My name is Nydia, the writer of Galontrip travel blog. I’m the proud citizen from Jakarta, the hectic Indonesia’s capital city with one of the worst traffic jams in the world. I’m a drop out design student, a fashion management graduate and an employee who happen to enjoy travelling.
Suppose you wonder what Galontrip means, here it is. Galontrip is derived from 3 words combined in one: Gal on Trip. The Gal, it’s me, who else? It simply means this blog is all about my journeys around my own city and the world.
Galontrip is a blog about travel, culinary destinations, and occasionally some hotel stay experience. Every post written in this blog is unbiased, as honest as it is without any pressure from the owner or the GM of the destinations.
Perhaps you don’t always second with what I think, but I hope you enjoy what I write. If you do, feel free to follow my blog, so I’m getting more and more excited to post more great contents. Thank you!!
Situated in Tabanan Regency between Denpasar and Singaraja, Bedugul has its own uniqueness that sets it apart from other areas in Bali. Instead of beaches and sea, Bedugul has beautiful lakes and mountains, that attracts many tourists every year, both local and international. For me, personally, Bedugul is a perfect getaway every time I want to get rid of blazing sun and sweat on the beach. Besides lakes and mountains, there’s also a recently opened flower garden, called The Blooms Garden.
Operating since 2019, The Blooms Garden is a 4.5 acres garden, providing several attractive facilities, from rabbit garden, archery, picnic area, camping area, fishing pond until paintball game. These facilities, however, are separated from the flower garden and you need a shuttle to reach them. And I think it would be much more fun to explore all of them with your boy or girlfriend, bunch of friends or family members.
So, what if you’re travelling alone and don’t have much time to spend in one place? The Blooms Garden is just right for you! All you need to do is to focus your visit on the main garden itself, like I did. I can guarantee that within an hour or less, you have all the time you need to walk around without feeling rushed. Besides, the entrance fee is also affordable, Rp. 30.000 ($ 2.20) for international tourists and Rp. 20.000 ($ 1.20) for locals.
Gardens at The Blooms Garden are divided into 7 main themes, such as Garden of Love, Dutch Garden, Oval Garden, The Goddess of the Lake, Peacock Garden and Topiary Barong Garden. Canna, begonia, daisy, zinnia, cosmos, kenikir and lavender flourishing in the garden are derived from different continents and regions. For instance, kasna flower is a local flower from Karangasem, Bali, zinnia from South America and amarilis from South Africa. I also saw strawberry plants near the exit gate as well, yet they were still covered with polybag plastic.
Each theme has its own signature look. When you see a windmill and a canal replica, obviously you’re visiting Dutch Garden. No tulip, unfortunately, but still an amazing photo spot. Passing through the heart-shaped gate, then finding yourself taking some selfies next to giant heart statue and L.O.V.E letter means you are at the Garden of Love. Peacock Garden can be easily recognized by the appearance of peacock-shaped giant shrubs. And so on.
The largest statue in the garden is the mascot of The Blooms Garden, which is The Goddess of the Lake (Dewi Danu), known as the symbol of fertility in Hinduism. Located at the center of the garden, the Goddess stands gracefully facing Lake Beratan, that you can see from the distance, and a mountain view on the other side. Just take the stairs to the top to witness the magnificent overall view of the garden.
The other scenic view is from Marina Bay Sands. Come again, Marina Bay Sands?? Indeed. The Singapore’s luxury hotel, famous for its infinity pool, appears in a very modest version at the garden. Never mind about its modesty, though, since it has an observation deck offering an alternative angle for beautiful landscape, merely by spending another extra Rp. 5000 or $ 0.30 to get there. I recommend you this. I believe it’s the best view that Blooms Garden can offer.
If you have all the time in the world, staying at one of the villas on the higher ground could be a great idea. Imagine that you wake up in the morning on the following day, inhaling some fresh air while enjoying fantastic landscape right before your eyes…
When I visited The Blooms Garden in the end of 2021, the villa project was postponed for months due to pandemic effects and the restaurant near the exit gate remained closed until further notice. But fear not. By the time this post is written, restrictions are much less than before and all facilities are (re)opened for public.
Last but not least, good news for plant lovers. You may find some plants you love in the garden to take home at the shop near Peacock Garden. Not only does it sell decorative flowers, but also plants for cooking spices, fertilizer, packs of soil and vases. Or, if you prefer to get “regular” souvenirs, such as keychains, clothing, handbags etc, there are kiosks by the parking lot outside the garden.
Overall, The Blooms Garden is a wonderful destination for avoiding hustling and bustling in the city with picturesque view of nature and fresh air that makes you feel more relax, as well as energized. Undoubtedly, there are many great photo spots to show off on social media.
And of course, just like what I previously said, it won’t take ages to enjoy this garden. I only spent about 45 minutes to visit the entire place and I found many interesting photo spots peacefully and no rush at all.
Perhaps it sounds a little bit strange to make Starbucks as my travel bucket list, where I can find its branches in every shopping mall, shop in shop inside big supermarkets and even there’s one nearby my house in Jakarta.
Nonetheless, Starbucks Reserve Dewata in Bali is exceptional because it’s the biggest Starbucks outlet in Southeast Asia and the second biggest in the world. Operating since January 12, 2019, it has become one of the most happening places to hang out. In the same year, it was the last time I came Bali, yet somehow I didn’t a chance to visit Starbucks Reserve Dewata. Then, as you know, COVID-19 pandemic strikes.
I finally returned to Bali in December 2021, a few days before Christmas. The virus was still there, though, but at least travel restrictions were less intense than before. The situation was under control before Omicron screwed up everything we’ve been fighting for. To be honest, it was my first time to travel outside Jakarta since pandemic strikes in Indonesia and the rest of the world. So yeah, I was more than excited to spend a Christmas holiday far from home.
Having arrived in Ngurah Rai International Airport, we directly headed to Starbucks Reserve Dewata on Sunset Road no. 77 because it’s not too far from the airport, approximately 15 to 20 minutes by car.
COFFEE SANCTUARY, NOT JUST CAFE
The wave-patterned red brick façade with Starbucks logo looked eye-catching, but it didn’t show enough how gigantic Starbucks Reserve Dewata was until we walked into the store. As the reception desk official greeted us, it felt like being in an exclusive lounge.
Luxury is part of the charm, that’s for sure. However, the main added values lie in the concept of coffee sanctuary and local wisdom in the details of the store design. Starbucks also would like to educate their customers on where their favorite coffee drinks comes from and how they are made, as well as informing them about its participation in sustainability in fun and entertaining way.
The reception counter was linked directly to the courtyard with 10 by 10 sqm arabica coffee plantation, representing an example of coffee plantations owned by farmers in Indonesia that usually come in that exact size. Starbucks doesn’t harvest coffee from the plantation inside the store, though, especially coffee doesn’t grow well in hot weather places.
Make sure you don’t miss the bright-coloured mural of farmers harvesting coffee plants and and a zoetrope, an animation device showing phases of the growth of coffee tree, situated in the middle of the plantation. If you love being surrounded by something close to nature, the courtyard will be the best spot to sit down and zip some coffee. You can sit on a rattan swing, too.
Since we were looking for an aircon room, we preferred being inside the two-storey glass building with very high ceiling. Not only does the American-based coffee house look lavish, extravagant, modern and hype that attract visitors around the world, but also the infiltrated traditional elements make it unique, distinctive and unforgettable.
Among others, the impressive 9-meter-high wooden sculpture on the wall depicting coffee culture and coffee producing regions in Indonesia, a giant woven bamboo hanging decoration representing fragrant coffee smoke, a terracing rice field shape bar table made of teak wood, wooden cart and a wooden door handle with the engraved mermaid’s tail, which is part of the Starbucks logo.
