Category Archives: Country Hop

14 Moments in Jakarta 14 Years After My First Visit

I Was 10. Please understand. We OUTGROW that phase!

I Was 10. Please understand. We OUTGROW that phase!

Fourteen years ago, I traveled to Jakarta with my parents and brother. I have some memories of the place (which also involves “Kiss Me” looping on MTV Asia) such as going around Pondok Indah Mall, tasting my very first (and last, apparently) satay kambing and ayam goreng, and visiting Taman Safari in Bogor where I got to hold a snake and a white baby tiger. Even at a young age, I already enjoyed traveling.

But now that I am older and wiser (I hope), I became more interested in reflecting about life in different settings and context instead of just popping in and out of territories. There was never a time during my three-day visit that I was not on the look-out for something different to write about. So in celebration of my exploration, I have listed my Top 14 Moments in Jakarta and I hope y’all will enjoy this entry as much as I did writing it.

14 Transit in Singapore

Long hours of transit and early morning flights became my thing. Not that I enjoy them, I actually wonder why the universe is turning me against my own terms of travel comfort but I learned how to deal with them–I have to. I devised some coping techniques during these excruciating hours. Like get through Immigration and visit Singapore. After all, this is also my home.

(Top - L) Korres at Raffles City Shopping Centre (B2-16), Banana Split Sundae at Hog's Breath - Raffles, my sibs with Garrett popcorn (City Link), Gelato mania (City Link).

(Top – L) Korres at Raffles City Shopping Centre (B2-16), Banana Split Sundae at Hog’s Breath, my sibs with Garrett (City Link), Il Bruno Gelato (City Link).

13 The pungent odor of kretek–the smell of my childhood

Whenever my parents come home from Indonesia, the whole house smells like kretek. Like burnt wood but with a hint of incense or something. When you arrive in Jakarta, the smell of the airport? That’s it.

12 Losing luggage key

Seriously, on our first night. We had to navigate the whole Grand Indonesia Mall the following morning to find a new lock.

The Saw

The Saw

11 Hitting the hotel gym

It has been a while since I last went all out on the treadmill.

1o Parents speaking Bahasa

My parents lived in Indonesia during the first years of their marriage. My Dad was a UN Volunteer, my Mom was a fresh graduate exploring the world. I knew that they spoke Bahasa Indonesia well but listening to them having conversations with cab drivers, sales and hotel personnel, and everyone else at that, really made me proud! And regret the fact that having lived almost four years in Vientiane and I can’t even speak a decent sentence in Lao without stuttering.

9 Visiting Grand Indonesia

The mall that never ends. The mall that makes me feel woozy when I look down from the 5th floor. I am not even afraid of heights!

(L) Dancing fountain on the left, one of the mall’s attractions; (R) What you see isn’t the top floor!

8 Walking in the Rain to Rotiboy

It rained pretty hard during the day but my Mom wanted me to try Rotiboy so bad. We just got out of the gym anyway–it is not like the rain is going to ruin our hair or something. But when we were finally devouring the fluffy chunk of carbs, I thought ‘Okay, the treadmill was a waste of time.’ Rotiboy is some good bread.

Walking in the rain to Rotiboy

Walking in the rain to Rotiboy

7 Momma vs Food at Nonya Suharti Restaurant

My parents believe this is just the place to be. Everywhere else is below it.

Mom vs Food - Ayam Goreng at Nonya Suharti Restaurant

Eat! Eat! Eat!

6 The Nice People

I could not get over the nice demeanor of Indonesians. My Dad said that they are known for their refined manners and politeness amid adverse situations. That, in itself, is inspiring.

Mie Goreng Vegetarian at Chopstix - Grand Indonesia (Very nice service)

Mie Goreng Vegetarian at Chopstix – Grand Indonesia (Very nice service)

5 Traffic Jam

City traffic is always insane. On the bright side, I get to ponder when I am in the middle of one.

4 Batik Finds

Fabrics, I am all about the fabrics–I want to customize these babies. My parents also approved of my choices so I am quite confident that the patterns are pretty.

Chameleon Mode - fabrics from Thamrin City

Chameleon Mode – fabrics from Thamrin City

3 Luna Negra* (Plaza Bapindo, Citibank Tower)

Did I tell you how much I love this place? Nice ambiance and good food and EFFICIENT SERVICE, what more could you ask for?

