Siem Reap Adventure #travelingwithkubiir

Apparently this long-overdue post has been sitting on my draft for 8 months… Well, better late than never, right?

But anyway, this time I’d like to talk about my journey to Siem Reap, Cambodia. I went with my partner-in-crime Asma’. Despite having known each other for almost 10 years, we had never gone traveling together before, so we were supert excited to depart on our adventure (and Asma’s first time abroad as well!)

We started the journey by taking AirAsia to Kuala Lumpur, then continued with another AirAsia flight from KL to Siem Reap. We found this route much cheaper than using AirAsia Indonesia that flies from Jakarta to Siem Reap with one layover in Don Mueang (Bangkok).

We stayed in KL for a night, visited the iconic Twin Towers and explored the night bazaar near Masjid India. Oh, by the way, we stayed at Hotel 1951, and we have to say this place was bomb! I mean, for the budget that we had, we couldn’t have asked for more than a strategic location and  a compact-but-cozy room. There’s also an Indian restaurant nearby, which was perfect for naan lovers like us.

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The next morning we went back to KLIA2 and flew to Siem Reap. After a little fight with the tuk-tuk driver who forced us to ride his tuk-tuk for Angkor tour the next day, we took a long nap at Sok San Street Boutique Hotel. It took around 30 minutes and USD 6 from the airport to the hotel by tuk-tuk.

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Later that night, we walked to the night market and did some shopping. Actually there were a few lanes which are all called “night market”, all of them claiming to be the “original”. One fun fact, almost everyone selling goods there called female visitors “Lady”. When we were roaming around, they would say something like “please have a look, Lady…”

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The next day, we woke up at about 2 a.m. and went on an Angkor tour at 4. Our tuktuk driver, Wanra, was very nice (and a bit shy).

Our first destination after buying Angkor World Heritage tickets (USD 20 each) was the legendary Angkor Wat. We waited for sunrise with many other visitors there. My phone’s camera obviously doesn’t do it any justice, but here’s a pic of the sunrise:

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There’s a funny story from when we were about to leave the Angkor Wat complex. We went there taking some takeaway breakfast from the hotel, which had eggs and bananas in it. We didn’t manage to eat them all so we just took them with us to eat later, but then a monkey came and snatched the meal from my arm! It may not sound funny here but trust me, you would’ve laughed if you saw how shocked I was.

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I honestly don’t remember where else we went to that day (I left my journal at home LOL) apart from Bayon temple and Ta Phrom, where Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider took place, but for sure we took the small tour instead of the full-day one. We arrived back at the hotel at about 2 p.m.

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After taking a long nap, we went out for dinner. This time we tried “beef climbing mountain” (yeah that’s really what it’s called) from Muslim Family Kitchen. Everyone there was so nice! The food was nice too, of course.

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The next day, before catching our flight back to KL, we took a short walk to Siem Reap Mosque. Apparently, there’s quite a number of Siem Reap citizens who studied Islam in Malaysia, hence the mosque and halal restaurants around it were built. We figured only men went to pray at that mosque because the second level, which is for women, was very quiet. We were happy to find quite a large mosque there regardless.

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For lunch, we revisited Muslim Family Kitchen and ordered beef amok, another staple food from Siem Reap.

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On our back to the hotel, we met little boys in their school uniform smiling to us and said “Assalamualaikum”. After two days of arguing with a tuktuk driver and getting our food snatched by a monkey, this one experience made us so touched.

Overall, our trip to Siem Reap (via KL) was a success, alhamdulillah. Can’t wait for our next adventure!

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Explore Indonesia #2: Makassar

So another wedding invitation came and I couldn’t resist the desire to book my flight and go. This time I went to Makassar, one of the biggest cities of Indonesia located in the southern part of Sulawesi–the island I’ve never visited before.

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Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport

I arrived so much earlier that day, just to hear that my flight got delayed for 2 hours. Hmm, quite a long time isn’t it. But anyway I had a safe flight, alhamdulillah. My friend picked me up from the airport and took me around the city right away.

