Adventure Dining in Mangga Besar: Cobra Skewers, Blood and Bile in West Jakarta


Mangga Besar is a densely populated, hustling and bustling area in West Jakarta, the melting pot of bars, night clubs, discotheques, hotels, restaurants and street food stalls. Not to mention the less–known Avalokitesvara Temple and abundant medical clinics situated in residential areas somewhere behind the street food areas.

Joining Wisata Kreatif Jakarta on walking tour to Mangga Besar, the last destination of the tour is what I had been waiting for: eating cobra skewers and its blood and bile. The snake meat itself was not the biggest challenge for me, but the blood and bile were!

Along the street of Mangga Besar Raya, a few hundred meters from the famous Durian Acin, there are several stalls selling cobra skewers, among others Cobra 34 Pais. Established by Pais since year 2000, the family-owned business is inspired by his grandfather who has been selling cobra before 1980s, whose stall name is “34”. In Chinese belief, number 34 means life and death.

Generally speaking, cobra food stalls in Mangga Besar only open in the evening, starting from 5 pm until midnight.

mangga besar


The most well-known dish from Cobra 34, perhaps as well as other cobra snake food stalls, is a set menu of cobra skewers, blood and bile sold for Rp. 90.000 (about $7). King cobra package is sold for Rp. 300.000 (about $25). There are also cobra floss, cobra soup and cobra oil. The non-cobra product is biawak (tropical giant lizard) skewers, soup, floss and oil.

My cousin and I ordered the Rp. 90.000 cobra package. The rest of the tour members hesitated to get one and some would only like to have a bite or two, only if they finally had guts in the last minute.

“Do you want the blood and bile as well?” The vendor asked.

“Well, not this time. But we would like to have it pictured, so don’t throw it away.” I replied.

To be honest, the day before the tour, I promised that I would challenge myself to consume the blood and bile for the sake of compelling story telling in my blog. Nonetheless, my stomach felt bloated in that afternoon for reasons only God knows. Since they would be mixed with alcohol (and honey) to reduce the fishy taste, I wasn’t sure if I could stand the alcohol in my condition. Therefore, I decided not to consume them.

sate cobra
pouring the blood and bile


The “slaughter” show began. After taking the cobra out of the cage, he (the vendor) closed the snake’s mouth with a bamboo clip and chopped its head off. Then, he stretched the headless cobra’s body and squeezed it to pour the blood and bile into the prepared plastic mug. Skinning and separating the cobra’s meat and bone were faster than I thought, less than 30 seconds, by tying the front part of the body with a rope and peeled its black skin with bare hands. The last step was to remove the remaining organs attached in the inner side of the cobra’s meat using a bamboo skewer.

During the 3 minute process of slaughtering, both cobra’s head and its beheaded body kept writhing. Slow but sure, it was a very agonizing way of facing death. If I were the vendor, I would first smash or stab right to its brain before doing anything else to end its pain. Especially the head kept flipping and the mouth kept moving after being left for an hour. Its body stopped writhing after 5 minutes since it was instantly cut and pierced in bamboo skewers to grill.

One cobra equals to one portion of cobra skewers, that consists of 9 pieces. Although it was about 2 meters long, the whole body mostly contains of bone and the organs inside, which are definitely inedible. The only meaty part is located in the outer part attached to the bone, which is not as much as I thought.

sate cobra
this one is about to be our dinner

Watching the whole process of turning the venomous predator to be on our dinner plate is either curiosity or something too hard to handle, depending on your personal perspectives.

One of the tour members mentioned about her friend, who had severe acne problem and her prescribed medicines didn’t work, was advised to drink snake blood and bile, but not necessarily the meat. After consuming them regularly, the acne turned dry and gradually peeled off from her skin. Doing so was the last option for her, so eerie and disgusted feeling were swept away by the sense of urgency to get cured.

The vendor justified her story. He added a notion that many of his customers are women having skin problems.

DSCF2296 copy
head, bone and meat


We were so carried away witnessing the slaughter show that we almost forgot asking about where the blood and bile drink were. It turned out that he only knew that we didn’t want to consume it, but he didn’t get the idea that we still wanted to take a picture of them in the mug . He gave it to the parking lot caretaker instead, who apparently often volunteers to drink them every time customers are not willing to.

One of us asked the parking lot guy how it tasted.

“Nothing really special, just like Vicks Formula 44.” He replied.

Vicks Formula 44 is a liquid cough medicine, that can be obtained easily in drug stores without prescription. Well, I’m not a fan of the taste of any cough medicine, but it gave me an impression that drinking snake blood and bile doesn’t taste terrible at all.

Grilling the skewers took about 20 minutes and added with sweet soy sauce when served to our table. It looked and tasted exactly the same as chicken skewers, and the plus point is that it was completely fresh. Nonetheless, it was more chewy than chicken, but not as chewy as crocodile meat in Cambodia. I remember trying fried snake with turmeric spices many years ago elsewhere and the meat was much more tender than the skewers.

