Monday, March 24, 2014

My "Trip & Travel" Column!

Starting January 2014, I became a columnist at Market+ magazine, one of the leading monthly free magazines in Indonesia. I would be writing for the "Trip & Travel" column every month! :)

I started the January edition with "5 Best Beaches in Lombok". Why? It's because, people usually go to Lombok to spend their holidays on the famous Gili Trawangan Island. Gili T, the shortest version for it, got really famous, especially among the backpackers, until the last time I went there (a few months ago), I was surprised by the number of tourists, hotels and restaurants on this tiny island! OMG. The long white sandy beach was full of people sunbathing or drinking at the beachfront cafes.
It was good for the local tourism industry, I guess. But, I actually preferred the "empty" version of Gili T, the one that I visited long time ago, where I still could have the beach for myself… and jumped off to the sea and found sea turtles right away, only by snorkelling.

So, the 5 beaches that I shared on the article were not as famous as Gili T beach, but they're very pretty and… less crowded! In fact, those beaches were pretty empty when I went there, especially if you went to these beaches around 10am. You would rarely seen other tourists around. Seriously. It was heaven :).

On February edition, I shared about "Togean Islands", a hidden gem in Sulawesi. The place was pretty remote, that's why not many people went there. But, that's the beauty of it ;). Somehow I fell in love with beautiful places that were still quite remote and hard to reach. And Togean Islands could be considered as one of them.

This month's edition, I decided to choose a topic called "Exploring Barcelona". Why? Simply because I loved this place! :D I shared about the top 5 things to do in Barcelona, which were:
  1. Visiting La Sagrada Familia
  2. Visiting Picasso Museum
  3. Walking around Las Ramblas street
  4. Exploring the Old Town (and the Gothic area)
  5. Enjoying Gaudi's work at Eixample and Park Guell. 
I also shared places to eat and hangout in Barcelona, which were:
  • Sagardi in El Born area --> delicious tapas!
  • 4 Gats --> Picasso used to hangout here :D
  • Plaza Reial 
  • La Boqueria market :)

See you in my next "Trip & Travel" column! ;) 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Talking about Traveling on Plasa MSN

Interview with Plasa MSN about traveling, what I do when I'm traveling, and some tips from me :). Read the full article here

Video Interview on Plasa MSN

Plasa MSN asked me to talk about Taman Bacaan Pelangi [Rainbow Reading Gardens] for their "Persona" column.

Check out the video interview titled "Persona: Nila Tanzil" :). What do you guys think? Did I miss anything?

*btw, the opening was a bit tacky… recording me walking on the stairs! OMG* :))

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Why Every Woman Should Travel Solo?

Sedunia Travel  asked me a bunch of questions about traveling and why I loved solo traveling.

You can read my answers here or

But… since I'm a nice person, I would make your life easier. I'll copy & paste the article, so you can just read it below ;). You're welcome! :D

* * *

Name: Nila Tanzil
Occupation: Founder of Taman Bacaan Pelangi (Rainbow Reading Gardens)
Nationality: Indonesian
Interesting facts about yourself (bad habits are welcome): I’ve been a vegetarian since I was born. No meat, no fish. So, I basically can survive anywhere as long as there are trees with edible leaf to be eaten. I’m an avid scuba diver, too. For me, scuba-diving is like meditation, because I cannot hear anything apart from my own breath. I find scuba-diving very relaxing. Being underwater, surrounded by beautiful coral reefs and colourful fish, it’s so peaceful.
3 things you won't leave home without: Mobile phone, notebook, name card.
'Travel' smells like: Joy, freedom, happiness. It smells fresh like a fresh breeze & fresh water in the sea.
Guilty travel pleasure: Eating desserts that are full of fat (butter, cheese and sugar) and trying all the local snacks from each place. It’s OK to eat a lot when you travel, because you’ll need energy to walk around (that’s my justification!).

* * * 

My first travel experience overseas was actually solo

It started in 1997 when I went to Europe for the first time. I spent two months in Europe and it was the first time I travelled alone to several countries and I found it enjoyable! Since then, I prefer to travel by myself. I was impressed by the beauty of Europe and enjoyed the fact that I found new things & learned new stuff every single day. I enjoyed being lost in a new place and the feeling that nobody knew me or recognised me. I still love it now!
Since then, I travel solo 90% of the time. I spent 2 months traveling in Europe. I went to The Netherlands, France (Paris), UK (London), Belgium (Antwerp and Bruges) and Germany (Dusseldorf).

"I really love traveling alone, because I can do whatever I want and go wherever I want without any restrictions."

