Weekly Photo Challenge: In The Background

fishing in Kutuh Village offshore, Bali

Taken from Timbis Hill, Bali, about 800 metres above sea level, deep blue sea withdraws the attention from the initial subject: Kutuh Village people fishing in a seaweed plantation site. The offshore holds one of the biggest seaweed exporters in Bali to China, giving more prosperity of its inhabitants. It’s up to the eyes of the beholders how to interpret the message or from which angle they view the  image: the sea, the “dots” (people) in the coastline, the green-brown thing (seaweed) situated before the sea, or the calm wave.

When “Not Really” is Really Not a Good Answer

For me, the lasting memory of Toronto’s famous landmark CN Tower is not the sky pod, the famous glass floor, or dining experience at 360 Restaurant. Especially I didn’t do the latter. It is the moment with the official when I was about to leave the tower.

“Go straight that way, turn left.” The guy behind the computer screen in photo souvenir section showed the way to the elevator to exit the building.

Seconds after thanking him, he suddenly called me back. “Excuse me, were you born in the end of the year, somewhere in October or November?”

What an odd question in the end of the visit. “That was close. It’s November.”

CN tower’s glass floor

“So you are…. hmmm……Scorpio?”

“Scorpio. How do you know that?”

He chuckled. “I’m into zodiac. I learn the way people carry themselves according to their zodiac. Where do you come from?”

“Jakarta, Indonesia.”

Coincidentally, he has several Indonesian friends and would like to visit the country one day. I was flattered that he preliminary noticed my nationality because he thinks that Indonesians are generally warm and friendly in nature.

CN tower’s fresco and the glass floor

It was my last day to fantasize as an undercover police like Joe Pistone as Donnie Brasco. I didn’t know I’m that predictable.

“I’m Jayson, by the way.” He offered me a handshake, leading to a disclosure about himself. The 29 year-old guy, voluntarily admitted he’s still single, is a Canadian citizen who originally comes from The Philippines. He shared a glimpse of his struggle for a more decent job for a better living – that his current job is something temporary – and an equal treatment in a country that is not his, something that locals take for granted and never understand completely.

I could put myself in his shoes. I tried to do the same thing in The Netherlands after graduation, but it didn’t work out.

I accidentally saw his photo editing works in Photoshop program, depicting human figures walking on the tower’s rooftop, some flying like a bird, that reminds me of a graphic design major in my past. There were rows of photograph (of unknown people) souvenirs placed on the wall behind him sold for overwhelmingly $20 per sheet. No wonder why they don’t sell that much, about 23 sheets max in busy periods, 1 or none in quiet periods.

Then, we talked just about everything that came from our head. Design software, photography lessons, his photography side job, camera filters (that I initially called lenses until he corrected it into filters), college life and so on. His Caucasian colleague interrupted him with work-related questions sometimes, but it didn’t stop us continuing the ongoing conversation.

“What time are you going home?” He asked.

Did I hear it right? “Well, I don’t know. May be at 6….or 8…..I don’t know. I’m going to my cousin’s place and meet up in Don Mills.”

I wasn’t lying. My cousin invited me to watch a movie at his home theater he’s so proud of. My niece purposely skipped her fitness routine on that day just to join me. So I wouldn’t let them down by cancelling the appointment.

“Really? I live there, too.” He replied.

CN tower’s souvenir shop on xmas

Later on, it came the most shocking question from a tourist attraction’s official. “Are you single?”

“Not really.” I responded.

We had some small talk for several minutes before a couple of visitors came to him asking about photo souvenirs. I decided to leave as they had a longer conversation and felt bad interrupting him working. So I told him goodbye. He looked at me for a second, nodded and headed back to the customers he was serving.

When I crossed the bridge heading to Rogers Centre, my mind suddenly ran a flashback scene in the tower. Everything went so smoothly before he surprisingly asked my marital status. I got a feeling that his excitement about me gradually went off after the 2 words coming from my mouth: “not really”.

bridge to rogers centre

Gosh! He asked me, “Are you single?” Nonetheless, I heard it otherwise, “Are you in a relationship?”. My honest answer should be, “Yes (I’m single).”

Regardless of the question, “not really” is really not a good answer, especially when it comes to marital status. Not really single, not really in a relationship, not really married? I mean, what are you trying to say? What was I trying to say? It’s a simply yes and no question. Why make it so complicated?

I remember giving him my email address in the middle of our conversation. But silly me, I didn’t ask his. Until now, no friend request on Facebook and “hello how are you” thing from him in my inbox. I believe I broke a good man’s heart. I made him ashamed and lose his face. He forgets me. He lost my address. Or else.

downtown toronto & toronto island

My Facebook search results showed over 100 Jaysons from The Philippines and nothing matches his profile. Anyways, many facebookers don’t use real names in their profile.

My sensitive imagination is running wild, interpreting our nice chitchat as a great chemistry between 2 strangers. Somehow, I wish I had the opportunity to reconnect the chemistry, although not necessarily for a relationship. May be it could start with, “Where were we?”

