Astonishing Chiang Rai – exploring the golden triangle in a cheaper and hassle-free way

This is part of my 7 days trip to Thailand last December. Even though Chiang Mai was the main destination back there, Chiang Rai which was the supplemental destination successfully exceeding my expectation. Make sure you do not miss the golden triangle region of northern Thailand. During my trip in both Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, I chose motorbike as the main transportation choice. Read through on my post on how you can afford cheaper and less hassle transportation to explore the region.

Accommodation

Pan Kled Eco Hill Villa – 8.4 rated in Booking.com

Plus: Quiet and homey environment, motorcycle parking, including proper breakfast (choice of Thai or Western style), good value for money, very responsive staffs.

Minus: Hot water heater not working (however, they offered a room switch due to the inconvenience), location is far from the city center so a private transportation mode is a must.

Pan Kled Villa Room
First Day

We arrived in Chiang Rai quite late enough on a several hours bus drive from Chiang Mai. From the bus station, we took a grab car service directly to the Pan Kled hostel. Upon arriving, we checked in, had a late supper of Thai fried rice, and get a rest for tomorrow.

Renting a Bike

First thing first on the morning, renting a motorbike for the journey. Near the clock tower, there were lots of choice for Motorcycle rental. Our choice fell to the ST Motorcycle Rental.

ST Motorcycle Rental – near the clock tower – Jetyod Road

The cheapest alternative was the 125cc scooter with a cost of 250 baht per day. The deposit is a must but you can leave your passport as a substitute, which I strongly do not recommend because you need to keep your passport on your side every time wherever you go. The deposit was around 2000-3000 baht.

Fuels – for the second day full trip:
Chiang Rai – Golden Triangle (72 km)

Golden Triangle – Mae Sai (25 km)

Mae Sai – Chiang Rai (62 km)

Chiang Rai – White Temple – Singha Park – BANDAAM – Blue Temple (60 km)

Total journey was around 219 + intra city = 225 km

Bike journey from Mae Sai to Chiang Rai

We refueled 2 times of 91 RON gasoline on a total amount of around 7 litres (170 baht) . An average of 32 km/litre consumption, not bad eh? The total cost of transportation all over Chiang Rai per person:

170 baht + 250 baht = 420 baht / 2 person = 210 baht per person

IT IS FREAKING CHEAP! I strongly recommend you guys to use motorbike, and if you have more budget you can go for a higher cc bike to have faster journey. The maximum speed of the scooter was 80 km/hour, while the limit of the highway was 100 km/hour.

The long 1061 road

My route was Chiang Rai – Golden Triangle – Mae Sai. The other alternative was Chiang Rai  – Mae Sai – Golden Triangle. Just take the long 1061 road from Chiang Rai to reach Golden Triangle, the road was really smooth with only few of cars or local motorbike passing by. Upon reaching the Mae Sai from Golden Triangle, we were stopped by the local police for a passport and licence check. After showing my international driving licence, they let us go.

*There were some articles and blogs that telling the story on Thai police stopping and asking money from some tourists, but I do not think that is really the case. If you are wearing a helmet, having your licence, and behaving courteous then you are good to go.

the Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle was the largest opium producer area in the world alongside the Golden Crescent in Afghanistan.  It is the junction of the Mekong and Ruak river which is also a border of the Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. The things to offer here are the view of the junction, the big sitting Buddha statue, and the House of Opium. There are two places that shows the opium related things: Hall of Opium and House of Opium. I did not go to the former one, since already visited the House of Opium.

Interesting things on the House of Opium: a story on how the drug addiction habit was actually started as a recreational activity on the early years, how they found out the opium turned out to produce the opium from the poppy, and on the end of the museum they show the effect of opium consumption. A recreational activity turned out to be a commodity business that powering the nations’ economy in the world war’s era.

There is a legend of the Mekong giant catfish as well. It is the Pangasianodon gigas which is known as Patin in Indonesia. It is also observed in the Kalimantan river as their habitat and local people consumed it as a source of protein.

Opium Museum
Mae Sai

Mae Sai is a city in the north of Chiang Rai, it is a border city between Burma and Thailand. The city is small but lively. We visited Mae Sai on the way back from the Golden Triangle using the west side road. Must visit places here are:

  1. The border market
  2. Wat Phra That Doi Wao
  3. The Big Buddha statue

All of the three are close nearby, but make sure you ride a motorbike for a convenient commuting. You can basically park your bike and get off for a place, then get in the bike to move to another places.

While exploring the market, I found an interesting traditional cardigan-like clothing. The lady owner was a Thai and the store assistant was a Burmese. You can identify the Burmese with a gold colored paint smear in their face. The clothes was so comfy and had an nice color combination, made me having bought the thing for 600 baht. I know it could be more cheaper but I like the shop owner and the assistant, and more importantly the clothes itself. We left at around 5 PM from Mae Sai, just before the sun set. On the way back, we passed by the famous Tham Luang cave where in 2018 twelve Thai boys trapped in.

Border side to Burma
Border control to Burma
Big Buddha
Scorpion Temple
Mae Fah Luang market

On the way back home to Chiang Rai, we passed by a crowded street near the Mae Fah Luang university area. Some street food vendors selling khai tot, crepes, thai tea, fried food, and waffle ball should not be missed. We took a break as well to stretch and also trying some foods.