The first place we visited was Fort Rotterdam. This place used to be a fort built by Dutch colonies. These days, though, creative people of Makassar often utilize its open spaces to hold meetings and practices. One of the teams we bumped into was some kind of a traditional drama club. Oh, by the way, there’s no entrance fee for this place.

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The gate to Fort Rotterdam
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What’s inside

Next, we headed to Losari Beach. After praying at Masjid Amirul Mukminin a.k.a. the floating mosque, we took a little stroll along the beach and took photos in front of the infamous “Makassar” sign. Apparently, there are also “Bugis” and “Toraja” signs to represent each tribe that lives in South Sulawesi.

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The floating mosque

The next day was the day we attended our senior’s wedding ceremony. Despite arriving quite late, we were lucky that we could taste some food LOL. After that we headed to yet another beach: Akkarena Beach. While Losari beach was developed with modern facilities, this one felt more like a “traditional” beach. Well I don’t even understand what I’m saying, but, yeah.

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Akkarena Beach

After having Cotto Makassar for late-lunch, we went straight to a beach cafe called Ballairate, where we watched sunset while, of course, taking lots of pictures.

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“Follow me to…” kinda pose

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People said that it’s always hot in Makassar, but perhaps due to the rainy season, I didn’t sweat that much. The highlight of the trip to me, though, was the freshness of the air in  Makassar. Oh, and of course, I was also delighted by the delicious food we had, which always came in big portion. *still I could finish everything*

Looking forward to another wedding invitation! 😀

Bonus: the food we had during the trip

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Pallubasa

 

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Konro Bakar
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Cotto Makassar
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Pisang Epe’

Festival Lampion Suzhou, BSD City

Even the gate looks pretty!

Festival Lampion Suzhou diadakan dalam rangka memperingati tahun baru imlek tahun ini. Sebenarnya saya sudah beberapa kali melewati lokasi festival di samping Giant BSD City, tapi baru sempat ke sana beberapa hari yang lalu.

Berhubung festival seperti ini jarang diadakan di BSD (yang lokasinya sangat dekat dengan rumah saya), saya sangat penasaran untuk mampir. Dan ternyata, walaupun harus membayar tiket masuk 25 ribu rupiah (plus parkir mobil 10 ribu rupiah), saya nggak menyesal datang ke sana. Selain dapat berbagai kupon diskon untuk makan dan belanja di stand peserta festival, saya dapat minyak angin gratis juga dari sponsor! Lumayan, modal balik ke negara 4 musim yang sering bikin masuk angin hahaha.

Kayak ada yang kurang…?

Makan dan belanja? Yap, selain lampion berbentuk berbagai hewan (seusai shio dalam kepercayaan Tionghoa) dan bangunan yang enak dilihat (dan difoto), ada juga stand-stand penjual berbagai jenis makanan dan pakaian. Setelah berkeliling mencari makanan yang menarik, saya akhirnya memilih makan lontong medan. Hmm… Sedap…

Salah satu stand makanan: lontong medan

Fyi, festival ini masih berlangsung sampai 15 Maret, lho! Jadi, bagi yang berdomisili di BSD dan sekitarnya, jangan ragu untuk mampir!

Lampion unyu (1)
Lampion unyu (2)
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Lampion unyu (4)

Life in Seoul #13: SM Town at COEX Artium

Welcome to the last post of “Life in Seoul” series!

A yo GG!

This post is about SM Town at COEX Artium, a newly built “heaven” for KPOP fans, especially the fans of SM Entertainment’s artists. The 5-floor building is located right across Exit 5 of Samseong Station.

EXO’s MV played on the first floor

On the second floor, there is a shop selling merchandise from SM’s well-known artists such as TVXQ, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, SHINee, f(x), and of course EXO. The price ranges from 2000 won for small stuff like pins to 70,000 won for t-shirts and bags. Since I came only one day after the soft opening, the shop was still crowded by dedicated SM fans. I was luck to be able to get in directly because when I left the shop, I saw staffs giving out queue number for new visitors.

