Friends & Hang Out, My Life, Travel

Coming Back To Seoul

My first arrival to Incheon and Seoul was precisely five years ago, and here I am writing another post about Seoul after my first trip report back then – titled ‘Seoul: Shopping Spree Wonderland’. Five years ago, Seoul was not as popular as what it has become presently, where everybody now has talked about the city following the rising popularity of Korean TV drama, TV shows and actors or actresses.

The traffic of my ‘Seoul, Shopping Spree Wonderland’ post has contributed a lot for this blog’s stats activity. There used to be dozens of readers visiting this blog as they might have probably-and-randomly found that article on Google upon searching Korean tour, Seoul tour or something like that. And yes, most of those readers were dominated by young teenagers who just popped a comment saying I wish I could go there or Can you recommend me any place to stay in Seoul and what to visit as I plan to go there next month, and many other prospective comments.

I must say that I was thankful to be able to re-visit one of the most renowned Asia’s capital city, Seoul. Clearly, two weeks ago (it’s another winter time) I was assigned for a business travel to Seoul to meet the owner of my company who held an event with the most rising soccer player in Asia, Park Ji Sung. Without thinking twice I agreed to fly with a very last minute preparation.

On 9 December 2014, my plane touched down safely at Incheon International Airport. I wasn’t traveling alone, as I had several media participants that I invited to come along with me to Seoul. The cabin crew informed us the temperature dropped to negative five degrees celcius which wasn’t that different than my first arrival there back in 2009. I told my media friends to always be prepared with gloves and their coats as the temperature might have lowered every hour. Proven, the temperature dropped until negative eleven.

IMG_0322The picture above was myself upon arriving from a 6 hour 30 minutes flight from Kuala Lumpur. Got over shadowed but still happy with the picture. After we were done with immigration and custom clearance, we headed straight away to Myeong-Dong area to drop our luggage at SkyPark Hotel where we would stay for 2 nights. The journey took for about an hour and we checked in at around 11.00 am local time. My journalist colleagues had been asking what we would do then for the first free and easy morning. I said, their half day city tour had been planned and I would be their travel guide as I still remembered some areas and public transportation to get to those places.

IMG_0337Snow remnants still covered some areas in Incheon

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IMG_0355Namdaemun Gate. I didn’t get a chance to see this gate back in 2009 as it was under construction for massive renovation post fire incident

I managed to plan a short tour around Namsan area (Seoul Tower), Gyeongbokgung, Namdaemun market, Myeong-Dong market. The main reason I took them to Seoul Tower was to show them the famous love locks. Meanwhile, for Gyeongbokgung is a must-visit palace although we were a bit upset to know the palace was close for public on Tuesday.

IMG_0369Walking to Namsan Cable Car. The journey took for about 20 minutes on normal walk speed on inclining terrain.

IMG_0485My savior. Do not underestimate this thing. Bring your ultra rich moisturizers lip balm.

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IMG_0395Seoul’s city landmark. Namsan (N Seoul Tower)

IMG_0430My favorite place in Seoul. Here you cannot just enjoying breathtaking view, but you’ll get to visit numerous interesting places such as N Seoul Tower itself or Teddy Bear Museum.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe famous love locks on Namsan peak

IMG_0452The main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace from the North entrance

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Seoul always gets me on , why? I think this city has so many things to offer. The city is very vibrant and friendly. Seoul has the best nightlife ambiance in Asia. The lighting, the hype, the spirit of the locals are somewhat you will never find anywhere. If I may compare, Shibuya area in Tokyo is indeed busier and surrounded by more advanced technology than the rest of Seoul Central Business District area. However, one thing for sure, the energy of Myeong-Dong area in Seoul, especially at night is something you will never forget, as your eyes will be pampered with the presence of hundreds even thousands of beauty, ornaments, souvenirs, jewelery stores and foods stalls selling unique foods. When you are there, you will see how this area succeeds to steal every woman’s attention to give up what’s next to-do-on their tour list, as they will instantly change their minds only to shop or at least merely stopping for a thorough-observation (the paradox of window shopping) at those unimaginably cute things they might see over there.

IMG_0481If 5 years ago, my friend who heard I was going to Seoul they would just text me and say “Have a Nice Trip”, now the girls would rather text to ask for something to bring from South Korea. At least, I received more than 10 messages asking different things that precisely could not be accommodated. These nail paints were the only thing I could think of, Skin Food store located in front of my hotel, they had special sale of 1.500 Won (IDR 16.500,-) each. To save time I would just take every color on a bucket and brought them to the cashier desk.

IMG_0465My mom text just to remind me of her favorite type of strawberries. FYI, Korean strawberries are literally fat and juicy

IMG_0578Wishing you a Merry Christmas everyone! The Christmas decorations and installations here in Myeong-Dong are immaculate!

IMG_0357The giant Christmas ornaments in Seoul. I think everyone agrees with me, South Korea is always associated with love… and cosmetics *HA*

IMG_0362Just to elaborate the cosmetic craze is this exceptional corner at my hotel (SkyPark 1 Myeong Dong). The business corner which is equipped with free use of nail paint and dressing table that are perfect for ladies.

IMG_0545LINE Store at Lotte Mall Myeong Dong. This store is relatively new. Once you’re inside, I am definitely sure we won’t leave empty handed

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Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetPerfect winter dress. I am never comfortable to wear jumper or oversize coat. Let’s make it simple, Merino wool sweater, Velvet jacket, leather gloves and thick scarf.

IMG_0570Teenie Weenie, so far is the cutest store in Myeong Dong

Foods?

Aside to shopping, you can also find plenty foods stalls that sell cheap foods (mostly skewers just like in other Asian cities). The average price of street foods in Myeong Dong or Namdaemun cost around KRW 1,000 – KRW 5,000 (IDR 13.000,- – IDR 60.000,-) per piece. Do not worry on the foods sizes, the serve is quiet fulfilling.

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IMG_0576It is my first time to see this Strawberry wrapped by chocolate and glutinous rice. When you visit Myeong-Dong try this one!

IMG_0557Teokbokki (Rice cake with Traditional Korean sauce). When I first saw this food 5 years ago, I thought this one was made of squid or fish, but after trying then I realise this one just a rice cake with sumptuous sweet-sour sauce.

IMG_0558Snail? Yes, Koreans eat snails. Snail is believed to provide great nutrition for them such as for skins and protein in-takes. No wonder that snail is mostly used as the basic essence for *again* most of skin and beauty products.

IMG_0590 The snacks that have it all. Flavors, tastes, crunchiness blend together

After strolling around Seoul for two days, one of my old friend who turned out to be a local, called me and knew I was in Seoul. After short conversation, we ended up agreed to meet up and he said wanted to take me to a famous Korean BBQ place in Myeong-Dong called ‘Wumioke’.

Upon my first day, we actually had a lunch at a local restaurant located on the ground floor of Namsan cable car embarkation, which to me is a bit expensive. However, my friend said that Korean BBQ restaurants in Seoul mostly has similar average price in which there is an unwritten rules of minimum order for some certain type of meats such as: Syamgupsal (pork belly), pork ribs, sirloin, tenderloin etc. And believe me the tastes are apparently the same or even at some point is better at Korean BBQ restaurants in Jakarta. The average price of a set of syamgupsal may cost KRW 15.000,- – KRW 22.000,- (depends on how many set you ordered), while the beef ones are more expensive around KRW 22.000,- – KRW 25.000,- per set. Clearly, the price is including various side dishes and free drinks for everyone except rice.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetEating like a Korean

IMG_0610I completely forget the name of this dish but is perfect for dinner in winter. So warm.

IMG_0612A little corner of the restaurant. Wumioke has been visited by so many people around the globe. As to keep the memory, the restaurant owner keep each of foreign visitor through photographs taken while eating at the restaurant and displayed them on the wall.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetAfter dinner, we were full and happy

To conclude this post, I would definitely encourage all of you to visit South Korea! For those first timer, spending more days in Seoul is highly recommended as this city is the center of main attraction of what South Korea has to offer. Here you can explore all that become your travel interests, you can get everything you want starts from shopping, getting closer with nature, experience the excitement of Seoul’s nightlife, until tasting the authentic delicacies. I have been here for two times and always willing to come back. So  I’ll see you guys next time in South Korea, or in Myeong Dong maybe?🙂

Oh last but not least, the proven of Park Ji Sung is right here..

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My Life, Travel, Uncategorized

Heaven of The East: Only 19 Hours in Saparua Island Part 2

This post is the continuation of my previous trip report to Ambon that I posted last week.

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The sunshine had appeared a little high and bright when I was awakened by my phone alarm at 6.00 AM local time. I looked out to the window, the dawn had started to break as the orange lights shed through the clouds.

“It’s time for us to get ready,” I told my friends who were also awakened from their sleep and packing their stuff for our 1 night getaway to Saparua.

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We packed sufficient clothes and amenities for our less than 24 hours stay in Saparua, an island which is located in the East beneath Seram Island.

Travelers who come to Ambon must demand a side tour, which means a side tour to let them seeing another perspective of the Moluccas archipelago through island hopping.

You don’t need to worry when you come to Ambon, you are even already satisfied with the beauty of its nature and the Ambonese hospitality. The capital city of the Moluccas offers remarkable excitement and adventure. But to those who expect to see more nature, and testify their adventurous side, then they should go to other islands – especially to those rural islands.

Our initial plan to Saparua was supposedly took place from Sunday until Monday, but unfortunately the plan had to be cancelled due to transfer boat unavailability. In Moluccas, especially in Saparua whereby most of the residence are Christians, Sunday is their authentic ‘Sabbath’. People do not work nor travel during that day so do not wonder that most of restaurants, shops and even transportation services are not in service on Sunday.

I previously called the hotel that we booked earlier, Mahu Lodge (www.mahulodge.com) and informed them that there wasn’t any boat hence we decided to change the plan onto the following day. We really thank god that the owner didn’t mind to change the date for us. We also asked Pak Paul, the owner of Mahu Lodge to assist in providing a car that would pick us up from Haria harbor, and he accepted our request.

Pak Parjan and Pak Ismet were not going with us that day. We had asked them not to pick us up as we’d rather going to Tulehu using the hotel’s cab. Kiky, our taxi driver had been waiting for us at the lobby. After taking shower and having quick breakfast we met him at the lobby.

Selamat Pagi Pak Danang, I’m Kiky your driver for today!” he greeted me with a big winning smile.

Selamat Pagi Pak!” I wondered how could he have known my name.

The taxi means a rental car here in Ambon. It’s not like the usual taxi you saw in many major big cities. The car has no brand at all and without meter. The usual fare they’d give as the flag down is about IDR 150.000 (USD 12) one-way. We have no stand point at all to bargain as everything in Ambon is fixed price, and yet we couldn’t imagine how far it was the harbor with our hotel.

Pak Kiky then walked us to the car that he parked at the drop-off area. “Let me take all your belongings,” he said nicely, grabbing 3 of our duffle bags with his two hands.

“The journey to Tulehu would take for approximately 30 minutes, not far,” he said as he sat on the driver seat and turning the car’s ignition on and he also played a full playlist of Ambonese song from his tape.

