Explore Indonesia #11: 3 Days in UBUD Bali (3-Day Ubud Itinerary)

Early June this year, my parents came up to Jakarta and together, we went for a weekend getaway to Bali. I wanted to spend all of our three days in Ubud because I had already visited Seminyak and Nusa Dua in a previous Bali trip last year. Plus I’ve heard so much about Ubud — Bali’s artistic and traditional homeland.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Weekend getaway with family in Ubud, Bali.

We stayed at The Purist Villas, a tropical Villa Resort 5 minutes drive from the heart of Ubud. The resort is nestled into natural Balinese surroundings, which can be seen directly from the villas, restaurant and main pool.

Designed with the concept of privacy, comfort, and modern architecture combined with traditional features, our stay there was PURE BLISS.

Day 1

Ubud is most well-known for her stunning and famed rice terraces and the Tegalalang Rice Terrace is a key highlight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tegalalang Rice Terrace, Ubud.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful scenes of rice paddies involving traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system.

This exquisite terrace is located precisely on a hill bank, with a breathtaking valley panorama and coconut trees ornamenting the surroundings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Took my breath away.

We followed the locals off-road into the paddy fields and watched them harvest their crops. The Balinese people are a friendly and warmhearted bunch; they waved and smiled happily at us as we passed them by.

We stopped at various points along to way to take pictures, breathe in fresh air, and simply soak in the natural surroundings.

Do wear comfortable walking shoes as there is no proper foot path and weaving your way through the fields may involve navigating some wet steep slopes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some pretty steep steps.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Enjoying the view and good air.

After our 2.5 hours ‘hike’, we were famished. Lunch was at Kepitu Restaurant, a hidden gem located in The Kayon Resort.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kepitu Restaurant, Kayon Resort.

The restaurant design features wood, bamboo and an Alang-Alang grass roof which seamlessly blends in with nature.

From the floating sky roof deck, Kepitu Restaurant boasts a spectacular 180-degree view over the pool and jungle landscape. And a cascading waterfall completes this tropical paradise.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A view to behold.

Kepitu Restaurant serves a good range of Indonesian cuisine, but have Asian and Western food on their menu too. We tried their Indonesian specialty sets which were good. Here are some food pictures to entice you:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A relaxing and tranquil dining experience.

After our filling lunch, we were ready to walk off the calories at Campuhan Ridge Walk.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Campuhan Ridge Walk, Ubud.

Directions to get there: Start your journey at the Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas & Spa on Jalan Campuhan and park your car at the school. Once you see the Campuhan bridge, follow the pathway on the right that leads towards Gunung Lebah Temple and continue until you see a paved road. Walk along the paved road. That is where your adventure begins. 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A lovely walk with lots of nature to see.

It was an unusually romantic short trek that took us through rice fields, quaint Indonesian huts and exquisitely designed villas.

Butterflies and dogs accompanied us on the leisurely 2-3km stroll, which made it all the more enjoyable. If you’re tired, you can make a pit stop on your way back at Karsa Kafe.

Make sure you stay sufficiently hydrated and apply layers of mozzie repellant!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A great retreat from hectic city life.

Next up, dinner at Bebek Tepi Sawah Restaurant — a dining experience where it is all about the Bebek (the duck).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bebek Tepi Sawah Restaurant.

At the restaurant, you will find duck statues everywhere, ducks splashing around in the pond, and of course the delicious crispy duck on your plate.

Situated at the corner of a picturesque green rice paddy field, you can gaze out from your private pavilion across the rows of little rice plants and listen to the gentle buzz of the surrounding nature.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dining with nature at its very best.

Bebek Tepi Sawah Restaurant serves a wide selection of cuisine, including contemporary western and innovative Indonesian/Balinese specialties. One must-try is the legendary Bebek Betutu or Balinese smoked duck. The crispy duck with sambal was awesome too. (My stomach is growling as I type this.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All ready to conquer the ducks!

Day 2

We started off our second day in Ubud at the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Ubud.

You can enter the monkey forest through one of three gates: the main gate at the southern end of Monkey Forest Rd; from 100m further east near the car park; or from the southern side near Nyuh kuning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hello there!!

The sanctuary is inhabited by a band of over 600 grey-haired (and greedy!) long-tailed Balinese macaques who are a far cry from the innocent-looking doe-eyed monkeys on the brochures.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“If you’re not gonna listen to Mama, I’ll pull your tail.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Basking in the sun.

We were super amused at how intelligent the monkeys were, especially on matters pertaining to bananas. I saw one monkey pull down a man’s shorts (!!!) to steal the banana that was tucked in his boxers and another reach into a lady’s pocket to retrieve a banana.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mission accomplished – BANANAS.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Towering ancient trees at Money Forest.

We had lunch at Swept Away Restaurant (located in Samaya Resort), by far one of the best restaurants of the entire trip — both in terms of ambiance and food.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Took a buggy ride down to Swept Away Restaurant, Samaya Resort.

A wooden deck at Swept Away is just inches from the mighty Ayung River – sit back, unwind and let your worries get swept away as you dine along the riverside surrounded by lush greenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ayung River.

The meal started on a good note with complimentary bread that was super fluffy, soft and warm. Not to mention the amazing butter!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Complimentary bead and butter.

Swept Away serves a varied and eclectic menu with various menu options throughout the day: breakfast menu, light lunch menu, small bites menu serving Asian-style tapas, and two dinner menus (a la carte and degustation).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lunch at Swept Away.

