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Visiting French Village at Colmar Tropicale


I did not even know that there is such thing as French-themed village in Malaysia. And actually there is. A pack of French-style buildings on top of a hill, Berjaya Hills, just 40 minutes from Kuala Lumpur.

Colmar Tropicale at Berjaya Hills
Colmar Tropicale at Berjaya Hills

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Turning Thirty-Three


Dear Cucup,

It has been 27 years since I met you for the first time, I did not recall what happened back then to be honest. Today, you are turning thirty-three. Happy birthday.

Happy birthday!
Happy birthday!

I may be the only one witnessing lots of your ups and downs – even more than your family. You have grown so much. You were a short and skinny boy, in a spectacles and very curly hair. You were one to be teased by the children in the neighbourhood. Look what you have become!

This is a special year for you as you have taken up a new responsibility, moving away from your comfort zone. I tell you, you are in luck. Not that this is surprising, since I know you’ve worked your heart out.

There were years of your life that I missed, and I’m sorry I missed them. I am happy to be a part of your life in your mid-twenties. Until now, and beyond.

You will say 33 is just a number, there is nothing special about any number. But I say, it holds deeper meaning as, first, now you are the same age with me *wink. Second, you are moving to the mid-thirties when men are sexier, more confident and comfortable with themselves. I thank God you do those the right way.

Don’t worry about the (very little) excess fat around your tummy or the grey hair on your head. I love you alright.

Dear Cucup,

I won’t write too long as I have too many other things to write tonight (and you always push me to write for this and for that). I just want to say thank you for always being there for us. Thank you for being a great – but still cool – imam of the family. Thank you for being a fabulous husband and father for us.

Thank you for being my best ever travel mate.

Let our journey continue beyond thirty-three.

***

PS: This is my first ever love letter, forgive me for being not as romantic as I want it to be.

Queen of the World


This time of the year always reminds me of something important. Four years ago, exactly these days, I backpacked to the Philippines, the very last one of my solo adventure. It was 1,5 month before my wedding day.

The trip is dear to me, since deep in my heart I knew it might be the last one. It was almost like a trip of solitude. Unlike my solo travel to Bangkok where I shopped too much for family and friends, or a solo trip to Sydney to meet friends, or a trip to Laos where I happily hang out with strangers. It was the trip for me and only me.

The Queen is at Mt Taal
The Queen is at Mt Taal

The Philippines trip was planned to be unplanned. Having took off exactly midnight, I slept during the entire flight and found myself in Ninoy Aquino International Airport early in the morning. I caught a cab that drove me to Pasay City. Boarding the bus that took me passing through jammed Manila, away from the crowd in Dasmarinas, and finally arriving in Tagaytay.

I felt like the queen of the world. Conquering the strange land again and could not care less of what other people did around me. I own the world, I said to myself. I was obnoxious.

I crossed Lake Taal to get to the volcano, with a donkey and a boy as my companion.  Mt Taal is deemed as the smallest volcano in the world. Indeed, too small for my bigheadedness.

A journey far, a journey close to heart. I friended Christopher the cyclo guy. I ate a whole Collette’s coconut pie. I dusted my shorts and sandals. I was the queen of the world.

Coming back to Manila to stay in Malate, where Starbucks just around the corner to  serve my latte. Little that Puput know I bought one of my lingeries for the honeymoon in Manila – nor he would know which one cause I have plenty.

I did not care so much for others. I discovered the city on foot, savoured the historical site of Intramuros, the city’s Chinatown, said hello to the statue of Jose Rizal.

I enjoyed my afternoons reading novel and sipping coffee at Manila Bay. The wind blowed my past, my present. I drowned in my solitary. I would not trade my freedom for anything. Or so I thought…

I spent my nights walking around – Mabini St, Adriatico St, Pedro Gil St, to the streets of pubs and clubs. Ladies in short skirts and painted nails, men of liquors. Was I afraid? No, I was the queen of the world.

Four years on, I have very different life. I no longer have a good job. I no longer have the luxury of pampering myself. I no longer have the time to take bath for half an hour.

Looking back, this time of year, I remember the travels that I have done for myself.  I miss them so, for I can no longer do that.

I now travel in three. A husband in hand, a kid in tow. I no longer the queen of the world. I have traded to a humbler happiness.  Now I am the  queen of the house. Forever the queen in the heart of my boys.

***

PS: Islamic hardliners, please don’t shoot me for putting my photo with no headscarf on. It was the real me. Lagian mosok aku ndadak mblabur-mblabur sikil karo tangan

My Life in KL, First Glance


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Everyday I am still amazed by things I see in Kuala Lumpur, from its super efficient public transportation system to its state-of-art office buildings. Even, by smallest things I experience.

I am amazed that Malaysia — country who used to be inferior to mine — has grown this big.

