What is Indonesia without the sun? It’s one of the country’s blessings, helping plants to grow and laundry to dry. Important! As for traveling, the consistent warm rays are what many travelers from temperate climate residents look for. It was what I missed the most too when abroad, aside to my mother’s cooking. One of my travel mates describes the sun in temperate climate like ‘light bulbs’ since it has minimum feel to the skin during autumn and winter. So when traveling Indonesia, I soak in the sun well! Bring it on!
However, it’s not once or twice I get burned. It used to be a lot. I also see travelers, especially foreigners, burned out with red blotchy skin, which surely stings like hell; such a bugger when on vacation. We all know why this happens. Because we just don’t take 15 minutes to apply or reapply sunblock before having fun under the sun for hours.
Through life’s lessons, I’ve learned to apply sunblock during my travels especially when there’s a lot of swimming going on. The water might feel fresh, but the sun still pierces through. Even on boats, we are prone to burns as the sea reflects the sun.
And it doesn’t stop there. This past year I’ve been taking more buses and ojeks than taxis when in Jakarta. Not that it’s a bad thing. Riding public transportation is always awesome to observe people and get to know the environment around you. However, traveling with busses and ojeks exposes me to more sun, yet I take less precaution compared to when I’m traveling out of town. I might not get burned immediately, but I should think about the implications on the long run, which pretty much explains how I’m not coming back to my lighter tone.
The tropical countries like Indonesia, the sun shines everywhere and we should show more attention to our skin. I was much reminded of this when attending the launch of Marina UV White Extra SPF 30. The launch brought me back to my school days, listening to lectures about UV rays and the effects on our skin. Although there was no exam to follow, it reminded me that skin care could be simple. A good lotion, not to mention one with SPF 30 sunblock, is a good investment to good skin. It is one step hassle-free having to apply a generous coat daily, rather that two (sunblack and lotion). It smells fruity-nice too, ‘cause it has yogurt and Acai berry extracts to help maintain the moisture of your skin and protect it from radical particles.
Well, might as well give it a go! Looks pretty handy and I can take it with me where ever I go. Maybe it could be on my next trip to… hmm.. where should Indohoy go this time round? Oh yes, Borneo! To Betung Kerihun! Stay tuned for more on that.
Kandi is our travel mate from Bandung, but seldom has business to attend in Jakarta. With so many places to stay, she found a surprising ‘home’ in the middle of town. Here’s her review on Sindoro Guest House, her version of a getaway nearby.
When asked about their opinion of Jakarta, most Indonesians will say “big crowded city with a hell of a traffic jam,” so finding Sindoro Guest House in Jakarta was quite a surprise for me. Located in Central Jakarta, this guest house is in the same area with Jakarta’s busiest places such as Sudirman Business District, National Monument and Senayan Sport Stadium; but it didn’t feel like that at all when you enter its gate.
Also called Graha Sindoro or Wisma Tujuh, Sindoro Guest House (the name Sindoro, I guess, originated from a mountain in Central Java) was a Dutch house surrounded by beautiful garden. The rooms were lined separately from the main building, along the side and behind of the backyard, typical of colonial architecture, so that busy street noises were hardly heard once you’re inside, especially in the back-row rooms. The ambience resembled more of a Javanese traditional house than a building in a big city – the sounds you hear would be clinking of wind-chime and chirping of birds*, while at noon it was cool and airy thanks to many trees planted there.
My favorite spot in Sindoro Guest House: the backyard. It has some chairs and table placed under a tree where you can enjoy tea, read books, or just relax and chill. It’s so not Jakarta! You can see some details of the backyard on following photos:
The not-so-pleasant part was when the dogs kept by the guest house owner got away from their cage. When I walked around the backyard they suddenly burst out and barked loudly at me. It was shocking! Luckily the staff immediately came to help. If you are not very keen on dogs, you might consider telling the guest house staff before coming, just to make sure they are properly caged.
The room I slept in was clean and comfortable, and airy when the window was opened. It has two single beds, AC, TV, a cupboard and a desk, a small fridge, and a big window. Unfortunately my window was facing a kind of laundry room; not a very good scenery, so I closed it most of the time. Other rooms have windows facing the backyard, I guess it would be nice to open them and see outside.
There were rooms with twin beds, but I also saw a room for three persons with one double bed and one single bed. Every room has a private bathroom; mine was clean and modern with sitting toilet and hot water shower.
Other shared facilities include a small pantry, living room (very homy!) and some verandahs with dining tables. There was free wifi; I didn’t try the connection but my friend staying with me said the connection was good. The guest house provides breakfast of bread and jam, while other meals can be ordered from nearby restaurants. When I stayed there I washed the dishes myself, but you can leave the dishes and have the staff to do it for you.