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Throughout the journey , we chatted with Pak Kiky, another person whom we met in Ambon. He seemed quiet nice, chatty and helpful. Although his voice sounded a bit firmer than a typical Javanese like me, but he wasn’t necessarily meant to be angry. It was just a way how he expressed his opinion, and yet, he was often heard humming to the song. Another casual treat in Ambon, a free singing performance in every corner of the street!

We talked about how could most Ambonese sing very well. He giggled when we asked that question. He said it was a blessing that each Ambonese has – that they are naturally created with a unique vocal cords. Pak Kiky told me his son also sings like he does, to our surprise his son was one of Indonesian Idol top 20’s contestants. He failed to make to the Top 10 but he’s still making it as his main career. Kiky also said he had several experience to be the personal driver of Indonesia’s famous starts, such as Glenn Fredly, Anang, or even Daniel Sahuleika during their visits in Ambon.

We were completely amazed to his story, but the story must end when we reached Tulehu harbor. The harbor apparently wasn’t that far from the hotel as we reached punctually of what time Kiky had expected – 08.00 AM. Kiky then helped us with our bags, and accompanied us to the ticket counter.

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Tulehu harbor is the main gateway to Ambon, as most local boats depart from and arrive at this harbor.

“It’s Monday, and I believe you must get used to the crowd, don’t you?” he said.

“Well, this isn’t pretty bad.” I said. The sun was glaring very bright and the temperature was somewhat too hot for my grumpiness tolerance.

IMG_0754But to be honest, the natural lighting made me willing to keep taking pictures.

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We were standing in line to buy the tickets, then we decided to go with VVIP class which cost IDR 125.000 (USD 11) one way to Saparua. We completely had no idea what the boat was like, I figured there was a big ship parking at the jetty which I thought was our boat, but turned out I was wrong.

“The ship hasn’t arrived yet, so please wait inside,” the ticket agent said.

We were informed that the boat would depart on-time and we would be notified when we’re ready for boarding. Pak Kiky bid good-bye to us and wished us had a pleasant trip to Saparua. We still had one hour to kill, and we decided to wait inside the waiting room.

The waiting room wasn’t that packed and we met some people whom we assumed also waited for the boat to Saparua. We met some well- Food sellers, newspaper boys, until porters were all around the building. What surprised me not only adults but kids were also ‘working’ around here, offering their helps to take our bags to the boat.

The 12 year old boy who worked part time as a porter at Tulehu harbor approached me, sitting next to myself and babbling in some Ambonese accent. It took me sometime to mind-digest what he was saying.

“What are you doing around here kiddo?”

“I’m working part time as porter besides school,” the boy said.

“Aren’t you supposed at school?” I wondered.

“It’s a holiday today,” he said shyly. At first I thought this kid was a bit special as he seemed to look a bit hyperactive, but subsequently I understood that this kid was just being shy talking to strangers. I just remembered that it was a public holiday date for the day of silence.

“What grade are you?” I asked

“Grade 8” he said smiling.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to become a policeman,” he said. “Oh that’s great, you should study hard and reach your dream,” I said.

I unzipped my bag and handed a small carton of chocolate Frisian Flag which I wanted to give him. The boy was politely rejecting my offer, and he said “I don’t want anything. Thank you”

I was completely surprised that he refused my offering. “Why? I thought we all love milk,”

“No I don’t want that..” he shrugged his head. I approached my hand to him, but he stood up and ran a little away from me.

“What do you want then?” I asked, laughing. “I want to help you bringing your bags to the boat. Then I will deserve for money,” he said.

I was completely surprised how could this 12 year old boy could’ve said something like that.

“But I can help myself with bag, It’s light” I politely refused his offer.

“Okay that’s fine with me. I will only receive money from what I deserve, which is helping guests with their bags,”

From what he told, I quiet understood that this young boy only wanted money, but he wanted money not from begging but the money which he deserved by working himself. He made me learn something about this city, I don’t mean to stereotype but most of people here have a real big pride, they don’t chase you to buy their products once you say no.

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Ambon-Haruku-SaparuaSource: www.starfish.ch

At 08:30 am our boat looked like had arrived at the jetty. Many people who aimed for Saparua began to walk out the Terminal and proceeded to the pier, including us. It’s an open air pier whereby the sun light was glaring towards us and we were just too shocked to see how the boat was literally packed by people from the first boat ride. It was somewhat an extraordinary thing to see, I was completely wondering how could the boat still floating since the boat was overcapacity. There was even a man bringing his motorcycle at the forward deck and hundreds of people sitting outside the cabin.

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I bit my lips, creating a sign of wary. My other friends were also frowning towards what they saw. “Are we gonna be okay?” I murmured. “Hopefully, yes.” One of them said.

We couldn’t instantly boarding the ship as we had to wait until the rest of the passengers inside disembarked. The process took around 30-40 minutes and we were on the pier standing. The heat was burning as hell. We were trying to look at a bright side, that we will be going for snorkeling later. We saw a few foreigners were disembarking from the ship, I notice they were from Netherlands, speaking dutch. I came to them, asking whether the boat was safe enough or not. They laughed. “Oh it was a flawless ride, don’t worry.”

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Once everyone disembarked, we were permitted to board. The VIP passengers were let to board first to the top cabin. The boat crews helped us to board the boat, there was no stairs only firmly nailed board which they presumed is strong enough to handle the weight of approximately 200 or even more passengers.

IMG_0772The cabin

IMG_0857What is the difference between VIP class and Economy Class? The VIP class is at the top deck while economy class is located at the bottom deck. However, your economy class ticket can be used to sit anywhere except VIP cabin section. Where else? The observation deck near VIP class, on top of the forward deck, or even on the roof deck.

The journey to Saparua would take for 1 hour. Once we entered the VIP class cabin, I thanked god it’s a full comfort. Fully air-conditioned, the seat was likely taken from the old plane’s business class cushions spacious legroom and a (not working) television. It’s a free seat anyhoo! not assigned on the ticket you bought. So just make sure you sit near your friends. It was actually my first speed boat ride after years. To reduce my paranoid, I tried to locate where the life vest were located, and how far my seat was to the emergency exits.

The ship departed on-time. The turbine engines sound were heard from the cabin, and we sped at a maximum speed. My friends fell asleep throughout the journey, and I decided to wander around the cabin. The observation deck was packed by many people that time, and I walked out to check what it felt like to be there. Wow, the view was apparently much better from there!. We could see the Banda Sea widely, and I noticed there was a small stair leading to the roof deck.

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“Be careful, you could fall,” a guy reminded me.

After compromising with myself, I tried to climb the stairs, just hoping I could get good balance. To my surprise, there was a group of young men sitting on the roof. I dared myself to further climb up and walked on the roof deck. I must admit, the view was even gorgeous from there! The roof deck was supposedly a restricted area but nobody gave a damn to people who sat on top of the roof deck. A group of young men said hello and reminded me to watch every step.

IMG_0874Please do not comment on what I wore, I know it’s supposed to be short sleeve not long sleeve (wardrobe malfunction)

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The view was completely beautiful, I could see mountains, white sand beaches from the distance and yet with the beautiful cloud lines painted on the sky. From here we could see our direction clearly, after passing Haruku Island, a man pointed me where Haria harbor was. “We still have 20 minutes left, that’s where we’re heading now,”

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15 minutes before arrival, the boat reduced its speed and we arrived on-time at Haria harbor. The passenger load wasn’t as heavy as the returning boat we saw this morning. We disembarked from the ship and met Aldo, the guy that Pak Paul sent to pick us up.

“Hello Pak Danang, Welcome!” Aldo said. We shook hand as a symbol of introduction.

“Welcome to Saparua, Pak! This is where the nature remains,” he said.

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Saparua is an island where mostly lived by Christians. Once you get off from the harbor you will see a tall church building which was being renovated. Aldo walked us to where he parked the car, I firstly thought the car would be Avanza or Kijang, but it turned out an old Toyota Kijang which is configured as a public transportation, or Angkot as what Jakartans said. Pak Aldo immediately started the car and drove us to Mahu Lodge, located in Mahu village. The village is located about 20 kms from the harbor and reached within 20 minutes.

The road in Saparua is mostly surrounded by farms and plantation, and the road is already asphalted.

Aldo mentioned that Saparua is the island of singers. Many good Indonesian singers are originally from this island, Ruth Sahanaya was one of the local’s best singer names he mentioned. And yet Saparua island is the last resort for foreign tourists who seek for serenity and hidden underwater surprises in the Moluccas archipelago.

Aldo told us many stories about this island, starting from the touristy potential that the island has to offer, until the recovery story post civil war which occurred during the 1999s. This island also occupied by many tribes in extend of which each of them are divined based on its own unique characteristic.

The only thing that surprised was the no service bar on my phone. They told us that Telkomsel was the only provider that operates here, while 3G connection had just recently available since the following 4 days. Lucky for me, means I could be literally unreachable for the next 19 hours.

The car finally arrived at Mahu Lodge. Pak Paul and his son, Johan greeted us as soon as we alighted from the car. Behind us was apparently a car that brought a group of French divers who were also on the same boat with us.

10247455_10152135203743541_5458236537556507598_nThe front gate of Mahu Lodge (courtesy: Mahu Lodge Facebook page) – I kinda forgot to take a picture of the lodge itself so I took it from their page

IMG_0939Mahu Lodge Garden

IMG_1031Flags hanging as the decoration of the restaurant

Mahu Lodge is a moderate resort that welcomes for anyone who wants to stay in Saparua. The hotel has a quiet big area and has its own jetty. When I browsed about any accommodation in Saparua, Mahu Lodge apparently the first hotel appeared on the list. The price is also very reasonable, Rp. 400.000,- (USD 37) for 1 room with 3 beds per night, including 3 times meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner). However, it is excluding shuttle (drop and pick-up) car fare Rp. 150.000,- (USD 12) one way excluding driver tips), snorkeling price Rp. 150.000,- (USD 12) per pax.

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Apparently they were the group of divers that Pak Paul mentioned us earlier. Pak Paul later showed us the triple room, an old spacious room with 3 beds and the bathroom is very clean.

Pak Paul and Johan reminded us be ready at 12.00 pm as the diver group will depart and we will go along with them. Actually none of us going for diving that time, only snorkeling, but we could share the boat with the diver group. The weather was fantastic that day. The sun was shining and the sky was clear – quiet good for us to enjoy the sea and the swim.

We were led to the jetty where the speed boat parked. We also met the leader of that group French divers who apparently speak Bahasa as he lives in Manado. He’s a very hospitable and chatty guy, his aura represented a very professional diver and so are his colleagues. The brought 3 suitcases full of their diving equipments while us just 3 light duffel bags.

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1397903_10151868577288541_1926457498_oHere is what the boat looks like. I forgot to take the picture of the boat therefore I grabbed this picture from Mahu Lodge’s facebook page (Courtesy: Mahu Lodge Facebook page)

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We left the jetty as soon as we’re ready. There we also met Pak Nus and Johan the 2 diving guides who were also in charge to take care of those three innocent kids from Jakarta who were not professional even at snorkeling (Read: Me and my friends).

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The boat was speeding fast on the sea. We were sailing to the North east part of Saparua Island, Itawaka which is known as one of the best diving spots. Pak Nus and Johan told us the diver will make first stop at the shallow water area where we could also jump off to enjoy the corals.

