Archive for the ‘Peripatetic Mood’ Category

REDISCOVERING BANDUNG

First impressions last and my impression of Bandung as a place nothing to rave about lasted for several years. My colleagues and students were always scurrying to Bandung every chance they got notwithstanding the snarled traffic to and fro much to my consternation. My first foray into Bandung was to a volcanic crater which wasn’t disappointing. The grey landscape was a dramatic departure from the usual green scenery I am used to, but which nonetheless piqued my interest. It was a stark flip to the presence of life; I now had an idea of how Demeter unleashed her vengeance on mankind for Hades’ concupiscence. Adding to my incredulity was the incongruous presence of hawkers with bonnets, scarves, and boa. Commercialism had found its place near the crater.

It wasn’t until only this May that I set foot again in Bandung. The invitation came from my gal-pal Theresia to join her church group, Wanita Katolik RI Ranting St Maria Ratu Pengantara segala Rahmat, from Cabang St Servasius, Kampung Sawah, on their annual outing. The gaggle of mature and young ladies was grass widows relishing the break from their duties as wife, mother, or padre de familia for a whole day. The journey wasn’t lacking in giggles and guffaws, complaints and ruffled feathers, and good old-fashioned camaraderie. I was witness to a tableau of familial ties in its rawness, which, being a recluse, opened a whole new appreciation in me for human interaction and Bandung.

BAMBOO VILLAGE

Dusun Bamboo, or Bamboo Village, is a green sanctuary located in Lembang. The relaxing effect of nature begins at the right of the entrance where your sight falls on rice paddies so green you’d think the landscape was photo shopped by the universe; to the left are vehicles to take one around the family leisure park. It is best to go on foot to take in nature and its cool air especially coming from scorching Bekasi where the temperature is a few degrees higher. Most travellers stay a night or more at Dusun Bamboo to get away from the madness of the city, as facilities are not lacking and restaurants abound. One restaurant, Lutung Kasarung, caught my attention because of its design: a birdcage. The dining “birdcages”, which fit two or more diners, are suspended in mid-air and accessible by walk ways several meters from the ground.  Further exploring Dusun Bamboo led Theresia and me to a lake with a floating platform surrounded by villas – presumably private dining rooms – accessible by a short ride in a decorated bumboat.

rice paddy 1 at Dusun Bamboo

the view that greets you as you emerge from the entrance


rice paddy 2 at Dusun Bamboo

I have mellowed so much – a rice paddy is a thrill to see now.


women on a day trip

Photo op on the walk way


with gal pal Theresia

with gal pal Theresia


floating platform and villas

stand or sit on the floating platform


bunga terompet

bunga terompet are everywhere at Dusun Bamboo


birdcage dining

book a birdcage for dinner for two or more at Lutung Kasarung


bamboo structure

exploring Dusun Bamboo

Naturally, like the millennials, the Wanita Katolik was not oblivious to selfies and group shots which weren’t just confined to the lake or rice paddies. The women know that immediate documentation on social media platform is imperative in today’s travels.

FLOATING MARKET

Next on the itinerary was lunch at the floating market. On account of being Ramadan, the floating market was easy to navigate: one could leisurely peruse the floating boat-kitchens on their offerings, exchange money for tokens, and secure a table. Apparently, the weekends – the time local tourists descend upon the place – are filled with mobs of diners jostling to, say, order a plate of satay and get a table.

Floating market sign

row of boat kitchen vendors 1

row of boat kitchen vendors 2

Which boat kitchen do you get lunch and dessert?


tokens at the Floating Market

exchange your rupiah for tokens to buy food and drinks


satay boat kitchen

“Do you want lontong with your satay ayam?” asks Theresia.


satay ayam vendor

preparing satay ayam on the spot


crispy tahu vendor

the tahu lost its crunchiness


pisang goreng

freshly cooked pisang goreng


lunch at Floating Market

Lunch is ready – dig in!


Cepot

Cepot, a wayang golek character, serves as scare crow too in an area of the Floating Market.