SM fans, ready to shop
one of the products

The 3rd floor is for a saloon and a studio, but it is not yet completed. I can imagine how crowded it will be after the launching in January.

under construction

On the 4th floor, there is a pop-up cafe selling desserts and drinks which are inspired by the artists. The one I tried was Red Velvet Cupcake, which is obviously aimed for the Red Velvet fans (even though I’m not). What makes this cafe special is, while reading, visitors can enjoy books and magazines about Super Junior, EXO, and some other artists. Same tables are also occupied with music player that can play SM-produced songs.

the cupcakes! hmm
music player on the tables

As I said before, this place is still very new, so I can’t really judge if it’s really worth a visit. However, for someone who has been a fan of SM Entertainment for over 5 years, I would definitely go to this place again if I ever have a chance to go back to Seoul.

Life in Seoul #11: Free Shuttle Bus to Jeonju

Jeonju Hanok Village

Jeonju is one of the cities in Jeollabuk-do or North Jeolla Province. It takes around 3 hours from Seol to Jeonju by bus. This time I took the Jeonju Free Shuttle Bus that can be reserved here. The reservation process is very easy, but due to the high demand for this service, there is only a small chance for each person to get accepted. I, for example, applied for four different time spots and only got two of them; both of the slots were on Fridays.

The main destination of the shuttle bus is Jeonju Hanok Village where Korean traditional houses, along with Korean restaurants and street food stalls can be seen. However, the bus stopped at Jeonju National Heritage Center which is located around 10 minutes away from the gate of the hanok village.

To me, the hanok village felt a little bit like Yufuin in Oita, Japan. I found many small shops selling cute stuff there. Other than the shops, I also found unique museums such as Korean Liquor Museum. Apparently there are also historical confucian schools around the area.

Candies, anyone?

Even though Jeonju is famous for its bibimbap (mixed rice), I chose seafood pancake for lunch. The size of the pancake was quite big for me to eat alone. Still I couldn’t resist cheese-lemon ice cream I found after getting out of the restaurant, LOL.

Seafood Pancake
Yummy cheese-lemon ice cream!

And here are some pictures I took around the village…

Painted wall
Jeondong Catholic Church
Hanok (Korean traditional house)
Another hanok
A river across the bus stop

Life in Seoul #10: Volunteer Work and Home-stay

Last weekend, I had a chance to experience two activities I hadn’t tried out in Korea: doing a voluntary work and joining a home-stay program. Let me start with the volunteering first.

I applied for this program through a link shared by a Korean friend about a week before, yet I only got the confirmation mail a night before d-day. The mail said we had to be at Digital Media City station at 2 p.m. I arrived there and met some other foreigners before the committee came and brought us to Eunpyeong district office. There, they already prepared raincoats, gloves, and other necessary tools for our activity. We basically just had to distribute briquettes to Korean poor families. None of us expected that the work would end in 15 minutes. According to the committee, they already distributed around 2000 briquettes earlier that day, leaving us with only 200 briquettes. Oh, by the way, there were 7 other foreigners and around 10 Koreans volunteering that afternoon.

Eunpyeong district office
The equipments

After the short work, the committee brought us to Jingwansa, a temple in the middle of mountains and hanoks (Korean traditional houses). One of the monks of the temple guided us around and explained the history of the temple, which was build over 1000 years ago. Surprisingly, she spoke really good English. She said, prior to being a monk, she was once a busy researcher on Indian philosophy.

On the way to the temple

We were then brought to one hanok where food and snacks were ready for us to eat. I personally felt bad because the amount of services we got was a lot more than what we did. Well, anyways, I ate a lot LOL. While eating we were shown a Chinese song and a Russian song sang by two housewives who married to Korean men.

