From My Heart


Far and Wide

My travelling notes, of course.

Jakarta – A Little Note on Public Transport and Food

It was such a pleasant surprise to find that the Transjakarta Bus separates male and female passengers. We got onto the bus, the conductor told my brother to move to the rear of the bus.
The bus stops (halte) were clean and spacious. The bus lane is separated from the rest of the road users with concrete dividers. The bus is air-conditioned.
I am thankful that the friendly and informative taxi driver advised us to take the bus to Kota Tua from our hotel that day. “It will take you almost an hour if you take a cab, but only about 20 minutes if you take the bus there,” he said, and of course he was right.
The views from the bus was rather nice. From Sarinah to Kota Tua we got to see central Jakarta, through Jalan MH Thamrin, passing by Monumen Nasional, looking over some statues built along the road, area near Istana Merdeka, shop lots around Mangga Besar and Glodok, and terminate at Stasiun Jakartakota.
One needs to use a card to get onto the bus. The special thing about this card is you can share it with as many people as you want, as long as you have enough credit in it. For example, one of us needed to tap four times on the electronic gate for the four of us to get onto the halte, and tap four times again when we leave at the end of our journey. It is more sustainable that way.
From Kota Tua to Sunda Kelapa we took the bajaj. It is a three-wheeled motorcycle with seat enough for five people (two front, including the rider, and three rear seats) – well, it actually depends on the size of the passengers and whether or not you’re comfortable to huddle cosily next to the driver!
All four of us could fit into one bajaj. We did not know it was so much fun! The bajaj was fast, airy (the areas we passed were covered with trees) and could go through literally any roads. The first bajaj driver was friendly. The charge? Well, there is no metered system like the taxis, so I suppose they did overcharge us a little. They would quote the charge after we tell them where we needed to go; we only take a ride after agreeing on the cost. In the evenings the charge they quoted were even higher, we had to haggle for a better price. 
We took the bajaj several times during our stay there. The travel time from one place to another was around 15 minutes. I calculated the cost – it was similar to the air-conditioned taxis back in KL! 
The taxis, we took a non-blue/silverbird taxi from the airport to the city. They quoted IR250,000 prior to the trip, but we told them to use the meter instead, of which the driver obliged. The taxi ride ended up costing us IR175,000, which is 30% cheaper than the quoted price.
It is a repeated advice to any visitors to Jakarta to take only Bluebird or Silverbird taxis, but I guess any taxis that can agree with using meter is good enough.
We did not ride the Kopaja though. 
I would definitely plan to take Transjakarta bus as much as I can during my next trip there.

. . .
My sister was excited about all the food she was going to try in Jakarta.
Indeed, that was the first thing we did after putting our bags in the hotel!
We ate at Garuda Restaurant in Jalan H Agus Salim. It serves delicious Padang food. The restaurant was clean, and it has a super clean toilet too, complete with handwashing liquid (yay!). As with other Padang restaurants, they would put (almost) all of the dishes in front of you, but you should only take the ones you really want. You should leave the rest of the dishes untouched if you don’t want them, or else you’ll be charged for them.
Later that afternoon we had soto ayam at the same street. It was served in small bowls, containing rice and pieces of chicken in clear soup. It was complemented with a plate of deep fried chicken innards and boiled quail eggs which have been covered with some herbs and garnishes prior to boiling. 
That night for supper we had another meal consisting of rice, grilled squid, Palembang chicken, and some vegetables. 
The next day we did not eat out; breakfast was at the hotel (because we woke up a little late πŸ˜“), and then lunch at the airport. We did get to taste their nasi goreng at the hotel, and gado-gado at the airport.
I found that the portion was small, but it is good. That may be the reason Indonesians on average have better weight compared to their Malaysian or even Singaporean counterparts.