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The speed boat journey was very enjoyable. We could get to know Saparua Island much better, seeing many white sand beaches, clearly pristine water and some untouched areas. Johan said that we were coming in a good season, March is the limit of the bestest season of the year here. We were then stopping at a shallow water area, and he said we could start the snorkeling then.

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My friends looked quiet enthusiastic with this activity although I somehow felt a bit worried of coming down. I can swim but whenever I snorkle, I have tremendous paranoid of seeing sharks or any dangerous sea animals, and that happened when I jumped off the different side of the boat, and I saw a very wide yet clear vision of the sea. I swam almost half round of the boat to reach my friends, because my mind began to say I was chased by a shark.

IMG_0977The water..

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I could not control my breath even using the googles and the fins, I could not believe that these equipment rather imbalanced myself. “Danang, just stay calm,” one of my friend said. Yeah right, the calmer I get, I will float myself.

The boat keeper looked at me quiet strangely, he might’ve thought I couldn’t swim. But until 15 minutes when I finally got calmer I decided to go back to the boat. “You look funny down there, what happened?” the boat keeper asked me.

I simply tried to speak despite my gasping, “I was completely worried of seeing shark, I had a severe paranoid down there,” What I was trying to say was that I am not even a beach type and I don’t snorkel most of the time, as I prefer cities, hills and mountains. I looked down there, and jumped again. Finally, I could find my peace seeing those beautiful corals and group of small tuna fish swimming with me.

The boat keeper later told us they would have to go to pick up the divers, therefore it means they would have to leave us here for a while. I started to panic again as what if this-or-that happened, but the guy said “Don’t worry you’ll be fine.” My friends were asking them to throw our life vests just in case. I shortly had no idea what that was about, but the guy indeed threw the life vests towards us.

The boat was leaving as soon as we got our life vests. I wondered what we would do alone and when the boat would pick us up. My friends were floating with the life vests, looking down to the corals beneath them. Apparently, Johan whom we thought was diving with the French divers, he appeared to the surface and he came to accompany us. He told us just to stay around the area as he was preparing an area for our lunch later.

“The boat will come back here for lunch,” he said.

Since we started to starve, we decided to swim to the shore. Just so you know there isn’t lots of beach where you can lay down in Saparua, usually only a small area of rocky sand beach as this island is mostly surrounded by rain forest or mangrove.

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Not long after 20 minutes, the boat headed to our direction. Johan instructed it was lunch time. We were just resting on the shore, while the diver group maintained on the boat, eating their lunch. I grabbed my outdoor carpet which I brought from Jakarta to cover the rocky surface – just to make it more comfortable for us to sit down. The lunch was simple but they still suit our tastebud quiet well: Indomie and fried egg with rice!

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When the lunch time was over, we were heading to another point, where we were left again for the diver groups. The diver groups were taken to a deeper sea for them to explore. Pak Nus and Johan asked what we would like to do, my friends and I asked to stop us somewhere we could lie down. Johan suggested us to stay at a beach near the coral islands. The beach was not a white sand beach, still rocky but it has wider area for us to lie down, relaxing under the coconut tree. The place was good, not letting us get in tact with the sun. It was simply the best place to rest, I even fell asleep.

About an hour later, the boat picked us up as the diver group was finished with their activity for the day. They said they would continue to Nusa Laut island the following day. We headed back to Mahu Lodge to continue our next activity. It was still 4 o’clock pm in the afternoon while the weather was still good enough for us to go and see around Saparua. Pak Paul had prepared a car that we could use to drive around Saparua. After having short bath, we were ready for our city tour. Pak Nus accompanied us with Boy the driver.

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We were taken to an old Portuguese port “Duurstede” – known as the oldest Portuguese fort in Moluccas. This is where the Portuguese colony landed in Moluccas for the first time. The fort is located on a high elevation, we must climbed dozens of steps up to the entrance. The fort’s condition itself is half restored, but some destroyed brick walls – which were believed to be the leftover of weapon warehouse and prisons – still remained in there.

Most of this blockhouse part is open-air. The fort was likely designed as a defense blockhouse where the soldiers could observe what were coming towards them. The observation floor also has a gorgeous scenery, overlooking Banda Sea and it has a long white sand shoreline behind the building.

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The view is indeed gorgeous from here and we could see the beautiful surrounding area as well.

IMG_1041This is where the Portuguese first landed in Moluccas

Pak Nus later told us to return to the car, as he would drive us to the white sand beach we saw from the fort earlier. “Let’s go, we should make to every place before catching sunset at Mahu Lodge later,” he said. The beach was not that far away, only less than 5 minutes drive. The beach is very clean as what you’ll always see in the Moluccas, but it’s very quiet there unlike Liang beach or Natsepa.

Pak Nus suddenly ran into one of his loyal client, a foreigner who was coming from Switzerland. We were introduced to him, his name is Bruno. Apparently, there was a few small cottages built near the fort near the beach. A 50-year old guy was sitting under the gazebo, enjoying his afternoon with Gudang Garam and a tall glass of black coffee. We were talking there for 30 minutes and we actually amazed to know how this man had fallen in love to this island just to see the underwater world’s beauty in Nusa Laut island which to him is not comparable to any diving spots in the world he’d been. It was his seventh visit to Saparua and he stayed for 2 weeks with his wife who also loves to dive. I looked at my wrist and watch and it was nearly 5 pm, I remembered that we still had to see a must seen thing in Saparua. The sunset. Pak Paul told us earlier not to miss the sunset that we could watch from the jetty. Therefore, we said goodbye to Bruno, and wished him a pleasant holiday in Saparua until the following week.

We arrived back at the hotel 15 minutes before sunset. I asked Pak Nus to speeded the car and once we stopped the car, I alighted and immediately ran to the jetty. Pak Paul later joined us as we were getting into a casual conversation as we’re waiting for the dusk to end. Just see how beautiful the sky drew itself.

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Pak Paul told me that this jetty was one of his favorite place. He didn’t install any lighting in this area to make it as it would disrupt your vision while enjoying the sunset. And yet, the place is also very quiet there, even less of wave splashing sound. I was completely amazed to the beauty that this place has to offer. From there we could see Seram island, and some mountains from the distance. The sky’s color was kinda mixed between red, yellow, orange, and purple as it reflects on the seawater surface, just like in the paintings.

During the conversation, Pak Paul asked me a question, “How did you know about Mahu Lodge and Saparua? our hotel is only known among the divers?”

“From the internet, we actually was looking for a few alternatives for island hopping, since Ora beach is quiet impossible for us, we were looking for an island closer to Ambon,” I said.

He laughed. “That’s why when you called me at first, I was questioning what made you wanna go here. This place is more famous among the foreigners, less local tourists,”

My friend added, “Yeah, that’s kinda true. Because people in Jakarta are talking about Ora beach, less of them talk about Saparua,”

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I took a deep breath, still felt disbelieve on the view I was seeing that time. The tranquilty had been triggering myself to an emotional state of mind. I thanked my God to create our nature.

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The sunset made almost the end of our holiday as that was our last night in the Moluccas before going back to Ambon early in the dawn. When the sky had turned to dark, Pak Paul asked us to get back to the room as they were preparing for dinner. “Aldo and his wife would treat us with their amazing voice, we’ll sing along tonight!”

Although there were only 6 of us stayed at Mahu Lodge that night, but Pak Paul treated us with keyboard performance during dinner time. We gathered with other guests including Aldo who played the keyboard and his wife who performed her beautiful voice all night long. I was even asked to sing with her, although I felt quiet shy at first but in the end I made it.

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Aldo and his wife singing!

 

406838_10150516162338541_151998712_nThe dining area (Courtesy: Mahu Lodge Facebook page)

Pak Paul, Johan and the rest of Mahu Lodge crew mingled with us that evening. Finally at 11 pm we wrapped up the night with a very good memory. Pak Paul suggested us to have enough sleep as we will be transferred at 6 o’clock am the following morning, means the wake up call would be 5 o’clock am. We decided not stay up late, after packing our stuff, we tucked in our bed.

At 5 o’clock in the morning, we were awakened by a pleasant voice which I believe coming from the church nearby. We were called later for early breakfast at 5 o’clock and we were curious to know where the singing came from. We thought Pak Paul must have played a song from his audio speaker, however he said that the songs coming from the church which does it every morning. Lovely!

IMG_1066The tasty homemade bread and local coffee for breakfast

When the clock showed to 6 o’clock am Pak Paul called the driver who would transfer us to Haria harbor, we then bid good bye to him and his son and other staffs for their super kind hospitality. It was very sad though to leave this island as I understand that there are so many things that we haven’t explored and we felt our visit then was too short, even less than 24 hours. The journey to Haria harbor took for 30 minutes and once arrived we bought our ticket immediately and boarded the ship. The sky was looking very beautiful that morning, the sun had woken up from her sleep and ready to shine.

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Overall, my trip to Saparua had given such an extraordinary enlightening, not just how grateful I am for the chance to see God’s beautiful creatures but to meet so many blessed people who are willing to share that blessings to us. My last trip to the Moluccas provided a never ending story that I would share to my family, friends and colleagues. The experience was totally different than any other holidays I’ve had overseas, and I would surely come back and explore more islands in the Moluccas.

IMG_1077Mount Salahutu, Ambon

Visiting Ambon and Saparua has literally opened my eyes, that there are so many things in Indonesia are worth to explore. When you’re letting yourself to let go off your comfort zone and explore more complex situation from which you are used to, then you will be able to transform into a new person. Thank you for the hospitality Saparua. Like I’ve said before.. I’ll be back.

 

Thank you everyone!

 

 

Summary of our itinerary and how much we spent? This is based on 3 pax (excluding flight ticket)

Day 1 (29 March 2014):

Depart Jakarta GA 640 (00.30) Arrive Ambon (07.30 LT)

Liang Beach -> Ambon City Cathedral -> Lunch -> Latuhalat -> Lelisa Beach (Collin Beach) -> Natsepa (back to hotel)

Spending:

Car rental day 1: IDR 600.000,- (USD 57)

Gasoline: IDR 200.000,- (USD 18)

Foods: IDR 250.000,- (USD 20)

Day 2 (30 March 2014):

Breakfast 08.00 AM – 09.00AM Depart for Amsterdam Fort ->Immanuel Church -> Wapauwe Mosque -> Pasir Panjang Beach -> Lunch at Dede’s -> Petak 10 Souvenir Shop -> Australian Funeral Monument (Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery) -> Back to Natsepa

Car rental day 2: IDR 600.000,- (USD 57)

Lunch: IDR 275.000,- (USD 23)

Tourism site donations (3 places): IDR 150.000,- (USD 12)

Groceries (snacks, drinks, foods): IDR 230.000,- (USD 20)

Dinner (Room Service): IDR 170.000,- (USD 15)

Gasoline: IDR 100.000,- (USD 9)

Day 3 (31 March 2014):

Early transfer to Tulehu Harbor (STD 09.00 am/ STA 10.00 am) -> Saparua Island à Mahu Lodge Snorkling started at 12.00 PM followed by Lunch until 15.00 PM -> 16.00 PM Duurste Fort -> 18.00 PM Back to Mahu Lodge for Sunset.