Mae Fah Luang Food Market

the Clock Tower at 7 PM

Arriving at Chiang Rai, it was almost 7 and we proceed to the Clock Tower. At 7 PM, it showed a light show with music on the background. It was quite okay, but the traffic and crowd around slightly disturb the ambiance. I decided to come back at midnight to enjoy the clock tower.

Clock Tower at 7 PM

After that, we went to the night market just nearby to have a dinner. I devoured a portion of Pad Thai (which is I like most among all Pad Thai I tried in Thailand, I think it is the most authentic one) in the food bazaar just beside the night market. There was a live music on the food bazaar, local artist singing Thai songs. After eating, we explored a bit on the night market and had a one hour Thai massage. My first time trying the Thai massage and I liked it how they stretch our body after a long riding hours from Mae Sai. For massage, most of the parlor there will offer the same price (200 baht per hour for Thai massage, and around 300 bahts for traditional oil massage).

Jetyod Road

Even though I was exhausted, a Tottenham Premier League game could not be missed! So I searched for a nearby sports bar, and found out that the Jetyod Road where I rented my bike was full of bars at night. After looking around for the most comfy place, I chose the Cat Bar which is actually the most visited bar. After parking my motorbike on the side of the street across the bar, I sat and ordered a Singha beer. That was a good night, Tottenham trashed Everton with a 6-2 win!

Jetyod Road Bar

After the Full time whistle was blown and the bar was about to close, I rode my bike to see the Clock Tower at late night. It was nearly 1 AM so nobody was there, I could enjoyed the enthralling clock tower with no traffic on the street.

Clock Tower at Midnight
Second Day
White Temple

Wat Rong Khun is the most mainstream place in Chiang Rai. It is very crowded even in the morning. To be honest, I found this place as the most overrated. The concept of the hell depicted in the yard is quite interesting but apart from that, it is merely a touristy place. You need to pay an admission fee of 50 baht to enter the area. Moving on from here, we departed to the Singha Park.

Wat Rong Khun
Singha Park

Singha Park has lot to offer for a family. They have a restaurant, outdoor games, a mini farm, and a tea plantation sites. They also offer lots of good spot for photo-taking as well. The only thing is that the price of food is quite pricy, if you decided to go all-in backpacker style then you should bring your own food or skip the food in Singha Park to avoid the pricy restaurant there. I was tempted to try the climbing wall activity that costed me 150 baht (quite expensive right?) and my friend tried the zip line ride that she really enjoyed.

Bandaam Museum

This museum was promoted by the famous Thai artist, Thawan Duchanee. I enjoyed how the artist make a concept of hell into a complex, but somehow some display’s concept was seemed forced. My favorite display was the round mini house where some chairs placed on the circumference border inside the house. In the middle was a skin of a dead crocodile. It is weird, but the lighting and acoustic was good making it enthralling to sit inside. Moreover, this place is okay to visit (very touristy as well just like the Wat Rong Khun) but do not expect much from this.

Bandaam Museum
Blue Temple

This was our last destination in Chiang Rai before catching up the evening flight to Bangkok. This temple was actually better than the white one, in my view. It was still full of tourist but the architectural is better than the white. The afternoon light spraying on the temple building made it even enjoyable.

Blue Temple

Returning the bike and getting our deposit, we then hurried to the airport which is quite far from the city. Our grab driver was pretty skillful as she knew the shortcut to the airport as well so we arrived very early. The flight was also delayed, so we spent several hours waiting inside the airport.

Total Expenditure in Chiang Rai

4,154 baht

Rent a bike 2 days                        500
Gasoline First 91                          90
House of Opium entry                       50
Coconut @golden triangle                   35
Sun hat                                   120
Snacks 7-11                                55
Lunch (sweet sour pork+rice+americano)    230
Traditional clothing Mae Sai              600
Snacks Mae Fah Luang                       30
Dinner Pad Thai                            60
Thai massage + tip                        240
Beer at Cat Bar                            80
Gasoline Second 91                         80
White temple admission                     50
Singha Park lunch                         210
Singha Park climbing                      150
Bandaam admission                          80
Snack at blue temple                       55
Dinner                                     49
Accommodation for 2 nights               1150
Bus ticket to Chiang Rai                  240

Tyanna Coffee, a coffee gem in North Sumatera

Our coffee hunter team

Perks of being a business traveler, we do get a lot of chance to visit an offbeat area. This time I had a chance to visit the southern part of North Sumatera, which is the Padang Sidempuan city. If it is not business trip, this city definitely is not on my destination list. Based on the recommendation from a local,  we managed to visit a coffee plantation site in Desa Sugi (approximately 40 mins from Padang Sidempuan).

Where is it?

The place is managed by Mr Harahap and it is called the Tyanna Coffee. It was quite far from the road, but should be manageable to reach the address since other village people will easily direct you to the infamous coffee plantation. We took a 30 minutes break to taste the coffee while hearing a short course about coffee from Mr. Harahap. They served us two different coffee with paper and french press brewing technique, and I found that the french press one was tastier.

Traditional paper drip
French press

Is coffee bad for your stomach?

Well, based on the lecture from Mr. Harahap that coffee usually perceived as the acidic liquid that damage your stomach meanwhile the perception is not fully right. The acidity level of the coffee varies within the bean type and the species of the coffee. Within one species of a coffee bean, the acidity level also varies on the grade of the bean. Grade A to C explains its “premium”ity of the beans. The grade can be told from the appearance of the bean, the good or the premium one looks perfect round without any defect. Worms inside the bean may also affect the acidity level of the bean. The bean farmer always sort their beans into those grades. On most cases when you buy the coffee powder, the quality of the beans are that of the mixed one (middle quality). If you have a stomach problem and still want to enjoy coffee, look for a premium coffee!