There’s also a digital wall, showing the process of making quality coffee, by pressing, turning and sliding buttons. Suppose you can’t get enough with coffee plantation, go to the 2nd floor to see coffee seedling under the glass roof showing coffee trees from 1 month old until 1 year. Additionally, there’s a theater specifically giving information about Starbucks Farmer Support Center, emphasizing on how Starbucks collaborate with farmers in Indonesia.
Well, even though coffee lesson wasn’t my main intention of visiting Starbucks Reserve, I was glad to know that Starbucks doesn’t only focus its business on profit, but also helping farmers to reach more prosperity by purchasing their coffee beans, providing farming tools, education and high quality fertilizer.
Basically all food and drinks are just the same in both varieties and price as those at other Starbucks outlets, except Dewata Latte or Pear Tea, that are only available at Starbucks Reserve Dewata. We finally tried a grande cup of Dewata Latte, simply described as coffee milk with original Balinese brown sugar or “kopi gula aren” in Indonesian. It was pretty good, we loved the bittersweet balance between coffee, milk and brown sugar.
Polo shirts, umbrellas, mugs, tumblers, teddy bears with either printed or embroidered lotus logo and the word “Dewata” are typical Starbucks Reserve Dewata souvenirs you won’t get in any other Starbucks branches. They are nice memorable things to go, all you need to have is a willingness to spend more. I personally think it’s pricey for local standard, like a polo shirt over Rp. 500,000 ($ 37) per piece. But I think it’s quite normal for develop countries’ living standard.
THE REVIVAL OF TOURISM IN BALI?
It was almost 5 pm when we got there, and nearly all seats were full despite its huge capacity. We were expecting to get comfortable sofa seats to chill out longer, yet we didn’t get any, as everybody at the store thought the same way. The situation was understandable, though, considering it was coffee hour in high season. Only an hour later did we finally get our turn to occupy the cozy sofa.
Considering that COVID-19 still strikes and has made tourism industry tumbling down, it seemed that tourism in Bali has started back on its feet. However, I noticed that there was a slight different kind of crowds compared to the last time I visited the island in 2019.
Since the spread of the virus is usually more intense during holiday season, the government made travel restrictions to keep the situation in control. Bali postponed accepting international flights at the airport. Indonesian tourists had a difficulty to travel overseas due to restrictions and quarantine policies in destination countries.
Therefore, the result of this situation was obvious. The crowds we saw were dominated by local tourists from different cities in Indonesia. Only less than 10 percent of visitors were foreigners under specific conditions, either have a temporary residence permit for foreigners (KITAS), married with an Indonesian spouse and have a family or can’t return to their homeland due to multiple times of lock down.
A senior waiter, who has been working since the first days of Starbucks Reserve Dewata opening, mentioned about a Russian guest he served who once told him on how he can survive financially when he can’t go back to his hometown and work for unexpectedly longer period. From what I understand, it turns out that the recent policy related to pandemic in Russia gives him an opportunity to work online for the government.
I thought to myself that Putin has made a great job about this policy. At that time, he had not started the war with Ukraine. FYI, long before pandemic strikes, there have been a lot of Russian people doing business, working or spending their retirement time in Bali.
ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE MATTERSTHE MOST
When luxury and relaxation collide, that’s how I felt when I was hanging out at Starbucks Reserve Dewata. The grandiose store has mesmerizing local wisdom implementations with modern atmosphere to awe you (and very instagrammable), but there’s no need to be intimidated because it’s still Starbucks, that basically a coffee house for everybody in relatively affordable price, so you can be yourself and no certain dress code needed to be there. It’s also sort of a cafe museum oriented where you can learn something out of it if you want to with interactive tools. In short, it’s an edutainment destination.
Final verdict? It was a wonderful experience and I didn’t regret making Starbucks Reserve Dewata as a travel destination.
When I heard about Secret Garden Village, it reminds me of a classical novel called Secret Garden (adapted into a movie several times) about an orphan girl who unlocks her uncle’s hidden garden with tons of flowers blooming everywhere in his estate. Nonetheless, the Secret Garden I visited in Bali is not literally a garden.
Situated in Luwus Village in Bedugul, the mountainous province in Bali, Secret Garden Village consists of beauty store, cafe, restaurants and rice field under one roof, with an added value: educational-oriented destination, focusing on introducing Indonesian heritage in beauty products and coffee.
The building facade of Secret Garden Village wasn’t something I expected at first, blending contemporary and minimalist style with elements of nature, such as some shrubs on the roof, palm trees, grasses and fish pond. But it still impressed me in some way.
Founded in 2016 by Billy Hartono Salim, the entrance ticket to Secret Garden Village was Rp. 50.000 ($ 3.50) on weekdays and Rp. 100.000 ($7) on weekends, including Beauty Tour. Overtime, the management found out that there are only a small percentage of visitors who really want to spend time for the 20 minute Beauty Tour in reality. Therefore, the policy has changed into free of charge entrance. An additional Rp. 25.000 ($ 1.70) per person is available for anybody interested in joining Beauty Tour. Well, that sounds more flexible and fair, I think.
As the first timer, I believe there’s no harm to take the Beauty Tour. Beauty tour is a guided tour of basic knowledge of beauty product ingredients of Herborist, a Balinese brand of face and body care, including coffee cupping at Black Eye Coffee Shop.
The first part of the tour is the Beauty Heritage Museum, exhibiting some best-selling Herborist products, followed by benefit of the plants used to create the products, among others are lemongrass, olive, frangipani, rose, aloe vera and many more. Nearly all the plants harvest in many parts of Indonesia, some of them from its own plantation. Olive is the only imported ingredient because it doesn’t grow well in Indonesia.
Apart from that, there are displays of traditional tools used for processing and storing spices and plants, such as scale, mortar, pestle, vase etc, merely for aesthetical purposes and not used for Herborist production process. A rickshaw and an old bike at the corner of the museum are nice photo spots, too.
The second part is watching the production process at the factory, where all guests must use a lab coat, shower cap and shoe coverings provided. This is where the curiosity goes the most, yet unfortunately its not allowed to take pictures inside, except on the photo spot with chemistry-themed background. The factory at Secret Garden Village is the smaller scale of the bigger one in Semarang, Central Java, since it’s only to fulfill the needs at the store. From weighing, mixing ingredients, soap moldings until placing products in bottles are by machine, except labelling, which is still by hand. Instead of using paraben, Herborist uses sodium benzoate as a preservative, which is saver.
The last but not least is the 5 minute theater explaining the history of Herborist products and Secret Garden Village facilities. A soap making class is also available for another Rp. 125.000 ($9) per session.
SHOPPINGAT OEMAH HERBORIST
Trust me, don’t skip this part if you love skin care and beauty products! Oemah Herborist beauty store is huge, offering multiple brands from PT Victoria Care Indonesia, Tbk., from Herborist, Miranda Hair Care, Victoria, Nuface to CBD. There’s also Secret Garden, although it’s doesn’t belong to the corporation. Of all the brands, my attention went to Herborist and Secret Garden.
Herborist has a wide range of beauty products, from skin care, body care, essential oils massage oil, bath salts etc, with various scents, such as olive, frangipani, rose and lemongrass offered starting only from Rp. 20.000 ($1.50). Moreover, there are fancy shape soaps from fruit to flower shapes, that are nice for gifts.
On the other hand, Secret Garden is the more premium brand for body care products, such as soaps, scrubs, hand lotion, body butter, body mist perfumes and room fragrance, yet less variety of (facial) skin care line, except fresh face masks. Compared to Herborist, Secret Garden contains more natural ingredients and the scents tend to be more natural. For instance, the honey body lotion smell is pretty much similar to natural honey in supermarkets. The frangipani body lotion from Secret Garden has more subtle smell than that of Herborist. For sure, the more premium the products, the more price they have. The lowest price starts from Rp. 60.000 ($ 4.30).
