Beautiful Bandung

Beautiful Bandung

Dear boys,

I took a short trip to Bandung last week, and there was a couple of firsts for me.

It was my first trip, taking a plane all by myself. yes, you heard it. Your dad’s a big boy now!

It was my first time to Bandung.

It was my first time staying in a Hilton.

It was my first time I had a picture taken with Harry sensei, only. (More on that later)

Why Bandung?

Our Aikido friends, Kiryokukai Indonesia (KI) invited Harry sensei over for a seminar, which my sensei gladly obliged, more about the seminar in my following post.IMG-20180326-WA0001

Why Bandung is also due to the fact that Bandung is relatively near Singapore, a scant 1.5 hours flight, cost is also affordable. As much as I would like to have an adventure for myself, I cannot break the bank as I have you boys to feed.

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I’d gladly take a budget airline, since it was just a short flight, on top of that, I can also keep the cost down. Your mum will have none of that, she insisted on Silkair, as it was operated by Singapore Airlines, I’m travelling alone, and she would want to pay more for my safety.

Well, my argument is that a flight is a flight is a flight. Anything can happen to any aircraft. But your mum insisted, and since she already relented to let me go, I’d just shut up and let her choose the better airline.

I love your mum.

Touchdown, bad luck

The first sign of trouble was the tourist SIM card didn’t work. I had no data, and I panicked. Without data, I am anonymous, it was a scary thought. No one in Bandung speak a decent level of English.

Hoards of Taxi drivers came at me, while I was already flustered not able to get my SIM card to work, not able to get data, and totally lost.

This guy, I don’t know his name obviously,  had a tag ’50’ so I reckoned he is taxi driver number 50. He pestered me, tailed me and I had to get into a cafe, just to break his tail. I got myself a croissant like bread, and sat down for a munch, and just people watch, and also watch ’50’. When I am more settled, I walked out, tapped ’50’ on his shoulder and told him ‘let’s go.’

He took me to my hotel, for 250,000 rupiah, that is S$25. Had I seen the Grab counter, or had I have data, a Grab taxi would have taken me to Hilton in 12,000, S$1.20. Very novice of me.

Hilton Bandung

Well, what can I say about Hilton? N-I-C-E

And it wasn’t too expensive as well. I got a good room on the ninth floor over looking the railway track, watching countless of trains worm their way in and out of the station.

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2 queen beds for a single bloke
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View from the room
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The railroad and trains

The service is expected, impeccable and I chose the Hilton as Harry sensei and my sempais, James, Nasheer and his wife stays there for the trip as well. So it would be easier to get around if I stayed there with them, at one spot.

My other Aikido friends Edna and Tri stayed at Zest hotel, about 2 km down the street, and Radek stayed at Four Point by the Sheraton. but Hilton was ‘5 bintang’, 5 star in ’50’s opinion.

Getting my Data

It was kind of imperative. I need a data, so I asked the concierge about the nearest shop to get a SIM card, he told me a shop down the street, and there is a big shopping mall called Paskal 23, the newest one.

So I trudge out of the hotel to find my precious SIM card.

 Horrible traffic beautifully alive!

The traffic in Bandung is typical, horrible.

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TRAFFIC!!!

But I saw it with my Singapore’s eye. It was terrifying. The motorcycle streams in continuum, the cars, buses and people, all uses the same space. The chaos was so evolved, so packed and yet no one gets hurt. Everyone gives in to everyone, in an unrehearsed river of traffic.

The whole environment is so existentialistic. You either move, or get out of the way. So I followed a lady’s stride and move in bold, purposeful steps, It worked to calm myself and as I observed, there is a method in chaos, people still managed to cross the streets, mini buses still stopped, hawkers still managed to sell food, people managed to eat food. Everything didn’t stop to smell Randy’s fear and solace. There is no time for that.

I found the shop selling SIM card and a 6Gb card costs 55,000 rupiah. Not a bad deal, they didn’t check my passport or identity. The SIM card worked as they check it, I pay and got out. I have data!

First thing I did was to texted home, so that your mum knows I am okay. I already did that when I got into the hotel and used the wifi there to update her on my status, now I can be reached on the go, with the SIM card.

While technology frees us, it also chains us to technology.

Bandung is safe

Despite of all the unfamiliarity, in a foreign land, Bandung is a very safe place. It wasn’t as well lit as Singapore, nor the foot path as well maintained, people still goes on with their business and while I was paranoid about getting mugged at every given corner, what I observed was a level safety for girls to walk the streets, eyes glues to the phone. Kids playing and everyone going about their business. Sure I bumped into a couple of teen gangs, but which country doesn’t have that? Even Singapore have our fair share of Ah Bengs and gangs.