The room rate ranges from IDR 250,000 to IDR 350,000 a night depending on number of persons staying. If you are traveling alone, you can book a room for IDR 250,000. The same room will be priced IDR 300,000 for two persons and IDR 350,000 for three persons.
I came from Bandung, so to get to Sindoro Guest House I took a commercial shuttle bus “Day Trans” (IDR 95K) to the pool at Plaza Atrium. From there I took a bajaj straight to the guest house for IDR 20,000.
If you go by train, from Gambir Station you can ride Trans Jakarta Busway. Take corridor 2, change to corridor 5 at Senen Central bus stop, and get off at Salemba bus stop. Then you can take a walk to Jl. Salemba Tengah where the guest house is located.
To get around, there is a Trans Jakarta bus stop about 200 m from the guest house, so you can go practically anywhere around Jakarta using that bus with only IDR 3,500. And of course there are more practical but expensive taxis – just walk to Seven Eleven at the main road, Jl. Salemba, to stop one.
Here are some nearby places you can go when staying in Sindoro Guest House:
So you wanted to check out what Australia has to offer! But where do you start?! After all, Australia is the largest island in the world. There’s just so much to see and do – and surprisingly a lot of those things are located far from the capital cities. In order to really witness Australia’s true beauty you could start with the beaten track, and what better way than in a campervan or motor-home?! Think about it, it’s essentially a hotel room on wheels. And the best part is, you can wake up somewhere new every day. DriveNow have campervans in Australia is available to rent in all capital cities, but we’ll get to that later.
Here’s an idea. I did something similar to this when I was a kid, when my family and a few others decided to visit Dreamworld in Brisbane. You can start the trip in the picture perfect Sydney, one of the most beautiful harbour cities in the world. You can have the campervan ready to pick you up at the Sydney airport shortly after your flight lands. The pick up can be simple – just head to the car rental company kiosk, fill out the forms, present the driver’s license, and before you know it you’re heading out of Sydney up the M1 to Newcastle, a coastal town located 150KM north of Sydney. With a population just shy over half a million, Newcastle is the second most populated are in New South Wales (after Sydney, of course). Most importantly, the campervan would be your home for the night. Best to secure a spot at Hastings Point holiday resort – one of the more premium camping grounds in Newcastle – conveniently located just two minutes from Pottsville beach –where you’ll spend most of your time. Newcastle is the epitome of “coastal town” – it has a laid back atmosphere with friendly locals and lovely beaches. However, this was just the beginning of the journey. The next stop would sunny Coffs Harbour.
Coffs Harbour is conveniently located between Sydney and Brisbane – making it the perfect stop over for anyone heading up north (or south if you hail from Queensland). Coffs Harbour is home to the infamous Big Banana – which is exactly what its name suggests it is. The Iconic banana is not only a recognisable landmark, but also home to a small amusement park and popular tourist attraction. The Big Banana is set amongst an 18 hectare banana plantation – it’s almost like a cult symbol – reminding Australians of their love for bananas.
However, the Big Banana isn’t the only thing Coffs Harbour is famous for! It’s known worldwide for its sun, surf and sand! You can set up camp at Beach Holiday Park and go exploring. There’s so much to see and do in Coffs Harbour – from the cafés and restaurants situated on the Jetty Strip to fishing at one of the many spots locals swear by – there’s something for everyone – young and old.
This will only be the first step of your journey – but you’ll already cover so much ground and experience more of Australia than many will in a hotel room. So get out there! It’s not going to see itself.
With so many restaurants in Bali, it’s easy to drown yourself in good food, may it be fine dining or street food. However, there are times when you feel like you need a detox from all of that ‘good food’ to something more organic. In between the many choices of places to eat, especially in Seminyak, there’s a venue that can cleanse your gastronomic channels. Earth Cafe lies in the busy Laksamana street and ready to cater all those vegetarians in Bali.
The Earth Café is part of the Down to Earth Company that lives to provide good and healthy produce (and food) to the people in Bali. Not only are the ingredients healthy, the foods in their restaurants are also calculated for its nutritional contents. I’ll take their word on it. They have a wide range of food choices, presented in a small cozy setting. The venue had Wi-fi, although we didn’t try it out, and the service was friendly; friendly enough to explain and recommend items on the menu.