Since Covid-19 strikes Indonesia and the rest of the world, Oemah Herborist sells hand sanitizer and disinfectant in many sizes and fragrances, from travel size to large bottles whose contents are more than a liter.
I ended up buying 7 soap bars, shampoo, traditional body scrub (lulur), 3 bottles of body lotion and 2 shower gels. Most of them were on sale, some were even half price. So why not? Now I have more than enough stock to bathe all year long.
The coffee cupping session is unguided and feel free to go to bar section inside Black Eye Coffee Shop if you want. The barista will give you some basic knowledge about coffee. When it comes to tasting, I chose Bali Kintamani coffee. It was lightweight, not too bitter with fruity after taste. I’m not a coffee drinker myself, except lattes, but I still could enjoy it.
Apart from coffee, it also offers approximately 20 flavours of ice cream, croissants and cakes. The vanilla ice cream was pretty good and not too sweet, anyways. There are souvenirs as well, from whole bean coffee, t-shirts to wooden cutlery. But for me, the number one reason why you should hang out in this coffee shop is the picturesque view of rice field right in front of you. Zipping a cup of coffee doesn’t only awaken you, but also peaceful and relaxing by just looking at the greenery.
Yes, the real “secret garden” is the rice field, where you can see it from Black Eye Coffee Shop. The best way to enjoy it is to explore on foot for about 15 to 20 minutes walk. The path is super easy, comfortable and safe for all ages. There’s no way to get lost because it starts and ends from the same spot. It is of course instagrammable in every angle and a lot of fine spots for selfie.
The only thing I didn’t have a chance to experience is the dining part, except ice cream at Black Eye Coffee Shop. The specialty is bebek timbungan at Bebek Timbungan restaurant (yes, the restaurant is named after the food), the aged-duck traditionally cooked for 12 hours with lots of spices. This is one of the rarest food you can find in restaurants on the Island of Gods because the cooking method is complicated and time-consuming. Half a day for one dish, are you kidding me? However, just to remind you that bebek timbungan is enjoyed best when you can handle (very) spicy food. Since I know I can’t stand spicy food, I decided to take suckling pig nearby instead prior to the visit. As an option, you can try Indonesian food buffet for more variety at The Luwus inside Bebek Timbungan restaurant.
Both Bebek Timbungan and The Luwus Restaurant are situated on the same row as Black Eye Coffee Shop, although in a different building, where you can see the rice field. There’s also a juice bar on a separate counter close to Bebek Timbungan.
INTERNATIONAL BEAUTY STORE DESTINATION?
Overall, Secret Garden Village is relaxing, entertaining tourist attraction with educational value at the same time. On educational thing, however, I would say that it’s up to visitors. To be exact, you have a freedom to create a purpose of your visit. Completing a guided tour to the heritage museum means you have made it an educational oriented destination. The more you ask, the more knowledge you get. Tasting the rare cuisine of bebek timbungan and zipping a cup of coffee means you want to achieve ultimate culinary experience, and so on.
It’s a bit unfortunate that most visitors tend to skip the educational part, unless you have visited the place for more than once. Although the beauty tour entrance fee doesn’t generate the income that much compared to dining at Bebek Timbungan restaurant and shopping at Oemah Herborist, I believe the tour is a great opportunity to popularize Indonesian products, to both local and international tourists, by introducing the richness, diversity of Indonesian spices and how they benefit health and wellness when used in products.
Somehow it reminds of my holiday to Korea years ago, where buying Korean skin care and cosmetics were my main purpose of the visit because the collection are much more complete and they cost 50% cheaper than those in Indonesia. I mean, it’s not really about price comparison in the end. It’s more about how Korea promotes their local beauty brands to the world, that their products are not only more internationally known, but also trigger western beauty brands to launch K-beauty inspired products, such as BB cushion, lip tint, cooling eye stick balm etc.
It’s still a long way to go, but as an Indonesian citizen, I really hope that someday Indonesian brands will be able to follow Korean footsteps in the sense of popularity and inspiration for major players in beauty business, as well as others types of industries. Secret Garden Village could be a starting point to make it happen!
Remember about the first part of my culinary adventure in Gloria Alley in the oldest Chinatown in Jakarta, Glodok? The saga continues to the second part of the food tour, which is in Kalimati Alley.
Situated about 300 meters from Gloria Alley, Kalimati Alley is reachable on foot. Nonetheless, a newbie (like me) will have a difficulty to find one. Leaving Gloria Alley, my fellow tour members and I passed through winding streets that didn’t seem to have any single clue where it ended. Fortunately, we only only needed to follow wherever our tour guide lead us without thinking too much.
Finally, we found Santa Maria de Fatima Church, the only church with a Chinese influence architecture, and Strada Ricci School, where my mom used to study when she was a child. Then, we headed straight to the dark alley in the end of the street. I was wondering whether it was another winding path to our destination or…
“This is Kalimati Alley!” the guide said enthusiastically.
Okay, so the dark alley was indeed Kalimati Alley. Assuming that Gloria Alley was already narrow and busy, it was nothing compared to Kalimati Alley. Kalimati Alley was so narrow that only a motorcycle can fit in the lane. Shophouses on both sides had canopies almost “touching” each other. As a result, the sun has a difficulty to shine our way and the alley looked dark from the distance. Nonetheless, the real temptation remained from free smells and curious appearance of the food everywhere we went.
PD. Jaya Abadi
PD Jaya Abadi is the oldest convenient store in the area, whose building is still well-maintained in its original design since 1907. The original name of the store is Tjang Thjang Sen, referring to its first owner, now run by the 4th generation of the family. It sells a lot of things, including various imported snacks, sauces and spices from China and dried plants for medication purposes. If you take a look at the rear side of the store, you’ll see imported eels commonly used for unagi sushi in Japanese restaurants and turtles for pioh (turtle meat soup). These animals are sold alive to guarantee their freshness. Honestly, I just don’t have the heart to watch the turtles chopped alive for customer’s order.
Cempedak Goreng Cik Lina
In western countries, cempedak is considered an exotic and rare fruit with pungent smell, although the intensity is less than that of durian. Being similar to jackfruit, cempedak has stronger smell, yellowish skin when ripe, smaller size fruit and softer meat texture.
Cempedak is no strange for Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, but it’s not very easy to find compared to jackfruit. How about fried cempedak? Yep, it’s even harder. If fried bananas and jackfruit chips are everywhere, cempedak isn’t. Suppose you want to try one, make sure you get it from the best, like Cempedak Goreng Cik Lina (literally meaning Sis Lina’s Fried Cempedak).
The process of making fried cempedak seems very simple and nothing more than deep fried with flour. Nonetheless, the secret weapon of the great taste lies on the preferred cempedak fruit itself, that has to be ripe, soft texture, orange color and sweet taste. Cik Lina inherits the business from her mother who started it in 1990s. Sold for Rp. 15.000 ($1) per piece, the size is as big as your palm. The crunchiness and sweetness of the fried cempedak is addictive, I’m telling you! No wonder there are many loyal customers (and still counting) after more than 30 years in the business. Watch out, as you may be the next “victim” after tasting the mouthwatering fried cempedak!
Pia Lao Beijing (Lao’s Beijing Style Pia Cake)
Pia is originally a Chinese-style cake made of mung bean and sugar wrapped with dough. Nowadays, pia cake has more varieties of filling. At Lao’s, pia cakes are available with choices of durian, cheese, chocolate and red bean. Lao referred to the owner’s name, who comes from Beijing and now an Indonesian resident.
What I love the most from Pia Lao Beijing is the cake is served fresh from the oven, so the dough is warm and crunchy while eating on the spot. However, the main reason why it’s baked directly at the stall is to prove that the pia is halal and doesn’t use lard in the baking process. This tactic works very well, especially in the Chinatown situated in the country whose 94% of its inhabitants are moslems.