I have travelled to KL (and Penang, Langkawi, Kota Kinabalu) many times before moving here, although I am not familiar with KL as well as my familiarity with LCCT where I transited a lot. Yet, travelling is different with living. Little things do not fail to amaze me.

For the second time in my life, I enjoy using public transportation in the city where I live (the first one being Melbourne, a city where I studied). Although during travelling I use (happily) this cheapest way of transportation. The LRT in KL is so efficient and speedy with 3-5 minutes interval during normal hours. Feeder buses are easily available. I am so lucky because my condo is just opposite an LRT station.

The condition of the stations are maybe comparable to those in Tokyo. Clean and in order. Whereas in Melbourne sometimes it stinks of pee mostly because of the drunks and those in Paris are damp (mainly because they are underground) and mostly don’t have lifts.

Traffic is light. Only in rush hours there are some points like Jalan Ampang, Jalan Jelatek, and around Chinatown, Chow Kit area and few others, are jammed.  Often, the taxi drivers complained, “Oh it’s jam teruk!” (bad traffic/macet parah). I sighed and whispered to Puput, “Try one day driving in Jakarta, by the end of the day he’ll go straight to a shrink!”

It is why — maybe — despite the good public transport and overwhelmingly expensive parking in KLCC area, there are many people willing to drive their own cars to the office.

I am amazed that machines are literally everywhere, from ticket machine, vending machine selling snacks and drinks, even umbrellas! The only thing I have not seen is condom dispensers *wink*

I am still amazed that I have my best burgers here — Fuel Shack. Of course, I have not been to Gordon Ramsay’s BURGR, but Fuel Shack by far has the best burgers out of chain stores.  I little bit more expensive than the likes, but it is so worth it. I am gonna stop now because I am drooling….

We also have experiencing a wonderful service with the immigration where we submitted visa application for our maid. A 5 minutes waiting, in a lounge comparable to those in premier airports. Met by a friendly immigration staff (though the immigration staff at the airports are such as mood killers).

Banking is easy, charges are cheap. Internet is fast.

But KL — and Malaysia — is certainly not flawless. Democracy is one big problem. I remember years ago during my grad school I wrote a paper that concludes Malaysia and Singapore as the least democratic countries in the region.

Prices hike. Locals said that prices of goods keep getting higher and higher. Generally things are more expensive that what I pay in Jakarta. Some things that are cheaper here are cooking oil (hell yeah this is the country where palm oil plantation are too common), beef (Malaysia does not have party leader who feeds his 3 wives using money from corruption on beef) and water charges.

Here my story will end for now. We will post stories and tips on Malaysia that are useful for you who want to move or simple travel to KL, topics such as: bringing in maid from your country, finding accommodation in KL, and of course best street food in KL.

In Travel I Surrender


Apa sih yang kalian cari dari traveling? Mungkin ada yang akan menjawab melepaskan diri sejenak dari rutinitas, pencarian jati diri, mengenal budaya negara/daerah lain, sampai juga usaha cari jodoh (duh, yang terakhir kok kesannya desperate banget ya). Kalaupun ditanya, saya juga akan bingung menjawab. I travel for the shake of travelling itself.

IMG_4795

Buat saya, sulit untuk menjabarkan kenapa saya rela menghabiskan uang berjuta-juta dari jerih payah sendiri – sekarang jerih payah Puput hehehe – untuk selembar dua lembar tiket. Belum lagi sibuk membanding-bandingkan akomodasi murah lewat internet, mau pesan pakai Agoda, masih harus lihat review di TripAdvisor, udah gitu dicari harga termurahnya lewat Hotelscombined.com, repot banget gitu kesannya?

Mungkin alasan yang paling pas bagi saya adalah karena saya memang suka traveling. Bukan untuk pencarian jati diri – aduh saya terlalu shallow untuk itu. I enjoy everything when it comes to travelling, although I enjoy less when it comes to packing and when post-travelling syndrome hits me.

Ketika masih perawan ting-ting yang tidak kunjung disunting-sunting, memang lebih bebas untuk travel. Setiap ada promo, langsung booking saja, tidak peduli mau ke mana, dengan siapa, ada uang atau tidak. Tidak perlu minta cuti dulu. Baru setelah tiket di tangan, bolehlah mengajukan cuti pada bos, sambil bilang, “Udah booking tiket, Mas, tiket promo ga bisa dicancel.” Ampuh alasannya. Lha wong bule-bule selevel wakil direktur saja pakai alasan serupa juga.

Nah, masa itu adalah saat di mana kebahagiaan adalah melihat beberapa tiket liburan cemranthol sekaligus di kubikel. Senang itu ketika melihat kalendar dan tanggal yang ditandai sudah semakin dekat.

Hampir-hampir tidak pernah tidak punya tiket sama sekali. Sampai rekan kerja akhirnya menantang taruhan. Dia bilang, bisa nggak sampai bulan sekian kamu nggak booking tiket lagi. Saya jawab, bisa. Nyatanya saya kalah.