All our mains and dishes for sharing were made to perfection and our tummies were really happy.

After lunch, we went down to the riverside to take photos and bask in the cool sea breeze.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fun fact: The Ayung River is the longest river (75km!) on the Indonesian island of Bali.

We also explored the grounds of Samaya Resort, which overlooks some gorgeous paddy fields. If I ever visit Ubud again, I will be very tempted to stay a couple of nights at The Samaya Ubud. 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wouldn’t you love waking up to this!

After lunch, we headed to the Tegenungan Waterfall in Gianyar. From the viewing deck, you can see the majestic waterfall in the distance.

However, for a closer sight, you would need to descend the stairs down the river. If you have knee problems or have many young children with you, I’d advise not going down. The stairs are steep and the climb back up is treacherous.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“165 steps up. Good luck.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dad and mom decided not to follow us all the way down.

That said, Tegenungan waterfall is a dazzlingly refreshing retreat in Ubud. The rich green surroundings and perfectly flowing fresh water make a beautiful sight for all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tegenungan Waterfall, Ubud.

I saw many tourists take a dip in the river; some adventurous ones even jumped into the waterfall from a 15 meters height. If you’re thinking of swimming/frolicking in the river, there are shower facilities where you can change.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Love the sounds and the power of pounding water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kopi Luwak Tea stop before dinner.

After all that climbing of stairs to see Tegenungan waterfall, we were in a dire need of some protein. Dinner was at Warung Ibu Oka, a place famous for its Babi Guling (Balinese-style whole roasted suckling pig).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Giving us a warm welcome to Warung Ibu Oka.

To make Babi Guling, the entire pig is stuffed with a combination of spices used in traditional Indonesian cooking including turmeric, coriander seeds, lemon grass and more.

Usually, the Babi Guling is served up in big chunks in a rattan bowl with rice, fried intestines, spicy vegetables and Ibu Oka’s secret sauce. Unfortunately, by the time we got there around 7 p.m., most of the stuff (Babi Guling included) were sold out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Babi Guling and vegetables were sold out. 😦

We were left with limited choices and the dinner wasn’t fantastic. The only consolation was that Agent D and I made friends with many of the resident dogs of Ibu Oka.

Such cuties!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dinner companions for the night.

Day 3

Time always flies when you’re holidaying and day 3 marked our last day in Ubud. SOBS. Before checking out of the villa, we took a dip in the pool.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One with nature.

After all the sightseeing, day 3 was reserved specially for SHOPPING (much to Agent D’s dismay). We headed down to Ubud Traditional Art Market, locally referred to as ‘Pasar Seni Ubud’, to search for unique handcrafted souvenirs to take home with us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ubud Traditional Art Market.

Ubud Traditional Art Market sells loads of stuff — silk scarves, batik, silver jewelry, paintings, woven bags, wooden house decor, and the list goes on. Most of the goods are made in the neighbouring villages of Pengosekan, Tegallalang, Payangan and Peliatan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Shopping streets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Handmade dogs for sale, anyone?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Section of the market that was burnt down by a huge fire in 2016.

Fun fact: there was a scene in Hollywood movie Eat Pray Love where actress Julia Roberts and a male character were filmed strolling through the stalls. 😉

Oh and don’t forget to bargain at the market! As the place can get very crowded in the day, keep your bag in front of you at all times with the zipper closed.

Some of my shopping loot:

Q2 (1)

Hand-painted flower portrait.

Q3

Wooden tray for remote controls/drinks.

Q1

A family of 3 giraffes, carved by hand.

Our last lunch in Ubud was at Bridges Bali, a lovely restaurant to close our trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bridges Bali Restaurant.

Bridges is situated at the end of the two Campuhan Bridges, and nestled right in the valley overlooking the River Wos. Hence the restaurant’s motto ‘Where worlds meet’.

There are 7 distinctive levels where you can choose to dine on; whether you are settled and relaxed on the terraces surrounded by tranquil greenery or down by the riverside, I guarantee you an enjoyable meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Take the spiral staircase up or down to the level of your choice.

We chose one of the uppermost levels where we could gaze out across the picturesque valley as we dined.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Interior of the restaurant with a backdrop of greenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Showing us to our seat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Awatch as the outside world continues on the bridges above you.

Their food was fantastic, every dish was cooked to perfection.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Table flat lay of all the food we ordered.

Along with the ambiance, lunch at Bridges Bali was indulgent and memorable dining at its best!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

An indulgent lunch against nature’s landscape.

Thank you for following me on this adventure! xx

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now what’s next? 🙂

Explore Indonesia #9: A Hidden Gem in Belitung (Seychelles of Asia)

Sorry I’ve been MIA-ing for so long! I was pretty occupied the past two weeks and couldn’t find time to sit down and update. Today, I’m staying in because there is a mass demonstration by Islamic hardliners happening around Jakarta. Am praying that peace will reign in Indonesia. For more information:

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/indonesia-on-high-alert-for-nov-4-protest-against-jakarta/3249324.html

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/thousands-of-muslim-hardliners-to-rally-in-jakarta-over-alleged-blasphemy-by-governor


So last week, Ivana and I made an impromptu decision to visit the secret tropical paradise of Belitung. We booked our air tickets and hotel just four days before and off we went!