The best seller is the mung bean flavor, yet I prefer the cheese one because I like cheese much more than any other flavors. The filling is abundant yet balanced with the amount of dough covering the content. The shape and size of Lao’s pia is easily recognizable because it’s wider, flatter than any pia in other stores and sprinkled with sesame seeds (while others aren’t). It’s so affordable as well, only Rp. 6000 ($ 0.40) per piece.
Vegetarian Ko Handi
Not far from Pia Lao Beijing, Ko Handi Vegetarian restaurant is the only vegetarian food at Kalimati Alley. Rendang (Padang-style stewed beef in coconut milk and spices) and roast pork are the most wanted ones. Using mushroom and flour as main ingredients, the taste is surprisingly very similar to the original meat flavors. The only difference is vegetarian meats aren’t as fibrous as real meat, therefore they lessen the chance to stuck between teeth when chewed. That’s what I love the most about fake meats, anyways. And the price? No worries, its just Rp. 8000 ($ 0.50) per piece.
Mie Baskom means “noodle in a big bowl”. The stall is called that way because the fried noodle as the main menu is placed in a big stainless steel bowl, which choices of fried kwetiau (wide-shaped noodle) and fried vermicelli. It also offers deep fried snacks. The big bowl noodle business has been running for 2 generations and my parents were one of the main customers during their childhood. For Rp. 18.000 ($ 1.30), it’s served in quite a large portion and fit for 2 persons when not too hungry. The taste is pretty good and the noodle is in the right al dente texture that I like. Apart from that, my parents said that the distinctive flavor hasn’t changed since 1960s.
Operating since 1980s, Lao Hoe restaurant is famous for its Belitung style noodle and laksa (vermicelli in coconut milk soup). I instantly chose Belitung style noodle because I didn’t have any clue of what it’s like. Belitung style noodle consists of noodle, prawn, bean curd, potato, cucumber and prawn crackers. The soup was thick and tasted a bit sweet, that reminds me of another noodle soup called lo mie. One day, I’d like to try the famous laksa!
Anyways, there was something really special about the prawn cracker. Not only because it’s home made, but also has an intense savory taste of prawn, thin dough and very crispy. To be honest, it’s the best prawn cracker I’ve ever tasted! Offered for Rp 25.000 ($ 1.50), the portion was not that big. Very suitable for those who want to take it as a “snack”. Don’t skip the big-sized deep fried snacks in front of the restaurant looked very eye-catching as well, sold for Rp. 10.000 ($ 0.80) per piece. Last but not least, Lao Hoe restaurant never uses MSG and preservatives in their cooking.
Of all the abundant choices that you may not be able to try all of them at once, which ones you wanna try in the first place? Suppose you don’t have all the time in the world to return and its too much for your tummy, you can have some of them to go as well. I guarantee, you wont be sorry!
The largest Chinatown in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is Glodok area. Situated in the west side of Jakarta, to be exact, Glodok has been the silent witness of cultural diversity and long history of Chinese ethnics settlement since the 18th century. The name Glodok is derived from the sound of shower from a small building in the Townhall courtyard, whose sound is like “grojok… grojok”. Then, the locals pronounce it as “glodok” since they have a difficulty in pronouncing straight and sharp “r” sound.
Not only is Glodok a melting pot for Chinese descendants’ community, but also foodies’ favorite spot. Although culinary business is very competitive nowadays and Glodok is not as busy as it used to be back in the 80’s and 90’s (aka the year of my childhood), it doesn’t mean that the oldest Chinatown in Jakarta completely lose its vibe because it offers unique food varieties in a shoestring.
Therefore, I decided to join Glodok Food Tour organized by Wisata Kreatif Jakarta, a walking tour specifically for culinary experience in Glodok area. Although I live not very far from Glodok, it doesn’t mean I know everything about it. To be honest, I seldom explore the area by myself and I feel like being a total stranger in my own city. I’m not only bad at road directions in general, but also I become worse when I have to memorize a winding road with densely populated shophouses along the way. So there I was with 2 other participants and a licensed guide.
There are 2 main alleys to get mouthwatering Chinese street food: Gloria Alley (Gang Gloria) and Kalimati Alley (Gang Kalimati). At first, let’s take a closer look at Gloria Alley. When you walk around Gloria Alley, you need to be aware that most transactions are cash only and don’t accept credit cards. If you’re lucky, you can use a debit cards, though not always. Besides, you need to share the lane with workers bringing huge and loaded goods for the stores or stalls. It’s also a public secret that narrow and crowded streets are usually a place where pickpockets do their job as well.
In my opinion, these are culinary spots worth to try:
The pork dumpling are sold on an old-fashioned bike so-called sepeda ontel without a permanent stall and brand. Using peanut sauce as a dressing, the dumpling is offered for Rp. 20.000 ($ 1.50) for 10 pieces, with the choice of dumpling, potato, egg, bitter gourd and pork skin. Since most buyers consume it on the go, there’s a satay stick so you can eat it easily without making your hands dirty. I love it for its balanced taste of the meat and flour altogether without draining my money.
Literally meaning rice flour in Hakka dialect, Mi pan is a snack from Kalimantan (Borneo) made of rice flour, garlic oil, fried minced garlic and sweet black sauce for merely Rp. 7000 ($ 0.50) per piece. My fellow foodies advice me to ask for more fried minced garlic to make it more fragrant and savory. They’re completely right about this as fried minced garlic also harmonizes the sweetness of the black sauce. Just like the pork dumpling seller, he doesn’t have his own stall and just sitting in front the wall separator of shophouses.
Kopi Es Tak Kie
Established in 1927 oleh Liong Kwie Tjong, Kopi Es Tak Kie (Tak Kie Iced Coffee) is nowadays managed by the third generation of his family. I tried the iced milk coffee, for Rp. 25.000 ($ 1.70) and I think it has an old-fashioned taste by only using a dark roast robusta coffee and condensed milk without creamer. It’s definitely a strong coffee to keep you awake.
Although it’s called kopi es (iced coffee), Kopi Es Tak Kie also has its signature mixed pork rice, consisting of cha sieuw (roast pork), crispy pork, lap chiong sausage and Javanese style braised egg. You’d better come in the morning, because the coffee house will run out of it instantly after lunch. For a Rp 55.000 ($ 4.50), it’s not very cheap but still worth it for a great taste.
Nowadays, Kopi Es Tak Kie has some branches at the food court in some shopping malls. It also participates in culinary bazaar events, yet unfortunately, the portion is not as big as that in Gloria Alley for the same price, most probably because it has to compensate with a quite large amount of revenue sharing or expensive rental cost.
Sek Ba 77 Bek Tim
There are several food stalls selling sekba and bektim, steamed pork innards immersed in soup made of Chinese herbs and sweet soy sauce, in Glodok. The difference between 2 of them is that sekba is served dry. On the other hand, bektim is served with the soup. Sek Ba 77 Bek Tim, situated in front of Kopi Es Tak Kie is one of the popular stalls. Despite selling in a modest cart, the business has been running for 2 generations and still counting. Sold for Rp 20.000 ($ 1.50), the herb soup tastes amazing although I don’t like most of the contents, except intestine, tongue and the meat attached in pork belly and skin.
Pioh Tim Tauco
Suppose you are adventurous enough and feel lie trying something unique, pi oh could be perfect choice for you. Pioh is steamed turtle meat (so-called bulus in Indonesian, to be exact) served with soup made of turtle broth. Still situated in front of Kopi Es Tak Kie, there’s Pioh Tim Tauco, whose soup is mixed with tauco, fermented soybean, resulting with more savoury taste. This is the only food I haven’t tried since I’m usually not really a fan of soft and chewy meat. I feel so pity for the turtle, anyways.