The food was good and it balanced out the rich taste of Indonesian food. It wasn’t memorable food as I’ve had tastier vegetarian dishes. I do remember the bean sprouts were the small kind, which isn’t common in Indonesia. I did like that. I also tried their coffee, which wasn’t coffee. I think it was from a type of grain or nut that I can’t remember and I think it was decaf. I remember nodding to the interesting taste it gave me, and then shaking my head disagreeing to like it.
This café is located in the heart of a hipster crowd of Seminyak, known to have the most hip and trendy settings of Bali. It’s pretty appropriate considering vegetarian is a hipster thing if you refer to its definition of indie lifestyle, unusual for the common society. Predictably, you’ll find a vegetarian slash organic restaurant in Bali, as the island is known to be a place of cleansing the mind and the body. It’s been pretty hip ever since the release of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ movie and the growing Bali Spirit Festival. While vegetarian dishes are easy to find on menus at Bali restaurants, Earth Café can be a sure thing for those vegetarians who would prefer wider range of choices (or a more strict ideology of food).
And there was a visitor that bought a monkey when we were there. Doesn’t get any organic than that!
Aside to the café, the venue also has a shop that sells items to support one’s healthy lifestyle. They have organic soaps, grains for those that are bored with the typical ‘nasi goreng’ breakfast, and yoga equipment.
Jalan Laksmana 99,
Phone: +62 361 736 645
We had stepped out to face Singkawang City, a city up north of Pontianak, West Kalimantan. The streets were slow, dragons were playing, and people looked more like Vira than me. As we started to stroll around, we questioned, is the city just this slow or hasn’t it started? There were people having coffee in coffee shops, people pushing their cart of goods, cars seldom pass, and skinny muscular men lifting sacks of I-don’t-know-what on to trucks in the middle of town. I think I’ve just stepped back in the past of a town in China.
In a glimpse, there’s nothing spectacular about Singkawang, especially outside of ‘Cap Go Meh’ season. There are no obvious tourist attractions, no tourism signs, just a typical small town somewhere in Kalimantan. Yet, there’s something about it that made the city a nice sight. It seems like time hasn’t changed much of the city, and with its highly Chinese influence, the city didn’t even seem to be part of Indonesia. Not of this century, at least.
“Why are you painting on the glass of a framed poster?” I disturbed an old artist at work.
“This is for a gift. It will become something like that.” He kindly took the time to stop working and pointed at a finished product. He didn’t smile and went back to work. As much as I felt wrong, I decided to ask another question.
“But why would you want to give someone a printed poster with its glass written on it?” Naturally, I couldn’t read what was written on it and I seriously had a dumbstruck face out of confusion.
“These framed pictures are painted with prayers. It’s actually sending a prayer to someone, like congratulating them or hoping they get well soon. Like sending flowers but more timeless,” he started smiling knowing I was genuinely curious. I replied in a big ‘Oh’.
Vira and I were standing in the doorway slash workshop of ‘Semoga’ store. ‘Semoga’ translates to hopefully (nope, it didn’t say what it’d hope for). I hadn’t known about this habit before. I’ve seen pictures written with prayers, but not on the glass that covered it. I think it’s a culture adapted from the Chinese people as it seems most of the people in Singkawang are Chinese descendants, known as Peranakan or Tionghoa. The man kept on working and I watched a little longer. It got me thinking; out of all the sophistication of gifts that we had then (2012), people still do this?
Located in the middle of town, this temple is the oldest temple in Singkawang City. It is the center during the Cap Go Meh celebration, but we saw it without the fiasco. I couldn’t see anything special about the temple. It was like any other nice Chinese temples I had visited in my lifetime. The details, colors, smell on incense, were still what you’d typically see from a temple. Though, it might be a bit more colorful. So, I can’t really tell you anything impressive about it. I can, however, tell you that it’s located beside a huge mosque, which looked pretty significant. It was a nice contrast, but at the same time harmony, knowing there are still religious disputes among Indonesians even until today.
We’ve asked people what to see in Singkawang. The locals referred us to areas outside of town like the local beaches or the main temple. Non-locals, or those that we’ve met pre-trip, can only say that Singkawang is worth the visit during Cap Go Meh. So, do we have a snooze?
A few random turns on the streets of Singkawang, we lead ourselves to this little village type complex. ‘Kawasan Tradisional’, or easily translates to traditional area, is a small housing cluster with traditional houses that dates back more than 100 years; or so one of the owners of the house said as he saw us coming through the gate. This complex has been maintained mostly as its original shape and function. Aside to the houses that are inhibited by close families, a function hall and a temple also resides in the middle of the complex. We wondered around without a guide just trying to figure things out ourselves, which is fun sometimes. With children playing in the wooden terraces and clothes left out to dry, it was easier to imagine life 100 years ago. It probably would have been similar. The past felt alive.
