Day Tour in Batam, Indonesia [2]

Next stop: Sari Bumbu restaurant. We were really eager to eat because we’re all starving. I was relieved to know that it’s a buffet restaurant, not seafood. I have previously read blogs indicating that they ate in a certain Golden Prawn 933/555. It was quite a popular option included in a tour package. It was supposedly “free” and with this, I certainly didn’t expect much. Some people were saying good reviews, but most were not satisfied. I often saw terms like mediocre, so-so, and tasteless. But it’s cheap!

Fortunately, we didn’t have the chance to taste it for ourselves. What we had was the typical Indonesian cuisine. Nothing fancy, though. It was pretty good, considering. I wouldn’t say it was tasteless, but it was so-so. There were several foods to choose from, with names I couldn’t decipher. The staff were very friendly in assisting us and answering our queries. I really find it funny that they initially talk in the native tongue, then suddenly get surprised when we respond in English. It would take awhile for them to talk once again. I especially loved the fact that we can eat as much as we like, and that there was ice cream. It was scorching hot outside.

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This was our first set, complete with soup and dessert. I remember coming back at least twice to get more. Haha 😀

After lunch, we headed to the next stop (and last temple for the day). It was probably the newest one we have visited. What I really liked about it was…the cute baby buddhas! There were a lot of them, each bearing some sign of good luck.

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My friend said to hold the bag of money for prosperity. Hmmmm…..there’s no harm anyway.

Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya Temple

And the biggest buddha was right there in the middle. I don’t see other tourists going near it, so we didn’t bother. We were pretty much contented with the babies.

After this, we went to several shops: chocolate, Polo (which they say is authentic), kueh lapis, local delicacies, batik (traditional fabric), and Batam shopping mall.

In all of these, we managed to spend all of our pocket money for that day. Ah, were they good at convincing! I was aghast when I found that I don’t have IDR cash left, only SGD! That made me stop and instead of buying another kueh lapis box, opted to get the buy one-take one chocolate bars I spotted in the mall. Not bad, eh?

And that’s it. Our day tour was done. I was somewhat satisfied, never mind my cashless bag. It was as if we went full-blown shopping spree. We went back to Singapore with loads of plastic bags and paper boxes. Considering the difference of price between these two countries, it was a good bargain still.

If you are interested in Batam or Bintan, for that matter, you may check out Travel Delightfully and book any of their packages.

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Day Tour in Batam, Indonesia [1]

Tourists to Singapore mostly go to Malaysia for a day or two of sightseeing. Well, we opted to take the unlikely route: Indonesia. There is this small island called Batam, quietly nestled an hour away. It is the largest city in the Riau islands, third-largest city in Sumatra, and eighth-largest city in Indonesia. Two nearby islands, Bintan and Bulan, are also quite popular for Singaporeans.

Batam has a tropical climate, similar to my home country. The people spoke of several languages, predominantly Indonesian. The locals were generally friendly and approachable. I would assume this is because we look like them. And because of that, it never really felt like a foreign country for me.

We landed at Sekupang International Ferry Terminal. One could immediately see the difference from where we came, the much-larger HarbourFront Centre. We rode Horizon Fast Ferry, which was relatively new compared to its competitors. We basically had no choice because this ferry was already a part of the package we availed. The entire trip was generally good and smooth-sailing. It was a cloudy day, and luckily, there was no impending typhoon.

We were greeted by a long queue of people in the immigration, and when it was our turn, everything went okay (almost).

And then, my mind was wandering. Where is our tour guide? We decided to go out of the main lobby and searched. Then a man suddenly approached us from behind, asking our names. At first, we stammered and got quiet. Then he showed us our passport copies (which we sent prior) and package itinerary. Oh! He was our tour guide! Thank God he found us. We exchanged a little greeting and proceeded to the small van waiting. I am not sure if it’s a good thing, but we were the only “guests” for that day.

First stop: Miniature Park. Locals used to call it Taman Mini Indonesia Indah. I heard that there’s another one in Jakarta, though. But this one would suffice. Various traditional houses from all over Indonesia have miniature versions in this park. It is free-of-charge.

 

There were so many houses! And they’re all so cute! After an hour, we went to our first temple for the day: Tua Pek Kong.