I never go on an arranged tour. I’m a very impulsive person. I never book something in advance when I travel and I don’t have fixed plans. It all depends on my mood. If I enjoy being in a little village somewhere, then I’ll stay longer there. When I travel, I enjoy every single minute of it and I don’t travel in a rush. I love getting to know the local people, hangout and spend hours chatting with them. I also don’t make budget planning and I never breakdown how much money I already spend during my travel. I don’t want to be stressed, worrying about money and getting a shock that I've spent too much. Maybe it sounds weird, but that’s just the way I travel. I want to enjoy the experience.
The highlight of my Europe trip was that I travelled alone and I felt great about it! I really enjoyed the feeling of being free, I could do whatever I like and go to wherever I want. At that time I wasn’t so good in reading maps, but because of that trip, I got really good at reading maps!
There was nothing weird or scary from that trip, as far as I remember. But when I went to Dusseldorf in Germany, I took a bus from The Hague, The Netherlands, and the bus was delayed for several hours. It was a day trip. I was constantly worried that I would miss the bus, so I checked my watch every half hour.

Travel is part of my work

My greatest challenge is more related to the library project that I initiated, called “Taman Bacaan Pelangi" (Rainbow Reading Gardens). The greatest challenge was to find people who share the same passion in education, but also have the skills to run the libraries. The libraries are located in remote areas (where there’s no electricity and running water!) and most of the people living in these villages are not educated. So, human capital has been a challenge. It’s not easy to find quality people who are willing to help grow the libraries on a voluntary basis, without getting paid. But after 3 and a half years, I managed to establish 26 libraries on 11 islands in Eastern Indonesia.

Staying safe

Mostly, I’ll be extra careful with everything and that includes – choosing safe accommodation, putting money in the safe place, always lock my luggage if I leave it in the room, walking straight with confidence when I’m in a place that looks a bit shabby and not wearing fancy stuff  or jewellery (I dress very down to earth, trying not to catch people’s attention).

What a shame!

For those who are afraid to leave the house, there are so many interesting places, people and culture to be discovered, met, and explored! Don’t waste your time sitting at home and watching TV. Make your life more colourful by going to places you’ve never been.

"It’s not as bad as you see in the media, at all!"

Don’t be afraid to get lost!

I wouldn’t be who I am now if I didn’t travel to those places. Really. Travel makes me understand myself better, be more tolerant with others, have more patience and understanding, go with the flow and accept the unpredictable things that happen in life. I used to be a very well planned out girl, everything had to be planned. If something didn't go according to plan, I'd be very annoyed. But because of travelling, now I’m more easy going and instead “go with the flow”. I've turned into a very impulsive woman!

Monday, March 03, 2014

Pondicherry, a taste of France in India :)

My impressions of Pondicherry, a cute little town in India. 

I love the French Quarter area in Pondicherry. It reminds me of being in France. The buildings, the windows, and the streets are even named in French. The cafes also sell croissants and some French cuisine. 

The locals love riding a bike around the French Quarter, especially the ones who live in the area. Some of them even have a basket at the front. They buy some fruits in the street corners and put those fruits into the basket. A pleasant scene that I will remember from this trip. 

Boutiques and art shops in the French Quarter area. 

Le Cafe, a cafe by the beach. Nice :)

A food vendor by the beach. 

Lovely ladies wearing "sari", traditional costume in India for women, strolling down the streets. 

A little boy and a giant Mahatma Ghandi statue. 

We're friends! :)

This church walls make me think of a birthday cake! 

A lady and her shop. 

Eating French food by the beach in India. A bit odd, eh? 

"The oldest tree" in Auroville. Check out its branches! Super cool. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Year's Dive in Gorontalo, Sulawesi

New Year, January 1st, 2014. 

How did I celebrate New Year?
Going diving! ;)

Yes. Diving.
I spent the last day of 2013 and the first day of 2014 diving the gorgeous underwater world of Gorontalo in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Beautiful dives. I didn't expect the coral reefs and sponges were that pretty! Seriously. The sponges were all gigantic. I've never seen anything like that before.

Gorontalo was famous for its Salvador Dali sponges. There were so many of them, everywhere and in different shapes. Some of them looked like a cigarette, flowers, and also there's one that looked like a heart shape. So romantic :D.

And I got a very nice surprise on this first day of the year! On Tanjung Putih dive site, I saw a cute Denise pygmy seahorse!!! OOOOH.. SO DAMN CUTE!
It was spotted on a seaman at about 18 meters. So shallow! At first I thought the Undeng, the Dive Master, was joking when he made a signal for pygmy. But apparently, he wasn't! The pygmy seahorse was so slim. And I saw her walking, too.. moving from one spot to another. OMG. Super duper cute! She walked like a ghost… hahaha..

Pygmy seahorses ranged in length from1.4 - 2.7 cm between the tip of the tail to the end of the snout. They're tiny. It was hard to spot them, not only due to its tiny size, but also they're well camouflaged.
Denise pygmy seahorses were only found living on gorgonian corals. They ate small crustaceans.

Since pygmy seahorses have an extremely small size, Miguel's Diving said they regulated the use of flash/strobe when taking picture of this tiny creature. Underwater photographers with big strobe could only take picture once or two using the flash - to protect pygmy seahorses' eyes from blindness. For those who didn't use flash, you could take as many picture as you wanted.

