One Way Ticket

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Changi International Airport, Singapore. Local time is 11.38, an hour ahead of Jakarta.

For your safety and comfort, please remain seated with your seat belt fastened. Cellular phones may only be used on the terminal building.”

Even so, everyone around me has already turning on their phone. Updating their facebook status (Singapore for work, just landed).Texting relatives/friend/loved ones, telling them that they have arrived safely. Some even make a phone call, under the glaring stare of the flight attendant. My phone was still on my bag, turned off. I have no plan on turning it on any time soon.

It took another five minutes for our plane to taxi and then finally I can get out. I need fresh air. Of course, I wouldn’t get it easier. Sitting on window-seat means you have to be patient, waiting for other people to take their bags and walk through the narrow aisle. Everyone was in such a hurry, yet walked so slowly. Two girls in front of me were busy doing instastory (Hi!! We just landed in SG!) and halt the queue. “Ehm,” I said, trying so hard to be polite. “Can you move, please?” They sneered at me but continue walking, thank god, and finally, here I am.

Terminal 2, Changi International Airport, Singapore. Local time is now 11.50, and without even looking at my watch, I know it’s lunch time. Thankfully I don’t have any luggage; only got my backpack so I don’t have to do another queue. What to eat? It’s Singapore and I always here for the Chicken Rice, but of course the one in this airport is not going to be as good as my favorite one in Maxwell Food Center, Chinatown (and more expensive too). So I walk to Subway, and ordered a 6″ Meatball Marinara Melt, with a pack of Lays and Coca Cola. “That’d be S$9.20, please,” said the waiter. I gave her S$10 and she wished me to have a good day. Thanks, you too, miss.

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I walk to my table with my tray of sub, coca cola and lays, as if I’m walking to accept my Academy Award trophy. Sitting in front of me is a dude with a big carrier on his side. He haven’t touched his sub yet, only moving it side to side, trying to find a good angle before he takes a picture with his phone. One shot. Two shot. Three. There you go, happy, satisfied face as he looks into the the screen. Now the sub is finally get into his mouth.

And I just remembered I haven’t touch my phone at all since I landed here.

I finished my sub, but I don’t feel like leaving the airport just yet. I don’t know where to go anyway; this is one of those impulsive trip I take because I can’t stand staying in Jakarta. I bought a one way ticket, just to see whether I’m going to miss that place or not.

A litmus test. How stupid. And expensive too.

I decided to walk around Terminal 2, just because. Ah, I always want to see the Sunflower Garden, because my friends always talks about it on Instagram. I walk to the nearest directory map hologram, and check where the garden is. Ah, not far, I only have to walk to the second floor. This is the greatest thing about Changi Airport, guide is available everywhere. In just 5 minutes, there I am in the Sunflower Garden.

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It is weird, seeing a garden in the airport, with the background of planes taking off and landing, plus with the noise. Both serene and noisy. It was on the middle of the day, and the sun is striking so not many people were in the garden. There’s a girl taking selfie with huge sunflower next to her. I offered to take her photo. She said thanks, looking happy with the picture I took. I sat around the garden and she joined me. “Thank you! This is going to look soooo good on my Instagram,” she said. I smiled. “Come on, I’ll take your picture too,” she added. “No thanks, I’m good,” I said. I don’t have Instagram anymore anyway, I thought.

I used to have a life that revolved around social media. Taking pictures of this and that, for the sake of Instagram and Path and Facebook. Instastories every moment I had. Until I get sick of it all and decided to deactivate all my social media account. It’s weird how after you decided to ‘close’ your social media account, you also closed the door of networking with your friends. They’re just…gone. Like that. It’s funny how I used to be so attached to my phone and today, it’s just sitting there, inside my bag, turned off. Funny how sometimes it’s that easy to forget things.

I said goodbye to the girl, and walked out the sunflower garden. It’s 2.14 now, I probably should leave the airport soon. I’m taking two flights of stairs to the MRT station, and took out my EZLink card. Still got S$10 on it, should be enough to take me to the city. Waiting on the platform for my train, looking at the map to see where should I took off. Chinatown? I stayed there the last time. Lavender? Nah, too quiet. Marina Bay? Orchard? Yeah, you wish.