“Is this chair for real? Do you still use it?” Both Vira and my face lit up seeing the old barbers chair embedded in a wooden booth just outside of the ‘Kawasan Tradisional’. The old men gathered at the hut beside the barber corner, chuckled figuring if we were kidding or not.
“Asli! (real)” they all yelled laughing.
We admired the chair more. I guess it was a common old barber chair, I just hadn’t been a barber girl or been to old barber shops to have known anything about it. A huge wooden-frame mirror was hung just on the wall, and there were little equipment on the table beneath it. A mix of old and young men sitting just outside of the stall were having an afternoon chat, which kinda makes sense to the whole ‘barber shop’ culture amongst men. It was vintage and rustic. I loved it. We, both, had a sit in the chair, were laughed at for being all happy about it, and bid farewell to the old men sitting in the hut. It was also our farewell to this old city.
If somebody asked me what to see in Singkawang, I would say, just see the city. It’s hard to pin point what to see exactly, when the ambiance of the town is its charm. The people also had this accent, which I superficially can only guess that it’s an adaptation from Chinese accents. It’s different. Singkawang made me feel like I was in old Hong Kong or something like it. I’ve never been to a small town in China but I’ve seen a few movies about it and Singkawang reminded me much of them. Whadya know? Turns out, they have a market called the Hong Kong Market. Ironically, this city used to be bustling with merchants, being the transit city of many gold miners and traders from China. Now, it’s just a quiet town. It might not be for those looking for excitement on any given day, but it might be right for those that want something different to the usual Indonesian appeal.
Market people. Vira working extra cash.
The next day, we jumped on the car that brought us back in to the future. After three hours on the road, and in the face of larger roads and more cars of Pontianak, we asked our selves, where were we just now?
The hotel industry is amazingly profitable, and that means that there is always a certain degree of wiggle room present – even if the front desk staff say otherwise. There are tips and tricks that will help you understand the ways hotels actually function on a day-to-day basis. Here are five of the best kept hotel secrets, reported from actual front desk staff members. Use these tips to maximize the enjoyment of your stays – and to minimize your expenditures.
Hotels commonly overbooked. They do so because there is about an 11% no-show rate on any given day. If not enough people failed to show up for their reservations, then the hotel is, in fact, overbooked. And some people “walked”. That means they get turned away, with no room. And while most hotels will pay for a walked guest to stay at a competitor’s hotel, the situation is never desirable. Those most likely to get walked are those who only booked for a single night, those who used discount sites to book, those who are first-time guests that may never come back – and those who act rude to the staff.
The hotel industry is nearly always booming. Go to an Accor hotel in any major city, on any modestly important date, and see that it is probably booked almost to capacity. American business thrives on traveling, and hotels consistently capitalize. It’s reported that the average cost for a hotel to operate a single room for one day is about $35. That includes everything from the utilities to the housekeeper to the staff expenses. So, when you, and every other guest are paying $150 per night, the hotel is raking the dough.
Well, sort of. You see, the area that is commonly failed with error in a hotel concerns the mini bar. These get stocked incorrectly, inventoried incorrectly, and experience more human error than any other aspect of hotel operation. Front desk staff get tired and embarrassed of constantly having to debate who drank what, what was stocked originally and the rest. The staff does not want to insult its valued guests, and therefore are often very accommodating to just letting those charges slide.
In general, rooms that are booked on discount comparison sites are not the best the hotel has to offer. In fact, they are normally the worst ones. They save the better rooms for guests who are paying their regular prices. It is just a fact. So think twice when you are “saving” with a hotel comparison discount website.
There are always rooms reserved for special circumstances. The front desk staff has the power to allot these rooms in circumstances that they dictate as important. The fact is that, most times, if you just slip the front desk staff member a tip, say like $20, then, amazingly, rooms open up, smiles get bigger and everything seems to fall right into place. This is a fact. So, to get an upgrade when one apparently does not exist, show some cash and make it better.
Knowing the insider secrets on how hotels operate make sure your travels and lodging life a lot more enjoyable. Higher quality rooms, superior service, upgrade amenities and more are available to those who get educated – and then use their knowledge to create enhanced enjoyment at the hotels they stay in.
M Alan Roberts is a writer with publications that can be found in magazines, novels, e-books and of course all over the Internet. He is dedicated to writing and his ever-loyal canine companion, Buckethead the Lab-Pitt.
