upside down world bandung

Who and What is Galontrip?

upside down world bandung

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.

Several articles in this blog are featured on gpsmycity.com, a self-guided app for travelers where you can convert an article into a map. So cool, huh? For more information, click here. My works are also featured on travel-oriented websites (written in Indonesian only), such as telusuri.id, idntimes.com, travel.detik.com, Sayang Perut Facebook Page and travelingyuk.com.

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!!

koyasan

The Charm of Koyasan, The Sacred City of Japan

A GLIMPSE OF KOYASAN

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.

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koyasan

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.

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Okunoin

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.

torii gates in Okunoin

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.

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one of the statues in Okunoin

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.

TEMPLE STAY

the garden in Kumagaiji temple

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.

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Kumagaiji Temple


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.

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fire ceremony

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.

shojin ryori

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.

koyasan
dining room in Kumagaii Temple

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.

BEYOND EXPECTATION

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.

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an empty street in Koyasan

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.

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cable car

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?

kampung tugu

Kampung Tugu: The Remaining Portuguese Village in Indonesia’s Capital

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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.

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The Michiels music performance

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.

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The Church of Tugu

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.

kampung tugu
Church interior

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.

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the old bell and I
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The cemetery

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.

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The Michiels’ residence

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

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.

kampung tugu
Pisang Udang

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.

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ketan unti

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.

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apem kinca

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”.

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machina in creation progress

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.

kampung tugu
Noni Tugu dance

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.

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Mandi-Mandi Festival

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.

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view of Kampung Tugu with partly rented land for containers

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.

fish market

Muara Baru Modern Fish Market: Jakarta’s First Tourist-Oriented Fish Market

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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.

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Muara Baru Modern Fish 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.

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selecting fish

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.

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oyster

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.

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crabs

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.

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cutting moonfish

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.

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clams with

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.

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grilled fish

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.

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food court

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.

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grilling fish takes longer than frying

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)

Something I’m Gonna Miss this Chinese New Year 2021 Part 2: Lion Dance

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.

lion dance
acrobatics

Something I’m Gonna Miss this Chinese New Year 2021: Acrobatics Performance

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.

CONTORTIONISTS

Her head should be strong enough to support her friend’s weight. But the girl on top is very slim, anyways.
Wish I could bend like this!
Hmm… table top?
acrobatics
Envy the flexibility

ROLLA BOLLA

Rotating 360 degrees needs concentration, strength, stability and patience
Handstand
The bowls finally land safely on the head

MONOCYCLE

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Stack of bowls in the air is about to land. Cool, huh?
What a kickass!!
acrobatics
Can you see what they’re trying to do from the distance?
A busy background may distract you. Taking a closer look, she’s kicking the bowl to pass it to her colleague.

AERIAL SILK DUO

Hand in hand
Lift my feet up
Don’t let me fall
The neck… does it hurt?

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!

tpu petamburan

Petamburan Public Cemetery and the Overlook Cultural Legacy

Situated on Jalan KS Tubun, Central Jakarta, Indonesia, Petamburan Public Cemetery is not only the last resting place of Jakarta residents, but also houses the largest mausoleum in Southeast Asia and the silent witness of cultural diversity in Indonesia’s capital.

OG KHOUW MAUSOLEUM

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OG Khouw Mausoleum

OG Khouw, whose originally name was Khouw Oen Giok, was the landlord from Tambun, an entrepreneur who owned cane sugar plantation, Than Kie Bank and a philanthropist. He once donated his wealth to Jang Seng Ie Hospital, now Husada Hospital, and 40,000 Dutch Guilders for Dutch Red Cross. Therefore, he earned Dutch Citizenship from Queen Wilhelmina and his name was written in Western style, OG Khouw.

Besides, he was also the cousin of Khouw Kim An, the last Majoor der Chinezen (Major of the Chinese) of the Dutch East Indies and the owner of the mansion called Candra Naya on Jalan Gajah Mada in West Jakarta, which is now a museum.

OG Khouw and Lim Sha Nio’s graves

After OG Khouw’s passing in 1927 in Switzerland, his wife Lim Sha Nio built a 9-meter high-mausoleum made of imported black marble and statues from Italy to keep the ashes of her husband. Designed by G. Racina from Ai Marmi Italiani, an Italian architecture firm, the foundation cost extremely high, about 500,000 Dutch Guilders and finished in 1932.