“…she said she’ll be waiting for us tomorrow at Bugis, lah. I need to buy some nepalese flag there too,” I overheard the lady next to me talking on the phone. Hmm. I never been to Bugis before. Well, maybe that’s the answer.

My train arrived. It was almost empty, maybe because it’s not the rush hour. From Changi Airport, it’s approximately will take 45 minutes and two transit to get to Bugis. Good, I’ll have enough time to think.

The thing I like about Singapore is that how easy it is to get from one point to another. The train was quiet and clean. As it ride to the center part of Singapore, my mind begin to wander..

How did I get here, without a ticket home? I remember my friend once said that humans are naturally afraid of commitment. I doubt that, because even for a simplest thing like buying ticket, we always commit to a return ones. It’s so seldom people bought a one way ticket. Unless they actually want to leave.

Was I ready to leave? Is that why I bought this one-way ticket? Maybe. Nothing holding me back. I’m so sick of Jakarta, of it’s traffic, of the polutions, I’m fed up with my job. But mostly…

I hate Jakarta because it’s the place where you and I met. And fell a part terribly.

So this one-way ticket is the answer. I will not go back.

“Bugis..Bugis..please mind the platform gap.”

I get off from the train and walk towards the exit gate. It’s a 10 minutes walk, and I thought about how I’d love to live here, just because I can walk more. After exiting the MRT station, I took left to the Kampong Glam area.

Bugis really has changed since I visit Singapore 5 years ago. It is now colorful and vibrant, full of trendy and hipster cafes/bar. Most of the wall painted with graffiti, and I see most people stopped to take pictures. I wonder what it’d look like at night.

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Almost every corner of this area is what kids these days would say “instagrammable”. Very hip, very “now”, and I’m not saying it in a bad way. I bought a mineral water from seven-eleven nearby, talked to the girl behind the counter and she said Bugis is where young Singaporean enterpreneur start their business. “These shops owned mostly by young people, and everything is made in Singapore,” she said, proudly. That is pretty awesome.

The 7-11 girl recommend me to stay at 5Footway Inn, only a block away from the stores. I walk there, and found a nice, minimalist looking hostel. Lucky me, they still have room. 20S$ per night and I get free Milo and breakfast all day! Wohoo, what a great deal. I went to see my room and for 20 bucks, it’s not bad at all. Not bad at all. I throw myself to bed, my phone still inside my bag. Turned off.

6.20

I fell asleep, and woke up feeling hungry. I need my chicken rice now! And I know exactly where to get it.

Singapore’s Chinatown at night is more enjoyable than in the afternoon, I think. The weather is chilly, less crowd and with all the lights on the lantern, everything just look so beautiful. I took a seat in Chinatown Night Market, where I just ordered my chicken rice with Singha Beer. As I sip my beer, my mind again wander to a place where I don’t really fond of now..

“You don’t like beer, why are you ordering it?” You said, laughing when I cringe as I drank my beer.

“Yeah but you like it! I would like to know better something that you like,”

“Plus, I always like the taste of beer when it’s from your mouth,” I added.

You laughed. Then you kissed me.

And my Singha Beer suddenly taste way too bitter.

—–

After finishing my dinner, I walked randomly around Chinatown area. I remember there’s a neighbourhood nearby called Ann Siang Hill, so I walked there. I can see line of restaurants (looks like fancy one) but most of them are closed. So I just walk to the next block, see what they have.

The street sign says “Club Street” but no club to be found. Instead, it was a street of pubs and bars, and seems like a place for expatriate in Singapore to hang out. Compared with Ann Siang Hill, Club Street at night really live up to its name (eventhough without a club at all), a place for drinks and fun.

I picked a pub and sat there. This time, I got Gin & Tonic. I don’t need anything to remind me of you again tonight.

After 11, it’s impossible to get a taxi in Singapore. I stood on the sidewalk for about 15 minutes, and no taxi want to stop for me. Damn. At this hour, the MRT already stop operating.

So I guess I have to walk. No big deal, Chinatown to Bugis is not that far. Only 5 km.