You can’t get anymore generic or clearer than the name ‘Toko Kopi Nikmat’ or delicious coffee shop. It just is. Apparently, it’s also the ‘Cheers Bar’ of the town because a lot of people seem to lead us there upon our query for a good place to have breakfast and where every one knew everybody’s name. So we strolled to this coffee shop in Singkawang, which wasn’t too far from our hotel Prapatan.
It was a lot simpler than the coffee shops we visited in Pontianak. The brewer was located in the back of the shop, the cakes were neatly stored in a glass cabinet, and the sunshine was the wall on one side of the shop. Just chairs, coffee, and food. Simple.
I had a cup of black coffee. Like Pontianak, this coffee shop has also adapted the Malay-style coffee or called Kopitiam. The milk coffee would use condense milk, so it can balance the thick Malay-style coffee. It has a richer taste and body of coffee, that is in my opinion. The beverage tasted smooth and wasn’t overly powered by the bitter taste. It was a nice kick in the morning.
As for food, we had what was in the cabinet. It was too hard to resist all the traditional cake, but I finally decided to grab the green cake just so the decision-making was over and done with. I wasn’t too sure what the cake I bought was called, but some call it Bingka. It was sweet, green of pandanus leaves, and soft. It was really good. It probably is a Melayu cake, as my aunt that lives in Batam, rich with Malay culture, loves to bring some to Jakarta.
Another dish that this shop had was the satay. I don’t recall it having a specific name. It was beef satay, served with rice cake AND rice noodles, just in case people would fall short on their carbs each morning. Jolly! The beef was tender and in small cuts, the peanut sauce was smooth, so no chewing effort before caffeine shot. The taste? Rich.
Not surprisingly, the owner was a Tionghoa ethnicity. She was really nice, advising us where to go and what we can see a walk away. She, like most of the people of the city, was relaxed. She wasn’t being overly nice with a busy shop to attend to that morning but she was also loose and welcoming. I knew I was a tourist, but it didn’t feel as much.
Like its name, I had delicious coffee. Overall, we had a great breakfast. The buskers, which seemed like a regular ‘band’ to the coffee shop, were not bad, either. They played mostly Malay-influenced Indonesian songs and some guests sang and hummed along while enjoying their breakfast. It was a great way to start the day to explore Singkawang.
Jalan Sejahtera, Singkawang
The day, Saturday 15th, 2014. My partner in crime, Arif Rahman, had put the pedal to the medal. The car was a brand new Nissan March in olive green, relatively fresh from the factory. It had about 370 km so the engine has had enough warming up and can be optimally pushed and shoved through our trip. We had switched turns and Arif seemed to have a blast responsibly speeding up as we headed to Bandung.
Driving to Bandung on the weekends isn’t my cup of tea. The streets are jammed packed with out of town visitors that are looking for a cool breeze for a day or two. But I was relieved to know that our 1200 cc Nissan March is a city car that had an automatic shift, which means the traffic would be a piece of cake. The standard was 1200 cc, but there are other variants like the 1500 cc for those who would want more acceleration, and the XS version, which includes the immobilizer key, different dashboard and steering wheel features. The automatic shifting didn’t accelerate as fast as we would like it to, but who’s really in a hurry in a city car?
I’ve never been much of a car geek. So I was pretty impressed with general features of Nissan’s new March such as the spacious interior which isn’t visible from the outsite (and apparently works for bigger bodies), the surprisingly stability with high speed (yeah, we kinda went fast and furious a bit), and it had a heater (great for the rainy part of the day in Bandung). It also had a pretty big baggage for a small car. My favorite feature had to be the dashboard screen (only on certain variants), which had a fatigue detector that can remind you to rest or important dates like birthdays and anniversary. Because a birthday/anniversary reminder on Facebook is so last year!
Aside to driving a new car, I also had new friends. A lot of prominent bloggers participated in this trip, which was hosted by Polimoli.com. Motul, Didut, Chichi, Chika, Iman, Ifan, Dita, and (my favorite name of the trip) Ipi. Not forgetting Arif of course. With games and gossip along the way, it was another fresh encounter to the blogging world in Indonesia. Me likey!
Not all is new on this trip. Bandung itself is the town where I was born and raised, thus I call it home. It seemed that nothing new would impress me aside to my new CD and t-shirt I bought during shopping time. But my recent encounter with the old history of Batavia had me reflecting on Bandung. And whadya know? Behind the shopping façade of Riau street of Factory Outlets and such, were old colonial houses.