The luxurious mausoleum even has a bunker below it to accommodate mourners and a room in the middle, which is permanently closed by the family. The last OG Khouw’s family visit to the mausoleum was in 1980’s.

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inside the bunker
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praying table with engraved images of OG Khous and his wife
additional metal door to the bunker

Nonetheless, the wealthy couple didn’t have any children. Therefore, after Lim Sha Nio passed away in 1957 and buried next to her husband, nobody took care of the mausoleum, whose luxury beats that of Rockefeller, the king of oil from the US at that time. Many years of neglection results in vandalism, theft and aging condition, e.g. broken nose on the angel statue in between the tombs, cracked marble inside the bunker and pillars.

an angel with broken nose

And that’s not it. A couple of high school students were also suspected of doing indecent acts inside the bunker. Since then, the mausoleum has an additional metal door in order to avoid similar incident.

Nowadays, Petamburan public cemetery management and Love Our Heritage community take care of the biggest mausoleum in Southeast Asia. However, both parties still need government support to finance the renovation expenses. If OG Khouw mausoleum is a cultural heritage, government will pay more attention to it, leading to an initiative of the renovation project. One of the reasons why it is not stated yet as the cultural heritage is probably because OG Khouw was a Dutch resident. Too bad.

OTHER KHOUW FAMILY MEMBERS BURIED IN PETAMBURAN

Those days, the land of Petamburan Public Cemetery was owned by Khouw family, who rented it for 80 years. But in fact, only 4 members of Khouw family were buried there, such as Khouw Kim An and his wife Phoa Tji Nio, WS Khouw and Khouw Kok Lie. Their graves are also mausoleums, although not as grandiose as that of OG Khouw.

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Khouw Kim An and his wife’s mausoleum

PUBLIC FIGURES AND BLACK MARBLE INSPIRATION

Djojo Muljadi’s grave

Black marble used on OG Khouw mausoleum was a “fashion trend” for other tombs. For example, the tomb of notary Djojo Muljadi uses black marble on the entire surface. On the other hand, Ibu Aju Agung’s tomb, the wife of Gunung Agung bookshop owner, only applies it for the name plate.

Ibu Aju Agung’s grave
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not a black marble, but this Asian Games athlete’s grave is kinda unique

FROM JAPANESE COLUMBARIUM TO JEWISH GRAVE

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traditional Chinese tombstone

If you wander the old complex of Petamburan Public Cemetery, situated on the front side a few meters from the entrance gate, you’ll find more varieties of grave. Traditional Chinese tombstones and European style graves with angel statues are some of the proves of cultural diversity that still stand gracefully and beautifully among modern ones.

European style grave

There’s also a columbarium housing the ashes of Japanese government officials during Japanese occupation in Indonesia. It is forbidden to take pictures inside and not all visitors are allowed to enter. Each year, members of the staff from Japanese Embassy have a visit to pray for their souls.

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Columbarium
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From all the graves, Jewish graves are the most uncommon ones in Petamburan with a triangle shape and engraved in Hebrew letters. I don’t think the history lesson in my high school has ever mentioned about Jewish settlement in Indonesia. Those days, Jewish people came to Indonesia for trading. But the locals often wrongly identified them as Arabic people because of their look.

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Jewish grave

Unfortunately, most of Jewish graves are not treated and and vandalized. Since families of the deceased don’t visit those graves any longer and don’t pay any maintenance fee, they are replaced by others graves. From 25 graves when found for the first time, now there are only 7 left, thanks to the renovation for the sake of cultural preservation. Otherwise, they will be completely gone forever.

I believe it’s time for government to see the potential of Petamburan Public Cemetery as a historical and cultural destination to boost tourism in Jakarta, starting from financially support the preservation of the luxurious OG Khouw mausoleum. Besides, it also diminishes the local’s stereotype about cemeteries as a dodgy and haunted place to visit.

upside down world bandung

Upside Down World Bandung: Photoshoot in the World without Gravity

https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d3960.9523756716785!2d107.61481131477272!3d-6.896299995016838!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x2e68e65212a87041%3A0xcd6e130647905f56!2sUpside%20Down%20World%20Bandung!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sid!4v1609848142654!5m2!1sen!2sid

Could upside down world on earth happen for real, or nothing more than just Hollywood movies? Actually, if you go to Upside Down World, you don’t have to be out of space to experience the world without gravity.