Dried luwak coffee
Medium level coffee bean

 

 

 

 

 

If you happen to travel around this area, make sure to drop a visit to this place! Truly a coffee gem in the hidden area in North Sumatera.

Sunrise Hike in Broga Hill

During my last visit to KL, I planned to do the morning hike on some hills nearby KL. Based on the recommendation of my Malay friends, two places came out with one of them is the Bukit Broga. I quickly browsed through about Broga and decided to pay a short visit. The only problem I found that it is only reachable by personal car and no public transport available toward and inward from the site. That did not stop me and in the last minutes I booked a hotel nearby Kajang, hoping that some Grab drivers are up already in the morning to get me to the Broga Hill.

*Trip was on Saturday 29 September 2018, clear weather, not raining the day before so the trail condition is okay.

Accommodation

I stayed in Uptown Imperial Hotel Kajang, with the consideration of proximity toward Broga Hill. I just went there directly from the KLIA without booking the hotel beforehand. I guess it will be safe to get a room there since no tourist attractive place on that area (Kajang). The place was nice, proper for a good rest place before your hike in the morning. There was a cafe and a spa just beside the hotel (Uptown Cafe and Imperial Spa). Arriving quite late, I decided to have a late supper (Nasi Goreng Kampung and Sate Kajang) and rest for the early hike in the next morning.

Itinerary

05:30 Wake up, look up for a Grab driver. No nearby drivers in the first 10 mins but luckily got one after that. Journey took 15 mins to Broga Hill.

06:00 Arriving at the parking lot of Broga Hill, paying 1 RM for entrance fee. Had a breakfast (sliced watermelon for 1 RM) in a foodstall. They also sell nasi lemak and snacks.

06:11 Reaching the Broga Hill entrance gate. Walking for a while until meeting some guys that asking for 1 RM for hiking fee.

06:25 Reached the 1 st hill. Noticing a lots of people were there already.

06:38 Reached the 2nd hill. Sunrise was not there yet.

07:00 Reached the top after queuing (just know that Broga Hill is a very popular place on the weekends) and did not get the beautiful sunrise. There was a saying that first timer would not get the sunrise, you need to be very lucky to get one on your first hike.

After enjoying the moment at the top and taking pictures, I went down through the other trail than the one I used on the way up. Stop near the bottom for a 5 RM Coconut water and finally reaching the gate at 08:00.

Problem of going back

The problem after the hike is getting a car back to the hotel. I tried to use my phone but the connection was just terrible (XL Axiata Priopass), in the end I did not manage to get a connection to order a Grab. Then I asked for a help from Samly (this guy is the son of the lady that guard the parking entrance) to order a Grab for me. We chatted for a while until the Grab driver arrived. Thank you Samly for the kind help!

So the conclusion I want to say is now it is very easy to go to Broga Hill without using personal car. You can use Grab (lots of Grab drivers in Kajang area woke up earlier on the weekends to carry tourist) to get there and going back from there. The thing I did not explore is the other accommodation which is closer to the Broga Hill. I guess there will be closer alternative than the Kajang area (Broga Hill is in Semenyih, 15 mins from Kajang) because I notice the University of Nottingham is just 5 mins away from Broga Hill. There would be an accommodation option nearby the campus.

My thought

Broga Hill is a nice place to have a morning hike for an exercise, the steep hill is also interesting to climb. The view is okay and would be good for chilling in the morning with your friend or family. However, I found that Broga Hill is too famous that makes it too crowded in the weekends. Suggesting to go in the weekdays so you can explore it to the fullest.

The view from the top

3 Days Belitung Island Trip

I always cherish the Eid Mubarak season every year. This year, I went on a 3 days trip to Belitung during eid mubarak with a very good friend of mine. Credit to her, for most of the pictures here. Our itinerary was like this:

First day (half day): East Belitung (Tarsius, Kwan Im Temple, Ahok Village, Manggar, and Laskar Pelangi village), Tanjung Pandan for sunset

Second day (full day): Hopping island + Bukit Berahu

Third day (half day): Kaolin crater + Laskar Pelangi beach, souvenirs shopping

East Belitung

Tarsius park

Forget about the national park where the Tarsius is, you cannot find the Tarsius there anymore. I strongly suggest skipping this attraction.

Kwan Im Temple

This is a Confucianism temple, worshiping the goddess of universal love. This is located on the far east of Belitung, far from everywhere. If you want to get your luck and life to be read, you can try here. It is using the ciamsi or qian shi method that had been used since the hundred years ago. Basically you will pour some wooden sticks (after praying in the altar toward gods) and count the numbers of wooden sticks. The number you get will be matched with the poetry, mainly talk about wisdom, praise (good), or warning (not good luck). Anyway, fun things to try.

 

 

Manggar

Coffee everywhere! A small villages in the East, with a lovely beach. We just passed by the village and went straight to the beach for lunch. There is nothing worth visit in the village itself, since the attractions in East Belitung are Laskar Pelangi and Ahok villages, and the Kwan-Im temple.