Assorted sweets from chocolates to candies, snacks, dried fruits, sweetened fruits sold in giant glasses jar is the signature look of snack shops in Glodok, that I think they are instagrammable enough to capture. Besides, it has old-fashioned and less known candy and chocolate brands not provided in modern supermarkets. I can guarantee that binge eaters will have a lot of fun exploring this shop. You can purchase them in a small quantity since the price is per 100 grams.
Apart from culinary experience, Gloria Alley also offers Chinese New Year attributes, Buddhist related prayer tools, accessories, convenient store, fruit market and butcher shop. Our tour didn’t just end there because we were about to visit 2nd alley: Kalimati Alley (Gang Kalimati).
It’s getting more excited, I promise you. So stay tuned for my next post on culinary adventure in Kalimati Alley!
But actually, instant noodle has a long history long before becoming worldly known like these days. It all began from the recession in Japan after World War II when everyone in the country was at the peak of poverty, and an entrepreneur like Momofuku Ando was not an exception. After he regained success from bankruptcy, the Ministry of Agriculture called him to help the government to maximize the wheat flour consumption for public. At that time, wheat flour was one of the main aids from the US.
Having witnessed workers who spent hours just for a cup of ramen (Japanese noodle), he had an idea to make the instant version of that staple food. In 1958, he created his first instant noodle, Chicken Ramen, by steaming the spiced noodle and dry it in hot oil. Then, he founded a food industry called Nissin Food Products.
His invention was sensational since cooking a cup of noodle has never been easier, only by adding hot water and leave it for less than 2 minutes, then voila!
Since then, instant noodle has changed the diet of people around the world and it’s getting easier to find in other Asian countries, as well as Europe, America and Africa.
Over time, instant noodle has experienced some developments, from additional taste enhancer, varieties of flavor until expiry date notification in the packaging. In 1971, Nissin launched Cupnoodles, whose cup was made of styrofoam, served with dried vegetables and fruits, such as prawn, beef, chicken and pork.
Nowadays, the documentation of the first instant noodle in the world is displayed in Cupnoodles Museum in Ikeda, Osaka. Besides Osaka, the museum also has another branch in Yokohama. The invention chronology of instant noodle is shown with modern and attractive visuals, including games, simple quizzes and a movie on theater. Visitors also can see the path of Momofuku Ando’s success story, for instance the awards he received, his quotes on his principles of success and the replica of the wooden warehouse where he did the one year experiment of instant noodle creation.
At a glance, the museum exterior looks banal and serious with red brick walls and Momofuku Ando’s statue standing on a giant Cupnoodles bowl. Nonetheless, I was pretty shock that most visitors are kids and toddlers accompanied by their parents and a bunch of teens. This is absolutely not a typical national history museum kind of thing run by government.
One of the main attractions in Cupnoodles Museum is the Instant Ramen Tunnel, exhibiting over 800 packaging designs, starting from the first Chicken Ramen in 1958, Cupnoodles in 1971 until the latest ones. The Doraemon packaging is undoubtedly my favourite!
On the other side of the wall, there are hundreds of Cupnoodles packaging designs from all over the world, followed by information on the amount of annual instant noodle consumption in each country. It comes to my surprise that Indonesia is the 2nd largest amount of consumption, reaching 130.1 million portion per year. It beats Japan as the birthplace of instant noodle, with 56.6 million, and the China is the only country who wins over Indonesia, with 385.2 million. Inhabitants in the US and Russia are in fact the most instant noodle eaters in western countries, with 41 million and 16.2 million.
Another unique experience no one should miss is to concoct your own Cupnoodles and design its packaging. At first, get a styrofoam cup from the provided vending machine for 400 Yen ($ 3.60) and use assorted colour markers in the drawing room to beautify the plain cup with your own creativity. This was fun, yet challenging at the same time since I’m not good at drawing.
Then, you can bring the cup you designed to be filled with a portion of instant noodle and choose the soup flavour and topping. You are free to choose 1 out of 4 soup flavours, either chicken broth, seafood, chili tomato or curry. For toppings, you can choose 4 of 12, such as crabstick, cheese, prawn, garlic, green onion, roast pork, egg, kimchi, green beans, chicken ramen mascot printed fish sausage, and a special topping available on certain occasion only, like pumpkin in October for Halloween during my visit. While waiting for my noodle to be ready, I watched the packaging process until my Cupnoodles arrived in my hand.
Additionally, you will receive a free bag made of a swimming tire material. This bag doesn’t instantly function, however. In short, all you have to do is to put the Cupnoodles inside the bag, then blow it like a balloon. The balloon-shaped bag is immediately locked and protect the styrofoam cup from breakage. What an idea, isn’t it?
For those who like cooking, Cupnoodles Museum provide Chicken Ramen Factory, where you can learn the process of making an instant noodle from the expert. The class costs 800 Yen ($ 7.03) for adults and 500 Yen ($ 4.50) for kids. Since it has a limited spot, it is recommended to have a reservation prior to the visit.. Too bad, I didn’t make it because if was fully booked.
Last but not least, don’t miss the cute chicken ramen mascot in towels, pins, aprons, dolls, t-shirts, bags and many more at the souvenir shop. Besides, instant noodle addicts can get limited edition Cupnoodles packaging and the first Chicken Ramen classic packaging design from 1958.
Although Indomie dominates Indonesian instant noodle market, I still can find Cupnoodles in supermarkets in small amount of varieties, such as Nissin seafood, chicken flavoured noodle and Cupnoodles UFO Japanese style fried noodles.
The visit to the museum is free of charge, except participation in concocting and designing your own Cupnoodles packaging by getting the styrofoam cup and learning to fabricate instant noodle from Chicken Ramen Factory class.
Cupnoodles Museum proves that learning history doesn’t have too be boring and too serious. I like the way it educates people in interactive and entertaining way, that enable to attract children because it tends to look like a happy playground rather than a common ancient museum. I can understand if the colourful presentation dominated by Chicken Ramen cartoon mascot may seem too childish for some adults, but I love it anyways although I’m 40 something.
Personally, Cupnoodles Musuem doesn’t only broaden my horizon on the knowledge behind the mainsteam culture of eating instant noodle, but also reminds me of a happy childhood.
Koyasan, meaning Mount Koya in Japanese, is situated in Wakayama Prefecture in the east side of Osaka. The first person to reside in Koyasan was Kukai, later known as Kobo Daishi, who found and spread Shingon Buddhism.
Since then, Koyasan has developed to be the central of Buddhism activities and one of the most religious cities in Japan. There are monasteries, universities providing Shigon Buddhism major and 117 temples where religious ceremonies are held for the last 1200 years. In the mid 20th century, the town situated 900 meters above sea level started to open itself to the outside world. International tourists begin to notice its beauty, but it has never been more popular after UNESCO inaugurates Koyasan as the World Heritage Site in 2014.
NIGHT AT THE CEMETERY As soon as I arrived in Koyasan, I hurriedly registered Okunoin cemetery night tour, one of the most popular attractions in town.
Okunoin is the largest Buddhist cemetery in Japan with 2 kilometers wide, the last resting place of notable monks, prominent people in feudalism period and tycoons, such as Hitachi family. Unlike other cemeteries, Okunoin allows non-Buddhist people to be buried there regardless their nationalities, race, education and social status, as long as they believe in Kobo Daishi’s philosophy.
FYI, you can’t book the night tour in advance and the only way to do it is to write your name in the guest book in front of Ekoin Temple an hour before it starts. Fortunately, Ekoin Temple is just a stone’s throw away from Kumagaiji Temple. Well, I think I was destined to join the tour from the start. By spending 1500 Yen ($14) per person, the guided tour is presented by a monk from Ekoin Temple, not an ordinary licensed tour guide.
There were 20 excited participants from various nationalities, who joined the tour starting at 7 pm, when I was the only Indonesian on that day. The final destination of the tour was the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, who is believed to do an eternal meditation after more than 1000 years and not dead like any other human beings.