ABOUT UPSIDE DOWN WORLD

Upside Down World is a photoshoot destination, using a residential house as its main concept. Just like houses in general, it consists of rooms aka studios with various themes, such as bathroom, living room, bedroom, study room, dining room, pool room, kitchen, yard and warehouse in upside down position. In other words, all furniture and its attributes are hung on the ceiling.

ups
the original look of the studio without editing

Inspired by Upside Down World movie starring Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess in 2012, a Malaysian entrepreneur visualizes the idea into life. Finally, Upside Down World opened for the first time in 2016, having flagships in Bandung, Bali, Medan, Alam Sutera and Yogyakarta. At that time, it was a big hit following the emerging trend of posting selfies on social media and craving for more “likes”. Nowadays, unfortunately, most of them are already closed for good, except those in Bali and Bandung. In Malaysia itself, Upside Down World operates in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh.

To be honest, a photo studio is definitely not my first choice to be a travel destination no matter how instagrammable it is. Nonetheless, I decided to make it as a meeting point with an old friend of mine since its close to Dipati Ukur station, where the Jakarta-Bandung mini bus I took parked there. I was pretty sure that we would like to take pictures together after not seeing each other for years. Upside Down World seems like a unique location to do that.

I’d to ride my bicycle
shower time

The entrance fee to Upside Down World is Rp. 80.000 ($6) on weekdays and Rp. 100.000 ($8) on weekends for adults, and Rp. 50.000 ($3) for kids. For Indonesian standard, the rate is quite high, especially the building is not that big and has lack of lighting, in my opinion.

upside down world bandung
glued in the kitchen – my favourite pic!

However, hiring an experienced interior designer for a challenging project and the difficulty in executing the project to ensure the safety of its visitors contribute higher construction costs. Heavy furniture, a bed for instance, requires an additional thick and very strong rope to attach properly on the ceiling.

hello kitty bedroom. cute huh?
upside down world bandung
doraemon inspired study room

LET YOUR IMAGINATION RUN WILD

Situated on H. Wasid No. 31, Lebak Gede, Coblong District, our visit started with doubts when we arrived at 10.30 am and no one was around. Well, there were a couple of foreigner entering the studio before us, but moments later they left. Fortunately, the ticket counter staff managed to convince us that the best visiting time is when it’s still quiet because there’s no need to be in line to move from one studio to another. Also, there will be plenty of time to improve our poses to get good results without being distracted by other visitors, who may impatiently wait for their turn.

It took some creativity to create poses that match various scenes. We could have used the same pose for different spots, yet it wouldn’t turn out as dramatic as we expected. And honestly, we started running out of ideas after the 4th scene. Fortunately, the reference from previous visitor’s pictures placed on wall helped us finding suitable poses. We also asked for an advice from the staff to orchestrate more poses other than what they normally do.

thrown to trash

I was happy with the final results of the photoshoot, as they look unconventional and surreal! To achieve such results, you only need to do some simple editing before posting them on social media by using basic features, such as rotate, crop, brightness, contrast and saturation as a finishing touch. No worries about my remark that the studio has lack of lighting because you can make a few adjustments as easy as one, two, three into perfection.

FACILITIES

Upside Down World provides photo printing service, mirrorless camera and costume rental, e.g. a kimono to match with the Japanese style dining room as a background, with additional price apart from entrance fee. I personally don’t think you need a specific costume to get good pictures. On the other hand, you really need the studio’s camera if you have a pretty bad (smartphone) camera.

upside down world bandung
printing center and snacks
Japanese style dining room

It’s recommended to keep all your personal belongings inside the locker provided during the visit, which is free of charge, so you don’t have to watch them all the time. It’s also can safe you from theft when it’s crowded inside. FYI, you need to take off your shoes prior to entering the studio and put them in a designated shoe rack.

lunch time

THE MORE THE MERRIER

Although posing in front of camera is not really my thing, I had a great time during the photoshoot. It gave me freedom to be as playful as I can, using my imagination of what I could do if I lived in the house without gravity. With a little help from the staff, who served us sincerely, and a close friend, who lighted up my day with laughter, anything’s possible.