Get real, we are on our own. I guess, it was just about a guy who needed someone who listens to his thoughts. And I was nothing more than a random pick of the day.

if you find a moose instead of a grizzly bear, that means you’re in canada!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

Praha, Czech Rep

Crossing a busy street from the narrow alley I passed in Praha to Prague Castle on the other side reminds me of the possible obstacles to achieve your goals and dreams. You never know what happen to the street you’re going to cross in front of you. That’s why there’s a traffic light and a place to pray to keep you safe to reach your destination. In order to succeed, working hard on your own is just not enough. You need other people to help you and God to give you blessings.

The traffic light and its red button below represent other people’s help (who create the traffic light). The statue of Jesus represents God’s blessings, even though it’s too abstract to show blessings in a physical form. Crowded street and the other side, which is unseen until you climb the stairs, represents winding and rocky road you may find on the way to success. There’s no escalator or elevator to success, only stairs. Success is the process, not a destination or a quick scheme program.

Never give up on your dreams, even if you reach the peak of trouble. Remember to move forward and take action to achieve them. When you’re successful, don’t forget to thank people who help you and God who gives you strength and blessings – so don’t stop praying.

The Visitor at 439-5223

Back to my school life some years ago when I stayed in Uilenstede, a student housing district in Amstelveen, The Netherlands…….

I  was alone in my room, cleaning a dusty desk, bedside table, and all the things I put on top. Suddenly, the loud sound of a doorbell broke the silence.

I walked out from my room to the corridor to open the door. A long wavy-haired, fair-skinned Chinese girl stood in front of me, asking a permission to see my room. I didn’t find it a strange question. The management office always advised their future tenants to ring any current tenants’ room suppose they want know how it looks like and hopefully somebody will open the door for them.

She attentively observed things around her, from an unfolded blanket, an untidy bed sheet, piles of papers on top of the printer, textbooks on a desk, arranged perfume and cosmetic bottles on a dressing table, a laptop on a sleep mode, unmatched pairs of furniture until a plugged water kettle on the floor. All right, I wasn’t proud of it. But I didn’t expect a company either.

Next, she asked me a permission for the second time to take a look at the balcony. The wind was mild, the bright sunshine gave some warmth on her face. She took her time a bit longer in the balcony than any other visitors. Most probably she drowned herself into her own world, playing with her own mind out there.

walk or swim: it’s their call!

After she was back inside, I started a conversation, “Do you study here?”

“No. I’m just visiting.” replied the girl.

We ended up talking about places she visited in Amsterdam and some European cities with her family, and I told a bit about myself. She introduced herself as Vivian. Knowing that she didn’t and wouldn’t stay in The Netherlands, I was very curious how she knew about Uilenstede, the place which is mostly popular among local and international students in the country, not tourists.

She finally revealed her main purpose of coming to my place. “I know someone who lived here. I just wanna see how it looks like and how he lived, how his life was. He used to study here.” She even said that the room I resided, unit 439 room 5223, was exactly the one where he stayed during his school life. I was like, wow! So my room was not just a random pick!

However, In response to my question about where he lives now, she only said, “I don’t know.”

Living my bedroom, we passed the corridor for the last time to show her the living room with public kitchen and washing machine. She didn’t ask for it, it was only my initiative to do so. She looked at it at a glance without expressing so much interest. Then I realised that it was not the most important thing for her.

She thanked me for allowing her to enter my room. After that, she headed to the elevator and went to the metro station to join the rest of her family.

I haven’t heard about her ever since. Months later, I emailed her to the Hotmail address she gave on that day. There was no reply. May be her account was already dead. May be she simply has forgotten me. Or else.

tram 5 that took me to Uilenstede hit a car near Zuid WTC

If I had an intention to write a blog at that time when I met her, I could have lead our conversation to someone whom I know very little: a Chinese male who once pursued his study in The Netherlands. This someone is the key character of the story. This someone also holds the reason why she didn’t know where he lives now. Or why she didn’t want to tell me about it. There must be something about someone, who was able to trigger a girl named Vivian to feel his life under her shoes by visiting his former 18-square-meter room.

The only way to know more about someone is to trespass someone else’s (aka the girl’s) privacy by asking more intimate questions, which is against my nature. Which didn’t cross my mind either. And I would never get that chance, ever.

Someone who didn’t love her back but she couldn’t accept it? Someone broke her up or passed away but she couldn’t let him go? Did the answer “I don’t know” conceal the sorrow of hers? I could only use my imagination to guess.

Nevertheless, I have one wish: I wish someone knew how much she admired (admires?) and loved (loves?) him.

It was a very small and forgotten part of a gal’s (my) life in travel that I had never shared to anyone. If you read this post, it means you hear (read) it from me for the first time. I don’t know if it is interesting enough to tell. I just feel like sharing it to you now.

Oh, wait! I still have another wish: creative people like you can turn a usual story like this into an epic novel.

walking home

I Feel Like Travelling

While I was looking at my free postcard collections, I suddenly found the longest word count postcard I’ve ever had that really fits my travel blog, depicting various moods and feelings travellers might experience on their journeys. I started collecting postcards during my study life in The Netherlands in 2002 to save money on greeting cards. Somehow the new hobby is addictive, so I’ve got hundreds of them with me until now and still counting.

