22 hours in Padang!

Last weekend I went to Padang – West Sumatra for a friend’s wedding with some friends. It was my first time and albeit the short time (only 22 hours!), I really enjoyed it.

I was supposed to stay longer though (not that long, but at least passed the 24 hours mark), but I missed my flight at Saturday morning and then got transferred to a later flight on the afternoon. That flight then got delayed, so I arrived in Padang at 4PM on Saturday.

My friends and I went straight to Lamun Ombak – a local restaurant serving none other than the super delicious Padang Food!

Padang food fiesta!

It’s a common destination for those just arrived in Padang as the location is nearby the airport. Such a perfect welcome after our delayed flight! The food was delicious but it was a bit disappointing that they don’t serve Soto Padang – my favorite kind of Padang Food.

After getting our stomach full, we had a bit of time to kill before we were scheduled to meet our friend the groom. Our driver took us to Air Manis Beach – a nearby beach, famous as a surfing spot and also the legend of Malin Kundang. There’s a rock formation on the beach which is told to be the him and the remains of his ship.

Malin Kundang
Malin Kundang Rocks

The beach is supposedly pretty – to get there you would have to drive pass a hill first, which also gives you a nice experience. It’s around 30 minutes from Padang’s city centre. BUT, it is VERY dirty. I was heartbroken to see the dirty beach. There were trash all over the place, and no facilities at all. The Malin Kundang rocks is also poorly maintained, which is such a shame. I really really really wish that the government would take action to restore Indonesia’s nature spots.

Air Manis Beach, pretty but so dirty 😦

From there, we went to our hotel, checked in and had dinner with the groom and our friends. We had Martabak in Malabar Bofet & Restoran. It was one of the best Martabak I’ve had! Really satisfying. Then we went back to the hotel because the groom (obviously) needs to rest 🙂 The rest of us decided to hang out at a nearby cafe and ended up staying until 1AM, then had Soto Padang (finally!) at a nearby food stall before finally getting some rest…

The next day was the wedding day – we started the day early despite the lack of sleep, and had breakfast with the groom and his family, and his other friends in the hotel’s restaurant. Then we went to the convention centre where the ceremony was held to witness the wedding ceremony. The ceremony was finished at around 10 AM and there was an hour break before the wedding reception started at 11 AM. I stayed there until 12 PM and rushed to the airport to catch my 14.20 PM flight.

Minang Wedding
Minang Wedding!

So that’s how I spent 22 hours in Padang. Short but surely eventful 🙂 I’m happy that I was able to witness a traditional Minang wedding and had (a glimpse) of delicious Padang Food! Perhaps I’ll be back and stay longer some time.

The US Trip: Disneyland!!!

This is the ninth post of ” The Us Trip” series. To read other posts in this series, click here

How do I even begin to write about my trip to Disneyland?
Though it was not my first ever trip, but the last time I visited was back in 1998 which is.. ages ago. So this trip definitely felt like the first time again, because so many has changed.

Downtown disney
On my way!!

Disneyland is California has two theme parks under one big resort – Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. Each has its own charm ( I think the latter have more thrilling rides though), and I was lucky to be able to visit both during my (only) one day visit.

We arrived early in the morning and chose to go on a weekday to avoid long queue. We visited Disney California Adventure Park first because I remember I did not meet the height requirement for a lot of rides during my last visit! (mind you I was only 11 years old :P)

So we went and our first ride was The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Woohow! I loved it. It’s also one of the moments that made me realise that my boyfriend really loves me because he’s afraid of heights but he still wanted to go because of me! Hahaha 😀

Then we went to Radiator Spring Racers – inspired by CARS movie – make sure to  prepare for long queue for this one, but let me tell you that it’s really worth it! So fun! I also loved California Screamin’, and really wanted to go to Mickey’s Fun Wheel right next to it (pictured below) but decided not to because, you know.. my boyfriend is afraid of heights and looking at him volunteering to go to tower of terror with me is enough 🙂

We finished all those rides around lunch time, decided to have a bit of snacking (I had lots of churros in between – I LOVE Disneyland’s churro!) and went to some easy rides – Soarin’ Over California and The Little Mermaid~ Ariel Undersea Adventure before we left for Disneyland Park.

Disney California Adventure
Disney California Adventure

Then it’s time to visit Disneyland Park! Our first attraction was Haunted Mansion. Since it was near Halloween time, the mansion was decorated with Nightmare Before Christmas theme. It was fun, but not scary at all for me. We also went to Space Mountain, a classic one.