Not far from the mausoleum, there’s Gokusho Offering Hall or the cemetery’s kitchen, where monks prepare breakfast and lunch to be delivered to Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum every single day at 6 am and 10.30 am. Apparently, there’s no dinner on the schedule.
For some people, strolling around a cemetery at night is a creepy experience. I admit, there are some scary urban legend in Okunoin. For instance, if you don’t see your own reflection while mirroring on the water surface of the well, it implies that you will face your own death within 2 years. Kakubanzaka steps are something you need to worry about. Rumor has it that if you fall on the step, you will die within 3 years.
Not only did I get scary stories from the night tour, but also interesting facts elevating my knowledge about Japanese culture and belief. The appearance of Torii gates as part of the tombstone in Okunoin indicates the mixed practice of Shinto, the original Japanese religion, and Buddhism applied in daily lives, including religious ceremonies. For instance, birth and wedding ceremonies are executed in Shinto tradition because Shinto celebrates the early stage of life. On the other hand, death ceremonies use Buddhist tradition because Shinto doesn’t have death related ceremonies.
Instead of being scared, I had a better concentration on night tour because of the silent surroundings and not many people passing by who may create distractions. Let’s say it’s like watching a movie in the dark at the cinema, where everyone in the room stays focus on what the big screen is showing.
Moreover, the monk was good at explaining the principle of Shingon Buddhism teaching in relation to the symbolism and tradition applied at the cemetery. Simultaneously, he had a great sense of humor that could break the ice and entertained all of us. To be honest, the story of Okunoin lasts longer in my head than anything else.
Next morning, I returned to Okunoin to embrace the beauty of over 200,000 beautifully crafted tombstones and sculpture. Everything looks so clear in broad day light and I enjoyed capturing magnificent views before me with my camera. I wouldn’t ruin my day by getting to know if I can see my own reflection from the water surface of the well. Luckily, I didn’t manage to find the well since I lost the orientation when the monk showed the exact location the night before. Apart from that, I tried to be careful not to fall from kakubanzaka steps and it wasn’t the hardest thing to do.
For once in a life time, I recommend you to try shukubo, or temple stay, in the beautiful town whose more than half of its inhabitants are monks. It has 54 temples, out of 117 in total, offering accommodation for tourists. You can get the room easily from Agoda and Booking.com. The good news is that the temples mentioned on both sites usually have some staffs, if not all, who can speak English pretty well. The rate starts from 7000 Yen to above 2000 Yen ($64 to $182) per night.
Before fantasizing too much about temple stay, let me get this straight. Despite being under one roof with the monks, dining room and bedroom for tourists are separated from those of monks. But anyways, I still could feel the spiritual atmosphere inside.
The morning after, I got a chance to participate in morning ceremony to pray for ancestors and fire ceremony, or homa, for self spiritual and psychological cleansing. Nobody is obligated to take part of the ceremonies, except the monks for sure, but you’ll miss the ultimate experience of staying at an ancient temple. In fire ceremony, I received a wooden ice cream stick lookalike to write some wishes and prayers, that would be burned inside the large pan on the altar to make them come true.
To take part of the traditional rituals is an unforgettable travel experience as I felt more engaged than just being a spectator. For non-early risers, it’s better not to stay late because the ceremonies start at 6 am.
Apart from ceremonies, there are other interesting things to do inside the temple suppose you can’t get enough with cultural and religious activities, from learning to paint on a silk, calligraphy, to meditation, that cost from 500 Yen to 1000 Yen ($5 to $9). Bathing in a hot tub or onsen is worth to try as well and free of charge.
SHOJIN RYORI, JAPANESE MONKS’ VEGETARIAN DISH
Spending overnight at the temple will not be complete without tasting the monks’ daily food. All monks in Koyasan are vegetarian and the food they eat is shojin ryori, Japanese monks’ vegetarian dish since 13th century. You can find it in restaurants in downtown and temples. Since I was too late to book a dinner in Kumagaiji temple and most restaurants were closed after 6 pm, I only got a chance to taste shojin ryori for breakfast after the ceremonies. Better late than never.
Unlike other vegetarian dishes I know, shojin ryori has a profound philosophy behind it. Basically, the main ingredients of shojin ryori must have 5 colors, such as red, yellow, green, black and white, and 5 flavors, from sweet, sour, bitter, salty to savory because the balance between color and taste equals to the balance of daily nutrition. Its not allowed to use strong flavored spices like garlic and onion in its cooking process.
Kumagaiji Temple served sautéed okra in sesame oil, radish and julienne cut carrot, miso soup, as well as seaweed, plum and tofu fritters as side dishes with rice (gosh, I truly miss the stickiness of Japanese rice!). The use of soy sauce and sesame oil themselves can perform mouthwatering taste despite the absence of garlic and onion. They both enhance the freshness and juiciness of the veggies. There’s no doubt that fresh ingredients are responsible for achieving great taste in the Japanese monk style dish.
One of the reasons why I decided to book a temple stay at Kumagaiji is the visitors’ positive reviews about the food. And now I can guarantee that they are honest reviews by experience. I admit, the rice portion was quite big for breakfast, but I was happy for that. Eating veggies was also filling for my tummy without feeling bloated. Furthermore, I felt more strength, power to continue a long walk around the town and wasn’t get hungry so quickly.
I’ve learned some lessons from eating shojin ryori. The way to enjoy vegetarian dish doesn’t always need strong spices and lots of garlic. I didn’t even see imitation meat that I often find in Chinese and Western food and that was okay because I didn’t miss it that much, surprisingly. Shojin ryori proves that Japanese food has more variety than just sushi, sashimi and ramen. Therefore it elevates my culinary experience around the globe.
In a nutshell, I enjoyed every second of my visit to the town having merely 7000 inhabitants. It looks very enchanting with rows of beautiful and well-treated temples, shady trees along the way and mountain breeze that are truly refreshing for my body and soul. Nonetheless, what makes Koyasan impressive is the intense religious atmosphere is still in line with the town’s openness to foreigners.
Not to mention the non-mainstream activities that enable me to broaden my horizon about local culture, from exploring a cemetery at night, staying in a Buddhist temple, attending religious ceremonies to eating a monk-style vegetarian dish. Not all cities in Japan offer these unusual itineraries and I’m so glad that I chose Koyasan in my second visit to the country.
HOW TO GET THERE
The best way to Koyasan is by train departing from Osaka and it takes 90 minutes to the sacred town. Fear not, travelling by train in Japan is very comfortable, relatively easy and the instructions at the station is very clear. From Namba or Shin-Imamiya station, take Nankai Koya Lines to Gokurakubashi station, then take a 5 minute cable car ride to Koyasan station. From Koyasan station, you will arrive in downtown Koyasan within 10 minutes by bus.
Nonetheless, I started my journey from Wakayama City since it was the first city I visited before Koyasan. It was doable as well, but I don’t suggest you to do that. It takes at least about 30 minutes longer because you have to get off in Hashimoto station and transfer to Nankai Koya Line. Anyways, you’ll find also Hashimoto station on the way from Osaka, but you can sit back and relax without getting off there because the train goes directly to Gokurakubashi station.
Last but not least, Koyasan World Heritage ticket is a must-have for anyone who wants to go to Koyasan. It’s a two-day ticket valid for a round trip from Namba or Shin Imamiya to Koyasan, unlimited bus trips in downtown Koyasan and discount vouchers to places of interests, from museums to temples. You can get this ticket in several main stations, such as Namba, Shin-Imamiya and Hashimoto for 2860 Yen ($26).
So, are you ready to explore the sacred city of Japan, stay with the monks, be a vegetarian and test your guts to have some adventure at night at the cemetery?