View from inside the bajaj
Food carts in front of the mosque and cathedral.
Soto ayam shop
Nasi padang with its various dishes
Sunday morning between Masjid Istiqlal and Jakarta Cathedral
Jalan H Agus Salim. There is abundance of food, even more at night.
Halte Sarinah

I Left My Heart In Jakarta

The Roadside Booksellers of Jakarta

I did not go to Jakarta to shop, but I thought, if I were to buy anything, I would buy a few books by Hamka, Soe Hok Gie or Chairil Anwar. I absolutely love Hamka, I fell in love with Mr Soe after watching the movie Gie, and I wanted to know why Chairil Anwar is a celebrated poet in Indonesia.
The movie Ada Apa Dengan Cinta showed a scene where Rangga brought Cinta to his favourite book shop. It is a small bookshop with loads of books, spilling onto the pavement. Thing is, I do not know where to find them. I heard that they don’t print Mr Soe’s Catatan Seorang Demonstran anymore.
Knowing the literary history of Indonesia, I was pretty sure that they have those kinds of shops in many places in Jakarta, and my mom said there are many bookshops in that city.
I browsed through my Jakarta guide book but found that the old bookshops are not within the areas that I planned to go, and I did not think I will have that much time to get there. 
While we were riding on Transjakarta and the bajajs, I did look around for signs of any bookshop, but I could not see any. Though that afternoon I saw a man carrying a tall stack of books walking on the road side.
And then night fell, we came back from Monas and stopped by for supper at Jalan Haji Agus Salim near our hotel.
A middle-aged man came with a stack of books and asked us if we wanted to buy any books. Immediately I scanned his books and I saw what I wanted. My heart leaped but I tried not to show it.
“Lihat yang ini boleh?” I pointed at Catatan Seorang Demonstran. (Journal of a Demonstrant). May I see this book?
He took that book out, and a few more. 

“Ini satu set dengan yang ini, ada empat dalam satu set,” he said.

This is within this set of four. He’d give a special price if I bought all of them.
I looked at the rest of the books, it would have been nice to buy all of them, but as much as I love the character portrayed in the movie, since this is the first time I’m reading his book, it is better if I try one of them first.
Then I pointed to Hamka’s Falsafah Hidup (Philosophy of Life). He took out not one, but three from his load. He said the other two books are also part of a series, and the one I picked was the second of them. He kept on telling me that he has special price if I took all of the books. This time, I really wished I could buy all of them, but I really did not have enough cash to last until the next afternoon.
He also showed us a few other books, one of them was Kisah Nabi-Nabi by Ibnu Kathir (Indonesian translation of Ibnu Kathir’s Stories of the Prophets). Again, it would be really nice to get my hands on it but I did not have enough money, and I have seen it sold in Malaysia. Luggage wouldn’t have been a problem as we were flying back on Malaysia Airlines.
I said sorry and I paid for the two books (without any special discount. Oh well..). While putting back the books in a neat stack, he told us about how he’s been selling books like this since 1968, carrying books for sale on the roadside. I did not ask, though, where he put the rest of his stock, because I worried that he might think that I wanted to see more of it.
Maybe next time I can ask more questions.
I made a mental note to bring more cash to Jakarta during my next trip.
Before leaving us, he took out one last book: Aku by Sjuman Djaya.
I felt rather embarassed at that point, I will tell you why. Almost immediately, in a chorus, my brother, his wife and myself said, “Sudah adaaaaaaa.” I have it already, thank you.
You see, many of my recent connections to Indonesian literature was through characters played by Nicholas Saputra in the movies Ada Apa Dengan Cinta (AADC) and Gie. Personally I have been interested in the Indonesian (particularly Javanese) culture, for so many reasons, and these two movies, especially Gie, has exposed me to a different view of the country.
Nicholas spoke highly of Rangga during an interview, saying that Rangga is a brave young man who loves helping out people no matter who they are, even if that person have beaten him up before. He also said that Rangga was inspired by Soe Hok Gie, a man born right after Indonesia’s independence. I read from the predace of Catatan Seorang Demonstran that the character Rangga was indeed born out of an awe towards Mr Soe.
I watched Gie recently just because I heard that Nicholas won an award for his role as Soe Hok Gie. He said he did a lot of research about this impressive young man prior to filming the movie. He read the books written about him (which may have included compilations of Mr Soe’s articles), and spoke to people who knew him while he was alive.
I loved Gie much more than I do Rangga. The movie Gie moved me a lot more than AADC could ever do. Hence I was interested to know more about this inspiring man. He lived a short life (like Chairil Anwar), but he was so influential, even back then without all the social media. Therefore I searched for a book related to him.
Why was I embarassed?
You see, when I saw the book I was excited but I tried to hide it. I even bought another book that is not connected to Nicholas Saputra at all. But at the end, the man still took out the book that made Rangga and Cinta possible (in AADC). The book that says, “This lady must be a huge fan of Nicholas and she’d get her hands on anything related to him.”
Well, yes, and no.

