Kawah Putih & Ciwidey

 Monday, 14th July 2014

We woke up early again for a trip to Kawah Putih & Ciwidey. I think most of my friends didn’t visit Kawah Putih. I read plenty of reviews on Kawah Putih and it was said, we shouldn’t miss visiting this crater above the mountain. It was a long journey. The usual 2 hours journey turned into 3 hours journey instead. We lost track of time as we were stuck in terrible jams. However, we managed to experience the daily life of the commuters here in Ciwidey or Soreang area.

There are horse carts, cheapest form of transportation, which go short distance. For those who wish to travel further distance would opt for Angkut – which is like a van modified to be like a minibus. Eventhough the jam was rather horrendous, there was not much honking. People just slowly moved on with the traffic and waiting patiently in their vehicles.

Once we reached the foot of the hill towards Kawah Putih, we stopped for a short toilet break. Then, it’s some 10-15 minutes ride in the car uphill. For those who traveled by bus here will have to get down and get onto the mini vans provided at the foot of the hill, after you purchased tickets to enter.

When we got down our car, the driver told us to walk to the Kawah Putih. I was praying hard that it wouldn’t take too strenuous exercise just to get there! Lucky for me, it was just a short staircase leading to the very beautiful murky white, aquamarine colored lake! Before getting there, a vendor at the site told me to read the signboard – it was mentioned, we shouldn’t spend more than 15 minutes there as the lake emits highly acidic gas. If we feel nauseous even before 15 minutes is up, we have to get out of there!

DSC_1600Walkway towards Kawah Putih

We got really excited once we saw the murky white water! The wind was really blowing hard and we thanked God that we wore jackets. Contrary to yesterday’s weather of gloomy and overcast skies, we were blessed with really sunny and clear blue skies, dotted with occasional clouds. It was really beautiful. I was thinking this could be a place mistakenly for one of the heaven’s lakes. It was breathtaking… but the air smells of sulphur, so don’t even bother taking deep breaths!

DSC_1605Breathtaking Kawah Putih!

I tried to take some photos but the glaring sun was too bright and I couldn’t even view my handphone! Lucky thing I got my SLR with me, so I snapped away. Bring your sunglasses and hats too! After about 15 minutes, I started to feel my lungs is filled with smog so I quickly ran to the top to get away from the lake, and then, admired it from far. No words could explained the ecstasy I feel, being so close to a volcano lake!

You can hear the wind sing at the lake in this video!

After spending about 45 minutes loitering the area and going uphill a little to catch the panorama view of the beautiful white crater, we got into our car to get to the bottom of the hill. It seems the tickets purchased to enter the premise comes with a welcome drink of either hot tea, lemon tea or strawberry shake – I think you have to pay additional for strawberry shake. We had our drinks and excitedly chatting about the lake and looking forward to visit another lake at Situ Patenggang.

DSC_1689Endless view of tea plantation

We went on our journey towards Situ Patenggang and were greeted with endless view of tea plantation in Ciwidey. Unlike Cameron Highlands, which have their tea plantation in secluded spots, at Ciwidey, you basically get to see them at the sides of the road all throughout your journey. There’s no eye sore erosion of soil like Cameron Highlands.

DSC_1711Situ Patenggang

Before reaching Situ Patenggang, our driver stopped for awhile to let us see the view of the lake from the top. It was almost serene! Once we got there, the place was kinda deserted. I guess due to the fasting month, the lake was not bustled with activities. We saw boat owners mending and painting their boats. If you like to, you could hire a boat to take you to the tiny island in the middle of the lake. It’s called Pulau Cinta, if not mistaken. I guess many lovers would take a boat there for an afternoon rendezvous.

DSC_1734Pulau Cinta

DSC_1757Serene and tranquil

We didn’t take a boat so we hung out a bit taking photos of the place. On our way home, we stopped by a place at Jalan Rancabali for Luwak coffee. There are two pet civet cats in the coffee shop compound. We were rather surprised that the civet cats actually smell like pandan! And the poo that came out together with the coffee beans do not stink at all! And yes, we did take a very “close” look at the poo and it didn’t stink! After having our coffee at Rp100,000 per cup (RM27.60), we went to have our lunch at a restaurant nearby.