Belitung is almost like the Seychelles of Asia, with its unique and beautiful granite rock formations all over the island. Its beaches have fine white sand surrounded by pristine waters a brilliant shade of turquoise. And the best thing yet – it is only one hour by flight from Jakarta! 🙂 🙂 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Belitung, Seychelles of Asia. #nofilter

We didn’t want to rush around ‘seeing’ things and decided to take things easy for our three (two full) days there.

Our first stop was the magical Kaolin Lake – a world of white and blue formed from extreme mining activity decades ago. Isn’t it such a beautiful irony?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kaolin Lake.

After checking into the hotel, we spent some time exploring the city centre. Belitung is pretty untouched by tourism and is not as commercialized as Bali.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Belitung, city centre.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are no malls in Belitung, only shops like these.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A must-try in Belitung – Mie Belitung Atep.

We spent the latter half of the day hiding from the rain at the BW suites bar, which has a lovely view.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fries by the pool/sea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rain, rain, please go away!

Thankfully the rain cleared up after three (!!!) hours. According to the locals, it is the rainy season now and heavy showers can last for an entire day. I guess we should count ourselves lucky.

We headed to Tanjung Tinggi Beach to catch the sunset + have dinner by the beach.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tanjung Tinggi Beach.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Such cloudyyy skies.

Tanjung Tinggi is one of the more popular Belitung beaches after being featured in the Indonesian movie, Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Troops). The film was the highest-grossing in Indonesian box office history and won a number of local and international awards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

HUGE granite boulders.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So this is how an ant feels like…

Dinner was a short walk away at Lemadang Seafood and Grill. A boardwalk connects the restaurant to the beachfront. One can opt to sit by the beach and enjoy the fresh breeze over dinner, which we did.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sun finally setting over the sea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dinner under the stars. 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Highlight of our meal – seafood soup in coconut.

The dishes were simple but delicious. Our tummies were filled with happiness. 🙂

We woke up early the next day for our island hopping tour with Street Taxi (IDR 400K for a private boat/day). The islands of Belitung are simply gorgeous! I’ll let pictures do the talking…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pulau Lengkuas from afar.

Pulau Lengkuas is a small clean island surrounded by big rocks and dreamy white sand. The many big palm trees around the island provide shady spots for a picnic and allow you to seek respite from the sweltering heat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Setting foot on the island.

Pulau Lengkuas has an iconic lighthouse, which was recently re-painted without any change to its historical interior.

Do not skip climbing up to the top-most storey of the lighthouse — awaiting you is a view to behold like no other. Just standing there and taking in the vast expanse of the ocean to infinity and beyond = BREATHTAKING.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thank God for the good weather – sun hiding behind the cotton candy clouds.

We snorkelled around Pulau Lengkuas and saw many cute fishes and beautiful corals.

Our next stop was Pulau Kepayang, home to a conservation centre that promotes eco-tourism. Baby turtles are kept there till they’re big enough to be set free into the sea.

One can also dive, snorkel, or canoe around the lovely island.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Picturesque Seychelles-like boulders and pristine turquoise waters.

The guy who took us around the island told us that he has been staying on the island for years. He loves taking photos and reads up on photography techniques at night because there is simply nothing to do on the island. At that point, I loaned him my camera so he could hone his skills.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo taken by our island friend.

Whilst waiting for lunch to be ready, we explored the granite boulders tucked away on the other side of the island (all photos taken by our enthusiastic photographer).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Take #1: In the waters.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Take #2: My ANTM moment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Take #3: Up on a boulder.

And more photos…

We were super duper hungry towards the end of our ‘photo shoot’. Thankfully lunch was ready in good time. We ordered our lunch (IDR 110k/pax) through Street Taxi because it is apparently cheaper than ordering on the island itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A feast by the sea – cooked by our two boatmen.

After lunch, we stopped by Pulau Kelayang to see its caves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mesmerizing blue.

Just before boarding our boat, we caught sight of a starfish!!! This little one was washed up to shore along with the receding tide.

From a distance, I saw some thoughtless tourists remove a starfish from the sea. To my dismay, they were taking turns to take selfies with the starfish!! :/ [Note: Starfish are a delicate species that cannot survive out of water for long.]

We headed back to the hotel to wash up thereafter. Dinner was at Belitung Timpo Duluk, which serves traditional Belitung-styled dinner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Belitung Timpo Duluk.

The interior of the restaurant is homely yet quaint and vintage at the same time. And there’s AIR-CON (!!!) inside, a rare find in Belitung.

You have to try their speciality ‘Dulang Set’, which consists of gangan ikan (fish head), ayam ketumbar (coriander chicken), sate ikan (fish satay), atiampela (gizzard and heart innards), lalapan (raw vegetable salad) and sambal serai (lemongrass hot sauce). #sogoodANDawesome

I cannot remember the exact price of the Dulang Set but it was very reasonable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What’s cooking?! Surrprissssse!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great meal to end off our Belitung stay.

You’ve been nothing short of ah-maaazing, Belitung! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And thank you, Ivana, for coming along this adventure with me! 😉

Explore Indonesia #3: Cultural City of Yogyakarta

About 3 weeks ago, I noticed on the calendar that a long weekend (Easter) was coming up. WHOOOOOP. I casually asked Agent D if we should travel out of Jakarta and to my surprise, he said “Yeah, why not?”. Upon hearing that, I quickly booked our air tickets and hotel (yes, all within a night) to seal the deal.

We settled on Yogyakarta because we’ve heard so much about it from our friends and also because it was just a one-hour flight away from Jakarta. Few days before our trip, I spent some time researching on places to check out in Yogyakarta – primarily that of food and attractions. Here’s what we did. 🙂

IMG_7397

Exploring the old streets of Yogyakarta.

