Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Day in Kupang :)

What can you do if you have one day in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara?

Here's what I do:

10am to 12pm -- Explore the Crystal Cave. 

Not many people heard of the Crystal Cave in Kupang or know about it. Even a lot of the locals have never been there. But, that doesn't mean you shouldn't go! It's located in the middle of nowhere, so make sure you have a local guide who knows the area very well.
Even the entrance to the cave is hard to find. There's no path or whatsoever!

Once you're at the front of the cave, please make sure to wear comfortable shoes or sandals as you'll need to go down to the cave, crawling from one big rock to another. During rainy season, the rocks can be very slippery, so it's probably better to walk barefoot.

It's pretty dark in here, please don't forget to bring a torch!

After a few minutes of walking down to the bottom of the cave, you'll be greeted by an amazing view. A lagoon with crystal clear water awaits you!!! It looks like a private swimming pool, but more beautiful because of the light that comes from the above, shining into the lagoon and reflecting the colour of the rocks and water. Very pretty! And oh, as the water is very clear, you can see all the rocks underwater and also another underwater cave that will give you an eerie feeling.
It is just amazing.

Photo courtesy of Arin Kusumo Hapsari

The water temperature is just right. Not too warm, not too cold. I find it very refreshing, actually. It will be very nice to be here with your loved one. Ha! Such a romantic place to be! ;) 

12pm to 4.30pm -- Sunbathing on Tablolong Beach

About 1.5 hour drive from Kupang's downtown, there's a beautiful beach called Tabloblong. The endless white sand beach of Tabloblong is a perfect getaway for beach bums. Even though the beach is pretty much empty, there are some small "warung" (food vendors) selling fresh coconut. Gorgeous beach and fresh coconut? Best match! 

4.30pm - sunset time 

You can either enjoy the sunset on Tablolong beach or head back to Kupang before the sunset. If you decided to drive back to Kupang, try passing by the harbour for some sunset moment. 

8pm -- dinner at the food market!

Try some local food fiesta at the night market in the down town of Kupang. Plenty of street food vendors selling fresh seafood and traditional snacks. It's also fun to walk around first before deciding where you want to eat. 

Now, with a full belly, you may end your day in Kupang! Oh, one thing that you shouldn't miss if you're in Kupang is to eat "daging se'i" -- it's basically smoked pork or beef, but it's everyone's favourite! Since I'm vegetarian, I have to pass it :p. You should try, tho! It's highly recommended. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Snapshots from Alor Island, Indonesia

Alor is actually an archipelago which consists of several small islands, located in East Nusa Tenggara.
However, the largest island in the Alor archipelago is also named Alor. It's a bit confusing, isn't it? Despite the confusing names, Alor Island offers an amazing landscape all around, surrounded by gorgeous blue sea, crystal clear water and white sand beaches! 

On Alor Island itself, there are several beaches. I get a chance to visit two of them! 

Paliboo Beach

I have to hold my breath when I arrive on this beach. Check out the view before me! OMG. It looks like the one that we normally see in travel magazines!! A long white sand beach with palm trees here and there, and… the turquoise blue sea at the far out… Gorgeous!
I could just lay here forever… The wind breeze makes it even more enjoyable. It's such a perfect place to relax and forget the hustle and bustle of city life! You will hear nothing except the sound of the waves… hmmm.. what else could we ask for? 

Maimol Beach 

Maimol beach is a popular hangout spot for the locals who live in Kalabahi, the main town of Alor Island. They love go on a picnic with families here or just hangout with their loved ones. The water is very calm, making it a perfect spot for a dip in the water. 

In the afternoon, this beach becomes very romantic as the sky turns its colour. For some reasons, I find the trees here are also romantic! Don't you agree with me? 

Kepa Island 

Once you're in Alor, you should check out Kepa Island. From Kalabahi, it takes only 30 minutes to get to this small island by a wooden boat. You can ask the boat's owner to wait for you or to come and pick you up at a certain time. They usually charge you per person, not per boat. It's around Rp 25,000.-/person/way. 

