6 September 2009
The last day in Bali started out late as we didn’t have any plans in at all in the morning and our flight was not until 2:25 PM. All we need to do is to wake up before they stop serving the breakfast buffet at ten. I slept somehow late the previous night as I was catching up on Discovery Travel & Living; these show hosts are damn lucky to have this kind of job. I was able to wake up at 9:30 – good enough for me, about half an hour to have buffet breakfast.
We headed back to the room upon finishing our breakfast. I had a quick shower before packing up my stuffs. The plan would be to checkout at 10:30 and just go around the streets of Kuta Beach for some last minute shopping. After checkout, we left our stuffs at the reception and strolled around.
It was very hot in that morning and we didn’t have much energy to go further, we ended up entering the Starbucks outlet in Hard Rock Café. I always check out the country mug they sell whenever I am in a Starbucks outlet. I did manage to add two regular sized country mugs into my mom’s collection. They were selling the mug at 105,000 IDR per piece, more expensive by 20,000 IDR from the outlet in Yogyakarta. It still came with a free drink for every mug purchased though. This collection is getting bigger and bigger, my siblings and mom are buying mugs themselves wherever they get to travel in new locations.
It was already 11:30 when we left Starbucks; we took a cab right outside and went back to our hotel to get our bags. On the way to the airport, I asked the cab driver if there was a place somewhere nearby where we can eat Babi Guling. Much to our amazement, there was a small establishment just 5 minutes from the airport that serves this dish.
Sari Bhuana was the name of the establishment we visited that serves this famous Balinese roasted suckling pork dish. This eatery itself was nothing to rave about as it was just a small warung however I really want to sample how a Babi Guling would taste like and how it would compare versus the Lechon in the Philippines.
We were served the Babi Guling Special (a bit pricey at 25,000 IDR); apart from the Babi Guling, they included chicharon, satay and some other edible stuff that I cannot identify. This also came with the Babi Soup that tasted good but was just a bit too oily and VERY SPICY!!
It was a sumptuous meal however I would still choose anytime the local Lechon in my hometown in Cagayan de Oro. There was not much flavor in the meat though or maybe it was just masked by the thick spicy gravy that came along with it. One thing that keeps me wondering is how the Babi Guling in Ibu Oka would taste like; there will always be a next time to find out.
There weren’t that many passengers at the Ngurah Rai International Airport when we arrived. Unlike last Thursday, we cleared past check-in and immigration in less than 15 minutes.
Traveler Tip: If you are departing from an airport in Indonesia, check beforehand if there is a corresponding airport tax to be paid upon flying out. In Bali, the departure tax was 150,000 IDR per person payable in the local currency and in cash.
The Air Asia flight AK 363 arrived on time and landed twenty minutes ahead of schedule in Kuala Lumpur. There was more than three hours of waiting time before our connecting flight back to Singapore. Unfortunately there was a 30-minute delay, this brought our waiting time to four hours. Oh well, these are some of the things to consider when doing this kind of trip. My only consolation is that we didn’t get stranded because of these delays.
It was past ten in the evening when we reached Singapore. I really enjoyed a lot but I was bit tired after traveling for three weekends in a span of a month. The next few weeks will be a chance for me to rest and to replenish my travel fund (as this was already overdrawn even before this Bali trip).
As for now, no plans yet of going out of Singapore until late October. Of course, it can change if a good travel opportunity presents itself…
23 August 2009
On our 3rd day in Jogjakarta, we didn’t have to rush so early in the morning. I got up from bed at past eight already. I took a shower and we availed of the free breakfast of Merbabu Hotel in their mini restaurant located at the top floor, the third storey to be exact. From the restaurant, the roof of the surrounding buildings can be seen.
Food was nothing to rave about as it was just continental breakfast. I was thinking the other day that nothing really beats the breakfasts they serve back home in the Philippines; I miss all the LOGS that I can practically imagine (tapsilog, tocilog, longsilog, bangsilog, etc…)
We were out of the hotel at past 9:30 AM and headed out towards Malioboro Street. It was a long stretch of road in which all kinds of souvenir are being sold. The were persistent touts who would go near us and just start talking; they will still continue talking for a while even if you ignore them and walk away. Funny thing is that, I do not understand a single word they say. We bought some items; all of them were heavily discounted from the original price they quote. In this place, heavy bargaining is an essential in almost all aspects.
There was a Dunkin Donut store along Malioboro Street; we eagerly went inside as it had been a while since I had their doughnuts. First thing I noticed is that the outlet here in Jogja was very different from the ones back in the Philippines as they are definitely more upscale. This probably explained why there were no customers inside except us. We stayed there for more than 30 minutes to cool ourselves and to enjoy their iced coffee.