Unlike the floating market of Thailand, the boat-kitchens are moored to their places, the vendors – cranky or not – waiting for customers so they could fire up their stoves. Others are a little too swift in their cooking that their dishes are exposed way too much than they should. That was my mistake in buying crispy tahu (tofu) which had lost its crunchiness. Fortunately, the chocolate-cheese pisang goreng (banana fritters) was cooked on the spot hence it was still crispy when it was time to have dessert. Similarly, the skewered satay ayam (grilled chicken) were placed on the grill only after we had placed our order. The satay ayam was good, but its proportion to the lontong (rice cake) was a disappointment compared to the wonderfully balanced portion at Satay Ayam Madura, a satay stall at Summarecon Mall Bekasi.

The language barrier broke down a bit as I caught snippets of the Wanita Katolik’s stories in between bites: a crabby member’s endless complaints, how good the es cendol (cold Indonesian drink), who is ordering pisang goreng again, the oleh-oleh (gift; food or not) and kue (cake) they should buy at the floating market, etc.

KEBUN BEGONIA

Majority of the women had a penchant for gardening so Kebun Begonia, a garden-and-vegetable market, was the last stop. The whole lot was divided into the garden, or what I call the selfie place with its various picture stations, and vegetable patches. It was every woman for herself at this point: some scrutinized the flowers, evaluating which ones to add to their garden; Theresia et al took selfies; and I went for ginger tea. Ginger tea is ubiquitous in Indonesia particularly hot or cold wedang jahe. My hot wedang jahe helped to chase away the cold seeping into my body and rejuvenate my flagging energy (I had been up since 4am). Some joined me for a cuppa and quickly put me to shame. They downed it like water to the last drop while I struggled with the strong, biting taste and only finished half of my cup.

welfie moment at Kebub Begonia

Strike a pose!


Selfie moment among the flowers

an Instagram-worthy shot

Walk through flower beds


Or walk around pots of flowers


First impressions do last but they can quickly change when the opportunity presents itself. Bandung was a revelation with its greenery and cool weather. Fortunately, traffic was smooth because of Ramadan thus no delays in the itinerary. It was a bonus too to have been part of a group of women who, despite the language barrier, made an extrovert-introvert agnostic feel very much part of their close-knit group.

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THE BEAUTY OF KUTA BEACH 

First timers to Bali are always told to head to Kuta Beach, one of the more popular beaches on the island. It is, I have been told, a favorite of foreign surfers, who are mostly from Australia as the flight from one of its cities is just an hour plus, and local surfers who double up as surfing coaches. It wasn’t on the nth visit and as I watched the surfers gear up to ride the wave that it finally dawned on me why it is a surfer’s paradise. The waves are every surfer’s dream: glassy surface (read: nice and smooth), rolls in one direction, big, and powerful. If the surfers find the waves thrilling I find them on top of the waves absolutely amazing.

Kuta beach in April


At first glance, Kuta beach can be off-putting. First is the huge crowd at the entrance. Finding a parking space is a nightmare unless you have a scooter. Behind the entrance are legions of vendors plying anything under the shaded sun – accessories, beach wear, temporary tattoo (think henna), braiding and massage services, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. In fact, the beverage vendors have set up makeshift “bars” of plastic chairs under a huge beach umbrella and drinks in a cooler box. 

Second push-factor are the aggressive vendors. I cannot forget the mistake I made in browsing this woman’s accessories only to change my mind because the woven bracelet I fancied looked worn out. She threw a hissy fit and followed me around the beach for a time. Lesson learned: never entertain a vendor unless you are certain of buying. 

However, hurdle the crowd and the vendors, and you will come face-to-face with the pulchritude of Kuta Beach. A divine, majestic landscape of blues – light blue, cerulean, aquamarine – intermingled with yellow, gold, and white play before your eyes that is completely mesmerizing. Standing or sitting, it is almost meditative as you slowly breathe in and breathe out the fresh sea breeze. The sun on your face, the breeze dancing with you, and the sound of waves rushing to shore is like a welcomed benediction from the universe and your guardian angels that you thought had abandoned you. A tingling, vivifying feeling shoots through you and you feel a smile tugging at the sides of your lips. For a moment everything is copacetic in your topsy-turvy world – the veil of sadness has been lifted and your heart has stopped crying.

Scanning the area, I people-watch: smiling at the lovers strolling by the water, laughing at the failed acrobatic stunts, staring at those sunbathing wondering if they had put on sufficient sunblock lotion. Then my gaze falls on the horizon and my thoughts take a different direction. In due time the beauty of Kuta Beach will permeate my gray-tinged world.

