a phrase that offends you more than people who eat in McDonald's when they're away from home. Guide books are for the fearful, and you are afraid of nothing. You're constantly trying to seek out new and unexplored territories and venture as far away from the beaten track as you possibly can. Your finely tuned sense for danger means you know how to avoid trouble and your trusty gut has never let you down. Be proud of your intrepid nature, but don't judge those who need the guidebook, everyone's different... 
The Princess 
There's nothing wrong with needing a few creature comforts while you're on the road. Some people are perfectly happy without showering every day, using moisturiser or sleeping with bugs in their room, but that's just not you (we get it, spiders are scary and they can crawl into your mouth when you're sleeping). You need to know when you can expect the next bathroom and that your dorm is bug-free. Kudos to you for keeping some standards while you're out there, just don't be afraid to let loose once in a while...
I used to be The YOLO Fiend.
I always admire The Trailblazer and want to make friends with many of them, but I might never be one of them because I like going to mainstream tourist places, to eat franchise foods in other countries (sometimes it's fun to know how McDonald's menu differed in other places :P), and to read guidebooks.
I really hate traveling with The Princess, so troublesome.

What's your type?

17 June 2014

Uber Has Arrived in Jakarta

Last Friday afternoon it was raining hard in Jakarta. As usual, Jakarta Friday night + (after) raining = hell traffic jam. When I got out from office to go home, I found a long queue of about 20 people in Blue Bird taxi stand in front of my office building. I had no choice other than joining the line and waiting patiently, because my husband couldn't pick me up that day, taking buses would be unbearably inconvenient, and flagging non Blue Bird taxi outside the queue would be a chaotic taxi war. With 20 people in front of me, I predicted I would finally get the taxi in 1 hour.

Then I realized I actually HAD another choice. I heard recently that Uber just arrived in Jakarta. Uber is a new way of transportation using Smartphone app to connect customers with car drivers; makes everyone feel like having their own private driver. I had downloaded Uber app from App Store and registered an account the day before but hadn't used it. During registration, inserting our credit card number is mandatory because the bill will be charged directly to our credit card in the end of the trip. Many Indonesians, not yet in cashless society, are not comfortable with it, but I tell you, it's safe!

I tried ordering Uber car while queuing for Blue Bird taxi; let's see which one would come first. When I dragged the pin to point the pickup location, I could see the available Uber cars around my location and estimated time of arrival.

I clicked the menu "Set pickup location", and the screen moved to Confirmation.

Before I pressed "Request Uber", first I checked the Fare Quote to my destination. 

I was shocked with the fare stated (Rp.57,000-74,000): I never had a taxi ride from office to my house for this cheap price, especially on Friday night and raining like this. This price must have been calculated without the traffic. The day before, I took Blue Bird taxi from office to home for Rp115,000, so I expected it would be around this as well. The fare for Uber car is Rp7,000 as base fare, plus Rp500/minute and Rp2,850/km, about the same price with regular taxi fare.

Then I clicked "Request Uber", and I wondered "is this app really working?" I did not expect much to get it because they had limited cars during this testing phase in Jakarta. So I really surprised when 15 minutes later I got a notification that a car was on the way to pick me up and arriving in 4 minutes, along with the driver name, the car type and number. Maybe I was lucky because my pick up location was located in Central Business District where their limited cars were centralized. One minute later the driver called me asking my exact location/building, and saying he would arrive in 10 minutes due to traffic (not 4 minutes like the app said). In the app, we could see the driver phone number so we could call him as well.

Again I thought, "is this really happening?" I had read many good reviews about this service from Twitter friends, but still a little part of me wondered if it's safe and not fraud. Not until 10 minutes later, a notification appeared in my smartphone telling me that my Uber car was arriving. Then I saw a silver Camry with the exact license number was REALLY approaching. I walked out from the taxi stand (still 9 people in front of me!) and approached it. Pak Dedi the driver greeted me and we're off to my destination. Ha, I was so excited!

During the trip, I can track my location real time and share it. There is no argo inside the car. The bill will come up in the end of the trip; I hope it would not be too different with the estimated fare earlier nor with the Blue Bird taxi fare I took the day before. Taking Uber is like having a private driver and car; so the car cannot pass "3 in 1" routes if you travel alone. The cool thing is Uber can split the bill and charge it to different credit cards when we are sharing the car with friends. The driver was friendly, and the luxury car was really convenient, equipped with an iPhone smartphone for the driver to operate.