One way I gauge the safety in town was the type of gates shops uses, which is a typical roller shutter gates, which can be easily broken into. In fact, shops in Penang were more fortified with heavy duty reinforced locks that firmly secure the shutters to the ground. When we are in our vehicles, there was no ‘mandate’ to lock the doors. Pedestrians were everywhere.

Oh, most toilets I went to, were clean and smell free.

Linking up

At Aviator Coffee Camp
Ketut sensei and Vincent Sensei to the right

With data, I managed to hook up with James and our Bandung Host, Ketut sensei has decided to pick all of us up for a trip uphill for dinner.

The traffic was typical still, bad, but it got less congested as we head up to Aviator Coffee Camp for the cool weather and great food.

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Food! Glorious food!

The weather for that night was a nice chilly 19 degrees, and we all got together to eat. Vincent sensei joined us later for dinner and we had a good time with the hearty food and of course the fantastic weather. Thankfully, your dad can still take that chill with a tee shirt and shorts, and colder, I would have been frozen.

Saturday was training day, so we took a quick but sumptuous meal for breakfast, complements of James. The Hilton breakfast spread is nothing less than the best. It was a good breakfast worthy of a 5 star lodge.

On Sunday

The flight back to Singapore was 10.10am, so I hadn’t have much time to do much, but I wanted to trudge the streets of Bandung one last time, and also enjoy the cool 19 degrees morning.

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Right outside the hotel gates, I caught a picture of this lady balancing 2 bags of crackers on a pole to sell. It was a good sign to head out and just enjoy Bandung on foot.

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Joggers + Motorbikers

The streets, as I understood on my day 3, is really a shared space between joggers, pedestrians, motorbikers, cars, cyclists, horse drawn carts, tricycles and all sorts of other things.

DSC_0116There is a certain kind of peace in the buzz. Of course there are ‘inconsiderate’ motorists who wouldn’t stop for walkers, but everyone just make do. No one was honking excessively, although there was honking now and then, it is what it is, everyone using a share space, and giving everyone a space. No one was hoarding ‘my right of way’, and insisting that because their cars are bigger, others have to give way. It was quite an amazingly alive spectacle and you can get drawn into watching traffic whole day.

Of course as a tourist, I can afford to sit back and enjoy the methodical melee, I’m sure the local Bandung folks can get quite impatient and irritated with the jams, delays. It was a hard place to be punctual, for sure.

Departing 

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It was a no frills affair, Vincent Sensei wanted to send us off, but i opted for a Grab, so that I can give the rest a bit more space for luggage. Anyway a Grab is just…12,000 rupiah.

The traffic was light for a Sunday 8am, and I tipped the Grab driver and that certainly made his day.

Military Brass

Flying off was a wait and while we waited we witnessed an Indonesian Air force Airbus AS365 Dauphin brought a military big shot to the airport. The drill is the same with all military in the world, the lower ranking officers will lined up and salute the big shot and then they will all walked to where they need to go. And of course, there will always be, a photographer.

The flight was a non event and I got back home safe, back to being a dad.

One thing for sure, Bandung is a place I will sure bring you boys and your mum for a trip. There is still so much more to explore!

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Perth: The Adventures of Day Three Travellers

Perth: The Adventures of Day Three Travellers

We woke up day three, with a plan to go and pick oranges. This time, we were in no rush at all to go out and we took our time and had a light munch. We knew where we are heading and at this place to pick orange and erroneously put ‘Orange’ and ‘Grove’ together.

So we punched in ‘Orange Grove’ into our GPS.

And started a whole new adventure!

You see, there is no ‘Oranges’ in Orange Grove, Perth Australia.

I vividly remembered, during my initial recon on Google Map in Singapore that the orange picking place was about 20 plus minutes drive ‘up’, and I totally forgotten about that when I punch in ‘Orange Grove’ and drove 30 plus minutes ‘down’, way down to a place called Kalamunda.

The plan was to head for Kalamunda to have our breakfast then head to ‘Orange Grove’ to pick oranges. So off we go!

It was like day two, a nice drive, and the trip to Kalamunda took us uphill, that is where the i20’s puny engines start to show strain, the pick up was slow going against gravity, but it was still manageable, I’m on holiday and there’s absolutely no rush. Except that we are all heading towards the wrong direction!