Taxi to Tulehu Harbor: IDR 150.000,- (USD 12)

VIP speed boat ticket to Saparua: IDR 125.000,- (one-way) (USD 10) per pax x3= IDR 375.000,- (USD 32)

Transportation from Haria to Mahu Lodge (Pick-up by Hotel): IDR 150.000,- (USD 12)

Accommodation (Mahu Lodge) 1 room for 3 pax: IDR 400.000,- (including Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) (USD 36)

Snorkeling: IDR 150.000,- (per pax) (USD 12)

Transportation (Car Rental) around Saparua: IDR 150.000,- (USD 12)

Tips for driver, keyboardist and singer: IDR 250.000,- (USD 20)

Day 4 ( 1 April 2014):

Early transfer to Ambon from Haria Harbor (STD 07.00 AM/ STA 08.00 AM) -> Ambon City -> Karang Panjang (Christina Tiahahu Monument) -> Ambon’s Siwa Lima Museum -> Transfer to Airport for 14.45 hrs LT departure to Jakarta (GA 647)

Transportation from Mahu Lodge to Haria Harbor (IDR 150.000,-) (USD 12)

Driver Tips: IDR 100.000,- (USD 9)

VIP speed boat ticket to Ambon (Tulehu) (IDR 125.000,-) (USD 10) per pax x3 =Rp. 375.000,- (USD 32)

Car rental day 3 (IDR 600.000,-) (USD 57)

Gasoline: IDR 100.000,- (USD 9)

Tips: IDR 200.000,- (USD 18)

Total: IDR 5.725.000,- (USD 

Natsepa Conference & Resort: IDR 820.000,-/ night x 3 = IDR 2.460.000,- (USD 213)

Total Expenses: IDR 8.185.000,- (USD 711)

Expense per person in total: IDR 2.728.333,- (USD 237)

If plus flight ticket: IDR 3.300.000,- (USD 286) per pax

Grand total expenses per person is: IDR 6.028.333,- (USD 524)

*The foreign exchange mentioned above is capped at 1 USD = IDR 11.500,-

**This budget is considered as a moderate budget travel / non backpacking or low cost budget, excluding shopping.

***You should spare IDR 1.200.000,- (USD 100) for emergency or shopping budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aviation, Friends & Hang Out, My Life, Travel

Heaven of The East: Ambon, Moluccas (Maluku) Part 1

‘Kota Ambon, Ibu Negeri Tanah Maluku, Di pinggir laut tempat kita berteduh..

Dari jauh.. terlihat gunung Salahutu, beta ingat dahulu beta disitu..’

-Intro lyrics of Kota Ambon song-

This post marks another memorable trip that I had planned. Why? Because despite short planning and zero knowledge about the city, we still could make the best journey ever! I am very grateful to get this opportunity, to witness another beauty of East Indonesia.

Ambon had been in my ‘must-visit-city-before-i-die’ list since long time ago, but whenever I wanted to go, I was always doubtful on going there alone due to safety concerns.

I had distinctively heard from many Ambonese whom I met in Jakarta, or even from a few foreigner friends who had been to Ambon, most of them said that this city had so many things to offer. Ambon doesn’t just offer its natural beauty but cultural diversity. Moreover, they said that Ambon and largely the greater Moluccas archipelago have numerous diving spots for experienced divers and snorkeling lovers around the world.

I am not a diver but from many pictures I saw, and based on the testimonies I heard, the group of Saparua island, especially Nusa Laut island is known for its underwater richness, they said Nusa Laut’s underwater contains richer marine biota than in Raja Ampat.

In fact, Moluccas is also popular as a region where high quality Indonesian singers come from. The Moluccans are blessed with colorful voices, let’s look at our brilliant singers such as Ruth Sahanaya, Utha Likumahua, and Glenn Fredly.

Having people singing is not a rare thing in Ambon. They like to sing and their voices are worth to be listened🙂

Getting very excited for the first time..

I traveled with 2 companions who also had no idea what to see and what to do in Ambon. Both of them are my best friends where we shared a lot of things in common, especially having similar ways of traveling style. We sometimes picked random dates and getaway destinations, but this time I had succeeded to entice them to come with me to Ambon.

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Apparently, one of my travel mates knew someone from her parent’s relative, and they have been very helpful with our city tour arrangements starting lunch treats, transportation and visiting the best tourism sites in Ambon.

We departed without fixed itinerary, and we just wait until we arrived in Ambon. As for the flight, we took Garuda Indonesia’s first flight (departed at 00:30 hrs) with 20 minutes stopover in Makassar. Garuda Indonesia actually flies two times daily to Ambon, you can pick either the red-eye flight departing at 00:30 hrs (GA 640) with one stop over or 08:30 hrs (GA 646) direct. Since we preferred to spend more time in Ambon, so we chose the first flight.

IMG_0144SkyTeam Livery, PK-GMH

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IMG_0188Aglio Olio for my supper. I must admit this one is very delicious!

Regardless my concession tickets but my two other friends paid IDR 2.600.000,- (USD 240) each for economy class (promo fare) return flight. The fare is quiet reasonable compared to Jakarta – Lombok flights that have reached more than IDR 3.000.000,- (USD 260) return during that period.

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The flight was a red-eye flight, and our first leg was to Sultan Hassanudin International Airport in Makassar for 2 hours flight and we transited for only 30 minutes refueling. I met some of my dad’s colleagues who were in-charge as the captain and flight purser, during the crew change and they wondered to know what I would do in Ambon. I simply told them besides its natural beauty, I was inspired by those great singers and would love to hear how Ambonese sing live. Besides, I was also inspired by the beauty of the Moluccas that previously I only had seen them from pictures.

Once the crew change finished, we immediately took off at 0430 AM LT (GMT+8). The flight to Ambon from Makassar only took 1 hour and 45 minutes, just 40 minutes after take off, the sky was changing colors, indicating the breaking dawn.

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Watching sunrise from East Indonesia airspace is the most favorite moment to me! I remembered when I flew to Biak and Jayapura a few years ago, I was very excited to see that breathtaking view, especially when you look outside your window and seeing the sky’s orange-purplish reflection towards the islands beneath, it’s just so perfect!

IMG_0243My seat after 4 hours

Time flew fast when you’re flying, at 7 o’clock am we started our descent and the Captain made pre-landing notice for the cabin crew. The plane banked into runway 04 approach. The orange sky had turned into light blue while the sunlight had begun to appear despite a few thunderstorm clouds were seen in distance. The sea was seen in a calm current, from the distance I could also see Salahutu Mt., Nona Mt., Amahusu bay, and Latuhalat before we finally touched down at Pattimura Airport, Ambon at 07.30 AM LT (GMT+9).

Flying to East Indonesia could be tricky, the flying hours for some indirect routes (or with 1 stop over in Makassar) could disrupt your sleeping pattern. When I flew to Jayapura with 2 stopovers via Makassar and Biak, I had a very bad jetlag upon arrival due to short sleep for 2 landings within 1.5 hours. This time, I flew with only one stop over, and I slept during Jakarta – Makassar flight not between Makassar – Ambon had made me pretty exhausted post flight.

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IMG_0253IMG_0258Selamat Pagi Ambon! Touched down at Pattimura Airport, Ambon (AMQ)

After taking our checked-in luggage, we met our private guide Pak Parjan and Pak Ismet who had been waiting for us at the arrival hall, and we headed directly to our hotel, Natsepa Resort and Conference.

Selamat Pagi, Selamat Datang di Natsepa Resort, Bapak Danang,” said one of Natsepa Resort and Conference’s concierge staffs who greeted us at the lobby upon our arrival after 40 minute drive from the airport.

Selamat Pagi! Thank you,” I cheered a smile. Natsepa Resort and Conference used to be managed by Aston with a previous name of Aston Natsepa. Natsepa Resort and Conference is known as one of the best accommodation in Ambon situated in Natsepa beach area. I booked this hotel directly from Booking.com for a deluxe twin bed that can be occupied by 3 persons maximum. The price per room and per night is quiet reasonable which is around Rp. 830.000,-  nett (USD 73) including breakfast for 2 persons.

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IMG_0268My room’s balcony with a gorgeous view!

IMG_0275Left: public swimming pool, Right: Lagoon’s room private pool

The hotel ambiance was indeed relaxing, clean and provides generous room space. The hotel also has swimming pool where hotel guests can practice diving or if you have more budget you can pay Lagoon room that has its own pool. The hotel area is also far from the traffic and public crowd, besides each room of this hotel is indulged with breathtaking views, Natsepa beach and Salahutu Mountain.

IMG_0749The back view: Mt. Salahutu

Once check-in done, we were directly guided to our room which was located on the third floor overlooking to Natsepa bay and the swimming pool. I must say that that was one of the best view hotels that I’d ever had.

Liang Beach

The weather suddenly changed where clouds were seen above the horizon, giving signal to rain anytime soon, we decided to go out after 40 minutes rest, and we were heading to our first destination: Liang Beach. Liang Beach is located about 20 kms from Natsepa. And the best way to reach this preserved and pristine beach by car. You can ask the hotel to arrange a taxi for you that cost approximatley IDR 150,000,- one way or alternatively you can rent private car (Toyota Avanza) for IDR 600,000,- (USD 53)  for one day (excluding gasoline and driver tips). You should not worry about who would take you around because the car must be ready with a driver who could also be your guide.

After prepared my duffel bag with sufficient sunbathing and swimming amenities, we were set to go! However it was a bit unfortunate that the weather seemed wasn’t friendly enough, because the moment we left the hotel, the rain began to falling and even became worse. Apparently, early April is a transformation season in the Mollucas from dry to wet season.

The rain unfortunately getting worse when we arrived at the Liang Beach, we decided to wait until the rain went over with a few refreshments such as coffee, rujak and Indomie. Despite the thuderstorm clouds, what amazed me was the still capability of seeing the blue gradation of the sea water – indicated how clean the water is. Finally after almost nearly one hour waiting, the rain finally over. We immediately ran to the famous Liang Beach wooden pier which firmly stands near the shoreline.

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This view made me think of Maldives, or Seychelles, or wherever I could think of. I was just standing there being thankful for everything I could see.

IMG_0281Rujak Ambon

Liang Beach is one of the most favorit spots for  local fellows to hang out, followed by Natsepa shoreline where you can enjoy the famous Rujak ‘traditional fruit salad’ and the sweet sagu bakar (roast sago). However, you can still enjoy those foods at Liang Beach. The locals love the beach so much, especially the kids, where they expressed their freedom by jumping off from the pier to the water. If you’re lucky, you could see a group of dolphins swimming near you, like I did last time – or else a ship passing nearby.

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Liang Beach is not wavy unlike most of beaches in Bali. The water is very calm with less waves but the current could be a bit strong.

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After one hour, the sun lastly appeared from the breaking overcast clouds and we were excited to feel the heat. As a man who is a bit paranoid of swimming in the sea, better to stay nearby the shore, because I rather not to think of seeing a shark down there.

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After swimming, I went for fast rinse at the public bathroom (thank god for this). I’m a type of person who could not leave my body with dried salt water for too long thus I took a bath with fresh water jugs I bought earlier.

For all of you who cannot bare with salt water then you should bring your toiletteries, because you can use the public bathroom where they also sell fresh water (IDR 3.000,- per jug (USD 0.30). The bathroom is rather clean and thank god not stinky, so you should not worry about it.

 

Ambon’s Francis Xavier Cathedral

We only spent 2 hours in Liang Beach. Once we’re done we headed straight to Ambon city for our first day city tour. It is quiet exciting though, because we were pretty curious about what this city looked like and what life were like in the capital of Moluccas archipelago. Ambon city is located 36 kms from Pattimura International Airport, and situated near Ambon bay.