GELATO MANIA

Chatime is a lone stall along Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai in Sanur, but I learnt that other outlets are starting to dot other regencies. Starbucks is everywhere on the island including rustic-but-slowly-getting-urbanised Ubud. Even the Thailand-made Fipper rubber slippers are ubiquitous. But what struck me the most was the ubiquity of gelato counters because every where you walked is a gelato kiosk teeming with people. Gelato mania is strong in Bali which is nonexistent in Bekasi. Naturally, I jumped on the gelato bandwagon duly accompanied by my gal-pal Eta who had sussed out the gelato to dig into. I needed to understand the mania.
My pick of Oops! gelato was an oops moment, meaning oops, it was a mistake to get a cup of gelato from it. Both Eta and I were unanimous in our review that the texture was nowhere near the rich creaminess of Massimo and Gusto. The taste fell flat on the palate. On hindsight, I felt like I was eating air. The experience wasn’t as exhilarating either as expected when digging into a cup of sweetness. The surliness of the old man who took our order made the gelato experience take a nose dive. I have always maintained that people working ice cream – or cupcake – counters must be as chirpy as the animals in the Walt Disney animated film “Cinderella”.

Gelato by Massimo Italian Restaurant

Eta was au courant about gelato and steered me towards Massimo. Located on Jalan Danau Tamblingan in Sanur, its counter is at the very opening of Massimo Italian Restaurant which is equally packed with diners, both locals and tourists, every night. A throng of people surrounding the gelato counter will certainly pique one’s interest. The crowd is made up of those having their dessert first while waiting for a table to clear; those dropping by for a cup or cone; or those ending their Italian meal on a sweet note. The beauty of Massimo’s gelato lies in three factors. First, there is a myriad flavors to choose from. That night I settled for a small cup of cannoli and Nuttella sitting side by side. Two flavors in one cup without additional cost is the second factor. You can mix and match any flavor unlike in Oops! Lastly, the servers, although busy, were not crotchety compared to the staff at Oops!

Second gelato stop was Gusto Gelato and Caffe in Seminyak that exuded that Massimo aura. It was jam packed like Massimo, but there was no lag in ordering and getting your gelato. The crew was hustling but far from brusque. Choice of flavors too was not limited to one scoop per cup and cone – one gets two choices at no extra cost. The set up was simple: pay first then move to the ice cream area where a crew member will collect your receipt and ask for your choice of flavors. My small cup – it is very filling – this time had a scoop each of caramel and matcha which I scooped clockwise melding the flavors into one delicious gelato swirl.

Back: pineapple and coconut gelato Front: caramel and matcha gelato

My curiosity was sweetly satisfied. The gelato mania isn’t simply to beat the heat of sun. Scooping into gelato is a delectable treat as you cool your heels and take in that relaxing Balinese vibe.

AMBON’S SHANGRI-LA

Ora Island_scenery 1Lunch was already underway at the restaurant on water right across the bungalow I was sharing with Theresia’s family and friends. I settled for a table near the entrance facing the string of mountains its zenith ringed by wisps of clouds. Snatches of a conversation from across the table parallel to mine floated in the sea-kissed air as I stared at the mountain.

“It’s always chicken and fish,” remarked Heidi.

“Have you tried tempeh?” sounded a deep voice.

“Yes, the one with peanuts. We’ve tried it,” replied Heidi, “but they don’t have it here.”

Boomed that deep voice again: “They don’t like it here. If there’s no fish, there’s no food.”

I had met Heidi the night before after a long, vertiginous journey – ferry, SUV, and speedboat – starting from Ambon city. Heidi said she and her husband, Harry, were in Indonesia for a month, and alluring Ora, for the second time round, was the nth stop in their itinerary. Ora was simply too hard to resist. Raja Ampat was the last stop after Ora for 20 days then it was back to Brussels.

Heidi’s right. Resisting the charm of picturesque Ora Island is absolutely futile and imprudent. Only a fool who wants to take a leave of absence from the world would turn her back on Ambon’s Shangri-la. It didn’t take more than 10 minutes for Theresia to convince me to join her instead of flying off somewhere during the long Hari Raya holiday. The crystal clear water and majestic mountains, swathed in fluffy swirls of cotton, of Ora were beguiling and beckoning you to abandon the concrete jungle you were mired in. They hypnotically whispered, “Come to Ora and live. Come to Ora and breathe. Come to Ora and relax.”