When we arrived to my destination and the driver clicked "End the trip" on his smartphone, the final fare Rp117,500 came up on the driver's smartphone and Rp17,500 came up on my smartphone. I got Rp100,000 discount by applying a promo code. You can enjoy the discount too for your first Uber ride by using promo code 'rikas'. Remember to insert the promo code before the trip ends. In the end of the trip we could also give rates/stars for the driver :)

A detail receipt was sent to my email

With poor public transportation and the increasing population of middle high class people in Jakarta, Uber is having a big market here. However they have some challenges: traffic jam makes fare and arrival time becomes unpredictable, and poor internet connection to access the app. The latter is quite annoying. Several times I tried to request an Uber car but failed due to the poor 3G signal. Blue Bird taxi also has a reliable app to order a taxi. If internet is down, we can still order the taxi by phone, but this is not the case with Uber. Well, let's see how Uber will grow here.

Taking Uber is really a great experience. Nice app, good ride, friendly driver, cool car and affordable price. Register Uber now at http://uber.com/invite/rikas.

Update 17 Nov 2014
Now the promocode discount is Rp.75,000, not Rp.100,000 anymore. Up to now I've been using Uber regularly despite of the protests and government license issue. In the beginning I used it because of the promos. I could have 10 free rides from SCBD area to my home in Bekasi (which is faraway, yes)! But after 10 nice and easy rides, I'm hooked. I now prefer taking Uber than regular taxi eventhough I've run out the voucher (I still take regular taxi from home tho because Uber is not available around my house area).

22 May 2014

Europe on Screen 2014

Ahh, Europe on Screen 2014 (EoS 2014) was over. This European film screening is definitely my favorite event of the year. This year they showed 71 movies all for free, for 9 days in 8 cities in Indonesia, including Jakarta. In Jakarta itself, there were 7 venues showing those movies. Of course I couldn't watch all of them, because they were screened in the same time in different venues, and most movies were screened before 5pm on weekdays (during office hours). In fact, the total movies I could watch in EoS 2014 is only 14 movies. There were many other interesting movies in EoS 2014 I'd love to watch, so I downloaded them from internet. Now I wanna share my experience going to this festival.

Film Screenings Schedule (click image to enlarge)

About the Venue
Out of 7 venues in Jakarta, I went to 5 of them. I didn't go to Universitas Tarumanegara (UNTAR) because it's quite far from my home; neither to Epicentrum XXI because it's for the Opening Film (Philomena) with invitation only. The 5 venues are:

1. Istituto Italiano di Cultura (IIC)
Going to this place really brings back memory. When I was in the university, I took Italian Language class in my campus in Bandung for about 2 years (but if you asked me now about the language, I've forgotten everything). I don't know how it goes now, but at that time Italian Government was keen to spread Italian Language to universities, so they provided really cheap classes for students to learn Italian Language with a native teacher. Only 100,000 Rupiah (~9 dollars) per semester, can you imagine? Once a year they screened Italian movies in campus, or held a free trip and event to IIC Jakarta. 

The room for movie screening was a big class room, with a not-so-big and not-so-high screen in front of the class, and many movable chairs with the same level of floor. So, if you sit in the middle of the room, you can only see the heads of people in front you, and half the screen. I watched several EoS2014 movies here, including my first movie: A Hijacking (Kapringen) from Denmark. It was screened on Sunday 5pm without so many people attending. There was no seat number in the ticket so we could choose any available seats. At that time I got the front seat and watched the movie comfortably. In the same venue, I then continued watching the next movie at 7.30pm: La Grande Belleza (The Great Beauty). This Italian movie had a good rating and won Best Foreign Language Film in Oscar 2014, no wonder there were many people came to watch it. The ticket was finished; many people were in waiting-list. Thirty minutes before the show, people already started queuing to get inside the room. Since I was pregnant, I didn't join the queue; I sat somewhere else until it's time to enter.

12 May 2014

Tasting the Unique Indonesian Foods

Last week I went to Festival Jajanan Bango (FJB). It is Indonesian traditional culinary festival made by Bango, a local soy sauce brand from Unilever. FJB has been held every year since 8 years ago, but this is the first time I've been to this festival.

After parked our car and paid no-receipt parking fee to the illegal parking man (this is so common if you visit a big event complex in Jakarta such as Gelora Bung Karno Senayan and Taman Impian Jaya Ancol, you have paid the legal parking fee on the entrance gate but you'd be asked for additional illegal fee inside the complex), we walked inside the festival where a big ship decoration welcomed us. The entrance alley was filled by exhibition stands showing the making process of soy sauce, especially Bango brand, and a stand to buy other Unilever products.