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It took for almost an hour for us to reach the city. Since it was nearly lunch time, Pak Parjan invited us to have lunch at his home as his wife had cooked us traditional dish. We were so delighted to accept his invitation.

Ambon’s city is quiet colorful, from the distance you can see the city center from the hilly road. The city looks vibrant and lively.

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In the middle of our journey, Pak Ismet stopped us in front of Ambon city’s Francis Xavier Cathedral (Roman catholic church) which is dubbed as one of the most remarkable historical sites in Ambon. The cathedral was built to commemorate St. Francis Xavier, a spanish roman catholic missionary who arrived in Ambon in 1546.

The cathedral was unfortunately locked hence we were not able to see the interior. After taking a few pictures of the church, we headed directly to Pak Parjan’s house for lunch. The house is located not far from the city center, situated on a hilly road. We were welcomed with genuine hospitality from the whole family. It was definitely pleasant to catch up with the locals and learning new things from them.

IMG_0429The food he had prepared for us. FEAST!

IMG_0433Fish and chicken are homemade! DELICIOUS.

IMG_0435Sharing is caring🙂

IMG_0438Never seen a corn as big as this

Apparently, Pak Parjan and family had prepared a totally delicious home made lunch for three of us that suit our tastebuds. Chicken, fish, vegetables and fruits were taken from their own poultry and farm.

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The home is newly renovated, this house offers a great view on the top floor. Bayview and seaside home is very common here in Ambon, something that we rarely find in Jakarta.

 

Latuhalat & Lelisa Beach

After spending nearly an hour for lunch, Pak Parjan guided us to get ready as we were going to continue our trip to Latuhalat. I actually had no idea where he would’ve taken us, what he said was only “We’re going up to the hill, to see one of the best scenic view in town.” Then, we would’ve imagined a place similar to Bali’s Karma Kandara or Bali Cliff – only maybe there won’t be any alcohol beverage sold.

Latuhalat is located in the outskirt area of Ambon city where the road track was quiet hilly though the place was worth seeing. It was nearly sunset around 17.00 PM local time when we alighted from our car. We could feel the fresh air, and we hear the sound of the waves which triggered our curiousity to look beneath, we were apparently about 20 meters above the sea level.

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Pak Parjan later invited us to walk down to see the Ambon’s front door. We were actually curious about what door he’d been talking about. He told us just walk down the steps and see, and yet to enjoy every step down we made. We were stunned to see more than 50 steep steps leading us to the rocky shore. I frequently reminded my friends to watch their steps. Once we got down, we saw the Ambon’s entrance door, and I can say this place is quiet magnificent. How could I not be amazed to see a giant natural rock with half round hole that made it look like as if an entrance to the beach. The overlooking sea is Banda Sea, and the locals said this place was one of highly recommended places to enjoy the sunrise.

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We climbed up back to where our car was parked, stepping up approximately 50 stairs that caused severe exhaustion. “We shouldn’t have done this place today, I think I got to exhausted” I babbled to one of my mates, and she could not reply anything as she was gasping while we’re climbing the stairs. When we reached the top, we decided to sit down at a small open-air café to enjoy fresh coconut water and chatting with the café owners who apparently was a mixed Ambonese – Sundanese couple. They had figured out whereabout we were from, and there the man started conversation by revealing that he used to live in Jakarta for 20 years and still flying back and forth to Jakarta a lot these days. He was sharing his life experience and Jakarta and how he met the wife there until they decided to start a family business there in Latuhalat. The man told us that Ambon and specifically Latuhalat should’ve been potential for domestic or even foreign visitors, however, he could see that not so many local tourist comes to Ambon as many of them were brainwashed about visiting the islands known for conflict.

IMG_0457Collin Beach Resort

IMG_0456Lelisa Beach

Not far from Latuhalat, there is Lelisa Beach, situated in southern part of Ambon and managed by Collin Beach Resort. The beach itself is mostly surrounded by corals and rocks therefore is not comfortable for beach swimmers, but we spotted many foreigners stay in this resort. The resort may not look as fancy as Natsepa Resort and Conference however, this place has a perfect beach ambiance with many coconut trees, hammock, and lazy chairs.

Once we’re done with the sight seeing around Ambon, we wrapped our itinerary for that day as we all fell asleep directly when we reached the hotel and hit the bed.

 

Fort Amsterdam (Blokhuis Amsterdam), Immanuel Church, Wapauwe Mosque

On the second day in our itinerary, we woke up early at 07.00 AM, awakened by a beautiful sunrise in Ambon. I spent a little time sitting at my balcony to enjoy the morning sun’s heat, sipping Nescafe decaf and starring at the magnificent view of Natsepa bay.

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IMG_0466Enjoying the morning sun

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We immediately packed up our amenities, each of us took a quick bath and ran for a short breakfast. Pak Parjan unfortunately unable to accompany us that day, he asked his son, Mas Hafni to guide us instead. Mas Hafni and Pak Ismet had been waiting for us at the lobby, they told us to be ready before 07.30 AM as we would travel a bit far to Hila Village in Leihitu to visit the famous Dutch fort in Ambon, Blokhuis Amsterdam and the surrounding sites.

IMG_0509Hila Village

IMG_0499IMG_0500Beta cinta Indonesia

IMG_0514Too dreamy to be true

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In Dutch, Blokhuis means Fort or a block house. It is built in a three floor structure, functioned as gunpowder warehouse and prisons. The 4.57 m x 5.3 m building has 2 windows on each side where you can spot scenic views from each side, beach and mountains. The Fort was abandoned by the Dutch colony in the early of the 20th century and restored by Indonesian Government in 1991.

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We felt very lucky to have the best weather of the season. The sky was completely clear decorated with thin layered clouds stretching above. I was completely ready with my iPhone 5S to capture the beautiful sight seeings that I would never forget.

IMG_0527Window of happiness

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Not far from Fort Amsterdam, there is another historic site of Immanuel Kerk (Immanuel Church). The church was built in 1780 and it was known as one of the oldest protestant church in Ambon. The church was nearly burnt down during Ambon’s 1999 civil war, but now they had recovered the church and rebuilt it almost in the exact copy of the original church.

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After a short stop at the church, Pak Parjan and Pak Ismet drove us to Wapauwe mosque which is known as the oldest mosque in Ambon. The mosque was built in 1414 and still firmly standing until now. The exterior look is somewhat attractive and rustic, combined with the sophisticated interior that is filled with teakwood, which is still used these days.

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The mosque is located near a green yard where the cow shepherds feed their cows. The view getting even more interesting to me as I rarely see any green yard with a clear blue sky in Jakarta.

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IMG_0569Captured on our way to Pasir Panjang beach

Pasir Panjang Beach

To all of you who followed my Instagram or Path, you might’ve seen my post which mentioned about a private beach that I wouldn’t tell you, and you might wonder where that white sand beach was located. It’s called Pasir Panjang Beach!

After visiting historical places, we decided to chill out for a bit on the beach. We asked Hafni and Pak Ismet to find a good beach for us to hang out, if possible the quiet one. They were discussing to which suitable place for us, and we ended up at Pasir Panjang Beach. Firstly we were not sure to where they brought us since the direction was nearly the same that brought us to Liang beach the previous day. “The beach has the same shoreline of Liang Beach, only this beach is much farther,” Ismet said. The car stopped at the curb of a small road, and Ismet told us just to follow Hafni who guided us to the beach. The beach location is similar to Padang – Padang beach in Bali whereby the visitors had to walk down a few steps to reach the sandy area.

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According to what Hafni and Pak Ismet told us, the beach was unoccupied and we were just too excited for this. Despite 11 am, but the sun was high and glaring bright, we got ready with our sunscreen, towels and sun glasses. Pasir Panjang is situated in Tial village where many fishermen live. Here you can spot their vessels, nets and if you’re lucky – their catches. You may smell fresh Tuna fish from here, and you can buy the fish with a very good deal directly from them!

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We enjoyed this beach so much until we’re not knowing that we’re competely tanned but we didn’t care because swimming here felt so good!

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Where else could we enjoy the calm waves, quiet environment, soft sands, and great breeze, this is such a sanctuary for us.

Pasir Panjang doesn’t have public bathroom neither there has any change room, therefore whenever you come here – make sure you bring your towels, wet shirt bags, spare shirts and shorts unless you want to stay longer drying your swim suit under the sun.

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Before we left the beach, I asked Hafni to walk with me to visit the fishermen village. I wanted to see their homes and hoping to see one of the Tuna’s heads. We walked slowly passing each home and greeted each home owner that I met. They smiled and said “Hello!” I felt welcomed here. Some of the home owner offered me her outdoor bathroom to rinse my feet and sandals which were covered by sands.

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At the next door of the house, I heard there was a Tuna transaction – which I believed from the morning’s catch. I stopped by and asked how big the Tuna was, and to me it was really big. Around 9-10 kgs or so.

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“Oh this fish is considered small compared to what we usually get on the sea,” an Ambonese lady said.

I approached my head near the bucket, attempted to look the Tuna closer. Fishy smell.

“How much is the whole fish?” I asked, pinching the Tuna’s belly – it was indeed chubby.

“This one is Rp. 100.000,” she said.

The moment I thought I had misheard the price, and I reassured “Really? That can’t be true?”

The lady thought I attempted to bargain. “It’s fixed price Pak

“No, what I meant was Rp. 100.000,- is pretty cheap for this size,”

The lady smiled, “Do you want to bring this with you to Jakarta?”

I told her that I would have another two nights in Ambon, yet we would’ve gone out of the island the following day. The wise way is to buy one night before my leaving or on the same day of my departure back to Jakarta as I’d prefer to have fresh fish.

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I asked her permission to hold and lift the whole Tuna, as I would love to take picture with the fish. My mind had flown to Jakarta where I could buy a plate of Tuna sashimi from Sushi-tei.

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Hafni had instructed me to walk a bit faster to the car as we still had so many things to see and visit. I started to feel uncomfortable with the wet swim shorts that I still wore behind my short pants so did my friends, so we decided to return to the hotel for a while to take short bath (another short baths – so much a real adventurer isn’t it? haha) I noticed that Hafni and Pak Ismet were totally amazed with how we kept our hygiene.

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The clock had shown 13.00 PM, means we were one hour late for lunch. We definitely got ready again to Ambon city to have lunch. “It’s Sunday and hopefully there are some places open,” Hafni said.

“I think we should go and try the fish place that my cousin mentioned earlier,” one of my travel mates said. We all agreed to wherever we should eat, as it was too late and our tummies couldn’t compromise. We initially wanted to eat at that famous grilled seafood restaurants suggested, however the place was closed and Pak Ismet took us to another restaurant called Dede’s. The place looks decent, and fully air-conditioned. Before we sat down at our table they asked us to choose the fish from the cool box at the kitchen. We picked three kind of fish: Silver Pomfret (Bawal), Spotted Rabbitfish (Baronang), and Groper fish (Kerapu), Prawns, and Squids, all items were grilled and cooked spicy.