“It’s like the Maldives, Ms,” said Theresia, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “We will stay in one of these bungalows at Ora Beach Resort. Join us, lah, Ms.”

This is Ora Island. Selamat datang!

This is Ora Island. Selamat datang!

It's a beautiful morning in Ora.

It’s a beautiful morning in Ora.

Ora Island is paradise welcoming anyone – families, couples, friends, wearied souls, and city slickers – with open arms even in the dead of night. Energy-sapping schedules are non-existent except for meal times. Technology takes a backseat to the natural canvas enveloping the island serenaded by the susurration of the sea breeze. Everywhere your gaze lands is Mother Nature in its immaculate form – walls of mountains standing royally from a distance, stucco-colour sand, sea, cool wind, and sun. The gentle lapping of the miles and miles of clear water is music to the ears long strained by the cacophonous din of urban living. Ducking your head underwater reveals a seascape of various schools of fish and the vast number of bulu babi (Indonesian for sea urchin) that resembled rambutan.

Mornings at Ora Island

Mornings at Ora Island

Your residence when you're at Ora Island

Your residence when you’re at Ora Island

Early afternoon in Ora Island

Early afternoon in Ora Island

Mornings are heavenly. The vista is unparalleled: nature’s wonder teeming with positive energy that gently nudges you to unfurl the yoga mat you lugged all the way from Bekasi on the balcony-foyer. You inhale deeply, hold for a few seconds, and breathe out slowly. The breathing is smooth, not ragged. You feel unencumbered. As the hours pass, you find yourself sitting on the balcony reading and glancing every now and then at the picture in front of you. At times you find yourself searching for the one who jumped into the water as you hear a splash only to discover it’s a fish doing a back flip. Later in the afternoon you walk to other side of the island and back with the group who’s just return from their snorkel trip behind the island. It is a golden opportunity to indulge in the frustrated dream of being a super model. Then you sit at the dock and wait for the sun to set. Along with the natural scenery, Ora’s sunset – ah, the sunset – is the ne plus ultra of the island’s magnificence with its mesmerising interplay of colours – changing like a kaleidoscope as it recedes from the sky. Although Ora is plunged into darkness as the last ray of sun disappears behind the mountain, the ambience is not sombre; there’s a vibrancy ringing in the dark mantle pierced by the lights from the dock and the restaurant. Dinner awaits and the thought of tomorrow rings with aspiration.

It's a perfect day for yoga.

It’s a perfect day for yoga.

yoga 2yoga 3

Still in yoga mood at the dock

Still in yoga mood at the dock

It's always dining with a view at Ora Beach Eco-Resort.

It’s always dining with a view at Ora Beach Eco-Resort.

Panoramic shot of Ora Island capturing the restaurant and the bungalow

Panoramic shot of Ora Island capturing the restaurant and the bungalow

Ora Island_chilling at the bungalow

And your speedboat is ready to take you on an adventure.

And your speedboat is ready to take you on an adventure.

Sakaa Village is your departure point for Ora Island.

Sakaa Village is your departure point for Ora Island.

Care for an early morning dip?

Care for an early morning dip?

Ora is my reward for the arduous trip that began with a ride to the port of Tulehu at the crack of dawn to catch the ferry, but only to learn you’d missed it. And this was after braving the heaving throng of ferry-goers who had gathered at the gate and were getting agitated at being barred by the local police from entering. The police finally lift the barrier as the angry shouts punctuating the early morning sky grows more frequent, and a mad scramble ensues. It was if the deities were keeping an eye on our sleepy-eyed group, we were stopped midway and told the ferry we were running to was sailing to Saparua Island.

Several hours and anti-motion tablets later, I set foot on Ora Island wrapped in a pitch-dark mantle.

Nobody ever said that journeying to nirvana is a walk in the park, but it’s a trip I’d gladly undertake again if only to bask in Ambon’s Shangri-la’s charisma again.