Further inside, the main alley ended with a big stage, where some performances were held. One of the performers singing there was Project Pop. Several small alleys were branched out from the main alley. Each alley had about 8 food stalls and seating place. They were divided into 3 parts: West Indonesia, Central Indonesia, and East Indonesia. We didn't research first which special food we want to try in this festival. Any food would do, but that made it harder to choose among those 65 foods! There were some stalls having a long queue, such as Tahu Petis Semarang and Sate Klatak Yogyakarta. We knew then that these foods were legendary, but we didn't really want to queue.

First, we tried one of the foods from the East side of Indonesia. Randomly we chose Mie Kering Titi from Makassar, Sulawesi. Just like its name, Mie Kering or Dry Noodle, it was formed as a crispy noodle, spread by thick soup consists of veggies, beef ball, and chicken meat. The taste was a little bit salty for us.

After that, we tried one of the foods from the Central side of Indonesia: Tengkleng Klewer Ibu Edi from Solo, Central Java. It's a soup with meat, ear, tongue and all kinds of inner part of goat (or we called it Jeroan). I am not really a Jeroan eater, but my husband is. He really enjoyed this food, while I only tried the soup, and it was delicious. Turns out it's one of 25 legendary Indonesian culinary.

The third one was from the West side of Indonesia. We tried Sate Ayam from Bangka, Sumatra. It was delicious, but not really unique, because we could find this kind of chicken skewer in all parts of Indonesia. Even my friend from Bangka doesn't know there is a special Sate Ayam in Bangka.

We would like to taste more foods, but 3 portions were already fulfilling. I guess when coming to this festical, it's better to come in a group of many people rather than 2 people only, so we could taste a little bit but many kinds of food. Each dish cost 20.000 Rupiah (~ 1,8 dollar), and we got bonus of one 85ml sachet of Bango for each dish. Bango bottles were placed on every seating place, so people could add it into their dishes. In the middle of festival area, Unilever demonstrated its water purified machines. This was the source of free drinks on that night. But if you don't want a free drink, there were also many drink stalls throughout the place.

Before going home, I bought a snack for my family at home: Risol Setan. Risol is a kind of small croquette from Indonesia, filled with veggies, thin rice noodles and meats. This dish comes with a peanut sauce where you can dip the Risol in. But beware, the sauce is damn hell spicy, that's why it's called Setan (means Evil). I guess this dish comes from Jakarta (Betawi).

If I come to FJB again next year, I will make sure to try better and legendary foods!

14 April 2014

Review: April Suites in Pattaya

The common tourist areas in Pattaya are North Pattaya Road, Central Pattaya Road, South Pattaya Road, and Jomtien Beach. There are Pattaya 2nd Road and Beach Road that link North to South Pattaya road, and accessible easily by Songthaew (public transportation). I heard the Songthaew also goes to Jomtien Beach but I don't know for sure because I didn't go to that area.

April Suites is a small hotel in the center of Pattaya. It is just 1 minute walking distance to Pattaya 2nd Road, 5 minutes walking to the interception of Pattaya 2nd Road and Central Pattaya Road, and 10 minutes walking to CentralFestival Beach Mall and to Pattaya Beach. It is located inside a small street (Soi), so it's not noisy at night.

The hotel is really clean, new and nice. Our Standard Room was spacious located on the 6th floor. There is elevator to go up and down (thanks God!). Toiletries are complete. They provide 2 mineral bottles but no water boiler and tea/coffee sachets. They have restaurants on the ground floor, open from morning til afternoon only. Our package didn't include breakfast. I asked them how much to pay if we want to have the breakfast, and they said we could just come directly to the restaurant and order the foods on the spot because it's ala carte food, not a buffet. It was a good thing tho our package not include the breakfast, because we checked out very early in the morning and didn't have time for breakfast in the hotel.

Upon check-in we were given 2 usernames and passwords to connect to wifi, that means they only limit it 1 device access per person. I didn't care that much because I still had 3G Data from my Thai SIM Card. My husband tried the wifi in his tablet, and it's quite fast inside the room. There is TV inside the room but no international and interesting channels.

This hotel is managed by a family. From the accent, I guess they are from Philippines, including the hotel porters. They also have another hotel not far from there called August Suites, which is bigger and older.