Day 1:

By the time our plane landed in Yogyakarta around 10 a.m., Agent D’s stomach was growling real bad. We had woken up at 5 a.m.earlier in the morning and in our mad rush to the airport, did not have any time for breakfast. Garuda Airlines only offered a puny bun during the flight which was not enough to satisfy a hungry growing boy.

We arranged for a driver to pick us up from the airport and went straight down to Roaster & Bear for brunch. Roaster and Bear is an absolutely lovely two-story cafe lined with glass windows, white walls, and wooden furniture. Their entire theme revolves around bears (as their name says it) — BEARY INSTAGRAMMABLE indeed.

Whilst waiting for our food to come, I went around taking photos of the cafe. Agent D really liked this poster and insisted I take a photo of it (which is really rare, he seldom takes a fancy to cutesy stuff).

IMG_7206

I LOVE YOU BEARY MUCH (AWW).

Alas our food arrived! I told Agent D to wait for a few minutes while I snapped some photos of the food. He obliged with a weak smile but I could tell from the corner of my eye he was just waiting to pounce on the food hehe.

The food was not bad. I liked my pumpkin soup (which had a sweetish tinge) and tuna sandwich. If only the onion rings were more crumbly though. Agent D felt that his scallop pasta would have been much better with fresh scallops instead of frozen scallops. But then again, we would be paying a premium for that.

By the way, food in Yogyakarta is REALLY AFFORDABLE (1/2 the prices of Jakarta and 1/4 the prices of my home country). And this is true even for nice restaurants in 5-star hotels. Here’s a picture of the menu for your reference. 🙂

IMG_7198

Roaster and Bear Menu.

IMG_7196

Just had to take a picture against this cute wall.

After our very filling lunch, we proceeded to Mount Merapi. Translated as “Mountain of Fire” in Javanese, Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in Asia. It has erupted at least 68 times since 1548 and the most recent eruption in 2010 left 30 dead. SCARYYY. On our journey there, I prayed a silent prayer that 25 March 2016 was not going to be the next eruption in history. (Apparently, it erupts every 5-6 years which means an eruption is due anytime soon!)

We rented a jeep and a local guide to bring us around for 1.5 hours (IDR 350K). You’ll see many jeep companies at the base camp all offering the same kind of tours. Pick any one!

It was really fun zipping through the gravel-filled paths, up and down steep slopes, with the wind in our hair. Agent D stood up as our jeep went down a slope and started laughing so hard, he couldn’t stop. Being risk adverse, I decided to stay put on my seat for the whole tour.

Our Merapi Lava Tour consisted of 3 stops — Museum Sisa Hartaku (My Remaining Treasure Museum), Alien stone, and Bunker. Here’s us acting cool with our dashing red jeep.

IMG_7241

Outside Museum Sisa Hartaku.

Museum Sisa Hartaku (first stop) is within an actual house that was partially destroyed by the Merapi eruption in 2010. Everyday items such as bicycles, toys, televisions, furniture and cutlery are on display at the museum. From the items, one can catch a glimpse of the sad extent of the destruction and the impact it had on people’s lives.

 Just look at how the televisions melted because of the hot ash cloud. 😦

IMG_7249

Deformed televisions.

For me, this clock was an especially poignant reminder of the Merapi eruption on 5 November 2010. Due to the intense heat, the hands of the clock  were embedded into the clock surface at the point of eruption. Frozen in time, literally.

IMG_7247

12.05 p.m., Friday.

Along the way, we passed by abandoned dilapidated houses. Our guide told us that a number of villages were affected by the eruption and many houses still remain in ruins to this day.

IMG_7251

The 2010 Merapi eruption destroyed the homes of many.

Alien stone (a HUMONGOUS stone) was hurled out of the crater during the eruption. Not quite sure how it managed to travel such a long distance to land here. But it did. Looks more like a mini stone hill to me. 

IMG_7256

Us with Alien Stone.

Our third and last stop, Bunker, had a lovely view of Mount Merapi. Thankfully it was a pretty clear day and we managed to see the towering volcano in all its majestic grandeur. Agent D and I felt this was the best part of the tour; it reminded us that He who created the mountains – nothing/no situation is too big for him.

IMG_7272

Taking a moment to soak in God’s wonderful creation.

“The mountains melt beneath him
    and the valleys split apart,
like wax before the fire,
    like water rushing down a slope.” Micah 1:4

We decided to head to Borobudur next. Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Many people come to Yogyakarta with the main intent of visiting Borobudur.

IMG_7291

It was raining cats and dogs when we first got out of the car so we rented 2 big umbrellas from the locals. My jeans were soaking wet 5 minutes into walking towards Borobudur. :/

The monument consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. It’s amazing how the builders of those times put everything together by hand, without any cranes or scaffolding!

I read somewhere that Borobodur was forgotten for hundreds of years, and lay buried under jungle foliage and volcanic ash. Historians deduce that this may have been due to the religious shift to Islam in the 15th century.

IMG_7307

The view from the top of Borobudur.

The rain tapered off towards the end so we managed to take a photo without the umbrellas over our heads. YAY.

IMG_7294

We ended the night with dinner at Stupa Restaurant by Plataran, a 15-minutes drive from Borobudur. The moment we stepped out of the car, we were like WOW. SO PRETTY.

IMG_7313

Dinner with a view.