Eventually, some tour members dare to get some bites from us. They said that it’s just like chicken, but the only problem is that they still can’t get rid of the memory of how the cobra is “processed” into food.

sate cobra
at a glance, no difference between cobra and chicken skewers


Apart from food, Cobra 34 Pais also offers medical products, among others Kapsul Cobra (Cobra Capsule), Minyak Bulus (Softshell Turtle Oil) and Salep Cobra (Cobra Balm). I tried the Cobra Balm, that merely costs Rp. 30.000 ($2) per bottle. Using cobra oil as the main ingredient, Cobra Balm solves skin problems, such as skin allergies, acne, itchy, chapped skin, wounds and so on. I use it to cure acne problems and it works pretty well for me.

salep cobra
cobra balm

In a nutshell, I can guarantee the freshness of the food from Cobra 34 Pais since I witnessed the whole process from the start. All you need to do is to prepare yourself to see how it’s made. Otherwise, you can turn your back away when it’s in progress or watch it blindfolded.

Have a great dining adventure!

Cobra 34 (Pais)

Address: Mangga Besar Raya, West Jakarta, Indonesia

Tel: +62 812 8777 5387

Opening Hours: 5 pm – midnight

candra naya

Candra Naya: From Major’s House to Nation’s Heritage

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Finding Candra Naya building was a bit funny experience when I had to be there for a gathering with Chinatown Walking Tour members of Jakarta Good Guide. At a glance, Candra Naya is like a hidden gem in a concrete forest, that only can be found after passing the alley of Novotel Jakarta Gajah Mada Hotel, right before Green Central City superblock. Its unconventional location is in fact has an interesting story behind it.

candra naya
front entrance
candra naya
front door

It is estimated that Candra Naya was built in the rabbit year in Chinese Lunar Calendar, somewhere around 1807 or 1867. It is a former residence of Major Khouw Kim An, who inherited the house from his father, Khouw Tjeng Tjoan, who had 14 wives and 24 children. Khouw Kim An was the last Major of the Chinese (Majoor der Chinezen), a leader of Chinese society during the Dutch colony period from 1910 to 1918 and re-elected from 1927 to 1942. Therefore, the building was also known as the Major’s House.

candra naya
Major Khouw Kim An

candra naya


Born on June 5, 1879, Khouw Kim An was not only the Major of the Chinese, but also an entrepreneur and a shareholder of Bataviaasche Bank. He received numerous awards from the Dutch for his merit to the local people. Unfortunately, he was arrested in 1942 during Japanese occupation and died in the concentration camp on February 13, 1945.

candra naya

candra naya


After the major’s passing and not long after the end of World War II, the house is inherited to his family and rented to Sin Ming Hui Association in 1960s. Initially founded to help victims of the riot in Tangerang in 1946, Sin Ming Hui Association held many social-oriented activities in Candra Naya building, from establishing a medical clinic, sports center, Candra Naya school to Sin Ming Hui Photographic Society, the oldest photography community in Jakarta founded in 1948.

After the prohibition of the three-syllable names (aka Chinese names) in Indonesia, Sin Ming Hui Association was renamed into Tjandra Naya Social Union, whose spelling has changed into Candra Naya. It was also a popular wedding venue from 1960s to 1970s.

candra naya
one of the wing rooms

candra naya

Unfortunately, it is quite common that cultural heritage buildings in Indonesia are not always save from harm, even if they are protected by law, including Candra Naya building. After the property was sold to Modern Group, the 3 original buildings at the back side of Candra Naya were demolished in 1993 to be the site of Green Central City, a superblock of apartments and offices. The demolition lead to protests from heritage conservation groups.

Finally, the front building manages to survive, consisting of a living room for guest receptions and Khouw Kim An’s office, semi-private rooms for close guests, right and left wing side for maids, concubines and their children, and a gazebo behind the main building with a veranda and a pond. The demolished buildings have never been rebuilt ever since.

candra naya
pool and fountain

For older generations, like my dad for instance, visiting Candra Naya brings back his memory when my grandfather took him there to play badminton. On the other hand, millennials may not notice the role of Candra Naya for new generations and never heard of Sin Ming Hui Association.

Nonetheless, its legacy still remains nowadays. The medical clinic is the predecessor of notable hospitals in Jakarta, such as Sumber Waras Hospital and Husada Hospital. Candra Naya school has developed into Tarumanegara University, situated in Grogol area, West Jakarta.

Apart from historical visit, Candra Naya is also a popular place to chill out on lazy Sunday afternoon (or any day you prefer) with friends and family. There are seats available outside the rear entrance, facing the pond and fountain. Overall, the environment at Candra Naya is convenient, safe, well-maintained and clean.