Where the party took place
The Chinese “singer”

After the party, we were introduced to the president of Homestay in Korea, a volunteer association which organizes home-stay activities throughout the country. It turned out that I, along with one girl and one guy from Portugal, got her house as the home-stay place.

The view from our host family’s apartment

Our host mother was an energetic middle-aged woman. Her son was a second year university student who was part of the volunteers too. They could barely speak English, and the two Portuguese could not speak Korean, so I tried my best translating for them. My poor Korean was definitely not enough but I was pretty satisfied for trying my best.

It was already 11 p.m. when the mother brought us out to the World Cup Stadium. This is one of the stadiums where the 2012 Korea-Japan World Cup took place. The sky was not clear that night, so we couldn’t see the pretty night sky of Seoul from the stadium, so the host mother took us to the park at the back of the stadium. After that we went to Hongdae for a while then went to sleep. I tried the Korean-style sleeping mat for the first time. I thought it would be thicker, like Japanese futon, but it apparently was just a piece of cloth. It was find, though, because the floor has a unique heating system which kept it warm.

The next day, before the three of us left the house, our host mother prepared us a set of Korean meal for breakfast. We had tofu with chilli sauce, kimchi stew, fried fish, and of course the kimchi itself. As expected, the homemade food was very delicious. As a spicy-food lover, I felt really good that morning.

Busy host mother in the kitchen

 

Our breakfast

Alhamdulillah, the weekend was full of new experiences to me and other foreigners. I’m now hoping for another chance before leaving Seoul next month. (yes, I only have a month left)

Life in Seoul #6: Arirang Jeongsun Festival

Hotteok! (plus a glimpse of the venue)

Arirang Jeongsun Festival, a Korean traditional festival was held from October 9th to 12th in Jeongsun, Gangwon Province. I went to Jeongsun by taking the cheap and convenient Gangwon Shuttle Bus. With only 5000 won, I could get a round-trip ticket from Seoul to Jeongsun, accompanied with a nice guide with sufficient English ability. You can take the from near Gwanghwamun station and it leaves at 7 a.m. You can check here for more information on the bus, including reservation.

One thing that made me a little disappointed was how the supposedly 2.5-hour journey went longer to 4-hour. Nevertheless, the good weather–warmer than I expected–plus beautiful scenery around the festival’s venue made me super excited.

The first thing I did was just walk around the stalls. I found so many shikdang, or stalls selling traditional Korean food with all-you-can-eat system. The other stalls mostly sold agricultural products like vegetables or fruits.

One of the stalls selling… pumpkins?

Since I was already full with rice balls I bought in the convenience store, I decided to just buy hotteok or Korean pancake. There were some other snacks like waffle or dried squid. There were even the so-called “international stalls” selling Japanese takoyaki or Turkish kebab and ice cream.

The main attraction of the festival is actually Arirang (Korean traditional song) performance. When I was there on the 11th, I managed to watch a singing competition for foreigners. There were Nepalese, Chinese, and Japanese contestants, all with perfect Korean pronunciation (at least in my ears) and relatively nice voices.

One of the contestants

Besides the main stage, there was also a smaller stage with some seemingly professional arirang performers. But rather than watching the performance, I was amused by how halmeoni and haraboji (grandmas and grandpas) looked sooo happy watching it! Ah, I love cute elderly people. :p

Before going back to the bus at 4 p.m., I walked across the venue and found a nice, tranquil river. The clean water and bright sky were such an amazing combination.

Across the venue (1)
Across the venue (2)

The way back home also took 4 hours, but this time I was more “prepared”. And when the bus stopped at a rest area for toilet break, I ran to a convenience store to buy some snacks–just to kill the boredom LOL.

Overall, I would suggest you all–especially those who re-visit Korea–to try taking this kind of shuttle bus. Besides the one I was taking, there is one going to Jeonju as well. The atmosphere of smaller cities in Korea is really nice, especially when you’re bored with big city routines.