Yes, I am a fan.

But that doesn’t mean I must read everything that he reads. Although I must say, it is one of the ways you open your eyes to a whole new world. Like we have Emma Watson’s reading list, and a list of hundreds of books mentioned in Gilmore Girls, JK Rowling’s suggestions etc. I read Murakami because it was mentioned by Redza Minhat many years ago, but I ended up not liking it so I will read other authors instead.
Even my latest reading obsession is inspired by Dian Sastrowardoyo, who said that she used to read one book per week (of Indonesian literature) when she was in school, and discussed the books with her mother. It was such a great blessing to have come across her statement; it opened me up to a whole new world of knowledge and discoveries. I already have a soft spot and interest towards Indonesia since I was a child (this is a story in itself), now is the time I open up that new chapter in my creativity and literature life.
* * *
After that man, another man came by to show us his stack of books. Obviously we had to turn him down because I already bought some books from the above-mentioned man.
I took his photo, though (the second man):

My Reading List – Part 3

1. Jakarta: 25 Excursions by Andrew Whitmarsh and Melanie Wood

I found this book while planning for my weekend trip to Jakarta. I wanted to travel with my little sister, so we only have weekends free. I searched the net for 24-hour excursions in Jakarta, and found a few. But none of them could match the kind of details this book provides.

To be honest I have yet to finish reading this book, I have only covered north and central Jakarta, but at least I can compare the contents to my own experience since I have just came back from my 24-hour trip last weekend.

The lovely thing about this book is it contains suggestions for walking trips within different regions in Jakarta. They are divided into parts of Jakarta, and further divided into areas that might interest different people; for example historical places, museums, food and coffee, and shopping. It makes it easy for us to decide which places we want to go first.

One of the authors lived in Jakarta and have explored the city by foot and bicycle, which explained the amount of details available in this book. I found that the accounts on the locals and history are at times rather quirky and entertaining; I was caught laughing a few times reading a travel book! Of course, looking at Jakarta as a Westerner versus as a part-Javanese Malaysian would result in different views. There are part of their culture that is quite familiar to me (not necessarily practiced, though), but reading it from another person’s perspective was simply amusing. 

There are detailed maps for each excursion, on top of area maps, map of the whole Jakarta and a folded map of Jakarta provided in this book.

Obviously there are things that you should experience yourself, and will only find out when you’re in Jakarta. Yes, the people are indeed friendly, towards Westerners, as well as their next door neighbours like us who have shared a fair amount of love-hate relationship throughout history. Do follow their advice to talk to the locals. I came up with the conclusion that the best way to enjoy Jakarta is to have a local (like a friend or and expat) who could show us the way there, so we could make the most out of it. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who plans to go to Jakarta. I would read this again when I plan for my next trip.

2. The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffman

I bought this atlas because I realized I have almost zero knowledge about coffee.