The outdoor terrace offers breathtaking green scenery of Menoreh hills and rice paddy fields. Digging into our warm food whilst soaking in the view was an awesome experience. Sadly, it got dark soon after and all I could see were some faraway stars. 😦

The food was so-so only (maybe because we ordered Chinese food instead of Indonesian food heh) and a tad on the salty side. The duck was quite tough to bite!

Prices were on the steeper side, but still affordable nonetheless. If anything, go for the view. Its worth it. Here’s the menu for your reference:

IMG_7315

Stupa Restaurant Menu.

Day 2:

Agent D and I were so tired towards the end of day 1 that we decided to take day 2 slower. Our Yogyakarta trip was meant to be a relaxing getaway from Jakarta and the last thing we wanted was returning to Jakarta on Sunday night even more tired than before. SLOW DOWN, DEB. You don’t have to see everything.

We decided to sleep in on day 2 and left for the Kraton of Yogyakarta at 10.30 a.m. It was really crowded (and hot) by the time we reached around noon time.

IMG_7335

Emblem of the Yogyakarta Kraton.

The kraton is a palace complex which is the main seat of the Sultan of Yogyakarta and his family. It serves as a cultural center for the local Javanese people and contains a museum that displays the sultanate’s artifacts. The Kraton’s architecture contains a mix of Buddhist, Islamic and Hindi elements.

There are approximately 2000 palace guards at the Kraton, out of which only 1000ish are active. I ran into a tea lady who is responsible for preparing tea for the royal family at various times of the day. She told me that she’s currently 7o+ years old and has worked at the palace since a very young age; her parents were palace workers too. And so are her children.

IMG_7341

With a palace tea lady. She carries a dagger in front of her chest, don’t play play!

Our next stop was Taman Sari, a short 5-minutes drive from the Kraton. It was built mainly for the Sultan’s pleasure; only females (his MANY wives, NUMEROUS concubines, and daughters) and the sultan himself were allowed to enter the central bathing complex.

IMG_7345

Entrance of the Taman Sari.

The central tower in the central bathing complex was used by the sultan to observe his daughters and concubines bathing in the pool. :/

I find it a real pity that the Kraton and Taman Sari have not been well-maintained over the years. Many of the walls had paint peeling off and growing algae, the artifacts did not have proper English translations, and the insides were not well-lit (some areas did not even have lights and we were walking around in total darkness!). Sad sights of once glorious places. If only more effort was put into the upkeep and preservation of both places – I’m sure they’ll be an even bigger hit with tourists.

We din’t stay long at Taman Sari but spent more time exploring the Kampung Taman settlement. I really enjoyed walking around the colourful houses and observing the people’s way of life.

The residents of Kampung Taman are best known for their traditional handicrafts and many of them sell craft and batik from their homes.

IMG_7356

A lady hand-making a piece of batik outside her shop/home.

IMG_7353

Spotted a raccoon snoozing in one of the convenience stores (sorry for waking you up mister!).

I was happily walking around the stores in search for the perfect batik dress when I heard Agent D’s stomach rumble. GRRROOOWWWL. I glanced at my watch and omg it was 2.30 p.m.! Time was flying by so fast. We called our driver and headed to Mediterranea Restaurant for lunch. BEST CHOICE EVER.

Touted as one of the best french restaurants in Yogyakarta and rated #3 of 723 Restaurants in Yogyakarta, Mediterranea truly lives up to its name.

With a homey ambience and small bar, Mediterranea comes off as an unpretentious French restaurant. I felt that even if I folded my legs on the chair and put my elbows down on the table – no would would judge me. The restaurant has nice surrounds for dining with an atrium (a covered garden) out at the back.

IMG_7360

Hungry and tired.

We were both very hungry and over-ordered (again). The food was authentically french and tasted yummy. Best thing yet — the prices. For all the food we ordered, out total bill came up to IDR 289K (S$30)! Very reasonable right. 🙂 🙂

The duck confit with mashed potatoes was our favourite! The duck was cooked just right and was paired together with grilled eggplant (beneath it). The mashed potatoes had bits of risotto in them…SO GOOD.

Both Agent D and myself were in food coma mode after lunch and decided to go back to the hotel. After resting for 2 hours, we freshened up and headed down to Jalan Malioboro for some shopping (what’s a holiday trip without shopping right – much to Agent D’s dismay hehe).

IMG_7379

Jam-packed streets of Jalan Malioboro.

Jalan Malioboro is one of the icons of Yogyakarta. Many small eateries, batik and souvenir shops can be found there. There wasn’t anything much for us to buy (apart from my batik dress) but it was nice to just soak in the atmosphere by taking a slow stroll down the street. Tourists can also opt to sit in a becak (rickshaw) or delman (horse carriage) at night.

IMG_7386

In search of a pretty batik dress.

Dinner was at Hikaru Dining Japanese Restaurant, a cosy Japanese establishment near to our hotel. Juliana was just commenting that I seem to eat all kinds of food in Indonesia (French, Japanese, Western, Chinese, etc) – all except Indonesian cuisine. Haha that is so true. Not sure why I never have a craving for Indonesian food. The only time I eat Indonesian cuisine is when friends come to visit.

The food at Hikaru was decently good for the prices we paid. Their chef is apparently certified by Singapore Health Association (is there such an association in Singapore?!) and they’ve won a number of awards in earlier years. Impressssive.