I used to walk everywhere in Jakarta, except during the night. I don’t think it’s very safe, eventhough you keep saying that Jakarta is safer than any other places in the world. “It’s even safer than UK!” you said that as we walk through a dark alley in Menteng after strolling around the area, spending our weekend. I remember how I told you not to pass that alley but you remind me that it’s all safe. I know that I’m safe with you.

And now I’m walking in the street of a city in a stranger country. On my own. I don’t feel afraid at all. Not because this is Singapore, where crime rates are low and everything is safe. Maybe because I’m numb already. Broken heart does makes you fearless sometimes, although it comes with painful nights of crying yourself to sleep.

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8.30

I don’t really remember what time I get to my hostel last night. I’m still wearing the same clothes that I wore last night, means I’m that tired of walking.

I got my breakfast at the hostel and leave to see more of Bugis. Cute shops selling hipster clothing. Hipster barbershops. More hipster stuff. Again, I’m not saying it in a bad way. It actually pretty awesome to see these young Singaporean create their own business. They seems really know who their market is and how to attract them. Along the street, I saw many, many people taking pictures. I can just imagine what you’re going to say if you’re here.

“I don’t get why people taking pictures with scenery behind them. They basically ruining the photo!” you said while scrolling your instagram feed.

“Yeah but that’s how they say ‘look at me here in this beautiful place'” I leaned to your shoulder.

You don’t have any faces in your instagram. Not you, not me. I don’t mind because it’s filled with all the places that we explore together.

—-

11.30

I had my lunch at Maxwell Food Centre, not very far from Chinatown. I was going to buy chicken rice from Tian Tian, but the queue was waaaay too long. No wonder, the small stall got a Michelin-star, and famous as one of the best chicken rice in this country. I’ll just settle for ordinary chicken rice now.

The food center was hot and humid, and almost every table was occupied. Yet, I’d still prefer this place than anywhere else. Less than 7S$ for a meal, what more could you ask for?

Of course unlike Jakarta, you can’t linger here for long. After finishing my meal, I walk out to Chinatown (yes, again) and just wandering around. One of the thing that I like about Chinatown is that they sell ridiculous, odd stuff. I saw the rubber chicken, weird toy with weird noises that I brought for you a year ago. I almost about to take a pic of that thing with my phone, then I remember.

Stay away from your phone.

And I leave Chinatown. Maybe I need to walk some more to forget about you.

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14.45

Kinokuniya Orchard Road. One of my favourite place in Singapore. The bookstore is so big, I could lost in there (and I don’t mind). This is one of the place where you’d go and doesn’t even know where to start. The book was arranged alphabetically, by genre, by popularity and even everything was so tidy, I still don’t know where to start.

There’s Kinokuniya too in Jakarta, but this one in Singapore has much more books. Most of the book here doesn’t exist in Kinokuniya Jakarta, so it feels like a treasure box for me.

Sadly, even bookstore brings you back to my head. I saw David Sedaris and Chris Cleave’s books, and was wondering if you already read that one. I pick it up. Just in case.

17.00

I finished my Big Mac, then walk outside to Orchard MRT station. I just get on the train randomly, and get off in Raffles Place. Walk outside, to the bridge where I can see Marina Bay Sands from afar. The thing I love about a city, any city: the lights. From this distance, Marina Bay look very grand, yet not intimidating.

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How did I get here? How did we become this? Two people who used to be so fond of each other, to strangers?

It’s been more than 24 hours of me being far from you, from the city where I met and fall in love with you. Maybe I could do this. Maybe I could really use this one way ticket. To never go back.

I reached my phone on my bag, and turned it on.

8 new messages. Mom, office’s whatsapp group. You.

“Hi”

That’s it, that’s your only message.

I open Traveloka app on my phone and type something in there. After 15 minutes, my phone blinking again.

1 new e-mail.

“Congratulations! You have booked your flight to Jakarta by Traveloka.”

I’m going home.


A fiction, of course.

The So-Called Soul Searching Trip

I’ve been traveling on my own.
I’ve been traveling with partner as well.
This time, I go back traveling on my own.