The only thing that needs some improvements is the public toilet. The circle gates with their pink borders looks classy and quite eye-catching. Nonetheless, the facilities and cleanliness are poor. The toilet bowl looks shabby and dirty, no toilet paper and the room is a bit smelly. The wash room has neither soap nor toilet paper. I believe it won’t break the bank by providing those basic necessities. The only problem from this matter is negligance. Well, poor toilet facilities happens lots of times to main tourist attractions in Indonesia, unfortunately.

candra naya


candra naya
Kopi Oey

When hunger strikes, there’s no need to leave Candra Naya area. The are some restaurants in the neighborhood, whose building is a former guard house. Kopi Oey is the one you will instantly notice when you visit Candra Naya, situated on the right hand side of the building. Serving Chinese Peranakan dishes, Kopi Oey Candra Naya is the most beautiful branch of the chain. The food is pretty good in affordable price and the interior is very cozy to hang out.

kopi oey candra naya

Other restaurants are Token Resto, a Taiwanese restaurant, and Fubar, a Chinese restaurant. If you like spicy food and some Taiwanese snacks, Token Resto is the right place to try. The only restaurant I haven’t tried is Fubar and I’d like to have a visit someday.

candra naya


candra naya


Despite obstacles over the years, I’m so glad that it still stands gracefully nowadays, so all of us and the next generation are able to witness of the most beautiful Chinese style heritage houses in Jakarta. Overall, I enjoy visiting Candra Naya and make sure you don’t miss it when you visit Jakarta.

candra naya
Candra Naya and Novotel at night

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pantjoran tea house

Pantjoran Tea House: The Taste of Heritage in Jakarta Old Town

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Pantjoran Tea House is situated in Glodok area, Jakarta, the biggest Pecinan or Chinatown in Indonesia that has been existing since 380 years ago. Jalan Pancoran is part of Glodok area coverage, apart from Gang Gloria (Gloria Alley) and Petak Sembilan. The two-storey building is also the main gate to Jakarta Old Town, formerly called Batavia, from the south.

The name “Glodok” is inspired by “grojok grojok”, the sound of running water from the douche in the yard of the City Hall. Nonetheless, Chinese people pronounced it as “glodok”, that finally becomes an official name of the area. On the other hand, the translation of “douche”, which is pancuran in Indonesian, inspires Pancoran (local’s unofficial pronunciation of pancuran) as a street name.

Operating since nearly 3 years ago, Pantjoran Tea House is definitely not the oldest tea house and restaurant in Jakarta. Nonetheless, the age of the building is much older than the tea house itself because it used to be Apotheek Chung Hwa (Chung Hwa Pharmacy), the second oldest pharmacy in Jakarta opened in 1928.

pantjoran tea house jakarta

After it runs out of business, the building was neglected and untreated for years, occupied by illegal tenants and shop houses on the 2nd floor. After the government initiated a revitalization program in the Old Town area, The Head of Indonesia Architect Association, Ahmad Djuhara, lead the former Apotheek Chung Hwa renovation project started in September 2014. 16 months later, in December 2015, Jakarta Old Town Revitalization Corp (JOTRC) CEO, Lin Che Wei, reopened the privately-owned building,  transforming it into Pantjoran Tea House. It also has been nominated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Commemorating the tradition of drinking tea is one of the major reasons why the building is functioned as a tea house. The birth of tea culture can be traced back in the 17th century, when a Dutch botanist named Andreas Cleyer brought the tea seedling from Japan by a VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or Dutch East India Company) ship that regularly harboured around the Old Town.

At around 9.30 am, our tour guide from Jakarta Good Guide, Cindy, I and the rest of tour members arrived at Pantjoran Tea House that took 7 minutes walk from Candra Naya building. What makes it distinctive is the presence of 8 teapots on the long table situated on the right side of the entrance door.

The teapot display is in fact not only for the sake of eye-catching view, but also a symbol of solidarity in diversity that has been told from generations to generations.

pantjoran tea house

The tradition began when Gan Djie came to Batavia (now Jakarta) in 1659 for his trading business and lived in Kota Tua (Old Town) area. In 1663, he was appointed by the Dutch to be the third Kapitein der Chineezen (Chinese Captain), a prominent leader in the semi-autonomous Chinese community, until his death in 1666. His wife replaced his position until her retirement in 1678.

Captain Gan Djie and his wife were famous for their kindness and solidarity during their lives. They always put eight teapots in front of the captain’s office for peddlers and those  who were tired to shelter while zipping some tea with for of charge. Those days, cafes, restaurants as well as other food and drink vendors were rare.

Since then, the area where they lived is known as “Patekoan”, whose name is originated from pat (eight in Chinese) and teko (teapot in Indonesian). Although the name of the area has changed into Jalan Peniagaan (Peniagaan Street), a lot of people still call it as Patekoan.

pantjoran tea house

To revitalize the spirit of solidarity, those tea in the teapots are served for free for everyone, forever, even without dining at the restaurant itself. The inscription in front of the teapots says it out loud, “Tradisi ‘Patekoan’ (8 Teko); SILAKAN MINUM! TEH UNTUK KEBERSAMAAN; TEH UNTUK MASYARAKAT” (‘Patekoan’ (8 Teapots) Tradition; PLEASE HAVE A DRINK!; TEA FOR TOGETHERNESS; TEA FOR THE PEOPLE)

Cindy gave us some time to drink the tea before heading to Gang Gloria (Gloria Alley). The tea house waiter also encouraged us to do the same and convinced that it’s free.