On our way back to Bandung town, we got stuck in a massive jam. It was a good thing that we were not that hungry so we took our time to look for our restaurant for dinner. We stopped by Braga Permai along Jalan Braga for a Western & Chinese meal as it was a nice change other than Sundanese food! Too much chilli!

I would end my posts on Bandung here as the next day, we went shopping everywhere the whole day that I find it even more tiring than waking up early to visit the volcano craters! Shopping is just not for me!

Tangkuban Perahu, Bandung

Sunday, 13th July 2014

We woke up early to visit Tangkuban Perahu in Lembang. Since it was a weekend, we were warned of the traffic jams. However, we were pleasantly surprised that there’s no jam! So we managed to get there in quite a short time. The journey going up the hill is something like going to Cameron Highlands with its twist and turn. So, better not look out too much as you might get dizzy! However, it was not as bad as Cameron Highland’s road. I think it’s bearable.

DSC_1326Kawah Ratu, Tangkuban Perahu

We were greeted by an overcast skies when we reached Tangkuban Perahu. We brought along our umbrellas just in case. We didn’t attempt go walk to Kawah Domas though, near the crater to boil egg or immerse our feet into the volcano hot mud. We just walked from the entrance to the shops, dotted the terrain, overlooking Kawah Ratu. It was a sight to behold!

DSC_1342Scenic shops dotted along the terrain overlooking the crater

As all of us scattered to look at things that might interest us, I was standing next to a shop when a vendor played a melodious song with angklung. It was really nice. Since it was my cousin sis’ birthday, we requested him to play her a birthday song and he kindly obliged.

We then go to the strawberries farm. However, the rain started pouring really hard so we didn’t get the chance to pick any strawberries. We waited for the rain to subside a little so we bought some raspberries and mulberries from the peddlers for Rp.30,000. I guess we overpaid them. I read somewhere you can get them at only Rp.10,000 per box. However, I don’t recommend buying them because the fruits have been submerged in sugary water to make them sweet. So it’s not natural flavoring at all. Avoid buying berries at all costs. The strawberries from the farm itself are okay though. We bought a handful of strawberries for only Rp.1,000.

sView beside the floating market

Next was the Floating Market. The rain was still pouring like crazy but we were glad that we made it there. Initially, we thought of skipping the floating market as we thought it was an open air area. Then, we realized it was nicely sheltered, there were plenty of space to eat your food you buy from the vendors on boats. It was something like Hatyai’s Khlong Hae market but this is much well organized.

DSC_1467It kept pouring and pouring, the relentless rain

We stopped for lunch at Kampung Daun. It is a nice restaurant with little huts in the midst of lush jungle. There is a waterfall nearby and you can dine and wine, overlooking the stream beside you. However, since it was a rainy day, rubbish were collected in the waterfall and workers were seen busy cleaning up the waterfall and stream. I guess it would be good to dine here when there’s no rain. We have to sit on the wooden floor on the elevated hut for lunch and I find it super uncomfortable. I am just not a fan of eating while sitting on the floor!

We went back to Bandung, and it was already late evening. So we stopped by Toko Tiga Jeans for shopping. I guess, this is probably the favorite place for our entourage as most of them got what they wanted, or better, were surprised with the selection being offered. There are many big brands, they said they are authentic, just rejected goods from the brands due to some minor imperfections. I even saw plaques of certification from the respective brands honoring Toko Tiga Jeans to distribute their brands. You can get Burberry, Valentino, Hugo Boss, Armani, Mercedes, etc. Most of us went crazy as the jeans were rather cheap, only about Rm80 onwards and they come with hemming service! Swift and fuss free!