I haven’t done any solo traveling for about a year. Last time I did that was when I went to Vietnam last May, and it was pretty fun. I spend my day doing fuck all, just having coffee, strolling around the city and relaxing. Meeting new people while having beer at night, sharing stories about life and whatever it is. It was really fun but I remember when I was thinking that this is enough…I’d like to see what it feels like to be traveling with a partner. Boom, not a week after get back from Vietnam I met someone and we dated and couple months later traveled together. It was exactly like what I thought it would be. We had so much fun, explore new places and I feel like closer to him when we’re out there together.

But this time, I went solo again. My friend told me that “this is your soul-searching time” or “now find your old self back”. Fuck it. I know I’m still the old me. But then I was being a miserable C and it was long weekend so I impulsively bought ticket to Bali. It was a “bring it on” moment.

So what it’s like? Well…still like the last time I went traveling alone. I still love being able to wake up anytime I want, to go wherever I want to go. My first day, I just walk around the hotel area then sleeping and reading book on the beach until I burn my skin. On the next day, I decided to climb a mountain, made some friends there and having a really good time. The I spend the rest of my trip hunting secondhand bookshops and spending more time in the beach because your girl love to make her skin darker, yo.

The thing about traveling alone that I forgot is that you can’t actually be alone. Everytime I was in a cafe or a pub, minding my own business, there’s always someone asking to join my table. I remember my first night in Bali there’s a dude wanting to join my table while I was reading my book. I wasn’t really in the mood for talking so I just nod and when he started the conversation I told him I can’t speak english…..but I forgot that I was holding an english book. Dumbass. I left soon afterwards, hiding my laugh.

So that’s what I love about traveling alone. The joy of be whoever I want, go to wherever I want. But..there’s no one to shared the story too. Traveling with someone else was fun because if you see something funny on your trip, you have someone to share the laugh with. Or when you lost, you’re not alone. You lost with that someone. And mind you that during this trip I don’t have social media whatsoever (only twitter) so it does actually feel like I’m with myself. It’s not that I don’t like it…it’s just more fun if you have someone to share the joy with.

I also realized that I change a little bit during this solo trip, especially on accommodation’s preference. Back then, I used to be okay staying in a hotel or just a crappy cheap room to save my budget. But not this time hahaha. It’s not that I have a lot of money, no, no at all but I just prefer comfort more? Is that make sense? I booked the wrong room once in Bali last week. It was a cheap room in Kuta, Rp150K per night. When I got there…single bed, no windows, no tv and have this creepy vibe. So I cancelled right away and luckily, found another room, slightly more expensive than that one (220K) but better! I guess I’m that age where comfort bed and room is important.

Aside all that, I’m still the same person. Still the fun, energetic person that not shy to made new friends. Still the same person who dare to have some adventures, walking alone in the place unknown just to fill in my curiosity. I had fun, I climb a mountain, I spend my day reading books on the beach, biking around the city.

It’s not that I can’t do it. I can travel on my own. But I prefer to be with a partner now.

I’ve been traveling on my own, and I’ve been traveling with a partner. I love both almost equally, but experience taught me that I like it better when I have someone beside me. Same thing like, I’m okay being single. But I like more being in a relationship.

Because happiness only real when shared.

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That Time When I Can Barely Feel My Arse

In my life, I’ve done several things that for most people might sounds “wow, you’re so brave!” but for some perhaps just “ah, cool. I’ve done that too.”

This is one of them. That time when I impulsively buy a ticket for a weekend in Bali and decided to climb a mountain. And ride a motorbike on my own for four freaking hours.

Let’s cut it short (because the story of how I get to Bali will be on another post). I was browsing on the internet of best places in Bali to see the sunrise. There’s Sanur Beach, Mount Agung, Ubud, Tanah Lot, and many more. And then there’s Mount Batur in Kintamani. It’s not as high as Mount Agung (Mount Batur is 1.717m) and it seems doable and I was looking for something that is adventurous but not too heavy because I haven’t been climbing for about two years.