This book is divided into three segments: Introduction, from Bean to Cup and Coffee Origins. Basically it covers almost everything you need to know about coffee; from the history, the plant, the process of producing coffee beans, the different ways of brewing coffee, types of espresso drinks, to the details about different coffee from different coffee-growing countries. Here we could learn a little bit about how local politics influence the production of coffee in each country.

It is a complete book if you are a coffee lover who wants to enjoy different types of coffee from all over the world. It is an interesting journey of discovery, to see how much this world love its coffee, and how differently we all enjoy coffee.

I’m not a heavy coffee drinker, drinking only 1-3 cups per week. But having read this book definitely took my coffee intake to a new level of meanings.

3. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrmage by Haruki Murakami

This is my first (and perhaps the last?) Haruki Murakami. I have heard of his reputation for a few years already, but I only managed to get my hands on this book just recently.

Where do I begin…

Well, I guess I should begin with the good ones first. When I started reading the book, I was impressed by the unique storyline, and the characters in the book. Perhaps part of the factors is that I do not know much about Japanese culture. The flow of the narrative is rather relaxed; Murakami took his time to describe the movements and the appearance of the characters. There are times when he gets philosophical about life.

The pace became even more slow as the book progresses. Although some questions were answered, many issues are left hanging with huge question marks.

As a rather conservative Asian and a Muslim, I am not entirely comfortable with the graphic imagery of sex in this book. Sex is never ‘just’ sex. It is a very private act of intimacy and love between two persons, and should be kept at that. Just reading about some fictional characters being described to be doing this and thinking of that is rather disturbing. 

Therefore I feel that anything that sells or attracts merely by sexual appeal lacks sophistication.

I guess the world around us is too used of seeing the act and thiking about it to be able to understand how peaceful it is without this kind of disturbance. It would be very difficult to comprehend how discomforting those imaginations would feel, without knowing how peaceful it can be when there is absence of dirty thoughts. Therefore its presence became a norm, something that is thought to be natural human instinct.

But it should not be. Intimacy should be kept between the couple, in the bedroom or in the house, not to be aired in the open, and certainly not to be used as a selling point for a book or a movie.

I will think many many times before buying another Murakami. 

MONAS (Monumen Nasional)

The park surrounding MONAS (Monumen Nasional) was CLEAN!!! And it was almost sunset when we reached the park. The grass was neatly cut. There were reminders to not step on the grass, and most visitors abide by it. Every ten minutes there were reminders coming from speakers all over the park advising visitors to not litter, and there were signages everywhere too. There were no warnings whatsoever for those who are caught littering. And there were NO city council officers guarding the park.
I think more than 90% of the visitors were Indonesians. They did not dirty the park, took good care of it, without even needing to be worried about fines!!
Oh, I am so happy!!
There were no dogs so obviously there were no excreta. I did not see any cats either. There is a foodcourt at the end of the park, and there were no food carts around.
I did not plan to go up the tower but the rest of them wanted to. So we lined up for more than an hour to get to the single, small elevator that would bring us up the monument. The queue was calm. All of them just patiently waited for their turns, none of them tried to cut queue. While waiting, they took photos, sat on the floor and enjoy that spare time with loved ones, some of them would get out of the queue occasionally to sit at the staircase and observe the skyline of Jakarta. None of them came with packets of food (Malaysians would do that, though). Maybe they did not expect the long queue, or perhaps they are not as obsessed about food as Malaysians (hence they are really much fitter than us).
The top of the monument is quite small. We needed only a few minutes to see everything. As we reached the top it was already after sunset, so we noticed was Jakarta switched their lights off at night. So the office buildings were barely seen, there were only streetlights and lights from the (still) heavy traffic.
There was a few open-side buses (free of charge) that can bring you from the park entrance to the entrance of the monument.
At the basement of the monument there is some sort of museum, or rather a series of displays telling us about the history of Indonesian archipelago from palaeolithic age until the 1960s. It was dark down there, but worth going through especially if you are interested in history, and if you have all the time to spend. 

