Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Finding The Roots •• China •• Great Wall

“Kejarlah ilmu sampai negri Cina” seperti yang dikatakan oleh Guru SD saya.  Tidak hanya sekali, tetapi beliau mengatakannya beberapa kali dibeberapa kesempatan berbeda.

“Seek knowledge as far as China” my elementary school teacher said.  He said it not only once, but a few times in different occasions.

Why China? My silly imagination answers: the Great Wall is visible from the Moon or low earth orbit, China has ancient history in medicine and art, maybe it is because they have their own language which characters are difficult to learn.
Love this pic #instagram
I was born in Indonesia and parents were also born there. Only when I grew up I realized that I have more than half Indonesian Chinese blood than Indonesia Javanese. I have more oriental look, comparing to my siblings.

Despite my look, I grew up in Indonesian Javanese culture. Bahasa Indonesia is my mother tongue. My parents and their big family do not speak Chinese. Grandpa spoke Dutch with grandma.

I know a few words in Chinese dialects (Hokien) that are commonly used to bargain in Indonesia. We can hear this everywhere in Glodok or China town; ce-pek (100) and se-ceng (1,000). But I have to think harder for much bigger numbers such as go-ban (50,000). I couldn’t even recall that ce-pek-ceng means 100,000! LOL

Recently, I visited China… where my ancestors might come from… centuries ago…

Streets on the way to the Great Wall

The Great Wall

Thanks to my friend, Madame Eva, I get Xiaowei's details as recommended tour guide in Beijing. So there he was picking me up at 7am and we drove to Mutianyu Great Wall. That's my friend’s recommendation, Fitri told me to go to Mutianyu. Iya deh…

The 7am traffic at the ring road was already heavy. After having passed the hectic ring roads and toll road, we reached the outer suburb. 

Xiaowei offered a local dish for breakfast. It's something like sunny side up egg wrapped in martabakskin, together with crunchy fried dumpling skin, sour taste of sauce and chives. Martabakis pancake or pan-fried bread commonly found in South Asian countries. My conclusion, the egg and fried crunchy dumpling skin are yummy...

Local omellette

Mutianyu apparently attracts more foreign visitors.  Domestic visitors prefer Badaling for some reasons - nearer to the city?  Mao Zedong climbed Badaling Great Wall and left some words: Who we are if we cannot reach the Great Wall?  Definitely there are lots of people taking pics here.

I had no regreat going to Mutianyu.  It was less crowded - it means peaceful atmosphere.  It was still quiet when we arrived at 8.30 am.

Cable car

Cable car was  fun! This is the reason why Fitri told me to go to Mutianyu… going up with cable car and sliding down with Toboggan.  It's a good strategy to save the energy…

Public toilet inside the complex

  • Must wear comfortable stuff; walking shoes, t-shirt, hat, sunglasses,
  • Arrive early to avoid the crowd and sun,
  • Pee before climbing up -J  Decent public toilet near the ticket office,
  • Drink water,
  • Bring camera, smile and enjoy the walk!

That's where I went, red circle

Xiaowei has been touring many visitors to the Great Wall.  In average, he goes there once a week.  

“Look, this is the trek we're about to take.  There are six gates and we will start from gate 6 to 1.  Do you see that last gate there? That's gate no 1.  We would pass it, then I'd take you to another gate after that.  Do you see that other gate with lots of wild plants?  That's where we're going".

What a challenge.  It looks soooooo far ...  not to mention that the stairs are going down and up… Chúa ơi…

Peeping the Wall from the window

My mind wandered around too much, Great Wall, huh? Wow…

The wall was built centuries ago under the rules of several dynasties.  What would the first Emperor say if he knew that the wall he had constructed became gigantic?  How many labour was deployed to build this place?

One of the gate door
Each gate has different size and function.  One is bigger and has more rooms.  This was the room for the General if he came to visit and check his troops.  Other gate is smaller and has many pillars inside.  Some gates are built with more solid bricks, it’s because this area was crucial for the battle.

Interior part of one of the gates
The bricks at the bottom and upper part of the wall vary.   It is simply because the wall has been rebuilt, maintained, enhanced, etc. 

Xiaowei explained that the bricks and cements were from the local areas.  The wall at one region is different from the other part of China depending on the local materials.