Arif and I decided to walkabout a bit to visit some of our other favorite shops on Trunojoyo steet. While doing so, I was pretty amazed that I never paid as much attention to these historical dwellings. Riau street and its surroundings are one of those areas that had many old houses and many of them looked like they dated back to the Dutch times. Some houses are covered by the new shops, but they still manage to be visible. With many of the trees still standing around the area, I could have imagined what it used to look and feel back in the days. OK, fair enough, there were a lot of cars and people and I had to imagine hard, but the smaller streets of the area present a quiet ambiance where I didn’t have to imagine as effortful.
And what is a post about Bandung without its food? It’s a savory dish lacking of salt. Bandung is a city of culinary heaven. We had an interesting set of places to eat, from traditional Sundanese food, dinner at a restaurant that has been around for some time, to the new like Upper East in the Dago area. One step closer to the real thing in New York, here’s hoping. Speaking of new, I won me a new power bank in a game of wordplay partnering with Arif. Awesome!
By the end of the trip, I revert back to my old likings. I like it when I see old faces in new places, meeting up with old friends in new destinations. But in the circumstances of ‘New March Day’, the saying would have to change into ‘I like new faces in old places’. And I like the ring to that.
Thank you Nissan and Polimoli for taking us for the ride and still my own voice on this post.
It’s a small town that looked like it hadn’t change much the past 20 years. The roads were narrow with residential houses on each side, cars weren’t the largest population on the streets, and the people had their own pace; one-step at a time. In a city so humble, we figured it would be enough to have two full days to explore the city. 1 – 0 to Blitar. We did so many activities in Blitar. We were running around town like crazy people, trying the things this charming little city has to offer. You know what? It wasn’t possible.
We tried, anyhow. Here are our activities in Blitar for two days, which you can enjoy, too. It doesn’t seem much but it was packed!
Blitar is Soekarno. It’s where Indonesia’s first president was born and buried. In between, it was the city where he’d come and go. Most commonly, people would visit his lavish grave. There’s nothing mediocre or simple to his marble based, carved teak roofed, boulder decorated tomb. He was buried amongst his parents. Ironically, he wished to be buried in West Java but the people of Indonesia saw it differently. There’s never a quiet day at Soekarno’s grave, with people paying respect or those looking for spiritual signs. For real!
Across is a library dedicated to him. It was a nice modern glass-dominated structure with one part of the building containing pictures and photos of him. Another part… well… was filled with books, something much needed in this town, as there is no major bookstore around. Shocking! Yo! Major bookstores! Any help?
Visiting Soekarno’s old house is also in the package. It was pretty much maintained as it used to be. Maybe refurbished a bit but keeping most of its original form and furniture. It’s a perfect model of what houses of the wealthy used to look like, and in case of Blitar, what some still are. The local guide, who’s been around Soekarno’s house since he was a boy, told us many of the house’s history from where Soekarno slept, bathed, and even parked his car. By the way, during his days, Soekarno already had a custom made Mercedes, naturally fit for the first president. Flamboyant!
My visit to his legacies didn’t change much of what I think of the man. I still admire him for his bold visions of the nation. I admire how much he believed in this country. It was also nice to pay a visit to his grave, being as close as I can be to the man.
It would make sense to bike around Blitar as it is an old small city. Upon request, we visited closer destinations by bike. We rode the center just to see what it had installed behind its charming façade. Whadya know? More charm!
Sentul Village was the first on the list. Part of Blitar, this village apparently is home to a rhythmic instrument, which I’m not sure what it’s called other than kendang or gendang. We visited one workshop that was open and was producing much of this instrument, which was said to be sold in Bali.
We were kinda poking around with the assistance of Tugu Hotel bike guide and marketing staff, Pak Dodi. The workers were kind enough to let us ask and stare at their craftsmanship. Some kendang were plain, some were carved, and some were painted in colors. All were manually made. Personally, it’s easy to fall in love with the making process of these kendangs. You could see good hard labor put into each and every one of them. I was amazed enough to see even the simplest carvings were made without a tracer, just out of feeling. The goatskin on the top was pulled and tightened by manpower. And all with your basic equipment. Shirtless men, dripping sweat, artsy hands,… oh Lord!
We also visited the city central, called alun-alun, s call macked in the middle of town, as any old city would be laid out. And like any other city central in Java, we found a big ficus tree in the middle of the field. On one side was the main mosque; on the other, the city hall. It was a quiet weekday, not much was happening other than parents renting battery-powered mini cars to their children. There was hardly anyone using the gym-like playing set on the side of the field. It was just another hot day in Blitar.
