Medan 5 days itinerary

Medan is a bustling city, being the third largest in Indonesia. Prices are cheaper here than in Jakarta and Surabaya, so if you want a cheap getaway, Medan fits the bill.

Here is an important travel tip for Medan – use Grab for cheap and efficient transport around Medan (should apply to all Indonesian cities as well). For a six-seater car, it cost only 15 to 20k (S$1.50 to S$2) for travel within Medan city, which is quite affordable. For a normal sedan, it is even cheaper.

Grab is the no brainer choice to arrange for your airport transfer, costing less than 150k (S$15) for a six-seater, plus 15k for toll. The journey takes almost an hour. Here’s how you can use Grab upon your arrival – when you exit the airport terminal, go to the parking area A (Parkir A) on the right. The Grab cars are all just waiting there. Book a car and proceed to look for the car when the driver confirms the booking. Continue reading Medan 5 days itinerary

Jakarta Trip Report Card

“Macet” is the Indonesian word I learned during this trip, and it is an important word which you’ll likely hear much when you are on holiday in Indonesia. It means traffic jam. Yes, expect to be stuck in traffic jams for a significant portion of your travel. A very significant portion.

In my case, and I suspect for most people too, the worst jam would be the one enroute to the airport for your flight out. Departing at 230pm from the SCBD in Jakarta, we were caught in a one hour jam just to travel 5km to get onto the toll road. For the rest of our itinerary as well, we were also caught in jams to get past most little towns. Continue reading Jakarta Trip Report Card

Jakarta 3.5 days itinerary

Situ Gunung (

Indonesia remains one of our favourite destinations for a short escape, and this time, we decided to fly to Jakarta. The last time we were in Jakarta was more than 5 years ago, and having spent only half a day in town in the wrong places (Ancol and Gandaria City Mall), i can’t say i have actually been to Jakarta.

Because we booked the flights rather late (less than 7 weeks away), budget flights were not budget friendly at all (it normally cost S$80 or less), and i ended up getting a flight on Malaysia Airlines for S$93 from CheapTickets. It does mean i have to transit in KL, adding 2.5 hours to the overall travel time, but i still feel better, paying more or less what a budget flight would have cost, but getting a non-budget flight instead. I’m rather impressed with CheapTickets by the way, as i’ve managed to book flights through them, more than once, for which i was prevented from completing the booking process on the official carrier websites, due to strange constraints or bugs on those websites. Continue reading Jakarta 3.5 days itinerary

Must buys from Indonesia

1. Batik.

Batik is probably the best representation of Indonesian creativity in artwork. The complexity of the motif applied in batik is stupendous. It is simply WOW. So do yourself a favour and bring home some batik clothing or apparels.

Batik can be found in boutique shops at major shopping malls, though these are more expensive, but better quality. Expect a shirt or dress to cost anything between S$25 to S$800. Locals will be able to tell you about specialty shops where you can get better value batik, such as at Mirota Batik and Handicraft Surabaya (highly recommended for men’s clothing). The lower end batik can be found at a Pasar (market) or wholesale centres (called grosir, such as ITC in Surabaya).

Mirota, Surabaya

DSC_0245 Continue reading Must buys from Indonesia

4 things i love about Indonesian food

1. Beef

Indonesians don’t need to use Wagyu beef, or Angus beef, or any specific breed whatsoever to serve you a nice beef dish. I suspect you can just hand them any beef, any cut, and they can make it taste good. Indonesians are experts at marinating beef. You will not be able to find any beef that has a hint of raw odour. There are many different types of beef dishes in Indonesia, but the most popular ones are probably Dendeng (jerky), Iga (ribs) and Buntut (oxtail). I think Indonesian Beef Oxtail, whether Sop Buntut (soup) or Buntut Goreng (fried) are hard to beat – the best in the world!

Buntut Goreng from Dapur Dahapati, Bandung
Awesome Sop Buntut, also from Dapur Dahapati

2. Grilled food

Bakar or grilling is the mainstay of Indonesian cuisine. Fish, chicken and duck are the most popular grilled dishes. It takes some skill to grill to perfection – evenly and slightly charred but not burnt, and Indonesians have no lack of such skill. Equally important for grilled meat is the marinade, and Indonesians do this really well. The taste is not like the Indonesian food found in Singapore that is typically singularly sweet. It has the right and rich blend of sweet and saltiness.