I decided to go to Mount Batur and start looking on how to get there. A lot of tour package of course, but it so damn expensive. Then I look it up deeply into the deep web (heh heh heh) and I found the cheaper way. I just need to stay in Kintamani, close to the climbing point of Mount Batur and hire a guide from there.

And then there’s another problem. How to get to Kintamani? Of course, there’s buses and rental car. But again, it’s expensive. So I decided to…rent a motorbike. And drive alone to Kintamani from Kuta. I asked my friends whether it’s safe or not for a lady to drive motorbike in Bali and she said it’s okay. Bali is mostly safe, but she did remind me to be careful because I’m clumsy af. Yeah right.

And there comes the day! I rent a motorbike (Rp50 K/day) and drove down from my hotel in Legian for a breakfast in Revolver. My plan is to leave Legian/Kuta area around 12 so I could be in Kintamani by 4. But of course, a plan is just a plan. When I was having breakfast, I got email from work, there’s a deadline due that day. So…I stayed in Revolver, finishing my job until 1.30.

After that, leaving for Kintamani! I was excited and scared, actually. I don’t have driving license, but I’m a pretty good motorbike rider. I was wearing my tank top and shorts, I was worried about cat calls and everything but no! It’s Bali and all okay there.

I used Waze to direct me to Kintamani. It says I’ll get there in 3.5 hours. Unfortunately, I lost my earphones so I wasn’t able to listened to the GPS lady; I have to put my phone on my small bag (which lay on my lap) and constantly checking it up. It’s dangerous kid, don’t ever try that.

The road from Kuta to Kintamani is relatively quiet, although closer to the mountain, there’s a lot of sands everywhere. Be careful, because it made the road slippery and if you hit the break, there’s chance you could fall down from your motorbike (I know because it happen to me).

The joy of driving on your own is that I can stop at anywhere. Like if I saw beautiful view, I could just stop right away and took some pictures. I admit that it’s very quiet that in 4 hours I have no one to talk to but hey, isn’t that the part of traveling alone you have to endure?

Around 5, I arrived at Black Lava Hostel in Kintamani. I can’t feel my arse! It’s numb! But I love the hostel. It’s a nice, small guesthouse with hot spring pool overlooking the mountain. Fucking awesome.

After I check in (dorm room, Rp150.000) I put on my bikini and jump into the pool! Maaaan, that was something. Hot spring really help relieving the pain on my back after driving for 4 hours. I stayed in the pool for about 1.5 hours, having a chat with two girls from Belgium and France. We then just sat there, looking over the sunset by the mountain. Fucking bliss.

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We were told by our guide that the trekking will start at 4 in the morning. So that night, I slept around 7 to make sure that I got enough rest and able to wake up early. By the way, Kintamani and Mount Batur is not as cold as I thought it would be. I brought two jacket and I don’t even need one. As I recall, Bromo, Dieng and Prau was much much colder than Batur.

The trekking package cost me Rp450 K, that include breakfast, walking stick, headlamp, two mineral water and the guide. If you are on your own, you have to pay Rp650 K, so it’s best to find someone to share the guide. I share this package with the french and belgium girls.

We start walking at 4, and the guide said that the trekking will take about 1.5-2 hours to get to the summit. I imagine that with that short duration of walk, the trekking route must be steep and rocky. Well…it kinda is.

On the first 45 minutes, I don’t have any problem. Good thing that in Jakarta I used to spend my time walking around the city at least 10km per day so my feet doesn’t feel sore at all. I thought it’d be cold so I wear my hoodie, but after 30 minutes I took it off because I’m sweating. Lots of hikers only wear shorts and tank top, and yes it’s all okay.

The trek start with “Ah yeah, I can do this” to “What the duck?” in an hour. After halfway, the trek gets steeper and harder. Lots of rocks and sands, so if you’re not careful you could get slip. The walking stick really help! One time, we stopped and the guide told us it’s only 20 minutes away from the summit. We sat for a while and look behind…amazing city view from above. Clouds. Everything. And I remember, this is what I love the most about climbing a mountain.

We get to the summit around 5.45. It was pretty crowded up there, and I remember I’m the only Indonesian (aside guides) there. Most of them thought I’m a filipino or thai because they said they never met Indonesian girl who traveled alone. Hehe.