Fiesta feeling at Luna Negra

Fiesta feeling at Luna Negra

2 The Digital Natives Reunion with Dear Maesy*

The best thing of being part of ‘Project Digital Natives With A Cause?’ is being able to meet amazing people from all parts of the world. You are either intimidated or inspired with with they do, with their ideas and perspective on multitudes of topics that a whole week of conversations and discussions can never compensate. Maesy is my big sis in the group; and while she may appear to be ruthless in public speaking and intelligent undertakings, she’s a real hipster at heart HAHA (I’m kidding, Maesy). I am HONORED to have walked the streets of Jakarta with her and talked to a soulmate yet again.

Italian - Japanese food. The combination is DIVINE.

Italian – Japanese food at Ocha and Bella. The combination is DIVINE.

1 Taking Matters Into My Own Hands

Lazy hour at the mall is all that took me to promote my website in the only way I know how. I probably would wear this every time I travel and make use of the long hours walking aimlessly in airport terminals. You’ll never know.

My Cup of Tee at Grand Indonesia (only an hour to wait for the shirt)

My Cup of Tee at Grand Indonesia (only an hour to wait for the shirt)

*Many thanks to Tito Mike Tesoro and company, and Maesy for being awesome hosts 🙂

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Filed under Country Hop, Food and Dining

Bangkok: Hipster Edition (With Special Promdi Commentaries)

(Promdi is Tagalog for someone who grew up in the province; setting foot in the city proves to be an interesting challenge. This also roughly translates to ban noc in Lao)

Growing up in a university-town, and finally getting out to start a career in the city (of a different country, that isn’t exactly as bittersweet as Manila or as manicured as Singapore), I know that nothing will ever be overrated to my promdi eyes. I will still look at skyscrapers wide-eyed; will still be fascinated with anything convenient (transportation, accommodation, food and groceries, etc), and will still contemplate if fighting for a spot in the city (New Yoooork) is what I really want, or if I’m cut out for it (didn’t exactly work the first time around, but I’m staying optimistic–small-town girl wants to  make it in the big city–how generic). I guess traveling is my way of environmental-scanning, testing the waters. Really pricey trial-and-error efforts, but I call it seeding (that’s how we do it).

Over the weekend, I went to Bangkok with (of course) PockLan and Jit. It’s that AirAsia promo fare again you book two months (or even longer) prior to the trip via Udon Thani, a border-cross away from Vientiane.

I like Bangkok. I’ve always liked Bangkok. This trip, though, I wanted to explore more; so with the help of some friends who are based there, I had a glimpse of the Bangkok Hipster Scene during daytime. Apart from the obligatory shopping, which I did at Siam Paragon and Central World *condescending laugh* (relax, it was only at the Gap and Uniqlo, respectively. Fine, and Zara. And MNG. They were on SALE).I went all the way to Bangkok to attend mass at the Assumption Cathedral, which is really beautiful (btw). I had my first taste of Dean & Deluca, which is apparently the closest you can get to New York City yuppie-diet; and I took the taxi (I’ve never been in a cab all alone, not even in SG) and BTS on my own (for the first time; was thinking about Bangkok Train Love Story throughout the trip to keep me calm). Oh, I also got to experience a design gallery of Thai Creatives at the Emporium. I realized there’s more to the city than frilly-Korean-garments at Platinum and the classic som-tam (we had some grilled chicken-Portuguese style? It’s good. But I still think Mom’s pan-grilled chicken is better). There are other places I want to see, so I have to get my travel funds ready for some city-culture-studies. I could always take the bus when I’m desperate, cos I’m still ban noc like that. And proud of it.

All photos were taken with Hipstamatic and edited with PicStitch. All I need are those plastic frames in yellow-green, then I could totally run the world. Hah!

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Filed under Country Hop, Snappies

A Decade In The Making

If you have read my SG-entry posted last year, this is the “separate entry” I was talking about.

I know I’m supposed to be writing about my Chiang Mai weekend with my backpacking buddies, Pocklan and Maxie, however things became more interesting as the trip progressed. Let’s just say I saw a Panda, which I’ve been dreaming of everytime I see one being documented on Animal Planet, and my favorite male celebrity, VJ Utt.

I-Wanted-To-Be-A-VJ-For-God-Knows-How-Long

I think I lost track of time, but I can specifically point out that my tween years were spent watching MTV Most Wanted and MTV Asia Hitlist. Just watching these figures speak fluent English, crack up jokes, introduce the latest music videos, interview celebrities, host roadshows and events, mesmerized me. They were good-looking, classy, stylish, charming and entertaining. Their faces were on billboards in the Metro, pages in the magazines and newspapers, and TV ads. I wanted to be one for some reason –perhaps, because I wanted to be famous.

So I tuned-in to MTV as much as I could, practiced the way they moved and spoke. The brush I was holding in front of the mirror wasn’t for singing, it was for mimicking their pronunciation and antics. I wrote requests for Most Wanted as well, but I guess, they weren’t cool enough to be aired.