Continuing our stroll, we encountered many more stall along the way. Most of them are selling the same kind of goods (e.g. batik goods, t-shirts, handicrafts, etc). The touts are still there and it was beginning to become a challenge to shake them off.
Towards the end of the road, we took a detour in Benteng Vredeburg. This Dutch-era fort located opposite the main post office was built in the mid-1700. The restored fort is now a museum with dioramas showcasing the history of the independence movement in Jogja. The architecture is worth a look and it is relatively clean compared to the rest of the area in the city. Although we can’t relate to the dioramas (as it was Jogjakarta history and most scene descriptions were written in Bahasa Indonesia), we very much enjoyed the cool air-conditioned room.
It was already almost noontime when we went out of Benteng Vredeburg; since we were not that interested in seeing surrounding attractions, we hired a becak for 10,000 IDR to take us back to Jalan Sosrowijayan.
The ride took more than 10 minutes; the poor old man driving the becak was sweating when we arrived in the backpackers’ area. We quickly headed back to Bedhot Resto for lunch.
During the whole duration of this trip, I was very boring when it came to my food choices. I didn’t need a menu when I ordered my steak. No offence intended but I never was a fan of traditional Indonesian food and the last thing I would be doing on this particular trip would be to try the more exotic variety.
Our driver picked us up at exactly one in the afternoon. It turned out that it was only us who signed up for this trip and it means we will be having a private tour at a fraction of the price.
As we passed by this upscale mall in the city, I asked the driver to turn around and park for a while as I wanted to check if there is a Starbucks outlet. It turned out that there was one and they also sell the city mugs. I got the big mug for my mom; the only available mini mugs they have is the 5-piece collector set which I already got before during a family trip last February in Jakarta. The price for the big mug was very cheap at 85,000 IDR and it came with a free frappuccino – not bad at all!
We went back to the van with the loot in our hand as well as the ice-cold coffee frappuccino. It took us less than half an hour to reach the Prambanan Temple. The driver arranged for our tickets while I arranged to hire a tour guide which cost us 60,000 IDR.
Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple in Central Java, Indonesia and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a tall and pointed structure which is common amongst Hindu temples. Our tour guide, Ibrahim, mentioned that amongst the temple ruins scattered around the temple complex, only a few can be restored as reconstruction can only be done if 75% of the original stones are available. Most of the original stonework had been stolen during the early 19th century.
The three major temples in the complex are still currently off limits to the public as these were badly damaged during the 2006 earthquake that rocked central Java. Ibrahim led us to the shrine in front of the Shiva temple; inside was the statue of Nandi, the vehicle of Shiva. He explained to us that the shrines in front of the three main temples are each dedicated to the vehicles of the 3 main Hindu gods.
Finally, Ibrahim led us to the back of the ruins where he said that it was a good spot to take photos. He offered to take a snap of us with the temple ruins as the background before saying “my guided tour ends here, please feel free to roam around…”
The information given by the tour guide was appreciated but it was simply not worth the cost as the tour was simply too short, probably less than half an hour. Oh well, at least he captured an excellent snap – I forgave him for this.
It took us more than another hour before we headed out of the temple. There was a small museum just beside the temple complex which housed various artifacts dug from the surrounding area. The make-shift train ride going to the outlying temple Candi Sewu was worth trying as well, ticket is sold at 5,000 IDR per person.
We continued to our next destination, Parangtritis Beach, about an hour away from Prambanan Temple. This famous area is located about 35 km to the south of Jogjakarta. The primary attraction of this beach is its natural view. Standing from the seashore, the wide ocean with violent high waves and wide stretch of green mountains on the eastern side is indeed a splendid sight. But what is breath-taking was the gentle and silent setting of the sun amidst the sound of the waves, laughter and screams of people both young and old and the harsh bustle of the wind.
We stayed in the beach for a good thirty minutes, enjoying the sun setting while munching on a grilled sweet corn we bought from a local vendor. It was a perfect afternoon, the sky was clear and the breeze was chilly. I managed to get worthwhile snaps of this great view. Afterwards it was another long ride going back to the city.
The van dropped us at Gang II. As we were very hungry, we headed towards our food refuge — Bedhot Resto. This time, there were lots of tourists around; most of them were familiar faces in the area. We managed to get a table at the center of the restaurant; once again I ordered my usual steak. While waiting, I wrote down in my small notebook the highlights for the day.
Though tomorrow will be another normal workday for me, it’s worth remembering that this short 3-day getaway has led me to two of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I will bid goodbye to this part of Indonesia tomorrow, I will be back in two weeks to explore another part of this country.