Welcome to Disneyland 🙂
Disneyland California
A sunny day in Disneyland

In Disneyland Park we spent most of our time browsing the park, wandering around different areas of the park. We took a round trip with Disneyland Railroad at Mickey’s Toontown, and basically just hang around and ate lost of snacks while waiting for the famous Disney Parade.

There’s actually a funny story when we wanted to grab Corn Dogs in one of the food carts. My boyfriend asked me, “which one do you want? with chips or bag of apples?” I instantly thought it will be nice to have corn dog and chips, because chips in my mind (which is more accustomed to British English) means fried potato and answered “chips!” excitedly. He, on the other hand, looks confused because in his (American) mind (and of course, in America – where we were) chips means.. potato chips (the snack). He thought I would prefer apples since we just had some snacks before. When the meal came, It was my turn to be confused. Then after a split second I realised that chips here means crisps in England! Hahahaha. I honestly thought it’s weird to eat corn dogs with potato crisps but anyway.. the order has been made and I had to finish it. Just a side note, here’s a list of British English/American English vocabulary which might be useful for you.. you know, just in case 😀

Okay, back to my Disneyland story. After Disney Parade, we rushed to Disney California Adventure again to watch World of Color! It was really magical and definitely worth staying until late since it started at around 9.30-10PM. My tip, do come to the area a bit early to reserve good spot. Since we just came back from Disneyland Park, we did not get a good spot and it was quite hard for me to see it.. but still, really magical.

So that concludes our trip to Disneyland resort in California. I would definitely visit again, and again, and again because it is simply, the happiest place on earth!

The US Trip: Food Fiesta!

This is the eighth post of ” The Us Trip” series. To read other posts in this series, click here.

In this post, I will simply list down the best restaurants and food joints I visited during my trip to the West Coast! Enjoy 🙂

KogiKing BBQ

I visited KogiKing right after I landed in LA. In fact, it was my first meal after more than 10 hours flight. I’m already a big fan of meat and Korean BBQ, plus I was so hungry and tired from the long journey, so I was so excited when I found out that this restaurant offers all you can eat buffet! I actually forget how much did it cost per person, but I’m sure it’s below $20. I think it’s somewhere between $15-18, which I think is a very good deal considering it would normally cost me around $15 when I eat Korean BBQ in Jakarta (not all you can eat). If you’re into meat, this is a must visit as they serve high-quality meat. If you still have some room in your tummy for side dish, do try their kimchi “lunch box” which I supposed resembles old school Korean lunch box (not Korean so I’m not sure.. hahaha). Although not my very favorite dish, the lunch box is indeed a unique dish because it’s not common in Jakarta’s Korean restaurants that I’ve been.

kogiking LA
Kogi King!

Fred 62

Still in downtown LA, Fred 62 is a typical American Diner that you’d normally see in the movies. It opens 24 hours every day… in other words, they never close! I visited Fred 62 twice during my stay in LA. The first was for breakfast where me and my friends ordered two of their breakfast menu to be shared (For me, their portion is quite big so it’s safe to share). It was delicioussss!

Big breakfast!
Big breakfast!

Then I came back again a couple days after for a late night snack after going to Local Natives’ concert. This time I had their famous bossa nova waffle. Now I’m talking about serious waffle business here. Their waffle was sooo good, fluffy and crispy at the same time.

Fred 62 waffle
Bossa Nova Waffle

Oh, one other thing! Not only they have excellent food.. Fred 62 is also the location set for Hollywood movie and TV series. You might find it familiar if you have seen the 2009 movie Spread and have been following Dexter the TV series (season 6).

In – N – Out Burger

If the East Coast has the famous Shake Shack burger.. California has In – N – Out! Many foodie articles have mentioned that this joint is one of the must visits when you’re in California. I had Animal Style burger PLUS a vanilla Milkshake. Classic American style burger, a total yummmm! 🙂

In N Out!
In N Out!

Umami Burger

Another burger joint, this one serves more fancy and unique menu. One of the must try is their truffle burger – with truffle cheese and truffle glaze. However, since I visited their Santa Monica branch, I tried the branch’s specialty instead – Oxtail Burger. It’s basically a beef burger with shredded oxtail and truffle cheese topping, which was soooo gooood. If I told you that In – N – Out is a total yum, this one too! They can’t actually be compared, both has different taste. But let me put it this way, try In – N – Out for a classic American burger, but don’t forget Umami for a feast of toppings.

