Kishigawa Railway Line Tourism: Saved by the Cat!

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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.

7 Mouthwatering Food You Need to Try in Kuroshio Ichiba Market

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Wakayama Prefecture, whose capital city is Wakayama City, is situated in the southern part of Osaka. One of the most popular destinations is Kuroshio Ichiba Market in Wakayama City Marina, a 49-acre man-made island that you can reach within 30 minutes from Wakayama City center by bus. It’s a heaven on earth for foodies, where they are able to eat till they drop, especially the best selling seafood delicacies.

Somehow, Kuroshio Ichiba Market reminds you of Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, yet Kuroshio is an indoor market.

Without further much ado, here are 7 kinds of food you should not miss in Kuroshio Ichiba Market.

  1. TUNA FISH AND CUTTING SHOW
tuna cutting show

Kuroshio Ichiba Market earns its nickname Tuna Land for one particular reason: it’s the center of tuna trading center. Moreover, Wakayama is famous for being the source of the best quality tuna fish in entire Japan, especially pacific bluefin tuna.

Apart from getting Japan’s best tuna fish, don’t forget to watch Tuna Cutting Show that runs 3 times a day for 15 minutes. The show times are 11 am, 12.30 am and 3 pm.

An experienced fisherman shows his skill in slashing a nearly 100 kg giant fish in such an agility, that only can be achieved after tons of practicing, while explaining about the cutting process and tuna grading. Unfortunately, the interesting basic knowledge is only presented in Japanese without any translation. But still, it doesn’t diminish the excitement of the show.

After the show, the fisherman instantly have the fresh cut meat offered to future customers in the form of sushi and sashimi, starting from 500 Yen ($ 4.70) for about 8 to 10 slices per pack. To be honest, it’s my first time ever to be addicted to tuna sashimi. The meat was so fresh and juicy that I couldn’t stop eating it!

2. FRESH SEAFOOD

seafood in package

Apart form tuna, you can also get scallop, eel, crab, squid, octopus, sea urchin, prawn, fish egg (tobiko), clams, salmon and many more at Kuroshio Ichiba Market. The lowest price is about 500 Yen ($ 4.70) per pack, depending the type and weight of the seafood.

When the rest of the seafood is allowed to dine in and to go, octopus has its exception. You only can get it for dining in and it’s not advisable to keep it overnight to maintain its freshness. So, no “to go” for octopus, okay? All sellers at the market will remind it to all consumers every time they are about to buy octopus-based products to avoid misunderstanding.

3. DRIED SEAFOOD

yep. the more you buy, the cheaper the price

Suppose you’re not really into raw food, fear not. The market also offers smoked, marinated and fried seafood products. Wakayama orange-flavoured fried fish is probably something unique to try, among others, for adventurous foodies. I was expecting either savoury or salty taste for this one, yet surprisingly it tends to be sweet. Having tried the tester (thank God there’s one!), I would describe it as sweet and fishy crunchy orange and I’m not into it. But again, that’s my verdict. I don’t know about you. The minimum price is 550 Yen ($4.70) per pack.

4. BARBECUE

seafood bbq
meat and sausage bbq

Still inside the market, there are several restaurants serving seafood and meat, from chicken, beef to pork, served in skewers. Bear in mind that they’re not meant to be eaten raw, as you can grill it yourself in outdoor seating areas. Starting from 150 Yen ($ 1.50), all restaurants are equipped with barbecue grill dining table, tongs, bottled barbecue and soy sauce. Yes, it’s indeed a self-service type of restaurant.

5. FRESH AND PROCESSED FRUITS

Wakayama orange

The most well-known fruit product in Wakayama is Wakayama orange with its refreshingly sweet taste for direct consumption, juice, ice cream flavour and even for fried fish flavouring (check my no. 3 explanation above). In Kuroshio Ichiba Market, you also have the opportunity to try the signature orange in the region, as well as grape and persimmon, that cost you from 400 Yen ($ 3.80) to 600 Yen ($ 5.70) per pack. Fresh juices, dried and processed fruits, including jam, are also available.

6. REFRESHING PICKLES

plum pickles in jars

Japanese people are pickle lovers. You can find several kinds of veggie, from bamboo shoots, cucumber to radish processed into pickles. Some of them are even mixed with clams as part of flavoring varieties.

If you like to get something particular from Wakayama, try plum pickles. Unlike other pickles that usually have sour taste, plum pickles is salty. You can choose the saltiness percentage from 4, 9 to 13 percent. Packed in a big jar, the pickles cost you 1490 Yen ($ 14) for 400 grams. Of course, smaller packages are available as well.

7. DESSERTS AND SWEETS

sweets, sweets, sweets!

I believe that you can’t leave Japan, especially sweet tooth people, without having mochi.

Kuroshio Ichiba Market offers this popular Japanese chewy rice cake in varieties of filling, such as pear, black sesame, chocolate, sakura (cherry blossom), matcha (green tea) and last but not least, Wakayama orange. Besides mochi, you can also get the famous Wakayama orange filling in sponge cakes and pies. They all cost starting from 390 Yen ($ 3.70) in a small package.

TESTER: AVOIDING WRONG BUYING DECISION!

Operating from 10 am to 5 pm, Kuroshio Ichiba Market provides a comfortable place to shop with great hospitality. The best part is that almost every counter offers product tester. As you know, nearly all Japanese products, including food, have such a fantastic packaging design that sometimes we instantly forget that what’s inside may not suit our taste buds.

Testers definitely helped me to omit wrong purchasing decisions. It turns out that Wakayama orange flavoured fried fish and salty plum pickles are not my things at all.

There’s no doubt that Kuroshio Ichiba Market is the right place to get varieties of souvenirs not only seafood) for friends, family and yourself under one roof.

Make sure you bring enough money when you travel to this market. From seafood, fruits to sweets, they all look so tantalizing that you may end up with buying things you don’t need. Forget shopping list (it wont work!) as tester is the only way to control overspending. You won’t buy food you hate the taste regardless of how cute they look, do you?

What You Need to Know before Staying at a UNESCO Heritage House in Shirakawa-go

Listed on UNESCO Heritage Site since 1995, the popularity of Shirakawa-go has been increasing ever since. The special characteristics of the heritage village in Gifu Prefecture is the thatched-roof farmhouse, gassho-zukuri. Its unique shape that looks like hands in prayer position whose length almost touches the ground has caught attention visitors worldwide.

Your visit to Shirakawa-go could be much more memorable if you have a chance to go local by staying in one of these houses. Indeed, some of them are not only transformed into restaurants, souvenir shops or museums, but also guest houses where you can stay overnight.

Interested? To make your holiday plan runs smoothly, here’s what you need to know before staying in a gassho-style guesthouse.

gassho-zukuri farmhouse

ONLY AVAILABLE ON CERTAIN SITES

I recommend you to order any gassho-style guest house on specialized websites focusing on traditional Japanese accommodations, such as https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-search-results/Shirakawa-go/ and https://shirakawa-go.gr.jp/en/stay/?index.

In fact, larger-scale accommodation sites you’re familiar with, booking.com and agoda.com for instance, hardly have gassho-zukuri guest houses on their list.