Laskar Pelangi village

There are two main attractions regarding the Laskar Pelangi. The Andrea Hirata museum and the school building that is being used for the shooting. We went to both places but chose to enter the latter only. We were not really interested in the literature things and the admission ticket is pricy. Because I was not into the Laskar Pelangi hype that time, these places were just okay. If you mean to go to East Belitung for another purpose, these places can be your 10 minutes short stop (only for taking pics). But a special visit just for these places are not worth the long distance. Just my two cents.

Ahok village

Just like Laskar Pelangi village, just okay for me. Ahok is the famous politician in Indonesia, who was born in Belitung. Basically in Ahok Village, you can visit Ahok’s childhood home and neighborhood. Not really interesting for me. We just paid a short visit to buy some souvenirs and took some pics.

 

Hopping around the islands

This is a full-day activity. What you do is actually hopping from one island to another islands in the area of north-western beach (Pantai Tanjung Kelayang). The typical islands visited are: Pulau Pasir, Pulau Lengkuas, Pulau Kelayang, Pulau Batu Berlayar, and Pulau Burung Garuda (this is not accessible, only viewing for afar).  You need to book the trip beforehand and you can pay later after the island hopping finished. That time I rent Bang Midun’s boat (081949245345) after seeing other’s blog review about his service. His crew is the best! They were always ready wherever we want to go, no complaint at all when we were slacking in some island to chill and drinking coconut water, simply the best! And anyway, one of the guy took good picture as well! The price is around 500,000 IDR. When you choose to use other’s service, bear in mind that the price of one boat should be around that range.

 

The tips for island hopping:

  1. Bring your own lunch from the main island. There are some food stalls in Kelayang and Lengkuas Island, but would not be enough for a fulfilling lunch. You will need a complete meal because you will do a lot of physical activities!
  2. Apply a really good sunblock, and re-apply. The sun is really strong there!
  3. Wear a comfy outfits and always be ready to get wet.
  4. If you start in the morning, make the Pulau Pasir as your first destination because the later it gets, the less accessible it is. The high tide will make the island disappear.
  5. Bring snacks for your energy booster: chocolate and sweets. Do not forget to bring biscuits to feed the fish.

My favourite island is the Kelayang island. The famous rainbow granites are here. It only took several minutes walk into the mini forest to reach there. There were a lot of big stones but the slope is okay, so everyone will have no difficulty to reach it. I reached it after the noon so the tide was quite high already (waist level). To get a good picture, suggest coming earlier to have lower tide level.

Seafood eating spree

We tried two seafood restaurant on the first and third day there. The first one was on the East Belitung and the last one was on the West.

1. RM Sinar Laut Ayung BB

In East Belitung, there are three big restaurants that tourist usually visit: Fega Restaurant, Sinar Laut Ayung BB, and Rudi Fakistan. Ayung BB and Rudi Fakistan are located side by side on Pantai Nyiur Melambai. Both of them served fresh seafood, cooked in local style. We decided to try the Ayung BB because Rudi Fakistan was closed that time (Ramadhan holiday). The verdict about their foods:

Must try their fish soup (Gangan) that is served in fresh herbs with a sour and sweet taste. The others are just normal menu that you can have in any Indonesian seafood restaurant. But, the seafood there are just so fresh! For Jakartans like me who used to eat the not-so fresh sea creatures, Belitung seafood was just tantalizingly good. If only they do not contain so much bad cholesterol though! Total costs for three people were around 200-300 thousands.

2. RM Amat

Here you can enjoy a good seafood with a sea view, because they have a outdoor seating concept just beside the sea. While waiting for your food, you can play at the beach. There are swings nearby so I guess this restaurant is very suitable for family. The food was okay but again, the freshness was just perfect! Look how nice the squid from nearb sea was served with the Padang sauce on the picture. Hmmm. The total cost was almost the same like the first restaurant.

 

 

Coffee everywhere!

Kong Djie coffee is the most famous chain of coffee shops here. It existed since 1943 and all Belitungnese just loved this brand. I tried only one branch in Tanjung Pandan beach (amongst several branches all over Belitung), while waiting for the sunset in Tanjung Pandan beach.

Verdict about the coffee: okay, nothing special about the flavour though.

 

Second eating spree – Hakka Chinese Food

Atep vs Acin

These are the KFC and McDonalds of the Belitung noodle. We tried Acin’s and we loved it. The noodle was not the typical Chinese noodle which is served dry. This one is served alongside some sweet sauce and some fried fishcakes, eggs, and beansprouts. The taste is more strong on the sweetness but somehow still have the refreshing taste. Must try!

Hakka restaurant

We tried a Hakka restaurant based on the driver’s suggestion. I totally forgot the name of the signature dish. It was a pork based dish, served with pork stomach and intestines. Loved this restaurant as well. Must try the local Hakka dish of the Belitungnese.

 

 

 

 

Closing remarks: Belitung is underrated. I love this destination so much. I am not a big fan of beach but still I had a good time there. The foods are also amazing, even though we did not have time to explore all. The price is cheap as well and the beach is still relatively clean. People are also nice! Come and visit Belitung!