Some part of the stairs going down @ Great Wall

Slowly but surely, I went down and up the stairs.  We talked about history of the Great Wall, and take pics of course -J  There is one spot where I took the same pics with all of my cameras!  Xiaowei commented; “You took pic of the same view with your big camera, pocket camera, blackberry and iphone?” My self-defence response; “It’s not an iphone, it’s an ipod!”

Xiaowei is so passionate on what he is doing.  With the assistance of his girlfriend, he has been touring and arranging transportation for tourists in the last six years.  He does tailor-made the tours based on clients requests.  Most of his clients are from the US. 

We had good chat about Beijing, traffic, subway, favourite tourist destinations, etc., including if I would prefer Beijing or Shanghai.  This part, I could only respond if I would have visited that city in next few days.

One of the gates that I didn't go further

We continued walking…. We passed one gate to another and finally arrived at gate no 1!  As promised, Xiaowei led the walk to another gate after gate no 1.  Bushes and bees were everywhere.  Then we arrived at the gate with many plants… the ruins of this gate are still in the shape… 

See the Chinese characters & the Wall all the way

At the top of that gate, all I wanted to do is to shout out loud "Aaaaa.......... ".  "You could do better than that" Xiaowei said. I continued "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa..............!!!" louder and longer till I had no more breath. 


After having a tough ‘exercise’ climbing up, returning to cable car terminal was piece of cake.

It is sliding time!  Riding the Toboggan is fun and of course faster than going down hundreds stairs.  This stuff is equipped with breaks too.  Just push it back to slow down while turning and stopping at the finish line!  Cool…

Riding the Toboggan

Just before I slide down in Toboggan, I looked back at the wall…  I was proud of myself.  It felt like “high school graduation” once more.  I conquered the Great Wall..!!  "No, you conquered yourself", Xiaowei said.  Mmm...

Graduation pic at the last gate. See long wall behind me!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Big Beijing

As far as I remember when I was a kid, I used to call this city as Peking. I can’t recall when I started calling it Beijing… All is about different spelling from Chinese words to English.

Tiananmen Square

China territory region that I've been to is Hong Kong, Macau and the furthest is Senzhen! Years ago, when my friend Anyes still worked and based in Hong Kong, took me to “Seven Wonders in the World” in Senzhen. This city is the border between Hong Kong and China.

Tiananmen Gate

We took a train from Hong Kong, I got visa on arrival, and we got panic once we saw the immigration counter! As we had to queue separately! She had temporary residence card and I didn’t. Those years, mobile phone wasn’t common yet, so we were not sure how we would meet again after the immigration… Luckily our intuition connected; perhaps it is because we have the same birthday, we met before the last exit.

Wangfujing Street, shop till you drop!
Wangfujing Street

This time… I went to Beijing. It's a big city. Big Beijing, a nick name I gave to this city. Beyond my imagination, it is a very big city with so many people. Perhaps it is because I am used to “District 1” Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) which is small and compact. Anywhere is reachable within few minutes in HCMC, it is either by foot or motorbike. 

Sanlitun Village, a cool place to hang out

One of the buildings in Sanlitun

If I compare the streets between HCMC and Beijing, I am not talking about the size - which of course Beijing has wider streets – but in terms of vehicle, I didn’t see many motorbikes in Beijing. Most streets has special lane for bikes or scooters, but I could count a few motorbike only. One thing that I noticed the most; less bikes honk in Beijing!

Tea house near Wangfujing area

My tour guide, Xiaowei, told me that there is 19.6 million people living in Beijing. Comparing to Jakarta where I grew up, it is probably the same number of people but smaller size.

Cute Starbucks, Xiyuan subway station, near Summer Place

In mid of May, it should be almost summer. During my days in Beijing, it was around 27 degree Celcius which was good for outdoor activities; sunny, windy, dry but still bearable. 

I like taking pics of franchise restaurant written in Chinese characters

Oriental Look

Wherever I am in Asia, except my own home country, people thought I am local in that country. In Singapore, people would greet me in Singlish, in Tokyo most people say “moshi moshi” to me, in Thailand I was often greeted in Thai, and in Vietnam people greets me in Vietnamese…

I like Cakwe Goreng (deep fried Chinese bread/stick)

Anyway, I just enjoy the situation. My beau? He loves it. Long before we arrived in China, he told me that he would not do anything about it, and would just stand behind me if anyone speaks Chinese to me. In able to survive in this city, I relied on Google map and Google translate!

I took a taxi once to one of the tourist destinations. The uncle taxi driver couldn’t stop smiling and peeping at me. He tried to make conversation but language is really the main barrier.