Most postcards I have are printed by Boomerang and distributed in public places, namely cinemas, restaurants, cafe, bars, universities, theater and health clubs in several European countries.

The following postcard was printed in 2003 in The Netherlands to promote works by a Dutch artist Esther Kokmeijer on her website www.estherkokmeijer.nl. Her works are mainly inspired during her travels around the globe.

I FEEL……………LIKE TRAVELLING

The back part of the card says, “Boomerang supports travellers.”

I retype what it says in the front part in case you can’t read it clearly:

I FEEL MOVED TOUCHED AFFECTED TIPSY SHAKEN ATTACHED DEVOTED AFFECTIONATE ATTRACTIVE AFFECTION CAREFREE COMFORTABLE HORRIBLE LOVED GHASTLY DEPENDENT ABSENTMINDED DREARY NASTY DISMAL DRY WAKEFUL WATCHFUL POWERFUL OMNISCIENT FEAR CHRISTIAN LONELY TIMID ANGUISH THOUGHTFUL AGONY FRIGHTENED HARMLESS INNOCENT SUSPICIOUS ADVENTUROUS EIGHTEEN PLEASANT COSY SNUG SELFISH SCARED CALM COMPOSED QUIET STUFFY SAD DEJECTED DISTRESSED DEPRESSED BEASTLY REAL DESIRABLE EAGER GREEDY CAUTIOUS WARY NEEDY ROTTEN WRETCHED AWKWARD CRAMPED MISERABLE PERPLEXITY DAZED STUNNED OVERCOME CONVENTIONAL CREATIVE CYNICAL SATISFACTION AWFUL BITTERSWEET HAPPY PLEASED JOYFUL GLADNESS WICKED LOW SULKY CHAOTIC SMART COMPLETE DAILY LUCKY DAYLIGHT  BRAVE PLUCKY LEEK PITHY SHY SOLID DELICATE GLAD DEVOUT BLOCKED INTENSE DIFFUSE THICK CONSIDERATE AIMLESS LIVELY AIR AFFLICTED MELANCHOLY SORROWFUL DREAMY ENGLISH INTOXICATED DRUNK BUSY AMBIGUOUS DOUBTFUL DUBIOUS FUSTY STALE SECLUDED FOOLISH ABSURD FORCED DYNAMIC RAPTURE GENUINE SUBTITLED ECONOMICAL GENEROUS PLAIN SIMPLE RESPECT HONESTY TRANSPARENT HONOURABLE AMBITIOUS ETERNAL EVERLASTING EGOCENTRIC SINGULAR CONTEMPORARY OBSTINATE STUBBORN ENDLESS WONDERFUL REFINED EMOTIONAL EMPIRIC ENTHUSIASTIC PITIFUL LANKY ROUSING COWARDICE WIND DREADFUL SHOCKING THANKFUL EARNEST EROTIC EXPRESSIVE POINTLESS USELESS EFFICIENT SILLY WILD OVERJOYED STUPID DOMINANT HEARTBURNING MINDLESS TERRIFIED FRUITY ENERGETIC SOAKED GIDDY EXTREME BAD EXTRAVERT FAMOUS FANATIC FANCY FANTASTIC DECENT RESPECTABLE FEMINISTIC PHENOMENAL LOVELY SENSITIVE SUBTLE HOMESICK PHILOSOPHIC FLATTERED FLEXIBLE ROBUST  FORMAL FORMIDABLE BEAUTIFUL QUEASY FINE FRAGILE FRIVOLOUS FURIOUS COVERED SPIRITLESS FUTURISTIC DONE GALLANT SHAKY BOUND SAFE SECURE ROAST COMPLICATED UNTHANKFUL FLUTY THOUGHTLESS ABSENT MINDFUL ICY EASY PASSIONATE SQUASHED PATIENT DARING MEEK ENFORCED LIBERATED SPIRITUAL WITTY JOY INHIBITED MYSTERIOUS TEMPERED LASCIVIOUS FUNNY CUTE INTERESTED I COLOURED ARTIFICIAL LOVE LEARNED BELOVED PET EQUAL FAITH RELIABLE RELIGIOUS MERCY HAPPINESS FORTUNE ELATION BLESSED PRETENTIOUS LAZY MEAN EMBARRASSED GENIUS ORGANISED SORE MENDACIOUS LIGHTSOME LIKABLE JOVIAL UNSUSPECTED  HOT SLEAZY ONEROUS HABIT IRRITABLE IRRITATED EXHAUSTED HEARTACHE CONVENIENT SUCCESSFUL DIZZY CLOSER DANGER TINY CAPTIVE SHARP ME TENDER CALLOUS ENORMOUS GREAT UNSCRUPULOUS KIND FRIENDLY GRACE CHEAP IMPORTANT POPULAR WOUNDED NORMAL SCABBY USUAL COMMON SOCIABLE CORPULENT HEALTHY MISERY MYSELF GIGANTIC RAVISHING IMMENSE GLAMOUR GLORIOUS SPLENDID GLITTERING SPARKLE SNEAKY SHIFTY GOD PIOUS GOOD MILD INSIDE GULLIBLE WILLINGLY FILTHY AMUSING FACETIOUS BOUNDLESS GREY RUDE CRITICAL PRECARIOUS HALF INTERESTED DUTIFUL DROOPING LISTLESS HEARTFELT HUGE HEARTBEAT PASSION ENCHANTING MENDACIOUS HEARTWARMING POWERLESS COVETOUS MODERN DELIGHTFUL HOLY BRIGHT HEROIC LOADS HEAVENLY REBORN RECOGNITION HIM GORGEOUS COWARDLY DUTCH PRIDE SCENTED HOPE DRAMATIC FEARFUL  ZING SHIVERY HELPLESS DUST HELPFUL MOODY HUMOROUS SPRING IDEALISTIC SOMEONE DILIGENT IMMUNE IMPORT FRUITLESS IMPRESSIONS INTIMATE COLD INTROVERT INFLUENCE INSIGHT IRONY IRRATIONAL IRRITATING ANNOYING JETLAG YOUTHFUL ITCH JESUS IDLE CHIPPY ZONKED CHILLY CHILDISH PIMPLES CREEPS SMALL NATURE LITTLE COLOURFUL DOLTISH FEVERISH STRONG HARD PEEVISH TICKLISH TOUCHY ARTISTIC KISSED ANGER DYNAMITE EXCITED GIGGLY LAUGHABLE RIDICULOUS REMISSION NAIVE MIGHTY LAX SLACK SLOW DULL AIRSICK EXACTITUDE TROUBLESOME EMPTINESS VOID GUTS NICE ROPY LIFELESS EXPERIENCE BODILY OPPRESSION MENSTRUATION DISAGREEMENT UNSUSPECTED CHARITABLE LOVING BROKENHEARTED TENDERHEARTED SWEET CHARMING ASHEN LIMITS LIPS CRAFTY LOOSE LUSTY SOBER NUTS WEIRD CRAZY MASSIVE COMPASSION SUBORDINATE COMPASSIONATE FOLLOWED REMARKABLE EMBRACE NUDE FAKE AFTERGLOW TROUBLE DAMPNESS NEGATIVE NERVOUS NOBODY DIMINUTIVE MEANINGLESS ECUMENIC INQUIETUDE RASHED FATAL WORTHY NONCHALANT GRUFF NOSTALGIA IMPATIENT UNLIMITED ROUTINE IMMODEST COOL INFINITY UNAUTHORIZED INEXPERIENCED FREE UNASHAMED CARELESS BREAKABLE UNMATCHED RAIN SMOTHERY ETERNITY CORRUPTIBLE SUBMISSIVE UNPOPULAR REVOLUTION LOST UNBREAKABLE LONGING SPEECHLESS LIKE TRAVELLING