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‘No Kangkung, No Sayur Asem’

When we’re choosing what vegetables to go along with the main course, one of a friend mine were craving about Kangkung. As we all know that Kangkung was supposed to be best companion for any seafood dishes, and it was available on the menu. However, with full regret, the waitress had to apologise that Kangkung was not available at that time, neither was Sayur Asem.

We were completely confused how could both side dishes not available. Hafni told us, “No, you better not expect Sayur Asem here because it’s a rare dish.” That another learning point for us. I asked the waiter, to keep it short, “Can you just bring us whatever vegetables is available?”

“Capcay, Mas

“Okay, one serve please.” I said without hesitation.

The foods arrived not long after we order. A quiet fast service I must admit, and the taste was also pretty good for a seafood resto. We enjoyed every bite, and yet the fish tasted very nice, soft meats and crunchy skin. The bill was not as suprising as I’d thought, we paid IDR 275.000 for the whole meal and beverages for 5 pax. Quiet cheap I must say.

After having happy tummy, we headed straight to Petak 10 souvenir shop. This shop is the best souvenir shop in town that sells not only sago crackers or cookies, but next door is a souvenir shop that sells Pearl accessories (salt water and fresh water), print tshirts, caps, bracelets, and local tenun fabrics.

Tips when shopping in Ambon: Here (not just at this shop) you cannot bargain any price, as most of the sellers will claim it as a fixed price. It is hard to bargain with the local people, yet many Ambonese are well educated and they understand every tourist especially from Jakarta.

IMG_0673I bought a sea water pearl pendant for my mother with silver-coated stainless.

 

Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery (Australian War Cemetery)

Once we’re done with shopping, Pak Ismet drove us back to the hotel as we need to get early for dinner. However, I told him would it be possible for us to stop at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on our way back home. Hafni said it was possible and we needed to get permission from the cemetery keeper.

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I browsed little information about this cemetery before my departure to Ambon, and I thought this cemetery is a worth seeing place. The cemetery is located 5 kms northeast Ambon on the main road to Galala district, the cemetery was designed by Ralph Hobday.

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There are around 2.000 died soldiers (whereby nearly half were Australians, while the remaining numbers consisted of British soldiers, American Air Man, Dutch soldiers laid down in this cemetery, many of those buried here died in the defense of Ambonia in the early months of the war against Japan and others were killed in the Allied assault on Japanese air bases established on Ambonia and Sulawesi.

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“The cemetery contains Australian soldiers who died during the Japanese invasion of Ambon and Timor, plus those who died in captivity in one of the many camps constructed by the Japanese on the Moluccas Islands, including many British prisoners who were transferred from Java to the islands in April 1943. Soon after the war, the remains of prisoners of war from Haruku island and other camps on the island were removed to Ambon and in 1961, at the request of the Indonesian Government, the remains of 503 graves in Makassar War Cemetery on the island of Celebes were added to the cemetery.”  ( Source: CWGC.org)

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The afternoon sun was still delighting when we arrived at the cemetery. We’re still able to spot the sunlight broke between the trees, creating beautiful shadows. This cemetery’s atmosphere brought us to Melbourne or Perth. It’s very beautiful indeed, the scenic view also reminded me to the famous American serial in 2000s “Six Feet Under”. You can also sit anywhere under the trees and search for inspirations.

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We kept taking pictures, and wandered around the cemetery until sunset. We could see the names of the dead soldiers who were buried here, as well as reading the history plaque about this cemetery at the commemoration hall.  After satisfied with hundred beautiful pictures, the time shown nearly 17.00 hrs and we had to end our visit. We returned to the hotel before dark to get enough rest as we had to wake up early to catch morning boat to Saparua the following day.

Please stay tune for Part 2: Only 19 hours in Saparua Island.

To be continued.. 

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Colorful Kunming (7-11 December 2013) ; How Great Thou Art

Hi all, after being away from blogging for a while, I would like to share you some photos that might inspire you to visit a city that I recently visited, Kunming.

I flew with AirAsia to Kunming. A great experience to fly with the world’s best low cost carrier. From Jakarta, I took the first flight to Kuala Lumpur using AirAsia Indonesia (QZ), and connecting to Kunming for 2 hours with AirAsia Malaysia (AK). The schedule is very convenient, the flight arrived in the afternoon, not too late before dark.

I will not say too much here, but my photos will speak themselves, how beautiful the city is. If you guys happen to seek nature and serenity, this place is very recommended.

All pictures are taken by iPhone 5. I am a proud iPhone photographer.

Kunming is located in Southwest China, not too far from Hanoi and this city has a lot to offer. I feel so grateful to get a chance to visit this city for a 5 days trip. Colorful city, all seasons, spring weather, authentic heritage and cultural. For those who had visited Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou before might find this city a bit different. This city doesn’t have MRT only bus, and the capital Kunming is not as packed as those three cities. However, there are still some areas that can be found similar such as Dongfeng Road the shopping district (similar to Wangfujing Road in Beijing or Nanjing Road in Shanghai).

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Kunming from 20th floor, New Era Kunming Hotel.
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Besides Dong Feng area, Kunming has some night market shops that you can find around the area. What I found was strange was, I couldn’t find folding fan, and fridge magnet for souvenirs, only accessories, furniture, clothes, and foods.

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One of the souvenir shops I visited.

Apart from shopping indulgence, Kunming pleases its visitors with many natural attractions. You should complete your journey by interacting with nature. It may takes big effort for this but the experience you’ll get pays off the hassle.

Xishan (West Mountain)

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Xi Shan (West Mountain) is the closest natural site to Kunming city. Located in the west side of the city this mountain’s elevation is around 2.500 meters high. From this mountain you can take cable car, which is not the usual cable car. This thing will make you feel like flying off the mountain, and for those who have high altitude phobia are actually not recommended to take this.

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Trees Underneath.

What I wore? Asics Onitsuka Tiger Mexico Mid Runner

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Cable car track

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Finally, I reached the top end!

What I wore? Brown Wayfarer glasses: Tom Ford, Unbranded scarf, Blue Sweater : Next, Blue Jeans: Nudie, Watch: Swatch Irony

Yunnan Nationalities Village

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Colorful trees captured in Yunnan Nationalities Village in Kunming. As I mentioned earlier, Kunming is known as Spring City. It offers the best weather and you will get all season here!

When you are in Kunming, visiting Yunnan Nationalities Village is a must. This village is similar to a recreational park which showcases Yunnan’s tribes that account to 25 tribe nationalities. You will get to experience their lifestyle, visiting the mock-up of their house, watching performance, and most importantly this park is designed flawlessly gorgeous, lots of trees, lake and many more.

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The lake in Yunnan Nationalities Village somewhat makes you feel like being in Europe

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What I wore? Brown Wayfarer glasses: Tom Ford, Unbranded scarf, Blue Sweater : Next, Blue Jeans: Nudie

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Cui Hu Lake

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Cui Hu Lake Park, Kunming. This is where you could play with the seagulls. The seagulls are known to fly from Siberia to Kunming every winter, making this lake as their playground.

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Let’s see the gulls closer

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One of ancient buildings in Cui Hu Lake Park.

Stone Forest Park

I also managed to visit stone forest park, the biggest stone forest in China and probably in the world. The stone forest park is formed million years ago, when the earth moved and the sea water eroded. If there is stonehenge in the U.K, in China there is stone forest park. The stones were formed nearly thousands years ago in giant sizes. What makes it interesting, the local folks still believes in the romantic Ahei ann Ashima love story which becomes a substance of the stone forest journey experience. The tour guide says we must use our imagination in ord enjoy the stones. Your imagination will lead you to think of many unique shape that represents things around us.

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What I wore? White long sleeve Polo Shirt, St. Michael (Marks & Spencer) black sweater, Burberry Scarf, Zara black leather gloves and Brown Swatch Irony.

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There are many lake inside the forest

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They believe this is the Ashima stones. The left tip is the head and the two on the right is believed as flower bucket that she carries all the time

Jiaozi Mountain

I also got a chance to visit Jiaozi Mountain, the highest mountain in Yunnan (4.200 m below sea level or approx. 12.000 feet) which is also known as a snowy mountain. The mountain is located at Liuxijiang district, 4 hours ride from Kunming. The weather is extremely cold up there so you will need to prepare thick jackets, layered shirts and sweaters.

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The view along the way

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What I wore? Knit Blue Sweater by H&M, Knit scarf by H&M, Honey pants by H&M, Leather gloves by Zara, Suede winter boots: Unbranded

The snow is not an eternal snow, but only seasonal. The mountain isn’t covered by snow during my visit, only some areas due to the season transition from autumn to winter. Despite there is only less snow at that time, but I was still grateful to go up and see the beauty nature.

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The frozen waterfall

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Do not ever step on the ice. This one was accidentally taken right after I slipped on the ice. I asked someone to help me taking a picture of me sitting on the ice, but it turned out I slipped on the ice and hit my elbow against the rock.

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Enjoying Sunset from 3.800 meters above the sea level

Guangdu Ancient Town & Copper Palace

The two final places we visited were Guangdu Ancient Town and Copper Palace. These sites mark China’s solid culture which has been established for hundred years. The ancient town is secluded around the wall just like forbidden city or Nanshi Old Town in Huangpu, Shanghai. only the area is smaller. The district now has transformed as a shopping area selling foods, souvenirs, clothes, flowers and many more.

Just right before the old town, there is a river that occupied with seagulls. This is also a quiet interesting attraction for the tourists to feed the bird and they would fly to you.

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Siberian Seagulls at Guangdu Old town

What I wore? Grey turtleneck by H&M, Knit scarf by H&M, brown belt by Next, Leather gloves by Zara, Khakis pants by Dockers

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Guangdu Old town

What I wore? Grey turtleneck by H&M, Knit scarf by H&M, brown belt by Next, Leather gloves by Zara, Khakis pants by Dockers

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What are your 2014’s wishes?

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Reminds me of a Golden temple in Kyoto, Japan

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Conclusion

To conclude I actually very enjoyed my last trip to Kunming. I didn’t know anything about the city, but when I was assigned to visit the city, I felt so grateful and being even more thankful for my creature. China has always been a favorite destination to me, as I am a person who rather enjoys hills, mountains, and nature than beaches. I sent some of the pictures to my friends and families, they were even asking where I had been. I said Kunming and they were like “Oh? Where is it?” I said China.

Kunming is known as spring city, but it gets very cold in winter, so if you are planning to visit between December – March 2013 just prepare your thick jackets or sweater, gloves and scarf. The Jiaozi mountain isn’t covered with snow in early December, if you want to feel the snow you may visit in January – March.

In my own perspective (if I could compare this with two others like Beijing and Shanghai is still different. Kunming has less population but the city is still the central industry in Southwest China. It hasn’t any MRT or subways like Beijing and Shanghai, public bus is the main transportation. If you guys want to visit Kunming, I recommend you join local tour or commute with Taxi if you are unsure about language barriers.

In terms of shopping, in Kunming the night market offers you many products starting from clothing, accessories, home decorations, until electronics. It is cheaper here! I think due to proximity to Guangzhou, this city could sell more cheaper products.

Since the nature tourism is very important here, you should go to the outskirts city. Climb the mountain and see how the nature treats your eyes. Last but not least, Kunming is a worth city to visit!