*they are building a good hotel and golf range on the seaside so you can even consider playing golf here after doing some water activities

The Exciting Cinque Terre and Romantic Firenze

Italy had always been on my destination plan for a Europe trip. The main reason was Florence (Firenze), which had been in my wish-list after I finished reading Dan Brown’s Inferno. Later I found out that Florence did not meet my expectation because of the very obvious reason that I forgot to consider when I decided to go there on peak season. Anyway, I also wondered about the taste of “real” pizza and pasta in the homeland and also the famous Venice and Pompeii. Due to those reasons, I made up my mind to explore Italy for 8 days, visiting Venice, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Rome, and Naples. I used trains to travel between all cities and stayed in dormitory style backpacker hostel, and trying to be frugal on spending. I tried to push the spending on accommodation and eating, and I spent a total of £ 738 (or around 830 euros). The cost already included a round-trip ticket from London to Venice and Naples to London respectively. It was exceeding my budget that time, due to unexpected admission fees for museums and almost famous tourist attractions. For example, in order to meet the famous and magnificent David in Florence, I had to pay around 14 euros and pay another 14 euros to see the the birth of Venus on a different gallery.

Cinque Terre

Cinque terre means five terrain, which tells about five main spots in the area. Out of five, I visited all of them. Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso, and one additional (Levanto). The last one was not really worth to visit, it has only a view of buildings with very few tourist activity. The worst thing is it has no trekking part. It was more like a residential place than a touristy place, but if you have spare time you might not want to miss Levanto to enjoy the view. My trip began on Vernazza (the fourth place) to have the hiking trip. When I was there, route between Riomaggiore and Manarola was closed due to safety reason. To walk on the national park, you need to pay 10 euros for a one day trekking card. The trekking card enables you to access all park area, free use of toilet, internet access (well, actually I did not find any accessible Wi-Fi there). Overall, I enjoyed my walk on the national park since the weather on September is perfect for a walk. The only regretful thing is the unavailable route between Riomag and Manarola. During the walk, I got the pass scenic view of a cliff by the sea, small grape plantation, small church, and residential villages. The path is very visible and the road sign is everywhere so you will not get lost. The terrain is moderate, but have some steep terrain on some points. Overall the difficulty is okay, I noticed some elder hike there without any problem though.

Riomaggiore has the nice view of narrow coastal, perfect for sunset. I witnessed a guy proposing to his partner, just before the sun set. What a beautiful time for such a happy event! I tried the famous black ink pasta here as well (had difficulty to find this, like only 1 out of 10 restaurants serve this). My honest judgement was that black ink pasta are overrated. Hahaha. But if you never try it, you should try it to know what I felt when I have to pay for 20 euros for that pasta.

Monterosso is the most liveliest and crowdy amongst all. Nice place to get the sun’s exposure and chilling along the beach. This will probably the most crowdy terre amongst all. It has largest area, a place to sun-bathing, lots of restaurants and cafe, and an interesting marketplace in the alley area. This is my second favorite terre after Riomagg.

My suggestions if you are planning a trip for Cinque Terre:

  1. Buy a one day ticket for the train between all fives terre, because you will end up travel between each other lots of times. Save you money.
  2. Start your journey from the farthest village in the morning, and start your hiking journey towards the nearest (Riomaggiore). You can have a lunch break on Corniglia or Vernazza. Almost all stores open after 12 so it is always a good idea to spend the morning by enjoying the trail and later on sightseeing on the stores and restaurants at noon.
  3. Be aware of the last train toward the town, make sure you do not miss that so you do not have to spend the night in Cinque Terre.
  4. Wear a proper walking / hiking shoes because you will walk a lot!

Florence

Uffizi gallery. Make sure you booked the ticket before you come, or you have to queue. Ticket to be purchased online and then taken at the admission office. There is a time window when you can enter the museum, based on your booking preference. Have to visit because the famous Venus is here. The architecture is also amazing!

Accademia gallery. I went here just to see the famous David by Michelangelo. A must visit palce, you have to see how stunning are the details of the David. Worth the queue and ticket.

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. Had to pay for the admission. Did not really enjoy the visit because it was a typical catholic church and seemed too common.

Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower and Duomo. Had to pay for entering, additional costly tour to reach the top of the tower. Some guys in suits will try to convince you to buy the ‘exclusive’ tour to the tower. Don’t buy it, unless you really want to go to the top. You can go to the less higher tower for free, the view was amazing enough. Pretty close with what Dan Brown illustrated in the book. You will need to pass through a narrow staircase, be aware if you are somehow claustrophobic.

Pompeii

Half day trip. Visiting the pompeii, managed to get a free entry pass (maybe they misunderstood me as one of the participants of a huge tour of Chinese people). But you had to pay for the admission to get into the ruin. Upon entering the ruin, follow the route from the east side then you expect to finish the round on the west. That was the best route, you can start with the common ruin, have a break in the field where you can see the mount Vesivius far away. There was a coffee shop nearby where you can have lunch or a coffee break there. Overall, just a bunch of stones and statues. Quite amazing when you can imagine that those are the places you usually saw in the Romanian era movie. Instead, can go to coastal place nearby because Pompeii is a boring place.

Aside from the other cities stated above, I explored Rome, Naples, Pompeii, and Venice but no special stories to write about.

Bunaken! Another perks of being a field engineer

Yeap, this is a post for remembering my field engineer days back in 2015. As a field engineer, you got to travel, a lot. Somehow it brought you to the place so beautiful or so remote that you even do not want to go back again for the next job. Luckily, I got a jackpot for the Lahendong geothermal job in North Sulawesi. With a perfect timing, the job was finished on time (well drilled) so I got released then have time to explore Bunaken!

Bunaken is an infamous underwater park with beautiful corals ecosystem (even slightly damaged) and good snorkeling and diving spots. Unfortunately, we did not have GoPro at that time so we cannot get good picture of the underwater view. We hired a underwater photograph but seemingly that guy only took the pictures of us feeding tropical fishes and some not so good photo of us holding on to the corals whilst holding out our breath.