Kepa Island is blessed by white sandy beaches. It is also a good place for snorkelling, but please be careful because sometimes the current can get pretty strong! You have to use proper fins to fight the current. If you're not a good swimmer, I would advise you to just swim on the beach, and don't go too far!! 

I always love white sand beaches, especially when the sand is as soft as powder. And yes, that's the type of sand on Kepa Island! NICEEEE!!! 

Some part of the island is pretty rocky, but still beautiful! 

Time stops when you're on Kepa Island. You can have the beach all by yourself! Reading your favourite book, listening to your favourite music, sunbathing until you get some tanned on your skin. What a life! 

"It is almost impossible to watch the sunset and not to dream" ~ Bern Williams

Hope to see you again, Alor Island, Kepa Island and Alor archipelago! Next time I will dive here! ;)

Friday, August 01, 2014

Revisiting Dieng Plateau

About seven years ago, I wrote a post about Dieng Plateau. You can check it out here 

Now, after 7 years, I revisit Dieng again. It's always nice to return to Dieng Plateau in Central Java, especially since my Grandma's village is not that far. Plus, I really love the air here.. it's freezing cold! :D

What do I do in Dieng Plateau this time?

1. Visiting Telaga Warna 

It is such a peaceful place here.. and how lovely the colour of the lake!

2. Visiting Dieng Temple Compound

Dated from 17th century, this compound consists of eight small Hindu temples that are among the oldest temples ever built in Java. 

3. Walking in the woods

Living in the big city like Jakarta, I almost "never" walked outside of the house. Really. I walked only when I was travelling. So, being in Dieng, it would be such a waste not to walk in the woods. Surrounded by big & tall trees all around, fresh air, walking in Dieng Plateau was such a lovely thing to do! It was indeed a luxury for someone coming from Jakarta to be able to smell the scent of nature… 

4. Eating local french fries

Dieng is one of the main producers of potatoes in Indonesia. Try the local french fries and see if you like it! There are many food vendors selling french fries and some of them even have some seasonings to be added to your fries, such as: cheese flavour, barbecue, pizza, and many more! Yummm… tasty! 

 5. Buying & tasting Carica 

Carica is the type of fruit similar to papaya, but smaller. In Dieng, they sell it in small packages and add sweet syrup. It's perfect for dessert!! 

There are other things to do and some other tourist spots to visit in Dieng Plateau. The best thing is to stay at least one night here and spend two days exploring this beautiful & historical place. Enjoy being back to the nature! Don't forget to bring your warm clothes!! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Sweet Place to Stay: Echo Homestay

(West Sumatera trip, June 22 - 26, 2014)

Of all the hotels we stayed during the Minangkabike trip, there was one accommodation that was full of charm and characteristics: Echo Homestay in Harau Valley, Payakumbuh, West Sumatera. 

Once you get here, you'd be amazed by the landscape around you. High granite cliffs, valleys, rice paddy fields, all the green landscape you can handle, it's there.. waiting to be appreciated by you. This place is truly a hidden gem! 

Echo Homestay has a number of bungalows that are very cozy and gives you a homey feeling. Some of the bungalows have 2-4 bedrooms and bathrooms and the rate varies started from Rp 360,000 - Rp 900,000.- for the whole bungalow. Perfect for a big family! It also has some "bachelor" cottage, which are very cute and basic.. and the rent is only Rp 90,000.-/night! 

What I love most from this place is the vibe. It's very peaceful and quiet. It also offers you fresh air and great landscape. Not to mention, you'll see some wild monkeys walking around and jumping from one branch of tree to another, happily. Isn't it lovely? But, don't forget to close your doors and windows, especially if you have some snacks in the room, or you'll have some "uninvited guests" accompanying you & enjoying all your food…. the monkeys! Hahaha.. 

Kids also have big yards to run around. In the mornings, some kids of the waiters love screaming out loud and hearing their voices echoing between the valleys. It's super cool! 

If I have the opportunity, I would definitely return to this peaceful place and stay with my family… to recharge, relax, and celebrate the beauty of life! 