Our guide told us to sit there and wait for the sunrise while he prepared breakfast. Too bad, the weather wasn’t really good that day so we didn’t catch any sunrise. Aww, bummer. But the breakfast was pretty surprising. He gave us egg and banana sandwich and tea, and I never thought I’d love banana sandwich.

We gave up on waiting for the sunrise, and prepared to climb down mountain. We’re taking the longer route, because our guide believe that we could get better view from there.

Not only longer, this route is narrow and full of sand too. Note to self: wear proper shoes. I was wearing my walking sneakers and sands get inside my shoes. It was fine, but you know just a bit uncomfortable for a while. But I LOVE the way back! It was still cloudy but it feel like the set of Game of Thrones somehow with all the mist and the clouds. It took us 3 hours to get down from the mountain because we stopped a lot, waiting for the cloud to leave so we could see the view. Eventually we did. The view of mountain and lake surrounding Batur was pretty stunning. I stood there in silence for a while, can’t remember the last time I feel this…relaxed? And at the same time I also feel like sharing this view to someone I feel so dearly. But oh well.


Down in the forest, it gets better. The sun was there, and it made everything looks greener than it should be. We even discovered a hidden Pura! It was a bit like Tomb Raider scene, only smaller. Then after we get out from the forest, we could see the top of Mount Batur from below. We were there! It was unbelievable. And that is one of the amazing thing about climbing a mountain, when you see the top of the mountain from different perspective, you can help but thought,”Wow, I WAS there. How did I get there?”


We reached the hostel at 10.30. We changed to our bathing suit and dipped in the hot spring again. That was the best feeling in the world, when you feel all your muscle screaming and you calmed it down with hot water..fucking amazing.

Then I remember I have to drive back to Kuta for another 4 hours.

2017, The Fresh Start

It’s the new year again. 2016 felt quite long though, as I had experience too many ups and downs. It’s like a freaking roller-coaster, I’m not sure I’m going to say that was pleasant or not.

I remember at the beginning of 2016 I just got a new job as an editor of a lifestyle magazine. It’s like a dream; I get to write about Jakarta and in English and get to meet lots of new people, attend fancy events… I also got a lot of freelancing job, made me super rich for about 5 months (I spend all the money to travel around SEA and India and HK).

Then, everything gone wrong. The magazine hit an iceberg on June and we have to stop publishing. I don’t have any income for about 3 months, then get a new job that I hate to the bones. That was depressing time, I never realized my job meant that much to me and not having one back then feels like the end of the world.

On the much brighter side, I did travel a lot last year. I went to Singapore three times, just for hunting books I can’t find in Jakarta. Then I got invited to Mumbai, and made a stopover in Hong Kong on my way back to Jakarta. Went to Bali with Pandhu before he’s getting married this year. I did an impulsive solo trip to Vietnam, doing nothing but drinking coffee and reading books and walking around Ho Chi Minh City. Then for my birthday trip, my boyfriend treat me to Bali & Jogja! It was such a pleasant time, we had fun, we visit lots of cultural places I’ve never been to in Bali before.

So that was my 2016. I just got a new job now that I’m pretty fond of. I’m still trying to figure out everything, what I want to do and my goals for the future. I’m not sure I’d have time (or money) to travel a lot this year but I do have some plans. Let’s just hope it all going well, and please no more tough roller coaster. Here’s for 2017!

 

Hot, Steamy One Night Stand

“If you like big cities, you should see Hong Kong. It’s one of my favorite place in Asia!”

That’s what he said. So then when I had the chance (and limited day off from work), without hesitate I booked ticket to HK after I traveled from Mumbai, India.

I only have 20 hours in Hong Kong. That means not much to see. I wouldn’t mind though; all I wanted was to see the city skyline from Victoria Harbour. That’s all.

I was going to say that HK is a prove that love at first sight does exist. I do fell in love with the city just when step my foot on its land. My fondness grew gradually as I see the tall-high buildings surrounded by mountains. But saying that would be such a naiive judgement.  Actually, because I only have 20 hours in the city, it might best to describe my experience as a hot, steamy one night stand.