IMG_7390

Here are some pictures of the interior of the restaurant:

And some photos of our comfort food:

I totally forgot to take a picture of my salmon head soup. Only realised it after I had dug out the poor salmon’s eyeballs and cheek meat (yes, I love fish eyeballs) which didn’t look too appetizing after. Agent D liked his ramen and their baked salmon roll was as good as the one in Sushi Tei.

Day 3:

Day 3 in Yogyakarta happened to be Easter Sunday. I woke up earlier before the alarm clock rang and decided to peer out of the hotel window to see if I could catch the sunrise. A brightly lit cloud amidst a blue unlit sky greeted me.

Psalms 146:6 came to mind: He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– he remains faithful forever.

IMG_7378

Easter Sunday morning. Christ is risen!!!

I went back to bed thereafter only to wake up again at 9.30 a.m. After breakfast, Agent D and I went for a leisurely swim at the hotel pool downstairs. It had been a lonnnnng time since I last swam and after 3 laps, I was kinda panting and had to stop by the side to catch my breath. Sigh time to start exercising again.

As our flight was only in the late afternoon, we decided to go for some SPA pampering at De Wave Spa after checking out of the hotel. I had a 60 minutes full body massage + 20 minutes face massage whilst Agent D went for a 90 minutes full body massage with greater focus on the back. SHIOK.

As seen from the receipt above, the total cost of both our treatments was IDR 220K (S$23). WORTH IT RIGHT?! It is even more affordable than my usual massage package in Jakarta! So happy.:) After our massage, we had a slow lunch at the hotel and then headed to the airport.

Both Agent D and myself really enjoyed our time in Yogyakarta and we’re thinking of making another weekend trip sometime within our posting. Next time round, we hope to do more adventurous stuff like cave tubing and abseiling into Jomplang Cave (which I heard is really fun!).

IMG_7178

Us on the plane. Up, up, and away!

Come to Yogyakarta if you’re seeking a short getaway without burning a hole in your pocket. It won’t disappoint! x


Useful Information:

Recommended lodging: Grand Aston Yogyakarta (https://www.aston-international.com/eng/hotel-detail/73/grand-aston-yogyakarta)

Recommended car rental service (comes with driver): Ukhi (http://yogyadriver.com/)

Explore Indonesia #2: Taman Safari & Puncak

15

In my past 7 months in Jakarta, I’ve gone up to Puncak and Bogor (Taman Safari) twice – the first time with Agent D (Sept 2015) and the second time with my parents (Feb 2016). I always find it a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of Jakarta. As Puncak and Taman Safari are both on higher ground, the air there is much fresher and cooler. Barring rain, it feels almost like the nice spring-summer weather one gets in temperate regions.

I went with Agent D on a weekend and with my parents on a weekday. And what a world of difference that made in terms of TRAFFIC. With Agent D, we left Jakarta at 6 a.m. on a Saturday and only arrived at Taman Safari around 9.30 a.m. (3.5 hours on the road). With my parents, we left Jakarta at 8 a.m. on a Wednesday and arrived ALSO at 9.30 a.m (a whole 2 hours less!). If you’re visiting Jakarta and thinking of heading to Puncak/ Taman Safari for a day trip, GO ON A WEEKDAY. On weekends, one lane (there are only two lanes, each in one direction) gets closed and the closure of the two lanes is alternated. This means that if the road you are on happens to be closed, your vehicle CANNOT MOVE at all. That happened to us and we were in a stationary car for over an hour. I remember having a strong urge to pee but there were no toilets around!!!

1

Waiting in the car for the road to open.

Taman Safari

When nearing the Taman Safari entrance, you’ll see many vendors selling carrots. You can buy them to feed the animals. BUY LOADS. Trust me, the animals loveeee carrots. The entrance fees for Taman Safari are about IDR 250k for foreigners and IDR 150K for locals. You have to pay for your driver and there is a small cost for driving in your car.

Taman Safari is a safari park where most of the resident animals roam about freely. The animals are very used to humans and will come right up to your car. If your car windows are down, be prepared to have animals peer in (and lots of SALIVA over your windows).

Elephants were the first animals we saw, followed by camels.

At first, I was frantically waving the carrots to the animals to catch their attention. Over here, comeeee. But once they caught sight of the orange little things, they galloped to my car all at once. It was a little overwhelming but I warmed up to them fast.

22

Caught off guard by the zebra on my right.

16

Patience dude, I’m getting your carrot.

11

Here’s a carrot for having such pretty eyelashes!

Here are some of my favourite pictures of the animals. They are really good at flashing their big bambi eyes at you and giving a doeful look with the hidden message: “Pleaseeee could we have a carrot? Pretty pweeaase? One more pleaseeeee?” HOW TO REJECT SUCH CUTE FACES. I wished I had bought more carrots earlier on.

The animals do not observe ANY road traffic rules. They have no fear of oncoming cars and jaywalk everywhere and anywhere. So please drive carefully and don’t be too distracted with feeding them!

As our car approached the danger zone (which houses the meat-eating animals), we had to wind up our car windows and lock our car doors. Please do not dangle any carrots at this point or stick your head out of the window. Your head might be more enticing than the carrots!

The lions, bears, tigers, cheetahs etc were not in an enclosure and were roaming around freely too. Some were just beside our car. *shudders*  This was the first time I was in such close proximity to the King of the jungle. HE’S SO HANDSOME.

Towards the end, our car had to cross a “river” where the water level was quite high. I was worried about our car engine but thankfully it survived!

29.JPG

Mr. Hippo having a dip in the “river”.