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There were only a few people inside. And at first, they were looking at us skeptically. Then I realized we were wearing shoes inside. Big NO-NO! I saw our guide waving at us, showing us where to put our shoes. Our bad. It was really embarrassing. Anyhow, we went again to another temple.

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A big buddha was prominently placed right at the center of the entrance. It’s the first thing you’ll see. The smell of incense was pungent in every corner. We decided to burn one and whispered a short prayer. Yes, we left our shoes outside (we knew better this time) as soon as we saw the clean and clear vinyl tiles. Our guide and driver also prayed with us. Theirs was longer, though.

We also went around, as there are many small temples behind. They all look relatively the same, just with different arrangements and design. We also found a vegetarian canteen which made us remember the time. It’s almost twelve! Back to the van, it was as if our guide read our minds. He asked if we are already hungry. We both nodded.

 

CocoIchi Curry

I have always loved curry. So you can imagine my delight when I first heard the news that Coco Ichibanya is (finally!) opening its first store here in Manila. I personally think that we already have too many ramen shops, cafés, and milk tea stalls around, perhaps it’s time to experience something  new.

Ichibanya Co., Ltd. owns the top curry rice restaurant chain in Japan, Curry House CoCo Ichibanya, or Coco Ichi as fondly called by locals and patrons alike. It currently owns both direct and franchise restaurants in several countries like the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore, and of course, the Philippines. They now have five branches operating across the country.

What I liked best in this curry house is the freedom to customize your meal. You can pre-select the amount of rice, level of heat to your sauce, and the entrées that will go with your curry. You can also upgrade your meal with an additional topping, dessert, or extra soup. Price usually ranges from Php250-500.

ichi menu

Of course, I wouldn’t pass the chance to try my ultimate favorite: tonkatsu!

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I have tried several versions of this: from Tokyo Tokyo to Yabu. But I must say this one’s got a different blend to it. It sure doesn’t like it, but this was a hefty meal.

Meanwhile, my friends tried the vegetable and omelet hashed beef:

 

My verdict? The presentation of the food looked appetizing, plus the stunning aroma that comes with it. The sauce had the right amount of consistency and a tinge of spiciness. The pork was tender enough and the rice was flavorful. I wish I could’ve tried more though.

 

Vol. 1

I have decided to jump on the bandwagon, albeit late.  I have read and seen a lot of this recently, but I have been contemplating whether to join or not. Well, let me give it a try.

READING  other blogs that I am following, plus an email from my boss

WRITING  this post

LISTENING  to my coworkers ranting about our job. (yes, I am working on a Sunday)

 

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THINKING of what to do on Thursday. I have an extra rest day!

SMELLING  the yakisoba from the next room

WISHING  that I can take a longer vacation soon

WEARING  a pullover on a rainy day

LOVING  the fact that it’s almost (my) weekend! Rawrrrrrrr

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WANTING  to relax and …. eat more!

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FEELING  cold. My pullover isn’t helping much. To think this isn’t winter yet.

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There you have it. My first in the series. Hopefully I can keep up with this! 😉
Have a great Sunday everyone!

Join The Sunday Currently link-up by siddathornton!

The Airbnb Experience

I am sure that as of this writing, many people have already tried using Airbnb. It is a popular app for traveling. It offers cheaper alternative to posh hotels that is commonly chosen by frequent travelers. But times has changed. People are always looking for creative ways to earn and to mingle with different people from various backgrounds. I think it is a very effective and smart way of accomplishing these goals. And Airbnb makes it achievable.

I must admit that I was adamant at first. But since most hotels in Singapore are relatively expensive compared to that of Bangkok or Hong Kong, I might as well give it a try. I also managed to read some blogs to check out feedback from previous users. It was generally positive, although there were a few warnings. Not that I didn’t mind it, but I believe that each person would always have a different experience.After scouring the internet for news, I decided to see it myself.

And oh, the website was very inviting. It was user-friendly and had many options available. I especially was impressed with how they plan to resolve problems that may occur during the rental period. That’s inevitable, right? At least they have some contingency solutions.