The staff can speak English fluently and really helpful on giving us information about Pattaya. They also provide some shared tours to Mini Siam, Nong Nooch Garden, Elephant Tracking and Ladyboys shows. Other than that, they have hotel cars if we want to book it privately for the whole day. 

The highlight of this hotel I would say is the rooftop pool with jacuzzi. It is not that big, but it is enough to swim and enjoy the sunset. We can see Pattaya beach from the pool as well. The staff on the pool provide us towels and drinks on the bar. Other than swimming pool, they have also small gym or fitness center.

I booked this hotel in Agoda for IDR 454,319 ($39.70) for 1 night, about the same price of my hotel in Bangkok. That makes me conclude the accommodation in Pattaya is cheaper than in Bangkok (but the foods are more expensive!). It's a pity that we love our hotel in Pattaya more than the one in Bangkok but we stayed there only 1 night. If I go to Pataya again (but I doubt I will), I would definitely stay in this hotel again.

See You Again, Bangkok!

It's time to go home.

As promised, we were picked up at 5.30am by Bell Travel Service with a minivan which sent us to bus station. Booking online in their website is so easy (and cheaper than buying ticket in their office). We select the route (for example: Pattaya to Suvarnabhumi Airport), departure date and time, how many passengers and bags, pick up and drop off location, and seats number. Then we input the passengers data, and pay by credit card. When we select pick up location as "hotel", there will be many hotels in Pattaya listed to be chosen. There is no "April Suites" (our hotel) in that list, but the hotel staff said to choose "August Suites" instead. August Suites is so close with April Suites, only 1 minute walking, and they are from the same management. The receptionist of April Suites called August Suites to ask if the driver from Bell Travel Service already arrived. When we got the news that he'd arrived, the hotel porter then helped us bring our bag and lead us the way to August Suites where the driver of Bell Travel Service already waiting.

We weren't the first passengers in the minivan that early morning. It then went around several hotels to pick up other passengers, before finally reaching bus station almost 6am. One passenger can bring 1 baggage only for free (unlimited weight), while additional baggage will be charged. In its counter in the bus station, we changed our tickets. Actually we just showed them the booking confirmation on the phone, because we didn't have time to print it since we just booked it the day before. The coach is really nice and the seat is vast. That morning the bus was full with 40 passengers. One and a half hours later we already arrived in Suvarnabhumi Airport, since the traffic was good. I wonder if the traffic was always good like that, maybe taking 9am bus would also be fine (our flight was 12.30pm by Tiger Air Mandala). Well, better not to risk. It was really a convenient trip with Bell Travel Service. They also have services between Bangkok and Pattaya, but it costs 345 Bat ($10) per person, almost triple than the usual public bus, and only have 3 schedules per day.

In the airport we had about 5 hours to kill! We walked around this huge airport, window shopped and ate. Here are some unique statues inside the airport.

In the first post about my Bangkok trip, I said "we wouldn't need letter from gynecology". I was wrong! When I was just about to walk from check-in counter (we got 17B and 17C), I was being stopped by a lady from Tiger Airways. She seemed a manager. She asked me whether I was pregnant and asked my doctor letter (medical certificate). Luckily we had prepared for that. She then escorted me back to the check-in counter, and asked them to change my seat. Actually I was already satisfied with our seats, C/alley seat was perfect because I would be going to toilet often. We then got 6B and 6C, in the front side of plane. We were a little bit happy, maybe we got seats with bigger and wider space for our feet.

Apparently NOT, it was just the same seat with others. Tiger Air Mandala plane doesn't have business class, and the only vast seats they have are emergency seats. Worst, we got seats behind a group of noisy college teenagers who were also in front of us in our flight from Jakarta to Bangkok last week. Give me back my 17C!! However there's no one sitting in 6A, so we got one half row for ourselves, and I could rise my feet on the next seat. Maybe that's why the staff gave those seats to us. Kapunka (thank you)!

It also proves that airport staff in Bangkok are more care with the passengers and the airplane. When we entered the boarding gate, the staff approached me again to check my seats, asked my doctor letter and asked me to sign up a letter to state that I would not sue the airplane if something terrible happened with my baby on the flight. It was the usual procedure. But in Jakarta airport, there's no one approaching me in the check-in counter or boarding gate, nor giving me the best seats they could find, nor asking me to sign up any letter.

