NZ North Island “Must-Visits”: Are They Really Worth It?

So I just got back from Auckland, Matamata, and Rotorua in New Zealand’s North Island, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on the two places that appear regularly on travel influencers’ instagrams.

  1. The Hobbitton Movie SetHow to get there: Take a bus from Auckland to Matamata I-Site and sign up for the Hobbitton tour. From there, a tour bus will pick you up to the movie set.
    Entrance Fee: NZD 79 (including bus to the set and guided tour)

    First of all, let’s talk about the I-Site (a.k.a information center). This building was deliberately built as a hobbit hole! Apart from signing up for the Hobbitton tour, you can also get information on other places in NZ. You can also leave your bags in the designated space which costs 5 NZD.


    The movie set itself is located about 20 minutes away from Matamata I-Site. Now let me be honest and say, it wasn’t as “fantastic” as I thought it would be. I’m pretty sure the fact that I haven’t seen any of the LOTR/Hobbitton movies made the place feel “foreign” to me, as in I didn’t feel any connection to the place as the movie fans would.

    That being said, if you do have the time and money to got there, why not? It definitely is a green, beautiful place filled with cute “houses”. Plus, by joining the tour you will be able to hear interesting behind-the-scenes stories.

  2. Te PuiaHow to get there: Take a bus from Auckland to Rotorua I-Site, and then take Bus #30 to Hemo Road. Wait in the same bus stop when going back to the I-Site.
    Entrance Fee: NZD 54 (day pass, including guided tour)

    There are two main attractions in Te Puia: the Maori culture and Pohutu Geyser, which is apparently the biggest geyser in Southern Hemisphere. It reminds me a lot of Beppu and its famous Jigoku Meguri.

    By adding NZD 15 you can experience the Maori cultural performance (check the timetable first though, because it’s only performed 3 times per day). To me, this is the best part of my visit. There’s just something magical about the Haka (Maori traditional war dance) that will make you feel both threatened and entertained.

    You can also visit the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, where students from all over NZ learn how to preserve Maori tradition with the help of modern technology. The students receive scholarships from the entrance fee to Te Puia.


Day Trips from Melbourne: Brighton Beach and Geelong Waterfront

Since I’ve listed two non-beach getaways from Melbourne in my last post, I’m now sharing with you two beaches that you can visit if you are more of a beach person (unlike me, LOL).

  1. Brighton Beach

    How to get there: from Flinders Street Station, take the train to Brighton Beach Station.

    Brighton beach is probably the most instagram-ed beach in Melbourne. The colorful bathing boxes there are indeed eye-catching. If you really want to take pictures in front of the boxes, it’s best to come early so you don’t have to “fight” with the crowd.

    To be honest, I don’t think there’s any other interesting thing to see or do there. Sure you can do sunbathing or a little bit of swimming, but other than that, it’s just a “regular” beach.

  2. Geelong Waterfront

How to get there: From Southern Cross Station, take the V/Line Train to Geelong Railway Station (Just a heads up, the V/Line fare is different from the regular one-day Myki fare. The 2018 fare from Southern Cross to Geelong is 18.48 AUD per day)

Geelong is technically not in Melbourne–in fact, it is the second largest city in the state of Victoria (after Melbourne, of course). It’s also home to Deakin University, of which one of the campuses is located right across the waterfront. I mean, can you imagine attending lectures while thinking about the beach?

The beach itself is quite lively with attractions such as a carousel and a ferris wheel . You can also find food trucks selling fish-n-chips and gelato (a.k.a beach staples).

There’s also a swimming facility for adults, and a pool for kids. You can literally spend the whole day here. Just bring your own lunch if you’re tired of fish-n-chips already.

Once again I remind you all to check the weather forecast before going, since Melbourne’s weather (especially in the summer) is always unpredictable.

Enjoy your trip!

Day Trips from Melbourne: Montsalvat and Werribee Park (+Mansion)

The two places I’m going to introduce here are perfect for summer trips, especially if you’re interested in historical buildings. Fyi, they’re both on the less-touristy side.

  1. Montsalvatp_20171221_124534_zpsaqhwlis0

    How to get there: from Melbourne Central station, take the train to Eltham station and continue your journey with bus #582 to Rockliffe st. (better tell the bus driver beforehand so you won’t miss the stop)
    Entrance fee: AUD 10 for studentsMontsalvat is a complex of French-style buildings that were (and still are) used as art galleries. That being said, even if you’re not a huge fan of paintings, you can still enjoy the buildings and the green areas around them.