Because that’s what it is. A brief time in HK, I feel like falling in love with a super hot guy I met for one night stand. It’s adventurous, fun, exciting, everything looks shimmering and promising. That’s how I feel about HK; it’s like I could live there forever. The lights of the city took my breath away. I was stunned when I saw the city’s skyline from Victoria Harbour. Food? Oh God, beyond amazing. I like the weather (it was mid-march and raining all day), I like the people. I like how HK can mix the old-school with modern way. I keep thinking about how I wanted to live here someday, how I could see myself moving to HK.

But then again, everything does look perfect if you only look at it in a glance. Like the hot guy you had one night stand with, you’d think he’s the perfect guy for you. Smart, attractive and great in bed. You feel like having him as your partner in life. But that’s because you only know him briefly. You don’t know what could push his button, what makes him tick.. It all seems good and perfect, because you haven’t got the chance to know him better.
So yeah, (seems like my writing is going nowhere here) my conclusion is that I can’t judge with only one, short visit. So HK, I’ll be back for more.

((Boy I wish I could say the same for *other* things 😉 ))

It’s love, It’s Hate. It’s Mumbai

It was 10.30 pm Mumbai time (GMT+5) or one and half hour behind Jakarta. I just landed in Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, after five hours flight from Singapore. I remember I barely sleep on the plane (I’m not going to mention the name of the airline but I can tell you that it’s not what you take for long flight), dog-tired and terribly hungry; I didn’t touch the Indian food they served on the plane.

Long queue at the immigration gate, of course. My drowsy eyes spot on few people overtaking my line..HEY! I was too tired to even yell at them. Another foreigner on the line next to mine looked at these people quizzically for a moment..then they decided to just move to the front of the line because apparently that is what everyone is doing–if you want to get out of the immigration gate fast.

My immigration staff wasn’t nice. Maybe he’s tired because he have to work until late at night, stamping on stranger’s passport, trying to see if they made any mistake. He looked at my passport, my visa..then look at me again, look back at the passport. He’s tapping on the counter. I just stood there. “HEY! put your fingers here!”, he said. Well jeez, I don’t know if that’s what you meant with the tapping, mister.. he looks frustrated. I keep thinking about what am I going to eat after getting out of this airport. Hell, I might not be able to get out from this airport at all, this guy at the immigration seems to hate me so much he might as well just sent me back to Jakarta with the next plane..but no, he stamped my passport and here I am in Mumbai, India.

How do I start with Mumbai? I was there as an invitation from a friend. Never, even in my wildest dream, I’d imagine to be in the capital industry of India. But that was probably my only chance to visit India, so there I was. I done a lot of research before coming to the city; what would I expect to see, how’s the food, how’s the people, everything.. and my friend, Mumbai is definetely something you’ve never seen before.

I work and (sort of) live in Jakarta, a megapolitan, the largest city of Indonesia and one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world with 9.607.787 population (2010). I know what big city is like; chaos, crowded, noise, pollutions, bad traffic everywhere.. I had that all in Jakarta and I thought that’s worse enough. But no, not until you see Mumbai.

Used to known as Bombay (which then famous with the term ‘Bollywood’–Bombay Hollywood), Mumbai is the most populous city in India; one of the most populous urban regions in the world with a population of 20.7 million as of 2011. Lies on the west coast of India with major seaport, Mumbai claimed the title of industrial (and also entertainment) capital of India. At a glance, you can say that Mumbai is pretty much like Jakarta.

Just wait until you step your foot out on its road.

The weather is pretty much different; Mumbai has a tropical climate and I was there on March where it’s practically still summer with temperature everyday reach 38 celcius degree. The traffic? Oh boy, you’d think Jakarta is a road heaven after you see how it goes in Mumbai. Basically it’s jammed everywhere, with cars moving to God knows where. Everyone is honking. Rickshaw, taxi, cars, cow, everything is on the road. The people? All I see is men walking in group–though my friend said they probably not in a group, because it’s so crowded that they look like belong to a group–stared, because you look different (but it’s safe, they won’t do anything to you, just use your common sense). Slums everywhere, even next to the fanciest apartment–there’s even slums just by the international airport!

