Tag Archives: indonesia

2014: Kissing Fireworks in Alor

I don’t normally spend New Year’s Eve traveling or partying with friends. Most of the times, I’ll be reading some good books in my bed until the clock strikes 12. This year, 10 days before New Year’s Eve, a friend of a friend invited me to come with her to Alor–a small island in Eastern Indonesia. She wanted to visit some schools in the villages and asked me to do some storytelling for the local kids. I was making an impulsive decision when I said yes.

To be honest, I was pretty reluctant to spend New Year’s Eve outside the comfort of my own bedroom–remembering how last year’s New Year’s Eve celebration in Penang had turned into such a disastrous experience. However, I was happy to say that this year I didn’t regret my decision at all! 2014 began ever-so-beautifully in Alor–and I genuinely hope that the rest of the year would be as (if not more) beautiful! *cheers*

December 31, 2013, around 9:30 pm, I found myself sitting in a shack near the port in Kalabahi (the small town in the island) with my friend, Monica, and four of our new friends from Alor. We had just ordered our humble New Year’s Eve dinner for the night: some plates of rice with chicken, beef, and goat satay; hot coffee and tea, as well as some bottles of Bintang beer for our Alorese friends. The air was filled with the salty smell of the ocean, the explosion of firecrackers, and a blast of dangdut music from the nearby shack–where Alorese men and women danced festively in every possible moves. Some were already drunk from the unlimited supply of sopi (local alcoholic beverage); poured directly into people’s mouths from time to time.

In Kalabahi’s street-side, every 5 meters or so, the youths had set up their own pop-up clubs: filling empty areas or house terraces with huge speakers (blaring the kind of music you’ll hear in clubs all over the world), disco lamps, and rows and rows of beer bottles.

Everyone was laughing and enjoying the night. Me included.

I wish you all a wonderful 2014–and may you have the courage to follow your heart’s desires.

Love,
H.

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Bogor Botanical Garden

Bogor Botanical Garden is one of my favorite places in my hometown. It’s always nice to get lost in the lush canopy of green, daydreaming by the lotus pond, or reading some good books while sitting cross-legged on the grass. Built during the Dutch colonial period by Stamford Raffles, the garden houses more than 15,000 species of trees and plants, covering an area of 80 hectares. I always love to see my City of Rain as a fried egg: the yellow part is the Botanical Garden, and the white part is the town–all around it. I went to the Botanical Garden again with Patricia, Ewan, and Vidi. It was a spontaneous decision, actually.

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Bogor Botanical Garden

Ewan

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A few days before, I had just decided to let go and move on from something that had tied me down and made me sad. It was difficult, but like my dear friend Ollie said, we’ll get better in overcoming heartbreaks. And she is right. Being in the outdoors was good for me: laughing, walking for hours, taking pictures, telling stories, making jokes, eating out. For the first time after such a bad few weeks, I felt whole again. I felt genuinely happy and free. Suddenly the world turned beautiful once again.

In two days, I’ll be off to India, visiting Mumbai, Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. Again, I am hitting the road, meeting people, enjoying life, reuniting with old friends, counting my blessings, and loving myself. And when people ask me how-are-you-doing, I can just give them a huge smile and say I-am-doing-great and it’ll feel so damn good because I know that this time, I am telling the truth.

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovelies!

xx,

H.

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Making Batik in Ubud: Susuwatari Spotted A Lotus.

Batik (/ˈbætɪk/ or /bəˈtiːk/; Javanese pronunciation: [ˈbateʔ]; Indonesian: [ˈbatɪk]) is a cloth that is traditionally made using a manual wax-resist dyeing technique. UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on October 2, 2009. 

I had always wanted to learn how to make batik. The hot wax, the tracing of the lines, the coloring, the patience… I found the process both beautiful and calming; like a meditation practice. The opportunity to learn how to make batik came to me not in Yogyakarta or Solo, but in Ubud, Bali. Adit introduced me to Pak Nyoman and Ibu Rai, who own Nirvana—a small inn/gallery hidden in the midst of Ubud’s touristy Gautama Street.

Adit batik

Pak Nyoman is an Ubud-born painter who works with batik, oil paint, and water color. He had been an artist-in-residence at Bondi Pavilion, Sydney and Toorak College, Melbourne, lectured at John Kennedy Hall, Guam University, and exhibited extensively in Australia, Italy, Guam, Japan, Singapore and Switzerland. One morning, together with Adit and his cousin, Uma, I spent a day in Ubud to learn how to make batik.