ROOM RATES: NOT A SHOESTRING, YET RELATIVELY AFFORDABLE

futon bed

The average rate per night for staying at gassho-style guesthouses is between 9000 Yen and 13,000 Yen ($84 to $122), including breakfast and dinner. There’s an option for dinner or breakfast only as well, or none.

Historical houses requires old-fashioned maintenance, that usually takes a lot of money and time. Therefore, the rate won’t beat budget hotels in a million years. Bear in mind that some guest houses only receive cash payment, so please double check this to the agent.

Like all traditional Japanese inns, or ryokan, all gassho-zukuri rooms have neither private toilet nor private bathrooms. So yeah, you have to share those facilities with others. You will sleep on futon bed on tatami floor, Japanese carpet made of straw or styrofoam.

OLD-FASHIONED DINING EXPERIENCE

shirakawago
irori

Since all restaurants in Shirakawa-go don’t open until late at night, it is recommended to take the dinner package at the guest house. The streets are dark after 7 pm and night life equals to staying at home.

At the same time, it’a a great opportunity to reach the experience of going local to the fullest by enjoying home cooking. You will seat on the floor, with a pillow that takes place of a chair, with a table surrounding irori, an ancient Japanese sunken hearth to heat to heat the room and cooking.

Suppose you have certain allergies, vegetarian or pescatarian, you should inform the owner or the agent prior to your arrival, so they can adjust your preference.

UNUSUAL Check-in AND Check-out TIME

Only starting from 3 pm can you actually check in at the guesthouse and surprisingly, the check out time is considered very early, at 9 am.

What you can do to maximize your stay at the guest house is that you come earlier to keep your luggage, then continue exploring Shirakawa-go as relax as you can. Between 5 pm to 6 pm when places of interests gradually close down, you return to the guest house to spend the rest of the evening and take a rest, as you need to leave early.

If you take the complete dining package, make sure you don’t check in too late, otherwise the host will wait for too long and finally won’t be able to cook your dinner.

FAMILY-OWNED

Generally speaking, gassho-zukuri guesthouses are family business and and inherited from their predecessors, as many of the houses are older than 200 years old. The host who serve you during your stay is the owner, not employees, from cleaning, mending the room until preparing your breakfast and dinner. They even stay under one roof with you.

Therefore, it would be better to show some gratitude for their services and manage your manner. For example, keep the silence during night time when they and other guests are sleeping.

NO BIG SUITCASES

Although it’s still possible to accommodate a large suitcase in the guest house, it could be exhausting to drag it on streets for a long time. Moreover, Japanese buses have narrow corridors that only fit up to medium-sized suitcases and no extra space for large ones. Thus, learn to travel light will be very handy for you.

NOT FOR LARGE GROUPS

crowds

Usually, a gassho farmhouse has 4 to 5 rooms, with maximum capacity of 12 people. If you travel with a group of friends or family, make sure that the rooms at the guest house where you’re staying are still vacant to keep everyone together under one roof. Moreover, you’re allowed to stay there just for one day, not more.

Due to limited room capacity, staying overnight at gassho-zukuri guest houses will never be the part of tour operators’ itinerary for Japan tour packages. In other words, you need to plan and book your own trip if you really want to experience a unique stay at the heritage farmhouse.

So, are you physically and mentally ready to adapt with the local culture?

gokayama

Gokayama and Two UNESCO Heritage Villages

LESS POPULAR THAN SHIRAKAWA-GO

Bombarded by tons of marketing from many tour operators worldwide, Shirakawa-go has been one of the most visited villages in Japan. Yet Gokayama, the village next door, doesn’t really have that kind of exposure.

gokayama
Suganuma Village in pouring rain

Moreover, the assumption that Gokayama is part of Shirakawa-go since both have a traditional house called gassho-zukuri and Shirakawa-go is easier to reach than Gokayama makes Gokayama is even less-known. Let me tell you what, they are just terribly wrong!

HOW TO GET TO GOKAYAMA

Gokayama, literally meaning 5 mountains, is situated in the southwest of Toyama Prefecture in Nanto city. The use of the name Gokayama has begun since 1513 to generalize a group of villages spreading in 5 different areas.

From 5 mountains that consist of 40 villages, Ainokura and Suganuma village are the most beautiful ones, that have been listed on UNESCO Heritage Site since 1995 together with Ogimachi village in Shirakawa-go.

To Gokayama, you can either start your journey from Takayama City, Toyama City or Kanazawa. In my experience, the closest way to get there is to take a bus from Takayama Station in Takayama City. Please note that the only public transportation to Gokayama is a bus. No bullet trains, no trams. You can rent a car, too, if you like.

shirakawago
Ogimachi Station

At first, all buses will stop in Ogimachi Station, where Shirakawa-go is located, that takes an hour from Takayama Station. Then, you need to transfer to another bus going to both pretty villages in Gokayama. It takes 30 minutes to Suganuma and Ainokura for another 15 minutes.

The best way to explore Gokayama is to get a 3-day-pass for Shirakawa-go and Gokayama World Heritage Bus at Takayama Nohi Bus Terminal (next to JR Takayama Station). It will stop in all heritage sites, from Shirakawa-go (Ogimachi village) to all villages in Gokayama, including Suganuma and Ainokura village. The ticket price is about ¥3700 per person (please check the updates at the station or check the following sites: https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/ , http://www.kaetsunou.co.jp/ (Japanese only))

So, going to Gokayama is not as hard as you think.

Nonetheless, I came to Gokayama twice. First in spring 2016 to visit Suganuma Village, which was accidental (check further in my previous post to know why) and second in autumn 2017 to visit Ainokura Village. Bad planning was the key problem here, that should not happen to you as both villages in Gokayama is more than easy to visit all at once, as I explained before.

Another misconception I heard is that Gokayama is situated in the same area as Shirakawa-go. All right, let me get this straight. Gokayama is in Toyama Prefecture, whereas Shirakawa-go is in Gifu Prefecture.

GASSHO ZUKURI

One of the most distinctive characteristics of Suganuma and Ainokura Village lies on the farm houses with thatched-roof almost touching the ground called gassho-zukuri. Gassho means to join one hand’s in prayer, referring to the construction shape of the roof. These unique farmhouses have been existing since Edo Period (1603-1867) when Lord Maeda was in reign.

shirakawago
gassho-zukuri house in Shirakawa-go, not as steep as that in Gokayama

The gassho-zukuri’s steep roof having 60 degrees angle, steeper than that in Shirakawa-go, is created that way to accelerate the snow to fall down from the roof quickly. Excessive snow creates burden and potentially collapse the roof. Apart from that, the roof is made of straw to maintain the warmth inside the house in winter time.

Surprisingly, they don’t use nails and metals to assemble all materials, that are only straw and wood from forests around the village, to build the farm house. The straw is replaced every 15 to 20 years manually by Gokayama Forest Owner’s Cooperative Association. This is indeed a time consuming kind of work. Yet, if it involves over 100 people, the process would take just a day.