When the sun sets at Ora Island

When the sun sets at Ora Island

 

Travel note: Getting to Ora Island is a long journey so have breakfast and bring a bottle of water if you’re the type with a tummy condition. If not, you’ll survive on the boiled peanuts, banana chips, and Popmie noodles vended onboard the ferry. Head to Tulehu port in Ambon for a two-hour ferry ride to Masohi Amahai and from Masohi, board an SUV (this should be pre-arranged prior to your arrival in Masohi) for a two-hour drive to Sakaa Village. From Sakaa Village (Saleman Village is another departure point), board a speedboat ride for all of 10 minutes to Ora Beach Eco-Resort.

Additional photos by Lidia Wagiu and Theresia Kafroly Sabono

 

 

BARONDA AMBON

Natsepa beach in mid-afternoon

Natsepa beach in mid-afternoon

The direction was simple: make for the banana tree – it’s behind it. I looked at where she was pointing and, spotting the banana tree, made a beeline for it. But I found myself circling the sheet of corrugated steel erected on the ground behind the banana tree. She must have been mistaken. I ran back to the group to clarify the direction.

“It’s behind the banana tree, right?” I asked, consternation enveloping my face.

Laughter roared through the air.

“Come, I will accompany you,” said Ibu Liertji, a huge smile across her face, as she led the way to the banana tree.

She continued, obviously delighting in my anxiety: “The ground absorbs everything for business number 1.”

My jaw dropped and Ibu Liertji let rip another fit of laughter.

“Don’t think about it. Just close your eyes and go,” was her matter-of-fact advice (said with a wide grin) in answering the call of nature with the very traditional toilet that we found at the top of Pintu Kota.

The business of the bathroom can be daunting for city slickers used to tiled water closets as the journey takes one further away from Ambon in Moluccas, an hour and 40+ minute airplane ride from Jakarta. Ambon is citified enough with its shopping malls (e.g. Ambon City Centre and Maluku City Mall), minor traffic snarls, and ubiquitous BreadTalk and JCo franchises. Telecommunications isn’t far behind unless you’re an XL subscriber in which case your hand phone signal drops intermittently or, worse, you’re in a dead zone when you leave the city. Ambon is full-on Telkomsel territory. Coffee-lovers would have to forego their Starbucks fix because you have to literally leave the island to get your Asian Dolce Latte or frappuccino. On a high note, Excelso assuages the caffeine fix which has one outlet at the Pattimura airport. Fast food lovers would have to contend themselves with KFC of which there are only two outlets operating throughout the island.

Pintu Kota

Pintu Kota

selfie opportunity at Pintu Kota

selfie opportunity at Pintu Kota

It's a different kind of beach at Pintu Kota.

It’s a different kind of beach at Pintu Kota.

Go down the stairs and walk to your left to get to Pintu Kota.

Go down the stairs and walk to your left to get to Pintu Kota.

Theresia with her favourite Ambonese snack, rujak

Theresia with her favourite Ambonese snack, rujak

Going around the city is possible with angkot that puts the ones at Bekasi to shame. Ambon’s fleet of angkot is far from the array of dilapidated vehicles that ply the streets of Kalimalang. They’re well-tinted, fitted with cushioned and levelled seats, clean (the inside is dust free), shiny (good paint job), and with Ambonese music blaring from the huge speakers at the back. Ambon, after all, is the city of music. An alternative to the angkot is chartering an SUV – driver included – for a fee. There’s no listing for this; you just need to ask around. Petrol kiosks are far and between so entrepreneurial citizens have taken to selling gasoline packed in one-litre+ water bottles by the roadside.

The cityscape is a déjà vu of cityscapes in my memory bank. One night, on the way back to Amaris Hotel after a city tour, the panorama that opened before me pulled me back to a past trip to Daly City with its lights as the car sped on. The other time while I flashbacked to a jaunt along San Francisco on a turn in a serpentine road.

Moving away from Ambon city leads travellers to a vista of beauty that slowly peels away the layers of jadedness wrapped around the city slicker. Beaches are ever-present although the journeys might take longer than usual which, as this citified traveller discovered, were well worth it, vertigo and all. Natsepa is one of the beaches within Ambon city with little wooden huts dotting the shoreline all selling savoury snacks. They also provide shelter when brief and sporadic rain showers pelt Ambon. A stroll along Natsepa is invigorating – you inhale fresh sea air, marvel at the cottony landscape above, feel the sea wind brushing against your cheek, and exhale all the bullshit in your life. It’s beach therapy at its best.

