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Category Archives: travel

ACMI visit

I had a great time running around Melbourne with a coupla visitors earlier this month. Vegan pies in Preston, discovering fish leaves (they smell like fish), zaatar pizzas and dubstep in the morning and all that.

One of the places we went to was the Australian Center for Moving Image (ACMI) in Federation Square. Most parts of the center was free. The current exhibition was about Hollywood Costumes and we weren’t dying to go to that anyway.

The center has lots of stuff to keep us busy, such as the media library and the video games -from the vintage to the sophos.

A few highlights of my visits are this thing that rotates and turns into an amazing animation-like spectacle:

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Tasmanian Tiger Zoetrope – picture from ACMI blog

and this brilliant steam punk-ish creation by Anthony Lucas  

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From “The Faulty Fandangle” cabinet

As well as this sign acknowledging wayang as one of the first forms of animation.

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Rotterdam part 2: Viva Afrika!

One night I wanted African food. That’s because I haven’t actually tasted African food in my life and I have passed Viva Afrika several times and was curious to try it, and also because I was just in the mood for (what I hope to be) spicy food.

Viva Afrika is located in a street with plenty of cool shops and cafes near Rotterdam’s China Town. From outside, it didn’t look like a big restaurants. In fact, it looked more like one of the “Coffee Shops” in the Netherlands with its colorful neon lightings and dark glass windows. However, the interior was another story. Despite retaining the colorful theme, its much cozier.

I was a bit nervous that they might not have vegetarian dishes, but although there was indeed much more meat dishes, some being unusual varieties like alligator meat or the sort, Viva Afrika actually has some vego options in the menu.

We went for what I recall as lentil curry soup with chutney, topped with cheese and chilli powder, served with buns. The chili powder was not as spicy as I hoped, but the soup served well as an opening dish.

For the main dish, there were two choices of Nay Tzom  vegetarian platters. we chose the one with okra and vegetable curry. The dish was eaten with Enjera-limp African flatbread.

It was exactly the taste I was looking for. Savory, spicy and rich. The okra was especially yummy and the bread was filling. With all that goodness, Viva Afrika should definitely add more vegetarian options to its menu, right?

Viva Afrika
 Nieuwe binnenweg 153 a/b , Rotterdam

Europe, here we go: Rotterdam’s Bla-bla

One of Rotterdam's "icons": The cube houses-loved as well as hated by some.

So long, too long, since I have posted. And I am not even keeping my promise of adding break-fasting recipes. But it is on the list. Believe me.

So I am in the Netherlands now, in this city called Rotterdam. I am pretty sure that there is a lot of info on this “World Port, World City” in the internet, but if you would allow me to give a little  description on what it’s like.

Basically, don’t expect Amsterdam here. The city was bombed almost flat during the World War II. Only a handful of old, historical buildings remain intact. and instead of the adventurous and bohemian atmosphere that is Amsterdam, expect more business-like, no-frills attitude.

One of the more tranquil side of Rotterdam

So at first I was not very enthusiastic about it. But I am beginning to actually like Rotterdam. it’s like some people (Rotterdamers) said, you’d have to know the places to find the city’s hidden beauties. And indeed I have discovered some beautiful neighborhoods such as Kralingen, Oude Plantage, Delfshaven  and Schiebroek. There’s the funky Witte de Witstraat, and I have heard that the Boijmans art museum is excellent.

On one of the nights we decided to went out, we had dinner in Bla bla in Historich Delfshaven. The neighborhood was a few that escaped the bombing and had a quiet, old world atmosphere. Bla-bla itself is a cute place with the waiter being very friendly and explained the menu to us in English because they didn’t have the translation.

So many to choose from! yet we decided to go with an appetizer called lumpia, which is basically spring rolls. It’s a famous “Vietnamese” treat here although my Vietnamese friend said that she had never heard of it, and if there is such a thing, it is certainly not called Lumpia. In fact, it’s the term we use in Indonesia for roughly the same thing.

Appetizer-lumpia with sweet Japanese sauce

But anyway, names aside, the lumpia was a nice start. You can easily get some from a street stall and I have had bigger ones before but this one definitely had more zest in it. The accompanying sweet Japanese sauce was excellent as well.

