Travel Blog #2: JavaTrip Solo Edition

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I finally visited my Dad’s hometown!!

After 25 years of my life, I finally got to know how my Dad’s hometown looks like. I took a day trip by train cause it’s pretty near, just an hour away from Yogya. The train, Sri Wedari, departed from Tugu Station Yogyakarta to Solo Balapan Station. It was an electric-diesel train; clean and quiet. Love it!

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Photo courtesy from here.

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In memory of Momi, Lala’s most beloved soft toy.

Visiting Solo was actually not a part of my itinerary, but I was a little clueless and I don’t have any plan at that moment. Once we left Semarang and reached Yogya, we were on our own as there was no more tour guide for us. Coincidentally, Lala was on her business trip to Yogya and she decided to stay there in the weekend. We met right after she’s done with her company event and she ‘lead’ this day trip. Isn’t my favorite panda such a savior? :’)

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Me and my favourite panda ❤

*Please excuse our 3-hours-of-sleep face, LOL*

Reached Solo Balapan Station, we hung out at the station (yes, hung out at the station). And you guys can guess for what. Yeap, selfie timeeeeee~ LOL! After all, we’re Indonesians and Indonesians love to take selfies, so we taught May Ping how to be a real Indo, hehehe 😀

Actually, Mami and I were amazed with the train station. It is super clean and organized, we have never seen train station like this. I mean, it’s a train, not a metro or LRT or MRT so our perceptions are always crowded, messy, unorganized, dirty, etc. But…… it is totally different from our perceptions about train station. Look at these!

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We then wandered around Kauman Batik Village. It is known that the batik, t-shirts, clothes, and souvenirs that are sold in Yogya are produced in Solo. Thus, if you have a chance to visit Central Java and wanna buy souvenirs and batiks, you should definitely pay a visit to Solo. I actually didn’t believe that at first but this day trip is my way to prove whether this rumor is true or not. My finding is, for batik, the price is not so much different, but for other souvenirs like t-shirts, sandals, batik boxers, etc., they are much cheaper in Solo. At least, you can bargain as low as 1/3 of the price. The plus-plus point to come to Solo is that you can shop peacefully. I mean, literally, PEACEFULLY. You can walk through one seller to another without any distractions and disturbance. Unlike in Yogya in which it’s so cramped and always full of people, can’t walk and can’t even breath, boo!

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We also had breakfast by the road side near the batik village. Anyone doesn’t love street food here? Oh come on, you gotta be kidding me! I just love street food. I love the feeling having a meal not in a restaurant nor cafe. Just like that fine morning, we were just sitting on the stool by the road side, talking to the residence of Solo while enjoying a banana-leaf-plateful of nasi liwet. We noticed that Solo people are almost as friendly as Semarang people. The way they talk is soft, polite, and attentive. The other thing that we noticed here is that the lifestyle is really laid back. We didn’t see people rushing, running, chasing, or anything like what we always see in Malaysia or Singapore. They move slow, but they are not lazy.

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Fooooooood!!!!! *grin*

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 ‘Nasi liwet’ is rice cooked in coconut milk and chicken broth, served with ‘opor ayam’ (chicken in a mild white coconut milk based sauce), scrambled egg, and ‘labu siam’ (chayote/choko).

Since it’s a quick trip, Lala suggested us to take a double-decker tour to go around town. I was like “What?!! Double-decker?!!”, unbelieving what she just suggested. I admitted that I underestimated this town. I always thought my dad is from a village full of paddy field, LOL. Even Melaka just had their double-decker tour like a year before I graduated from university (probably around 2010) and this small town has a double-decker tour?!! Can’t believe what I just heard.

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 Apparently, ‘Werkudara’ double-decker has become a new icon of Solo. Where have I been?

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Finding: Solo is green, clean, neat, well taken care, and has a lot of statues.

Peeps, all in all, Solo is such an amazing town and I really really enjoyed the tour. I would say it is the cleanest city that I’ve ever seen in Indonesia. Seriously, I don’t see a single trash on the street AT ALL. The tour passed by the central traditional-market known as Pasar Gede (literally means ‘Big Market’) and I have never seen any central market this organized. I spotted the becak (rickshaw) parked in front of the main entrance very neatly. Oh, we also passed by the culinary center just outside the central market. It’s basically a row of street cafes selling traditional foods of Solo and Central Java. I think Solo is a good destination for a culinary trip as well, I have been thinking of coming back here for a culinary trip.