We visited on not peak day, it is a week day I think that I met no tourists group there. We rented a private speed boat, accompanied by two local guys that bring us to three snorkeling spots. We expected to meet the legendary turtle back there, but unfortunately we did not meet him. Basically, on the package they offer to you you will get three snorkeling spots, equipment rents, and lunch. As a fish eater, I loved the food there. You can choose the fishes you want to be grilled with Manado spice style. I love their chillies, they are so good that I eat more than one portion.

I’ve been snorkeling in Bali, and I can say that Bunaken is far better. It is less damaged, the fish species are more varied and more beautiful. I met some fish species that are weird, some baloon look alike fish, and rainbow fish. It was magical under the water, the time flew so fast there. I bet diving will be more exciting as you will go deeper to see more beautiful scenery and more fishes, weirder species one. Maybe met the legendary turtle! I really recommended this place as it is not that expensive, even could be cheaper if you travel with more people so you can rent bigger ships with cheaper price. We did not stay at the island because the price is high, we prefer to go back to Manado which is 45 minutes boat ride. There are lots of cheap inn and hotel nearby the port, so do not worry.

This is some of the evidence of our trips, can you imagine the feeling you got after finishing work at this place:

Drilling site of Lahendong Geothermal
Drilling site of Lahendong Geothermal

To have fun at this paradise:

Bunaken1 Bunaken2

I hope our government (specially North Sulawei government) can promote and support the local players of tourist industry, and we as Indonesian people should explore more places in Indonesia as travel destinations. If you travel there, you will help the local economics to grow! Please explore our local travel destinations.

North West England Football Holy Journey

Liverpool

Liverpool at early morning was cold and quiet

So I departed from London Victoria Coach Station at 23:45 and arrived in Liverpool One Station at 04:50 in the morning next day. I used Megabus.com (low fare coach services) and had booked 5 days before the journey. The cost per one person is £6 for London to Liverpool journey.

It’s a mistake to arrived early at 5 in the morning because there was nothing happened yet during that hours. It was completely dark without no one observed on the street. Liverpool is a port city and its weather is colder than London’s. Adding the fact that it’s early morning, the temperature might go below 10 degrees Celcius with strong wind even in the autumn. So I ended up chilled in the middle of bus station but finally found a national express locket nearby to make myself warm. In that hour, everything was still not in business even for mart of a coffee shop. The earliest is 8 in the morning for them to get into the business. So I would not suggest you make midnight trip from London, it is better to get early morning bus from London so you arrived around before noon time.

Daily bus ticket

Daily adult ticket pass costs only £4 per person, it is enough to explore famous places in Liverpool. I visited Anfield and the Goodison Park, City Centre, Baltic Triangle, and the Albert Docks. The latter is very near from the bus station and city centre, only 5 minutes walk. So you can make that as your final destination on the day. Liverpool is not that big, compared to a city like London so one day should be enough to visit Liverpool’s popular destination.

The Albert Dock and Museum of Liverpool

Actually, the Beatles museum is also nearby, but I decided to skip that because I am not really a Beatles fan and the adult ticket costs £10. However, the Museum of Liverpool is free of entry and actually, it is quite amusing for leisure wander. It tells the story about Liverpool city, the Beatles, the dockers, Liverpool FC and Everton FC, and much more.

Anfield and Goodison Park

Anfield and Goodison Park are quite near, around 20 minutes walking. I decided to visit Anfield first because the bus station is just in front of the stadium. Surprisingly, I found a glimpse of a wind turbine near Anfield. I wonder if the wind turbine is in operation or not. It is a quite rare sight to have a wind turbine in the middle of busy city.

I visited both Liverpool and Everton official shops and noticing a very big gap between them. Liverpool shop was full of tourists, meanwhile, there was no one in Everton shop when I was there. People from all over the worlds came over to visit the famous KOP home ground. I predict the atmosphere will be amazing during the match day!

YHA Liverpool

I spent the night at YHA Liverpool, around 10 minutes walking from city centre. Good services, reasonable price, clean room, and adequate facilities. It is more than enough for a sleeping place, highly recommended for backpacker traveller. Make sure you make booking online first because the demand is high for YHA Liverpool. You might need to pay some pounds for booking fee. I always enjoy my stay in YHA (Youth Hostel Association) because it is very simple and convenient for backpacker traveller.

Manchester

As my trip was more like a football trip, Manchester is a must visit place. Etihad and Old Trafford should not be missed, at least you take a picture in front of Old Trafford and Etihad. Luckily I got there during the match day between Manchester United and Leicester City (reigning Premier League Champion) so I noticed the United Army marching down the road with their red jerseys. That day United beat the former champion so bad.

In Manchester, I stayed in my friend’s house who studied at the University of Manchester. Surprisingly, the housing price in Manchester is amazingly cheaper than London. Not only the housing price, the foods are also relatively cheaper. In my opinion, Manchester is a kind of student-friendly city by considering it is one of the biggest city in the UK.

Tips about transport in Manchester, always buy the daily bus and tram ticket when you are there. Even though you are not planning to travel much, it is always worth. I ended up paying two times transportation cost than the price I should pay if I bought the daily pass. And also beware of the bus services providers, there are several of them. If you buy the daily pass ticket from one specific company, the ticket cannot be used for other company’s bus even it is the same route. Happened to me once, where I ended up buying a new ticket.