All I can say is that Upside Down World is one of the destinations which is not so fun and memorable to visit without friends and family. And there’s no need to fly to the moon to experience zero gravity, at least in pictures.

Warung D’Bishe and Fantastic View of Rice Fields

https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d65332253.26636864!2d78.18305220225601!3d-1.9260242728351253!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x2dd220ebccafea0b%3A0x9545988e1e41c5a1!2sWarung%20D-bishe!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sid!4v1607630544278!5m2!1sen!2sid

On the way to Ubud, we took shortcuts passing some villages and rice fields in Petang Village. Unexpectedly, we saw a food stall on the side of the street that managed to drive our attention called “Warung D’Bishe”. I love how the warung transforms used materials, such as slabs of wood and containers, into seating.

Honestly, I don’t wanna brag that I know everything about this warung. In fact, what came first to my mind when I got there was that I only wanted to chill out, enjoy the view, do some small talk and no intention to dig some more information about this place. I didn’t even think to share about it in this post. However, it would be kinda selfish if I know a great place but not telling you guys. So, I did.

Basically, Warung D’Bishe offers typical warung style light bites, such as Kacang Garuda (Garuda peanuts), Beng Beng chocolate snack, Taro Snack, as well as traditional coffee so-called kopi tubruk (unfiltered coffee) and tea. Not to mention Indomie, the nation’s best selling instant noodle, served hot on the table. From this point of view, Warung D’Bishe is like any other warungs.

Nonetheless, the picturesque view of rice fields is something you should not miss, as it is very refreshing for your mind and soul. I instantly could forget about hustling and bustling life in a big city like Jakarta with its concrete jungles. Besides, the warung has a swing, a sky tree and a cute hut with an attic you can climb on, that are instagrammable. I haven’t tried, but I hope the safety’s good.

If the warung is so instagrammable, how much does it cost?? Fear not, Warung D’Bishe is not the kind of so-called warung only by its name that charges you like an upscale restaurant. A cup of coffee is about Rp. 4000 ($ 0.30) for locals and Rp. 10,000 per cup ($ 0.80) for foreigners. But still, it’s less that $1 for great Balinese coffee, magnificent landscape right before your eyes and a small playground where you can have more fun with.

By the way, I recently check their Facebook Page and they actually have chicken feet soup served with rice noodle for heavier dish. Even there was a couple doing a pre-wedding shot in this warung and the result was incredible!

Last but not least, my advice is spend more time with friends and family, don’t stare too much at your phone screen. Enjoy the nature as long as you can, that’s for sure. Anyways, great view doesn’t have to be pricey.

fun quotes
snacks
outdoor seating
a cup of coffee
seating made of slabs of wood
do more social interaction instead

Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall: Hidden Paradise in Wanagiri

https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d3948.8998221414954!2d115.12003841478094!3d-8.21282899408958!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x2dd18f0a0b36a42f%3A0xf64c6ae42a96c645!2sBanyu%20Wana%20Amertha%20Waterfall!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sid!4v1603743998005!5m2!1sen!2sid

Wanagiri may not be the first place popping up in your mind when you’re talking about Bali. Especially, it’s merely a small village in the mountainous area of north Bali, situated 2 hours from all-time tourist destinations on the island, such as Kuta, Seminyak and many more, where all of them are located in the south.

Yet believe it or not, the news about the picturesque view of Wanagiri village has widely spread overseas. There are even more foreign tourists than local ones. Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall is one of the must-to-see destinations in the village.

4 WATERFALLS IN ONE PLACE

The best part of visiting Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall is that by paying merely Rp. 10,000 ($ 0.80) for locals and Rp. 20,000 ($ 1.50) for foreigners, you automatically have an access to 4 waterfalls since all of them are located close to each other.

NON-TOURISTY, PRESERVED NATURE

If you embrace tranquility and purity, Banyu Wana Amerta Waterfall is the right place for you. You won’t feel any touristy atmosphere, from overcrowded traffic to loud chit-chats, shouting and all that. Another advantage for not being a touristy place is that there aren’t too many trashes and less chances for nature destruction.

