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
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
Jellyfish
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! 🙂

Advertisements

Kawinan di Indonesia

Post ini ditulis saat saya lagi nunggu boarding di bandara Sultan Hassanudin Makassar, ceritanya mau pulang ke Jakarta setelah business trip selama 1 hari (bentar banget ya!).

Dilihat dari judulnya, saya bukan akan nulis soal Makassar atau kerjaan saya disini, tapi soal kawinan!

Berawal dari iseng-iseng liat foto waktu malam minggu kemarin datang ke resepsi pernikahan (singkatnya kita sebut kawinan) teman di handphone, saya jadi kepikiran diskusi saya sama pacar.

Waktu itu saya lagi telponan sama pacar pas dijalan menuju ke sebuah kawinan. Dia bilang, “wah asik dong kamu bakal makan makan enak!” Saya bilang, “yah belum tentu sih.. Kalau masih ada.” Masalahnya saya kalau datang kawinan hobinya mepet, undangan jam 7-9 malam saya biasanya datang jam 8an.. Jadi salah saya sendiri sih kalau ngga kebagian makanan hehehe. Kalaupun datang cepat dan makanan masih melimpah, saya memang jarang bernafsu makan di kawinan, karena biasanya lebih sibuk haha-hihi atau foto-foto.

Ketika saya bilang gitu, pacar saya yang sudah lebih dari 10 tahun meninggalkan Indonesia itu jadi bingung kalau saya cerita ngga makan di kawinan, apalagi kalau saya ke kawinan numpang salaman sama pengantin nya doang lalu lanjut ke kawinan lainnya karena dapet 2 undangan sekaligus dalam sehari (rekor saya 4 kawinan dalam sehari! Hahaha).

Maklum, kalau di luar negeri tuh kawinan biasanya berupa sitting dinner ya, kayak di film-film gitu kan? Pokoknya pacar saya itu selalu cerita betapa melimpah dan enaknya masakan di kawinan. Hehehe.

Nah, kebetulan banget nih di kawinan yang malam minggu kemarin itu saya makan banyak! Hahaha, padahal lagi-lagi undangan jam 7 saya datangnya jam 8 lewat hampir setengah 9, tapi surprisingly makanan masih banyak, bahkan saya bisa makan main course sampai 2x hahahaha.

Saya jadi seru sendiri keasikan makan dan minta teman fotoin saya dengan makanan-makanannya untuk dikirim ke pacar 🙂 ini dia hasilnya…

20140609-164614-60374217.jpg

Kalo kamu yang di Indonesia, datang ke kawinan biasanya makan banyak atau ngga?

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
Solvang-Windmill
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
Aebleskiver

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
Pier
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 🙂

What happened in May

Hello! It’s been a while since my last post…

On my last post I managed to write about how my family was going to move into a new house. THAT happened – we are now settling in at our new home in South Tangerang area (which makes me officially a commuter because my work is in Jakarta :p). What I did not get to write was the fact that I had to move to another office as well, right at the same week with moving out from the old house!

The decision to move to another office happened quite of a sudden. I’m still an employee of the same company, but for the next 6 months I’ll be on a short term assignment in another business unit (that’s as simple as I can explain!).. therefore have to move office to Central Jakarta. What makes it ironic is that we moved to a house closer to my old office in South Jakarta – yet I have to move to a more distant office… sigh.

Anyway, while I am still adjusting to my daily commute and Jakarta’s hell of a traffic… I managed to escape for a while, twice! 😀
May was indeed a good month for travelers because in Indonesia we had so many public holidays. I went to Derawan islands , East Borneo with a group of friends, and the next week after went on a solo backpacking trip to Taipei.

Here’s a sneak peek of the pictures, before I write about those trips more detailed! 🙂

Sunriseee!
Sunrise at Maratua Island
In Taipei's Chiang Kai Sek Memorial Hall
In Taipei’s Chiang Kai Sek Memorial Hall

Until later! Promise I will write again soon! 🙂

On moving.

Quick update : My family is moving to a new house!!!

This is major to us, since we are moving from the first house that my parents bought during their marriage. We wanted to stay, but the house seems to get bigger and bigger as the family become smaller and smaller… so we made a brave decision – move out to a smaller house!

Though the discussion to move has been around since 2 years ago, we never really market the house seriously. We did not put ads – only casually mentions it to several friends and relatives. But then early this year we were approached by a serious buyer, had some negotiations… and then sealed the deal.

Then came the house-searching part. Boy it was sooo hard to find the “it” house! Location, price, neighborhood, design… all those things to consider really got me (almost) insane! hahaha. Being the first born, mum sort of handed over the nitty gritty stuff to me. But, finally we found “the one” and will move there early next month. Will tell stories on the new house later after we have settled in 🙂

It is sad to leave the house that I grew up in. At the moment I’m still covered with excitement of the new place.. but I know that deep down I’m going to miss my old house so much, considering that’s the only house I know when growing up. I still can’t imagine how I would feel on moving out day…. wish me luck!!

The Croissant Quest! [1]

I love Croissant!
I think my love for this yummy buttery pastry first started when I lived in Bournemouth. There was this small French bakery near the town centre which I often visit – and even though I had eaten croissant before, the croissant there was the most delicious that I’ve ever had!

Now, as I am back living in Jakarta, I often feel the crave for good croissant. It’s not a hard thing to find a bakery/cafe which sells one, because croissant is such a common menu in bakeries/cafes. BUT… not everyone can make a good one. Especially in here in Jakarta.

So, I’m doing a croissant quest! I’ll review as many as possible in my quest of finding the best croissant in town.