Must visit places are Arrandale (city centre with shopping centres),  Alan Turing Park, Manchester 101, Old Trafford, Etihad Stadium, Manchester Library, and the University of Manchester. The first three and University of Manchester are reachable by walking actually, it is only 20 minutes walk to each other so I suggest to walk rather than the bus because sometimes there is traffic.

Leeds

I have only stayed during the day in Leeds because I directly headed back to London before the evening. Places I visited are the Royal Armories Musem, Roundhay Park, and the city centre. I highly recommend the museum, even though you are not really into weaponry or war but the museum is really entertaining. I am not interested in war but the showcase they were just nice to see. The city centre is not so special, just a bunch of shopping stores and restaurants.  The Roundhay park is a just typical park in the UK but is worth to visit to enjoy the weather and stroll around the lake. If you do not like that kind of activities, I do not recommend the Roundhay Park.

Well, that was a short story about my visit to Central UK before I started my postgraduate study in London. Hope you enjoy that.

Urban Legend in North Tapanuli

North Tapanuli is a regency in North Sumatera, Indonesia. It is where I reside for almost two years, working at the Sarulla drilling project. North Tapanuli is inhabited by Bataknese, one of major ethnic in Indonesia. I want to share a few urban legends that believed there. There is even one ghost sighting caught on camera on one of the list. Here are the list:

  1. Onan Begu (ghost market or pasar hantu in Bahasa Indonesia) is located on WJP drilling area. WJP drilling area supply the steam for NAMORA I LANGIT power plant. The WJP that accounts for several production wells actually have a story among the locals. WJP is the most remote area amongst the other drilling area, which is also remote by the way. But the WJP is even remote because no mobile phone signal exist there. Added that the location is far away into the dark woods. It is called Onan Begu because it was actually a flat field in the middle of the woods before becoming a drilling pad. Ghost and spirits are believed to gather there. Right now after it became a drilling area, mysterious howling and sounds often heard in the dark trees, sometimes the crew says that they see a white woman fly around the area. One time I obliged to install the electrical grounding for our unit in the location. While sitting in the fron row seat, I glanced to one of the fence nearby that area. You know in a drilling site, they put a police line to restrict people entering the area. One segment of the police line suddenly moving up and down in a slightly slow motion. Maybe it’s the wind or something was sitting there. Yeah, anything can happens right?
  2. The deadly turn. Between NAMORA I LANGIT and SILANGKITANG power plant area (around twelve kilometres) there is one turn that believed to be haunted. The road is a main road for Sumatera land transportation so the legend is widely known among truck driver. From NAMORA I LANGIT, the turn is located after the steep descent with rather blind-sided turn to the left. There is a sign that reads “CAUTION! ACCIDENT PRONE” or “AWAS RAWAN KECELAKAAN.” Accidents happen there mostly involve heavy truck and other heavy vehicle with low control. Right beneath the turn is a 20 metres deep cliff, where the vehicle often ends up in. The legend says a bad woman inhabited in the bottom of the cliff, demanding death people every year for retribution. Around 30 metres after the turn, you can find a cave on the left side with a skull sign in front of it. It was said to be the woman’s place that no one is permitted to enter. Actually I ever saw a truck crashed into the cliff, making three of the passengers dead in the place. Luckily I saw only the truck and the dead victims were already evacuated.
  3. NAMORA I LANGIT and SIMATANIARI. Name of place near the NIL Power Plant. NAMORA I LANGIT means very near from the sky and SIMATANIARI means near from the sun. They are the highest place in the region so the naming sounds very acceptable.
  4. Begu Ganjang is name of traditional ghost legend in Tapanuli region. People believe Begu Ganjang is a ghost that treated and kept by human (black magic), in order to gain wealth and honor.Begu Ganjang fed by human blood and flesh. Begu Ganjang also could be sent to kill a rival or an enemy. However, in my opinion Begu Ganjang is just a myth from the past. It was often that people accused of using Begu Ganjang killed and burned alive. People in the past could easily be manipulated and misleaded by ghost info in a motive of social jealously.
  5. The Fourth Roustabout. Is a story about mysterious roustabout. Roustabout is a crew that works in drilling
    Examine the red circle
    Examine the red circle

    rig, mostly doing task like lifting, hoisting, cleaning, and mixing chemical.However, one time a night drilling supervisor in NIL area caught a unusual sight of roustabout working near the shale shaker. Through the security camera, he saw three man cleaning the shale shaker area. The three man were wearing blue coveralls and yellow hats. However, the three man seemed not noticing another man/woman standing in the middle wearing all white clothes. They were really sure that only three of them working there. The identity of the mysterious guest is still unknown. The drilling rig actually had a sad story, happened around 10 months ago. One of the night drilling supervisor had a heart attack on rig site after having an argument with his boss. Unfortunately he cannot survived and died on the ambulance. It was the exact rig where the fourth roustabout sighting.

That is all I got for the urban legend. Do you have any other urband legend in your region? Please comment!

 

 

Lahendong – Tomohon City , Future of Indonesia Geothermal Energy and North Sulawesi Tourism

Perks of being a Field Engineer : good compensation benefit  travel around the world.