Umami Burger
Umami Burger

Pampas Grill

Now this is another meat joint. Located inside LA’s farmers market, they serve Brazillian BBQ  by the pound. I can’t say much about this place except they offer one of the best meats I’ve tasted. Sooo juicy, with affordable price 😀

Pampas Grill
Meat Frenzy at Pampas Grill – Farmers Market

NBC Seafood Restaurant

Though it is originally a chinese – seafood restaurant, I visited only for their dimsum. Dimsum is only served there from 8AM – 3PM. Since they are quite famous in LA’s chinese food scene, be prepared to queue when you’re going there. The queue will be worth it though, they serve an extensive selection of yummy dimsum..

Dimsum Galore at NBC

Now, the next restaurants will not have any pictures simply because I forgot to take some. Hahaha. But keep reading, There are more yummy restaurants still to be reviewed 🙂

Gyutan Tsukasa 

Located inside Mitsuwa Marketplace in Costa Mesa – Orange County, they serve the BEST beef tongue plate that I’ve ever tasted. It is juicy, tender, and very flavorful. Beef tongue is getting more and more popular in Jakarta’s Japanese food scene and I can tell you that no one tops Gyutan Tsukasa so far.

Phil’s BBQ

This restaurant is originally located in San Diego. I did not get the chance to visit San Diego though, but I managed to visit their San Marcos branch. Serving American classic BBQ, their ribs is to die for!!! It is voted top 10 restaurants in San Diego, so be prepared to queue. Don’t worry, the queue will be worth it!

The Kickin’ Crab

Serving Cajun style seafood.. this is truly the place to have seafood fiesta. Their specialty is the seasonings, and I had the Kickin Style – Extra Mild (Hahaha.. I can’t eat spicy food). Basically you pick your seafood of choice, pick one of the available seasonings and your spice level. They have Lemon Pepper, Cajun, Louisiana, Garlic Butter, and last but not least.. Kickin Style, which is a mix of  all the mentioned seasonings. You can also choose some extras, and I would recommend you to choose corn on the cob and garlic noodles for a different experience of eating seafood.

Native Foods

If you have been reading this post and my blog.. you’d know that I’m no Vegetarian nor Vegan. However, my boyfriend successfully persuaded me to visit this restaurant – a Vegan restaurant. At first I felt hesitant, because I’ve never tasted Vegan food before, nor am I used to the lifestyle. But I finally visited just out of curiosity… and I have to say that the food was delicious! It might not be my favorite food… but it’s nice to visit for a different experience 🙂 P.S – don’t worry if you’re a first timer like me, their staffs are very friendly and would gladly recommend you some options that will suit first timers like us!

So, that’s it! I hope I can give you some ideas to visit if you happen to be around Los Angeles… 🙂

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! 🙂

Those Island Days

I’ve heard about Derawan Islands quite a lot before I finally paid a visit. The islands – located in North Kalimantan – has been frequently reviewed on magazines and travel blogs, but I kind of hesitated to go because I read that it’s still quite hard to reach – you’d have to change several methods of transportation to get to the islands. So the trip stayed in my plans almost forever, I kept talking about wanting to go, but never actually went… until last month.  Spoke to a couple of friends and gathered a group of 8 and then we registered ourselves to a travel group, called Kakaban Trip.

With Kakaban Trip, we had to pay IDR 5,600,000 for a 4 day trip, which I think is a pretty good deal considering that all expenses were covered – only exclude airport tax (IDR 40,000) and snorkeling gear rental (IDR 50,000 a day). Plus, they accept installment if you book in advance! (do check again though, price might differ since my visit..)

So we went on a Thursday morning, took the earliest flight from Jakarta to Tarakan. From Tarakan, we then had to take a speedboat for 3 hours (!!!) to finally reach Maratua Island, where our villa was located. Though it was realllly tiring but when we reached Maratua on the afternoon, I suddenly forgot that I was tired because of this view!

Maratua Paradise Resort
Maratua Paradise Resort
Maratua Island
Maratua Paradise Resort
View from our beach cottage

Because it’s almost sunset when we arrived, there was not many things to do except settling in to our lovely beach cottages, catching sunset, had some dinner and went to the bed early… because a lot of things were waiting for us the next day.

One of the best sunsets that I've seen!
One of the best sunsets that I’ve seen!

The next day, we woke up at 4, went to catch sunrise on the other side of the island, went back to the villa for breakfast and then left for island hopping! You see, Derawan Islands has a lot of islands, some big ones including Maratua. The smaller ones don’t have villas/resorts, but have beautiful snorkeling/diving spots.