Welcome to Natsepa beach

Welcome to Natsepa beach

Natsepa beach_me

Natsepa's natural landscape

Natsepa’s natural landscape

Beach therapy continues at Pintu Kota although walking the shoreline and letting your feet sink into the sand is impossible. This time you ride the rolling waves vicariously as they rush to the shoreline like lovers running towards their reason for living. You gaze at the white foam billowing and fading like a CD on loop and synchronise your breathing with its rise and fall. A sense of marvel permeates the air which you breathe in and out slowly, and dissolves the egocentrism saran-wrapped to your mortality.

Namalatu beach is the last stop for the beach therapy. With the sun, wind, sand, and gentle waves, it’s a soothing meditative end to banishing the mean-spirited thoughts. You brim your soul with sangfroid and, channelling Eduardo Briceno’s philosophy, a growth mindset.

Breezy and sunny Namalatu beach

Breezy and sunny Namalatu beach

Liang beach, on the other hand, offers a different kind of beach therapy. It has a more frenzied less ruminative vibe than the past beaches. This is the beach to let loose: get on a banana boat, paddle in a catamaran, drift in a floater, or simply jump into the water. On dry land, lovers cuddle, others take selfies, and picnickers laze on the ground eating Popmie noodles, corn, and sukun bought from the roving vendors or kiosks.

Liang beach - the centre of fun and water activities

Liang beach – the centre of fun and water activities

Care for a banana boat ride?

Care for a banana boat ride?

Or rent a floater?

Or rent a floater?

Buy a container of water for Rp2,000 so you can bathe and change.

Buy a container of water for Rp2,000 so you can bathe and change.

The bridge at Liang beach - it gets packed on holidays and weekends.

The bridge at Liang beach – it gets packed on holidays and weekends.

Ambonese are huge foodies and topping their food list is seafood. Grilled seafood restaurants are a dime a dozen in Ambon. Décor-wise, some are better than others but the freshness of the fish is undeniably a standard well maintained by every restaurant owner. There’s always a huge icebox (freezer for those more sophisticated rumah bakar or grill house) that diners have to look into to choose the fish and shrimp to be grilled before heading to the table. Just like the icebox, each rumah bakar also serves its own version of the Ambonese sambal (roughly translated as sauce) called colo-colo (pronounced cholo-cholo) which is a mixture of hot chilli, sliced tomato, shallot, lime leaves, kawangi (basil), and palm sugar sauce. Kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) is a good substitute for the palm sugar. Colo-colo adds that flavourful kick to the palate once it collides with the grilled fish and rice. Also de rigueur in the rumah bakar is eating with one’s hand, but they do provide cutlery if you ask.

Grilling the fish at Bambu Kuning

Grilling the fish at Bambu Kuning

Lunch is served at Bambu kuning grill house. That's colo-colo in the bowl.

Lunch is served at Bambu kuning grill house. That’s colo-colo in the bowl.

It's a feast at Rasa Gurih RM ikan bakar.

It’s a feast at Rasa Gurih RM ikan bakar.

Snacking takes on a slightly different form. “The Ambonese don’t like sweet stuff, Ms,” explained Theresia Kafroly Sabono, true-blue Ambonese and my excursion group leader. “They prefer savoury snacks.”

By savoury snacks she meant sukun that resembles a jackfruit and has the texture of bread. It’s an addictive snack that would have you grabbing slice after slice of the deep fried bread fruit until there’s nothing left on the plate. Other snacks are boiled sweet corn, pisang goreng (banana fritters) smeared with or dipped in chilli sauce, and rujak. Rujak is chopped mixed fruits viz. papaya, mango, and pineapple, mixed with ground peanuts, chilli, and palm sugar. Sans the chilli paste, rujak doesn’t lose its flavour either. It’s just, well, sweeter.

One ear of sweet corn costs between Rp5,000 and Rp7,000.

One ear of sweet corn costs between Rp5,000 and Rp7,000.

Ready for your plate of rujak?

Ready for your plate of rujak?