For more info about places to go in Indonesia, you can visit www.indonesia.travel. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A Lovely Coffee House in Batu Sangkar, West Sumatera

(West Sumatera trip, June 22 - 26, 2014)

Bumpy road, little alleys, I have no idea where the driver is heading to. I'm in Batu Sangkar, a little town in West Sumatera, together with a group of travel bloggers on "Minangkabike Trip" organised by the Ministry of Tourism & Creative Economy of Republic of Indonesia. 

Finally… the car stops. I see a sign "Kiniko". Apparently, he takes us to a small coffee house in the middle of nowhere in Tabek Patah area. "Kiniko" means "kini" in Indonesian language, which translated to right now or present time in English.

Entering the coffee house, my eyes fall on the number of traditional snacks and different types of coffee in nice packaging that are laid on the racks. "Is this a coffee house or snack shop?", I ask myself. But hey, don't judge the book by its cover! Walking down to the other side of the coffee house, you'll be surprised by what's waiting for you there… 

An open door area with lush garden overlooking mountains and green landscape! Whoaaaa!!! My heart jumps happily! I don't expect this view at all!!! 

It's such a perfect place to spend your afternoon, sipping their homemade coffee and traditional snacks, surrounded by beautiful landscape and fresh wind breeze. So relaxing and peaceful. I also love the way they put the chairs and tables. Some of us can sit on a mattress like Japanese style, while others can sit on wooden chairs while playing "congklak" - one of Indonesian's games famous among children in villages. 

"Kiniko" coffee house also offers different types of coffee. Coffee with ginger, coffee with herbs, and many more! And what's even better is… all the coffee here is free of charge! Really. Isn't it awesome? It's such a nice gesture and really represent the hospitality of the locals here. 

The coffee house also sells cinnamon sticks for a good price. The sticks smell really good and you can dip them into your cup of coffee to add more flavour. In the kitchen, a lady is busy cutting off the long cinnamon sticks with her bare hands. I bet her hands smell good everyday! 

Oh… while you're in West Sumatera, don't forget to try "Teh Kawa". When I first taste it in Harau Valley, I can't figure out whether it's tea or coffee. It tastes like tea, but it also tastes like coffee. Pretty confusing! Apparently, it's tea that are made of coffee leaf! Ohhhh.. no wonder it has both tastes! The "Teh Kawa" looks even more exotic (not only the taste) as they serve it in a cup that's made of coconut shell. Love it. 

For more info on traveling in West Sumatera, please visit www.indonesia.travel .

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Padang Food : Indonesia's Answer to Apple Pie!

(West Sumatera trip, June 22 - 26, 2014)

Talking about food in Indonesia, Padang food is among one of the most famous cuisines in the country. There's a saying, "Everyone loves Padang food", also "You can't eat just a plate of rice if you go to Padang food. You'd want to have more". It's so true. Padang (a name of a city in West Sumatera) food has made its reputation up there.. even "Rendang", one of the dishes that you can find in any Padang food restaurant, was chosen by CNN as "the best food in the world"! Voila!!! 

Traveling in West Sumatera, of course, you'll get the taste of Padang food everywhere. Your taste buds will be spoiled by the rich taste of all the dishes. To name a few, apart of rendang, you might want to try "gulai kepala ikan" (fish head curry), gulai otak (cow's brain curry -- ok, it sounds scary but people say it's tasty!), sate padang (padang style of satay -- skewered barbecued meat with thick yellow sauce), gulai ayam (chicken curry), dendeng (thin crispy beef) and paru goreng (fried cow lung). 

As for vegetarians like me, don't worry, there are some dishes that you can try, too. My favourites are telur balado (boiled eggs in chilly paste), terong balado (eggplant in chilli), sayur nangka (jackfruit veggie dish), and lalapan daub singkong (cassava leaves). 

All the above dishes won't be complete without sambal balado (chilli paste with large sliced chilli pepper) or sambal lado. 

Hmmm… now I'm drooling!!! 

During the Minangkabike Trip, not only our eyes are spoiled by the beauty of the landscape, our taste buds also dances happily by the yummy delicacies every single day! How lucky! 