The very first thing to do is to draw a pattern on the cloth with a pencil. Since it was my very first time, I decided to draw something simple and playful. I ended up drawing Susuwatari (wandering soot/ススワタリ)—that appears in Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away; who got curious due to a sudden appearance of a lotus.

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Once the drawing is finished, we continue to the second step: tracing the lines with hot wax. Dip the “canting” pen into the hot wax and make sure the canting isn’t too full, or else the wax will spill out. Before tracing the lines, blow the tip of the canting pen to make the wax flows easier. We need to concentrate during the tracing process and keep the canting pen at the right angle to ensure that the wax will continue to flow without spilling over.

batik susuwatari

batik susuwatari

Next, a more relaxing process: coloring! Don’t mix the paint with too much water if you’d like to have a vibrant color. Uma worked on a Balinese drawing with Balinese color that day—the kind you’d be seeing in cloths sold at some small shops along Kuta or Legian street stretch; while Adit worked on something more Japanese with the drawings of a fish in a pond.

batik susuwatari

batik susuwatari

batik

Once the coloring is done and the paint is dry, we need to go back to the hot wax. The next step is to glaze the paint (colored areas) with hot wax. We don’t use canting pen for this. We use a brush instead. Dip the brush into the hot wax, and glaze, dip and glaze, dip and glaze. You need to ensure that the colored surface has been glazed perfectly. You can check this by turning the cloth over; the spots you miss will be visible. Pandjul—the son of Pak Nyoman and Ibu Rai helped me in checking the missed spots and glazing them; while Bocil, the family dog, was waiting for us to finish with sleepy eyes.

batik glazing

bocil

After the glazing, the next step is to color the whole cloth. You can pick the color that you like. The cloth will then be dipped into a color solution of your selection.

batik susuwatari

And then, it’s time to get rid of all the wax in your cloth. How? By dipping the cloth into a pan of boiling water, of course!

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After that, you need to put your cloth to dry… and then you can see the results. Adit and Uma’s cloths turned out seriously stunning and beautiful! They are so talented!

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batik

And this one is mine. My batik cloth: Susuwatari Spotted A Lotus :D

batik susuwatari lotus

Would you like to learn how to make batik, too? If you’re in Ubud one day, come early in the morning to:

Nirvana Gallery
Jalan Gautama 10, Padangtegal Kaja, Ubud,
Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia. (80571)
Phone : +62.361.975415
E-mail : info@nirvanaku.com
Website : http://www.nirvanaku.com

and please pet Bocil the dog for me!

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Hiding in Bali: Here and There.

I spent another week in Bali this October. The actual plan was to meet up with Adit and Ney for our #PecahdiUbud routine at Ubud International Writers & Readers Festival; but I intentionally came a few days earlier, wanting to savor Bali by myself. No wild parties, no shopping spree. I spent those days to walk around aimlessly in shorts, sleeveless top and flip-flops: eating out, having cocktails or coffee, writing, reading, and daydreaming.

And these are some of the places where I had been hiding, alone:

Cocoon Beach Club, Jl. Double Six no. 66, Blue Ocean Boulevard, Legian.

Just come early in the morning (while it’s still empty) for breakfast, plunge into the swimming pool every once and a while, and then spend the rest of your time sunbathing while reading some good books.

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Gusto Gelato & Caffè, 67 B Jalan Umalas 2, Kerobokan, Seminyak

A tiny gem in Kerobokan! Located inside a small road, these gelato shop is offering the most delicious gelato I’ve ever tasted so far. And it’s cheap, too! For USD$2 or around IDR 20,000, you could have one luscious cup of gelato; and the portion is generous! Don’t forget to try the chocolate chili. Amazingly hot and spicy!

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Kunyit Bali, Jalan Kartika Plaza, Kuta.

Craving for some Balinese food? Stop by at Kunyit Bali. Lovely place, good food (the crispy duck is amazingly delicious), friendly staff, cozy ambience.

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Nammos Beach Club, Jalan Villa Kandara, Banjar Wijaya Kusuma, Ungasan.

Located inside the luxurious Karma Kandara resort, you need to pay USD$35 to ride an elevator down to Nammos Beach Club (the elevator ride is free for the resorts’ guests). From that particular amount, the USD$25 can be spent later on, at the beach bar, to order some food and drinks. Though it’s quite expensive, I just love the beach club. I love the service. I love the fact that you can just leave all your belongings if you’d like to go for a swim—because the staff will look after it (very important when you’re traveling alone). I love it that they have a drink called Hemingway Daiquiri.

