December 19, 2009

Tangkuban Parahu near Bandung, West Java

Yesterday I was on business trip in Lembang, a popular retreat area in North Bandung. Taking advantage of this, I went just a few kilometers further to Mt. Tangkuban Parahu, an active volcano made into a national park thus open to the public.

Tangkuban Parahu in Sundanese (the ethnic language of people from West Java) means upturned boat (tangkuban = upturned, parahu = boat) referring to the mountain's shape which also has a popular legend attached to it. Unlike most volcanoes which have a "pointy" top, the top of Mt. Tangkuban Parahu looks flat when viewed from afar. This is because it has several craters located near each other.

After getting ripped off by the angkot driver (long story, but the moral is: even when you're a local tourist, you might get ripped off, so always be alert and HAGGLE!), I reached the most popular crater: Kawah Ratu (kawah = crater). It is most popular because it is the most accessible one; you can park your car near the crater. However, I must say, it was not too spectacular. Yes, I was standing on the edge of a volcanic mountain...but the view was underwhelming.

What made the trip worthwhile is Kawah Domas. To reach it, I had to hike 1,2 km down hill from Kawah Ratu. This crater has a beautiful rocky landscape with steam coming from several hot sulphuric springs and small pools of bubbling water here and there. Some of the springs are so hot you can boil an egg (there is a shop which sell the eggs for you to boil on spot). Others are just warm enough you can soak your feet in it and smear the volcanic mud on to your feet to have your own "spa" treatment.

Unfortunately, it was already late in the afternoon when I reached Kawah Domas so I didn't have time to pamper myself in the hotsprings otherwise it would be dark going back. Before going, I read in a blog that the sulphuric gas smells awful, but I didn't have this problem. My guide showed me some spots where the sulphur formed yellow "flowers"/crystals on the rocks. Just amazing!

Btw, I'm not sure whether it is a must to take a guide but I do recommend it especially when you're travelling alone. My guide proved handy on the way up where he was practically taking me by the hand and dragging me up the stairs (I read in a blog that the hike was easy, but I found it extremely tiring!). Before the hike, I agreed to pay him only Rp. 20.000 for his service (opening price was Rp. 100, HAVE to Haggle!), but after he dragged me through the hike, I eventually paid him Rp. 50,000.

Kawah Ratu

The path to Kawah Domas: scenic path but going back up was quite a challenge

Left: View of Kawah Domas from above; Right: Soaking in mud

Kawah Domas' Rocky Landscape

Left: Hot boiling springs; Right: Sulphuric yellow flowers

Tips to make your trip to Tangkuban Parahu more pleasant:
- Bring your own transportation
Transportation is difficult inside the park area.
- Haggle!
There are many peddlers preying on tourists. Although I had no trouble with them but I've read in several blogs that they were quite annoying. Unless you're going to buy something, don't even glance at them. Even for the guide, you should haggle and state clearly whether the cost is an hourly rate or flat rate.

December 14, 2009

Indonesian Jewels

Last week I went to a jewelry exhibition held by Mutumanikam Nusantara, a non-profit organization which aims to develop Indonesia's jewelry sector.

I was a bit surprised by the collection, I never knew that Indonesia had such an abundance of precious metals and gemstones. Unfortunately, I had a limited budget to spend :) At the end, I decided to buy these :

- Fossil Coral pendant from Sarolangun, Jambi province
I bought this because of the beautiful flower design. Turns out, they are natural patterns formed by fossilized coral structure!

- Druzy Agate pendant from Pacitan, East Java province
These tiny crystals in the centre are called "druzy". I like how they sparkle in the light.

The ones I bought here are quite inexpensive (under Rp. 80.000), so they would be great as souvenirs...

November 13, 2009

Bazaar Mania

What are these people waiting for?

Their waiting for their turn to go
into the Charles & Keith (a Singapore-based women footwear company) bazaar, which slashed their prices by more than 50%.