Another Blitar surprise was Karangsari Village. Belimbing is the Indonesian word for star fruit. Have you guessed? Yes! This is a village that produces start fruits. Most of the houses within this village have its trees, though there are also plantations right around the corner. During fruit season, they collect and sell the star fruit to a distributor to be sold somewhere else. In this case, much of these ripe, sweet, and handful edible stars are shipped to Bandung and Jakarta.
“Would it be possible to buy just one?” I asked, while staring at the yellow being.
“You can have it.” Said a woman in the process of packing the yellowish green fruit. She also told me that within one or two days these fruits would have reached its optional ripeness.
I sank my teeth into the star and instantly tasted the bursting juices of the fruit. I had never tasted one that juicy and sweet. My thirst for a sweet beverage after the bike ride was over. After two rows, I let Vira continue. She gnarled happily and admitted that she, too, had never found a star fruit that good. After a few questions we found out that for some reason, the soil of the surrounding village is optimal for growing the fruits, and it was never studied as to what the soil actually contained. It was and had always been that way. We were happy with that and the next three free star fruits they gave us.
Just coming out from the village and heading home, we stopped by the company that made the famously exported peanut sauce, pecel Karangsari. Was it that good? Well, I can say this. My mother makes her own pecel sauce because she doesn’t trust much of the brands in the market. This one? She loved, gave compliments, and got mad at me for only buying a block. Mothers!
This bike tour is available to public outside of the Hotel Tugu Blitar guests. Contact the staff to get more information on it.
The basic is the dawet, a rice flour dessert, bathed in coconut milk and liquid palm sugar. The twist is the plered and serabi. I’ve come to learn that plered means making dough balls with your hands. Thus, dawet plered is dawet with additional flour balls in them. Not my favorite kinda drink, as the plereds were plain, chewy, and did no function to the drink aside to making me full.
Meanwhile dawet serabi, which predictably means it’s added cuts of serabi, a cake made of flour, tasted better than the plered. Seems like the dawet liquid wasn’t all that different to that of serabi. Thus, complimenting the whole dessert.
Top to bottom: ‘Dawet plered’, ‘dawet serabi.’
“Dawet and serabi. Two of my favorite desserts mixed in to one? I can’t ask for anything else,” Vira grinned after chowing down a whole mini bowl. And it only cost IDR 3000 / bowl. Crazy cheap!
I think it was the universe that called upon us to visit the rubber and coffee plantation, managed by Pak Anhar, also owner of Tugu Group. We could have visited the south coast beach and swim like no tomorrow as we usually do, but we decided to venture a bit far out risking being late to our dinner at Candi Panataran.
The plantation is located at Wlingi Village, about an hour ride in the Malang direction. It’s a bit elevated, providing cool air and green scenery. I had Tugu’s coffee, known as Kawi Sari coffee, and to be honest, it was really good. It didn’t have the acidity that coffee usually have and had just the right amount of bitterness. Me likey! Vira, a non-coffee drinker, seemed to be able to drink it without any stomach or taste problems. There’s not much more I can say or leak about the plans of this plantation, but there are good things to come of it and you can enjoy it too. Stay tuned!
Oh! Or you could go out and try some of the Kawi Sari Coffee and tell me what you think 😀 You can find it at any Tugu properties for about IDR 75,000 / 250 grams. For more information you can check out this link.
Our most precious findings were the oh-so friendly plantation staff that showed us around and were good company. They told us about the history, production, and the people that worked within the area. Many of them are loyal to the plantation itself as life is pretty good up there. They have been working here for half their lives and are still happy to continue. Although the coffee beans weren’t ready for some pretty picking, we still had the pleasure to enjoy what grew in the area.
Another of my favorite findings is the kepel. This was my first encounter of it and I just have to make a note of it. This fruit tasted like mango jam mixed with sapodilla. Fortunately it was ripe and abundant at its tree foot. Pak Suprapto, Pak Agus, and Pak Dedi was happy and patient enough to give us needed explanation about the fruit seeing that we had encountered something weird, second to aliens. They were entertained by the fact that we were city girls that hardly knew anything about the fruit and were sucking the life out of them. De. Li. Cious!
Dang! A return is much needed. Blitar is so interesting. There’s still so many activities in Blitar that we haven’t done. Why hasn’t anyone told us about this small town before?!
Candis were made as a place of prayer. It was the place where people met their maker, their source of life, and their reason of their existence. Candis were made from rocks to ensure their establishment through time because believing is something that will preserve forever, or that was what people used to believe. Candis were also meticulously and artistically carved as a sign of the highest appreciation. It was made to be beautiful and to last. With this in mind, I was both bewildered and honored to have this unusual experience oh having dinner at Candi Penataran.