A month later, I returned to the same place with my family. In my case, it’s my second time to taste the free black tea from one of the old-fashioned white-green teapots next to the entrance door. We planned to taste the dim sum, but it was too late. Opening at 7 am, most of the dim sum menus were already finished by 10 am. The peak hour is usually between 7.30 am to 9 am, where nearly all the guests who just finish walking and jogging around the Old Town area.

Therefore, we finally ordered some main courses to share, such as fried noodle, fuyung hai (egg omelette with minced prawn), the signature nasi goreng Pantjoran (beetroot fried rice with seafood), stir-fry chicken with salted vegetable in fermented rice sauce, and 2 other remaining dim sum menus still available, ha kau (prawn crystal dumpling), chicken siomay and jasmine tea.

pantjoran tea house
first floor

The tea house interior is dominated Chinese style wooden shutters that allow sunlight coming into the dining room. The first floor where we sat is a non air-conditioned room with a fan placed on the high ceiling. Fortunately, it wasn’t so hot inside because the entrance door remained open facing our seat.

pantjoran tea house

I love what I saw on the second floor. Long and vertical windows, Chinese style wooden shutters and antiquities deliver nostalgic moments of Chinese occupation during the Dutch colonization era, although the whole parts of the interior is brand new and nothing like the original because its condition was so bad that it was hard to see the traces of the original look at that time. Moreover, it’s air conditioned and has roomy spaces among the seats.

pantjoran tea house


pantjoran tea house

pantjoran tea house

There are several paintings depicting the old glory of Apotheek Chung Hwa on the walls. The original building was bigger in the past, yet it was cut off from 400 meters to 300 meters left due to the expansion of the street. Also, there are other paintings showing the same building with distinctive elements of colonization from 2 countries, the Japanese red torii gate and Dutch style trams passing by.

pantjoran tea house

pantjoran tea house

Apart from paintings, there are some frames of cheatsheet and chart showing the history of drinking tea, types of tea and how tea culture enters Indonesia. Suppose you have a patience in reading them all, visiting this floor feels like entering a museum.

Well, I think it’s my time to return to reality and I believe our food should be ready to serve.

pantjoran tea house

pantjoran tea house

pantjoran tea house

private seating for meetings
private room for meetings

The ha kau and chicken siomay was pretty good. We also liked the jasmine tea. Nonetheless, the fried noodle, nasi goreng Pantjoran, fuyung hai were just okay and not very special. I didn’t consume the last 3 meals since I have severe allergy in fried food, so I only conclude from what my family said about it.

There was an issue with my stir-fry chicken with salted vegetable in fermented rice sauce. The chicken was deep fried with flour instead of stir-fry. Apparently the chef improvised the menu without informing the waiter. It’s a common sense that every dish should be in line with the image and description in the menu book. I asked for a replacement since it would trigger my allergy later on. She agreed to change it with the stir-fry chicken as it should be and the taste was quite good.

pantjoran tea house
Yes, I was too late to take the pics of the food 😉

In a nutshell, Pantjoran Tea House is an interesting tourist spot and a lovely ambiance for gathering, especially in terms of history and unique heritage of Patekoan tradition that remind us to embrace cultural differences as part of a nation’s pride.

The price range is middle to high segment with an approximate total spending of Rp. 70.000 to Rp. 100.000 ($5 to $8) per person, depending on what you order. Although there are many more recommended Chinese restaurants in Jakarta, it still has a decent food quality and not a tourist trap at all.

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Pantjoran Tea House

Opening hours: 07:00 am – 09.00 pm

Address: Jl. Pancoran Raya No. 4-6, Glodok

Phone: +6221 6 905904

vihara toasebio

Chinese New Year’s Post Highlights

New Year celebration is over according to Gregorian solar calendar, but it’s just about to start according to Chinese lunar calendar. Usually, Chinese New Year celebration ranges from January 21 until February 20. The 12 animals in Chinese Zodiac, such as rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, have a cycle that runs every 12 years. In 2018, it’s the year of dog that will fall on February 16.

Apart from celebrating Chinese New Year with my family, I’d like to celebrate it online as well through my blog. Therefore, during the month of February, I will dedicate my posts to historical destinations in Chinatown Jakarta I visited with Jakarta Good Guide, such as:

  • Candra Naya, the former residence of Khouw Kim An, the last Major of Chinese during the Dutch occupation, once housed 14 wives and 24 children.
chinatown jakarta
Candra Naya
  • Pantjoran Tea House, a Chinese restaurant whose building used to be a pharmacy called Apotheek Chung Hua before its revitalization project in 2015.
pantjoran tea house
Pantjoran Tea House
  • The oldest temples in Jakarta called Dharma Bhakti Temple, known as Kim Tek Ie Temple, and Dharma Jaya Toasebio Temple.
vihara toasebio
Dharma Jaya Toasebio Temple

And some more Chinese related destinations I still need to think about, probably in the following month? Oh well, let it be a surprise for you. So, stay tuned!