Strange but I don’t remember what we ate for dinner that night. Haha. I guess it’s the usual ikan gurame, fried rice, chap cay, etc. Only second day into our trip, I am already sick of Sunda food. I thought I like spicy food but I guess I don’t really enjoy Sunda food. Ah yes! Now I recalled. We went to Stone Cafe for dinner. It was a nice, chilly night and the restaurant is perched on top of a hill overseeing a sparkly bright Bandung City. It was quite breathtaking! Since we were sick of Sunda food, we ended ordering western food and some chinese food from the cafe. It was a good ending to a marvelous second day.

A Trip to Bandung

Saturday, 12th July 2014

It was an early flight at 6.50 am. Don’t ever fly so early. It’s really torturing. Haha. I usually would have sleepless night if the flight is early as I worried I might not be able to wake up. This is my first time flying from KLIA2, the new airport terminal. It was really huge! I really like the skybridge. No more ridiculous walking on the tarmac and it’s more disabled and elderly people-friendly this way. Tried the new chicken with apple mayo sandwich and it was NOT nice. Sigh. I miss the old menu of chicken foccacia, which is so delicious and the bread is soft. This new version of chicken with apple mayo sandwich – according to my aunt, is so hard that her dentures almost got stuck on the bread when she’s biting into it. Hahaha!

I’ve been procrastinating to go to Bandung. Firstly, I don’t really shop for clothes as I couldn’t wear normal sized people’s clothes. I am abnormal. Secondly, I mistakenly thought, Bandung is as hot as other places in Asia. I was wrong. Bandung factory outlets do offer big sizes! And the weather, eventhough it was hot but it was not as bad as Kuala Lumpur, given that it’s actually on a hilly terrain. So I didn’t sweat much.

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Shops closed along Jalan Braga, Bandung

After we reached Bandung, our driver took us to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. Afterwhich, he took us on a city tour. It was a Saturday, so most government offices are closed. There’s nothing much to see until we requested to stop at Jalan Braga. It was an art street. We were there early so not many shops are open. Also, due to the fasting month, most food shops open later during the day. It was a nice leisurely walk so we took some photographs.

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Graffiti along the shutter rollers on Jalan Braga, Bandung

Since we could only check into the hotel after 2 pm, we went on shopping. I was thinking of buying things later during the trip but couldn’t resist some of the really cheap offering along Jalan Chimpelas. I think most shops are quite alright. One T shirt could go for about RM10 only and the quality is not bad. So I bought some clothes for my family. We stopped for a short lunch break and decided to try our luck to check in hotel earlier.

I booked De Batara Hotel via Booking.com because of it’s in the vicinity of Jalan Chimpelas. We were lucky because the 3 rooms we booked, 2 are already ready for check in. Since I didn’t get much sleep the night before, I decided to rest for awhile till 3 pm, to go for Angklung show. I didn’t get much sleep either because the hotel was undergoing some renovation so there’s hammering sound throughout the few hours when I was trying to get some shut eye. It was a little frustrating.

DSC_1192

Bonekas

At 3 pm, we went to the Angklung center. When we reached the center, it started to rain. I wasn’t expecting anything so I thought the place was rather not so proper to be conducting a show. It feels like we are watching shows at the market – like hungry ghost festival in Malaysia. Since we arrived late, we were seated at the back of the show. Since there’s no stage, we couldn’t really see what’s in front and I got bored. I went around to buy some food offered as I skipped lunch. After taking some photographs around the center, we decided to call the driver to pick us up to go some place else. It was a fortunate thing that we couldn’t get hold of the driver. I was wondering why are there so many police personnel in the center compound. The car park was kept a little empty and there were people anxiously waiting for somebody.

I saw most of them are wearing checked shirts and there were also people wearing shirts with Mr Joko Widodo’s face on them. So I told my friend that, I think the future President is coming to the Angklung center! So, we decided to wait for a bit before we try calling the driver again.

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Mr Joko Widodo arrived!