Moreover, there’s no such thing as burning heat in Wanagiri. If hot and sun is the first impression about the weather in Bali, it’s time to broaden that perception. Generally speaking, the afternoon temperature in Wanagiri is approximately 25 degrees with the real feel of 22 degrees because of the breeze.

I personally love the mild weather in Wanagiri, that affects me for not being too sweaty and too exhausted during the hiking activity, thanks to the refreshing mountain breeze.

PERFECT FOR DEBUTANT HIKERS

The way to the waterfall is quite steep and narrow, but still safe for cars and motorcycles to pass by. The asphalt street has a very good condition with an even surface. What you need to do is to control the speed while driving.

If you love to explore the beauty of nature but afraid of falling, getting slipped, getting lost and ending up in the middle of nowhere? Fear not! The trails are suitable for all-level hikers. The safety is pretty good, too.

At first, you will pass residential houses after passing the ticket counter. This confused me in the beginning, thinking that I took the wrong way to the villagers’ house complex. Nonetheless, a wooden board saying “waterfall” with an arrow sign implied that I was on the right track.

You will step on paving blocks along the way to the main destination, surrounded with greenery and some flower. It’s completely an easy and save trail for everyone.

on the way to the waterfall

Within 20 minutes walk, you’ll find an intersection with a big board mentioning the direction and duration spent to all 4 waterfalls. Each waterfall are simply named “BWA Waterfall”, “One Waterfall”, “Two Waterfall” (without “s”, probably because of grammatical error) and “Spray Waterfall”.

an intersection

Starting from here, the trail starts to be “closer to nature”, aka a bit challenging, and no pavements like the previous one. But still, it is suitable for those who are not used to hiking. There are some slippery paths you need to pay attention, though not too many. The risk of being slipped is lessened by used tires implanted on the soil. Steep surfaces are modified into stairs in accordance with the contour of the soil, completed with handrails made of bamboo, wood or twigs to support safety, while maintaining the original landscape as it should be.

BWA WATERFALL AND ONE WATERFALL

banyu wana amerta waterfall
one waterfall

If you don’t have all the time in the world, just visit One Waterfall and BWA (abbreviation of Banyu Wana Amertha) Waterfall. Both waterfalls are on the same location that takes only a minute walking distance from the intersection, separated by a wooden bridge. The difference between them is that One Waterfall only has 1 spring water, whereas BWA Waterfall has several sources of spring water in one place.

banyu wana amertha waterfall
the bridge to BWA waterfall

The view is not only magnificent for taking pictures, selfie or wefie, but also great for swimming and bathing. So don’t forget to bring a swimsuit to enjoy the fresh and unpolluted water. It will re-energize your body and mind to continue your journey. Not far from the waterfall, there’s a changing room that looks like a hut at a glance.

BWA Waterfall

TWO WATERFALL AND SPRAY WATERFALL

These waterfalls are also spots you should not miss during the visit. Starting from the same intersection, it takes 5 minutes to Two Waterfall and 7 minutes to Spray Waterfall. Bear in mind that these waterfalls are in the opposite direction of BWA and One Waterfall.

Two Waterfall and favorite photo spot

Most visitors love capturing themselves standing on the wooden bridge with a waterfall background in Two Waterfall. On the other hand, there’s no bridge in Spray Waterfall and the water stream tends to be heavy. You also can bathe and swim in both waterfalls, however they are more popular for photo spots and no changing room provided.

banyu wana amertha waterfall
spray waterfall

TIPS FOR VISITORS

The best time to visit is in the morning because it often rains in Wanagiri in the afternoon, and the paths are getting more slippery as well. Bringing a raincoat to anticipate the weather is highly recommended. Make sure you wear comfortable clothing and non-slip shoes or sandals. To maximize the experience at the waterfall, bring a swimsuit if you wish.

There’s only one traditional food stall or so-called warung inside the area with limited options, such as Indomie instant noodle, coffee and snacks. It’s completely a traditional warung, nothing commercial and very cheap. Just $ 0.30 for a cup of coffee, who can’t afford that?