New Year’s Eve: Morning Walk on Car Free Day in Jakarta


New Year’s Eve celebration is identical with fireworks, booze, fancy dinner, traveling and gathering in public places at night. Which is great, actually. But I just don’t do that anymore.

Being a Jakarta resident, staying at home on New Year’s Eve has been my choice for the past few years because of the terrible traffic jam in the evening (of New Year’s Eve) every year, which is killing me. Not to mention road blocks on main roads for stage installations for night performances and street food vendors, that worsen the existing bad traffic.

Instead, I joined my uncle for photo hunting on December 31, 2017, the last day of Car Free Day in Jakarta at 6 am. It was a great effort for me to be on site at 6 am since I’m not a morning person, but I think it would be a great alternative way to celebrate New Year’s Eve.


Car Free Day in Jakarta has been initiated since 2002, held every Sunday morning, to reduce dependency on using vehicles to commute. At the same time, it encourages healthier activities, such as walking, jogging, cycling and hopefully, the level of air pollution decreases. From time to time, the week period and duration of Car Free Day have experienced some changes. Finally, since 2012 until now, Car Free Day starts every Sunday morning from 6 am to 11 am.


Arriving at around 6.10 am, we passed the vendors, who were in the final stage of setting up their tents and merchandise along the street, to reach the roundabout of Hotel Indonesia known as Bundaran Hotel Indonesia or Bundaran HI with the signature Selamat Datang (literally means “welcome”) Monument situated on MH. Thamrin Street.  Although it wasn’t crowded yet, I still couldn’t avoid the presence of “unwanted” figure on the left side in my photo.



I zipped a glass of hot Milo drink while sitting on the pavement of Bundaran HI facing the front side of Grand Hyatt Hotel. It felt like hanging out at an outdoor hotel cafe in a shoestring because it cost me only Rp. 5000 ($ 0.30) per cup.



Mingling with people from various background and activities on street when no cars passing by, except Transjakarta public buses, is an amazing experience. It opens my eyes that I’m looking at 2 sides of a coin simultaneously. One side shows a number of people who depend on Car Free Day as a(n) (additional) source of income, while on the other side shows a number of people who enjoy a day off from work and tend to spend some amount of money when necessary.


Occupations on the street may vary, and each of them is unique in its own way.

Street Food Vendors


When hunger and thirst strike, there’s nothing to worry about. Vendors on the bike sell coffee, coffee milk, ginger drink, oatmeal, hot chocolate and cup noodles. I got my hot Milo drink from one of these fellas on the bike, anyways.

Besides, the carts parking along the street offer more food variety. Gorengan or deep fried food is what most vendors sell, such as tahu bulat (round shaped tofu), fried fermented soybean, fried tofu, chicken nugget and many more. For healthier options, there are half-ripe mango, fresh cut bell fruit with spicy sugar, papaya, palm juke water and fresh juices. Heavier meals from vermicelli or egg noodle with meatballs, chicken porridge, fried rice until fried noodle are also available. If you are a sweet tooth, traditional lolly pop and cotton candy could be a perfect choice.

chicken porridge with crackers

Souvenir Vendors

Ondel-ondel is originally a giant puppet having 2.5 meters high used for welcoming important guests. The tradition belongs to Betawi folk, the indigenous people of Jakarta, and ondel-ondel the icon of Jakarta. Nowadays, these puppets are also produced in smaller sizes to take home. They also appear in the form of illustrations on t-shirts, mugs, bags and more, but mostly sold in outlets at shopping malls.

Other vendors sell masks, bubble solutions, non-branded and counterfeited branded bags, shoes, shirts, jeans, belts, as well as bras and underwear. Besides, there are trumpets, confetti and other new year related goods.

bubble solution
the masks

Additionally, vintage bike spare part stall is also quite popular because the members of Vintage Bike Community or Komunitas Sepeda Onthel have a gathering every Sunday morning on Car Free Day. And these items don’t come that cheap since their availability is rare nowadays.

vintage bike spare parts

Odong-odong Rider

odong-odong rider and a couple

In this picture, Odong-odong is kid’s rides assembled on a modified rickshaw or motorcycle. It usually comes with fast-paced music like dangdut or kid’s songs the attract future customers, who are obviously children. The rate per ride may vary, between Rp. 2000 ($0.10) and Rp. 5000 ($ 0.40).

Street Artists

Street artists usually wear costumes of famous cartoon characters or imaginary creatures they create themselves.