We found the ‘shopping belt’ in Kalamunda and parked our car, by then we were famished as we walked around hunting for a late breakfast, and we found Chatterbox Coffee and Juice Bar. It was a nice quaint cafe with a nice warm Perth service. We got our breakfast, although the wait was a little too long, well, any starving soul’s wait for food will be too long!

We got ourselves a nice platter of food, and this ‘Everything Burger’ which was everything you have on a breakfast on a burger, the harsh brown, egg, bacon and cheese, stacked in between a burger bun. Not bad actually. Your mum, on the other hand, learned a new dish called ‘Avocado Smash’ and it looks exactly like how it sounded. She came back to Singapore and did a dish like that, which tasted not bad.

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After breakfast, we settled in for a stroll, the day’s warming up nicely with a good chilly breeze. Kalamunda is a hilly place and there’s slopes everywhere, which makes a good hearty walk.

After our trip, I cam to realise that Perth isn’t too big on escalators, other than those we see in the Airport, the other one we traveled on was in Kalamunda. Well, perhaps, it is Singapore who is crazy over escalators!

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We went through the shopping area quickly and headed off towards Orange Grove, at the same time, stopping by a petrol station to get a top up for our little car. The drive around Kalamunda is quite a breeze, as it is off the main city area, we headed downhill, meandering down a slight gradient. It was a clear day and from that high point, we can even make out Perth City from that distance. It gave us a good sense of how vast the land is and we can never get this kind of view in Singapore, as the skyline is mostly peppered with buildings, antennas, bridges and other structures.

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View with Perth city in the horizon

We didn’t lost our way, while we enjoy the scenery, thanks to the ever-so-reliable GPS voice guiding us, we can never be lost! Or so we thought!

‘You have reach your destination.’

I look at your mum and she looked back at me. Right in front of us is a junction.

No oranges.

No nice farms.

No orchards.

Oh shit…

By then panic has set in a little but we simply cannot stop at the junction to find out what’s wrong. we drove ahead and found a little side road, park to figure out what went wrong.

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Trying to sort out what went wrong…

Finally, we realised, yes, the GPS brought us to Orange Grove, where we should be going to GOLDEN Grove, which is at Chittering Road, more than 40 minutes drive away.

What a way to start day three!

So without delay, we drove off! heading back towards Swan Valley, and towards Golden Grove.

It was a very different view compared to Kalamunda, we were heading back to Swan Valley and the familiar greenery filled our view, but with a long more rolling plains, cattles and magnificent views.

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Views from our car

It was a nice car-less drive, there was not car in sight as we head deeper towards Chittering Road, the whole landscape has changed as we head out and away from the more tourist centric main Swan Valley belt, where traffic was heavy with RoadTrains and other vehicles. But the drive into Chittering Road was scenic, relaxing and you can just cruise.

This time, with the help of the GPS lady, we found the right destination.

Collage_Fotor kalamunda 6.jpgWe all got so excited we get to ‘work’ immediately. The orchard was right behind and it is nest on a slope with an array of orange. The topographical map shows the range of oranges all over the farm. It was a climb and we didn’t made it to the top, where the creme ala creme, Berri Valencia 12 are planted. We realised that when we headed back, those top range oranges were already harvested. Heng ah!

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All sorts of oranges!!!!

 The deal was we can gather 2.5kg per adult,at AUD 4 per kg. We have 2 adults, so we must gather a minimum of 5kg, which makes AUD 20. Well piece of cake, or so we thought!

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Golden Grove is after all a kind of touristy place, and these tress are meant to be plucked by inexperienced hands, tourist hands. much of the oranges, the better ones has been plucked. And as with anything in nature, things are random, we really need to climb, clamber a bit to find the good ones, the nice ones. Some are taken by birds, others not ripe, or some too ripe, rotten. Overall, the quality of the fruits are still good. The nice cool weather helps as well, with a cool breeze cascading down the slope, there is really little to complain about the laborious work.

We went back after a good hike to only find out that we only did 3.2kg! WOW.

IMG_1794So the nice lady there took some from the stock and top it up to make up the rest of the 1.8kg. On top of that, we get taste some really nice, freshly juiced oranges. I also bought this very yummy bread spread called ‘Lemon Butter’. Your mum bought raw honey comb. Everyone left the place happy!

Mondo Nougats

Our next stop was a Nougat place, this is one of the more touristy place called Mondo Nougats. It was along the Swan Valley spot and we have rush there before they close for the day. Good thing we reach there 30 minutes shy from they closing time, 5pm.