This lineup was the third, after I experienced a lineup on the 6th floor, 7th floor and eventually the 8th floor before going into the hall where the bazaar took place. In total, I waited for 1 1/2 hours! (That is why they provided chairs for us to wait in).

I guess there's no financial crisis here.....or maybe because people are a bit tight on money that these kind of bazaars are then so overcrowded?

For more info on discounts in Jakarta, check out :

October 21, 2009

Julia Roberts in Bali

Forgive me as I start this post by being cynical, but I just can't help it...

Over the last few days, "celebrities*" have sprung up on tv ..... while actually, a REAL international celebrity is currently in Indonesia...

Julia Roberts is currently in Bali, shooting for the film "Eat, Pray, Love", which is based upon a book by Elizabeth Gilbert with the same title.

When I go on holiday to a certain country, I sometimes search on the web about movie locations there. So far, Indonesia hasn't had much exposure, but I guess now it will be listed... I can't wait for the movie to come out and actually see how the places turn out!

Now, I find this more interesting to watch than looking at "old" people in robes....

(*potential cabinet members who are basking in the spotlight, seemingly unaware of the daunting task in front of them if they do get chosen. For Indonesia's sake...I hope they will live up to their responsibilities!)

October 11, 2009

Attraction at Padang Food Restaurant

It’s been awhile since I've posted to this blog. The post-Ramadhan celebrations and work are the main reasons why I haven't written. In the mean time, Indonesia has been a hot topic internationally due to the devastating earthquakes in Padang.

Padang is the capital city of West Sumatra province. The ethnic tribe of the area is called Minangkabau. I've never gone there, although I often eat Padang food. Padang food is well-known throughout Indonesia (even in Singapore and Malaysia). The foods are often spicy using lots of coconut milk (in Indonesian: "santan"). Its best-known dish is probably "rendang".

In a "proper" Padang food restaurant, the dishes are all served and laid out on the table. This means if the restaurant has 20 types of dishes, all those types will be brought to your table. But of course you don't have to eat all of them. Customers are charged only for what they eat. The untouched dishes will then be served to the next customers so don't play with the food, just take what you want :)

Serving 20 dishes will take awhile of course if you take only two at a time. Now this is what I admire about waiters in Padang food restaurants, they can carry many many plates on one hand. So those 20 dishes may all be brought at once. This of course needs lots of training to master.

Not all Padang food restaurants do this nowadays. However, there have been special plate carrying competitions held called "Manatiang Piriang" which hopefully will keep this tradition alive.

"Manatiang Piriang" competitions

The dirty plates are carried in the same way

Photo source from top to bottom :

September 12, 2009

Just a glimpse of BenHil

Entering the last week of fasting, things haven't slown down at work. It's as if it's just a normal September month, while actually in Indonesia, the fasting month (Ramadhan) is a joyous occasion with lots of traditions attached to it. It is a time where you prioritize your spiritual needs, it's a time to re-connect with your friends and family......... It's a time where you become easy target for marketers!

Such an irony, where logically if you fast you consume less, in Indonesia many actually consume more. As a friend of mine pointed out, he actually spends more on food and drink during the Ramadhan because after breaking the fast, he'd go and buy any kind of food he wants, regardless of the price. It's in a way to make up for not eating during the whole day, as he puts it.

My mother also usually cooks more delicious food during the Ramadhan. She says that it is so that we would get excited and become more motivated to fast.

Gatherings with family and friends for breaking the fast are also a common activity during the Ramadhan. So be aware that restaurants are usually packed from 17.30 - 19.00.

Anywayssss.... temporary food sellers often spring up during the Ramadhan. One area in Jakarta which is famous for this is called BenHil (short for Bendungan Hilir - remember we Indonesians just love our abbreviations). Not only do the food tickle your taste buds, they are a feast to the eyes as well. This is just a glimpse of the things you can find there.

August 29, 2009

Survival tip: Know your "mouse streets"!