As the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta is known for many things, from its China Town, Port of Sunda Kelapa, legendary culinary destinations, historical cemeteries, temples, Kota Tua (Old Town), mushrooming shopping malls in every part of the city, the most populated city in the country until bad traffic jam. Nonetheless, being born and raised in Jakarta doesn’t mean that I know everything about my birth place.
Situated in Semper, North Jakarta, which is a bit isolated from the city center and main attractions, there’s the one and only village in Jakarta where Portuguese descendants live called Kampung Tugu (Tugu Village). I wonder how come I didn’t know about its presence for decades. What I remember about history lesson during my school live is that it didn’t tell much about Portuguese occupation in Indonesia, that happened prior to the Dutch one.
I was so glad that I joined the walking tour from Wisata Kreatif Jakarta to the village, so I know what I have been missing all these years.
THE ORIGIN OF TUGU
There are some speculations related to where the name Tugu comes from. Some say that it derives from the word “PorTUGUese”. But some others say that the name is referred to Tugu Inscription, whose original inscription is now kept in Museum Nasional Indonesia (The National Museum of Indonesia) in Gambir, Central Jakarta.
THE BEGINNING OF PORTUGUESE DESCENDANTS IN JAKARTA
After the Dutch successfully beat Portuguese over the conquest of Malacca (now in Malaysia) in 1648, they brought Portuguese troops from several parts of India, such Goa, Malabar and Benggali to Batavia (now Jakarta) to become workers.
In order to liberate Portuguese workers from all taxes, called “mardijkers”, that means people who are liberated, the Dutch asked them to convert from Catholic to Protestant, the majority religion in the Netherlands. Then, they were exiled to Kampung Tugu and worked as farmers.
You may not be able to differentiate Portuguese descendants from the locals because quite a lot of them are mixed race with Javanese, Sulawesi, Ambon etc. Therefore, they may not have Eurasian look like Dutch-Indonesian people or “Indo-Belanda”.
Nonetheless, the surnames define their identity. Michiels, Quiko, Pieters, Andries, Simon, Brone and Bacca are some typical Portuguese descendant surnames. Angel Pieters, the singer who is formerly an Indonesian Idol contestant, for instance, is a Portuguese descendant.
Nowadays, there are not so many Portuguese descendants as before since they’ve moved to other cities in Indonesia and overseas.
THE CHURCH OF TUGU
The Church of Tugu, now GPIB (Gereja Protestan di Indonesia bagian Barat / Protestant Church of the Western Part of Indonesia), has a high historical value and inseparable from the existence of Portuguese descendants in Indonesia. Therefore, it is inaugurated as the national cultural heritage in 1970 by Ali Sadikin, the government of Jakarta at that time.
Established in 1678, the church experienced 3 times transformation over the years because of destructions from the rebellion. Therefore, it was rebuilt in 1747 and inaugurated a year later, as granted from Justinus van der Vinch, a Dutch landlord.
Some main parts of the church, such as the window, the podium and the roof haven’t changed since 1748. The old bell hemmed between 2 pillars is also one of historical parts of the church. The bell you see today is a replica, however, because the original one is too fragile to display.
Another unique church property is the cemetery of Portuguese descendant from Tugu Village. Simply said that if you’re not a Portuguese descendants and not from Tugu Village, you won’t be allowed to use it as the last resting place. Andreas Andries, who initiated the unity of Portuguese descendants in Indonesia, Arend Juliense Michiels, the ancestor of the Michiels, are some important figures who are buried there.
The Michiels participate for the cultural preservation of Kampung Tugu as a spokesman and an interviewee for tourism purposes, such as presenting the history of the village among tour members, authors and presenters. Their residence is deliberately opened for public by appointment, as an example of the original Kampung Tugu house.
While we were visiting the country style house, they also entertained us by singing traditional songs in Indonesian and Creole language. Apparently, musical talent is already in their blood when I saw the nephews aged 10 to 12 years playing cello and guitar pretty well.
Traditional food from Kampung Tugu is often hard to find in other parts of Indonesia, including Jakarta itself, and you can’t even get them online.
Pisang udang (literally meaning banana prawn), for instance, is a triangular shaped-cake made of dough from rice flour and corn starch wrapped in banana leaf. Filled with spiced minced prawn, it has a savory taste that I can’t get enough with.
A must to serve snack in big events in Kampung Tugu is apem kinca, a traditional sponge cake with brown sugar gravy. Brazilians, which is formerly under Portuguese conquest, also has a similar cake.
For death ceremony, it has a special snack called ketan unti. Ketan unti is made of white glutinous rice with shredded coconut topping mixed with brown sugar.
Gado-gado, boiled veggies and egg with peanut sauce, is one of the most famous traditional food nationwide from Jakarta. To be exact, it’s a Betawi (indigenous people of Jakarta) style salad dish. Over time, it undergoes modifications in other parts of Indonesia, from East Java to North Sumatra.
However, little known that gado-gado in Jakarta is not only made by Betawi people because Kampung Tugu has its own version. The differences between two of them are gado-gado from Kampung Tugu uses candlenut, coconut milk, spinach, kaempferia galanga (kencur), and the peanut sauce is poured, not ground.
Last but not least, Portuguese egg tart is also popular in Kampung Tugu. Although you can find it easily in bakeries and cake shops in Jakarta, it is claimed that the egg tart from Kampung Tugu tastes better and more authentic.
MUSIC AND DANCE
Undoubtedly, keroncong music is a cultural heritage from Kampung Tugu, which is very well-known in Indonesia. Nonetheless, a lot people think that it’s Javanese music.
Those days, Kampung Tugu was an isolated place, far from the city center and lack of entertainment. Thus, the locals has finally found the way to entertain themselves by playing machina, a hand made music instrument made of woods around the village, resembling an ukulele. The word keroncong is derived from the sound of machina, which is “crong, crong, crong”.
The particular sound of keroncong music inspires a slang “keroncongan”, defining a growling sound of a hungry stomach. For example, when someone says he or she is “keroncongan”, that means he or she is very hungry.
The famous keroncong Tugu music group is Cafrinho, whose leader is Guido Quiko, the 4th generation of Quiko clan. Just like the Michiels, Guido Quiko has a deep knowledge about Kampung Tugu and becomes a resourceful interviewee. His music group has been invited to big cultural events and national television programs.
Nina bobo, the Indonesian version of Lullaby is also a famous keroncong song for generations. Nina is actually not a name, but it derives from a Portuguese word menina, which means a girl.
Since 2016, The Ministry of Education and Culture inaugurate keroncong music as an intangible heritage.
For the last 4 years, Quido Quiko introduces and develops Noni Tugu dance, a traditional dance from Kampung Tugu, originally brought from Portuguese descendants from Malacca. The performers are girls and (female) teens wearing European style costume. He hopes that it will add cultural richness in Kampung Tugu attracting more visitors in the future and build children’s interest in preserving local culture.
UNIQUE NEW YEAR CELEBRATION
Kampung Tugu people celebrate new year in 2 stages. The first stage is Rabo-Rabo, held on January 1, to greet everyone a happy new year by visiting each house in the village while singing keroncong songs.
The second stage is Mandi-Mandi festival, the peak of the celebration held a week after Rabo-Rabo, where everyone forgives each other for all mistakes they made in the previous year. I, together with the rest of the group from Wisata Kreatif Jakarta, attended the festival inside the building close to the main church.
The festival begins with keroncong music performance, where participants dance following the rhythm of the music. Then, they passed us a glass of “bedak dingin”, literally meaning cold powder because it’s cooling like menthol, mixed with water. FYI, that’s how the cold powder is used, you have to mix it with water first before applying on your skin. “Bedak dingin” is the symbol of self-cleansing from sins and mistakes. Therefore, there’s a joke saying that the more powder stain on your face, the more sins that have to be cleansed.