The other warung is outside the waterfall complex, facing the street. Selling more or less the same thing, they have an $ 0.80 rice noodle with meatballs, that unfortunately the meatballs are not good and too floury. So, I suggest you to get an Indomie instant noodle instead, since it already has a sort of “standard” taste regardless who cooks it. Though still, some say that eating Indomie at any warung tastes better than you cook it at home.

this looks good, but the taste isn’t

If they don’t suit your taste, bring your own food and don’t litter. I advise you to bring a paper or a plastic bag to collect trashes and throw them away after returning to the hotel.

Bali has so much more than just beaches and sun. To feel the new sensation of Bali with waterfalls and colder weather, that could be 10 or even 6 degrees at night, it’s time for you to visit north Bali that includes Banyu Wana Amertha waterfall on your bucket list.

gps

Turning a Travel Article into a Personal Guide with GPSmyCity – 2020

Indeed, it’s possible! But, what is GPSmyCity and what are the benefits for travelers?

GPSmyCity is an app providing articles covering over 1,000 cities worldwide. Once you install the app either on iOS or Android through www.gpsmycity.com , you can download each article for free and read it in the future without internet connection.

All articles are embedded with GPS map that will function after upgrading with a small amount of fee. There’s no need to ask anyone for a direction or read a conventional map on your own any longer to find a place you want to go, that will save a lot of time and cut the hassle during your journey. The best thing about it is that the GPS works even when you’re offline. Isn’t it great?

gps

After traveling for many years, I realize that wi-fi connection is one of the essentials you don’t always get easily when you’re abroad, except depending on hotels and cafes or data roaming packages that may break your bank account. So, I believe that GPSmyCity is a breakthrough app for travelers like us.

Therefore, I’m happy to announce that my articles:

Gokayama and Two UNESCO Heritage Villages – https://www.gpsmycity.com/blog/6657, Ereveld Menteng Pulo, Historical Cemetery in a Jungle – https://www.gpsmycity.com/blog/6655, 6 Attractions in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta – https://www.gpsmycity.com/blog/6579

are ready to launch on GPSmyCity.

During the first week of the launch, GPSmyCity will give away one of my articles, Gokayama and Two UNESCO Heritage Villages – https://www.gpsmycity.com/blog/6657, and users will be able to upgrade the app for free.

So, get the app now to access both iOS and Android versions on www.gpsmycity.com !

Kishigawa Railway Line Tourism: Saved by the Cat!

https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d105555.86087462404!2d135.1921175!3d34.2327033!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x6000b326870071c1%3A0xa6a12e77bd32e4c6!2sWakayama%20Station!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sid!4v1599305113575!5m2!1sen!2sid

Now you can download this article through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/wakayama-6480.html

Kishigawa Line is a railway line under Wakayama Electric Railway in Wakayama, Japan. Departing from platform 9 in Wakayama Station, the train serves trips to 14 stations, that ends up in Kishi Station, Kinokawa, in 30 minutes.

By the way, what does a cat have to do with a railway line?

ALMOST BANKRUPT

strawberry themed train

The lack of passengers and financial problems in mid 2000 threatened Kishigawa Line to its permanent closure due to bankcruptcy. The locals urged Mitsunobu Kojima, the president of Wakayama Electric Railway at that time, to revive the railway line.

One day, a grocery store owner near Kishi Station begged the railway company to take care of a cat called Tama. Okay, that may sounded odd, but Tama wasn’t just any other cat.

He’s a calico cat that the store owner took care of. Tama often waited in the neighbourhood of Kishi Station and had paid attention many train passengers and inhabitants in town since the end of 90’s because of its tameness and cute-looking for pictures. He was later nicknamed “Kishi station master”.

After meeting Tama in his own eyes, Kojima was touched and finally agreed to adopt him.

TAMA, KISHIGAWA LINE ICON

To boost an image, Kojima created a branding for Kishigawa Line by making Tama as an icon. Accessorized with a conductor’s hat, he officially turned his beloved cat into “Kishi Station Master” in 2007. It was the first time in Japanese history to have a cat as a station master.

Tama illustrated

Apart from that, Tama appeared in multiple publications, social media, greeted passengers and became a model. Tama even had his own office in the form of a modified ticket counter.