Anything left? Nope? Phew! Total inscription word count: 503 words! It’s amazing how a postcard could hold so many words without a back page contribution. Please note that the 503 words are gathered in 1 sentence only!

So what’s the moral behind it? My interpretation is both good and bad situation, mood and feeling during the trip are part of the art of travelling. They should not kill the spirit of exploring beauty and wonders of the world through travelling. I believe it is the first and foremost resolution of true and avid travellers. Suppose you’re still thinking what resolution you need to make this year, may be you can put this one first on your list. Whether it’s the first, third, tenth or seventieth resolution, it’s your call.

In the future, I will occasionally post my other selected postcard collections that are interesting to share or related to my post.

Gellukig nieuwjaar en goede reis! Happy new year and have a great trip! (Ehm, slightly too late for a new year greeting?)

Days at Baltic Sea

 

Baltic Sea Cruise routes in chronological order: Copenhagen – Oslo – Aarhus – Tallinn – St. Petersburg – Helsinki – Stockholm – Copenhagen

Twelve of thirty days of my recent Eurotrip was at sea. Seven months after Costa Concordia disaster, my family and I took a Baltic Sea excursion from Princess Cruise (where both brands are coincidentally under the same parent company, Carnival Corporation), starting from Copenhagen (as marked by the following black dot).

For many, a cruise ship is a luxury vehicle sailing to reach any desired destination. But for many others, it is actually the destination – far more important than where it docks. So let’s skip the disaster part, and let me tell you the meaning of Escape Completely, as mentioned on Princess Cruise’s tagline.

NEW IN TOWN

Emerald Princess

Once being on board, you’re registered in the town hall of Emerald Princess, the name of the ship taking you to Baltic Sea. Your cruise card is the second most important thing you need to carry at all times after your passport to enter your stateroom, make purchases and re-board the ship.

The flag on the right side signifies the country you visit
outdoor sports

Bring the map to find where you can find the ship’s luxurious facilities, from fitness, library, casino, discotheque to photo studio, so you don’t need to sacrifice your needs, hobbies and habits completely. Only machine rooms, crew’s cabins and the least wanted places to go – jail and mortuary – are not on your map. Without it, some passengers cannot find their own stateroom on the first and second day! Getting to know other passengers travelling with you could make you feel like home, too.