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For you guys who are thirst of cultures, Solo offers a very thick Javanese culture just like Yogyakarta. It is actually the seat of Surakarta Sunanate kraton (palace) and it has two royal palaces. I kinda felt sad that the double-decker tour didn’t drop us in the palace, I actually really wanted to see the palace just to see how different it is compare to Yogyakarta palace. I also wanted to see the very famous Bengawan Solo river who has made its name into a legendary keroncong song. I grew up with this song played on our radio tape. Ah well, another reason to come back another day.

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My First Couchsurfing Hosting Experience

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I have had my Couchsurfing experiences since I was in Melaka. Back then in 2009, Jimmy always invited some travelers to his house. I saw pictures and posts on his and his roommates Facebook pages. I was wondering where all of these people come from? One day, he and one American guy joined my table when I was having a dinner in one mamak stall. After Jimmy, Lala too posted some pictures of her hanging out session with some Caucasian people back then when she was studying in Malang, and then May Ping and Mami Christy started talking about this Couchsurfing thing too. To add more, Nuel was hosting some other travelers too when he was doing his internship in Kuala Lumpur. I was in complete confusion so I asked them what is this all about. They told me the idea of it is to host travelers who need a place to crash. They will stay at your place and sleep on your couch  as long as you let them stay when they are traveling around your city. I was still reluctant to the idea of it, is it safe, I wonder..

5 years has gone by, I decided to start being an active member of Couchsurfing community. I put aside the negative and reluctant thoughts and keep in mind that I am just here to make new friends in the most decent possible way. I thought this is also a way for me to utilize and keep practicing my tour guiding skill! So I started last month in January, in which I thought I would contact some travelers who come to visit Kuala Lumpur and take them around especially during Thaipusam festive. I really wanted to go for this special festive since 2 years ago but I missed both years celebrations. This year, I told myself, I gotta make it. I checked out Couchsurfing webpage and look for some travelers coming to Kuala Lumpur during Thaipusam date, but I stumbled upon an event organized by Couchsurfing Kuala Lumpur group, what a sweet coincidence, I didn’t think twice for joining the crowd! The more the merrier, they say, yes?

On the Thaipusam day, I hitched a ride with another Couchsurfing Kuala Lumpur member coming from KLIA airport. He offered me a ride since he was coming from KLIA airport by car. So he picked me up on that early morning of Thaipusam day and we went to KL Sentral together to meet another Couchsurfing members. There was also another person in the car with us, she is from the U.S., and she will be in Malaysia for more than 3 weeks. On the way to KL Sentral, we exchanged stories. Ibrahim told us some fun facts about Malaysia, I told them some stuffs about Indonesia and Malaysia, and Julie told us her stories about the countries she lived and visited and her plan in Malaysia. It was a great start of my real Couchsurfing socializing experience, I felt relieved, hehe..

Julie and I exchanged more stories over mixing sugar in a cup of McDonald’s coffee in a moving train, lol.. We did it without spilling the coffee, by the way! 😀 *clap-clap* She told me she lived in the Netherlands before and I told her that I planned to go to Europe next year. While, Ibrahim was just leaning on the train coz he feels restless, lol. We then continued our Thaipusam adventure together. The three of us climbed Batu Caves stairs with the Hindu devotees, snapped as many pictures as we could, overwhelmed by the crowd and the festive feeling. It was the first time for all of us to attend Thaipusam celebration, obviously it was for Julie. Ibrahim and I have visited Batu Caves before but not during Thaipusam day so the feeling is totally different. On any usual day, it takes only 15-20 minutes to climb the stairs to reach the cave. But, on Thaipusam day, it takes 2 hours to reach the top!!! Look how crowded it is. Phew!