Posing with street artists is a fun activity, too

However, you will find more than one street artists dressing up like pocong. Pocong is an appearance of a dead body whose soul is trapped in its shroud and one of the most popular ghost characters showing repeatedly in Indonesian horror movies. What they need to do is to stand still until somebody wants to pose with them.

get ready to work
pocong off duty
Kid: “Mom, can I take a picture with her?” Mom: “No, honey, she’s too scary. Leave her alone.” Ghost Lady: “You should try harder, kid. I need some money to eat.”


The main cause of Library on the Go or Perpustakaan Keliling is to encourage local citizens to have more interest in reading. Librarians are assigned to serve walk-in customers who wants to borrow some books for certain period of time or read them on the spot.


If earning some money is not the purpose, what do the rest of people do on Car Free Day?

Walking the Dog

Human beings are not the only ones who need some exercise, after all.



Cycling is a sport that you can either do it individually, with a group of friends and families or gather in a cyclist community.


We specifically drew our attention to the members of Komunitas Sepeda Onthel or Vintage Bike Community, who labelled themselves as onthelist. The community incorporates people with common interest in cycling and old bicycle called onthel bikes, the type of bikes used in Jakarta during the Dutch colonization period until the year of 1970’s.

Unlike other cyclists with their sportswear, onthelists outfits are replicas from the old generation era, such as KNIL soldier, traditional Betawi and Javanese clothing, World War II pilot and many more. Many of the outfits are custom made since it’s hard to get the right style and fitting from the stores.

Moreover, onthelists are born to be cool  models.




Posing with some of the onthelists, why not? They are nice people and proud to be captured with someone else’s camera. Simply ask for their permission and there’s no need to sneak and chase them just for a picture. Before we left, one of the onthelists reminded us to watch our bags since he has witnessed several daredevil pickpockets regardless the gender.

Last but not least, I’m not sure in which community this kid belongs to, but I think he looks cute in that outfit.

DSCF1941 copy


During Christmas and New Year holiday, a lot of Jakarta residents are either traveling to other cities within the country or overseas, affecting the decreasing amount of participants on Car Free Day.

car free day jakarta
not as crowded as usual

Unexpectedly, we heard a woman’s voice at around 8 am, probably one of the Ministry of Transportation officials, saying that there was no car free day on that day and she warned everybody on the street to leave the spot. Get real! A lot of people, including us, were confused and disappointed since there was no official announcement beforehand.

Fortunately, we were about to leave the spot and continued our journey to the Port of Sunda Kelapa. Although sometimes things just don’t happen like the way we want to, we still cherished the day to conclude the year of 2017.

Happy new year and may all of you be blessed in 2018!



gili lawa

Chasing Sunset on Gili Lawa

Gili Lawa is located in the north side of Komodo Island and considered as the gate to the natural habitat of the largest prehistoric lizard in the world, Komodo dragon (until now, I still don’t understand why it’s called “dragon”, since we all Indonesians see it as a giant lizard), at Komodo National Park. It takes 3 to 4 hours from Labuan Bajo, but only 30 minutes from the famous Pink Beach by boat.

There are 2 parts of Gili Lawa, which are Gili Lawa Darat (literally meaning Land Gili Lawa) and Gili Lawa Laut (Sea Gili Lawa), situated across one another. To hunt for sunset, we visited Land Gili Lawa, located between Sea Gili Lawa and Komodo Island. It was our second time to do the same activity as that on Padar Island the day before with Indonesia Photo Tour.

gili lawa

Like Padar Island, the only way to get the best viewpoints is by trekking. Land Gili Lawa is an uninhabited island, so make sure to bring own food and drinks, wear trekking shoes or mountain sandals, sunglasses, a hat, a flashlight (the one from your smartphone should be okay, too) to get down from the hill after dark and last but not least, a good quality camera (and all the tools necessary if you want) to capture the moments to the fullest! Bring a plastic or paper bag as well to collect your trashes (and bring it to the boat for littering). Remember that there are no local people there, including the cleaning service, so please be responsible to keep clean and preserve the nature.

gili lawa

Last April, the hilly terrain was dominated by savanna covered with grass and I was delighted to see that because it was like a hilly golf course that doesn’t happen all year long. Usually, the land turns green during rainy season and a transition to dry season. In dry season, it turns to be a barren land. Some say that it delivers a different kind of beauty, but I personally like it green.

The signature characteristic of Gili Lawa is that the 2 islands, situated across each other, have a sort of “tentacle” shape on one side, whose edges are not attached. It creates a gap that looks like a straits, where all ships and boats can pass by freely.

gili lawa

gili lawa

It took between 30 minutes to an hour to reach the top of the hill, depending on speed and stamina. For débutant trekkers, like me, the trails were pretty strenuous. Steep paths with gravels and slippery soil were a daily dose along the way. Having anticipated beforehand, our local guides were ready to give a hand when necessary. It was something I desperately needed on certain paths, but I tried my best to hang on and not to depend on them entirely. I had no shame using my own ass to slide on uneven and slippery surfaces, while grabbing steady rocks or twigs as handrails for balancing.