Skywalker Nightclub

NEVER ENDING FOOD SUPPLY

fine dining experience

Variety of food is two thumbs up! So yeah, you’ll always wonder what they have for buffet, tea time and fine dining. Later on, you’ll get some clue about food availability.

I got it starting from the 4th day on. My favourite fennel salad with shrimps is available 24 hours only at International Café on deck 5. I could get double chocolate chip cookies at Horizon Court and Café Caribe on deck 15 during lunch and dinner, except breakfast. Pizza and ice cream parlour opens on deck 15 from 11 am to 11 pm. I could customize my orders at the five-star quality fine dining as long as it is on the menu. For instance, replacing shrimp cocktail with spaghetti Alfredo or skipping the fatty dessert to keep up a strict diet program.

Syamsi, an Indonesia crew, proudly poses for the farewell ice cream cake. It marks the end of the cruise on the way back to Copenhagen.

ENTERTAINMENT ON BOARD

“Life shows are like a box of chocolate. You never know what you gonna get.”

Princess Theater saved the best for last. I didn’t really fancy the first week shows, until I missed one of the best music performers on the last day! However, I managed to watch “International Crew Talent Show”, where the crews demonstrated their hidden talents, from traditional Balinese dance, belly dance, singing, drama until piano performances. To be honest, some crews sang as good as the professionals the company hired, even better!

For passengers who love singing, they can join Princess Pop Star competition. It’s like American Idol with more diverse nationalities. And my uncle made it to the grand final! Yeaayy! Or join Texas Hold’em Tournament for gamblers!

Princess Dancers

As a classical music lover, I found The Alegria String Quartet rocked The Piazza on deck 5. From Strauss, Mozart, Vivaldi until The Beatles, the 4 pretty ladies were violin and cello killers. On their peak performance, the Quartet’s leading lady asked a passenger’s participation to hold her violin’s bow. Then, she drew the strings across the bow the passenger held instead of drawing the bow across the strings. The audience was stunned and finally gave the longest applause in the end of the show.

Liam Steward, the singer and pianist entertaining at Crooners Bar every evening, could kill any song with that blew the audience away. The fact that he’s a hunk is an advantage!

Alegria String Quarter’s Peak Performance

ALL INCLUSIVE?

Knowing that you paid everything in advance, you might immediately believe that all kinds of facility, food and beverage are included in the price. My best advice is: do not hesitate to ask, especially with names or words that sound specific and rosy.

There are extra charges applied for alcoholic drinks, yoga, massage, particular activity like “creating your own matryoshka“, and specialised restaurants like Sabatini’s and Crown Grill have $25 cover charge. Internet connection costs $.79 per minute. Since it is only possible to use satellite to get the network at sea, the connection is slower than that at home and office. My cousin knows it best. He spent $11 for sending 2 short emails!

Holiday in a luxurious cruise ship is not a budget trip. It is meant for those who indulge, reward themselves with achievements in life: marriage, birthday, wedding anniversary, career promotion, successful business or just a family gathering. Certain retired couples with decent amount of retirement funds spend the rest of their life in the ship. Youngsters need to have more savings to pay the trip. FYI, the price for “non-free” food and drinks on board are fair, not too overwhelming. Nonetheless, there is no harm to think wisely before you spend.

INTANGIBLE LUXURY

Princess top deck

Departing, arriving or on the way to destined cities, the best place to witness breathtaking views are the outdoor section of deck 15 and 16. Oslo and Warnemünde are the prettiest cities seen from the top deck, as well as Stockholm while heading to and leaving the harbour (not when it docked). Moreover, clean breeze, sunshine and 20 degree temperature made the place heaven on earth that did not happen everyday.

feeding seagulls with ice cream cone (I know it’s not the best pic to capture the moment!)

Watching seagulls flying high so close to me, on the same level as I stood was another unforgettable experience. While a passenger was feeding seagulls with an ice cream cone, everybody laughed and took pictures of aggressive birds pecking the cone edges with hints of vanilla ice cream left inside.

stateroom corridor

$11 per day gratuity for the crews is part of the company’s house rules. However, making friends with them is what money can’t buy. It broadens your horizon about life behind all the luxurious service and facilities, from long working hours until their tradition, i.e. how Indonesian crews celebrate Indonesian independence day at sea. Since they come from various countries, who knows they have the same nationality as yours!

Besides, far far away from traffic jam and air pollution, picturesque sea view (especially for a city girl like me), friendship with other passengers are also priceless. For everything else, there is MasterCard Princess Cruise Card.

Give me more time to put my journey in words for all cities I visited. This I promise you in my next post.

——————————————————————————————————————

EUROMAP

EUROMAP illustrates my trip to European cities from August to September 2012 through a custom map I created with Google Map. I only include this chapter in the end of the post related to the Eurotrip I did in that month. Please feel free to enlarge and click the blue arrows to view further comments about places I visited. Have fun with it, it’s made to do so!

In a Nutshell: Careless or Clueless?