DSC_0269After probably around 3 hours of our adventure in Batu Caves, we left the big Couchsurfing group for lunch before Ibrahim heads to the airport to catch his flight to Jakarta. Silly Ibrahim was supposed to drive to Little India/Brickfield which is just a mile away from where he parked his car but ended up driving around. He failed to get another banana leaf restaurant though because the restaurant is closed so he drove to Seri Hartamas. I tried some Sarawakian noodle, I think they call it Kolo Mee. I forgot to take a picture but it looks more like boiled mie telur (literally translated: egg noodles), beansprouts, minced chicken, a few prawns, and some pak choys (Chinese lettuce) served with soup/broth. Ibrahim had the same and Julie had vegetable popiah (something like lumpia that I post in my Semarang Trip). And this was how we look after our meal. Sleepy faces 😀DSC_0311

And so that was our day. Ibrahim drove to KL Sentral to pick up his friend that he is traveling to Jakarta with, dropped Julie in Kajang, and drove and parked his car in Putrajaya Sentral where he and Hafeez then took a train to the airport and I took my bus to Cyberjaya. Julie will be going to Vipassana meditation centre in Kuantan on the next day. Yes, you read it right, she is going for meditation.

12 days later, after Julie completed her meditation retreat, she sent me a text message. We met up in KL on Friday to attend Couchsurfing Kuala Lumpur Weekly Dinner in a restaurant around Bukit Bintang. I told her I’ve never been to any CS meet up so I want to experience how it is. I’ve been planning to attend CS KL Weekly Dinner too but they have it on Friday so I am never able to join. But since that Friday was a Chinese New Year and I don’t have work, I decided to give it a try. It was, again, a HUGE group of people 😀 We met a lot of people and made new connections. I wouldn’t really say friends as I am not sure whether we will stay connected to them after this meet up. Maybe we could if we would, we have some of them in our Couchsurfing friends already 🙂1800481_10153761972910717_1202322767_n

*Eroll and Julie*1795630_10153761972900717_170751045_n

*With Marcus Pfeiffer from Bavaria, Germany.*1780889_10153761975375717_1668619729_n

*Me, Jouelle’s roommate (I don’t remember his name :|), Jouelle, and Eroll*1512461_10153761974615717_1743529585_n

*Jouelle on her cheong sam*

We called it a night as Julie began to yawn, haha. She’s still used to the punctual timing during her meditation retreat so 10 PM is close to her bed time. I showed her the Turkish ice cream before we headed back to KL Sentral as she was craving dessert after the dinner. The ice cream guy was doing his usual Turkish ice cream trick but it was a disaster, LOL. He keeps dropping the ice cream, i dont know why. He said the cone is not as good as it used to. Hmm, I notice it too, they have changed the cone. Anyway, their ice cream is really delicious. Worth your 5-10 bucks if you are around Bukit Bintang. The stall is located right in front of BB Bazaar. I will write a separate review of this ice cream when I make a visit there again, hopefully soon. We took a monorail and enjoyed our ice cream while she told me her stories during the meditation retreat, not noticing that we took the wrong train and I only realized it when we reach the last station ZOMG -_- I am really awful when I’m sleepy, my brain doesn’t function properly. Le sigh.

On Monday, Ibrahim dropped Julie to my place coz she doesn’t have a host to stay with. She has a host to stay starting Wednesday for a couple of days and I invited her to stay with me a few days before she is flying back to California. I had a spare bedroom that she can use coz my roommate was just moving out recently. I’ve cleaned the room and put on the bed sheet for her to sleep. Surprisingly, she said she will cancel the stay with the other host and decided to stay in our mini apartment for the rest of her week in Malaysia. Ozzy and I are more than happy to accommodate but we were worried if she will feel bored and lonely coz everyone is working and she will be home alone. And this is Cyberjaya, nothing much you can do here and it takes too much effort to go to KL from here. But she said she will be fine and she doesn’t mind at all coz she really just wanna relax on her last few days in Malaysia. Well, it’s Julie –she has attended few times meditation retreat where she was not allowed to talk, communicate, and do anything else other than meditating. There was no internet, no phone, and no TV in her meditation centre so I guess she really would be fine. Nothing much we could do together coz I came back from work pretty late, around 7 PM. We would just have dinner together, talked about random stuffs, then go to bed. Julie saw the Indonesian restaurant here and she would like to try. Since she is a vegetarian I introduced her to gado-gado (mixed of boiled vegetables served with peanut sauce) and, here comes another surprise, she really loves it! On some other days we cooked lentils and pasta and watched a movie while having our dinner. In the weekend, we went for a rock climbing that successfully gave sore all over my body, lol. On Sunday, we planned to go to a pub with some live music just to chill and relax. We met Ibrahim and Hafeez with another Couchsurfer from Russia who just landed in KL to enjoy the night in Backyard Pub in Seri Hartamas. Eka, the Couchsurfer from Russia, couldn’t stay at her host place that night so Ibrahim asked if I could host her. Well, Julie’s bed is a queen size and I have extra blankets too so I think it’s not a big deal.7771_10151974752723233_695815430_n 1891020_10151974752708233_1775025516_n