Jakarta is well-known for its traffic jam. In my opinion, it gets worse every year. So to save time, it is helpful to know Jakarta's back streets, what we call jalan tikus (meaning mouse streets).

Jalan tikus are narrow often winding streets, usually only fit for one car, which go through dense neighbourhoods (usually mid-lower class). Jakarta is full of these small streets, creating a maze that can get you from point A to point B whilst avoiding the traffic jams on the main roads. Because they are actually residential streets, they are usually only packed in the morning & evening, when Jakarta's traffic jams occur. For the rest of the day, the jalan tikus is relatively empty.

So why don't people use it more often?
- First of all, not every one knows a particular jalan tikus. Sometimes the streets are so small and winding, they're not on the map. Or there are lack of street names/ road signs so you can't use a map to navigate through. That is why you usually only know the ones that relate to your everyday life. I know the ones that will get me quicker to my office/ home but I have no idea about the jalan tikus in North Jakarta.

- Second, it is narrow so a bit difficult to maneuver, especially if you have a large car. Some people just don't feel comfortable driving through it.

- Third, you can get stuck. Jalan tikus is usually a two-way street although it can only fit one car. So you must know the "appropriate direction" people are using at that time. For example, in the morning, a jalan tikus will be used to get from point A to point B. But in the evening, the traffic will be from point B to point A.

I once got stuck for half-an-hour before we were moving again. You can't go forward because of the stubborn car that is defying direction and you can't go back because there is already a line of cars behind you. All you can do is wait until someone (usually local teenagers who live there) voluntarily helps direct the traffic. I glared at the driver who caused it once he passed by, and I bet you I wasn't the only one.

The best way to stumble upon a jalan tikus is when you take a taxi. Good taxi drivers know Jakarta's jalan tikus. Another way is just to follow the cars in front of you. If you see a couple of cars turning away from the main road, it may be because they are going to use a jalan tikus. But then again, it may be they are just heading home.

Going through a jalan tikus

Nearing the end of the jalan tikus

August 17, 2009

Batik Komar in Bandung

I'm currently taking a travel writing class which consists of 4 theory sessions & 2 fieldtrips. But, surprise...surprise...I've already missed out on 2 classes & 1 trip because of the hectic load at my office. I did manage to attend 1 trip last weekend to Bandung where we were supposed to write an article about. I eventually submitted mine 1 week after the due date. The article is a bit long while I like to keep my blog postings short so I've taken out some bits of pieces of the article to post here...

After taking a few wrong turns through the winding roads of Bandung, my travel writing class mates and I eventually arrived at Batik Komar's workshop in Cigadung area. The workshop has nice plants and trees on the side, giving it a quite serene atmosphere.

Komarudin Kudiya, the workshop owner, greeted us at the gate. His appearance was friendly and humble considering his achievements are plenty, among others he produced the longest batik in the world in 2005 which made the Guinness book of records. His batik house is also a regular at international trade fairs.

While lunch was served, compliments of the host, Mr. Komar explained a little about batik. "For it to be called batik, it must use malam (candle wax) when dyeing the textile," he started his explanation. The wax is used to cover the parts of the cloth design that you don't want to get coloured. Two general methods of applying the wax are by using "
canting" and "cap".

Making batik with a canting can be a very tedious process. This is usually done by women and the end-product is called Batik Tulis (which means "Written batik").

Batik cap, on the other hand, is usually done by men using copper blocks (cap) which are stamped onto a piece of cloth. It usually takes about 2 weeks (depending on the design) to make a cap from scratch. There are not many producers of the actual cap device, which is why Batik Komar also receives orders from other batik houses to make the device for them.

Mr. Komar showed us the storage room for the cap devices. There are hundreds of them, neatly arranged on shelves which are as high as the ceiling. Each cap design ever made by Batik Komar is saved on a computer.