Schotel for the main course

Then comes the main course. Choices choices! but we went for something that is quite Dutch: A schotel, which is basically baked pasta. This is also a popular dish in Indonesia. The one in Blabla was plain and served with fresh tomato sauce, lovely sauteed veggies in herby dressing, spinach-filled pastries and three kinds of  cheese.

closing appetizer: nut wontons.

We were thinking of getting dessert but then I saw another tempting appetizer, which was deep fried wonton parcels filled with assorted nuts. My thing for nuts didn’t disappoint. It was a great, albeit unconventional, way to end a meal. The sweet-and-sour sauce was yummy too.

Bla-bla

Piet Heynsplein 35, Rotterdam

Belitung

A view from the light house in Lengukas Island, Tanjung Kelayang

I finally got to visit Belitung a few months ago. It was certainly worth the wait and occasionally hair-pulling arrangements.

Belitung, in Sumatra, rose to tourism fame after the showing of blockbuster movie “Laskar Pelangi”, which used the island as its main setting. I have heard my friends gushing about it as well, so I was excited to go.

However, this was my first dab at planning a trip all by myself to a place I have never been before. I browsed and asked for advices from friends who had been there and tried to imagine how it would be like.

Transportation was a cinch. I picked Sriwijaya air because it had the earliest flight. The return ticket from Jakarta cost around Rp 700k.  The trickiest part was deciding where to stay. I finally decided to book a hotel in the middle of the city. As I had very vague picture of how far the beaches-the main reason I want to go there- were from the city and it seems that all the hotels near the beaches had its own faults.

Hotel Martani

So I went with a friend’s advice and picked Hotel Martani. I was interested because it was said to be the oldest star hotel there. And indeed the place was interesting. It had the necessary facilities-hot water, air con, spacious rooms, but you can tell right away that it was built perhaps at a time when fake waterfall sceneries and aquariums were cool. It was very reasonably priced, though, to the point that I found hard to believe. I mean, the room was HUGE and yet it cost around 200k. Also, you get to see an authentic cannon from the Dutch Colonial era displayed at the entrance.

After a night, and a visit to the nearest beach-it was allright, certainly cleaner than Ancol, but it was also low tide so not much to see- we asked about the beaches and tried to get a grip of how far they were. But I guess the best way was to go ahead and try to get there. And so we rented a bike for Rp 50 k a day and explored.

The road was well-paved but they were getting a widening treatment because of an upcoming tourism event. So there were a few roadblocks and we had to be extra careful. Despite that, an accident occurred and now I have scars on my leg to prove it.

Bukit Berahu Cottage

But on to the trip. We discovered that it would be much more convenient to rent a room outside the city near one of the beaches. And so there were three options: Bukit Berahu, which is about 30 minutes from the city, Tanjung Kelayang Cottages, which is a bit further away (10 minutes), and Lor in Resort, which is still further away, about 10 minutes from Tanjung Kelayang.

I hesitated to book one of these because my internet research found faults with all of them: Bukit Berahu’s beach had stinging jellyfishes, a review on Tanjung Kelayang said one of the rooms had bedbugs in it, and Lor In was just too expensive (around US$80 a night).

But after seeing for ourselves, we decided to go for Bukit Berahu Cottages.  So Tanjung Kelayang’s beach might be much nicer and sans jellyfish, but we weren’t keen on the looks of the rooms or the prospect of bedbugs. (But a friend stayed there afterwards and she said it was fine).

Bukit Berahu Cottages are simply beautiful. It’s secluded. (A sort of romantic

the inside of Bukit Berahu cottage

path leading there reminded me of the private bed and breakfast in Victoria that I stayed in last year. The very Indonesian architecture blends in with the landscape, and the rooms are nice. Plus its really fairly priced at around Rp 200k.  You get a hot shower, aircon, and a television, but there weren’t really many channels to choose from. The food’s not bad and reasonably priced as well.Oh and there’s a swimming pool to make up for the beach I guess.

To get to the cottages you have to go down a long, steep flight of steps, this means a long climb back up as well if you want to go to the restaurant.

Time to talk about the beaches. Tanjung Kelayang’s beach is pretty in itself, but to really enjoy what it has to offer,  rent a boat and snorkelling equipment to explore the nearby underwater scene near Lengkuas island. There is also an old lighthouse that is still functioning and you can climb up to see the amazing view from the top.