In 2003, I got my 15 minutes of fame on MTV Asia, where my brother and I joined MTV Start –a high-end version of Most Wanted where viewers can send in their most creative requests using Flash Animation, Animated GIF, etc. Since my brother is a genius and he thought the entries we’ve been seeing were “ugly”, I challenged him to send an entry. And he did. And he won. That Sony MiniDisc will always be more special than any of my Apple products. I tried taping the audio of that episode (sorry it was 2003, I wasn’t as savvy as today), but I think that cassette tape got lost in the middle of “spring cleanings” and typhoons. Even the copy of that request is gone, too. However, I will never forget how VJ Utt said my name for the first time. It was amazing.

So, you know, obviously, my heart stopped when I read this:

Heart-stopping

It was because my friends and I were also going to Chiang Mai for the weekend!

On-the-Road to Chiang Mai

I’ve always wanted to visit Chiang Mai because of the good things I heard about this place. For we are backpackers, we immediately took the next bus-ride to Chiang Mai for only THB400. Of course, it wasn’t all luxurious and comfortable but for that price, you get the most of it. We left Vientiane around 7PM and we were on the road for what seemed like forever. Around 6AM, we finally found a guesthouse in the town proper. It’s interesting how the rooms were priced. It’s like you will pay for the amenities in your-room-to-be.  We paid THB350/night because our room is in the 4th floor, with hot water and towels. Go figure.

After taking a nap, we can’t afford to waste any time. My friends immediately hailed the red taxi, bargained for the fare, and started our journey up to Doi Suthep and visited Wat Phrathat. It was gorgeous. Although, you can bet it’s a main attraction for it was teeming with tourists. I actually heard some tour guides speak in Spanish!

After spending two hours going around the temple, taking pictures and watching the locals dance, we descended the mountains and ate at the stalls in the parking area. Delish! While eating, because I got amazing DTAC, I read this:

Where the heck is 700th Anniversary Sports Stadium?!?! PAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIII

And thank God, my friends were actually up for it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know what to do. Imagine, I was in the same area where VJ Utt is. It’s been 12 years since I’ve been a fan of MTV, VJ Utt, for that matter. For every opportunity to watch him host an event, it’s either I wasn’t allowed to watch him or it was just bad-timing. He hosted Ms Earth in 2007 held in the UP Theatre in Diliman and I was at home, eyes glued to the screen. I’ve been visiting Bangkok for a couple of times and the most I’ve seen of him was on that huge-ass billboard for Epson Printers, the last episode of his Thai drama, and several magazines at 7-Eleven I took home with me.

As it turns out, 7ooth Anniversary Sports Stadium is far from the town. When we arrived in the scene, we can’t hear anything. My friends were teasing me that it was cancelled because of the rain, but when I finally heard booming speakers and screaming fans –and VJ Utt speaking in Thai –heckyeah!

That was a misleading post you know because when we arrived, people had tickets. But I guess it was just fate, we got in for free and they even stamped our arms “VIP”. We found our way to the rest of the crowd for MTV Exit. We watched Thaitanium, Slot Machine, Kate Miller-Heidke perform (we missed ETC’s perf) and the night’s highlight, where screaming fans painstakingly stood in the rain just to catch, Super Junior M.

Everytime Utt comes out, I gush and try to sneak a photo from where I stood. It was my first photo of Utt from my own camera! People around just glance at me whenever I scream ‘I Love You Utt’. I couldn’t care less. They just have to understand I waited 10 years for that moment.

Drenched and tired, we decided to go home, but I am never going to forget that day. That day I knew, dreams do come true.

Chiang Mai Day Two

We had to check-out at 12. Max decided to get out tickets back to Vientiane and get some more photography books, while PockLan and I decided to visit the Royal Park Rajapruek also known as the Flower Garden!

This temple looked familiar from afar; when we were walking towards it, I realized it was the pit-stop of The Amazing Race Asia (TARA) where Paula Taylor was dressed in full Thai regalia, saying “Sawasdee ka, Welcome to Chiang Mai”. Then PockLan and I had this outrageous idea that she should join TARA and for the first time, represent Lao PDR!

Around 6PM, we were on the bus to Vientiane. For some reason, I had this stabbing lower back pain that made the trip excruciating. It went away when we arrived at Nongkhai at 6AM –too little, too late now! We were off to the border and finally, home.

Backpacking with PockLan and Max–one of the highlights of my Vientiane adventure. Let’s do this again der!

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Filed under Country Hop, Snappies, Walk and Talk