On the first day, we find this small restaurant that is famous among the locals. The place is nothing fancy, but it's full of people, which is always a good sign for a restaurant! "Takana Juo" at Simpang SMP Negeri Tiku, that's the name. During lunch time, all the seats are full of hungry fellows. Waiters are busy running around taking orders and delivering the dishes. The heat (as there's no AC), doesn't bother people here. The delicious food on their plate is the only thing that matters. 

In the kitchen, some ladies are busy preparing for the yummy dishes -- cutting vegetables and cooking some food in a wooden fire style of stove. This is probably one of the secrets behind the delicious food. They cook it with wooden fire! People say, dishes that are cook this way tastes better, because all the spices are well absorbed & mixed! 

When we're in Bukittinggi, we have dinner at "Rumah Makan Family". The restaurant is fancier. The building is nice and with AC, too. How about the food? Like in any Padang food restaurants, they serve all the dishes on small plates and put all of them on your table. Yeah.. eat like a king! Some people who have not been to Padang restaurant might be wondering, "Do I have to eat all of these food and pay for everything?" The answer is no. The restaurant will only charge you of the dishes that you eat. 

Everywhere you go in West Sumatera, you'll find good food. Even in small food stalls, they will indulge you with dishes that are rich of taste, mostly use succulent coconut milk and spicy chilli. And if you want to eat like a local, try eat with your hands. The locals don't use utensils. Instead, they will wash their hands in "kobokan", a bowl of water with a slice of lime in it. Use this "kobokan" before and after eating. There you go! You just gain some more respect from the locals by eating with their style! ;) 

Ok, now I'm officially hungry! Let's go to Padang restaurant! Hahaha.. 

More info on West Sumatera, visit www.indonesia.travel. 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Exploring West Sumatera, Indonesia

(West Sumatera trip, June 22 - 26, 2014)

I was invited by the Ministry of Tourism & Creative Economy of the Republic of Indonesia to join their trip called "Minangkabike" to explore West Sumatera. A few weeks before the trip, there was a big event held in the area. Maybe some of you have heard of it. Yup… it was "Tour de Singkarak", an annual multiple stage bicycle race, also held by the Ministry, and has become a part of the official Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) International Asia Tour Calendar.

Well, the Minangkabike trip was nothing like the Tour de Singkarak. It was more of a fun trip with several passionate travel bloggers to experience the beauty of West Sumatera. But hey.. we also did some biking in several spots and it was actually a.m.a.z.i.n.g!!! I might consider doing some biking activities in my next travel trips because of this. It was so much fun and refreshing!

Lake Maninjau : One of the Calmest Places in Indonesia

Arriving in Kelok 44, one of the tracks of the Tour de Singkarak, I was hypnotised by the beauty of the landscape before me. The ancient Lake Maninjau, set within a volcanic crater and perched in the mountain highlands, around 461 meters above sea level, the lake that I only learned from the school text book when I was in the elementary school was actually so much more beautiful than how I imagined it.
From a little "warung" (food stall) where I sat and had a cup of hot milk tea, I could really enjoy the beauty of this place. The cool wind breeze made this tea time even more relaxing. I could sit here forever… I told myself. With a good book to read, this place would be such a perfect spot to relax and getaway from the hectic metropolitan lifestyle. No wonder people said it was one of the calmest places in Indonesia…

Jam Gadang : The Icon of Bukittinggi

It was such a bright and sunny day when we arrived in the square where the famous Jam Gadang was located. This 26 meter tall clock was built in 1826 as a gift from the Dutch Queen to the city's secretary, Rook Maker. It was believed that this clock has a twin sister, which was the "Big Ben" in London ;).
Pretty impressive, eh?

The square served as a park where the locals brought their family for a picnic, or just to enjoy the fresh air. There were some guys wearing cartoon characters costumes like Doraemon, Mickey Mouse, etc to entertain the kids and got some tips from the parents for a pose or two. Some balloon sellers also made a living here. Kids running around, teenagers posing in front of the giant clock, some lovebirds sitting  under the trees and teasing each other, this square was really like an amusement park for the locals. And the "Jam Gadang" stood tall and witnessed them all -- thousands of kids, families and lovebirds, with all their happy stories and problems -- since 1826!