The boat driver told me that sometimes travelling groups also spend a night on one of the islands near Tanjung Kelayang. There are a few islands to choose from, including the Pasir island, a tiny piece of land housing starfishes that disappears during high tide.

A strange thing happened to me during snorkeling though. I felt sick all of a sudden despite the water being really calm. I wonder if it was because I haven’t eaten enough before.

On the next day, we went to Tanjung Tinggi beach. This is the one famous for its unique granite structures. And it was breathtaking indeed. The water was calm, the beach was clean, there were few tourists, and despite a couple of hours of rain during midday, the sun became delicious when the afternoon came and we ended up just lying with half our bodies in the water for hours, soaking up the loveliness of  it all.

Tanjung Tinggi beach

And I was just amazed at how some tourists came, climbed on the rocks, took pictures and leave without dipping into that wonderful water!I guess that might be because they’re on a package tour. I’m  glad I decided not to go on one. I mean, it might be some people’s cup of tea but I prefer to laze around during my holiday 🙂

The next day, bruised and tanned, we went back to the city, returned the motorbike, and head back to the airport using the same driver who took us to the first hotel. My friend told me that there are actually more in the island-especially towards the inland part-to explore, such as the coffee houses in Manggar, but I am pretty satisfied with my four-day, accident-marred, getaway.

Riau islands

I went on a trip to Riau Islands  recently. As most working trips, it was colored with several bizarre instances and a slight stress. However, the trip was memorable. The Islands was beautiful and very interesting.

can you see the statues in the distance?

Highly influenced by the Melayu (Malay) culture, the island is famous for its traditional poetry, rich dishes, and several historical sites such as the palace in Penyengat Island.

The lovely beach, most likely available for the resort guests only

Raja Ali Haji, who built it, was a famous poet and writer, and the palace’s cement was reportedly partly made out of whites of eggs. Unfortunately, I didn’t go there.

Ah, savory roti canai. usually eaten for breakfast there with the good ole teh tarik.

I also went to a Chinese temple which was said to have 500 statues built on the slope below it. However, the construction was not finished yet.

a sample of the healthier melayu cuisine

Riau islands also has beautiful beaches. I was lucky enough to spend a night in one of those fancy Bintan resorts. The resort, which is ran by a Singapore company, is beautiful and the beach was clean. My traveling friends said that the place reminded them a lot of the resorts and hotels in Bali.

Aside from the beach, I also went on a mangrove tour, which was fascinating. I can’t help but think that the Singaporeans actually did a better job of treating the beach well. (look at what we did to Ancol!)

And then there’s the food. Most of the time, we were served seafood so I didn’t have many options, but one morning the local women decided to treat us to a banquet of traditional food, with lots of vegetables, by the seashore. Great! I discovered that the

Err..less healthier, but mouthwatering indeed

“festive” food of these islands are of course very rich with oil and coconut milk, and often very meaty too. However, the everyday food is markedly healthier, often featuring local greens and cooked with less oil but still rich in spices.

During my stay in the resort, I got a chance to visit the mangrove tour spot, which was fun (we saw snakes!) and spent around err..10 minutes splashing on the beautiful beach (it was a bizarre schedule but I wasn’t in charge of my own itinerary ). The beach, resort and mangrove tour was almost flawless. But of course, it wasn’t run by Indonesians, and it did not cater to Indonesians (the price is in Singapore dollars), and I couldn’t help thinking, if the island had been left to the hand of Indonesian tourism, would it be the same?

Hello Singapore!

I’m very lucky indeed. I was sent to Singapore to review a show a few months ago. Despite several glitches, the trip was fun-fun all around.

Many Indonesians (especially those with plenty o’ brass to spare) consider Singapore as one of their holiday destinations. However, I have never been interested in going there. Mostly because I know it’s a shopping town, and I won’t have enough money to deal with that. Second, I have often heard it was a very strict place and I thought “that wouldn’t be much fun, now, would it?”

It turned out that Singapore was not bad at all, but of course I had the privilege of paid accommodation to boost this positive attitude.

Anyways, I think my favorite part of the the city, at least of all the parts that I visited during my three-days stay,  was Little India (Curiously, this is also said to be the part of Singapore that is the least Singapore-ish).  I went on a shopping spree on spices and snacks.

After exploring the corners of the area, We chose a vegetarian restaurant that was the most eye-catching (We were also starving) for lunch. But I discovered later that there were many others, and a few others that looked more interesting and authentic. The food was good, nevertheless.