In travel I surrender.

Menikah bukan jadi penghalang untuk melanjutkan passion, justru semakin gila. Tentu saja menjadi agak rumit karena harus menyatukan dua jadwal yang berbeda. Tapi nyatanya, tetap bisa dan sering. Bahkan ketika hamil pun rela menggendong ransel ke India semata-mata karena tidak bisa lagi menolak gairah bepergian.

Karena punya bayi/balita lantas duduk di rumah saja, paling liburan akhir pekan, ke mall, atau main ke playground saja? It’s so last decade. Sudah bukan masanya lagi males repot. Singsingkan lengan baju and throw you baby to see the world. Emmm, lebay ya perumpamaannya….

Kenapa mau repot-repot seperti itu?

Saya menemukan kesenangan ketika melihat layar komputer dan di situ tertera “your booking is confirmed”. Hati langsung ser-seran ketika melihat iklan promo tiket sebuah maskapai, ibaratnya ditegur cowok idola waktu SMP.

Repotnya mencari penginapan pun jadi kesenangan sendiri, membandingkan yang ini dan yang itu. Walaupun sangat easy going untuk masalah transportasi, sejak punya anak saya cukup picky dalam hal memilih penginapan. Prinsip saya, kita boleh-boleh saja bercapek ria seharian, jalan-jalan ke sana ke mari, tapi pulang harus dapat tidur nyenyak dan nyaman. Alasannya? Ya supaya besoknya fit untuk jalan-jalan seru lagi, dong!

Menyusun itinerary pun jadi kesenangan tersendiri, walau biasanya juga tidak ditepati. Going where the wind blows, follow where the crowd goes.

Kadang bukan destinasinya yang paling penting melainkan kenyataan bahwa saya akan traveling.

Yang paling menyenangkan adalah membayangkan wah mau jalan-jalan, wah besok di sana mau ngapain aja ya, wah apa aja makanan yang kudu dicicipi. Udah kaya Oliq aja ngomongnya pake wah ini wah itu.

Semakin dekat semakin senang, merencanakan ini dan itu. Tetapi buat saya biasanya pada malam sebelum keberangkatan (terutama untuk acara liburan jarak jauh dan agak lama) akan ada semacam pre- travel jitters – rasa keengganan untuk pergi dari kasur yang tercinta.

Jitters ini mungkin terjadi karena saya sebenarnya adalah anak rumahan J.

Dulu acara menunggu di bandara pun jadi menyenangkan. Sekarang sih tidak lagi karena itu artinya harus entertain Oliq lebih lama. Nggak apa-apa sih anaknya cukup senang kalau bisa lihat pesawat-pesawat dan punya persediaan KitKat yang cukup.

Saya tidak mengesampingkan bahwa dalam travelling saya senang bertemu dengan banyak orang yang tidak saya kenal. Saya menikmati makanan yang tidak biasa saya makan di rumah. Saya melihat kebiasaan dan adat budaya asing. Saya mengenalkan anak saya dengan hal-hal di luar zona kenyamanannya.

Tapi tetap saja, alasan utama saya travelling adalah karena saya menikmatinya. Saya menikmati prosesnya dari awal hingga akhir.

Kalaupun saya kenalan dengan orang saat traveling itu bonus. Kalau saya dapat uang dari nulis cerita travel itu juga bonus. Kalau itu membuat anak saya jadi terbiasa travel dan akan berakhir jadi travel addict, itu adalah bonus dan sekalian tujuan – siapa tahu besok gede gantian dia yang ngajak simboknya jalan-jalan. Bapaknya tunggu rumah aja :b.

aiksulpice
Anak yang akan dipaksa ngajak simboknya jalan2 di masa depan

 

Saat ini sudah bukan masanya hanya mereka yang berduit saja yang bisa traveling. Tiket pesawat kadang bisa lebih murah dari tiket kereta api. Tentu saja ada banyak biaya lain selain tiket, tetapi kalau memang benar-benar niat, prinsip klise seperti menabung pun bisa dilakukan. Masa kalah dengan tukang becak yang menabung puluhan tahun untuk berhaji? Memang traveling ke Thailand atau Singapura misalnya, tidak bisa dibandingkan dengan niatan berhaji, but…you get my point, right?

Sudah cukup lama kami tidak traveling dan pantat ini sudah gatal saja. Baru tadi siang dapat approval dari si penyandang dana untuk booking tiket. Akhirnya excitement pra-traveling muncul lagi. Kembali ingat rasanya cari tiket murah. Rasanya membandingkan penginapan satu dengan yang lainnya. Menyusun itinerary. Mencari angle untuk tulisan berikutnya.

It’s not the destination that appealing to me the most, it’s the fact that I am travelling.

In travel I surrender.