My first Couchhousting experience is double combo. Hosted 2 guests at one time!1912357_10151974752713233_1237283103_n

*The complete gang: Hafeez, Ibrahim, Me, Julie, Eka*

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*Ibrahim treated all of us Baskin Robbins, yumm yumm!!*

The next day, Ibrahim came to Cyberjaya again to pick up Eka and dropped her to her host’s place in Puchong (20 minutes from here). We said a short goodbye and she gave me a souvenir: magnetic calendar. It’s really cute and I don’t wont to tear it so I decided not to use it as a calendar and just keep it. Eka is a cheerful and expressive young girl, she lifted my body up when we hugged to say good bye 😀 Hopefully I will meet her again. She said don’t forget to contact her if I ever come to Russia. Good idea, I still know how to read Cyrillic so maybe one day I will look for a job in Russia, ha!

With ekaAnd 11th February is the day Julie flies to California after 16 months she is away from home. We left the apartment together in the morning at the same time I went to work. We took a bus together and said goodbye in the bus. I kinda feel regret, I should have just come late to work and send her to Putrajaya Sentral instead 😦 9 days flew very quickly and I wished she could stay longer here with us. In the beginning, I was worried too much that it would turn out bad as she is my first Couchsurfing guest and I had no experience hosting someone other than my high school seniors before. Turn out it was an interesting experience and we had fun together for 9 days. She is a polite and laid back person and so there is no frill and fuss in hosting her. Plus point is she is a vegetarian so food is really not an issue for her 🙂

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On the 11th evening when I came back from work, I went to the room she used to stay and found a letter on the study table. Read it and felt emotional a lil bit 😦 It’s a touching letter and, though we just got to know each other for brief, it feels like we’ve been friends for long. I told my fellow Couchsurfing friends back in Melaka about this letter too and Jimmy asked how did I feel when my guests checked out, whether I felt emotional and sad. I actually didn’t feel sad earlier in the morning but when I reached home in the evening and found the house pretty quiet and read this letter, I felt sad a little 😦

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Our house becomes so quiet and it’s just me and Ozzy again now. I chilled in her room and started missing her and our time dancing to ‘Why this kolaveri-kolaveri di?‘ and ‘Do you love me?’ songs. Really can’t wait to reunite with her again soon! Ozzy told me that we will go to California to visit her one day–I hope he starts saving up though.

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*In the bus before she had her last banana leaf meal*

Anyway, take care wherever you are, Gado-gado girl! Surely we’ll see each other again and travel the world together too. All the best in your resolutions too –learning Spanish, applying for Master degree, applying for a job with refugees, and organizing the theme nights. I will make a ‘goal board’ (is that what we call it the other day?) too and put visiting California in the list 🙂 Here’s the song to remind you of me and Ozzy 😀

Lots of love.

Travel Blog #1: Java Trip Semarang Edition

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Heyho!

I’ve wanted to share the Java Trip that I did earlier this year but the post has been sitting in the draft folder for almost half year now lol. So here it is my Java Trip experience. *drumroll*

Alrighty, first of all, why did I choose Java? Well, it was just because going to Java is much cheaper than going to Boracay, LOL. No, seriously no kidding, the initial plan was to go to Boracay with my all time travelling buddy, Mami Christy. And the reason of the trip? Simply because I am so sick of The (So Called) Intelligent City and she is so sick of her town people (I think) and our adventurous souls are screaming for an adventure ever since the last Penang Trip in 2010-which-was-awesome-and-gave-us-uncountless-interesting-experiences-we-can-talk-about-forever-omigod-asdfghjkl…