Let’s start with PAUL Patisserie. This bakery is located in Pacific Place, Jakarta Selatan. This one is a renowned bakery from Europe, and I am already familiar with their hot chocolate which I often bought when in London. Here, the croissant is priced at IDR 18k. It looks ordinary, altough seems perfectly baked. But, it tastes good – crunchy and crispy outside yet moist inside. It’s quite buttery too, and I like it for that. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

20140226-235946.jpg
Paul’s Croissant – dine in

However…. I actually bought two of them , 1 left intentionally to be eaten the next day for breakfast. What happened was really surprising though. The croissant became SUPER EXTREMELY MOIST AND BUTTERY  – I have to use capslock so that you can get a sense of how good it was. Really, I died and went to croissant heaven. Try it for yourself, buy the croissant, leave it overnight in your cupboard and eat it without reheating it the next morning. SUPER DELISH. I give it 5  out of 5 stars!

Paul
Paul’s Croissant – the morning after!

Conclusion: Paul’s croissant tastes SO MUCH BETTER when left overnight – it deserves 5 stars, no doubt about it.

See you on the next Croissant Quests!

The US Trip: I Left My Heart in San Francisco!

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

The trip to San Francisco happened rather unplanned during my US Trip. I wanted to visit but it was not in my main itinerary as I was aware that it’s a 6hour-ish drive from Los Angeles and I had a tight schedule around LA and Orange County.

However, I suddenly got an invitation to visit a relative of mine who found out that I was in California from my mum. At first I wanted to visit on the weekend but because of her schedule, I had to make the trip the next day. I remember it was a Wednesday afternoon after I finished talking with my relative on the phone and confirming my visit – I immediately searched for ways of public transportation from LA to SF… and I was a bit surprised to find Megabus! Back in the UK, I loooooved Megabus. They’re my savior because they have offers as cheap as £1 to travel to London’s neighboring cities. Anyway, thanks to Megabus I found cheap LA to SF tickets. The coach left LA (Union Station) at Thursday midnight and arrive in SF (Caltrain Station – 4th and King St) at around 7 in the morning.

The journey was really convenient for me (except the fact that me and R did not get seats next to each other – the coach was full), I could sleep almost all the way and woke up just when we were about to arrive.

Since we arrived at 7 in the morning and my appointment with my relative was not until 3 in the afternoon, we had some time to kill and decided to wander around town. We did not have specific itinerary, all I thought was to visit some of the obvious tourist spots if possible.

Then I used google maps to find out where we were, and how far we were from Pier 39, Chinatown, or Union Square. We were surprised to found out that Chinatown was only 20 mins walk away and then another 20 mins-ish walk would take us to Pier 39!

So we walked. Our first destination was Chinatown because we wanted to have dim sum breakfast. I actually don’t remember the name of that dim sum restaurant that we went to, but there are a lot of dim sum restaurants in the area – you can always choose one (tip: use Yelp if you want to check out the reviews.. really helpful!). It was an enjoyable walk despite the gloomy weather – compared to sunny LA, weather in SF can be discouraging! but I love SF’s city centre. There’s something about the vibe that the city has, not to mention the architecture was just very easy on the eyes.

After breakfast, we walked again to Pier 39, another 20 mins walk. Because the sun’s up by then, it wasn’t as cold and gloomy as when we first walked to Chinatown – thus made it even more enjoyable!  There are a lot of small shops and stalls in the area, it’s indeed a pretty sightseeing spot (You can see the Golden Gate Bridge from a far!). Plus, I also got to see some seals! Verrrryy cute. Pier 39 is next to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we had a quick lunch at the famous Bistro Boudin. It was, indeed, quite a splurge, but totally worth it.

Pier 39
At Pier 39

From Fisherman’s Wharf, we went back to the city centre because we wanted to see Union Square. But we did not walk back… This time we took the famous Cable Car! Woohooo! It cost us $6 for a single ride ticket and you can easily purchase the ticket in one of the stations (tip: my ticket can be used as 10% off voucher in Ghirardelli chocolate stores – another must visit in town!).

Union Square is almost like the heart of San Francisco to me. I love to see how people was able to sit outdoors and enjoy their time. For shopping lovers, this is the place for you. Macy’s, Uniqlo, and other high street brands are in this area 😀

Union Square
Union Square

Then it’s time to meet my relative. We met her at Ghirardelli Square. It’s another tourist spot – apparently the building is quite historic. But despite the historical facts, they have one of the best chocolates I’ve ever tasted. For sure! There’s a park in the area too.. again, I love city parks as it’s almost a luxury in Jakarta.

We also met R’s friend and then the four of us went for another round of sightseeing – this time R’s friend drove us around. Our first stop was Lombard Street. There’s really nothing there –  it’s just a residential area…. BUT with stellar view. Perfect for pictures!

Lombard Street
View from Lombard Street. In love!

Of course, we HAD to see the Golden Gate Bridge. If you were to take public transportation, this link should help. There were some spots to take pictures with the bridge in the background, and you can do some sightseeing too. We didn’t spend too much time here, simply just click and go!

Golden Gate
Golden Gate Bridge

Last but not least, we went for a quick sightseeing trip to Treasure Island. Though it was too cold to stay for a long time, I was sooo happy to be able to see such breathtaking view of SF’s city lights from a far. Too bad both my iPhone AND camera ran out of battery by then.. So I didn’t get to take any pictures! (boohoo). But feel free to browse some images curated by the lovely google here. After Treasure Island, we went back to our bus station to catch the midnight bus back to LA.

So that’s how we spent 16 hours in San Francisco. I guess we pretty much covered anything… well, most of tourist spots for sure. I fell in love with San Francisco instantly even after such short visit.. and of course, would love to come back again and spend more time.