So yeah, after the first three hours in Mumbai I can’t wait to get back to Jakarta. But no, I have to spend another 19 hours and two days before I can get on a plane out of the city. So I have to bear with it.

Turns out, Mumbai did grew on me. I spent my first afternoon in the south part of the city, where the museums and galleries are. They are AMAZING. I was in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (Prince of Wales Museum), three-story museum in a british colonial building with astonishing collections. Hands down, the best museum I ever visited. The south area where the museum lies is really worth to visit; if you like old buildings and galleries, they also have schools, university and old train station, all in art deco british colonial style building.


Pay a visit to Bandra, a suburb in West Mumbai, home to many Bollywood actors and Indian’s famous personalities. Is one of the best area in Mumbai, less slum and the neighbourhood seems pretty friendly. I remember walked in a crowd gathering in a front of a house that apparently.. a Shah Rukh Khan’s. Yep, that legendary actor.

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Shah Rukh Khan’s house

I wouldn’t recommend you to visit the beaches in Mumbai but you must. Just you know, don’t go in the water. But the beaches quite interesting; I mean where else can you see cows lying on the sand, enjoying the warm sun? And the city’s skyline overlooking the beach’s promenade? Can’t say a word. My favorite thing about the city indeed.

So yeah, Mumbai is a chaos. It’s a mess, not for the faint-hearted. But doesn’t mean it’s not worth to see, or even (I’m being really honest here) to love. It’s easy to love something beautiful and perfect like white-sand-blue-sea beach somewhere in Thailand or Bali, it’s like when you see a beautiful girl, you’d instantly fall in love with her well because obviously, she’s easy on the eye. But to love something that is messy and tangled and chaotic like Mumbai or Jakarta? It’s hard, man. You gotta find something deep inside of that mess, some silver lining. And when you do, it’ll eat your heart out. Loving a city means digging every part of it patiently until you’re buried in its mess–and you don’t want to get out of it eventually.

To be honest, I’m still in a love-and-hate relationship with Mumbai. I can’t say I love it but I do want to get back there someday. That’s the beauty of the city, no matter how much you think you can’t stand it.. you’ll always want to see how to find out how to love it. As long as you can bear it 🙂

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Mumbai’s city skyline

2016: A year to Go

Damn I left this blog too long. And even worse, my last post is a cheesy piece about shattered heart (which I am totally over it right now. No, really.)

So. Happy New Year 2016! Mine start with something good and I hope so will you. When I re-visited this blog, I feel guilty for not being able to write as much as I used to. Not trying to blame anything but I haven’t travel much either these past few months.

But I was having some greatest moment in terms of traveling though. Back in September I was sent to Seoul to write about the business tourism activity of the city. Met lots of great journalists from all over Asia, build good network with them and it was a really fantastic journey eventhough most of the time I was working and don’t get to see around the city much. Seoul was my first time going out of South East Asia and it was very memorable trip, it’s a really fantastic city, great food, I hope I can come back to Seoul again someday.

Then what else…oh, for my annual birthday trip I went to Bali in October. I spend almost nothing for the trip; my airline ticket is free, I got free stays in five-star hotels (in exchange of writing) and also free transportation. So that was very relaxing, I get all the best thing a girl could have and spend my birthday on the beach all day. Got lots of surprise as well, so it was a pretty awesome day.

I think about how much I travel in 2015 compare to 2012-2014. I didn’t go out that much, not like in the previous year where almost every month I visit some place new. Aside from that my job no longer allowed me to travel as much (and I just moved to new place that even require me to stay in the city all year long), I think I just kind of lost passion to visit places.

So, for 2016.. I want to get back to that. Be more ambitious about traveling, visit new places, get out more. I end 2015 with feeling a little bit hollow inside (even though that was a good year, I had fun–perhaps even too much) and maybe going to lots of place just what the doctor ordered. I want to go back to Vietnam, see art exhibition in Singapore, celebrating my birthday in Nepal and visit more and more beach.

Happy 2016, may all our wishes comes true!

(photos will be updated soon)