Bits of England in Singapore

Last weekend I went to Singapore with my friends, Yovita and Poppa. We went to the same university in the UK and live very close to each other. This was our first holiday together after returning home to Indonesia, so despite the short visit, we were so excited! Our main intention to visit Singapore was to go to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights. During the event, the theme park opened until 2AM and there were special sections, i.e mazes, scare zones, etc.. all with the intention to make us scared! hahaha. None of us are actually that brave, but we just wanted to have fun! Unfortunately I was too caught up with excitement and forget to use my camera that often so I don’t have a lot of pictures with me… here’s one group picture with our new “friend”, the creepy creature, hehehe.

Halloween Horror Nights
Group picture with our creepy new friend :p

Now although the trip to Universal was fun and entertaining, surprisingly, that’s not the highlight of the trip for me. What makes the trip so memorable was the fact that I got to find bits of England in Singapore! Yayyyy! It started with our lunch right after we arrived in Singapore on Saturday afternoon. We went straight to Bugis from the airport, only to eat at Nando’s. This used to be our favorite restaurant back in Bournemouth – we looooove their peri – peri chicken!

Peri – peri heaven!

After going to Universal on Saturday night, we were scheduled to go home on Sunday afternoon. Since our flight was not until 6.20 PM, we had enough time to wander around town. We chose to wander around Orchard road, being purely tourist, hahahaha. When we got off the bus from our hotel at Somerset station, I was sooo surprised to find a Costa Coffee branch! Costa Coffee is a British coffee shop and they have one branch at my university. I used to go there almost every day just to buy coffee of hot chocolate to bring to class, or spend some time working on our group projects with my friends. I didn’t know that they opened a branch in Singapore already. So I immediately went inside the store and bought my all time favorite – vanilla latte and butter croissant. So happy!

Costa Coffee
Reunited with Costa!

Not only Costa, Singapore surprised me again when I found Muller yogurt in a supermarket when I was going to buy bottled water. The yogurt brand was my favorite and it used to be my daily snack back in the UK! I don’t think they have this flavor back then, but it tasted soooo good. Plus, they were on sale because they’re about to expire next week. I bought one and ate it immediately, consider it as my dessert after lunch.

Used to be my daily snack…

Last but not least, I found a Ben’s Cookies outlet in Wisma Atria – another popular mall in Orchard Road. Again, this is another favorite snack from my UK days. They simply have the best cookies, soft and chunky! I used to go to their London’s Oxford Street branch whenever I was in town.. finding their branch in Singapore  really made me happy. I don’t mean to be exaggerating but having a bite after all these years almost bring me to tears! hehehe.

Ben's Cookies
My favorite cookies!

Although the trip was very short, I had lots of fun, from wandering around Bugis, going to Universal, spending some quality time with my friends, and of course.. finding British foods which bring me happy memories! Thank you Singapore, looking forward to my next visit! 🙂

Where should we go?

Me and a group of friends are planning to go on a vacation early next year. There are four of us – we’ve known each other since we all started working in the same company back in 2011. They are more than just colleagues though.. I’m glad I can call them best friends.

We actually started to become close after we went on a tour to Karimun Jawa islands back in 2012. Afterwards, we have been to Mt. Bromo, and Derawan islands.. and we also hang out very often. One of us has gotten married and one of us might be leaving the company soon.. so we think it’s a good idea to go on a “quality time” kind of trip.

The thing is, our past travels have always been adventurous, backpacking style. The place was all special and beautiful, but the itinerary was always packed, leaving us with very little time to chill. Thus, this time we want to go somewhere relaxing.. or at least not that adventurous.

Now here comes the “drama”. It’s soooo hard for us to agree on a destination. We’ve agreed on a budget and timeline. We want to spend maximum IDR 7.000.000 for a 4 days trip around February – March next year… ideally abroad because we’ve never been abroad together and we think it will be nice to have a different kind of experience. With that budget and time limitation, South East Asia seems the only feasible region to go to. The four of us each proposed a “to-go” and also “no-go” destination.

For me, the choice is Singapore for “to-go” and Vietnam for “no-go”. Singapore is basically an obvious choice. It’s so close to Indonesia and I think we would enjoy the city getaway plus chillin’ at the hip cafes… a different kind of vacation from the ones that we’ve always been. That 7 million budget would suits us nicely, I think we can even splurge a little while we’re there. Why no Vietnam? I’ve been on a solo trip to Ho Chi Minh City and I have to say that it’s not for me. My friends might enjoy it though, but I think it will be another backpacking/adventurous kind of holiday… so I’d prefer not to go there.