That is the end of my Babymoon trip to Bangkok. Excluding flight ticket, accommodation and souvenirs, we spent about 4million Rupiah for transportation, foods and sightseeing for 6 days in Bangkok + Pattaya. We walked slowly, not able to visit all the interesting places, but it was really enjoyable, refreshing from works and chaotic Jakarta. Many people warned us about the politic crisis in Bangkok, but it was safe, and hopefully we didn't encounter any commotion during our stay. I and my husband had really a great time together (despite of scams and getting lost :P). Hope I can visit Bangkok again one day.

13 April 2014

To the Beach: Pattaya

Today we checked out from our hotel in Bangkok and traveled to the southeast side of Bangkok, to another city called Pattaya, popular for beach resorts.

The bus to Pattaya is departed from Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai), located near exit of Ekamai BTS Station. When we were looking for the ticket counter to buy the bus ticket, we were approached by a man who showed us the counter for Pattaya. He seemed trustworthy, and the ticket price they asked us was 130 Baht ($4) per person, not too much different than what I read in internet (~124 Baht). So we bought the tickets. He then led us the way to a minivan, put our baggage inside and asked us to get inside and wait (somehow we understood his body language). I was a bit worried, because this was not what I expected, to travel with a minivan. I thought we would be going by a bus!

Not long after that, other people started filling up the minivan, including tourists from Philippines and Indonesia, and some locals. The car would depart at 9.10am, but the car was quickly full of passengers, so off we went to Pattaya before 9am, and would take about 2 hours to Pattaya (depends on the traffic). Since the car was fueled with gas, every 1 hour it stopped in gas station.

When we arrived in Pattaya City (we knew it by seeing the welcoming board of Pattaya City on the way), the driver suddenly stopped somewhere in Sukhumvit Road, and he said it's the last stop and everyone should alight. This was AGAIN not what I expected! I expected we were stopped in Pattaya Bus Station, where we would take public transport to our hotel like we planned. I was so panic and about to cry. Even with my husband and 3G data in my iPhone, I still got lost!

Now when I read again some articles in the internet about going to Pattaya, I just came across this article:
Be wary of touts who solicit you at various bus stations in Bangkok. Most of them provide private minivan transport and won't drop you off at the main Pattaya station on North Pattaya Road. You will likely find yourself miles outside Pattaya. They also don't begin their journeys until the minivan is full. Unless you want to charter your own van, you should stick to the government buses or those offered by Roong Reuang Coach.

To the Ancient City: Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand from 1351 to 1767, is located in the central of Thailand, about 85 km north of Bangkok. The kingdom is destroyed by Burmese armies, but we still can see the ruins. Since I love history, I put this as one of my itineraries in Bangkok.

We started the day very early, because the tour picked us up at the hotel around 5.30 am. We were the first passengers in that minivan. It then stopped at some hotels to pick up other people before heading to the meeting point in Khao San Road, the center of backpackers in Bangkok. I wonder if all the drivers in Bangkok drove recklessly like that, so scary!

When we arrived there, many people and minivans were already gathered. Each of us was given colorful stickers to stick on our clothes. I, my husband and some people got blue-yellow stickers, and many other got blue-only sticker. We then got inside another minivan with other group of people, and this time with 2 girls as our tour guides and a-not-so-recklessly driver of the day.

Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya is about 1,5 hours from Bangkok, depends on the traffic. It is located in the middle of 3 rivers: Chao Phraya, Lopburi River and Pa Sak River, makes it looks like an island. See the map of Ayutthaya below for more details.

Click image to enlarge

For this tour, all of us would visit 5 temples. Participants with additional yellow sticker (like me) would change to another tour minivan to visit one additional place called Bang Pa-In Palace before heading back to Bangkok, while the blue-only sticker would go back to Bangkok directly after 5 temples. The package already included the entrance fee for all the places we would visited, foods for lunch, pick-up and drop at the hotel.

09 April 2014

Cultural Day in Bangkok

It was so exhausting for me the day before, so we decided to make today mooooore relax haha. We went out from hotel quite late around 10am. We stopped by the only travel agent we found in Saladaeng Road near our hotel, asking about Siam Niramit show for tonight and one day tour to Ayuttaya for tomorrow. Since we didn't know where other travel agents were around there, we decided to take their service. We paid 1000 Baht ($31) each for Siam Niramit show, and 1250 Baht ($38.5) each for Ayuttaya tour. I know from my friend Elfira, that was a normal price for Siam Niramit show. So I trusted they didn't scam me with Ayuttaya tour either. Hell no, the next day we found out we paid too much overprice for Ayuttaya tour. I will write more detail on the next post.