Kojima’s efforts finally paid off. The amount of passengers increased about 55,000 people, who were mostly very enthusiastic to meet the cute and cuddly Tama. The ticket sales was not only enough to finance Tama’s food all year long, but also to boost the economic growth in Wakayama.

After Tama’s passing in 2015 in the age of 16, his position is replaced by another calico cat named Nitama or Tama 2, who is in charge in Kishi Station. There’s also Yontama or Tama 4 in Idakiso Station.

THE FOUR-THEMED TRAIN

inside strawberry themed train (ichigo densa)

The trains operating in Kishigawa Line are very easy to recognize because of their attractive design created by Eiji Mitooka. Basically, they have 4 different themes, such as strawberry (Ichigo Densa), toys (Omoden), plum pickles (Umeboshi Densha) and last but not least, Tama Den, which is no other than Tama cat theme. This train even has “ears” too in its front look.

You’ll never know what day and time the particular theme will appear right before your eyes. You may get Tama theme if you are lucky.

tama den, or cat themed train

IDAKISO STATION: YONTAMA’S OFFICE AND TEMPLE

super station master room or Yontama’s office

Idakiso station is one of the busiest station because it’s where super station master room aka Yontama’s “office” is located. Yontama’s room is a modified ticket counter, completed with a bed, litter tray and cat ladder.

Yontama is in service from 10 am to 4 pm, except Monday and Friday. Suppose you don’t see Yontama, perhaps he’s in deep sleep. I found him under the ladder, curling his body while sleeping. He didn’t notice me watching him.

Visitors are not allowed to knock the glass and take pictures without permission or carelessly while the cat is resting to avoid disturbance and stress.

Itakiso Temple
Itakiso Temple

Don’t come the station just to see the feline stationmaster. Leave the station and visit beautiful Shinto temples, such as Itakiso, Ashigami and Kimiidera, which are reachable on foot. Nonetheless, suppose you don’t want to walk too far, the closest temple is Itakiso Temple that takes 7 minutes walking distance.

empty street along the way

Trust me, walking to Itakiso temple is a fun and relaxing activity since trees, gardens, classic Japanese houses will greet you along the way. Moreover, the street is wide with less cars passing by and its surroundings is very quiet.

KISHI STATION: TAMA MUSEUM AND CAFE

Tama Museum and Cafe

The final stop of Kishigawa Line is Kishi Station. The station houses Tama Museum and Tama Cafe. Also designed by Eiji Mitooka, pay attention to some unique details of the building, from a cat head-shaped roof with ears in both edges to 2 oval-shaped windows resembling cat’s eyes.

And that’s not all, folks. You will also find cat-themed chairs inside the cafe, accentuated with the silhouette of a cat’s head, ears, cat whiskers illustration and a bell, associated with a pet’s (cat) accessories. Tama Cafe offers light bites, such as cakes, crepes, ice cream, french fries and drinks, from coffee, matcha latte to hot chocolate.

Tama Museum is where you can see memorabilia of Tama and get some lovely Tama merchandise in the souvenir shop. Mugs, t-shirts, notebooks, towels, key chains, posters and fridge magnets are among others.

Tama souvenir shop

One thing for sure. You are able to meet the station master Yontama every day, except on his day offs on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

TICKET INFORMATION

Kishigawa Line ticket is available in Wakayama Station. I recommended you to take a day ticket as a tourist since it’s valid for unlimited return trips and you can stop in any station you like within 24 hours. It costs 800 Yen ($ 7.50) for adults, 400 yen ($ 3.80) for kids.

Wakayama Station

Please note that Kishigawa Line is not part of JR Pass you’ve already bought in your country of origin. So, you have to get it separately. Just to be clear, all JR passes are only sold overseas, destined for foreign tourists to explore Japan in more affordable rate. However, Kishigawa Railway Line tickets are only obtainable in Wakayama, Japan.

I have to admit that Japanese people are great at developing a tourist destination in inspiring and unthinkable way. The story behind Kishigawa Line proves that a cat doesn’t only have 9 lives, but also able to save people from bankruptcy and revive tourism in unconventional way.

Now you can download this article through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/wakayama-6480.html