The problem is.. Singapore is on one of my friend’s “no-go” list! Hahaha. Though I love her dearly, I still don’t get why she doesn’t like to go to Singapore. I mean… it’s Singapore! (Okay just like her, I’m prolly being totally subjective hahaha). We discussed about Hongkong.. which quickly sent to no-go destination because we think it would not suit our budget. We also discussed Manila but my Filipino colleague told me it’s just like Jakarta. She recommended the beaches though.. Boracay, Palawan.. which we are very much interested to go but kind of unsure about the weather. Kuala Lumpur was quickly sent to no-go as well because two of us spent college years there and would very much prefer to go somewhere else. But, I recently read Noni’s post on Penang and it looks like a very nice town to visit.. Hmmm.

Seems like first world problem? hahaha kind of! :p

Of course there are tons of wonderful destinations in Indonesia that we can visit. An easy one, Bali. I’m pretty sure we can do a lot with that budget and time allocation. Exploring East Indonesia? for sure! We are always talking about going to Ora Beach. Reading Fe’s post on Maluku makes me want to pack my bags and leave ASAP! Of course we can’t forget about Komodo Islands and Nusa Tenggara. West Indonesia is a charm as well.. none of us has been to Medan and its surroundings (Again, Noni’s post kind of inspires me to go!).

So many destinations, so many inspirations, minimal budget and time allocation…. Hahahaha.

Can you help us? where do you think we should go? 😀


Hello Taipei!

To Indonesian travelers, Taiwan  might be a less popular destination compared to its Asian neighbors –  Mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea or Japan. Japan has been a popular tourist destination for so long, while South Korea are beginning to grow its popularity thanks to K-Pop culture boom. Of course, Hong Kong is famous as a shopping destination, while Mainland China .. well.. I guess is famous for its scenery and culture.

Now let’s talk about Taiwan. Before I made a proper research on this country, I only knew two cities – Taipei and Kaohsiung. That’s because some of my uni friends are from there. So  basically I had zero knowledge. But, since the last two years, Taiwanese food are getting more common in Jakarta – there are more and more Taiwanese food restaurants opening here, especially dessert house and boba tea joints. They are mushrooming in Jakarta, and very often you have to queue to get a seat.

So how did I end up going to Taipei? Well,  early this year I went to a travel fair in Jakarta – wanted to find cheap airline tickets for my next travel. There were a lot of booths from different tourist agencies and travel agents, including those popular Asian countries I mentioned before. Then there was a Taiwan booth as well. My initial reaction was.. “Well wouldn’t it be nice to go to Taipei where I can eat authentic Taiwanese food? It must be nice to have boba tea all day long!” Hahaha, not exactly like that but I was interested to go , I wanted to try authentic Taiwanese food. Plus, with my valid US tourist visa, I don’t need to apply for Taiwan Visa, just need to register online as they have some exceptions program. Long story short, I bought the ticket (50% off with China Airlines!), and was scheduled to go in May for 3 nights.

Then came May. The trip was scheduled right a week after my Derawan trip, but I was so excited to go. Though I was traveling alone,  I have made some arrangements to meet with my university friends who live in Taipei. I arrived Sunday afternoon after a 5 hour flight from Jakarta, and went straight to my hostel – Mr. Lobster’s Secret Den Hostel which is located within walking distance from Taipei Central Station. I’ll probably write a separate blog post about this hostel but I would gladly recommend it if you’re traveling to Taipei on a budget like myself.

After I checked in and had quick shower, I went to Taipei 101 mall to meet with my university friends for dinner at the famous Din Tai Fung restaurant. The restaurant is famous for its Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) and although it has chains all over the globe now, still worth to try when in Taipei.

The next day, I traveled across town – by foot and by their excellent MRT system. It was sooo easy to get around despite being a non-Chinese speaker. No worries, almost all directions I saw are written in both Chinese and English language.

Inside the MRT … clean and comfortable!

My first destination that day was Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (tip: they have changing of the guards parade every hour – similar to the one in Buckingham Palace!), then  Dr.Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall which is not far away. Besides having pretty architecture, I enjoyed visiting both sites for quick history crash course! 😀

Afterwards, I went to Taipei 101 building again to have lunch and went to the observatory deck. Did you know that Taipei 101 used to be the world’s tallest building until there’s Burj Khalifa in Dubai? It was fun to be able to see beautiful Taipei scenery from the indoor observation deck at the 89th floor. There’s also an outdoor one at 91st floor but I only managed to make it to the stairs hahaha.. too afraid to went outside!

Taipei – seen from Taipei 101’s observation deck

Now, as you can see from the picture above, Taipei has both tall buildings and hills as well as mountains. So.. my next destination was to hike Elephant Mountain! It’s not far from Taipei 101 and it’s included in almost Taipei travel guide I read. The trail is not too long.. I finished it in around 35 minutes one way. They said it’s best to go there in the afternoon, close to sunset time as you would be able to see magnificent Taipei view. Too bad it was cloudy when I was there.. So I did not bother to wait for sunset nor did I managed to get a spectacular shot of the city view I saw. But still, it was worth to visit. And if you decided to visit, hopefully you’ll be able to take a better shot than what I got here…

View from the top of Elephant Mountain, you can see Taipei 101 for a far!