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JuMaNa Bar, Banyan Tree Ungasan, Jl. Melasti, Banjar Kelod, Ungasan.

They said you need to have a reservation first for dinner. I came at around 4:30, saying that I just wanted to chill at the bar, and then a golf cart came to take me down from the lobby of Banyan Tree hotel to JuMaNa Bar. I sat outside, sipping their signature cocktail JuMaNa Royal (champagne flavoured with yuzu essence and Moroccan rose petal water) that tastes as ‘royal’ as its price, waiting for the sun to set.

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Corner Store, Jln. Laksmana 10A, Seminyak

Lovely place serving healthy meals; perfect for brunch or coffee-time in the afternoon. I fall in love with the smoked salmon bagel.

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Blue Point, Uluwatu.

When some friends from abroad came to Bali, I always take them to Blue Point, Uluwatu. Nothing much to do but to chill while drinking soft drinks or beers, looking at the surfers riding the waves, and telling stories while enjoying the sea breeze. Alone at Blue Point? I’ll just sit there and write for hours.

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Blue Point

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Four years and counting.

Four years ago, Nia and myself gazed at two jars full of coins on our working desk, and we thought how wonderful it would be if we could use those coins to send more kids back to school. We counted the coins and the amount could actually cover a child’s tuition fee in elementary school. We blogged about this idea (that later on we called Coin A Chance!) and invited our friends to participate in sending more Indonesian kids back to school; hoping that we could get 5 more friends to donate their coins. The news spread so much faster than we thought and on our first Coin Collecting Day, we got 30 people instead of 5, bringing along their jars of coins that all weighed around 15 kilograms.

Coin A Chance!

Four years later, we are still counting coins. All in all, around 60 kids have gone back to school (some have graduated from high school) thanks to our Coiners and Droppers in different cities across Indonesia. Coin A Chance! organizers in different cities—most of them are university students; volunteered to organize Coin Collecting Days in their cities, find the kids, and take care of all the administration procedures to send these kids back to school. We could not thank them enough for their kindness, their dedication, their time, and their enthusiasm.

Today, we’d like to thank each and everyone of you who have supported us since 2008 until today: volunteers, donors, coiners, droppers, friends, colleagues, onliners, corporations and institutions, schools, journalists… you have been such an amazing part of our wonderful journey.

Thank you so much.

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Old Town of Jakarta (Batavia)

There are only a few places I like in Jakarta: my office (seriously), the giant bookstores, coffee shops with bookshelves, the stretch of street stalls selling everything vintage in Jalan Surabaya, Seaworld and Planetarium (again, seriously), and… the Old Town area.

I love the Old Town not only because this 1.3 square kilometers area is very picturesque; but also because it reminded me of the pictures I saw in my history books. It gave me those “colonial romanticism” feeling (you know how I love to imagine myself living in a different era; the 1920s fascinates me the most).

A lazy stroll along this area is always a pleasant one. All those old buildings with beautiful architectures, street artists drawing your sketch or silhouette, tattoo stand, fortune-teller… It was unfortunate that several historical sites had been destroyed by the provincial government during the development of Jakarta, including Fortress Batavia, Gate of Amsterdam, and tram lane of Batavia (we had tram lane, once!).

I went to the Old Town again last weekend with my friend, Chris—me with my DSLR camera, running around taking pictures, and Chris with… nothing. “Who is the tourist, actually?” Chris laughed. “Yes, I am playing tourist!” I answered to that and mindlessly snapping some pictures again. Anyway, if you’re around this area, pay a visit to Warung Kota Tua. They have the best chicken noodles.

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Bali, Bursting in Ubud

I woke up to rain. To the faint smell of pandan leaves and frangipani. The sky was dark gray. The garden were glistening under the downpour. I watched the mist floating silently in the air, astounded by its ghostly appearance. A dark and wet morning in Ubud for a bunch of depressed writers. A perfect gift. When the rain subsided to drizzles, we tip-toed to the breakfast area, to avoid stepping over the offerings (banten).

Breakfast was served in a small hut next to the paddy field. The sound of Balinese gamelan, the hush of the wind, the rhythm of the raindrops, the spores of Actinomycetes. There were three of us at the table, but we did not talk much. I sipped my coffee without hurrying.

