Tuesday, December 31, 2013

For Me, 2013 Was The Year Of Trying New Things

There are so many things happening this year, I don't know where to start. One thing for sure, the experience I had in 2012 has given me the courage to take the leap of faith this year. I have done in 2013 a lot of things that I thought I would never do. Work hard, play harder and pray hardest :).

The following are my highlights of this year:
-- I took the trip to three ASEAN countries: Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia. Being a Southeast Asian, the trip has provided me with new perspectives on neighboring countries. I wish to visit the other ASEAN countries in the following years, preferably those that have the visa-free/VOA policy (Dear Myanmar, I'm looking at you).
-- The trip has taught me that I could survive for 11 days with a backpack weighed less than 9 kg and that I could sleep on the train, bus, night ferry and spooky hostels if I wanted to. 
-- During the said trip, I managed to experience what Songkran Festival is like (I love it!) and visited the Angkor Wat (it is a must-visit!)
-- I took the weekend trip to Pahawang islands in Lampung with a backpacker community. It's nice to know that there are many beautiful places within several hours trip from Jakarta and it's fun to hang out with new circle of friends.
-- Three cousins were married this year! Oh my, how fast does time fly? It felt just yesterday I played around with them and now they're all grown up:)
-- I did a series of old-time eatery in Jakarta. It's always fun to learn more about the city I work in.
-- I submitted my resignation letter to the newspapers company that had been my work (and life) for the past 6.5 years. After almost a decade in journalism, I decided to switch career by accepting a job at a government institution that works on climate change funding. It's a whole new world and I'm learning new things everyday.
-- With the new workplace having 9-to-5 work schedule, I am now one of the millions commuters taking the train. The train is packed but it's congestion-free.
-- My new office appointed me to be a person in charge for the visit to Central Kalimantan. Isn't it funny that I posted this in March and then I went to Borneo in September? Also, I just realized that I posted South Korea as one of my travel destination dreams in March 2010 and then got the fellowship to South Korea in August 2010! I wonder what would happen with this post, I mean, a Joe Taslim-look-alike might come into my life, ahem, a girl can always dream :P.
-- Another milestone this year was the decision to learn about the technology and finance stuffs. I bought an iPod touch (which became one of the essential items during the ASEAN trip) and then succumbed to the charms of a smartphone due to my new job. I'm still learning how to use it.
-- The office was moved to the 20th floor, the highest floor in the building, and I got a cubicle right next to the window. It's a real treat for a woman who loves staring at faraway places from great heights.
-- I finally saw the Komodo dragons in their natural habitat with my cousin and friends and then did a Trans Flores trip. I've been to Flores three years ago so it was like a home-bound road trip:)
-- I had two trips to close this year: the office trip to Cirebon and then two-day motor touring to Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta.

How was 2013 for you?
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

This Photo Seems Familiar To Me

Fun for all: Two holiday revelers (left) jump into the water at Sri Gethuk Waterfall in Bleberan tourist village, Gunung Kidul , Yogyakarta, on Sunday. The area is picturesque, covered with green lush, and is home to the Oyo River and small hills, attracting hundreds of tourists every day. (JP/P.J. Leo), link

Oh look, a friend from this newspaper was also taking a holiday to the same waterfall I went to two weeks ago:). Man, I was so glad there ain't no snake in that brown river.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Road Trippin' To Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta

When I told my uni friend Aneen that I was going to Cirebon, she asked if I could stop by Yogyakarta or Solo. She also suggested that we took a road trip to the beaches along Gunung Kidul shores in Yogyakarta. So I asked my colleagues if I could take a few days off after the Cirebon trip. They said it's doable, and so I submitted my leave form.

Almost everyone who knew I was taking another leave was shocked. Didn't you just took leave a month ago? You already took 5 days of leave in November, you still have days of leave? But you have just worked in the new office, they allow you to take leave? The answers are yes, yes and yes, my friends:).

Gunung Kidul is a regency in the southeast part of Yogyakarta Special Region. Literally means Southern Mountains, Gunung Kidul is part of karst region. The regency has been subject to extensive drought and famine as water shortages and poverty remain serious problems there. 

However, when we visited the region in the fourth week of December, it was wet with rain, green with healthy plants and the air felt so pure. The rainy season may be the right time but also the most dangerous time to visit the region, because not all roads are well-constructed. Most roads leading to the beaches are not paved yet, and the combination of karst rocks and mud are not safe for first time drivers. Definitely not recommended for drivers with little to none driving experience. Sometimes during our trip, we faced such a difficult road that we questioned our sanity on doing the road trip in the rainy season.

We started our road trip from Sri Gethuk waterfall and body rafting along Oyo river. Then, we ventured the beaches: Baron, Kukup, Krakal, Drini, Sepanjang, Indrayanti, Pok Tunggal, Siung, Jogan and Sadeng. Off all beaches, I think Siung tops the list for its scenery and secludedness.

We spent one night in Baron and another night in Siung. At night, we could hear waves crushing to the shore amidst the sound of heavy rain. Unless you're going to spend the night in Indrayanti, brace your heart to stay in a humble abode. After all, you are lucky to have a place to stay.