On the way to the parking lot, my parents spotted a beautiful peacock! Again this was my first time seeing a white peacock strutting around in all its glory.

30.JPG

Hello beautiful!

Just-for-laughs 🙂 🙂 🙂

27

Asses galore.

17

What neat teeth you have, Mr. Zebra!

After driving through the safari park, you can park your car at the main attraction center. There is loads to see and do there — walk around the baby zoo, catch animal shows (dolphins, sea lions, elephants, cowboys and more), browse souvenir shops, ride/ feed animals, play at the waterpark/ theme park, etc.

With Agent D, we both trekked up to see a natural waterfall. The sound of the water beating down was really refreshing! And there were not many people around (seemed almost like an undiscovered area), which was really nice.

After spending about 15 minutes at the waterfall, we headed for the sea lion show. The sea lion show was very fun and entertaining; we enjoyed it tremendously!

With my parents, we decided to walk around the baby zoo. It is like a mini zoo with selected animals in cages (e.g., pumas, snakes, kangaroos, birds and more). You can also cuddle and take pictures with baby lions and orang-utans. Children will definitely love it!

We spent about half an hour at the baby zoo and proceeded to watch the elephant show thereafter. Sadly, the elephant show was quite disappointing! I wouldn’t recommend it if you were in a rush for time.

Puncak Pass

Agent D and I left Taman Safari around 12.45 p.m. for Puncak. Our driver brought us to a lovely lunch spot overlooking the hills and tea plantations. REALLY PRETTY. I forgot to note down the name of the restaurant sorry :/

After lunch, we drove up to Puncak Gantole. That is the place to go to if you want to try paragliding. The unblocked view of the massive tea plantations and rolling hills below was breath-taking. Again I stood amazed at God’s wonderful creation.

IMG_5693

Up, up, and away!

IMG_5691

Taken along with the wind.

Agent D and I wanted to have a go at paragliding but there was a 1+ hour waiting time. We couldn’t afford to wait that long because we had to beat the heavy traffic back to Jakarta. Oh well, looks like we’ll have to come back again sometime.

IMG_5698e

And this marks the end of our day trip to Puncak.

38

Picture perfect mountain backdrop.

39

Perfect for chilling.

40

Now all I need is a glass of wine. My life is complete.

My parents and I had lunch at the Banyan Restaurant downstairs. There was NO ONE, as if we had booked the entire restaurant to ourselves.


Surrounded by breezy cool air and natural scenery, it was a very pleasant meal. The food was so-so only but the ambience more than made up for it. On Saturdays and PHs, the Banyan restaurant hosts an extravagant allyoucaneat BBQ party accompanied with live music and fire dances (for just IDR 150k nett/pax).

The restaurant overlooks the pool so we went down to take some pictures whilst waiting for our food to come.

43

Feeling on top of the world.

44

Could chill here all day long.

45

Hotel rooms facing the mountains.

I’m hoping to spend 1 night at Pesona Alam during my next trip to Bogor. If you happen to go before me, let me know how your stay went! ❤

Have a great Sunday everyone!! Can’t believe a new week is starting again.

Explore Indonesia #1: Bandung

When Agent D first took up post in Jakarta, we agreed that we would try to explore as much of Indonesia as we could in our 3 years here. Our first destination was Bandung last September 2015, a 3-hour train ride through the hills of West Java (very pretty scenery on the way!). My parents happened to be visiting during that long weekend so they came along too.

Day 1:

1

Passing by a train junkyard on the way to Bandung. The trains were stacked like LEGO!

We took the 8.30 am train out of Jakarta and arrived in Bandung around noon. All of us were VERY HUNGRY by then so we proceeded straight to Hummingbird Eatery for lunch. I had previously read rave reviews about this cafe (from tourist blogs/ touristy articles on Bandung) and was having high expectations. To my disappointment, it was actually the SAME Hummingbird Eatery (same décor, same menu, even the waiters wore the same uniforms) as the one in Kuningan City, Jakarta – which Agent D and I frequent. It wasn’t that the food was bad; it was just that we travelled all the way to Bandung to specially seek out a cool cafe only to find out that it was not that cool. 😦

After having our tummies filled, we went for some factory outlet shopping which really wasn’t that fantastic. The only thing I got was a polka-dotted pyjamas set. To work out for our dinner carbs later, we headed to Dago Pakar (contains 2 adjacent parks) for some light trekking. Sadly,  Taman (Park) Wisata Maribaya (known for its waterfalls and  natural hot springs) was closed. I had read that the natural hot spring pools there were believed to cure skin diseases. Hmm maybe it could have helped my mild eczema oh well.

So we went to  Taman (Park) Hutan Raya instead. Totalling 590 hectares of land, Taman Hutan Raya was built to conserve Bandung’s diversity of plants and flowers. It houses two separate waterfalls (Curug Lalay and Curug Omas) and REALLY DARK tunnels/ caves dug out by the Japanese and Dutch during World War 2. Prior to entering the tunnels, one could rent flashlights from the locals at the entrance. But we didn’t and it was a bad decision. My handphone torchlight wasn’t strong enough and I was tripping over myself half the time (there was many pot-like holes inside the tunnels). Also, do put on appropriate footwear if you ever make it to Taman Hutan Raya . The hike can be (WAS for me) pretty treacherous and I was THAT close to hailing one of those motorbike taxis to ferry me up the steep slopes back to the entrance (but Agent D didn’t allow me to sobs).