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Sunset at Mondo Nougats

 We did a quick round of shopping and bought quite a few items (almost AUD300 worth to be exact!) as gifts for our friends and families. From there we need to know what we can get for dinner as Australia tends to close early for the day. The kind folks at Mondo directed us to Ellenbrook where there is a couple of large supermarkets where we can grab our dinner.

We did much better than the night before and managed to buy Sushi, a roasted chicken, a bunch of instant noodles. Going there also allow your mum to reprise her ‘aunty’ role, by shopping through the aisle, looking at the groceries and stuffs. We had our fill before sleeping, knowing that we had a fun-filled day.

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The good thing with free and easy holidays like this, is that we are completely unhindered by tour schedules and group timetables which we need to stick to. The error which brought us to Kalamunda, helps us explore other parts of Perth which we might not have went, as it was really off our tangent.

We look back and was glad to have gone there, learned a couple of things and now your mum came back with a new dish, Avocado Smash!

The Perth Dolphins

The Perth Dolphins

For all of our holidays, we never could, wake up early. Perth was no exception, even though we need to be at Mandurah by 11.30am to catch the boat out to see the dolphins we fly almost 4,000 km from Singapore to see.

Our Hotel

You see, we woke up late. And then we were delayed when we realised the kind of beautiful landscape that is outside of our hotel room. you see, our hotel is called The Vines Resort & Country Club. It is a couple of nice things put together, One; the hotel, accommodation, Two; a vineyard theme, which means there are some grapes kind of hanging on some vineyard thing. Actually not a big deal to us, but it does adds to the ambiance. Three; the golf course, afterall, it is a country club!

I don’t think the concept is anything new, as we have such offerings in Singapore, The Orchid Country Club, is one. but the Vines is special, as there are some residents staying at the golf course green… KANGAROOS!!!!!

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Lots of them!

So close we can almost touch them! (Of course we didn’t, these are wild Kangas and we don’t know how they would react. They instinctively kept their distance and we did our part to respect the gap.)

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They were just minding their own business, lying there, without a care in the world, and we Singaporeans, going crazy over every single one of them like they were this week’s ToTo winning ticket. But hey, how often do we get to go so up close and personal with these Kangas?

Hit the road Jack!

After our gaga over the Kangas, we hit the road, mindful that we need to be at a certain place by a certain time. Again we relied on the GPS to take us from The Vines to Mandurah, some 100 kilometers away, a good one hour’s drive. Today is yet going to be another first, your dad driving the longest at any given time! I know to some this is no big deal, but for your dad, it is any and every reason to celebrate!

So off we go!

We are on high spirits, for many reasons, we felt really, really happy to be able to come to Australia together, drive in such a wonderful weather. Being in the small i20 is great as we can all bond over the road trip and us parents listen to you kiddos’ usual banter and occasional quarrels. And you kiddos listen to us parents talk about adults stuffs.

We don’t drive nor have a car in Singapore, so driving in Australia gives us a rare intimacy, putting a family in a car can give. It is nice knowing that we don’t own the car and will return it once our trip is over.

There are many things in Australia we can see that is not in Singapore. And one of them is…

R-O-A-D-T-R-A-I-N!!!

These are HUGE trucks that has not only just pull one wagon, but up to 3 wagons! These are powerful trucks that ply the entire Australia, delivering vital supplies and goods. They are a part of the Australian traffic and every time we see one on the road, I’d scream out ROADTRAIN! You boys picked it up and soon the whole car is screaming ROADTRAIN! This did not please your mum.

And your mum, snapping tonnes of photographs, simply didn’t snap any decent roadtrain photographs. Well, that gives us a reason to head back to Perth in the near future to snap these pictures!

The Animal Farm

We see animals of all sorts, horses, cows, sheep, dogs, chickens and of course, Kangas…they are everywhere! That said, I know the probability of a road kill is real, so everyone is belted up for the just-in-case.

There is also a lot of greenery and wide and wild open plains. It is a very refreshing change from the usual brick and mortar landscape we have in Singapore.

The Open Plains

Well, the road condition in Perth is really good and we get good signal from the GPS all the way to Mandurah, Traffic was light and we really enjoyed the road. It was quite stress-free, the drivers there are generally more courteous, and possess better road ethics. Sure there are some speeders and some clowns who don’t signal when they lane change, but generally, I drive like I’m driving, and not in a defensive manner, half the time expecting something bad to happen or some crazy nut cutting into my lane. It was a pleasant drive I would not have enjoyed if I am in Singapore.