Masjid Istiqlal

We visited Masjid Istiqlal on a Sunday. When we reached its entrance, the traffic was heavy (it was a Sunday morning!) and there were loads of people. We thought it was because of the Sunday mass held at the Jakarta Cathedral situated opposite the mosque (we found out later that the mass has not started at that time). It turned out that the hustle and bustle came from the masjid itself.
Amazingly the masjid entrance was rather busy. There was a steady flow of people coming into the masjid, little boys and elderly ladies selling drinks, kuih and plastic bags (to put our shoes in once we’re in the masjid), there’s a souvenir market in the compound, and inside there was a lecture going on. Around the main hall, there were booths set up by various charity organisations asking for donation. There were guides around the entrance and on the way to the main hall, approaching those (like us) who appeared lost. Young men and women held hand-written reminders for visitors to mind their belongings and to keep the masjid clean.
With the loud lecture going on at that time, it seemed that the masjid was hectic and crowded.
But things were different inside.
Yes, the lecture was loud. It was held in the main prayer hall. But the masjid still maintained its peaceful environment. The corridors were cool and breezy, the ambiance was relaxed, it seemed like anyone could do anything there. There were smaller religious classes going on in one of the corridors, men napping near the many columns of the masjid, kids running around, girls taking selfies and wefies, here and there were small circles of discussion on the floor.
I loved it there.
I took some time walking around and climbing upstairs (it is the largest masjid in South East Asia), taking photographs. My brother and his wife sat near one of those columns and talked. My sister sat and made a sketch, and after that fell asleep.
Nobody came to ask my sister-in-law about why she didn’t wear a hijab. Nobody asked my sister why she slept on the floor. Nobody reprimanded the kids for running around, neither were the girls told to stop taking selfies. The lecture went on and on.
I know not all Jakarta is like that. Just look at the issue with Ahok. But at least, I could definitely feel the freedom in that masjid, as it should be.

Just Saying Hi

Hello, Jakarta.


Nice to meet you. ☺️

Bawa Aku Pergi – 2

I have this thing about having children around me when I travel. Or sometimes even when I’m not travelling. I don’t have kids here and I rarely bring little kids with me when I travel, but of course, kids are EVERYWHERE.

Once I was stuck in Dublin Airport because a few flights were delayed due to bad weather. A few kids were standing near the glass window looking out of the terminal, watching some planes land and fly out. Of course, they would jump and squeal with excitement when they saw a plane, be it landing or flying away. 
Guess what, they were expressing exactly what I was feeling inside. It amused me, so I stood there watching the planes and the kids.
Another time, I rode the tram in Dublin City. When I was a student, the tram rails were just being set, I could still hear the sounds of the drills. So during my visit after 11 years, one of the must-do things is to ride the tram!

There was a fanily with two kids maybe between two to five years old. One of them was standing holding the bar. Everytime the tram stopped, the boy would squeal “weeeeeeee!!!”. It happened everytime the tram started to move.
The boy expressed what exactly I felt at that time. I really was excited!
Recently, I had dinner with my best friend and her little family in a place near our house. The restaurant is near the airport. Her two-year-old would shout “aeroplane!!” whenever she hears a plane pass by.
Again, she was expressing my excitement. 