SUGANUMA VILLAGE

The total amount of gassho-zukuri houses in Suganuma is not as many as that in Ainokura, which is only 9 left and nearly all are uninhabited.

gokayama
Gokayama Folklore Museum

One of the oldest farmhouses in Suganuma is already transformed into Gokayama Folklore Museum, where you can see the exhibits of indigenous people’s way of life in the past and how they produced potassium nitrate or ensho as the main ingredient of gunpowder, silk and handmade paper called washi.

gokayama

Suppose you spot the one and only gassho-zukuri having a pond surrounded by fences, it’s a sign that you have arrived safely in Suganuma.

gokayama
non gassho style cafe

Besides, there are 3 non gassho-zukuri houses and some earthen wall and wooden wall storehouses protected by the government. The cafe I visited to shelter myself from pouring rain is one of the examples of a non gassho style house.

japan
konbu tea

Traditional warm drink you should try is konbu tea, whose main ingredient is seaweed, served with rice crackers. The umami or savoury taste will somehow remind you of refreshing chicken soup, though not per se.

souvenir shop
souvenir shop

AINOKURA VILLAGE

Ms. Shimizu, a guest house owner in Shirakawa-go, where I stayed back in 2016, admitted that Ainokura is her favourite village because of its breathtaking scenery and serenity. Having seen in my own naked eyes, it awakened my sense of sight and simultaneously I felt peace in my heart.

gokayama

Ainokura is the largest village in Gokayama, yet not as busy as Suganuma. From 23 gassho zukuri farmhouses aged 100, 200 and the oldest 400 years, many of them are still in use.

As a visitor, you should respect the local’s privacy privacy by not trespassing their farm or backyard, picking plants or flowers and maintaining the silence. No worries, though. The good news is that you still can satisfy your curiosity about what’s inside by visiting some of the transformed heritage houses into cafes, restaurants and minshuku (family-owned traditional Japanese guest house)

gokayama

Please beware that smoking is prohibited in the neighbourhood, as well as in Suganuma (and Shirakawa-go), and a very dangerous thing to do as the farmhouse straw roof is combustible!

Just like in Suganuma, inhabitants in Ainokura produced ensho, washi and silk for a living, where you can learn more in Ainokura Folk Village. Learning to craft washi, traditional Japanese handmade, could be a fun activity to do in Washi Workshop. To participate in the workshop, you need to register first and make sure to attend before 3.30 pm as it is the last admission.

gokayama
souvenir shop at the entrance

SERENITY AND ORIGINALITY AT ITS BEST

Everything you see in Gokayama, from gassho style houses to surrounding crops, rice fields and shrine groves are still very-well preserved as it is until today because they are unaffected by World War II. Moreover, Gokayama is a perfect destination for those who embrace silence and dislike hustling and bustling crowds like Shirakawa-go.

THE PRICE FAVOURITE’S DESTINATION

In a nutshell, it deserves to be part of your itinerary to Japan once in a life time. To be honest, I didn’t regret to return to Gokayama after the screwed up plan I had made the year before.

Prince Akishino, who stayed in Ainokura twice in 1983 and 1992, once said that he has 3 favourite destinations in the world, and Gokayama is one of it.

If a Japanese prince left his heart in Gokayama, why shouldn’t you?

 

ereveld menteng pulo

Ereveld Menteng Pulo, Historical Honorary Cemetery in a Concrete Jungle

It is quite a wonder that in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital surrounded by shopping malls and tall buildings, still has a few hidden green areas left delivering a piece of Indonesian history during Dutch colonization era. Situated in South Jakarta, Ereveld Menteng Pulo, the honorary cemetery, is one of it. Those days, Menteng Pulo was a suburban area of Menteng, somewhat isolated from the crowds. Once you walk in and pass the gate, the common perception about cemeteries in Indonesia, which is often filthy and frightening, will soon fade away.

ereveld menteng pulo
entrance gate

Speaking of which, there’s an interesting story behind Menteng itself. Menteng is a luxurious residential area in South Jakarta where high rank government officials live, as well as the place where the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, spent his 4-year childhood in Indonesia. If there’s no traffic jam, from Menteng to Menteng Pulo takes about 10 minutes by car.

Now, let’s go back to our main topic.

HISTORY OF EREVELD MENTENG PULO

ereveld menteng pulo

Ereveld Menteng Pulo is the resting place for over 4000 war victims of World War II (1939-1945), especially who died from a Japanese concentration camp, and the revolution after that (1945-1949). The honorary cemetery was inaugurated on December 8, 1947, managed by Netherlands War Graves Foundation or OGS (Oorlogsgravenstichting).

Between 1960 and 1970, war victims from Ereveld outside Java Island, such as Manado, Tarakan, Makassar and Palembang, were relocated and reburied in Ereveld Menteng Pulo. Therefore, from 22 Ereveld cemeteries nationwide, now only 7 left. All of them are in Java Island, including 2 in Jakarta. Besides in Menteng Pulo, which is the biggest and the most beautiful of all, there’s also Ereveld in Ancol, North Jakarta.

Those who are buried here are Dutch and Indonesian soldiers under KNIL (Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger) or Royal Netherlands East Indies Army. However, what makes Ereveld Menteng Pulo is particular is that only 25 percent of the victims are actually from military services and the rest are civilians, including children.

There are unwritten house rules applied at the honorary cemetery. While walking around it, you should start from the foot part of the grave in order not to step on the head part. Another important thing is that the names of the deceased should be blurred before publishing the pictures in any (social) media. Otherwise, take pictures from the rear side of the graves, so the names won’t appear.

MEANING OF GRAVE MARKERS

ereveld menteng pulo
mass grave

Take a closer look at the graves and you will immediately notice that there are 6 grave markers defining the victim’s religion. The round shape is Buddha, the 3 petal-shaped is Muslim, the David star is Jewish, the huge shield shape is a mass grave and the cross shape is Christian.

For Christians, there are 2 kinds of cross to distinguish the gender. The plain cross is male and the one with 3 petals on the edges is female. Suppose you see smaller and shorter cross graves, they belong to Christian children with no specified gender. It’s breaking my heart to see the war victims include babies aged 3 to 6 months old.

And more more thing. When the graves are written ontbekend, meaning unknown in Dutch, they stand for unidentified victims.

SIMULTAAN CHURCH

ereveld menteng pulo

Although Simultaan Church is a “church” having an altar, a big Dutch language bible and a cross, it actually holds memorial services and other ceremonial events for various religions, not specifically for Christian Sunday services.

ereveld menteng pulo
the altar

ereveld menteng pulo
wooden cross memorial

A huge cross monument made of wooden railroad in Burma on the right side of the altar was built to commemorate Dutch, Australians, American and British soldiers who died from forced labour by the Japanese during the construction of a railroad in Burma.

COLUMBARIUM

ereveld menteng pulo
columbarium

Apart from graves, Ereveld Menteng Pulo also houses 754 ashes of Dutch soldiers, who died in the Japanese concentration camp during World War II, in the columbarium situated outside Simultaan Church.