Leaving the cottage at around 10, we decided to take our separate ways. The guys went uphill, while I sat on the edge of the bridge, looking down to the mesmerizing beauty of Tjampuhan (Campuhan) river. I could spend hours just looking at the flowing water, orchestrated by the faint sounds of the birds and monkeys from the nearby forest. It was so calming, like a therapy to ignite a sense of melancholy.

Joe Forgas, a social psychologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, has spent the last decade investigating the link between negative moods and creativity. He has repeatedly demonstrated that a little melancholy sharpens the spotlight of attention, allowing us to become more observant and persistent. Forgas has found that states of sadness also correlate with better writing samples; subjects compose sentences that are clearer and more compelling. Because they were more attentive to what they were writing, they produced more refined prose, the words polished by their misery*.

That was probably the exact reason why the three of us decided to hide in Ubud for a few days.

True, it was that time of the year when they held this annual International Ubud Writers & Readers Festival—where writers from all over the world came to this little dot on the map for a series of talks, readings, or workshops. But the festival was merely an added topping. The core ingredient of our #PecahdiUbud (“Bursting in Ubud“) journey was actually the one that Forgas mentioned.

We were looking for a place where we could savor the melancholy of being silently depressed and miserable.

Ubud was just the perfect place to do this. A small village hidden beneath the lush canopy of green, with its forests, rivers, hills, temples, and October rain, far from the beach-side’s sunny celebrations. A bunch of traveling companions who could understand these shared state-of-sadness. Those who wouldn’t mind to sit together in silence—each one got lost in one’s own thoughts: racking our brains, scribbling some notes, typing stories, reading books, or gazing out into the emptiness.

In the afternoon, after a long lunch, we would wander around listlessly—only to find ourselves took our separate ways, again. Adit went to a batik workshop, Ney went to a book discussion, and I decided to sit in a class of 15 people; clutching my Vernon God Little novel while the author, DBC Pierre, was sharing his writing experience right in front of me.

When the sadness and depression overwhelmed us, we left Ubud for Seminyak and walked under the sun until our feet got tired and our skin were burning hot. That day, we waited for the sun to set in Cafe Bali, Oberoi Street. Sat lazily on a huge couch overlooking the tiny pool and the Ganesha statue, we sipped our coffee and devoured six types of desserts to wash away the bitterness.

As night fell, we climbed back up to Ubud: the wind was chilly, the air was damp, the sky was dark. A small sliver of the moon was hanging there, looking lonely. We walked past the darkness of the museum not far from our cottage, the sound of the night enveloped us. It was the museum of Antonio Blanco—a painter of Spanish and American decent who came to the island in 1952 and fell in love with Ni Ronji, a Balinese dancer, and got married to her a year later.

Love stories.

My mind was instantly filled with mythical creatures, kisses and fireworks, invisible inhabitants of the past and the future, the traces of unrequited love, explosion of tears. It was that time of the year. To celebrate sadness and misery, to welcome tears and despair, to get high just by looking at the words pouring from my computer screen. “Bursting in Ubud” was about embracing all these, to wake up again in a different morning one day and walk out with my golden slippers, sunglasses, shirts, and shorts—heading to the beach with a burst of laughter.

__________

*) p. 77, The Unconcealing, a chapter from the book “Imagine” by Jonah Lehrer.

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Gili Trawangan, Lombok.

Going there.

It takes you 1.5 – 2 hours by car from Lombok International Airport to reach Bangsal port—where wooden boats are lining up, ready to transport you to Gili Trawangan. For the car-ride, you can choose between two routes: either passing the monkey forest or Senggigi beach. If you’re in a hurry to catch a boat to Gili Islands, you better choose the monkey forest route as it will save you more time (and you can take pictures of the monkeys along the way!).

Bangsal Port in Lombok.

Every half an hour, there will be a boat leaving from Bangsal port to Gili Trawangan. You can buy a ticket for IDR 10,000 (or around US$ 1.2). The boat will carry tourists, locals, as well as bicycles and vegetables. In around 20 – 30 minutes, you’ll reach Gili Trawangan.

The boat that will take you to Gili Trawangan.

Gili Trawangan

Gili Trawangan is one of three islands in Gili, the two others are Gili Air and Gili Meno. If you prefer to have a more secluded atmosphere during your stay, Gili Air and Gili Meno will be a better option. Gili Trawangan is relatively more lively, with rows of cafes, restaurants and bars, that open for 24/7.