While trekking, make sure to keep looking down, place your feet sideways, either to the left or right instead of straight, to prevent getting easily slipped. If you have knee problems or tired, take a break. Listen to your body and don’t push the limit too much. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need to. Last but not least is to believe in yourself you’re gonna make it no matter what.

gili lawa

The good news is there are 2 options for viewing the sunset, the easy way or hard way. I remember the day before on Padar Island that going down to the shore was so much more challenging than going up. Therefore, I know my limit and decided to choose the easy way, meaning that I “only” needed to walk half of the whole trail and that was a relief. Although it was impossible to avoid the nature, which are steep and slippery paths no matter what.

I wasn’t alone with my choice. Actually, 6 of 8 members in our group were with me. Especially, our tour leader told us that the sunset looks prettier from the lower view point than the higher one. So, I didn’t see the point of having feet and knee sores for the sake of the reaching the peak.

How about the hard way? Easy. Just walk all the way to the top, as shown on the following pictures:

gili lawa
trekking to the highest view point
gili lawa
yes, it’s human beings, not fleas!

The lower level view point, aka the easy way, was actually stunning! Gili Lawa had never been better from this spot with savanna as a photo framing. By the way, the water should be blue, but I forgot switching the dynamic range setting back to normal.

gili lawa

On the right side of the island, that was where the sun went down. It was the right moment to place our tripod and adjust the camera setting. This spot was perfect because it is off the beaten path. Most people try hard to the peak, thinking that the highest point should have the best view. But it doesn’t always work that way.

gili lawa
Chasing sunset. Image credit: Indonesia Photo Tour.

Using Fuji XA-1, the first generation of XA type from Fuji X Series, I managed to capture the sunset with low light manual setting without any filter (cause I don’t have one).

gili lawa

After the sun was below the horizon, no one should leave the spot immediately, since the magical moment of spectacular lighting had yet to come. This was the moment I long for while chasing sunset and I hope it would not be disappointing. Sometimes nature doesn’t answer your prayers, so I prepared for the worst and if it happens, let it be.

Approximately 15 to 20 minutes later, the sky showed off its radiant and dramatic yellow-orange colour gradation. After changing the setting into advanced filter and choosing dynamic range feature, it resembled Mordor on Lord of the Rings, a place where Frodo should throw away the cursed ring.

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second sunset

Furthermore, the island we had seen since 3 pm from all angles suddenly transformed itself to bluish-pinkish appearance both in the sky and the water surface. I love how the cloud in the middle looked like a pile of popcorn. I truly admired and appreciated the non-polluted environment that delivered such a miracle. It was the most beautiful blue hour I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t ask for more.

It was originally beautiful on its own, although the picture shown below used a dynamic range feature and dramatized the overall look. Does it remind you of a children’s book cover?

gili lawa
blue hour

After the magical moments was over and before it was getting too dark, we left our spot with a flashlight in our hand for clearer view of the paths on the way back to our ship. Darkness may turn into danger if we get slipped or lost without assistance (and don’t know how to find the right track).

As a farewell to Gili Lawa, we captured the sunrise from the boat the next morning on the way to Papagarang Island.

I was glad that we visited this island, since not all tour operators put Gili Lawa on their itinerary. Sampai jumpa lagi, or see you again!

sunrise from the boat

Further enquiry about the trip, please check: Instagram: @indonesiaphototour


Please note that I’m not affiliated with this company and not paid for this article. I’m nothing but a participant of this trip.

padar island

Trekking on Padar Island: Challenging Path for Breathtaking Views


Padar Island is one of the islands that belongs to Komodo National Park in East Nusa Tenggara Province, Flores Island, Indonesia. It’s the third largest island after Komodo and Rinca Island, about 14.09 square kilometers.

The uninhabited island is a home for savanna and palmyra palm trees flourishing on the hilly terrain, along with mangrove, gecko, snakes, eagles and crows. On the other hand, the sea is a home for manta rays, sea turtles, corals, and sharks.

But, how about Komodo dragons?

The locals said that not long ago, there were 5 Komodo dragons exiled on Padar Island after attacking humans on Rinca Island, where the more aggressive dragons (than those in Komodo National Park on Komodo Island) live. However, recently there are only 3 left due to lack of food and eventually dead.

Fortunately, our tour leaders mentioned this information the day after in order not to scare us! Anyways, suppose they happen to be on the island, they would be somewhere off-the-beaten path on the other side of the hill.

Regardless the 3 remaining hungry dragons, those days, Padar Island was once the habitat of Komodo dragons. Nonetheless, illegal hunting and food deficiency finally lead to their extinction. FYI, feeding Komodo dragons is not allowed on Komodo Island and the rest of the islands to preserve their survival instinct.

padar island
approaching Padar Island. The boat we stayed is on the far right side

Padar Island is one of the popular destinations for island hopping, besides Kelor, Kanawa, Gili Lawa, Pink Beach and Rinca Island. The only transportation is a local boat, and spending overnight at sea is the most efficient way to explore the beauty of each island.