Thanks to Robbert CJM van de Rijdt, the director of Ereveld, who has a fond of plants and flowers, the largest honorary cemetery in the country has varieties of flower, including lotuses in the pond, that makes the environment within the complex more beautiful and serene.

ereveld menteng pulo
“In our thoughts, Wil and Rens”

Fresh flowers or garland placed on the grave or the columbarium prove that there are still families who visit their loved ones at the cemetery, not only tourists for a place of interest.

BRITISH CEMETERY COMPLEX

ereveld menteng pulo

Inside Ereveld Menteng Pulo, there’s also a special cemetery complex managed by the British Kingdom. To distinguish its territory, the land position is slightly higher and a small fence as a border.

One of the prominent British military figures buried here is Brigadier General Mallaby, who died during the shootout in Surabaya, triggering the Battle of Surabaya, because Indonesian troops ignored the British ultimatum to surrender unconditionally. Nowadays, the battle’s commemoration is held annually on November 10 nationwide.

https://travel.tribunnews.com/2019/09/11/melihat-ereveld-ancol-saksi-bisu-perang-dunia-ii-di-jakarta

Besides, there are also war victims from other Commonwealth countries, such as Australians, Canada, American, Pakistani and Indian.

EMBRACE PEACE AND APPROPRIATE MANNER 

ereveld menteng pulo
the canopy and unknown victims

As a silent witness of World War II and Dutch occupation in Indonesia, Ereveld Menteng Pulo reminds us that war is not the solution in any cases and has killed a lot of innocent people, especially there are more civilians that soldiers buried here. To pay the last respect of the victims, embrace peace and love in any situation.

The visit to Ereveld Menteng Pulo is free of charge, opening from 7 am to 5 pm. Anyways, I heard that the sunset view is magnificent. Ask for a permission if you want to stay longer to enjoy or immortalize the moment since sunset occurs after 5.30 pm.

Despite its historical value, I receive complaints from the security that there are certain visitors having bad habits, from littering, making noises, until dating in inappropriate way as if the place were their own backyard. Gosh, I hope they know what they’re doing to this wonderful place!

7 Facts You Need to Know about Virtual Tour

Kepulauan Natuna, Mutiara di Ujung Laut yang Diperebutkan!
Natuna Islands (Kepulauan Natuna). Source: pegipegi.com

No doubt, Covid-19 pandemic hits tourism really hard. Nonetheless, some tour operators refuse to give up just like that and decide to launch virtual tours. Atourin, a tour operator offering destinations within Indonesia is one of them.

I wasn’t interested at first as I believe the sensation won’t be the same as I do the trip myself. Nonetheless, there were several members from my Whatsapp traveler group who wanted to join as they miss traveling so badly that it can’t wait until the pandemic is over.

The destination I joined was Natuna Regency in Riau in the province of Sumatera, which is famous for nature lovers offering spectacular views of sea, beaches and waterfall, presented by a local guide living there.

I’m not here to tell you stories about Natuna, but rather tell my experience in virtual tour for the first time and some facts you need to know before taking it.

MEETING POINT

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source: unspash.com/andrewneel

Remember, when the tour is on, you’re at home in front of the computer, laptop or smartphone. So, for sure the meeting point is not on the island. Instead, it was on an app, like Zoom, that you can download on Playstore. Otherwise, choose join through browser. I did the second.

GOOGLE MAP, PANORAMA VIEW

The guide showed the island on Google Map, from marking some stops we will (virtually) visited until the close up looks on each destination with 360-degree panorama view. Just like how tours should be presented, he explained the history, points of interest followed by related images.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WATCHING ON NAT GEO AND JOINING THE TOUR VIRTUALLY??

By joining a virtual tour, you can (virtually) see who’s talking on the small square on top right side of your screen. On a TV program, you may see the narrator or not. Except if the program is presented by a particular host owning his or her own show.

The best part is that you can ask questions on the chat box on the right side (depending on your setting and app you use), that will be answered on Q&A session after the tour.

On that day, a tour member asked very good questions about the internet connection on the island and which provider works the best. Sometimes, a guide may forget telling you this.

VIRTUAL TOUR FINISHES WITHIN A COUPLE OF HOURS

When a real tour can take days, a virtual tour can finish within a couple of hours. Of course, you don’t have to walk, take a bus or plane, take pictures on nice spots, sleep to continue the journey next day etc.

IT COSTS YOU MUCH LESS

The cost of the tour with Atourin is in a shoestring, 2 persons for Rp. 50.000 and 5 people for Rp. 100.000. As you can see, the more the better deal. Finally, a group member could finally persuade 5 people to join, so I only paid Rp 20.000. No harm at all. The money you need to spend in real life is more than Rp. 5.000.000.

I don’t know how much a virtual tour in your country, but it must be cheaper than a real one.

May be some of you ask why not for free. Here I remind you. Virtual tour is made to survive financially during the outbreak and feed freelance tour guides while not having flow of income. Moreover, it takes an effort and time to set up a virtual tour, create a script, etc.

In the eye of tour operators and travel agencies, it’s a very good way for brand awareness and promote their programs in the future.

DONATION FOR TOURISM

By paying some (little, I think) amount of money to participate in any virtual tour, you are helping tourism industry and their teams to survive during the outbreak.

BUCKET LIST OR NOT

It doesn’t take a genius to know that the joy of virtual tour won’t be the same as the real tour on a chosen destination. You can’t bathe under the sun, swim in the ocean and feel the breeze.

But it gives you ideas where (not) to go next. Images and words on brochures or the story from mouth to mouth can be so tempting that sometimes you ignore about reality you could face when you’re on location. May be, you love the picture of the sea view but you don’t like swimming in the ocean and there’s nothing much to do other than that. Therefore, you can decide whether you take it as your next holiday trip or skip it for other destinations that suit you better.

In the end, you have your own taste and are not obligated to like what other people like.

MY VERDICT: VIRTUAL TOUR, YAY OR NAY?

atourin
group photo of Natuna virtual tour. Should be 41 people, but many left after the session is over, not realizing that would be group photo as a closure

As a traveler, I won’t be obsessed with virtual tours, yet I may take it for the second time and on to kill the time. But not within a few days or next week. It gives me broader knowledge from a legitimate source, which is a licensed tour guide, and it’s a great way to gather and get new acquaintances while being at home, though I still can wait until we’re all free from this virus.

However, I’m not saying that virtual tours don’t sell well. On virtual tour to Natuna, there were 41 participants. So, basically people are pretty excited about it. An added value of joining the tour? No other than you’re doing a good deed.

Have you been joining virtual tours and what do you think about it? Will you be a regular customer in the future or just wait until Covid-19 is vanished from mother earth?

porto europa

Porto Europa: In Renovation, Not Lockdown

The covid-19 outbreak, although won’t last forever, change the way we live. Travel bloggers and avid travellers are no exception. They, like everyone else, are not allowed to leave their hometown and globe-trotting as they should be, not even their own house except going to pharmacy and supermarket.

So what I can do, as a travel blogger, is to improve my discipline in writing more articles regularly on my travel journeys. During the process, I found something interesting on my Japan trip file. It’s about Porto Europa I visited back in 2017.