As a true backpacker which cheap flight ticket is very essential to support the possibility of the trip, return flight tickets were bought 6 months before the trip. I got the open jaw tickets on promotion that costs +/- RM278 for the flights of Kuala Lumpur-Semarang and Yogyakarta-Kuala Lumpur. I found the price is pretty decent since AirAsia usually will charge around RM200++ for my return flight of KL-Medan-KL. I got that decent price when I was checking AirAsia website in one midnight and whoring (ops, mind my language) the refresh button like one crazy woman. It was just like a sign that we are meant to go. After I hit the refresh button a few times, the price went down very very very low compare to the minutes earlier. The next day afternoon, I saw AirAsia published ’bout their promo on Facebook, that was like half day after I bought the tickets. So, a suggestions for the beginner budget travelers out there, you gotta visit those airlines websites in the midnight regardless there is no news about any promo. Getting cheap flight tickets requires diligence and luck. That goes 70:30, the diligence works more. Ok, there you go the Trip Advice #1.

Trip Advice #2, book the accommodation from Agoda.com and/or Booking.com. Now this is VERY VERY important, guys! One day I checked out the hotel rate directly from their website and called them up to reconfirm the price, turned out that the price is so much different from what they state on the website. However, the hotel staff was so kind to tell me to book the room from Agoda.com to get a much cheaper price. The problem is, I don’t own any credit card so booking through Agoda.com is not possible. I am thankful to Janina, my smart pretty humble ex-roommate from Germany, ’cause she told me to use Booking.com as it doesn’t require any credit card payment upfront. After all the thorough and desperate research Mami and I did, we decided to stay in Imam Bonjol hostel. Oh, we also did the research on TripAdvisor and LonelyPlanet to get references on those hotels/hostels/guesthouses. I am a social network freak so even when we decided to take this hostel, I told Mami to check it out on Facebook HAHA. Yes, I do admit that I’m a freak! Mami finally made the arrangement with the hostel owner and we took a family room with 4 beds because there will be 4 of us. However, it turned out only 3 of us could make the trip so on the day we reached the hostel, we asked to be changed to the triple bed room. The staff is really nice and helpful and the process of down-grading the room is easy and smooth. The triple room was IDR 190k/night and it comes with 2 single bed, one of which is a trundle bed. It has air-conditioner, TV, dressing table, and a plastic chest of drawers for our convenient use. There are 2 shared bathrooms outside the room, bear in mind that the bathroom is an old school type with a squatting toilet 🙂 I had a really difficult time to poo on a squatting toilet, you know, once you use seating toilet you’ll never go back! LOL. But after all, I found the stay quite pleasant, they also give us each a cup of Javanese tea (it is basically just unsweetened tea) and a bun for breakfast. Not bad, eh? Oh, the hostel is also recognized by TripAdvisor and it can arrange a trip to Karimun Jawa too. Aside from that, there is a convenient store downstairs and, in the evening, there will be a small sushi bar outside the store. Very convenient. I would rate the hostel 3/5. I forgot to take some pics of the hostel but found some pics from Google (courtesy of the owner’s blog).

Imam bonjolImam Bonjol Hostel Bathroom

The hostel is located in a very strategic location. It is near Tugu Muda monument and Lawang Sewu. It is also not far away from Toko Oen, the restaurant I really wanted to visit. Since May Ping and I landed in Semarang earlier than Mami, we headed to the hostel and waited for her there. Soon, Hanafi (Oxymoron Herlina‘s brother) came to meet us in our hostel. He was like the replacement for Lina cause she couldn’t join the trip and show us around her city as she was just starting her new job. So, Hanafi took us around instead. Here are some of the pictures of our adventures in Semarang.


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DSC07316 DSC07313Tay Kak Sie, a small but nice temple.

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A glimpse of Kota Tua Semarang (Semarang Old Town).

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Lawang Sewu, literally means The Thousand Doors, the iconic building of Semarang.

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DSC07420Sam Poo Kong, the oldest and biggest Chinese temple in Semarang.

DSC07433Panorama view of Semarang city from The Hills resto.

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DSC07477Pagoda Avalokitesvara Buddhagaya Watugong, the highest pagoda in Semarang.