We then entered the room where the cap is actually used to design the batik. Each man stands behind a table which has a piece of cloth on it. On their side is a small stove with a copper platter containing a thin layer of heated wax. The cap is dipped into the wax for a moment and then taken out and shaken a few times to get rid of any wax which haven't stuck well on the cap. They then carefully put the cap onto the cloth, making sure the pattern fits well with the previous print. Under the cloth, the table is actually padded with a slightly wet material covered with plastic so that the wax will dry quickly once pressed on to the cloth.

After looking at the whole process, you can't help not wanting to buy a piece of batik. Luckily the workshop has a small store selling ready-to-wear batik clothing as well as single pieces of batik cloth.

If you want to buy Batik Komar but don't have the time to go to the workshop, Batik Komar also has a showroom in the Bandung city centre at Jalan Sumbawa.

Besides the workshop and showroom in Bandung, Batik Komar also has a workshop in his birthplace - Trusmi (Cirebon). Trusmi is a village well-known for its high quality batik. I guess in this case, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Mr. Komar explaining the process of dyeing the cloth

Making the copper block, the kid in the yellow t-shirt is Mr. Komar's son...the next generation?

Making the cap, from the hand-drawned design until the finished product

Left: Dipping the cap into the wax, Right :Carefully stamping the cloth


Storage Room

August 8, 2009

Mosquito Fogging

Today my neighbourhood was scheduled to be fogged. This is usually done when a number of people have occurred dengue fever in the neighbourhood. The fogging is intentionally scheduled on weekends when people are most likely at home, not busy working thus leaving the house empty.

I find this very troublesome because then I can't sleep in. Usually the fogging takes place before 9 o'clock in the morning, otherwise it would be less effective in killing the mosquitoes (this is according to my mom, haven't checked out this info).

The sound of the fogging device is quite loud and the "fog" has a disturbing aroma. Usually it takes about half an hour for the air to clear before we can go inside the house again.

But then comes the hard part.
We have to put back in place all the food-related utensils which we stowed away, change the bed sheets, and clean the floors (there is usually a thin layer of residue).

So much for a relaxing Saturday... but at least this night, I can sit in front of the computer without having to slap away too many mosquitoes...

Dark "smoke" fills the house...if you go inside, it's dificult to see anything

Left : The "fogging man" in action, Right : Filling up the device

August 2, 2009

Souvenir from Yogyakarta

It's been 2 weeks since the bombings. Life in Jakarta is back to normal. However, I've had to cancel my weekend-trip plan to Yogyakarta (i.e. Jogja) this August because my friends are a bit anxious about travelling so soon after the bombings. I myself am not too worried because I think we should actually be safer in Yogyakarta, a city where no bombings have occurred, instead of being in the city where the bombing has occurred, right?

On my previous trip to Jogja, a few years back, I didn't have the chance to visit the Borobudur temple. Thus, I was looking forward to go this time. Another reason why I wanted to go is because I wanted to buy some silver accessories.

If you ever go to Yogyakarta, I highly recommend you go to a district called Kotagede to buy silver as a souvenir. You will find many shops selling silver jewellery and handicrafts here, all made by the local people. Many of them actually have a workshop in the back, so you can see how they make the jewellery.

When I went to Kotagede, I bought from a shop called Ansor's silver, which is one of the more well-established ones. Based on my experience, the silver is of better quality (and cheaper!) than Perlini's (a well-known international franchise which sells silver, commonly found in Jakarta malls).

Left : At Ansor's silver store, Right : At the workshop
The pendant and necklace that I bought

Besides silver, of course you can also buy Batik as a souvenir from Jogja. Jogja batik has patterns and colors unique to the area, which are darker compared to batik from Cirebon.

For a more modern souvenir, try buying Chocolate Monggo. It is dark chocolate made from Javanese and Sumatran cocoa beans, but from a mixture of European and Javanese recipes. What I think is nice about them, besides the taste of course, is the packaging. The packagings have traditional designs, mainly related to Jogja...and they're from recycled paper!