Dinner at a candi. I know, right?!
It was a perfect sunset as the blue sky turned partially pink coming in to dusk. As the night started to roll in, Candi Panataran was slowly lit with torches. A wooden picnic table was set on one side of the park, complete with well thought-out placemats, cutlery, and candles. A few wooden Javanese statues decorated the dining area. In one corner, a flute player serenaded a Javanese tune. It was a very romantic set indeed. I was with Vira. D’oh! I’m sure Vira was ‘D’oh’-ing herself being with me.
This was our worthy and main reason to spontaneously visit Tugu Group’s property in Blitar. The idea of having a candi turned into a private dining area and provided authentic cuisines can not be missed and, in our case, must be chased. As Indonesians, candis have been always a part of our lives. We read them in our storybooks, we visit them during visiting hours, and we proudly tell about them to the world. It’s one of Indonesia’s identities being a country with ancient Hindu and Buddha as our main religions, especially in the past. So, having the experience to have dinner near them and having it to ourselves for a brief time was pretty mind blowing.
During one’s appointed night, one can have dinner in the garden of Candi Panataran. The program will start at late afternoon with a historical tour and end up on the set up dining table.
“May I start with your appetizer?” the Javanese man in a white top, batik sarong, and blangkon, offered us and signaling that it was start the experience. We smiled, nodded, and said thank you.
The menu consists of Indonesian dishes that might be common for our dining table but presented with style. The set started with what we commonly know as stuffed tofu fritters, chicken soup, a rich main course, and closed with banana fritters and tea. Most of the food we had was excellent. There were a few extra pinches of salt within one of their dishes, which was identified by the staff and was deeply regretted. But all in all, it was great food! I can’t really elaborate the food much as each menu is different for every event. The Lost Temple Experience team will adjust the menu differently according to each guest by preparing something that might work to your liking and they might even surprise you.
As for the music, whether it’d be a flute player or something else, you won’t be left with dead air most of the night. The player would rest in between songs, which would be perfect time to just hear the sound of your company and the croaking frogs.
Is this even allowed?
“But this is a historical site. Are you even allowed to do this? Are there any infuriated historians seeing Tugu doing this on a historical site?” I had to ask that question on the back on my head.
“No. Every one is pretty happy with this arrangement. It’s agreed that this can be a worthy attraction. We can bring in people to have this experience and still respect the property and its history. The city needs some tourism to roll more economy,” miss Hartini, operational manager of Hotel Tugu Blitar, soothing our cringed forehead to the query of permission. She explains Lost Temple Dinner Experience is in cooperation with the local government, local tourism department, and the community, which means the surrounding neighbourhood. Relieved.
Coming in to dessert and a full tummy, most of the candi area turned pitch black, except for the area with torches. We nodded agreeing that this could be a romantic dinner setting beyond a five star restaurant treatment, especially for those that have a warm spot for Indonesian history and culture. You’re secluded in a historical site with romance on its walls, served with good authentic food, and accompanied by alleviating music. In a perfect setting, all you need is a ring (Well, OK, you need your loved one but a proposal would guarantee a ‘yes’). it was an experience beyond words.
This service is available even for those that aren’t staying at the Hotel Tugu Blitar. This arrangement is also available for those in larger groups. All you have to do is contact Hotel Tugu Blitar.
Candi Panaratan is considered the biggest and one of the most important candis of East Java. Established by the Kediri king, Srengga, to then be extended by the next kings of Singasari. It is said to be the Candi where Majapahit proclaimed his ‘Sumpah Palapa’, an oath to unite Indonesia. This name was linked to the fact they found the Palah relief at this candi. In the age where Majapahit probably still didn’t know how big, how rich, or how Indonesia really looked liked as a whole, it was a pretty bold oath to make. This was the spot he proclaimed it.
I liked it. It was like a park. And we enjoyed Candi Panataran in a different lights.
In coherent with Tugu Group philosophy ‘the art, soul and romance of Indonesia’, Candi Panataran walls apparently tell many stories of boy meets girl; boy falls in love with girl; boy fights gag-looking monsters or bad guys; boy wins and marries girl. Awww… . There are about four main romantic stories, which would be interesting to know more about with the help of a local guide, but a bit too long for this post. There’s no question that Tugu Group understands how to choose what is in-line with their idealism.
It warms my tummy to think that people would carve their rock worship place with stories of love. In the same time, it makes me wonder. Out of all the grand legends, after all the meditation, why is it the story of love that made the walls of this candi? Wouldn’t the story of Majapahit be a more relevant relief? Or has it been and always be ‘all you need is love’?