At that particular time, I have just booked a ticket to Jakarta and was feeling very excited about the upcoming trip, so even hearing the plane soar made my heart leap!
So yes. I get very excited about traveling, usually about the journey, somehow. I am looking for a traveling partner who would be as thrilled as I am, or at least attentive to my excitement. Obviously someone who looks at the phone most of the time would be out of my list. We travel to see the world, and see each other.
I have a few favourites, although it is more because I travel often with them.
Almost five years ago, I had a pleasant surprise that my best friend actually felt thrilled when the plane we rode on took off, and she showed it! All this while, I kept the excitement to myself, so when I found that she feels the same way, I was elated! We travelled quite a bit together, although we could not do it anymore now that she’s married. But she’s one of my best travel buddies.
Another person is none other than my dearest little sister. We went to the UK about three years back, and I miss every single moment there. Yes, we had a few long-faced moments but it was one of the best trips in my life.
My two brothers are great travel buddies for me too. I think all four of us think almost alike, give similar response to many situations, protect each other, and of course, love each other. At times I envy the way the two of them have their excursions at night when others are asleep. Often I am too tired to follow (and I don’t think they wanted me to, it is probablu their boys’ outing kind of thing).
It is in my dreams, and it is in my prayers, that one day I will get a travel partner who will be attentive when I feel happy, and I will be as attentive to him. A travel partner who would bring me wherever he wants to go, and wherever I am curious about but won’t dare go alone (I’m a bit worried about my own safety). I pray for a person who could protect me from all sorts of things, and brave enough to go to all sorts of places with me. 
A travel partner who would look and reflect or even stare, with me, at something interesting, something beautiful, something out of our norm; be it natural or cultural. Someone who would ask for me if I’m too shy to ask. A travel partner who would absorb the experience together, rather than lost in his own world.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not acting like a damsel in distress. I travel anyway, with or without my dream partner. I would venture out anyway, only I have to admit, I have a bit more self preservation habits that I dare not go beyond certain limits. I want to live a healthy, trauma-less life. 
Being single for many years has taught me many things. Amongst them, is that you can very well be happy alone, but awesomeness is usually achieved with loved ones around.

From Mecca to Jakarta (With Sweet Dreams and Poetry In Between)

“Dicari karya Chairil Anwar tapi gak ada. Langsung dibaca perjalanan hidupnya dulu.”

Since I had two cups of coffee today (and the latest was at 8pm 😰), I gave myself the rights to ramble. Hahah.

(1) One of my few resolutions for the year is to finish four books per month, and one journal/guideline per week. I am trying hard and rather pressured to fulfill this, just because I really really wanted to. I have been too slow in the books division and there are so many things I need to learn, to expose myself to. For January, I need to finish these books:

– Adik Datang by A Samad Said

– The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffmann

– The Muse by Jessie Burton

– The House of Wisdom by Jonathan Lyons

Four very different genres; two of them are fictions. The cheating part is I have started reading the non fictions about weeks to months ago. Yet I’m struggling to finish it.

Not forgetting the ESC ACS guidelines that I started reading last Wednesday.

(2) I have not gone out since coming back from Umrah. What with my cough and multiple oncall days and weekend rounds, I have not even gone to the gym. So today I managed to get some exercise, went for dinner in Kinokuniya, and browsed its shelves after that. So I got myself these books. Yes, despite not reaching my January goals yet.

(3) The place I’ve been, the place I will be. From Maqam Ibrahim to Jakarta. In between there are sweet dreams and poetry. And hope. A lot of hope.

(4) Browsing the net for information about a city is probably much cheaper than buying a book, and as far as I know, information in travel books might be as (in)accurate as travellers’ blogs. But with my job and all the reading I need to do, I don’t think I will have time to do a proper research for my short trip there. So I decided to grab a book about Jakarta (it is not cheap 😰). I hope it will be useful.

(5) I am not happy with the quality of Malay books these days. Many books in the market are basically compilations of tweets, Facebook statuses and blogs. However, the language is often too rough, even when they are written by young ustazs. Apparently these kinds of books sell better. “As long as the message gets across.” But I don’t believe in compromising language for marketing/popularity purposes. We need to be more responsible. 

Using simple language is alright, but using rough slangs and inappropriate, incorrect words are just unacceptable.
Therefore I get back to classics. 😊

(6) The movie Ada Apa Dengan Cinta managed to re-ignite my love towards Malay poetry. I recognised the book “Aku” from afar, and excitedly, I grabbed a copy. It is not written by Chairil Anwar but it is based on his life and his works. I do wish to get a copy of his works one day. Maybe in Jakarta.
So good night. I hope I will be able to sleep well despite the coffee. 😴😴

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