I showed him the hotel card with list of sites and I pointed out Tiananmen Square. He smiled. I said, “ya?” and hoped he understood. He replied, “ya!”

As if I knew that he wanted to ask me question, I said “Indonesia!” and pointed myself. He smiled, “Ooo…. Indonesia! Ya...

While we passed the big building closer to Tiannamen, I took some pics and he said something which I heard similar to: đẹp quá that means very beautiful in Vietnamese - LoL. He was surprised when I said xie xie when saying good bye.

Beijing Acrobatic Show

As suggested by a friend, my beau and I watched the Acrobatic show in Chaoyang theatre. 

Look how many umbrella she can handle with her legs

According to Xiaowei, my tour guide, there are three Acrobatic Shows in the city and this is the best one. I believe him, as I noticed visitors from around the world in the theatre lobby, including Indonesian group -:)

Five ladies simultaneously ride bicycle with the same rhythm

Show started at 7.15pm sharp. 

Hercules, he used one hand going up & down that stairs carrying the other guy

There were total 6-7 different themes during one hour show. My favorite one is the seven bikers in one huge metal ball…! 

Seven bikers in this huge metal ball

Three out of seven bikers
Four out of seven bikers

It’s so fascinating! It is much better than we expected! What a great show… It is the Asian version of Cirque du Soleil probably…

Everyone is happy at the end of the show

Next post:
Beijing, Saga continues… Great Wall...

Great Wall

Friday, May 11, 2012

Barista Creations

There are so many things to write about F&B (Food & Beverage), there is so little time I spend to do it…

Ha Long Bay, North Vietnam @ Paradise Cruise

In general, the first impression that came into my mind when hearing the word “coffee” is caffeine. That helps me to stay awake.

When I was a little girl, I used to sip my mom’s cold black coffee from the fridge. Of course it was without her knowing it. “Coffee is not meant for kids!” that was what she used to tell me. The first time I sipped her cold black coffee, I was fascinated by its coldness and then terrified by its bitterness! She did not put any sugar at all! So, that was the first and the last time I sipped her coffee.

When I was a bit older, my late father who was a coffee drinker, introduced me to “2 in 1” coffee. That was when the “2 in 1” sachet (coffee and creamer) was first launched in Indonesia. Proudly, he told me that it cost him Rp100 each sachet. That was long time ago…. My innocent question to him “Do you still need sugar for that?” I remembered being terrified by my mom’s coffee. He right-away answered: “Of course! Rp100 is very good deal for “2 in 1”. If it includes sugar, it would cost more and it would be “3 in 1” instead!” My father, due to his illness, he could not drink coffee anymore in the last few years of his life.

I started to drink coffee when I was in college. Especially during the examination period, I drank coffee in the evening in order to stay awake. Sometimes it worked, some other times it just did not give any impact.

I prefer feminin coffee! If I were going to classify coffee as “masculin” and “feminin” like in French language, Espresso and black coffee are masculin. Meanwhile the Espresso mixed with steamed milk i.e. Cappuccino, Latte, Macchiato, Café au lait, etc, are feminin.

Even before I moved to Vietnam, I knew about “Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk” or locally known as “cà phê sữa đá”. Jakarta used to have a few branches of Phở 24. It has been my favorite coffee. Now, since I am living in Ho Chi Minh City, “cà phê sữa đá” is just a few steps away. It is a must drink coffee for everyone visiting Vietnam!

Through coffee, we are sharing with people… When Starbucks was first opened in Jakarta, Sylvia-Marie my former boss in Amex used to buy me coffee when she bought a cup for herself. Hariko, my former boss in Danamon-Corporate Card Amex, used to treat me Starbucks coffee too. Jeremy and Andy, my two former bosses in Thiess, used to buy me Starbucks in our building before we got into the car for meetings. Nenden, my partner in crime in Thiess, used to experience funny coffee moments with me. Nirmala, my colleague in Thiess, was nice to me every time I walked nearer to her desk to make myself a cup of Cappuccino -J

Ho Chi Minh City. Left: Ice Coffee Mocha @ Highlands Coffee
Right: Cappuccino @ Jaspa's Dong Khoi

Of course, without hesitation, my loved one always shares coffee with me whenever and wherever…


Coffee moments with loved ones are among the most wonderful things in life.

Somewhere.. I couldn't recall.
It could be Starbucks Paris

Drinking coffee is about enjoying the moments; being at the present, being with my loved one, families and friends…