    Another good thing is that this place isn’t normally crowded with tourists, so the atmosphere is very relaxed.

    If you’re going here in the summer,  I recommend bringing your own lunch and eat it on the grass while watching the beautiful scenery. If you’re lucky you can also see the three peacocks there interacting with each other.


  2. Werribee Park and Mansionp_20171227_140550_zpsf92q903l
    How to get there: from Southern Cross station, take the train to Werribee and continue your journey with bus #439 to Werribee Park Mansion. Just a heads up, the buses do not come very frequently so you might want to take notes of the return bus schedule before entering the park. (just use Google Maps/PTV Apps to check the schedules!)
    Entrance fee: AUD 7.40 for students (for the mansion only — the park is free)Werribee Park is another option for picnic-ing in the summer. However, compared to the park itself, I am more fascinated by the historical mansion there.

    What I love about this mansion is its authenticity; you’ll feel as if you’re visiting someone from the past while inside. One of the interesting displays there is a row of housekeeper costumes. Apparently, in the past, these housekeepers had to wear different uniforms according to their jobs.


    Some part of the mansion is now commercialized as a hotel. There’s also a cafe if you want to buy some cakes or drinks.


As I mentioned before, these two places are perfect for historical building lovers out there. They can also be alternatives for summer getaways when you’re tired of the beaches. Just remember to check the weather forecast before you go, just in case.

Enjoy your stay in Melbourne!

It’s more fun in the Philippines(?) #travelingwithkubiir ep. 2


For this episode of #travelingwithkubiir, my friend Asma’ and I went to Philippines. Unlike many others who traveled to Palawan, Boracay, or Cebu, we chose to visit Bagac in Bataan province as well as the capital Manila.

Before I start, let me tell you this: it’s been a few weeks since we came back but we still can’t get over the top-notch hospitality of the people there! From the crowded city of Manila to the serene Bataan, almost everyone we met really gave their best to smile at us and help us.

Now, on to the journey itself. On the first day we arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport at about 3-4 p.m. After buying a Smart SIM Card to use during our stay, we went to the Grab Car booth outside the arrival hall and went to Hop Inn Hotel Ermita, where we staying that night.

After checking in and resting a bit, we hired another Grab Car and went to SM Mall of Asia, the so-called biggest mall in Southeast Asia. Guess what, the mall is really huge we barely had time to explore what’s in it. So after having some modified Indonesian food at Martabak restaurant, we went to buy some souvenirs at Kultura and got back to the hotel. I think not spending too much time in this mall was a good decision because later on our third day, we had some free time and went to another gigantic shopping mall called Greenbelt in Makati area.


The next morning might be the most exciting part of the trip, because we didn’t even know exactly how to go from Manila to Bataan apart from some vague information we found online. Alhamdulillah, we managed to arrive safely in Balanga terminal after a 3-hour ride with Genesis Bus. From there, we randomly rode a Jeepney that had “Bagac” written on it. We were not so sure at first, but I managed to convince my friend that we were on the right track after confirming to the driver that we were going to Las Casas Filipinas the Acuzar.

The Jeepney right was fun, to say the least. Having a good internet connection (thumbs up for smart!) really helped us to be aware of where we were, even though it didn’t really help in terms of telling us where to stop (yup, Jeepney doesn’t have formal stops so anyone can just say “para, po…!” and stop anywhere, basically). We were so grateful that the driver was kind enough to tell us where we had to get off. From this point on, we continued our journey by tricycle.



Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar a.k.a “the Filipino houses of Acuzar” was built by an architect who wanted general public to know more about Filipino history through its old buildings. This architect, along with his interior-designer wife, managed to relocate and rebuild various houses across the Philippines into this resort area. I think this is a great way to let people–including foreigners like ourselves–to understand about and learn from what had happened in the past. Sure, the cost of staying there was quite high, but to me the guided heritage tour and the cultural performance provided to all guests were worth the price.



Fast forward to our last day in the Philippines, we started the day walking from Casa Bocobo hotel to Rizal Park. This park was built as a tribute to the national hero of the Philippines, Dr. Jose Rizal. Being the lazy girls that we are, we decided to ride a mini train that goes around the park. The cost of this train was pretty cheap, only 1 USD or 50 PHP per person.