Generally speaking, my trip to Turkey was full of surprises, like a non-stop long roller coaster ride for the whole week. I expected it would be the one of the most relaxing holiday moments to escape daily routines. But somehow, it happened otherwise. I still believe I could reduce or avoid the surprises, couldn’t I? Well, behind all the incidents or surprises during the trip: was I careless or clueless?

she’s either a pet, an animal farm or a public transportation and hopefully not food!

ALANYA

1. Almost locked up abroad for entering without visa: careless

Was I bullied at the immigration office in Alanya Airport regarding the visa? I checked the Turkish Embassy website and damn, they were right! The regulation has changed, so it’s true that Indonesian passport holders need a visa to visit the country. No matter if you just went there 1, 2 years or even 6 months ago, and which passport have, always verify bureaucracy regulations before visiting a place outside your own country. Everybody knows, but sometimes underestimates this issue.

2. Leaking shower hose in the hotel bathroom: clueless

Who knows whether you get a room with dirty bed sheets, broken remote control or leaking shower hose? Just be critical, report immediately to the hotel officials. If the complaint is too unbearable, get a replacement room when available if you want. It’s your right to get a decent and comfortable room – you paid for it, didn’t you? I  visited the country 6 years ago, websites and online bookings were not as developed as today. Nowadays, it’s very easy (and advisable) to check testimonials from visitors who previously stayed in the place you’re going to stay before making a decision.

rock house window, cappadocia

CAPPADOCIA

1. Local excursion didn’t fulfill some of their promises: clueless (with hints of careless)

“The tour includes the famous underground city and rock churches.” Yep, that’s what they said. They took us to the underground city, but not the most visited one. They took us to the famous area of rock churches in Göreme, but actually they only stopped right in front of the entrance gate and the entrance fee was not included in the package.

Having a preliminary research about your future destination will be helpful, either online (internet cafe, mobile internet – your choice) or go to Tourist Info if you prefer talking to the officials. Well, perhaps asking tourist info officials in Alanya about Cappadocia is not the best choice. But at least you know something and you can take the national tourism board brochures showing destinations in other regions when available.Therefore, you can take notes or keep in mind some names of the most visited places.

But in my case, it was completely a sudden decision! Yet I should have gone to Tourist Info or internet cafe first. I didn’t have to decide right away. Or just let the rest be adventure and suck it all!

Regardless, each city or country has its own way of doing things. Before taking an excursion from a local tour company in a city you’re not familiar with, make sure you ask more details about the tour packages they offer. Elaborate more questions such as, “Which underground city?”,  “What’s the name of the castle?, “Is the entrance fee included?” and so on. It might sound you’re too critical or suspicious. However, some destinations could be once in a lifetime for you. Unless you have much time, choose only the most popular and recommended sites that suits you.

Too much information results in lack of adventure, but too little results in ineffective time management. Nonetheless, getting lost and meeting unpredictable things are part of the art of traveling. Otherwise, what’s the fun? Where’s the adventure? What will you tell your peers about your trip? “Nothing much and as planned”? Even sometimes you meet unexpected things from a 9 to 5 job, don’t you?

2. Leaving a luggage in the baggage after getting off the minibus: careless

Just check your things to ensure nothing left behind before leaving the minibus, as simple as that!

Just don’t think Indonesian if you come to a store called “Pelit”. I don’t know what it means in Turkish, but in Indonesian it means “stingy” – unappealing translation, huh?

Well, probably some of you have had the same experience before and to be honest, I didn’t present any new traveling advice. I’m just learning from my mistakes -my introspection-, share them to you all, and hopefully they will be useful for everyone. Have a great trip!

Things I Shouldn’t Do While Travelling

Greetings from Budapest! Until the day I write this article, I’m still on the third week of my Eurotrip.

image

I post this through WordPress mobile version since I don’t bring my laptop. I promise to deliver more holiday pics as soon as I finish my journey.

So far, I’ve learned something from the trip, especially things I shouldn’t
do during the trip. Not something new to be honest, only things I forget and ignore.

DON’T BRING SPARE MEMORY CARDS
For those who are on a long trip and love taking pictures, not bringing spare memory cards is a disasterous decision. Resizing, sorting and deleting unwanted pics every night is a waste of time and energy. Moreover, bare in mind that if you have an old digital camera having less than 10 megapixels, you only can use a 2GB memory card. Higher capacity memory cards won’t comply with the old system. That’s why 4GB card doesn’t work on my 6 year old Lumix camera with 6 megapixels. It’s time consuming to search for an electronic store in touristic areas and 2GB cards are getting rare in the market nowadays.

LEAVE THE TOILET BOWL OPEN AFTER USE
It’s not about Feng Shui. I advise you to close the toilet bowl lid in wherever and whatever hotel you stay to keep your belongings away from the toilet bowl. When I was in Copenhagen, I accidentally dropped a 15 ml body lotion into a toilet bowl. What happened next was unexpected. That small bottle was sucked in automatically into the flushing hole instead of remaining still on the base of the bowl! I didn’t have time to catch the flowing bottle at all. In fact, the hotel toilet bowl has an automated vacuum capability, even without pressing the ‘flush’ button. Luckily the lotion was a complimentary from the hotel. What if it happens to your diamond ring??