We had dinner at Kampung Daun, which was quite an otherworldly experience. My parents loved it. It is a whole village on its own — constructed out of bamboo, solid rocks, gurgling streams, green leaves, and a waterfall. To top it off, there was FRESH MOUNTAIN BREEZE. Everyone dines in their own private gazebo which is…super private (and nice).

13

Our private gazebo amidst greenery and rushing streams.

The Sundanese traditional menu is a must-try, such as the wrapped rice Nasi Timbel to complete your way back to nature. Here are more pictures of our visit to Kampung Daun:

 Day 2:

We started off day 2 at De’Ranch — a previous actual ranch with 5 hectares of greenery. There are 22 activities to choose from costing between Rp 20000 to Rp 200000, including archery, horse riding, fishing, animal feeding, gold hunting (?!), etc.

18

De’Ranch against a very pretty backdrop.

Apart from the horse riding, I didn’t find the other activities particularly amusing. We paid to fish from a pond that seemingly contained more dead fish then alive ones. After 10 minutes, we decided to give up. It was too painful and the smell from the pond was overwhelming.

We didn’t stay too long at De’Ranch because our journey to Kawah Putih (white crater) was estimated to take 2-3 hours depending on traffic. On our way to see the mystical crater lake, we stopped by Saung Gawir for lunch. It was another lovely restaurant with a different kind of ambience altogether — private huts with atap leaves overhead and bamboo walls + COOL MOUNTAIN BREEZE again (simply love the air in Bandung!). Diners can choose to either sit tatami-style in a private hut or on proper chairs with tables in the main area.

27.JPG

View from where we sat.

I was so hungry when our food came that I COMPLETELY FORGOT to take food pictures (how is that possible?!). By the time I realised, only fish and chicken bones were left on our plates. 😦 Do try their Nasi Timbel with grilled Gurame fish (a Sundanese dish), it’s pretty good stuff.

After having our tummies filled, we continued our journey to Kawah Putih. Thankfully, there was no hiking involved to get there *phew* and our car could go all the way up. Known as the mystical lake above the cloud, this crater Lake was formed after Mount Patuha blew its top. Apparently, its crystal blue waters changes with the weather conditions, and it is surrounded with fine white sand.

One can see that even the vegetation around the area is quite different from those on lower ground. Just standing there and taking in the majestic sights of Kawah Putih before me was a reminder of God’s wonderful handiwork. Be warned that the smell of sulphur can get pretty overpowering!

From Kawah Putih back to Bandung, we passed by many strawberry farms. Too tempting.  We decided to stop at one of the bigger farms to pick fresh strawberries for dessert after dinner!

For our last night in Bandung, we had dinner at Stone Cafe — another village ambience with gazebos made out of bamboo and a lot of stones. The restaurant is located on a hill and offers a fantastic view of Bandung city. Although it’s a tad pricier compared to other eateries in Bandung, the view more than makes up for it. Not to mention there’s a live band to accompany your dinner.

I did not take any food pictures this time round because my handphone battery and portable charger were flat beyond redemption (and not because I forgot!). Just to be safe, try to order fully-cooked food items on the menu. I had pan-seared tuna steak which was rare — I attribute this to my terrible food poisoning the next day (a little bit of diarrhea on the train journey back and full-blown diarrhea for 3 consecutive days which warranted a visit to the doctor). This was my THIRD TIME getting food poisoning in 3 MONTHS and I am now very selective of what I put into my mouth. That said, I would still return to Stone Cafe if I ever make another trip to Bandung.

Day 3:

We wanted to go easy on ourselves for our last day in Bandung i.e. sleep in and take things slow. After breakfast at the hotel, we headed to Lembang floating market. The floating market sells a wide selection of traditional Indonesian food served from small boats with a beautiful view of a lake.

38

Lembang floating market.

Apart from eating, visitors can do various activities such as ride the ATV and paddle boats, feed swans/rabbits, visit the cactus/stone gardens or get a massage. There is also a European house and miniature train set which takes about 10 minutes to get through.

We decided to get some afternoon exercise and rented two paddle boats — one for my parents and one for Agent D and myself. At first, I thought it would be a light and easy workout for my legs. BUT NOOOOO. The paddle boats were heavy and we both had to paddle in sync to move the boats forward. To make things even more difficult, water kept seeping into our boats and my legs were almost submerged in water! 10 minutes into paddling, lactic acid was building up in my legs and I pleaded with Agent D to return to shore. To my dismay, he was not done with paddling yet (we had the boat for 1 hour) and wanted to explore the other side of the lake. *help*

After paddling around for 45 minutes, we bought some food and walked around the art and craft stores. Two monochrome paintings caught my eye and I knew I had to get them (plus they were at a really good price!). Must support local artists right hehe.

IMG_6935[1]

Paintings bought from Lembang floating market.

We had planned to go to Dusun Bambu for lunch. Dusun Bambu has not one…not two…BUT THREE amazing restaurants each with a unique theme and gorgeous views. I was especially interested in dining in a birdcage suspended in the trees at Lutung Kasarung. However, due to time constraints, we had to head straight to the train station. It will definitely be in my itinerary for my next visit to Bandung!

All in all, Bandung was a really nice break from Jakarta city life. Am crossing my fingers I’ll be able to visit Bandung again sometime!

Useful Information:

Recommended lodging: Padma Hotel Bandung (http://www.padmahotelbandung.com/)

Recommended car rental service (comes with driver): Diaz Travelindo                             (http://www.diaztravelindo.com/p/package-and-price.html)