Just to be sure, this is not about Porto in Portugal and not Europa in Europe.

Porto Europa is a theme park inspired by streets and houses in Italy, Spain and France located in Wakayama City Marina, Japan. Wakayama City Marina itself is a man-made island of 49 hectares that takes about 30 minutes by bus from the city center, Wakayama City.

I was hoping to ride the merry go round and roller coaster after visiting Kuroshio Ichiba Market, a seafood market next door. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen because the park was under renovation. But it didn’t close either. Instead, everyone could go in and wander for free, nothing else. Usually, the admission fee is 3800 Yen (#35) per person.

Oh well, why not? And I didn’t regret it at all. Honestly, it was a wonderful place to be, as the European “feel” was pretty intense, in one condition: when it locks down.

I took pictures as many as I could without disturbance from the crowds and so happy that I did it!

porto europa
entrance gate

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa
does it look like Venice to you?

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

porto europa

So, does it feel like Europe? Or a lockdown?

pasar ular

6 Attractions in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta

Tanjung Priok, Off-The-Beaten Path Tourist Destination?

Tanjung Priok is the district in North Jakarta, which is identical with Port of Tanjung Priok, the busiest seaport in Indonesia. Perhaps, thinking about Tanjung Priok as a tourist destination doesn’t always cross people’s mind.

But let me tell you what, suppose you are searching for somewhere off-the-beaten path places in Jakarta, Tanjung Priok and its surroundings could be a great choice. Not because it’s a quiet and less known, but the locals mostly have a very slight idea about things to do when foreigners land their feet in this district.

Here are things you can do in Tanjung Priok:

Visit Instagrammable Railway Station

stasiun tanjung priok
Tanjung Priok Station

The closest railway station is Tanjung Priok Station, one of the oldest stations in Jakarta. Initially built in 1885 next to the harbour, the station was moved 1 km away to its present location and opened on April 6, 1925. After being neglected for 10 years, the art deco style building re-operates in 2009. It has been one of the most favorite photography hunting and shooting scenes for video clips, movies, pre-wedding shots and more.

stasiun tanjung priok
Tanjung Priok Station

The best part is the station still maintains its original look, including the steel construction of the 6 gates like those in Europe. There are certain rooms not functioned properly and remains empty, but we hope that someday the government will have a funding to maximize its potential.

Shop in Pasar Ular

Pasar Ular, literally means snake market, doesn’t actually sell snakes. Some say it’s called that way because the market has a long and winding alley like a snake. Yet some others say that since it sells smuggled goods (in the past), thus merchants have to be as tricky as a snake. No matter which opinion you believe, for sure it’s not a pet shop at all.

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Pasar Ular Plumpang

There are 2 Pasar Ular markets in the area. Pasar Ular Plumpang sells both original (yes, you definitely need good eyes to notice them) and knock-off fashion goods.

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Pasar Ular Permai

On the other hand, Pasar Ular Permai offers ceramic goods, from tea sets, chandelier to giant vases imported from Europe and China, that cost you from Rp. 100.000 to Rp. 250.000.000 ($6.5 to $16,000). Surprisingly, you can find souvenirs from European countries, such as fridge magnet with the picture of Berlin landmarks, Dutch Delft Blue plates, can opener carved with pictures of Barcelona landmarks, and many more that cost much cheaper than those in Europe. Yes, you can get an €6 (Rp. 80.000) Euro fridge magnet for only €1.5 (Rp. 25.000) in Pasar Ular Permai. Believe it or not!

Dine in Kampung Warteg

Kampung Warteg is a 24-hour food stall village on Ende Street, housing over 20 stalls selling various traditional Indonesian food and beverages in a shoestring and I can guarantee its cleanliness. So, there’s nothing to worry about.

kampung warteg
tanjung priok
beef rib soup with rice

For instance, I went to Warung Nabila and got a beef rib soup with rice sold for only Rp. 23.000 ($1.5) per portion and chicken soup for only Rp 15.000 ($0.90). Usually, these stalls give you quite a lot of portion of rice since they are used to serve harbour and cargo ship workers.

Church and Mosque Sharing the Same Wall

What’s so unique between Masehi Injil Sangihe Talaud Mahanaim Church and Al-Muqarrabien Mosque? The 2 buildings are not only side by side, but also share the same wall as well. Yes, so this is not about 2 different walls attached to separate them. Both places of worship were built by sailors to serve those who need to pray. The church was built in 1957 by Christian sailors, then the mosque was built a year later by Moslem sailors.

tanjung priok
tanjung priok

The story of religious tolerance maintained for over 60 years in both places is well-known locally and internationally, starting from sharing parking lots to one of them while celebrating huge religious events until Al-Muqarrabien Mosque protected Masehi Injil Sangihe Talaud Mahanaim Church when rioters almost burn the church in 1984.

Visit Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum is located inside the Port of Tanjung Priok complex, introducing the history of maritime in Indonesia, from the kingdom of Majapahit until the era of the Dutch colony.

maritime museum
maritime museum
tanjung priok
rooftop view of Port of Tanjung Priok

It’s the first modern and international standard museum in Jakarta, performed with high quality diorama, improved lay out (which is for sure, instagrammable), facilities from library, cinema, souvenir shop, rooftop view of the biggest harbour in the country and simulator of the ship’s behind the wheels area.

Visit Mbak Priok’s Tomb

Mbah Priok’s Tomb is one of the most visited place of Moslem pilgrimage in Indonesia. Mbah Priok himself was an Islamic missionary from Palembang, South Sumatra, who died on his way to Tanjung Priok, and buried on the seashore with the pot he always carried in his journey.

makam mbah priok
Mbah Priok’s Tomb

During the Dutch conquest, his tomb was moved to Koja, a subdistrict in North Jakarta. In 2010, the eviction of his tomb triggered a riot between thousands of municipal police and 80 tomb caretakers who against the plan. Suddenly, the municipal police lost the battle because they saw a mysterious spirit when the tomb demolition was about to began. Finally, they were scared and the eviction was cancelled. The incident confirms people’s belief that the tomb is sacred.

makam mbah priok
spring water

The visit to the tomb, which is now a cultural heritage inaugurated by the former governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, is free of charge. There is a drinkable spring water, which is believed to bring luck and blessing, that never stops flowing.

Oh well, do I manage to convince you that Tanjung Priok is pretty interesting and more than just a port?

5 Oldest Temples in Jakarta

Temple: Vihara vs Klenteng

At first, it is crucial to understand the meaning of the English word “temple” could be either “vihara” or “klenteng” in Indonesian. So, what are the differences?

Simply said, “vihara” is the place of worship for Buddhist. There are not many statues inside the “vihara”, except the statue of Buddha or Goddess Kwan Yin. On the other hand, “klenteng” is the place of worship for Konghucu. The amount of statues representing each god or goddess to worship are many, even can be over 100 pieces.

New Order Regime and the Sentiment of Chinese Elements

In 1967, The New Order regime forbid all Chinese elements exposure in public. That included the alteration of Chinese language-based temple names. Many of them ended up into Indonesian with Sanskrit influence. Also, all “klentengs” needed to be registered into “viharas” to continue their operation.