The next dive was muck dive in a site called Tabo'o. It was the best dive on this trip, for me. In the beginning, I wouldn't expect to see so much life on this site because it was all muck and there were so many trash, ranging from instant noodle packagings to mineral water bottles. While I was staring at the trash, suddenly Pak Yunus, the Dive Master, pointed at a number of seaweed. I looked at them and… I saw 2 of them moved. ROBUST GHOST PIPEFISH! Woohoooo!!! They're a couple! So lovely! I followed them and they were trying to run away from me. So cute. I loved 'em.

In another spot, there were another couple of Robust Ghost Pipefish. These ghost pipefish are a bunch of love birds! Always together! *love*
They float near motionlessly, with their mouths facing downwards, around a background that makes them hard to see. They ate tiny crustaceans, sucked inside their through their long snouts.

I also saw a baby cuttle fish who was very well camouflaged and a coconut shell octopus who was hanging out on the edge of a long pipe. Ha! And… a mimic octopus! So damn cool! It made me so happy! Have been longing to see it since a long time ago, and finally I saw one! This Mimic Octopus was very smart. They could change shapes and colours when they felt threatened. It was unknown how many animals the mimic octopus could imitate, but it always chose to mimic the ones who were poisonous! Clever, eh? ;)

Check out the video of the Mimic Octopus that I took from that dive:

Well. It was definitely a great day to start the year! Welcome 2014 and Happy New Year, everyone!!!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Snorkeling with Stingless Jellyfish in Togean Islands

(Togean Islands & Gorontalo trip, December 24th, 2013 - January 2nd, 2014)

A few years ago I snorkelled with stingless jellyfish in Palau, Micronesia. This time, I snorkelled with their fellows in Togean Islands, Indonesia! :). The species is different with the one in Palau. This jellyfish has some spots and the size is bigger! 

Togean Islands in Sulawesi has a stingless jellyfish lake that is easily to reach. One can rent a boat to get to this spot and then walk for only 5 minutes to reach the lake. Don't forget to wear your sandals when you're off the boat, because you'll walk on a rocky path.

Tips when swimming with the stingless jellyfish:

  • Don't wear your fins. Just bring your mask & snorkel. 
  • Try not to touch the jellyfish. 
  • Don't litter. 

I had so much fun swimming at this lake, I didn't even realise that I already spent 1.5 hour in the lake! The boat captain asked us to leave the lake before the rain started. He was right. Once we reached the boat, the rain poured down so heavily with strong winds! I got a bit worried because our wooden boat was so small. All of us were all wet and soaked inside the boat due to those heavy rains. I was scared of the boat might be tipped over due to the wave, so I looked at the boat captain to see his facial expression several times, but he always looked calm, so I thought, "Ok, he doesn't seem to be worried, so it should be fine". Maybe for him it was just a "normal" rain :D. 

Fellow travellers, always listen to your boat captain. If he said, "Let's go. Strong winds and heavy rain are coming soon!", then pack your stuff and rush to the boat! Boat Captain is the boss when it comes to traveling in the sea. 

So, even though I still wanted to take more pictures and videos of the spotted stingless jellyfish, I had to say goodbye to these cute creatures and the green lake. Bubbyeee stingless jellyfish! You guys were super cute! xxx

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Diving in Togean Islands, Sulawesi

(Togean Islands & Gorontalo trip, December 24th, 2013 - January 2nd, 2014)

Spending 5 days on Kadidiri Island in Togean Islands - mainly for diving. I did 2-3 dives a day. In total, I did 11 dives in different dive sites. What I love from diving here are its beautiful corals, gigantic sponges (biggest I've ever seen!), and great visibility up to 40 meters in almost every dive. 

Unfortunately, there's no pelagic fish. Zack saw 1 black tip reef shark, but I didn't. And some divers at Kadidiri Paradise resort saw eagle rays, but I didn't :(. Anyway, here's my favourite dive sites on Togean Islands:

1) Pinnacle at Una-Una Island

This dive site has thousands of colourful reef fish, including teenagers of mandarin sweet oriental (so many of them) and… thousands of schooling Jack fish!! Gorgeous corals all around, too. The schools of jack fish are incredible. They're just EVERYWHERE! 

2) Apollo at Una-Una Island 

Schooling of BARRACUDAS! There are thousands of them! It's amazing… ^^

3) B24 Wreck 

Diving in a wreck always gives me some eerie feelings, but having said that, it always excites me! The B24 bomber wreck isn't too big, but still pretty cool to see. One of the four propellers is still there, which is pretty cool. My favourite is the cockpit. It's still intact! The pilot's chair, the wheels and the flaps are all there. Coolio! 

4) Little Lembeh

I love muck dive. Even though there's no coral, there are actually plenty of fish and creatures to see in a muck dive. This time, the super star is… seahorses! There are two seahorses that I see in Little Lembeh. One is black, the other one is red. And I just notice that a seahorse will pretend to die by putting his/her head into the sand if he/she feels threatened. Oh, so cuteeeee!!! 

If you stay on Kadidiri Island, you should definitely make your way diving in Una-Una Island. There will be some extra costs to rent the boat, but it's definitely worth it! :) Happy diving, folks!