Road tripping in Gunung Kidul is like having an intimate conversation between yourselves and the nature. The region is not densely populated so you don't see too many people as in the city. It's just you and the majestic landscape that envelopes the region. It really is hard to imagine what it looks like during the drought season. 

I didn't spend a lot of time chatting with Gunung Kidul people, but  I could tell that while they are poor, they are hardworking and proud. During our trip, almost all Gunung Kidul people were out in the paddy field or walked with bulky load on their backs. You don't see people hanging out on the road, they are all out in the field. After all, it's the rainy season, the perfect time to plant the seedlings.

Aneen and I would stop from time to time to ask directions to the people. Aneen speaks Jawa kromo (the polite version of Javanese language) and they would reply enthusiastically. It seems that in places where life is hard, the people are willing to go the extra miles to ensure that you will be alright on the road. Prices are mostly low. We got a place to spend a night that required us to pay Rp 40,000 (around US$ 3.28 with the current currency rate) and bought two lobsters for Rp 170,000.

We often left the motorcycle (and our backpacks) on the empty roadside and ventured to the beach. And the motorcycle and backpacks would still be there when we returned.

Most of the times we faced rain, heavy rain. We couldn't stop and wait for the rain to subside because the rain could last the whole day. All we got to do was to put our rainy season gears and got back on the motorcycle. Although I had worn the helmet, the rain would make a way to reach my chin. So I looked up to the sky and licked the rain:).

It was a trip that was a feast to the eye and a food for the thoughts.

A view of Gunung Kidul regency, Yogyakarta

 Me and the tree on Rancang Kencana cave

Sri Gethuk waterfall

You jump, I jump. Cowabunga!

Panorama of Pok Tunggal Beach

Panorama of Jogan Beach

 Siung beach

These guys remind me of Larry in Spongebob Squarepants

The best treat on a rainy day: a cup of tea served with lump sugar

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Short Sojourn To Cirebon

Hello lovelies, how are you? Sorry for the one-month blogging hiatus, I had to finish works before the end of the year. Boss CO, my direct boss, had decided to resign and Boss NPM, the higher supervisor, thought I could manage without any supervision. Eep! Somehow I always give people a false idea that I'm such a tough woman ::sigh::. 

Anyway, last week, my office was holding a business meeting in Cirebon, West Java. When I first heard about the trip, I was unimpressed. I mean I passed this city whenever I was going to or leaving Semarang for Jakarta during my university days. At that time (late 1990s and early 2000s), Cirebon train station (as well as all train stations, actually) had so many food hawkers and vendors, they were allowed to enter the economy and business class trains and they were very persistent in offering their goods. Persistent as in they would shout at you to catch your attention. Very loudly.

All trains going to Central and East Java stop in Cirebon before they are making a turn to either the northern railway (Semarang) or southern railway (Yogyakarta, Solo or Malang). Now, Jakarta-Cirebon is a three-hour trip, and if you're like me who loves taking an evening train (because the economy and business class trains felt cooler at night than on midday) from Jakarta (usually depart at 8 or 9 p.m.), you'll be most likely to arrive in Cirebon at 11 p.m. or 12 a.m.

It was not an exciting experience to be awaken from your beauty sleep by food vendors shouting,"Sale pisang, sale pisang (Sliced sweetened banana)!" right in your ears. It's midnight for God's sake, I could have sale pisang first thing in the morning, not now. This is why I have reservations about going to Cirebon.

Fortunately, things have improved since then. PT KAI has banned food vendors from enter the stations let alone trains (Yay!). Almost all economy and business class trains have been installed with air conditioner (Hip hip hurray!). And there is electrical socket in every seat (Bless PT KAI directors!).

While Cirebon is geographically located in West Java province, it is the closest city to the border of Central Java province. Hence, it has a language that is a mix between Sundanese and Javanese.

The event in Cirebon was quite packed on daytime, but once the sun was set, we had time to roll around the city. Here are the photos I took during the business+leisure trip.

Cirebon train station. Cirebon has yet to have an airport, so land transportation is the only way to reach this city.

 Inside Cirebon train station, a group of musicians are playing keroncong songs.

 This is where I stayed in Cirebon. Nice hotel with an extensive buffet menu for breakfast #important

Nasi Jamblang, a local delicacy. It is basically rice wrapped in jati leaves and served with side dishes, such as tempeh (soybean cake), chicken, sambal (chili paste), etc.

Empal gentong, also a local delicacy.

 Nasi lengko+sate kambing, rice with vegetables topped with very spicy peanut sauce and goat meat on skewers. There was also a bowl of ice durian, not pictured #confession of a girl who eats a lot

Batik Trusmi. When I posted this photo on my Path, my friends were split between the one on the right (Rp 375,000) and the second one next to the one on the right (Rp 675,000). I didn't buy both because I was planning to go to Yogyakarta after Cirebon, but that will be for another post:).

Just when I patted myself in the back for being able to survive the temptation in Trusmi, my colleagues took me to Panembahan, which has even more beautiful batik. Argh. I must return to Cirebon one day and buy some of these batik! #resolution

We had a half day to explore the city and went straight to Keraton Kasepuhan Cirebon.

Intricate details on a column

Bas relief of a bull on the side of the gate

Jewelries that belonged to the Cirebon Royal Family