First stop was Derawan Island. As predicted, this is the main island – where there are more resorts (there’s only one resort in Maratua), a lot of homestays, small restaurants, bike rentals, etc. Basically, there’s life in Derawan island. BUT… when there’s life, there’s also… trash. Junk. So disappointing, because the snorkeling spots are not that clean anymore. I spotted a big turtle AND a manta ray while I was snorkeling, so that made me very happy though. Then we went to other smaller islands and did snorkeling again. The experience was waaay better than snorkeling in Derawan Islands, the sea was way more clearer, coral reef were a lot prettier, and the beach, AAAK i lost words. Here are some pictures for your eyes to see 🙂

Derawan Islands
Bluest blue!
Derawan Islands
My personal favorite – Gusung Island!
White sands, clear sea, blue sky!
White sands, clear sea, blue sky!

On our third day, we went island hopping to the smaller islands. I don’t remember all the names, but one that really caught my attention was Kakaban Island. I visited two parts of the island –  where there’s a big lake full of sting-less jelly fish (you can swim with them!), and another one to see a pretty lagoon. We swam with the jelly fish, and spent some time in the lagoon. Interesting fact, we had to do some caving to get out of the lagoon. Definitely once in a lifetime experience!

Kakaban Lake
On our way to Kakaban Lake
I swam with the jellyfish!
Kakaban Lagoon
Kakaban Lagoon

After island hopping, snorkeling, and all the fun times in the islands, it was time to go home. We left the island the Sunday afternoon, went on another 3 hours speedboat ride (!!!), spent some time in Tarakan before finally going back to Jakarta. I really really looooove Derawan Islands, definitely worth the long journey and even the sunburn! :p oh, btw.. Do browse #thisisderawan on instagram to see more pics from me and my friends!

P.S: I would gladly recommend Kakaban Trip if you want to save the hassle in planning, because they will arrange everything for you. It may be a little bit more expensive, but saves you a lot of trouble. But, if you prefer to plan your own trip, i would say to take out Derawan Island from your itinerary and focus on the smaller islands like Maratua or Kakaban instead. Enjoy! 🙂

The US Trip: Solvang and Santa Barbara

This is the seventh post of ” The Us Trip” series. To read other posts in this series, click here.

Solvang is a city in Santa Barbara County, California. This relatively small city has very unique architecture, as it resembles a taste of Denmark. Yep, that Denmark! The city even has a copy of the famous Little Mermaid Statue , very similar to the original one in Copenhagen (I’ve never been to Copenhagen, but that’s what they say.. hahaha).

It took us around 4 hours drive from Orange County to Solvang . In between, we stopped by at Camarillo too. Camarillo is a premium outlet store which might be an option if you’re into shopping. Anyway, it was a rather pleasant drive because I got to see this kind of view…

Solvang road trip
On my way to Solvang!

In Solvang, we stayed in Hamlet Inn which is situated in (what I think is) the main road of Solvang, Mission Dr. I love this hotel! Although the building looks rather traditional from the outside, but our room has a very sleek, minimalist Scandinavian style design. Plus, they provide free bike rental which is another thing to do when you’re in Solvang, it’s really nice to bike around town!

Hamlet Inn Solvang
Hamlet Inn
Bikes at Hamlet Inn
Free Bike Rental! yay!

After checking in, spent some time exploring the neighborhood around the hotel. I think where we stayed is the tourist area since there are a lot of small shops and cafes, with very unique European architecture. Trust me I did not feel like I was in the US at all. We even saw a windmill! How cool is that ?

Mortensen's Danish Bakery
Danish Bakery
Windmill in the US?

As an afternoon snack, we tried a local delicacy which is called Aebleskiver. Well again, it is actually a Danish delicacy but since Solvang is sort of a mirror city.. it’s a must try when you’re in town. It’s like small doughnut balls with strawberry sauce and sugar.. very sweet but tasty! (Remember, I’m a sweet tooth so anything sweet goes :D) I actually forgot which shop I bought it from, but no worries there are a lot of shops which sell this dessert (some say Danish people like to eat it for breakfast too!).. so it’s easy to find in Solvang.

Aebleskiver Solvang

The next day, we had breakfast in Paula’s Pancake House just across the road and then left for Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara I think is a more popular destination, but to me it’s another beach-front city so I was more interested to see Solvang. Though we only spent a night in Solvang, it was really enjoyable since the town is indeed very pretty! It’s rather quiet so to me a night is enough to explore..

In Santa Barbara we spent some time walking in their main street, where there are a lot of retail shops and restaurants, this time is rather similar to the ones I saw in Orange County. We bought pizza to go and went to the pier to eat our lunch, but too bad it was cloudy so we did not stay long.. 😦 we only spent around 3 hours before going back to LA. Anyway, Here are some pictures :

Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara beach front
Santa Barbara Pier

So, if you’re visiting California and have some time to spend, might want to try exploring Solvang and Santa Barbara as an alternative to the bigger and more popular cities 🙂