Dulu saya punya cita-cita agung, mengunjungi semua negara ASEAN sebelum menikah. Apa daya, pada tahun 2010 saya hanya sempat sampai di Filipina – negara ASEAN ke 9 yang saya kunjungi. Dua bulan setelah itu saya terpaksa menikah dengan Puput sebelum tuntas.
Saya pernah ditertawai teman sih, punya cita-cita kok ASEAN, mbok ya mengunjungi mengunjungi semua benua! Wait! Itu cita-cita berikutnya, dong!
Myanmar yang seharusnya menjadi pelengkap, still got away. Maklumlah tahun 2010 itu Myanmar masih harus pakai visa, ribet ngurusnya. Tapi, waktu ke Kamboja (2008) dan Laos (2009) pun saya masih harus bayar VOA yang USD 20 itu! Huh.
Kabar baiknya, the one that got away was not getting away anymore! Apaan sih ini bahasa? Maksudnya, setelah terlambat 5 tahun – tepat di hari ulang tahun saya yang ke 25 – akhirnya saya menuntaskan semua negara ASEAN.
Berikut ini cuplikan serta peringkat negara mulai dari yang paling saya sukai hingga yang saya least sukai. Ingat, ini SUBJEKTIF, sesuai dengan pengalaman dan selera saya. Jadi jangan protes kalau tidak sesuai dengan pendapat Anda. Selain itu, walau sudah ke semua negara, di tiap negara paling saya hanya berkunjung ke 1-3 kota, kecuali Malaysia (10+ kota). Ke tiga, saya sengaja tidak mencantumkan Indonesia karena nanti jadi tidak adil dan kalau tidak jadi nomor 1 bisa-bisa saya dikepruki massa nasionalis .
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 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
Tentu saja daftar hotel yang ada di sini tidak akan seheboh dan sekeren daftar Weird and Famous Hotels yang ditayangkan di sebuah kanal TV kabel. Ini hanyalah beberapa akomodasi yang pernah saya inapi dan saya anggap layak untuk diulas, selain karena kenangan pribadi bagi saya, bisa juga dapat dijadikan rekomendasi bagi teman-teman.
1. Jungle Inn (Bukit Lawang Sumatera Utara)
Hotel ini menempati posisi pertama terunik yang pernah saya tinggali. Jungle Inn berada di Bukit Lawang, Sumatera Utara. Dari jalan utama Bukit Lawang anda masih harus mendaki bukit sekitar 10 menit. Apa yang unik? Di kamar kami ada sebuah batu besar — batunya lebih besar dari kamar kami. Memang, penginapan ini dibangun di sebelah tebing, sehingga kamar-kamarnya harus menyesuaikan bentuk tebing. Pada malam hari, terdengar tetesan air di atas batu. Di balkon kamar, terdapat sebuah hammock di mana kita bisa melihat sebuah air terjun mini pribadi. Tarif kamar tahun 2008 adalah Rp 80.000.
I had a few days to kill on March this year, so I said to myself, I gotta go somewhere. Why the Philippines? My answer is simple, because I’ve never been there! And due to the brief 4 nights I had, I couldn’t go to Bohol or Palawan or other places famous for the beach. Besides, I’m Indonesian, what am I doing looking for a beach in the Philippines?
So I decided to go to Tagaytay, besides Manila of course. Carrying my 55-litres Deuter, I boarded on Cebu Pacific to Manila. The midnight flight got me to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at 06:00 in the morning. Some Filipino friends suggested me to catch yellow metered taxi to Tagaytay. And guess what? The officer told me that they are no longer allowed to take passenger out of Metro Manila. So I tried my luck at white taxi counter for a fixed price. Bad luck! They offered Php 1,000 equals to US$ 80.
And my dearest Lonely Planet saved my life (and wallet), again. It says that I can catch a bus from Pasay City to Tagaytay. So I took yellow cab to Pasay City for around $3, I don’t remember exactly how much in peso. From Pasay City terminal I just climbed on a bus with Tagaytay sign on it. Actually, most of the busses go to Nasugbu and Balayan via Aguinaldo Highway passing Tagaytay. It was air-con, clean, new, and very comfortable. And, cheap! It cost lest then $3 for 3 hours drive.
The drive was not very much different to bus-ride at hometown. Traffic was bad inside Manila, but getting better as the morning wore on. We passed Dasmarinas and started to enter the province of Cavite. Finally the bus arrived at Plaza Olivarez and I jumped down. I took a tricycle and ask the driver to get me to Estancia Resort, which cost me around $35 a night for a nipa hut with magnifique view of Lake Taal.
Lake Taal and the volcano
The volcano is in an island within a lake in Luzon island. Lake Taal can be reached from Tagaytay City using tricycle in 20 minutes. I simply book the tricycle for a day for less than $10. The view to the lake is panoramic. On the lakeside, your tricycle driver (in my case his name is Christopher) will wait for you while you jump on a boat, crossing the lake into the volcano. There, you need to take a horse – most likely an old weak donkey to the crater. If I remember correctly, it cost started from $30. Yes it’s expensive, but it’s a long walk to the crater. The path is rough and very dusty. You will need a hat, sunglasses and a face mask. And a lot of water. It took me an hour to get to the crater. The trip to the volcano takes almost a whole day.
The center of the City is Plaza Olivarez and the surroundings. If you need some more familiar taste, go to Chowking or Jolibee. There is also Starbucks, about 500 meters on the road to Nasugbu. Some more top end restaurants also available in the area.
Don’t forget to try buko pie at Collette’s. It’s a young coconut filled pie. And they only have large size. I mean, their smallest size is large. It cost around $3. Try also Philippines national dish Sinigang – a savoury fish/chicken soup. Try also traditional porridge for breakfast, it contains eggs and meats. Tell the vendor if you don’t want any pork – I think I forgot to do that!
People’s Park in the Sky – An artful blending of natural and man-made attractions, poised on the highest point of Tagaytay City. It stands on a 4,516 sq, meters solid ground and overlooks four bodies of water – Taal Lake, Balayan Bay, Laguna de Bay and Manila Bay. It is located at Dapdap West and Dapdap East, approximately 6 to 7 km away from Silang Crossing.
Tagaytay Picnic Grove – just right on the corner of Silang junction. The cool weather is perfect for lazing, walking and rest your mind for a while.
ATM is available in this city, as well as money changers. Pharmacies and convenience stores are available. You can go around on jeepney or tricycle. There are busses going to Manila, just wait near the Silang junction.
An Indonesian family backpacker, been to 25+ countries as a family. Yogyakarta native, now living in Crawley, UK. Author of several traveling books and travelogue. Owner of OmahSelo Family Guest House Jogja. Strongly support family traveling with kids.