Mandurah

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Dolphins, then and now

We reached Mandurah and for Ian, your mum and me, it was a revisit. We came here almost 10 years ago. Now we are back, looking back at some of the old photos, little has changed in Mandurah, other than a couple more condos up, and more developments and crowd, it is still a pleasant place to be.

The Han’s cafe was there in 2007, and it is still there. Reading Cinema was there and is still there. but I don’t really see a cinema crowd and I wonder how does it stay profitable? Mandurah seems too laid back for any business to stay profitable and given a competitive landscape in Singapore, they would have turned Reading Cinema into something more profitable and Han’s cafe might have been long gone, due to the changes in rental. But is is nice to be in Mandurah, knowing that somethings don’t change. That give a very familiar nostalgic feeling.

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We are not really in a rush but we are kind of hungry, so we ate what tourists comes to Mandurah to eat. Cicerellos!

@ Mandurah Cicerellos

Honestly, eating in Australia is what eats up our money. One meal can be as much as AUD15 bucks, something equivalent in Singapore would have cost S$5. A single meal for the 4 of us can easily set us back at least AUD 50 plus dollars. Nonetheless we are there to enjoy as tourists and we are quite willing to spend.

We had our meals in a jiffy so that we can catch our boat to see the dolphins. For

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Dolphin Cruise

the cruise, they also have meals included, Fish and Chips (what else?), but we already have our fill and politely declined.

There are 2 decks on the boat and the top deck can take only 11 people, an Indian family of 6 has already take the better part of the top deck, and with the 4 of us, we fill up the space nicely. It was a good decision to take the top deck.

We started the cruise easy, all excited about the potential marine mammals we flew so far over to Australia to meet. We were thankful our captain was very experienced with the waters around Mandurah, much more experienced compare to the 3 girls ( I called them Charlie’s Angels) who commandeered our boat trip back in 2007, our maiden trip to Mandurah.

It didn’t take us long to spot the Dolphins, swimming in the shallow waters hiding amongst the many boats parked along the Mandurah waterway. The Captain (who had more than 20 years of boating experience) skilfully maneuvered the large boat around, kicking up mud from the shallow water bed. It was our first sightings, and we almost certainly thought it was our last.Collage_Fotor dolphins

We head out to the waterways and cruise on in our bid to find more of these elusive dolphins. We went up as far as our 1 hour boat ride can take us, and we went under the Mandurah Estuary Bridge, before turning back, with an ominous feeling that that is all the dolphins we get to see.

We went back the same way we came and the Captain’s keen eye spotted some break in the water, hinting a pair of dolphins. We eagerly looked out and thanks to our vantage point and being just next to the Captain, we were able to get his views spontaneously. for the folks seated downstairs, they can only hear him if he used his microphone, and sometimes, he didn’t as he was basically thinking out loud.

The elusive pair disappeared again and we sailed on, going back to port. Then it all happened….

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The family of four swam right next to our boat and everyone on board was ecstatic about the sightings and how close they came next to the boat. For whatever speed we did, the dolphins swam easy, without much effort, making a few jumps as well. It really made our day and we felt that our trip was very much completed.

This was certainly the highlights of our trip and we came to see dolphins, we get to see dolphins. IMG_1564

We went back to Cicerellos again to grab our lunch and this time spend anotherIMG_1577bomb, ordering their famous, DSC_0106 but oily fish and chips, milk shake, and waffles. The chilly weather makes us burn up our energy real quickly and we were hungry, wolfing them down. Enjoying every bits of it.

After that we went exploring the vicinity of Mandurah, just walking and we came across this dog just lazing there, I think it’s a Labrador and friendly enough, I patted it and soon, both you boys followed the dad and started patting the dog. Bad move for Wayne.Collage_Fotor Boat and bike

The dog moved quickly and bit off one of your gloves, with no intention of giving it back to you, it will be its new play toy! The mutt’s owner was nowhere in sight and I had to half coax and half pull/drag the slob, wet mitten out of the dog’s mouth. thankfully, it decided to relent and let go. We all had a good laugh right there, and this certainly adds to the experience at Mandurah.

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Our Family Photo at Mandurah, Wayne without his mittens

We ended our fruitful day with another long drive back to The Vines, by now, you boys are dead tired and we were thankful we had the car as the both of you konk off almost immediately when we drove off.

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Dinner was fast food, we ordered drive through from Red Rooster, and went through the junk food without much fan fare.

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With that quick meal to fill our stomach, we hit the sack quickly, knowing that the next day will be filled with much excitement!

Road map to mandurah