CARELESS WITH SMALL CHANGES
Holiday is meant for relaxation. However, sometimes you just don’t want to sweat small stuff, including small changes you get from the store. I lost €20 change in Warnemunde just because I didn’t recount my changes before leaving the store. I spent approximately €7 in the cafe, then I gave the cashier lady a €50 banknote. After getting back to the cruise ship, I suddenly realized that I only had €23 left in my wallet! I supposed to have another €20 with me.

I wasn’t sure what was going on. Most probably the lady gave me wrong amount of change. However, I mostly suspected that my other €20 was gone with the wind. She put 2 times €20 bank notes and some coins on top. I grabbed the coins first and took too long to find my coin wallet. The wind was pretty strong at that time, the cashier was close to the exit door (no doors, btw) and the notes were brand new and smooth.

I believe one of them fell down because of the wind but I didn’t realize it. Nex time, grab the whole change all at once and arrange it in the proper place later on!

DO NOT LEARN FROM THE PAST
My history as a clumsy traveller repeats: I lost my 72 hour pass in Budapest on the second day! Years ago, I lost my ID card, ATM card, debit card, a few bucks of cash, public transportation monthly pass etc. It’s been my unwanted daily dose for a long time. I suppose to be more careful and do not hold maps, brochures and a card altogether at the same time. I’m sure it fell down, again….

Well, that’s all for now. I promise to tell you more stories of my journey after returning to Jakarta. Cheers!

Penang: Heritage in Hues Part 2

Personally, eating local delicacy, taking taxis and buses in Penang brought back school life nostalgic moments. Therefore, this time I mostly highlight experiences that remind me of life in Petaling Jaya (PJ), Selangor (Malaysia) in 1999 where I pursued my study abroad for the first time.

Should I categorize this in travel or personal?

LOCAL DELICACY

Going to Penang without local street food equals to an incomplete journey. I regret not capturing great pictures of delicious food I ate that can arouse your appetite. I even need to replace some failed images with the better ones from internet. I hate doing this, but I think it’s necessary to do so. Otherwise, nobody knows what I’m talking about. That’s the last thing I wanna do with my blog.

Instant solution for chairs that don’t meet required size spec

Gurney Drive: Not about the Beach

Which ones do you prefer?

As described by the hotel receptionist, Gurney Drive is famous for its hawker centre along coastal line of Penang. I imagined it would be like dining by the beach in Jimbaran, Bali. Nevertheless, the hawker is actually situated across the street from the beach. The sand shore was partly covered by rocks. There were neither coconut trees nor sound of waves. I don’t think it’s suitable to call it “dining by the beach”. Quite dissapointing.

Hanging sotong (squid)

However, as the sun went down, there were more crowds coming to the hawker. Hearing the sound of chattering, laughing crowds and shouting vendors, I suddenly felt relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. I got the same feeling years ago when I hung out with friends at a hawker centre after finishing school projects. It was the best stress relief ever. Moreover, it represented all local food that challenges your appetite, from beef marrow soup, char kway tiauw, chendul, rojak, various kinds of seafood etc.

In a nutshell, Gurney Drive is about a social meeting spot for families, couples, friends, colleagues, and business partners, not the beach and the sunset.

Malaysian chendul (green rice flour jelly) have longer jellies than Indonesian cendol

 Hanging tutti frutti a laPenang

Pork char sieuw and intestine at the hawker near Sunway Hotel George Town

Herbal Eggs

http://sittingwishingeating.com/2010/02/24/the-love-for-%E8%8C%B6%E5%8F%B6%E8%9B%8B/

Best source of energy to start your day!

Herbal eggs or Chinese marbled eggs are hard-boiled eggs simmered in Chinese herb soup. Whenever I had no time for breakfast or lunch at school, I took them as quick snacks. I didn’t only love the taste of the herbs absorbed in the eggs, but also they kept me energized, “hunger free” for hours and much better choice than junk food.

I was so glad I accidentally found herbal eggs in a food court at Gurney Plaza, a shopping mall in Gurney Drive. Now they cost RM 1 per piece. Then, RM 1 for 3 pieces. I couldn’t expect to get the same price as before, but at least they still taste the same as that of 13 years ago.

Indian Food

As Indian community is very rare in Indonesia, I purposely came to Little India to enjoy authentic Indian food which is hard to find in my hometown. Briyani rice, chicken masala, chicken tandoori, mutton curry…..yummy yummy! Besides, we went to Indian food stall close to the hotel to get roti tisu. Even tough I was so afraid of gaining weight, it was too irresistible to resist.

Roti Tisu

Back in PJ where I pursued my study, roti tisu, roti canai and roti prata were some of my favorite supper menus for lepak (hang out) at a hawker centre or a mamak stall. A very fattening and “heavy duty” choice for supper, but it was fun to share with my schoolmates and incredibly delicious!