Anyhow, I found a really good space. It was a private room. I didn’t want to rent the whole house for three reasons: [1] too big for the two of us, [2] more expensive, and [3] we might be sharing it with tons of other people and we personally would like to avoid that as much as possible. Although we are just renting the room, the entire house was at our disposal. We were able to use the kitchen (mostly for heating water), dining room, and living room. We had the T&B for ourselves, which was really good.

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After a few exchange of  messages with the host, we finalized everything and went on with the payment. We paid a total of 102 euros. Yes, it is euros.

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We arrived and left the apartment safe and sound. Everything went well. The hosts were nice people and really gave us the best possible experience. We never felt like guests. We were even offered dinner, at one time. Remember to keep the place clean before you leave. It is very important. You would want to make a good impression, because they will also leave a feedback on your account afterwards. That would make it easier for other hosts to accept your reservation next time.

So if you are looking for an accommodation on your next vacation, why not check Airbnb and see how it’s like. I sure hope you will have a wonderful time. Just choose wisely, okay?

 

The Klook Experience

Before I go and travel, I always make sure to do my research. A part of it includes making reservations to amusement parks, museums, and the like. Then I stumbled into one site that was mentioned several times by many users: Klook. They all gave positive feedback about it and assured readers it is legit. Yes, that’s one major concern for everything that you do online. How do you know if it’s real? Well, it won’t hurt to ask a few people on how it went out for them. Check out blogs (like this ;)). But do make sure they are reliable and credible to begin with. They must have the information and actual documents to prove authenticity.

I started off by comparing the price they offered against other online sites. They turned out to be one of the cheapest, not the cheapest. Not bad, though. I was thinking if it was too low, it might be more risky. You know, too good to be true. And after some inquiry and further readings, I made up my mind. I will try it!

I initially booked for two tickets to Universal Studios. Then, I followed it up with the cable car. I found it both amusing. Anyhow, after several verification (which I honestly think is good), I was able to reserve a total of four tickets.

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We paid the amount of S$164 using a credit card. In less than 24 hours, we got this by email:

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And then I was wondering, where are the tickets? Oh, it was in the spam mail! Goodness, I thought I was scammed (just for a bit).

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The verdict? The transaction was hassle-free and went smoothly. We simply gave the papers to the staff on the turnstiles and were immediately given access. Same thing with the cable car, although it took us five years (!) to locate the redemption counter. Thing is, the Vivo City mall was still closed at that time. It was a little over 7AM, I think. That is why we had to go around and find another entrance up ahead to the 3rd floor where the counter is. We got lost in translation after several attempts to ask directions, too. Whew. But all’s well that ends well, as what they say. When it was our turn to get in the cable car, we did not have an inch of a problem. So again, I am recommending this website. It is LEGIT. And we had a really memorable experience. I will definitely use it again for my future travels.

I am inviting you now! Go ahead and click here! Enjoy!

Nasi Lemak of Malaysia

It was already past lunch time when we realized we are starving. We only had cereals and a cupcake that morning, I remembered. And since the price of restaurants inside Universal Studios are ridiculously high, we decided to look for affordable options outside. Then we found Malaysian Food Street. Although we are not sure if it is indeed authentic, we tried it nonetheless.

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Once inside, we saw a lot of people eating. It was pretty much like your normal food court, albeit bigger. There was a long line of food stalls, with cheap eats ranging from $7 and up. There is a variety of cuisines to choose from:  Thai, Indian, Chinese, Singaporean, and of course, Malaysian.We had some real difficulty choosing which one to eat. But alas, we found one with less queueing and a very tempting aroma.

Nasi Lemak is a popular dish in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and South of Thailand. It is also considered the national dish of Malaysia. It is usually composed of: rice (cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves), sambal, anchovies, boiled egg, roasted peanuts and some slices of cucumber. It is best eaten on a banana leaf for a more traditional sense.

 

The verdict? I loved the garlic chicken and roasted peanuts the most. The sweet aroma of the coconut rice was appetizing. The hint of spice brought about by sambal evened out the crispiness of the chicken and anchovies.The cucumbers and peanuts are a perfect way to finish off your meal.

What are you waiting for? Look out for the nearest Malaysian restaurant you can find and see for yourself. Or might as well make one of your own. I am sure it will be equally delicious!