The Harau Valley : The Yosemite of Indonesia 

Definitely the highlight of this trip, well at least for me! I really LOVED this place. It was drop dead beautiful!! Seriously.

Visiting the Harau Valley would definitely make your jaw dropped by its beauty. Your eyes would be spoiled by lush green rice fields laid in between huge granite cliffs. Such an awesome view. Riding a bicycle here, with a smooth fresh air, was definitely something! It really made you feel alive!

People on twitter, when they knew I was in West Sumatera, always mentioned "Harau Valley" and recommended this place. "Must visit Harau Valley" -- that's what they said. At first, I didn't really take it seriously. I thought it would just be some "normal" valleys. But then.. when finally I got here.. I was speechless! This place was really something. The huge granite cliffs reminded me a bit of Krabi in Thailand, but these cliffs were even more impressive. It was also a perfect spot for wall climbers. There were just so many cliffs around, one could just pick which one they wanted to climb ;).

Not only the Harau Valley beautiful, this place also had so many things to offer for tourists. Dozens of waterfalls from 80 to 300 meters height could be found in the area, such as Bunta Waterfall, Akar Barayun, Sarasah Luluh and Sarasah Murai. A variety of wildlife such as gibbons and macaques also lived freely here, along with some bird species. So, nature lovers, I think we've found your heaven here! ;)

Istana Baso Pagaruyung : An Impressive Traditional Palace! 

I remember when I was in the elementary school, we had to remember all the traditional dances names, houses, weapons, costumes, etc from each area in Indonesia. Rumah Gadang was one of them. Rumah Gadang, or the Grand House, was an icon of West Sumatera, and still could be found in many parts of the province.

Istana Baso Paguruyung was not a usual rumah gadang. This was the royal palace (istana means royal, in Indonesian language) of the former Pagaruyung Kingdom. Located in Tanjung Emas subdistrict near Batusangkar town, the palace was built in the traditional way with vernacular architectural style and three stories structure plus larger dimension as compared to the "usual" rumah gadang.

Today, there was no king or royal family lived in this palace. The building itself actually had been destroyed by fire three times, in 1804, 1966 and 2007 and has been rebuilt again. Now, it served as a popular tourist destination. If you're lucky, you would see some newly weds in their traditional costume took their wedding pictures here, too!

Air Manis Beach : the Legend of Malin Kundang

Malin Kundang was one of the famous folktales in Indonesia that originally come from West Sumatera. The story was so popular among kids in Indonesia. As every folktale, Malin Kundang also has a moral story behind it. It taught kids to obey their mother and be polite to her. One shouldn't betrayed his/her family, nor mother, or something bad would happen to him/her.

Malin Kundang turned into a crying stone as he refused to acknowledge her after traveling to another region and became rich. His mom felt hurt and cursed him. The "crying stone" laid on Air Manis Beach, together with several pieces of his ship, which were also stones.

From up the hill, close to Air Manis Beach, one could enjoy the gorgeous scenery of blue sea and the beach. Who said West Sumatera didn't have beautiful beaches and sea? ;)

I was skeptical about the sea and beaches in West Sumatera as I always traveled to the Eastern part of Indonesia which were blessed by pristine beaches. But, when I got here and saw the blue ocean in front of me, I've changed my mind. Apparently, the sea in West Sumatera was also pretty!

Kelok Sembilan 

Kelok Sembilan was actually an overpass in Lima Puluh Kota Regency. It has became a favourite spot for travellers to take some photos because of its charming view. The overpass was flanked by green, thick hills and one could see breathtaking view of mountains and valleys from this spot.

Some small food stalls selling grilled corn, ice cream, soft drinks and snacks along the road made travellers wanted to stay longer in this spot to enjoy the beauty and fresh air.

Indonesia. If I had to choose three words to describe my country, here they're: Heaven On Earth.


For more info about West Sumatera, please visit: www.indonesia.travel.