Gili Trawangan. The village is hidden behind the lush canopy of green.

Gili Trawangan is a small island. You can go around the island for 2-3 hours by bike. Cidomo is how the locals call their most ‘lavish’ mode of transportation: horse cart/wagon. Usually it will cost you IDR 50,000,- per trip (US$ 5). Apart from horse cart, you can either rent a bike for a day, or simply walk around. There’s no car or motorcycle in Gili Trawangan. The air is definitely not being polluted by motor vehicles’ exhausts, but you just need to get yourself used to the smell of horse’s feces :D

Cidomo, or the horse cart.

The village

If you don’t mind to get your feet soaked in mud, walking around the village early in the morning can be a bliss. Just watch your step and be mindful to the sound of cidomo approaching from in front/behind you, then step aside. The people in the village are very polite and friendly; you won’t get a stare/impolite comments though you’re a girl strolling around by yourself. If you smile, they’ll nod and smile back.

Here are some of the gorgeous views I captured during my morning walk:

The chickens.

The pretty horse. Disney-like, don’t you think?

This is the way people transport goods around the island.

The droplets left by the morning rain.

There are no police officers in Gili Trawangan. According to the Cidomo driver, having police officers around make people think that the island is not safe. Usually, the locals will catch the robbers/pickpockets by themselves, beat them up to teach them a lesson, and then they will be humiliated by being ‘paraded’ all around the island. Does this kind of law-enforcement work? Probably so. My friend lost her wallet in the afternoon, and later in the evening, a Cidomo driver actually returned the wallet back to the hotel where we stayed.

The restaurants.

Along the beach, you can find stretch of restaurants, cafes, and bars.

If you’re into organic and healthy food, you can stop by at Egoiste; and if you’d like to enjoy the best grilled seafood in Gili Trawangan, drop by at Scallywags after 6 pm, and pick your own lobsters/fishes (the restaurant is open since early morning, but the grilled menu will only be served after 6)!

The view from Scallywags. How lovely!

Storm beer: an organic beer brewed in Bali, served at Scallywags

Fresh lobster at Scallywags, ready to be grilled.

All the fish is caught in local waters, using environmentally friendly methods.

Before sunset at Scallywags.

Free salad bar at Scallywags.

Don’t forget to enjoy the famous Gili Gelato for dessert afterwards; you can find their ice-cream counter along this stretch.

If you’re into psychedelic experience (unfortunately, I got high only by looking at the ocean!), magic mushroom (Psilocybin) is sold free in small shops/marts. A bottle of ‘mushroom juice’ (the size of small mineral water bottle) is sold for IDR 200,000 (US$ 23). In bars and restaurants, they are also offering marijuana quite freely, especially to foreign tourists.

Magic mushroom.

The Internet connection

Should you need to connect the Internet, there are lots of cafes/restaurants with free wi-fi access. But I should remind you: it won’t really work. If you really need a relatively reliable connection, go to the Internet cafes. You rent a computer and the Internet connection for around IDR 24,000 per hour (US$ 2.8).

The beach

What can I say? This is one of the reasons why people come to visit Gili Trawangan at the first place :) Should you like to dive, go visit Trawangan Dive (find Graham if he’s around)—and they’ll help you with everything: from planning your diving trip to preparing all the equipments needed.

The glass-bottom boat.

Lovely afternoon by the beach.

The boat.

The mist came down in the afternoon.

Just perfect for swimming and sunbathing.

Boats in different colors and shapes.

OK, seriously, I want to go back! :)

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Triwindu Antique Market, Solo.

Stretched along Bengawan Solo—one of the longest river in Java, and guarded by some volcanoes: Mt. Merapi, Mt. Merbabu and Mt. Lawu, Solo is a tranquil city of Javanese culture and tradition. There’s a certain ‘ancient’ atmosphere that will captivate you instantly: a certain feeling of going back in time; especially as you get closer to the palaces or keraton—the sound of gamelan music wafting faintly from somewhere, batik cloths hanging from the drying rope.

If you love strolling around antique markets, just like me (pretending you’re living in a different century, spotting all those beautiful objects back from the day your mother or grandmother hasn’t been born and making up stories about the imaginary people who used to own those vintage-whatchamacallit as you go along), Solo would definitely charmed you with its Triwindu Antique Market.

Here are some pictures to please your eyes:

Click here for more:

Happy holiday! Wish you all a blessed and wonderful New Year!

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