DSC07571Tugu Muda, a historic monument to commemorate the struggle of Indonesia’s independence by Indonesian youth.

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Blenduk Church, the oldest church in Central Java province.

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The Great Mosque of Central Java, it has sky tower overlooking magnificent view of the city at night.

And my opinion of Semarang? I really did enjoy my trip. I think the city is well maintained compare to other capital cities in Indonesia. Though the city is not too big, some roads are small, and there are still some undeveloped areas, but it is pretty neat. The main road is close to one another, makes it easy to find your destination. I also love the people, they are super duper nice, polite, and helpful. One day we were in a car and saw a demonstration of one bank’s employees, we wanted to capture the daily life in Semarang so we grabbed our camera and took some snaps of it. The police women saw us and they waved their hands towards us with their wide smile so we can take a nice pictures. Friendly it is. Even the demo was well-organized, there is no riot at all. Life is easy and laid-back there. I did love it so much. I think one day I might wanna live there 🙂 And besides, the food are AH-MAY-ZING! I would never find a place full of delicious food with super cheap price. It is so freaking cheap that Mami and I couldn’t stop crying ‘Oh my goooood, so cheaaaaaap….’ every time we paid our meals. It is really heaven on earth! Here are some of the pics to make you drool *saliva river flowing*

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Loempia Semarang (the specialty of Semarang) & kembang tahu wedang

DSC07369Bistik lidah (tongue steak) from Toko Oen. Really love the old Java-Dutch ambience! Having our dinner accompanied by keroncong song, reminded all of us of our childhood in grandparents’ house 🙂

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Lekker Paimo. This is A MUST, guys!!!!!! It tastes HEAVENLY!DSC07478

Ayam bakar from one cafe opposite to Unika Soegijapranata (Soegijapranata Catholic University). We chilled there as if we were Unika students HAHA.

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Sate kambing 29 in Kota Tua

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I really encourage you guys to go to Semarang if you seek a different lifestyle and ambiance. It doesn’t really feel like a metropolitan city because people there are very friendly and not ignorant. But it is not a small town either. Of course, it is the capital of Central Java province. Duh! Besides, things are CHEAP there, worth every penny you spend! I will definitely come back only for the culinary hehe.

Alrite, guys, hope you find this post helpful. Sorry if it’s too long ’cause all the memories were just flashing back as I typed and I get overly excited 😀 Write you again soon for Java Trip Solo and Yogya editions. ‘Til then, au revoir!

Hello World!

This is the first post.

The very first sentence of this blog was entered 2 days ago. I was too bored with the task I’m supposed to be doing, processing everything behind the booking and shipment process, and so I decided to ‘give birth’ to something I can share with people. So, after a thoughtful consideration whether I should go for Tumblr or Blogspot for my new blog, I’ve come to….. *drumroll* WordPress! *clap-clap* And, yes, there goes this blog name. I tried all the names I can think of but none of them is available. I’ve gone far too ‘sitedoesntexist.wordpress.com‘ but I think it sounds rubbishy lol. By the way, despite its name, this blog won’t tell you anything about booking-and-shipment process, the rate of shipping a parcel from one country to another, how much discount you can get if you mention my name, n bla bla. No, this has got nothing to do with those stuffs. I plan to write stuffs mostly about my travel experience, but I realize I am not a frequent traveler (though I want to be one). So, no theme for this blog. You’ll most probably read about all the craps that cross my mind.

Disclaimer:

1. This blog won’t tell you anything related to booking-and-shipment process, and in no way I get sponsored by any shipping company to promote them. Anything about bookings, shipments, shipping company, is purely subjective opinion written (maybe) drunkenly or in a condition when my sugar as well as boredom level is high. I am in no way responsible for readers’ assumption and choice of courier service after reading this blog.

2. This blog may contain vulgarity, curses, swears, and contents suitable for adults. Please click the ‘x’ symbol on the top right corner of your tab if you didn’t happen to blow the candles of your 21 years old birthday last night. Otherwise, I am not responsible if your mummy finds out you’re reading my blog. So, close, NOW! Do not cheat yourself, you think being old is cool, eh?

3. I am not responsible for any effects, opinions, and/or feelings caused by reading this blog. Peace.