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Aviation, My Life, Travel

Flight Experience: Paris – Amsterdam KL 1224

Flight Detail:

Airline: KLM – Royal Dutch Airline
Date: 22 December 2012
Route: Paris – Amsterdam
STD: 0900 hrs (UTC +1)
ATD: 0900 hrs (UTC +1)
STA: 1020 hrs (UTC +1)
ATA: 1010 hrs (UTC +1)
Traveling Class: Business Class
Seat No: 6E move to 4F

Hello again people! This time I am back with another trip report from my last journey from Paris to Amsterdam using KLM – the flying dutchmen!🙂

After spending 3 days and 2 nights in Paris, finally we flew back to Amsterdam for another 3 days and 2 nights visit before we’re heading to Rome for Christmas eve. As usual, we were flying standby then – listed on the first flight at 0900 hrs.

We left our hotel which situated in the Austerlitz area (near Notre Damme cathedral) at 0700 hrs using Metro train to Gare Du Nord and connecting with RER train direct to Charles De Gaulle. I was lucky to get a reservation at Hotel Libertel Austerlitz near Jardin Des Plantes as it is located right in front of the Gare De Austerlitz station, which made our travel got very convenient (The hotel is very well recommended guys!).

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We came on the first train to Gare Du Nord at 0700 hrs in the morning, still dark, and not only a few people waited at the train station just like us. Unfortunately, staying in Paris for 3 days had successfully made me a bit paranoid of losing valuable items and I was actually a bit nervous for taking the first train early morning and might meet any criminal act that might happen to us, as Paris is notoriously known for that.

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Luckily, we had a safe trip back to airport and we felt much safer. The situation of CDG airport that morning was a bit rushy!  It was weekend, and everyone was set for their Christmas holiday.Looking at the very long Air France – KLM General Check – in counter queue line, made me a bit hopeless actually – but at least by asking the ground staff  should there were any special desk for standby passengers would be helpful for us not waiting too long, and voila! they had it. The lady who stood by the near standby counter found us with standby tickets and she opened the strap for us as saying: “You can proceed from here.”

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We’re greeted by a friendly french lady at the standby check in counter. She handed our tickets and she reconfirmed if we’re standby passengers. “Are you flying out to Amsterdam this morning?” – “Yes, we are, and we have been listed before”

The lady attempted to the find our standby confirmation, took a bit long and she smiled when she found our confirmation. “Okay, I’ve found you already, let me check if we can confirm your seats from here..” I prayed inside that we could get the seat from this counter, but seems like procedure had to be followed, she said that we could get the boarding pass from here, and but our fixed boarding pass with seat number would be confirmed later at the Gate after boarding process started. We were asked to report to Gate 25A and we’d find her AF colleagues who would give us our confirmed boarding pass. However, our luggage could be check-in in advance and she labeled our luggage with “Standby luggage”. Before we left she said “Good luck and Happy Christmas”.

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We strolled around the airport for more than an hour, killing time with duty free shopping. One thing that I like from CDG is the various branded fashion stores that could be so pleasant to our eyes.

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We didn’t notice that our boarding gate was at Gate 34, as I thought we boarded through gate 25. My parents were just sitting around at Gate 25, but I became suspicious when it was supposed to be near boarding time, the agents were not there. I came back to the standby counter below the 25A counter, and the counter was empty, I walked upstairs again and asked the lady at the 25A counter if she could get us on the flight to Amsterdam or not. She said “Oh sir, you are just in time. The flight is boarding now, and the system is nearly closed. Here are you boarding passes, 3 pax, and the boarding gate is at Gate 34,” the lady said.

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Hearing this lady, made me more nervous than ever. As soon as I got our boarding pass, I used my last second saying thank you and adore how great the Air France stewardess and ground staff uniforms were. I ran to my parents and told them we were totally waiting at the wrong gate and we were late for boarding. Another dramatic situation, my parents were jumping off their chairs immediately and we ran real quick to Gate 34. It looked like we were not too late, as we were among the last 8 passengers to board the plane.

Boarding


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Today we’re flying with Boeing 737-700! I was really excited for my first time flight on this Boeing 737-800NG’s younger sister. We were greeted by a warm and friendly purser and flight attendant at the front door, she led me to our seats. KLM’s business class and most of European carriers are configured 3 – 3 just like in economy, but what made it different is the middle chair is reserved for our personal comfort. Do not expect the business class is as comfortable as in Garuda’s business class with personal TV and footrest, but on KLM’s service, the difference between economy and business class for regional flights were just on the meal service.

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Seat No.6 was apparently making me a bit uncomfortable as it has no window. After door closed the cabin crew told us, there were some empty seats in front, and we were allowed to change seats. I was the first to stand up and changed my seat to a window seat in row 4. I noticed there was a KLM’s captain traveling with his family and I moved to a seat where his little daughter sat.

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The plane pushed back on time at 0900 hrs, and in less than 10 minutes we took off in a windy weather and climbed up to 27,000 feet.

In-flight Service

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Shortly after flight, the fasten seatbelt sign had been switched off. It was time for breakfast service! The cabin crew began to visit each passenger with their trolley offering with what some to drink and giving us the meal package which was specially designed by a famous European designer for KLM.

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“This is your meal, Sir.” – the flight purser said.

“Dank u wel” I said, receiving the meal package in a great enthusiasm. “The cover looks cool!” I added.

She smiled and saying “You will be much happier once you know what’s inside this breakfast box,” – “Oh not to forget which bread you want to have with your meal?” she said offering a basket of bread.

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It turned out yes! I was surprised with the meal service, there were salads, yogurts, and cold cuts with cheese.

“Wat wil je drinken?” she asked in dutch

“Ik wil water en sap alstublief,” I replied in a very limited dutch.

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She smiled, “Oh good one!” Looks like the little lady who sat next to me were smiling to hear me speaking dutch – in a very limited way. But she kept busy with her iPod afterwards singing some songs with pulling some hand acts attempting to dance. Looks like she had fun. I wanted to say hello to her, but well she’s too young for me.

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I looked out at the window, while Captain returned with announcement that the plane would begin to descend. He also reported the weather forecast in Amsterdam that mostly cloudy that time. However, above Belgium, the sun began to rise as the orange part appeared from behind the white thick clouds, “It should be a great start today,” I said.

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In 10 minutes after Captain announcement over, the plane started its descend and we made our final approach to Schipol.

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Arrival

On 1010 hrs, the plane touched down smoothly at Schipol Airport. The landing, I must admit was another smooth landing I experienced despite weather condition. After landing the purser greeted us with an announcement “Welkom bij Amsterdam..” she indicated that the taxi would take some 10 minutes to reach gate 13 where our plane would be parked. Schipol is literally a huge airport.

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Our aircraft then finally parked at Gate 13, “Cabin crew, when ready, the door maybe opened,” The door was opened and we disembarked the plane accordingly.

Summary

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Overall, my last trip on Paris – Amsterdam sector was very good and enjoyable. The cabin is clean, comfy seats, and the foods were really good for a short flight, and not to mention the professionalism, hospitality and friendliness of KLM’s flight and cabin crew makes us feel more comfortable during our flight back to Amsterdam. No wonder that KLM’s crew was previously awarded as the best airline staff in Europe.

Thank you, Mr. Flying Dutchman! keep flying high!

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Aviation, My Life, Travel

Flight Experience: Amsterdam – Paris KL 1233 20 December 2012

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Flight details:
Carrier: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Flight No: KL 1233
Aircraft Type: Boeing 737-800NG
Route: AMS – CDG
Load Factor: 100% Full
STD: 1230 hrs (UTC +1)
ATD: 1235 hrs (UTC +1)
STA: 1345 hrs (UTC +1)
ATA: 1335 hrs (UTC +1)

Goede Morgen! Wilkommen bij Amsterdam.
Alstublief!

After finishing a 16 hour flight journey from Jakarta using Garuda Indonesia, finally we arrived at Schipol Airport ontime at 0720 am. I was really excited to hit Schipol Plaza before our next flight to Paris at 1230 pm on the same day.

Schipol Airport is one of the largest airport in Europe, dubbed as the main hub in European continent. With its landmark tower, we can see where Schipol located from the distance. It was a cold morning, 3 degrees celcius, and I started to feel the cold after disembarking the aircraft. Prior to that we said good bye to the active crew that brought us from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam.

Our aircraft parked at gate G8, well it’s not quiet far from the immigration compared to the gate D since we have to complete immigration check first and taking our luggage at the baggage claim. I was bleary eyed still, and very exhausted due to lack of sleep the other night, yet, I had to face with the first issue of the morning was a argumentation between my father and one immigration officer at the passport control. Thank god it cleared through and we’re admitted to pass the line.

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The day was still long. Of course it was 0720 am and the sun hasn’t risen yet. Somehow the last argumentation with passport control officer was total madness, anyway, I had forgotten it quick, because we had more things to do such as listing our ticket at KLM check in counter for our next flight to Paris using KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL 1233) at 1230 hrs. It looks like 5 hours more to go, but the quicker the better, knowing that we flew as standby passengers.

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The situation of Schipol Airport that time was totally crowded. Apparently, there are so many check in counters available but still could not avoid the long queue up at the counters. Looks like everyone began to fly out for the holidays.

After checking-in our luggage and getting our boarding pass the officer told us to wait at the gate as we would receive final confirmation at the gate at 1200 hrs. Since it was still long time to kill, we decided to wander around the Schipol plaza and hang out for a bit.

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Schipol Airport has a shopping plaza which actually made every transit passenger feel convenient to find their needs for upcoming travel, not to mention the handy souvenirs shops and restaurants that were available almost at every corner. Some shops that I visited were KLM fly shop where the notable engine wheels and the front section of Fokker 28 mock-up installed, Fresh Village Supermarket, H&M, and some other fashion stores.

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The shopping time made time flew fast. At 1100 hrs we directly headed to enter the Gate areas C7 and we had to report to the ground staff near the boarding gate. They told us that we would get confirmation at 1200 hrs, okay then, it’s better to keep nothing to lose. During the wait I had a chance to chat a bit with the flight purser, the crew members were waiting until the plane was ready to board. The flight purser told me that the flight was a full flight and let see if we could get transported to Paris🙂 I said “Don’t worry, we’re used to this.”

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Finally at 1200 hrs, when the boarding call began, we received our boarding pass. The three of us could get transported. We thankful for that. When we boarded the plane, we were greeted by the flight purser, and a senior flight attendant. They were all friendly. I think Dutch people are naturally chatty and friendly. During boarding process, I’ve notice the huge difference between air passengers behavior in Indonesia and the Netherlands. In Indonesia, air passengers tend to bring many cabin luggage and they are not concerned towards other people in placing their hand luggage. Meanwhile, in Holland, looks like everyone is more concerned about others space for luggage hence the last passengers to board the plane shan’t be worried of running out of space for their hand luggage.

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Once everyone boarded the plane, the door closed and the plane pushed back on-time. Since we’re flying Boeing 737-800 without IFE therefore the safety demonstration should be conducted manually. This is what I like about KLM, the pilots and flight attendants do their job very professionally, their appearance somehow makes me feel safe enough to fly with them. The flight attendants are also polite, we know that it’s their job to ensure passenger safety, and they might give order to passengers to keep their luggage down, or keep the window opened or re-adjust their backrest into upright position. All flight attendants in our flight were very polite in requesting their passengers to follow the rules. It’s a plus point for KLM.