It was not a long wait. Some 10 minutes later, the future President of Indonesia arrived in a white Toyota Innova. He was swarmed by a group of people, cheering him on! We got excited too and started to snap photos like paparazzi! I was ushered together with the crowd, got my feet stepped on in the stampede! It was crazy.

DSC_1300

Children playing the angklung

After the whole swarm of people moved into the auditorium, I gathered myself, still in euphoria being less than 50m away from the President! Then we decided to join the crowd again in the auditorium. People were still happily mingling with the President and they were singing a song for Jokowi – “Salam 2Jari”. It was a joyous occasion. As the emcee welcomed the President, we were all directed to go to our own seats and sing the Indonesian national anthem. The national anthem is accompanied by the angklung and it was simply melodious! We were also entertained by children from the angklung orchestra. It was really entertaining. I guess we were supposed to watch the angklung and “wayang kulit” show here in the auditorium but since the President is visiting, the show was moved to the other side of the center.

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Congratulations! President Joko Widodo!

We waited till the President gave his speech before we decided to leave the center. It was good timing as when we got out from the auditorium, the driver came to pick us up and told us, our other three travel mates who came here 2 days earlier than us, already arrived at the hotel from Jakarta and he’s picking us up to join them for dinner.

It was really a surreal experience meeting the future President of Indonesia in person! I thought, this was probably the highlight of my trip! And it’s only the first day of visit to the beautiful land of Bandung!

PS. When I wrote this piece on 21st July 2014, I came to know that, the results for the General Election of Indonesia would be announced on 22nd July 2014 at 8 pm (Indonesian local time). The internet already roaring with news that Mr Joko Widodo is the next President of Indonesia! Congratulations!

Bali in September 2012

15th September 2012 to 18th September 2012
Bali, Indonesia

The last time I stepped foot in Bali was in 2006. That was six years ago. That time, Jakarta had a bombing at JW Marriot. We were cautious on whether to proceed but we went anyway because all had been paid for. That time, Bali was eerily quiet and crowd free. Since we went during Chinese New Year, we had the entire Bali to ourselves! Everywhere we went, there were only two of us. Restaurants, temples, dances, etc.

This time round, Bali has bounced back to life! It is hustling and bustling with sounds, smells and sights. Everywhere is packed to the brim. Even parking was horrendous. Jams worsened as they were reconstructing several main roads in Kuta town centre. I guess it’s a good sign that, this tourism giant of the south has regained its popularity. This time, I still chose to stay in Kuta as I was rather familiar with the area. I wish I had stayed in Seminyak though – it is more happening and has much more to offer. I stayed at Bali-Kuta Resort by Swiss-Belhotel along Jalan Majapahit. It’s rather secluded with a big swimming pool. However, we didn’t even had the chance to use it because our itinerary was packed to the brim that we only got back to the hotel by 12 am every night! Fave Hotel along Seminyak offered good price for hotel as well as a more, outgoing night. I heard from guests that, it could be rather noisy and rowdy at night because it’s a party street. We booked it for our friends from Hong Kong because they would love to sit down to have a drink. Perhaps, the next time, I might stay in Ubud. Ubud is about 1.5 hours from the airport, it’s a little quaint town with little shops. Prices aren’t cheap though but, I guess, it’s going to be a relaxing trip the next round I am in Bali. 😀

Well, I won’t be blogging about the sights, food or shopping as I am sure most of you have been to Bali. I just would like to share with you some photos taken during this trip. I was there for Kat & Rob’s wedding actually (probably the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever been to!), at the same time, went sight seeing – to revisit my favorite temples and shop, shop and shop for old batiks and paintings. I got my driver from this website. The boss is Nengah Polos. We had this guy, Kadek driving for us and he’s most courteous and punctual. We don’t have to worry about anything while with Kadek. The price they quoted was also reasonable too. So I guess if you want a driver in Bali, you may contact Mr Polos here.

Kecak dance. Didn’t manage to catch it the last round, so made do this time. It was worth it!

Kecak dance

In the end, fire! fire!