Pic Source :

July 19, 2009

Friday Jakarta Blasts - Two sides of a story

I first knew about the Friday bombings while on my way to work. A colleague texted me that she was going to be a bit late because bombs had exploded in JW Marriott & Ritz Carlton. My office is not close to these hotels but they're visible from our 17th floor office window.

I thought there might be panic & traffic jam, which made her text me to tell me she would be late. But luckily enough, I had no trouble getting to work. The streets were quite normal. Later on, she told me she was late because she wanted to watch the news on tv, not because of any traffic jam.

The rest of the day was quite hectic, but it had nothing to do with the bombings. Currently we have many projects going on, especially product testing which need to finish before the Ramadhan (fasting period) begins.

Occasionally someone checked the internet and told us the latest news about the bombings, which stirred some conversation before we were busy in front of our computers again. Specifically when we heard MU had canceled their trip to Indonesia due to the bombings, a colleague shouted out: "Oh no...I've bought tickets!"

A rumour had also spread that certain political parties may be behind the bombings because they were not satisfied with the presidential elections held on July 8th. These rumours came about after SBY (our current president who, based on quickcount, seems to have won the election and will lead another period) made a statement about the bombings while showing his picture had been used as target practice. When I heard this, I thought: Isn't it normal for a president to receive some kind of death threats? Oh well, what do I know...I've probably watched too many episodes of 24.

After work, many hesitated to go hang out at the mall. I thought it would be better to go straight home too, although the next day I had to go to check a mall intercept study.

At home, finally, I could watch the news to get the details on the blasts. Hmm..quite strange, while the local tv channels were busy focusing on political conspiracy and SBY's statement, the international channels were mentioning about Jemaah Islamiyah (a group lead by the Malaysian fugitive, Noordin M. Top) being behind the attacks.

Just as my day had been quite normal while others were heavily affected by the bombings, watching the local and international channels made me feel like I was looking at different worlds.

Well, I guess there are 2 sides of each story... Hopefully those behind the bombings are captured and such tragic events will never ever happen in Indonesia again...

July 5, 2009

Bird Park in TMII

I had wanted to go to Taman Mini's Bird Park for quite some time, so when my cousins came to Jakarta, I gladly suggested that we went there.

Because of Indonesia's geographical position, it has a unique blend of fauna. Western Indonesia's fauna is related to Asiatic species while Eastern Indonesia is more influenced by Australasian. The Wallace line separates these two regions.

The bird park in Taman Mini is arranged by this concept. There are two main domes in the park : the West dome (where you can see birds from Sumatera, Java, Bali and Kalimantan) and the East dome (where there are birds from Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua). Between the two domes, there is a small pond which serves as the imaginary Wallace line.

Left : Say Cheese...actually I'm shivering inside, hoping the kakatua doesn't bite me!

June 28, 2009

Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII)

Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Taman Mini for short) if literally translated means Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park.

It is located a bit out of the centre of Jakarta, in East Jakarta, which is much needed because it stretches over 250 acres. The main focus of the park is to get a glimpse of Indonesia's 26 provinces (at the time of building there were 26, now there are 33 provinces), which all have their own unique cultural identity.

All 26 provinces have a separate pavilion where you can see the province's traditional house, clothing, instrument etc. Even though the park's name uses the word "Mini", the houses are actually not small (it is not like Madurodam in the Netherlands). The houses are life-size replicas with some of them open to the public so you can actually go inside. Some provinces' pavilion also have scheduled performances of their traditional dances.

Besides the houses, there are also a lot of gardens, museums and an Imax Theatre which besides occasionally screens blockbuster movies, also has a movie on Indonesia's landscape called "Beautiful Indonesia". There is also a cable car you can ride on to get a bird's-eye view of the park.

Photo Source :

I recently visited Taman Mini, and the shame thing is that it could use some fresh paint...but nevertheless, it is a nice place to get acquainted to Indonesia's rich culture without leaving Jakarta. But if you want to experience the genuine culture, of course, nothing beats going to the actual provinces.

If you do plan to explore the whole park, you might think of freeing your agenda for a whole day and also, bring a car!

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