So there I was, in the boat with other group members of Indonesia Photo Tour, a photography-oriented tour, to capture sunset and sunrise views. Departing from Labuan Bajo, the capital city of East Nusa Tenggara province, I tried my best to take a nap during the 3 hour trip. But in the end, I only laid down on the bench with my eyes closed instead of having a proper sleep.


Three hours later, our boat approached Padar Island, docking few meters from the shore. Then, we immediately took another 10 minute ride with a lifeboat to actually get our feet to the ground (read: sand).

padat island

We had been previously warned that reaching the top to hunt for sunset would be a challenging job, but “slightly less” strenuous than trekking on Kelor Island.

In the beginning of the trail, I was glad that the wooden stairs welcomed us, becoming the saviour to save our energy, although they only covered a very small percentage of the whole trail.

Actually, the stairs were created to ensure the safety of The Minister of Indonesian State-Owned Enterprises (BUMN), Rini Soemarno, and the officials who visited Padar Island on Youth Pledge Day last year. They are initially not meant for trekkers, but manage to offer easier options for visitors, nonetheless, who either have less fond of adventure or less physical strength.

pulau padar

On the other hand, European trekkers object the availability of the stairs as they ruin the fun and challenge that the nature already delivers. Not to mention that nearly all national parks in Europe have stairs with a better quality than those in Indonesia.

The ugly truth of the hilly terrain with gravels and steep paths came next after the last step of the stairs. I was (and still am) a trekker newbie. Without some helpful hand from our guide, I could only imagine how many more times I would get slipped. I was amazed that some people (not from our group) can walk nearly effortlessly only by wearing a pair of cheap flip-flops!

The view point from each level of the hill was pretty. Every time we took a break, we looked down to see how far we had been. We chuckled in awe, witnessing the beauty of God’s creation and capturing with our camera as much as we could. Yet the local guide kept reminding us,

“You haven’t seen it all. More magnificent views await as you go further up.”

padar island

padar island

padar island
the x-trail

So true. The higher we went, the more stunning views we got. In fact, Padar Island has a very unique shape, like a tree with crooked branches on both sides, creating giant C-shaped silhouette hugging the water. Not to mention that the savanna made the entire surface of the island looked like a hilly golf course from the distance.

I felt so lucky that the savanna was still green when we were there in April, as it will dry somewhere in July and the hills will become barren and look more “rocky”.

padar island

padar island
keep going, despite the burning heat. Photo Credit: @firman_photography

The most outstanding viewpoint of all was indeed the destined location for chasing sunset, which was actually not on the peak of the hill. There were 2 C-shaped angles instead of 1, creating a signature characteristic of this spot. The sun was shining right above the crooked part of the hill and I couldn’t be more excited how the sunset would look like. We immediately placed our tripod and set up the (photography) tools required for best results. I didn’t really have those sophisticated tools, except a tripod, a shutter release and of course, my own Fuji XA-1.

Landscape photography requires a lot of patience, the right technique, tools, and timing. But suddenly, when the right (sunset) time arrived, the uninvited cloud came out from nowhere blocking the view of the sun going down!! A stroke of luck is something we should not put aside, and that’s what we missed at that time.

The picture below was taken a few moments before the cloud hid the sun.

padar island

I think the sky could be more reddish in blue hour if the thick cloud didn’t conceal the source of residual sunlight before it completely disappeared. No matter what happened, I still believe that all the struggle we had from the start was paid off with picturesque views like nowhere else in the world.

blue hour
padar island
blue hour on the other side of the spot

Other remaining challenge was going down from the hill after dark and get ready to gather at 4.30 am the day after at the dining room above our rooms for chasing sunrise.

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gorilla shaped rock a few step above our sunset spot


Despite motion sickness due to the mild wave that shook the boat the night before, I managed to get up 40 minutes earlier than the actual gathering hour. What motivates me the most was to take a shower before peak hour since there were only 2 shared bathroom for 12 people. So, I really needed to outsmart the situation to avoid the queue.

Fortunately, there was no need to trek for sunrise hunting because we captured the moment from the beach, with an eye level view of sailing boats at sea. The colour change of the sky started at 5 am and gradually turned into the most spectacular red sky I’ve ever seen in my life, just before the sun was up.

padar island
before sunrise
padar island
the most spectacular sky ever seen
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the sunrise

Since we were the only ones witnessing the sunrise, there was no need to fight for a great spot. When we headed back to the boat for breakfast after the sky turned brighter, we saw a group of non-photography tour who just arrived at the beach and start trekking.

Well, I wish they knew what they just missed a moment ago.

padar island

the sand pattern is just like a wallpaper

Further enquiry about the trip, please check: Instagram: @indonesiaphototour


Please note that I’m not affiliated with this company and not paid for this article. I’m nothing but a participant of this trip.