Breathtaking view at Lake Beratan

People and ducks alike, enjoying the sunset at Tanah Lot

The walkway to the wedding altar, paved with pretty white fragipanis

The awesome and beautiful couple, Kat & Rob

On our way to Ubud, we witnessed a cultural procession

For more photos, look here.

Medan, Day 2

Day 2
12th November 2011, Saturday

We prepared to go out early to catch the earliest ferry to Samosir Island. We had our breakfast at the hotel. It was a lucky thing, Pak Wahab drove to our cottage and we managed to get our luggage into the MPV and he drove us to the breakfast place, which is on top of the hill. No need to hike! Phew!

Breakfast consists of fried meehoon and rice. After breakfast at the hotel, Pak Wahab drove us to the jetty, which is actually next to our hotel only. We could actually walk there ourselves! Since the roads are mostly one-way in Parapat, he took a big round to the jetty. He told us to wait at the jetty while he parked his car.

Patron of boat to Samosir

The fee for ferry is 4,000 rupiah per person. The journey takes an hour to reach Samosir Island. So, you get an hour to soak into the atmosphere of the lake. The lake is so vast and Samosir Island looked like an oil painting from a distance.

View of Lake Toba & Samosir Island

The moment we reached Tomok – one of the many towns in Samosir Island, we got off the ferry. Be careful when you are getting down the stairs from the upper deck of the ferry to the lower deck. I slipped and almost fell into the lake! It was a lucky thing that my cousin brother was in front of me, so he basically acted as a “stopper”. If not, I guess I would end up knocking my head on the side of the ferry or worse, fallen into the lake! LOL!

It was quite funny when my left slipper fell into the lake. The ferry guy tried in vain to get the slipper for me, so I told him it’s ok. We went hunting for a pair of new slippers for me and I had to walk bare footed for awhile to get to a shop. Haha.

Yes.. I have big feet

When we got into a shop, I tried on a few pairs of slippers. The only one that could fit me is this one pair of slipper. A closer look at the slipper, the back of the slipper is gnawed by rats! I negotiated for a discount since it’s been gigit by tikus (gnawed by rat!). The vendor reduced 900 to 26,000 rupiah! Cut throat! But then, I guess I do not have a choice since I was already half bare footed. Haha.

The tomb of Batak Kings

Here in Tomok Island, we visited the Batak Museum and the Mausoleums of the dead kings. Bataks are known to be cannibals before a German missionary landed here to convert them to Christianity. The most interesting tomb is probably the second king of Batak – where there’s a head of a person and a person right below the head who appeared to be covering his private parts with both hands. It seemed that the King has many warriors and one of the famous warrior would go totally naked when going for wars. For Batak people, showing your genitals is a taboo. Hence, the naked Batak warrior used this as his trick to subdue his enemies. A lady like figurine at the back of the coffin depicts the missus of the Batak King. She was a beautiful woman, thus had many admirers. An admirer casted a spell on her and made her insane. Hence the King couldn’t be together with her but she remained a big part in his life that he had to incorporate her being into his coffin. Admission to the museum is free whereas to the mausoleum, you just need to donate some money at the contribution box.

I would say, Batak’s handicrafts are exceptional. You could get many goods from tissue boxes to purses and bags. I really liked an oblong bag – filled with embroidery but it was too expensive for me. I remember I first saw the bag on my flight from Paris. A Caucasian lady was using it and I thought it was from Paris! It was quite eye catching and the embroidery was kinda intricate. I wish I had bargain for it! 300,000 rupiah seemed too steep for me! The last offer was 200,000 rupiah. Should have gotten it! Now I am kicking myself for not getting it!

My cousins bought some sarungs for their mom and aunts from Tomok. They used the roots of a tree which produce fragrant smell. The more you wash the sarong, the more fragrant the smell would be. I didn’t buy anything, except a shawl from a vendor who actually begged me to buy things from her. Since it was morning, it’s good to give her the business for good luck. So I just obliged. Another thing that I find quite interesting here is selling of cross (as in Christianity) as souvenirs. They also have a mini Bible as keychain – which is really cute!