The momentary jarring of sensibilities of a city slicker who lands at Ambon for the first time with the unsettling bathroom issue casting the first assault is a fleeting moment. It’s like a slight pinch on the arm that’s quickly forgotten the moment one opens up and takes in everything about Ambon – the landscape, food, the language (very different from the Indonesian spoken in Jakarta), and, not to forget, the gorgeous men with their strong, well-defined features.

Danke Usi su baronda di Ambon,” said Theresia.*

Saya menikmati baronda Ambon. Danke Usi Theresia,” I quipped proudly having picked up a little bit of Ambonese lingo.

* Thank you, Auntie, for going around Ambon.

Additional photos by Lidia Wagiu and Theresia Kafroly Sabono

SOAKING WET

Wide passage ways leading to the various slides and the food court at Go! Wet.

Wide passage ways leading to the various slides and the food court at Go! Wet.

Which way to go at Go! Wet?

Which way to go at Go! Wet?

Others would simply cringe at my bizarre idea of escaping the Asian sun: a book, a nice cup of Joe, and a shaded area. Like fish to water, friends, relatives, and colleagues generally prefer to head to where the nearest beach is. Unfortunately, in Jakarta, the nearest beach entails a hellacious journey to Ancol (pronounced An-chol) given Jakarta’s infamous traffic jams.

Lucky for the water babies in Bekasi, which is 45 minutes away from Jakarta on a good, almost once-in-a-blue-moon day, a water theme park has opened. Called Go! Wet, it is located in Grand Wisata Bekasi, and boasts intricate, heart-thumping water slides all the way from White Water Canada that would satisfy every pseudo-aqua man or mermaid yearning to beat the heat. Further water adventures can be experienced in Go! Lazy, a river landscape that features rapids for the intrepid swimmer who might want a little more than gentle swaying of the waves. The gentle waves are at the Go! Wave section where you sway to and fro while seated on a huge, green floater. And for those who really yearn for that elusive adrenaline rush, there is the Go! Twist that features a curved tunnel for a heart-thumping, scream-inducing trip from the top to the bottom.

Go! Splash slide greets park goers after they go through the turnstile.

Go! Splash slide greets park goers after they go through the turnstile.

A meal or a drink can be had at the food court.

A meal or a drink can be had at the food court.

My view of Go! Wet from my table at the food court.

My view of Go! Wet from my table at the food court.

I found my temporary niche at a table at the food court facing the water slides while my friends and colleagues from Global Prestasi School (GPS) scattered about the 7.5 hectare water park. Go! Wet was this year’s venue for the annual teachers’ gathering to mark the end of another school year, and as a way to enhance – or maintain – social ties among the teachers from the three units of GPS (i.e. elementary, junior high, and senior high), support team, and management.

So, as they got themselves soaking wet, I stayed dry and relaxed at the food court, sipping my white coffee from Old Town White Coffee while perusing Pisani’s Indonesia Etc.

Go! Spin (forefront) and Go! Twist

Go! Spin (forefront) and Go! Twist

Wave pool (left) and other slides

Wave pool (left) and other slides

Beat the heat at the wave pool.

Beat the heat at the wave pool.

Go! Wet

Grand Wisata Bekasi Jl. Southern Boulevard Kav 1

Web: http://www.gowet-grandwisata.com

Hours: 1000-2000 (weekdays) | 0900-2000 (weekends and national holidays)

ESCAPADE 1: SINGAPORE

Channeling Erika of the "Daimos" anime  at Alive Museum

Channeling Erika of the “Daimos” anime at Alive Museum

It used to be a frequent occurrence, these escapades that Fistri and I embarked on. Whenever our schedules would permit, we’d fly off somewhere. We’d escape from our respective realities and let our problems hang for a while. I distinctly remember trips to Lombok and Manado, where we unplugged and took in the local culture and landscape. Now the set-up is slightly different, as I’d relocated to Indonesia so schedules have become even more difficult to synchronize.

Fast forward to Friday mid-morning in September. I am in a Blue bird taxi – one of the most reliable taxis in Indonesia – heading to Soekarno-Hatta airport from Kalimalang, which is at the opposite end of the airport. Traffic is nice and easy until we hit Tebet and everything crawls not like Disney’s Turbo before the transformation. It has been more than months since I’d been into town and the traffic situation has, apparently, deteriorated; it is only 1030 in the morning and it is rush hour traffic. After an hour or so, it was smooth cruising to the airport that I even had more than enough time to enjoy a bowl of udon at Sakana Japanese Restaurant before heading to the check-in counter.