Since 2016, Rabo-Rabo and Mandi-Mandi festival have been inaugurated as intangible heritage by The Ministry of Education and Culture.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH DESTINATION
Since Kampung Tugu location is closed to Tanjung Priok, the busiest port in Indonesia, quite a lot of people from Kampung Tugu rely their income on selling and renting their land to shipping companies to keep their containers. By developing its tourism sector, hopefully that they can have other sources of income.
When Basuki Tjahaya Purnama was a governor, boosting tourism in Kampung Tugu is part of his programs. Unfortunately, after he lost the election, it remains unclear what happens next since the present governor doesn’t do anything about it.
Situated in the coastline of Jakarta, the access to the village is not that convenient and a bit far from downtown. As a result, Kampung Tugu is not a very popular tourist destination compared to the Old Town and other historical places in Indonesia’s capital.
Nevertheless, the existence of Kampung Tugu indicates richness in cultural diversity that requires more introduction and promotion to wider range of people in the country, including the younger generation, and foreign tourists.
Fishermen’a Wharf in San Francisco and Tsukiji Market in Tokyo are known as the most popular fish markets destined for tourists worldwide. They may not be my most preferred travel destinations, yet mouthwatering fresh seafood they offer manages to attract me to the market.
Inspired by Tsukiji Market, Indonesia’s President Jokowi inaugurated Pasar Ikan Modern Muara Baru (Muara Baru Modern Fish Market) in March 2019. I wonder whether fish markets in Jakarta will be ready to be the next iconic travel destination just like what the president has been dreaming of, since fish markets in the country has (unfortunately) always been associated with unpleasant fishy smell, untreated and dirty environment.
As my curiosity arises, I joined the night culinary tour from Wisata Kreatif Jakarta, that happened to make Pasar Ikan Modern Muara Baru as the main destination.
Situated on Jalan Muara Baru No. 27, North Jakarta, Pasar Ikan Modern Muara Baru is a 3-storey-building with 894 wet kiosks, 155 dry kiosks, a wide parking lot, a mosque, a clinic, ATM machines and a food court. For stall owners, there is a cold storage, a packing room and a meeting room.
The market offers a wide range of fish and seafood products, from squids, prawns, lobster, fish, crabs, osyters, to clams in affordable price. For instance, pomfret fish for Rp. 30,000 ($2) per kg and squids starting from Rp. 40,000 to Rp. 60,000 ($3 to $5) per kg.
For sure, you can always bargain to get the best price. A middle-aged woman in our group had an interesting experience related to bargaining. The seller finally knocked the price down for her just because of her gender. Ladies’ night at the bar is something common, but I didn’t know there’s a ladies’ special at the fish market. Most probably it’s just one of the seller’s trick to lure female customers like our friend.
While other buyers consider bargaining is part of the fun, I myself enjoy more looking at the fish having odd size and shape, like moonfish for example, with its rounded, flat shape and moon-like surface. I saw a visitor striking a pose holding the odd-sized fish facing in front of the camera, while some others pretend to cut the fish.
I don’t know about you, but posing with dead fish is not really the way I show my interest. I prefer to observe and immortalize daily activities of the merchants with my camera, from slashing fish, bargaining with future buyers until carrying buckets of fish on their shoulders. I believe the fish market could be a great destination for hunting human interest photography theme.
Nonetheless, the open air food court upstairs is the favorite spot of the fish market because visitors can have their raw fish fried or grilled in an affordable additional cost, from Rp. 15,000 to Rp. 25,000 ($1 to $2). The price includes choices of sauce, such as Padang-style sauce, oyster sauce, sweet soy sauce and sweet sour sauce. Dining at the food court is a practical option for those who are starving but too lazy to cook.
The market opens from 5 pm until midnight, whose peak hour is at 7 pm. To dine in at the food court, I advice you to come before 7 pm. Especially if you want to have your fish products grilled, as it takes longer than frying them. Some of our tour members waited for their food for almost an hour because it was being processed at about 7 pm.
Generally speaking, Muara Baru Modern Fish Market is able to change my perception about fish markets in Indonesia. It is more spacious than any other markets in the country with cleaner and more comfortable environment, from the stalls area until the food court. I find the open air food court a nice place to hang out with friends and families.
However, a fish market is a fish market, not a shopping mall. No one can totally avoid fishy puddle from melted ice cubes. Therefore, the golden rules still apply. Mountain sandals and waterproof boots are the best footwear to the market. Don’t forget to choose comfortable and sweat absorbing t-shirts.
I hope Muara Baru Modern Fish Market will always be clean and comfortable in the long run and become a new must-visit destination for both local and international tourists. Undoubtedly, it needs collaboration and consciousness from all parties. The fish market management needs to control their tenants during operational hours, as well as to put them and their visitors in order by setting rules to abide. On the other hand, tenants should realize that the rules are made for their own good in the end, not to restrain their freedom to do business.
Last but not least, consciousness from visitors’ side really helps a lot to make the president’s dream (probably citizens of Jakarta as well) come true by not littering on the floor, for example, and bring your shopping bag to reduce plastic waste. Especially, the local government forbids their use in shopping malls and markets, though I believe some still break the rules (as usual).
In a nutshell, going to a fish market could be a fun and activity entertaining activity, not only for the sake of doing a grocery. Please beware, citizens of Jakarta and tourists outside Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta travel destinations is more than just shopping malls and Kota Tua (Old Town).
This article is based on the published article I wrote for telusuri.id (Indonesian only)
In 1967, The New Order regime in Indonesia forbid all Chinese elements exposure in public, that made us have to celebrate Chinese New Year in hiding for decades. I remember visiting my grandparents to celebrate and my parents always reminded my sister and I not to tell out loud what we were about to do because we were afraid that one day nasty neighbors would report us to the police and screwed up everything.
Thank God, Chinese ethnics finally regained their freedom to perform rituals and expose all Chinese elements as it should be in year 2000 onwards after Abdurrahman Wahid, the 4th president of Indonesia, abolished the President’s Instruction (Inpres) No. 14 / 1967. Since then, many shopping malls invite lion dance performers each year to merry the biggest celebration for Chinese ethnics. It’s fun, really.
Until Covid-19 strikes worldwide provoking lockdowns and all crowds oriented activities are not allowed regardless race and nationality.
In 2020, I captured lion dance performance from Kong Ha Hong lion dance group performers, the two-time gold medal winner for international lion dance competition. Usually, they are invited annually to Pondok Indah Mall, one of the most popular malls in South Jakarta, performing for one month prior to the new year until the d-day.
Miss the crowds, miss the fun… Stay safe and healthy, everyone! Happy Chinese New Year for those who celebrate it.
Its confirmed. It’s said on the news that Chinese New Year gathering (lunch, dinner whatsoever) with (extended) family members is highly not recommended. Especially, the highest Covid-19 cases in Indonesia come from family cluster recently. The pandemic is far from over. The upcoming Chinese New Year won’t be as merry as before. I believe attractions attracting crowds will be forbidden this year.
I’m glad that I managed to watch and capture Chinese acrobatics performance in February 2020 at Pondok Indah Mall, South Jakarta, a month before case no. 1 appeared in Indonesia. These performers are for sure from China and have been performing in some other countries, too, among others Barcelona and Dubai.
As seen from the results, I realize that I still need to learn a lot to capture moving objects with a mirrorless camera. Nonetheless, I finally decided to post them as a remembrance of the joy of being with crowds for the last time before semi lockdown in April 2020.
The acrobatics are basically divided in 4 acts: Contortionists, Rolla Bolla, Monocycle and Aerial Silk Duo.
AERIAL SILK DUO
Let’s pray the pandemic will be over this year after most people on the planet get vaccinated, so we can go back to (the old) normal. Hate this new normal, but we need to be strong and safe to get through this.
A bit early to say, but Happy Chinese New Year for those who celebrate it!