Chinese ethnics finally regained their freedom to perform rituals and expose all Chinese elements as it should be in year 2000 after Abdurrahman Wahid, the 4th president of Indonesia, abolished the President’s Instruction (Inpres) No. 14 / 1967.

Some temples either return into their original Chinese name, maintain the Indonesian one or combine both names.

Nonetheless, confusion between “vihara” and “klenteng” remains until today, as many people still consider that they both are just synonyms.

5 Oldest Temples You Need to Visit in Jakarta, that Originally are “Klenteng”

Vihara Dharma Jaya Toasebio 

The 265-year temple is situated in Petak Sembilan area, Glodok, the biggest China Town in Jakarta. The word “toasebio” derives from 2 words, “toase” means message, “bio” means temple (klenteng). Before being inherited to Dharma Jaya Foundation, the “klenteng” was owned by the Tan clan until its 4th generation. There are 18 altars inside the temple to worship gods for different purposes.

vihara toasebio
Vihara Toasebio in Chinese New Year

The foundation name is finally used to alter the original Chinese name during New Order regime, which is Vihara Dharma Jaya.

When the genocide of Chinese ethnics in 1740, VOC (The Dutch East India Company) did the search and burned down residential areas, shops, including temples like Toasebio. After the riot, the temple was rebuilt in 1754.

vihara toasebio

There are original parts remain there, such as red ornaments outside the temple and the green dragon statue wrapping around the pillar.

Vihara Dharma Bhakti

Still situated in Petak Sembilan, not far from Vihara Dharma Jaya Toasebio, the oldest temple in Jakarta was initially called Guan Yin Ting, built in 1650 by Lieutenant Go Xun-Guan.

vihara dharma bhakti

Just like Toasebio, Vihara Dharma Bhakti was burned down by The Dutch East India Company in 1740. Later, Captain Oey Tjie reconstructed the temple and changed its name into Kim Tek Ie. Due to the prohibition of “klenteng” during New Order regime, it was renamed into Vihara Dharma Bhakti and never experienced any changes ever since.

vihara dharma bhakti

In 2015, the fire struck again because of electrical short circuit and burned down the main altar and houses nearby.

Every Chinese New Year celebration, beggars from Jakarta and other cities queue up in the outdoor area of the temple to get “angpau”, the red envelope with donation money inside.

vihara dharma bhakti

Klenteng Sin Tek Bio (Vihara Dharma Jaya)

Passing the narrow alleys and sandwiched between tall buildings, Klenteng Sin Tek Bio is a hidden gem in Pasar Baru (literally mean New Market) area, yet pretty well-known overseas because of its historical value.

sin tek bio
laughing Buddha

Sin Tek Bio was built in 1698, probably by Chinese farmers living on the riverbanks around Pasar Baru, on Jalan Belakang Kongsie no. 16. In 1812, it moved to its present site on Jalan Pasar Baru Dalam Pasar no. 146. In reaction to the sentiment of Chinese names at that time, it changed into Vihara Dharma Jaya on May 12, 1982.

sin tek bio

The temple consists of 2 buildings. The main building’s god is Hok-Tek Cheng-Sin, the god of earth and fortune, whereas the other one is goddess Kuan Im, who is believed to help people in difficulties. Inside the temple, you will find hundreds of statues from different ages, from 17th century to 20th century.

sin tek bio

Vihara Bahtera Bhakti

Vihara Bahtera Bhakti is situated in an exclusive residential area, Perumahan Pasir Putih in Ancol, North Jakarta.

chinese new year
Chinese New year celebration

Its long history began when Admiral Cheng Ho landed on a riverbank in Ancol called Kota Paris (though it literally means The City of Paris, we’re not talking about Paris in France, just to remind you). Sampo Soei Soe, the chef who worked for Admiral Cheng Ho, married Siti Wati, a traditional dancer and the daughter of a famous Moslem scholar, Embah Said Areli Dato Kembang and his wife Ibu Enneng, and finally resided in Ancol.

vihara bahtera bhakti

Since the news about Sampo Soei Soe was spread widely in Mainland China, people from the country sailed away to Jakarta to meet him in person. Unfortunately, he was found dead. Therefore, the temple was build to honour Sampo Soei Soe. Like many other “klentengs”, it underwent name changes for 3 times, from Klenteng Da Bo Gong, Klenteng Ancol until Vihara Bahtera Bhakti.

vihara bahtera bhakti
Siti Wati parents’ grave

Inside the temple, there’s a secluded room to pray for Sampo Soei Soe and Siti Wati on the right side of the main altar and Siti Wati parents’ grave behind the altar.

What’s so special about Vihara Bahtera Bhakti is that the pilgrims are not limited to Buddhist and Kong Hu Cu, but also Christian and Moslem.

Vihara Lalitavistara

The gazebo with golden stupa, just like that in Borobudur Temple, and the only one pagoda (and the oldest, too) in Jakarta are distinctive characteristics of Vihara Lalitavistara, that other temples in the city don’t have.

vihara lalitavistara
golden stupa and pagoda

The early name of the temple was Sam Kuan Tai Tie back in the 16th century, discovered by sailors on the beach close to Cilincing. The history began from the stranded black board on the coast of Cilincing, saying “Sam Kuan Tai Tie”, the name of an old temple in China. The black board was widely believed to grant wishes and prayers, urging seekers to search the magic board.

vihara lalitavistara

Nonetheless it was once lost for years, until someone found a dead body, that happened to be a burglar, not far from the famous Sam Kuan Tai Tie black board.

In 1957, Vihara Lalitavistara was built on the site where the board was discovered. It was restored and inaugurated on October 7, 1989 by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The chosen name “Lalitavistara” is referred to a Buddhist bible, telling the story of the birth and death of Siddharta Gautama.

vihara lalitavistara

Apart from the place of worship, there’s a dormitory for the monks, columbarium and Buddhist school.

Helpful and Friendly Staffs

Generally speaking, the staffs who take care of these old temples are friendly to serve curious visitors with bunch of questions, as long as there’re not too busy, from the temple history, gods until Buddhist teachings.

Make sure you don’t miss these temples on your visit to Jakarta!

Indomen: Blurring the Line between Instant Noodle and Instant Ramen

INDOMIE: BEST INSTANT RAMEN?

I completely agree that Indomie is the most delicious instant noodle. What surprises me is that LA Times awarded it as the most delicious instant ramen in their Instant Ramen Power Rankings. But I, just like the food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson, don’t care about how on earth LA Times categorizes it as ramen as it is actually instant noodle, because it tastes really good, anyways.

HOW INDOMIE GETS ITS PLACE IN RESTAURANTS

The popularity of the Indonesia’s leading instant noodle brand is probably beyond imagination of its producing company, Indofood, especially the growing amount of “warung Indomie” or Indomie food stalls in the country, simply described as noodle stalls using Indomie as their noodle base.