2 August 2009
A good 7 months ago, my itchy feet have brought me to this beautiful place in Malaysia called Cameron Highlands. This happened just exactly a week into 2009, so this makes it practically my very first travel for the year.
Cameron Highlands is the smallest district in the Malaysian state of Pahang. The place is located in the northernmost tip of the state and is considered as one of the wonders of Malaysia.
The trip started at the Golden Mile Complex somewhere along Beach Road here in Singapore. This is usually where most buses going to Malaysia departs. Since the bus leaves at 10 PM, I just took a leave from work that Friday. I left the apartment at around 8:30 PM and half an hour later we had our boarding pass with an hour to spare before departure time. I figured we could use that time to get ourselves something to eat since I did not have dinner that night; unfortunately all the surrounding eateries were already closed for the day. No choice but to get artificial food (i.e. convenience store food).
The bus of 5 Star Travel was more than I expected. It was a double decker bus that was only half-filled and it has a huge seat that can recline to almost flat. It really looked like it was a business class seat of an airplane. There was also individual video screen, which plays various movies; the entertainment was not SQ quality, but it should suffice. Around 2 hours after we cleared past immigration of both Singapore and Malaysia, I was already in slumber land.
It was around 7:30 in the morning when we reached our destination, Brinchang. This is one of the 8 towns in Cameron Highlands. It was very cold that morning when we stepped out of the bus and it was only then that I realized that I did not bring any long pants at all. Cold and hungry, we immediately went around to look for a place to get a hot meal and a hot cup of coffee as it was uncomfortably cold that morning (I was told later on that it was one of the coldest morning they had in recent weeks with a temperature of 12 degrees centigrade).
After a simple yet filling breakfast of hot noodles coupled with hot coffee, we immediately bought ourselves a half-day guided tour around Cameron Highlands. The temperature was already bearable so we walked around for a few minutes, nothing much to see though as the shops were still closed.
The tour started at around 9 AM, we were first brought to one of the many tea plantations in the area; it was a marvelous sight, just as it was when I first saw it in the photos several years ago. As far as your eyes can see, it was all green. Our Indian guide, Kumar, gave us a detailed lecture of how the tea plantation came into existence as well as the various processes on how tea is made.
The next stop was Gunung Brinchang; at 2,032 meters high, it is the 2nd tallest peak in Cameron Highlands. There is a tower on top, which allows people to climb up and have a glimpse the area from a bird’s eye perspective. Adventurous as we are, we climbed all the way up. It was a pleasant sight and the air was very fresh. We climbed down after a few snaps from the camera.
The mossy forest was the next destination, aptly called as such because of the tremendous amount of moss and lichen enveloping the entire area. Another tour guide gave us a short lecture about the mossy forest and led us into a brief but educational hike. The grounds beneath your feet do not feel hard when traverse the mossy forest rather it feels as if you are walking in hard foam similar to those found in children’s playground.
The last stop for the tour was the Sungei Palas Visitor Center of Boh Tea. There was another guided tour where you can really observe as to how the tea leaves are actually processed. As with every good tour, it always ends in a souvenir shop. We bought bags of tea, lots of them for friends and family. There was also a café where one can order hot drinks and dessert. The view from the café was great as it was overlooking the tea plantation, truly a great place to hang-out.
We asked to be dropped off in a nearby town called Tanah Rata as this the place that we wanted to stay for the night. Immediately we started to look for an accommodation; luckily we immediately found a room with private toilet in a hostel called Twin Pines.
The rest of the day was spent hiking around town and in nearby forest trails, we did not head out very far as we were not in proper hiking gears then. A brief stop in a Starbucks outlet and instantly, a collection was started. I bought 2 sets of mini city mugs, which was on sale at that time. Finally we went into the tourism office and bought ourselves a tour to watch the sunrise, pick-up time for this activity was 4:30 in the morning.
On that night, we had a hearty meal at T Café. A cup of hot coffee was also ordered to warm us in that chilly January night. We had the opportunity that night to meet the owner Therese, such a warm and friendly woman. After paying, we headed back into our hostel and called it an early night.
A few hours later, the alarm went off and we got up to prepare ourselves for the sunrise tour. We took our bags with us as the bus that will take us back to Singapore will leave at 9 AM.
We headed up into the mountains and with a cup of hot drinks in our hands, we tried to position ourselves comfortably while waiting for the sun to come up. It turned out that the sun was uncooperative that morning, sadly we were not able to witness a good sunrise. All was not lost though, on our way down we were able to witness fogs rolling down the tea plantation; such a awesome sight.
This trip ended at exactly 9 AM that particular Sunday, 1 full day is definitely not enough to enjoy all that Cameron Highland has to offer but it was all we have to spare at that time. I will definitely be back, hopefully at around the same time in 2010.