On our way to Berastagi

After a short visit to Tomok, we made our way back to land to get to Berastagi, where we will get to visit the Sipiso piso waterfall and the two volcanoes – Sinabung and Sibayak.

Along the way to Berastagi, we again treated ourselves to magnificent view of Lake Toba. The people of Lake Toba mainly dabble on agriculture and they grow food such as coffee, carrots, onions, jeruk (mini mandarin oranges!), strawberries, ferns and the list goes on. I asked if Luwak coffee is from here too? Pak Wahab said yes. They would rear civet cats in their farms and let them eat the coffee beans from the trees and harvest their stools! I don’t understand why coffee tastes better when it comes from a civet cat’s ass. LOL! I think the only time I had coffee luwak was when we were in Bali and also Hanoi.

Before reaching Sipiso piso, Pak Wahab dropped us at a restaurant nearby for a short tea break. We had some ginger tea and pisang goreng (Banana fritters). The pisang goreng comes free with each ordered cup of ginger tea. I didn’t really like the ginger tea because it was too strong for me!

Sipiso piso waterfall

Sipiso piso waterfall is the main supplier of water to Lake Toba. According to Pak Wahab, this is the end of Lake Toba – where the water of the lake originates from. The water has been streaming for centuries perpetually. Hopefully it would remain this way! The life of the people and creatures surrounding the lake solely depends on this waterfall alone!

We could hike down the stairs nearer to the waterfall but I was simply too lazy! So we just took photos from the top. It was a good thing that we ventured to the opposite side of the waterfall, where we get to view another perspective of Lake Toba! It was breathtakingly beautiful!

Breathtaking view of Lake Toba

There was an abandoned building next to the beautiful view. How we wish that someone would actually maintain this place – perhaps make it into a restaurant with a view and make a killing charging visitors! If I were rich, I would probably buy up this place and make it into an exclusive hotel & spa, using water from the waterfall!

Gunung Sinabung

We made our way to Gundaling, where we would be in the middle of two volcanoes. The name Gundaling was short form of Goodbye, Darling. It seems that, there was a Dutch man in love with a local woman. Then he had to return to his country, so he bid his girlfriend goodbye, as in goodbye darling at this place. So the local named the place, Gundaling – after Goodbye, Darling. Haha. Don’t know how true lah!

Sinabung exploded just last year in August 2010 after 400 years! I didn’t even remember this! Anyway, Pak Wahab showed us that the side which is white in color is due to the eruption. On the other side – is Sibayak Volcano, a smaller volcano compared to Sinabung.

Berastagi town

Berastagi is the small town sandwiched between the two volcanoes. From Gundaling, you may view the town of Berastagi and its many agricultural plots. I simply love the view! The small houses look like lego sets.

Taman Alam Lumphini

After that, we were taken to Taman Alam Lumphini. This is the new temple, I believe it’s a collaboration between the Indonesian and Nepalese government. Since the place is still new, it was quite well maintained. The inside of the hall is yet to be fully decorated and there weren’t many visitors when we arrived. Admission is free.

We were somehow very attracted by the ferns plantation surrounding the temple. All along, I thought ferns are harvested from the wild. I didn’t know it is also planted as food! I think our home grown midin in Sarawak is from the wild, I guess!

After the short visit to the temple, we were on our way back to Medan. By the time we had our lunch, it was already 4 pm. We were famished! It was a lucky thing that I brought along a chocolate bar, otherwise I would be gnawing on my tikus gigit slipper!

The journey back to Medan was not very pleasant. The road was filled with potholes and winding. I was a little worried that I might vomit my late lunch out but sleepiness took over and I slept like a log on the way down, occasionally jolted up from sleep from potholes but soon drifted back to sleep like nothing has happened! It’s a blessing that I could sleep anytime, anywhere, anyhow! (That doesn’t mean I am a slut!)