We continued walking to Intramuros which is an old town similar to Jakarta’s Kota Tua. Apart from Manila Cathedral, the most iconic building in this area is Fort Santiago where Dr. Jose Rizal was imprisoned by the Spanish colonial government.



After that we went to Quiapo area which, unfortunately, became a hot topic after several bomb attacks there. This is so unfortunate knowing that the Golden Mosque, one of the very few Islamic buildings in the Catholic-majority country, was located in that area. After praying we spoke to a Filipino lady who apparently was able to speak Malay quite fluently. We also went to Landap Cafe, located just across the mosque, for lunch.



Apart from the hospitality I mentioned before, another thing I remember from the trip was how people always thought we were Filipino! In the hotels, on the street, pretty much everywhere we went to, people would always talk to us in Tagalog and we were like “ehm… excuse me but we’re foreigners…” hahaha.

Overall, we really enjoyed our time there and personally I had to agree that it is, indeed, more fun in the Philippines! 😀


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.


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.


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…”


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:



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.


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.


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.



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.


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



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!

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.

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.

The gate to Fort Rotterdam
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.

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.

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.

“Follow me to…” kinda pose


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



Konro Bakar
Cotto Makassar
Pisang Epe’

Explore Indonesia #1: Malang

First of all let me wish you all a happy new year! Yeah I know it’s super late but still…


So two of my goals for 2016 are to visit as many new places as possible and to attend my friends’ wedding ceremonies. Thus when Nasha‘s random message popped up on my phone’s screen I knew this trip to both attend our seniors’ weddings and refresh ourselves from our routines would be a good start.

We went to Malang by executive train called Gajayana. The train itself was quite comfortable, its toilet was quite clean, and the food we bought for dinner was OK. However, the supposedly 16-hour journey was extended 1-2 hours so we were way more tired than we expected.

Inside Gajayana

Nevertheless, the first wedding ceremony we planned to attend was waiting, so after putting our bags in Raras’ place (and having some yummy breakfast, of course -credits to Raras’ mom!) we went straight to Pelangi Jingga swimming pool. On the way back home we stopped by Bakso Bakar Pak Man, where we tried its famous grilled meatballs. Malang’s cool breeze was a nice addition to the food.

Venue for the first wedding ceremony
Forgot to take pictures of the food, sorry

The next day we went to another ceremony. While the previous one adopted garden party concept, this one was held in a hall. After stuffing our stomach with food (well that’s one purpose of attending wedding ceremonies right? LOL), we continued our journey up to Batu City where Museum Angkut a.k.a the newly opened transportation museum is.

After paying IDR 90,000 for Museum Angkut and D’Topeng Museum (I’ll get back to this one later) tickets, we went in and took as many photos as possible LOL. Well I don’t know why but sadly most Indonesians–including myself, sometimes–regard museums more as a place to collect selfies rather than to learn about certain topics. But anyway at least there’s no such thing as “museum allergy” anymore these days, meaning that finally young people have this will to go visit museums.

Some of Museum Angkut’s old-car collections

Museum Angkut itself was quite interesting, with collections vary from old cars to becak (Indonesian traditional trishaw). Its size was way bigger than we thought. Interestingly, in the American(?) area, they had this DWP-ish outdoor party with a guy wearing Scooby Doo as the DJ (weird, I know). Before the party, there was this mini carnival where fake superheroes rode Museum Angkut’s car collection along the main corridor.

This is part of the museum, too
“Money can take you to the outer space” *what a quote*
The weird party

As for D’Topeng, it was more like a gallery with collections of masks from different places in Indonesia (fyi, “topeng” means “mask” in English). In one corner of the gallery we saw a band of senior musicians playing keroncong songs.

The keroncong band!

For Dinner we went to an Egyptian restaurant nearby Alun-Alun Batu. The food was not spectacular but still good, considering its price was almost half of the same menu’s price in Jakarta (okay this is sad).

The next day, after getting some traditional snacks as souvenirs, we headed back to Jakarta through Abdul Rahman Saleh Airport. The airport was a small, clean one with a line of restaurants outside (excuse me for talking about food again and again). Oh, by the way, I would recommend crispy tempe and fruit crackers for souvenirs.

The airport

Well, despite the very short visit, I can say that my second trip to Malang was indeed a good start for my 2016, alhamdulillah. Now, time to prepare for another trip!