In the beginning, Indomie stalls were rather simple just like how “warung” should be. Either in the shape of wagon or hut, Indomie stalls serve these noodles exactly the same way as you cook them yourself with very limited varieties, such as additional poached egg, corned beef or veggies. They sell pretty well, though, and suitable for those who want to to eat cheap (Rp. 5000 or $ 0.30 per bowl) with familiar taste. Especially while hanging out in the middle of the night far from home.

Entrepreneurs see this as a great business opportunity. To win the heart of consumers, they create fancier version of “warung Indomie” in shop houses and develop totally brand new soup and spice recipes. Despite the restaurant look outlets, they still call themselves “warung Indomie”, applying the golden rule: using Indomie noodle, no others.

EYE-CATCHING INDOMIE STALL

Not long ago, I was looking for a Japanese ramen restaurant at Kosa Kasablanka, a shopping mall in Kuningan area, South Jakarta. Nonetheless, there was a restaurant on LG floor managing to grab my attention, called Indomen, with its eye-catching design.

indomen

From the font type of the 3D Indomen logo until the use of red and blue colours in furniture and decoration remind me of a Superman comic book. The main counter’s façade is the combination of Japanese ramen shop and local Indonesian “warung” style, shown by the use of wooden counter and colourful stickers of food and drink list with images, that nearly cover the entire windows.

indomen

indomen

There are some interesting parts when you take a closer look at the illustration surrounding the outlet, from local version of super hero until some words of joke or parody.

illustration

Finally, all those unique elements dragged me to Indomen and I officially stopped searching any Japanese ramen on that day.

INDOMIE RAMEN

At first, I assumed that Indomen means Indomie men, or people who love Indomie. Yet, having asked about its frequently requested menu, the waiter simply said, “Indomie ramen.” Ha! Now I get it. Indomen stands for Indomie Ramen.

The ramen version of Indomen is divided in 2 types, spicy and non-spicy. The spicy menus, as usual in many Indonesian restaurants targeting younger consumers, use provocative names, such as “ranjau” (landmine), “nuklir” (nuclear), “gila” (crazy). Of all those challenging names, “ranjau” is the most preferred one because it has everything in it, from chicken chasiu (chicken in Chinese food style sweet red sauce), meatball, chicken skin skewer, homemade chili and egg. There are 5 levels of spiciness, from 1 the mildest to 5 the hottest.

For those who can’t even stand level 1, like me, just get the non-spicy options, such as “telur asin” (salted egg), original, creamy milk and “bakso” (meatballs). I chose creamy milk, which is like the original soup but mixed with milk.

In seconds, I forgot that what I had before me is Indomie instant noodle. The presentation was so Japanese ramen look, from the sliced chicken that tasted like teriyaki, hard-boiled egg with medium done yolk, until the hooked spoon that could hang in the edge of the bowl. The only thing that was absent is the seaweed on the side of the bowl, just like how it was pictured on the menu.

indomie

Basically, creamy milk is the modification of the original version of umami soup with milk and hints of sweetness. It was pretty good, unless you mind the slightly sweet soup, and one of the best sellers for the non-spicy Indomie ramen.

I didn’t think that Indomie noodle will do great for ramen, but in fact, Indomen proved me wrong.

OTHER THAN INDOMIE RAMEN

Suppose you feel like trying other than Indomie ramen, Indomen offers Indonesian style fried noodle, from “sambal matah” (Balinese style chili), “saus rendang” (Padang style beef in coconut sauce) to “keju telur” (egg and cheese). There’s no harm to try the street style rice dishes, such as the customer’s favorite “ayam geprek mozarella” (spicy smashed chicken with mozzarella cheese) and some toast bread, where ovomaltine cheese oreo is the most preferred one.

Customization of existing dishes are possible, thanks to the additional topping options, from sunny side up, “rendang”, “sambal matah”, to cheese starting from Rp. 5800
($ 0.45) per plate.

What if heavy meals are not your choice? No worries. Light snacks, from “sate taichan” (chicken skewers), chicken skin skewers, popcorn chicken, french fries to calamari fritters are available. Even some are served with choice of flavours, such as chili, mozarella cheese and barbecue.

LYCHEE YAKULT

lychee yakult
lychee yakult

lychee yakult
take the Yakult bottle off and pour it on your drink

It is pretty common that Yakult, the Japanese probiotic milk drink brand, becomes one of the main mocktail ingredients, and Indomen is not an exception. My favorite Yakult drink concoction is lychee, as it brings refreshing and sweet taste simultaneously, harmoniously. It costs me Rp. 24.800 ($ 1.50) per glass and I think it’s worth it.

There are 12 categories of drinks you can choose, among others fresh juices, local tea, Italian soda, Yakult and sparkling soda, starting from Rp. 9800 ($ 0.70).

indomen
drink illustrations

INDOMIE SHOULD BE AFFORDABLE

The other golden rule of “warung Indomie”, no matter how you want to bring it to the next level, is this: it has to be affordable!

indomen
eye-catching menu cover design

I spent about Rp. 60.000 ($ 5) for creamy milk Indomie ramen and lychee Yakult, which is still considered normal in shopping malls, but a bit pricey for instant noodle. FYI, Indomie ramen is the most expensive menu at the restaurant, which is almost Rp. 30.000 ($ 2) per portion. Other than that, you can get the lowest main course starting from Rp. 12.800 ($ 0.90), like the original fried Indomie. Thus, you can have it your way to reach your budget.

Overall, the experience I got at Indomen opens my mind that creativity is endless and rules are made to be broken. Nothing wrong with Japanese ramen made of Indonesian instant noodle. If it’s mouthwatering, so what?

Most Beautiful Murals in Ismail Marzuki Park

BEFORE IT TURNS INTO ISMAIL MARZUKI PARK

Taman Ismail Marzuki (Ismail Marzuki Park) is a Jakarta art and cultural center situated in Cikini area, Central Jakarta, Indonesia. The locals call it TIM, pronounced as team.

The name “Ismail Marzuki” derives from a music composer and songwriter for films and numerous patriotic songs. Since November 10, 2004, he has been awarded as a national hero.

TIM
mural of Ismail Marzuki, the composer

Originally, Ismail Marzuki Park was Taman Raden Saleh (Raden Saleh Park), the first  public zoo and park in the city owned by Raden Saleh, a famous painter who lived in Europe for 20 years to pursue painting study and career. The establishment of zoo in the city center was probably inspired by those in Europe, where several of them are built in downtown areas instead of the suburban ones. The park also hosted a dog racing competition, a cinema, Garden Hall and Podium. Since 1966, the zoo has been relocated to Ragunan, South Jakarta, called Kebun Binatang Ragunan (Ragunan Zoo).

WHAT ISMAIL MARZUKI PARK OFFERS

TIM was officially inaugurated on November 10, 1968 by the then governor of Jakarta, Ali Sadikin. The 8 hectares park houses a planetarium, Jakarta Arts Institute (IKJ), an exhibition hall, 6 performing art performances theaters, archive building and a gallery.

Cultural events are shown regularly, from performing arts, such as drama, dance, music performances, poetry reading, painting and sculpture exhibitions until film screenings.

taman ismail marzuki
the big theater TIM

The Planetarium and Observatorium is also a highly-visited destination within the park, especially for groups of students who are on study tour program. I remember, slightly, did this with schoolmates when I was on elementary school. It’s been ages and that’s when the last time I visited Ismail Marzuki Park.