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The plane taxied out short to the active runway (which I can’t remember), and we took off shortly we lined up on the runway. The wind looked a bit extreme during our take-off, I could feel as the plane rolled on the runway it looked like the yaw was fighting against the crosswind. The pilot maintained the plane in a straight direction and lifted up we were to the sky! As what captain informed earlier that the plane will arrive in earlier than the schedule, and the plane would be cruising on 24,000 feet above the sea level.

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The weather was cloudy, all I could see from the window was white clouds, that’s why I decided to have a short nap during the flight, oh the flight was a bit bumpy too, but we could handle it. The meal service began shortly after the seatbelt sign was switched off. Knowing that it was a short flight the flight attendant immediately started with the savory treats distribution and drinks selection. Well, the meals given in the economy is quiet simple for a 50 minutes flight, but the snack was pretty tasty, and the flight attendants were very friendly.

20 minutes before landing, the captain had instructed the cabin crew to prepare for descent which meant the flight attendant had to ensure there was no waste left behind or any glass with them. Thick clouds faced us during the descent and we had a little tail wind as well that contributed to the aircraft’s velocity faster.

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Paris was raining that time, and foggy. I could barely see anything until we’re on final approach and in the minimum altitude. At 1335 hrs we touched down smoothly at Charles de Gaulle. Oh my god, I think the landing was really smooth! It was actually one of my smoothest landing experience with Boeing 737-800 in a weather condition. Good job, Capt!. My dad also adored the smoothness of the landing – as we sat near the main wheel hence we could feel if the landing was a smooth one or not.

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After landed, the plane was taxiing out to the gate. The rain seemed to become a bit concern for a tourist who wish for a direct sightseeing in Paris at that time, but hopefully we could manage that. It was a huge airport complex to be honest. We had to get across of the next runway and then passing by two Air France terminals then we reached our gate.

“Cabin crew disarm slide bars thank you” the captain informed the cabin attendant before completely stop at the gate, and after, “Cabin crew, when ready the door maybe opened”. As someone who grows up among people who work as Aircrews, I sometimes had a natural response by murmuring the response “Slide bars disarmed and ready to open Capt” hahaha.

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Overall, it was my first trip with KLM and I had a totally memorable flight. The safety was perfect, the hospitality, and the convenience. As a person who grown up in a Aviation industry for three generation, my Grandpa used to tell me that KLM pilots were ones of the best pilots in the world. It looks like nothing beats the Flying Dutchman😉

In the evening I also took a flight with Roule De Paris to take a great night view of Paris city…

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Thank you for reading, Terima Kasih!

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Aviation, My Life, Travel

Carrier: Garuda Indonesia
Flight No. : GA 088
Aircraft Type: Airbus A330-200
Registration: PK – GPN
Load Factor: 85%
Cruising Altitude: 40,000 feet
STD: 1935 hrs (UTC+7)
STA: 0720 hrs (UTC+1)

Hello all my faithful readers. Before we get started let me say Merry belated Christmas to all of you who celebrate it. I just returned from my 10 days trip to Europe with a mission to celebrate Christmas eve mass in the St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican.

This trip was special because I had had another chance to travel again with my family, although my brother could not *again* join this trip due to his unavailability for flight simulator training. My dad thankfully was on leave hence he could make the trip.

We departed on 19 December 2012 evening. As usual we’re dropped off at Terminal 2 E and we arrived 15 minutes before boarding. I thought it was pretty rushing out there, but the check-in counter load was light and the line was okay for us.

After receiving the boarding pass, we headed directly to the immigration line. This one was a troublesome. We were stuck in the immigration line for nearly 30 hours when our flight was notified as the final call. We were a bit nervous, my dad attempted to pass through the crew line, knowing that we were so rushing for the flight, but minutes after he asked the immigration officer to open the line for us, it was too late since a group of crew member from Turkish Airlines had arrived and waiting behind us.

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Soekarno – Hatta International Airport, as the biggest airport in Indonesia and the international gateway should have add more immigration desks!

It took another 15 minutes for us to finally clear the line, another thank god was knowing the plane was parked at gate E1, close enough. And we were a few last passengers to board the plane.

Boarding process was smooth well as likely it always smooth for a wide body aircraft. We were greeted by a friendly flight attendant, and the purser whom I flew with from Beijing to Jakarta 2 years ago. My dad and mom were sitting at seat number 5 middle row and I sat at the next row 5 C. However, it was a surprise to meet one of a good friend of mine and a child of my mom’s friend who was also a member at Indoflyer. Reyhan sat at seat number 6 A. A pleasant surprise yes, and I made a bit dramatic Hello to him, and I jumped to the next seat after him as it was empty.

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Boarding process was not complete yet, the few last business class passengers who boarded the plane including my Dad’s relatives and his family who were flying to Amsterdam too, and another guy next to me in row 6 middle was a junior pilot who was on vacation alone too. So ya, it was like another reunion flight and we were so excited.

As you all know this flight to Amsterdam will not stop over in Dubai but in Abu Dhabi. The flight time for the first leg will be 7 hour 50 minutes. The captain had informed us that we’re facing the head winds and strong turbulence was frequently expected.

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“Cabin crew set doors to automatic and cross check”. The door has been closed and the plane was ready to push back. The flight load that evening was not full there were some seats left in C class and Y class – as I heard there were only 100 passengers in the Y class. Anyway, the welcome drink was offered to us. Martebe, orange juice, apple juice. Champagne and wines were available only you had to order and they will bring them to you. In addition, the cabin crew also wandered around the cabin asking passengers about the meal they’re about to eat later. My choice was simple, without reading through the menu I said, “I’ll just have rijstafel”. The cabin crew smiled at me as if saying “Wow you’re quick”.

I chose the sparkling champagne for the start, as I was really excited upon my upcoming trip, and I had a chat mate all the way to Amsterdam. We pushed back on-time at 1935 hrs and we took off around 20 minutes after. The take off was smooth, and the plane directly turned left as we’re flying across west coast Java and banked right across the south west coast of Sumatera then headed to South East India, and direct to Abu Dhabi. What captain said was proven when the plane was hitting thick cloud and we felt like in a roller coaster during the climb, but once the plane reached the safe altitude it was calm, and long dinner was served!

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We anticipated, well, I did anticipate dinner to be served as soon as possible. I always hated it when I forgot to eat before flight because somehow my gastric worked faster up in the air. When the trolley appeared I felt quiet relieve. I set my table alone, and welcomed the presence of a middle aged lady who still looks young and professional – I think she was at the same batch as my aunt. The stewardess started conversation with us, she’s chatty, regardless the fact if the conversation was made due to there was a pilot next to me or she knew that my friend, I and all of us at the back are passengers with code – but I simply notice that she’s a friendly lady.

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As starter, we had a soto bandung. I laughed when I received it because this meal was just exactly what I had before at home as lunch. She replied “Oh maybe the catering truck came to your home first before loading them to this aircraft,” we laughed to hear her saying that. The pilot next to me ordered a red wine, it turned out one of the red wine available was the one at his home too. “Oh okay, that’s another coincidence, maybe the catering truck went to your home first and then to his and came to the airport.” What a friendly convo.

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The rijstafel meals were absolutely tempting! I can’t imagine what if I had left my home country or hometown for million years and I came back to find these foods. The steam rice and the full selection of tasty sidedish that we usually make at home are too good to be true.

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After dinner time finished, the cabin crew began dimming the lights for passengers who wished a pleasant sleep. I was still in the middle of conversation with my seat next row, chatting for 2 hours or so and finally tried to sleep. The weather seemed to be more extreme when we flew above India. The captain ordered flight attendant to take their seats as they were climbing 2,000 feet more to avoid thunderstorm clouds. The turbulence were very strong and I could feel as if I were in a roller coaster ride, only I was on a 180 degrees full flat bed.

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The cabin lights turned on again 30 minutes prior arrival. The map showed that we are getting closer to Abu Dhabi International Airport. The aircraft had started their descent as well. I could notice that we’re entering the city as city lights began to appear.

The plane touched down on time at 0105 hrs LT (UTC+4). The landing was smooth, and the plane headed directly to the gate. “Bapak dan Ibu yang terhormat Selamat datang di Abu Dhabi silakhan tetap duduk sampai lampu tanda kenakan sabuk pengaman di padamkan dan pesawat berhenti dengan sempurna…” the flight announcement also informed that there would be a new set of crew member that would serve us to Amsterdam, and the plane would transit in Abu Dhabi for 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Before disembarking we said good bye to all crew members, saying thank you. When we reached the gate, we saw the new crew members had been waiting, my dad physically waved hands to greet them while I was just walking in a chill mode and we headed downstairs for some window shopping.

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Abu Dhabi airport is somehow not a place for you to shop. The airport is too small and there was nothing much to see about. The price even is not that cheap as has been dubbed so long.

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After transiting for nearly 2 hours, we boarded the plane again. Strict security apparently troubled me for some reason at the gate, and I was nearly lost my camera. We boarded back with a new crew member that mostly I hadn’t seen before. Most of the cabin crew that served us in the Business Class cabin were mostly a bit older and professional, however, we were lucky that some of the ‘newbie’ joined the serving session that evening. Since the flight departed at 1 o’clock am in the evening, means there was no heavy meal distribution, only light snack and cakes. I was terribly craving for Pop mie, and Garuda has been very understanding to meet the savory standard for Indonesian passengers, which is: Pop Mie.

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As a person who don’t rely on in-flight entertainment so much, I literally only slept for roughly 4 hours during the total journey, even on our flight to Amsterdam I didn’t sleep much. But only spent time playing with my Galaxy Note and I spent some times watching my favorite show – “Just for Laughs”. Actually Just for Laughs is quiet entertaining when you were in need of laughs.

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Two and half hours prior landing we were awakened by purser announcement for breakfast service. One of the cabin crew told me that they had to forward the time due to weather forecast in the European airspace which might be a bit bumpy and they’re worried that serving time could not be made due to turbulence. Everyone was soon waking up and the cabin crew began to offer several options for continental breakfast. Bread, fruit, omelette, corn flakes or yoghurt. I chose corn flakes, milk and bread.

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Just after breakfast service, I was surprised by a special presence of little Santa who was standing hiding behind the curtain next to my seat. I believed he was a mixed dutch child and hiding from his mom who sat next at the back.

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At around 0650 hrs we began our descent. There was nothing to look at outside the window since the sun wasn’t up yet. The sunshine started to appear far in the east just like flames combined with the city lights beneath us.

0720 hrs the plane touched down smoothly at Schipol international airport, and it was a long taxi since the plane was parked at gate G8.

When disembarking we thanked to the cabin crew for a great flight and wished them a pleasant stay in Amsterdam, so did they to us.

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To conclude my trip report, I think this is was my first long haul flight more than 8 hours with Garuda after several years. The idea of making the middle east as a transit point is good knowing that passengers might need sometime to rest their back and feet every 5 hours minimum. In regards to service, I never had problem with any service related matter as the airline has a good value of service for its customers. Starting from the hospitality, the warmth, the smile and the attention they give to the passengers, the cabin crew are one of the friendliest and the sincerest cabin crew I have ever met. I had a very enjoyable flight, good meals, good sleep, and good conversation. It complete my happiness on my last trip. Thank you Garuda Indonesia! We are proud!

Flight Experience: GA 088 Jakarta – Abu Dhabi – Amsterdam

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