From Elephant Mountain I went back to my hostel, had a quick shower and managed to browse the neighborhood real quick before going to my next destination. Here’s a picture I took :

Q Square – next to Taipei Main Station

My next destination was Ximending. I met another friend from university and she took me for a sightseeing/window shopping around the area. Popular to teens, this place is similar to Shibuya in Japan or Times Square in New York (never been to New York but I think it is indeed similar from the pictures I saw!), full of shops and neon lights. There are a lot of shops selling cute accessories and clothes.. also Taiwanese snacks. Do visit for a little shopping spree 🙂

Ximending. Looks like Shibuya or Mini Times Square!

My day did not end there as before I went back to the hostel, I managed to find Eslite 24 hour bookstore.. just because I’m curious to see if people really visit bookstores after 10 PM. Turns out they still do! It was still crowded even when I got there at past 10.30PM! Wow!

Eslite 24 hour bookstore

The next day was my last day in Taipei. I visited MOCA Taipei which is located near my hostel then traveled far north to Tamsui District… still using MRT – a 40 minutes ride only. I visited the old street and waterfront, as well as the fisherman’s wharf. Again, weather was not on my side as it was cloudy – even raining for a bit! However, I loved wandering around the area, which I think has a perfect mix of culture and modernisation.

Tamsui Old Street

In the afternoon, I had an appointment with my friend as I asked her to take me to the best beef noodle soup in town. Her choice was  Lin Dong Fang‘s beef noodle soup and I could not agree more with her! The restaurant was small, basically people just come there to eat. My friend told me that during lunch time and after working hours, people would have to queue to eat there. Lucky we came there at 5 – right before people got off from work so there was no queue at all and we could eat happily 😀

Beef noodle soup
BEST beef noodle soup I’ve had!

From there we traveled south to ride Maokong Gondola to went up the hill. My friend told me it’s a nice place to sit and drink some tea as there are a lot of tea houses. The interesting part about my gondola ride is that they are decorated in Hello Kitty theme, plus some of them has crystal cabins!

Hello Kitty themed gondola at Maokong Gondola… cute!

After spending some time in the hill, we went to Shilin Night Market. I think I don’t need to explain much about this place as the name sort of explains itself. Of all the night markets in Taipei, I think this one’s the most popular.. especially for hawker food. Trust me everything I had there is super delicious.. and cheap. Going there was definitely a feast! Lucky as I went there with my friend and she understands that I don’t eat pork , she chose only the foods that do not contain pork for me. If you don’t speak Chinese and don’t eat pork as well – it might be handy to write down some phrases to be asked to the food seller before you buy something.. as the sellers there speak very limited English, if not at all.

Yummy street food at Shilin Night Market

So that concludes my 3 nights in Taipei, as I left the city very early in the morning the next day. I really love Taipei for its perfect mix of modernisation, traditional culture and nature. I went there only for the food but was able to see so much more even in my short visit. Definitely will go back at some point! 🙂

The US Trip: Transit in Hong Kong

This is the second post of “The US  Trip” series. To read other posts in this series, click here.

As a took Cathay Pacific airline, I had to transit in Hong Kong on my way to Los Angeles from Jakarta. I took the morning flight from Jakarta and it took me around 4,5 hours to get to Hong Kong. My flight from Jakarta to Hong Kong was rather delightful, I slept almost all the time (only woke up when it’s time for a meal :p), and I liked the meal served to me.

As soon as I got off the plane , I immediately searched for transit guide. I could find it easily, but I had to go through some immigration and security check before I was able to enter the departures terminal. I remember queuing for quite a while for these checks, which made me began to feel tired. Walking slowly, I had no expectation when I entered the terminal. Guess what “greeted” me in front of the elevator? This.

Zara outlet

Wooohooo the airport has Zara outlet! That moment my expectation went up drastically. I began to love the airport already.. and forgot my tiredness, hahaha. My love increased when I found out that it has free wi-fi (with super speed!) everywhere! Near my departure gate, I also found a MAC outlet, two bookshops, some retail shops, and a lot of chairs. That way my transit period was almost like a leisure! I had no problem in killing time at all. Even though I did not shop, but at least I got to enjoy window shopping while killing time.

Departures terminal

Now, feeling hungry after all those window shopping? no worries at all! the airport has a selection of fast food joints (I think there are some restaurants too.. but I didn’t see it) which can keep you full in between your flihgts. My favorite – the one which also confirmed my super duper love for this airport – is Popeyes! This fast food joint, located in Departures area level 7, used to have some branches in Jakarta, but closed a couple years ago. I loved their biscuits soooo much and I couldn’t help but buy a pack for my snack while waiting for my next flight 😛 Let’s just say my 15 hours flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles went realllly smooth , partly because of my happy tummy after eating those biscuits 😀

Popeyes’ biscuits !!!

So.. that’s all for my transit in Hong Kong experience. I’ll start writing my US experience soon 🙂