There used to be XXI Cinema, which is demolished in mid-August 2019, and the extension of Graha Bhakti Budaya, a big performing art hall, will replace the cinema spot. This results in disappointment from the cinema’s regular customers, including students from Jakarta Arts Institute. Yet it happens anyways.

The revitalization of Ismail Marzuki Park is still an ongoing project and will be completed in 2021. I truly hope something great is coming out of it and the dream of becoming the park as one of the world’s cultural center will come true.

MURALS

Finally, after more than 25 years, I returned to this park with a group of people from Wisata Kreatif Jakarta, a walking tour service holding one of their routes, Cikini Food Tour. I couldn’t believe that this place has become more artsy than just being the location of an art school. Without watching art performances and attending exhibitions, the murals has already had their own spot to accentuate the art element at the complex. And yes, you can enjoy them for free.

It was not so crowded on Sunday afternoon and no school activities, except some people chill out, chit-chatting and practices skateboarding. Immortalizing these wonderful artworks with a camera couldn’t be more comfortable. The murals are created by several different painters, portraying faces of the nation’s most notable artists, including Ismail Marzuki himself, as shown above.

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the look of Raden Saleh

Raden Saleh didn’t only owned the zoo those days, but also had a mansion nearby. As Cikini is an Arabic settlement in Jakarta and he was an Arabic-Javanese painter, he is one of the most influential figures in Indonesian painting history.

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The murals make an ordinary building looks extraordinary from this angle. The black mural is the poet Chairil Anwar, nicknamed binatang jalang or bitch taken from his “Aku” (“I”) poet, known for moving and controversy lyrics. One of his statements that the nation hard to forget is that he wanted to live for another thousand years, nonetheless the faith told otherwise. He passed away at only 26, probably from tuberculosis.

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mural of Chairil Anwar

huriah adam mural, the choreographer
mural of Huriah Adam, the choreographer who used to perform at TIM multiple times

The colorful mural of a Colombian artist Diana Ordonez symbolizes a close relationship between the local government and Colombian embassy in Jakarta.

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the work of Diana Ordonez

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closer look of the mural

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taman ismail marzuki

Look around slowly and you’ll find more murals on the façade of Jakarta Arts Institute. I heard that in certain period of time, these murals could be replaced with other images. So enjoy them while they last.

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Jakarta Arts Institute

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taman ismail marzuki

taman ismail marzuki

taman ismail marzuki

taman ismail marzuki

MORE MURALS OUTSIDE THE COMPLEX

When you leave Ismail Marzuki Park, don’t forget to spot other murals outside the the park. They are seriously instagrammable as well! I only captured a few of them, yet I guarantee you’ll see more of them along the way.

For sure, this is a kind of art exhibition you can visit for free and you can visit anytime before dark. Sunday could be the best day as the street is not too crowded.

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mural by Harry Darsono

mural
“I love Indonesia Korea”

mural
“Jakarta gives, never asks for return”

mural

Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Ibu Mangku: Legendary Chicken Rice from Ubud, Bali

Ubud is famous for Monkey Forest, Ubud Market, The Royal Palace as well as shops, restaurants and cafes along the way that are often quite pricey and touristy. Well, suppose you step away a little bit from the crowds to Kedewatan Village in the outskirt of Ubud, that takes about 20 minutes, you’ll find a rather ordinary house façade saying “Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Ibu Mangku”, translated as Mrs. Mangku’s Kedewatan Chiken Rice, on both neon box and engraved limestone.

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the facade

Mrs. Mangku started selling her signature chicken rice back in 1960’s on a flea market around Kedewatan Village. Before she succeeds, she moved from one place to another until she has many regular customers and settles at the present location.

Once I arrived at the restaurant, I didn’t quickly take a seat in an ordinary dining room in front of me. Instead, I walked further to find the beautiful Balinese house hidden behind it. The 6-pavilion house is the residence of Mrs. Mangku family and one of them is the kitchen to produce the signature chicken mix rice. The atmosphere is very homey rather than a commercial place and peaceful with soft background of Balinese keroncong music. The scenery is fantastic and the combination of red brick, engraved wood, gold and red color make the house look earthy and elegant at the same time.

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the pond

The seatings are situated on the side of each pavilion and some on stage, like the ones near the pond and the rice barn. Most of them are performed with lesehan style, meaning that you will dine using a very short table and seat on a carpet, that somehow similar to a traditional Japanese dining style. Since the house is spacious and the distance from 1 seating to another is a bit far, it is very suitable for those who love privacy and tranquility. Take some to walk around the house, the greenery and serenity are completely relaxing your mind and refreshing your eyesight.

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modified rice barn into seating

nasi ayam kedewatan

Although the signature menu is called nasi ayam (chicken rice), probably it is more suitable to call it nasi campur ayam (chicken-based mix rice) because unlike the Chinese food Hainan Chicken Rice, it is a mixture of different kind of chicken-based dishes, from sate lilit ayam (minced chicken satay), boiled egg, crispy chicken skin, ayam betutu (Balinese style chicken), lawar (mixed vegetables) and peanuts.

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privacy and serenity

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nasi ayam kedewatan
after work

Bear in mind that don’t do what I did by asking, “Is there any other menus other than chicken rice?”, because they only have 1 menu for many years and there haven’t been any new ones ever since. Therefore the waiter asked me if it was my first visit to the restaurant. Certainly, it was!

The only variety is how it’s served, either all contents in one plate including rice and poured chicken soup on the rice or in different plates, where rice and soup are served separately. Nonetheless, it’s the same food. The chicken-based mix rice in one plate costs Rp. 25.000 ($ 2) and the separate one costs Rp. 35.000n ($ 3) because it has a bigger portion of rice and soup. I was hungry, so I took the Rp. 35.000 dish.

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chicken-based mix rice

All I can say is I got more than I paid. It was very delicious with all the rich spices penetrated into the chicken dishes and the soup tasted so heavenly. I struggled with the burning hot soup, to be honest, since I’m usually not a spicy food eater, but it was all worth it.

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Yes, I sat here!

Fresh juices are sold starting from Rp. 7000 ($ .50) to Rp. 20.000 ($ 1.6). There are some varieties of chips, crackers as well starting from Rp. 1000 ($ .10) for a thumb size package of snack you can get in front of the cashier and the price range for the rest is about Rp. 5000 to Rp. 10.000 ($ .30 to $ .80).

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fountain and snacks behind it

temple inside the house

No wonder why the business lasts for over 60 years, how cool is that! I was lucky that I could choose the seat very easily since I came around 2 pm on weekdays where lunch time was over.

My experience tells me (and you) that this is not a tourist trap and nothing scammy about it. You definitely don’t need to empty your wallet for dining in an authentic and instagrammable place and satisfy your appetite with great food.

Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Ibu Mangku

Address: Jl. Raya Kedewatan No.18, Ubud, Bali
Phone: 0361 974795
Opening hours: 6.30 am – 8 pm