My “green hat” job or people usually say as probation period as a field engineer was on a geothermal drilling well at North Sulawesi, Indonesia. It is exactly at Tomohon , the city of flower in Minahasa region. Tomohon is notoriously known for their traditional market that trade bats, cats, dogs, and rats meat. Seems like they hate rodents so much, they almost eat everything. Most of North Minahasa people are non-moslem so they also eat pork a lot. There is a annual flower festival in Tomohon which attracts many foreign tourists. Tomohon also famous of their native girls with their bright skin, slim, and westernized looks which are the favourable characteristics in Indonesia. Aside from girls, flower, cats and bats meat, and liquor (cap tikus), Tomohon is rich of geothermal potential.

Lahendong Geothermal Power Plant

Lahendong Power Plant, located in South Tomohon is one of the biggest electricity supply in North Sulawesi. The capacity of each phase is around 20 MW. Now the project has almost completed the third to achieve 60 MW. Lahendong area is suspected to have 200 MW of potential reserve. Yet the well development still run right now, only with steady effort. They only contracted one rig to did the well drilling for reserve development. I suspected the commitment of Pertamina Geothermal Energy (State owned) is still halted due to high cost of geothermal drilling costs. However on 2014 – early 2015, there were one drilling rig doing activites on Tompasso area for exploration. The Tompasso area still has not utilized right now for their steam.

Works at Kasuratan and Tondangow Districts

I had the opportunity to drill two wells each in Kasuratan district (Area 3) and Tondangow district (Area 13). Apexindo Rig #4 was contracted to drill there, they are the best crew I’ve known for drilling geothermal well. To complete one well, they only needed around 2 months. Compared to Sarulla geothermal well drilling rig, they could took up to 3-4 months to complete one well.

Geothermal well usually drilled in four hole size, 26″ – 17 1/2″ – 12 1/4″ – 9 7/8″ subsequently. That is for big hole production well, for re-injection well it usually use 12 /4″ and 8 1/2″. However the size should differs depend on drilling engineering calculation. MWD Engineers usually works from early size until second last size. On early size when the well direction is still vertical, our tools make sure the collision issue to nearby well is avoided. On kick-off section, we work full-time while building and turning the motor to desired path. On tangent section we still work to give correction for missing path. On last section we do not usually take MWD on BHA due to very high temperature. MWD tool has temperature limit around 150 degrees of Celcius. On last section, the temperature with mud circulation mode could reach 170 degrees of Celcius.

A list of popular tourists destination in Tomohon area:

  1. Bukit Kasih – religion tourist place for Christians.
  2. Tomohon Traditional Market – the place that sold bats and cats meat, and other traditional groceries. Only appears on early morning if you want to see the exotic meat.
  3. Tondano Lake – one of the biggest lake in Indonesia, not far from Tomohon city.
  4. Ragey Restaurant – pork satay restaurant, also serve Paniki (made from bats meat).
  5. Flower gardent – looks very good on festival time around August every year.
  6. Tomohon Night Market – flea market that sold traditional and hawker food.
  7. Tompasso – famous for its peanuts.

It should be more place that is interesting to visit, I’ve only known about the seven of them for two times visiting Tomohon. Plus, I only had time to wander when drilling is not commenced which means only on casing point break I can go around Tomohon.

It’s all wrap about my review for Tomohon City after three months total of living there. Hope you find it interesting!

 

ex-MWD crew of Lahendong Well Drilling

 

Spicy Ramen Battle – Korea’s Samyang vs Singapore’s Nissin

Hello, on this post I want to compare these two fried noodle brand from different regions. On the west side we have samyang’s spicy chicken fried noodle from South Korea. On the other side is Nissin’s tom yum fried noodle. The similarities of these two brands are their spicy and hot flavor and  they are dry based. I got the recommendation for Nissin’s instant noodle from my older cousin who lived in Singapore. I visited her apartment and she gave me 5 packs of it as a gift. She said that it was one of the tastiest fried instant noodle in Singapore.

When I lived in South Korea for 2 months, I tasted Buldalkbokkeummyeon for several times. My Korean friend, Kang Kyung-taek bought me 5 packs of it and cooked it at our dorm for lunch. I fell in love with the flavor of it on the first time. Let’s see the head to head battle:

Food portion

The packaging does not impersonate the spicyness of it, yet it had basic color in black. The portion is mild, just proper for snack food which not too much. The texture has Korea’s ramen trademark which big and chewy. Nissin has the opposites, it’s thin and delicate. This does affect your sense of full after eating Nissin, you would demand for second portion because one is just not enough. For Samyang the sense feels just right for your stomach.

Winner: Samyang

The taste

Actually it is not fair enough to compare the taste because they are completely different in cuisine style. One is tom yum and the other is korean chicken sauce. But if I have to choose, I agree that Samyang has better taste than the rather mild Nissin. I heard Singapore limits the usage of MSG, and may be applied to the instand noodle too. Maybe the MSG factor included there but for taste I enjoy Samyang more than Nissin.

Winner: Samyang again

Spicyness

If you cannot withstand high level of spicyness, I would not recommend to taste the Samyang. They say Buldalkbukeum has 3210 SHU level that could make burn sensation on your tongue. The after burn sensation will come after several seconds you stop eating. Otherwise, Nissin has very delicate level of spicyness that made it more edible that Samyang.

Winner: Nissin

Truthfully, it is very hard to choose the winner because they two have each plus point. But I choose Samyang if there were two of them served and I got tho choose one. Samyang noodle is very tempting when served, even though you might feel little regret when the after burn reacts on your tongue.