 

I am finally taller than a basketball player.

I am finally taller than a basketball player.

Gal-pal Fistri gets a quick shower from the grumpy Merlion.

Gal-pal Fistri gets a quick shower from the grumpy Merlion.

Singapore is an idyllic weekend escape destination because, first, it is such a short flight – close to an hour and 25 min – from Jakarta and, second, there is always something new to do within the next 72 hours. Alive Museum, explained my gal-pal Fistri, is one of the latest attractions to keep visitors busy in the Garden City. It wasn’t a disappointment. As Fistri commented in her Facebook page, “…I definitely recommend them than the Trick Eye Museum (in Sentosa) – more space to move and more exhibits, and the door guys (at the entrance) are really nice. They tell you that the exhibits take an hour so they tell you nicely to go to the loo, which is just next door.”

Freezing in Singapore!

Freezing in Singapore!

I got to stop a bus loaded with the global head honchos; hang on for dear life from a pole suspended above the city; and soar through the air in a house with the cute kid from the movie Up among other quirky situations.

Stop the bus! I want to board!

Stop the bus! I want to board!

OMG! How did I get up here?

OMG! How did I get up here?

Ironman flies by Singapore

Ironman flies by Singapore

Mary Jane wouldn't mind or would she?

Mary Jane wouldn’t mind or would she?

How many can fit in my bag?

How many can fit in my bag?

Here we go again! How did I end up in this house up in the air?

Here we go again! How did I end up in this house up in the air?

The downside is when the museum gets packed and taking snapshots means having to wait for the multitude before you to finish or bear with the photo-bombers who unceremoniously enter the picture frame.

The latest mermaid of the kingdom under the sea.

The latest mermaid of the kingdom under the sea.

New food places are also part of the Singapore landscape. Fluff Bakery is at the corner of Jalan Pisang. From afar, one can see if a queue is in place, but, fortunately that Saturday afternoon the queue was remarkably absent much to my glee. I rushed in like a lover rushing to the arms of her beau – cupcakes work up my romantic, simile-writing side – and proceeded to gawk at the bakery. Then Mama Fluff – owner cum baker – materialized from the kitchen and I was star-struck, which is quite a rarity on my part. She was the bubbly baker I imagined her to be; her bakers were equally exuberant as they greeted and packed cupcakes. Fluff Bakery is only a buy-and-go bakery. A few doors away from Fluff Bakery was a serendipitous find. Cake Love offers shoppers and tourists alike a haven to cool their heels after walking about the city. Although they also serve cupcakes and cakes, my curiosity was piqued by the Red Velvet waffle topped with ice cream, which proved an excellent choice. Together with the chocolate syrup and scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, the waffle was not par for the course. It was sweet but not to the point of saccharine, and crispy with every bite.

Fluff Bakery

Fluff Bakery

Red Velvet waffle from Cake Love

Red Velvet waffle from Cake Love

Catching a show was part of the escapade to-do-list, and I finally caught “Potted Potter: An Unauthorized Harry Experience”, a parody of the hit “Harry Potter” books by JK Rowling. That the show condenses the seven books into a 70- minute show and has an interactive quidditch game piqued my interest, goading me to book a ticket to Singapore and book a seat Raffles Hotel’s Jubilee Hall months in advance. There is also the fact that I had missed the show twice – when they performed in Singapore some time back and when they also performed in the Philippines. It was a riot – the good, side-bursting kind.

Benjamin Stratton says hello before the start of the show.

Benjamin Stratton says hello before the start of the show.

Jubilee Hall at Raffles Hotel was the venue for the Potted Potter show.

Jubilee Hall at Raffles Hotel was the venue for the Potted Potter show.

James Percy, the other star of the show, gets ready.

James Percy, the other star of the show, gets ready.

Escapade completed. It is truly imperative to escape from a world that is teeming with bureaucracy, inanity, and whatever makes a place untenable. An escape over the weekend is, without a doubt, what a doctor would suggest when you’re just about ready to hurl the red ball pen at the next person that knocks on your office door despite the aroma of lavender fragrance oil wafting through the air. Escapade two should be just around the corner.