After dealing with travel agent, and having Thai foods for lunch in one of local food stalls near Saladaeng BTS Station, we took BTS towards Saphan Thaksin BTS Station and transferred to Sathorn/Central Pier of Chao Phraya Express Boat. Today we would take the water transport to visit Grand Palace and Wat Pho. The nearest pier to Grand Palace was Tha Chang (N9). Taking river boat is not as easy as taking BTS and MRT. When we arrived in Sathorn Pier, we followed the crowd, and approached a lady that went around the crowd who seemed in charge of the ticket. We said "Tha Chang" to her, and she gave us 2 tickets, "30 Baht for 2". Not long after that, the orange flag boat came and we boarded it.

07 April 2014

Shopping in Bangkok

My second day in Bangkok was Sunday, and the agenda was shopping! This was the only weekend day we had in Bangkok, and since Chatuchak Weekend Market was only opened in weekends (Friday to Sunday), we must visit this place today. We went there by taking BTS until Mo Chit Station. Not like MRT which is using a token, one way BTS ticket is using a card like this.

Once we got out the train, we saw a big park with lake and many street stalls. This place is huge, and everything is there! I should restrain myself to not spend my money a lot because it's still the beginning of my trip.

Chatuchak Market

Thing that one should try in the very hot weather of Bangkok, and it could be found in any tourist places in Bangkok: Coconut Ice Cream (35 Baht / $1)

05 April 2014

Review: Park Saladaeng Guesthouse in Bangkok

Park Saladaeng is a new budget boutique guesthouse, where all the facilities and interiors are still new, clean and working fine. I didn't take any photos, but you can see the pictures in its website, they really look the same: beautiful and neat. Design of the room is nice, except that the air conditioner is directly facing the bed.

Even though the Queen Deluxe Room was a little bit small, only 18 sq.m, but it had everything we needed. They cleaned the room everyday. They gave us 4 free bottles of mineral water per day. There was no water boiler at first, but they provided it when we asked for it. It would be nicer too if they provided me some tea and instant coffee sachets :P

Toiletries are complete, except toothbrush, toothpaste and shower cap. The electric sockets on the wall is universal, so we can plug our cables without any converter.

There is cable TV with a lot of good international channels (but some of them are dubbed in Thai) and the most important thing is free fast wifi in the room!

04 April 2014

Babymoon to Bangkok

Before pregnant, I had planned several trips between December 2013 to April 2014, including Dieng, Penang, Cameron Highland, Bangkok and Myanmar. After we found out that I was 7-weeks pregnant in Dec 2013, we decided to cancel all of the trips for safety. I also didn't feel like going anywhere with my sickness. So, I had missed my trips to Dieng, Penang and Cameron Highland.

However, 2 weeks ago I suddenly thought it was ok for me now to travel. And the next trip would be Bangkok. So here it is, my babymoon to Bangkok for the first time, in my 19-weeks pregnancy, with my husband, with 5 days preparation. Random trip is always fun and exciting!
  • Tuesday: I visited my gynecology to get her 'permission'. She checked my baby, and she said everything's normal. She wrote a permission letter for the airplane, even though I knew we wouldn't need that. Most airplane would allow pregnant lady to travel without any letter until 30-weeks pregnancy.
  • Wednesday: I asked my manager for leaves next week, and notified a friend in Bangkok and arranged to meet up.
  • Thursday: I booked the hotel in Bangkok.
  • Friday: I booked the hotel in Pattaya.
  • Saturday: Packing and THE DAY!!
I was flying with Tiger Air Mandala. I bought the flight ticket on September 2013 via Tiger Air website where I got it for IDR 1M ($88) per person for round trip. The flight from Jakarta to Bangkok was supposed to be at 3.40pm but I just knew it's already changed to 4:35pm. Well, what do you expect. Good thing it's not delayed.

We arrived in Suvarnabhumi Airport around 8pm. Not like my Honeymoon in Bali last June, where I switched off my communication to the world, this time I would like to stay connected. While walking towards immigration and luggage claims, I turned on my iphone wifi in the airport to have internet access. There was free wifi but we needed to get the userid and password to login from Information Counter. The staff would give us a paper contains of userid and password that can be used for 1 hour after login.

After collecting our baggage, we stopped by a telecom stall in Arrival Hall to purchase Thai SIM card. It's not difficult to find, because it's the only stall that evening which had long queues. I bought Happy Tourist SIM card from DTAC with package of 7 days data 1GB and 100 minutes free call for 299 Baht ($9). They set up my iPhone and I could use it straightaway.

Happy Tourist SIM Card from DTAC