Have to admit..this is impressive

I think the abundance of vegetarian eating options in Singapore could well be one of its winning points for me. I also had a vegetarian feast of yummy gnocchi in one of the Marina Bay Sand’s restaurants.

Another thing that won me over was the transportation system. The MRT was

The restaurant in Little India

impeccable, the subway stations were very practical and easy to understand (especially if you have spent all of your life in one of the most confusing cities in the world).

Singapore in general was squeaky clean and painfully precise.Some parts of it was a lot like Sydney. The river was lovely and there were plenty of green space. It’s strange how it’s virtually close to Indonesia, and yet I don’t feel intense humidity and heat that I feel in most cities here.

Yummy lunch!

One night we went exploring the Bugis Market, but discovered that the goods were not very varied, and the prices were cheaper in Jakarta’s clothes market. We then went to Mustafa Center to shop, and I found Indian sweets as well there!

But Mustafa was heaps scary. It was gigantic and there were more than one instances of being lost in all those alleyways. It was already around 1 1 when we got there and it was STILL crowded. I shudder to think what it would be like at like 4 pm on a Sunday.

I saw some lovely temples but didn’t get the chance to visit them.

Some people say, Singapore is indeed an efficient, nearly flawless city-state. It’s probably because it’s very small and has very few resources, thus they have to make big out of what they have (access and service), yet Jakarta residents are much more friendly.

mmm cheesy gnocchi

Someone said to me she would much rather have a sensible transportation service without any smiles or friendliness. Hmm…I wonder why in such a city where everything seems to be much easier and much less patience-trying, one would say that people smile less than they do in Jakarta? Do you think so? Would you say that one would have to choose between friendliness and sensibility?

One of the temples I saw in the city. It's nice to see places like this well taken care of and not merely squeezed between buildings and garbage dumps

Going red for the rabbit year

Well well, it’s another new year!

I went to a Chinese temple last night and it was amazing! So many red things, so many people bustling about, so many smells and sights and sounds. I have been planning to do this since last year and when I finally did, I was indeed impressed.

Me and pumpkinshoe went to the oldest temple in Jakarta: the Petak Sembilan or Hian Tan Keng temple in Glodok. The temple, which was built in the 17th century,  is located in one of the most crowded part of the town, squeezed in between dark alleyways and busy markets. However, on that night,  the alleyway heading there looked less dodgy and more festive.

Red lantern alleyway

Then we saw the big gates and wondered how to get inside the temple. We hesitated at first but then saw lots of people, who weren’t chinese, sitting on the ground. We went inside the gates and discovered that they were waiting for alms.

There were also plenty of other people-photographers and tourists who are eager to breathe in the festive aura. Teenagers pose with “V” signs in front of the temple and shrines and some are just as wide-eyed as me at seeing all the excitement.

It’s hard to believe that almost a decade ago, these were forbidden. The New order era, which reigned from 1965, banned Chinese Indonesians from openly  carrying out rituals that display their chinese identities. Not even the language had been allowed then. People did engage in rituals but definitely not as straightforward as nowadays.

I have been inside temples a few times before, and most of those times I feel very…strange. A bit suffocated and yet awestruck. However, this New Year’s Eve, there’s much more of the amazement and excitement. Maybe the lighting and the huge, huge amount of people had something to do with it. Most of the times that I visit temples, it would be empty and dark. Very foreboding, but last night everything was bright and burning. Fireworks going off and people were running from one shrine to another carrying handfuls, and I mean HANDFULS, of  incense sticks.

The temple was smokin'! incense smell is yummy though

There were lots of red in the air…red candles, red walls, red incense sticks…

Look at the size of the candles!

And of course there are Chinese New Year specialty foods. The tradition usually calls for Nian Gao, or Tii Kwee. Known locally as  Kue Keranjang, this sticky-sweet cake can be found in most supermarkets and traditional markets at this time of the year. It’s made from sticky rice and although to eat all of it at one go could be overwhelming, it usually keeps for several days, and you can deep fry them to eat any time later.

I am yet to sink my teeth in any kue keranjang this year, but I did buy some oranges-another traditional food to be eaten on the New Year. This is probably healthier anyway. 🙂

Oh, and just for the final kick, red lanterns galore!