Bak Kut Teh

Don’t judge a book by its cover: it tastes better that it looks

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t eat bak kut teh (Chinese pork ribs in herb soup) when I stayed in Malaysia. The only thing I remember about bak kut teh is a strange experience with Chinese cab drivers in PJ. Knowing I’m a Chinese descendant, these drivers -different person, time and place- approached me with a conversation mainly about Chinese community to get my sympathy, then they offered me instant bak kut teh for RM 2 moments before I got off from their cab. I didn’t take the offer, though. I kept thinking whether these people were doing multilevel marketing by selling instant bak kut teh in a sachet as their side job.

I finally ate the original bak kut teh for the first time in Penang that didn’t come from a sachet. I just couldn’t get enough, so damn good!! Besides, the dried version of bak kut teh with sprinkled salted fish. It doesn’t exist in Jakarta. So it’s something worth to try, even though I like the original one better.

Teh O Ais Limau: Bad Tea Day Saviour Remembered 

http://www.maeenflavor.com/Lime.html

SURGEON’S GENERAL WARNING: addictive when mixed with iced tea!

Teh o ais limau refers to iced lemon tea in English. However, what Malaysian people use in their traditional iced lemon tea is lime or key lime (limau), not lemon. It should be “iced lime tea”, even though nobody calls it that way. I believe a lime causes Malaysian iced lemon tea has exceptional taste, and that’s what I miss the most. Therefore I spontaneously answered, “Teh O Ais Limau!” at hawker centres in Penang almost every time the waiter asked me for drinks. By the way, limes are very common in my hometown, but not a common ingredient for iced lemon tea.

Well, how I end up as a lemon tea addict actually started from the first depressive month in PJ as I’ve been an unsweetened tea addict. Getting unsweetened iced tea  (Indonesian: es teh tawar) at a Malay mamak stall drove me nuts. I said teh ais (also literally means iced tea in English) confidently because I thought it was the closest term to es teh (tawar). But suddenly I got iced milk tea. It didn’t say milk (susu) at all!

I was advised to order teh o ais if I don’t want milk in my tea. So I ordered teh o ais next day. It was true there wasn’t milk, but sugar instead. It didn’t say sugar (gula) at all! A few days later, I ordered teh o ais again with a remark “no sugar”.  The waiter nodded. Still, there was SUGAR in my tea!! The week after was my last attempt. I tried to order in English “tea without sugar”, once in Malay “teh tanpa gula“.  Both have the same meaning. But again, the GODDAMN SUGAR was STILL there!!!

Finally, I gave up. I would rather get a different type of drink. I gave a shot ordering iced lemon tea,  although I didn’t really enjoy tea with lemon. Yet, at least the lemon could neutralize the sweetness of the tea. Et voilà, I love it!  Since then, it was my regular drink besides ais kosong (cold water).

I should have asked all the drink terms listed in the menu, but it was time consuming and I was Ms. Know It All, then (now I know I wasn’t). Although Malay and Indonesian are similar, Malay beverage terms could lead me to total lost in translation.

Gula Melaka Ice Cream

The best home made ice cream is just two steps from here!

The café across Yap Temple, unfortunately I forget the name, has one of the best home made ice cream I’ve ever tasted, from chocolate, chocolate chip, coffee until tiramisu flavour. Chocolate chunks on the chocolate chip flavour tasted really good despite being slightly oversized, even without the (vanilla) ice cream.

How about gula Melaka (palm sugar) flavoured ice cream? The lady who served me was a very honest person. She didn’t recommend me to try it, but I insisted on getting the tester. It was something new for me; the only food that has nothing to do with my school life flashback. Not so horrible that I wanted to throw up, yet I just couldn’t enjoy it that much.

Don’t get me wrong. I love palm sugar. I mix it with coffee, grilled banana and avocado. Nonetheless, I admit it was a bizarre ingredient to create ice cream flavour.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

http://www.penang-traveltips.com/taking-the-taxi.htm

“THIS TAXI USES METER. BARGAINING IS NOT ALLOWED. GET THE RECEIPT.” a.k.a they don’t do what they said

Sorry to say, but I don’t see the point of placing announcement on the front taxi door as shown above. In reality, I never found any taxis in Penang using meter.  The best thing I could do was to get preliminary information about the average rate to certain destination or ask the hotel security guard to bargain with the driver. Taxis in the airport don’t use meter either, but you can get fixed rate if you buy tickets from the taxi counter after claiming your baggage.

“We won’t earn much for living because Penang is just a small island where everything is close.” said the driver in response to the question why taxi drivers in Penang don’t want to use meter. Regardless of not using meter, the drivers who took us were friendly and love chit-chatting just about anything, from tourist attractions, food until their wife, children and grandsons.

On the other hand, exploring George Town was very convenient thanks to CAT (Central Area Transit), a free shuttle bus mainly concentrated on tourist attractions around the heritage city area.

There are many ways to enjoy Penang and see what this island has inherited to the world, especially in Southeast Asian culture. And that’s not all yet, my friends!  I’ll bring you more “hues” in the last part of the heritage sequel. Stay tuned…