Gurame Bakar
Gurame Bakar

3. Sambal

Sambal is an Indonesian creation, so naturally they make the best sambal. The sambal is usually good enough to even eat on its own, since, anyway, it will mask the taste of whatever you’re eating.

Various sambal and sauces
Various sambal and sauces

4. Bubur Sumsum

Bubur sumsum is a soft paste made of rice flour. It was love at first bite and i found myself wanting more of this smooth, fragrant and slightly salty tasting paste. It resembles the Chwee Kueh from Singapore, except that it is thinner and salty. It is usually taken together with other items, as in the case of Bubur Madura (pictured below), and it has the effect of balancing the sweet taste of the other items. Indonesian Cendol is made in a similar way – slightly salty, which, in my opinion, enhances the overall taste.

Bubur Sumsum is the white colour paste at the 3 o'clock position
Bubur Sumsum is the white colour paste at the 3 o’clock position

Surabaya trip highlights

The most “shiok” (enjoyable) part of the trip was being able to leave my kids to the care of my parents every night while me and my wife head over to the hotel pub or lounge for a drink. The pub experience at The Maj in Hotel Majapahit was one of the best. Unfortunately there was no live music on the night we were there (Sunday), but still, the atmosphere was great, and the price was a steal. A pitcher of Bintang draught beer was IDR 150k (S$15.80), while a plate of Nachos was only IDR 50k (S$5.30).


There isn’t quite enough to see or do in Surabaya, other than shopping and eating, so I had to make the hotel stay an activity in itself. Hotel Majapahit and Hotel Tugu Malang both turned out go be great. Continue reading Surabaya trip highlights

Surabaya 5 days itinerary

What’s there to see in Surabaya you might ask? Not much actually (no offence intended). I took advantage of a promotion by Singapore Airlines and chose to fly to the nearest destination. At S$180 per adult, it’s a steal. The total came up to S$695 for 2 adults and 2 children. Comparatively, the tickets i bought for my old folks to fly to Surabaya from KL on AirAsia cost more than S$200 per person.

Since i’m travelling with my parents and with young kids, the trip has to be at a very relaxing pace, so it will consist of light sightseeing, food and shopping. Otherwise, the very exciting thing to do if one were to fly to Surabaya is to visit Mount Bromo (3 hours drive away) and Ijen Crater (6.5 hours away). Part of that journey has to be made on a bumpy Jeep ride, and one has to wake up in the wee hours to catch the sunrise, crowding with probably hundreds of other travellers who would do the same. Anyway, just to give you an idea of what Mount Bromo is like:

Mount Bromo

The other possible sightseeing location near Surabaya, which i have chosen to go to, is Batu, about 3 hours away. There are various attractions here, including waterfalls, theme parks and orchards. So here’s my 5 days itinerary:

Day 1
Arrival. Check in to Hotel Majapahit. Hotel Majapahit was founded by the Sarkies Brothers, who also founded Raffles Hotel. The room rates of the Majapahit is about S$140 and up, whereas for Raffles it is S$1040 and up, which is more than seven fold higher. You’d be doing yourself injustice if you don’t capitalize on this opportunity to enjoy some luxury at a bargain price. Staying at the Majapahit is an attraction in itself. The hotel offers a free shuttle service to the Grand City Mall, a good place to get lunch. After getting some rest at the hotel, we will walk to Tunjungan Plaza, the largest mall in Surabaya, for dinner and shopping.

Day 2
Since my mum is an Orchid enthusiast, we will visit the Pasar Anggerik (Orchid Market) of Surabaya. We will be using a hired car with a driver to get around. Previously when i visited Bandung and Bali, i was able to get a hired car without paying a deposit in advance. However, for Surabaya, i only managed to get a response from two car rental companies, and both require a 50% deposit payment. Anyway, both of them seem large-scale enough for me to trust them enough to make the deposit payment, and i went for the cheaper of the two. I will give a review of the car rental (and reveal the name of the company) after the trip.

Update: the car rental worked very well, the driver was very courteous. Thank you Globe rent a car.

Lunch would be at Layar Seafood Bukit Mas, one of the better known seafood eateries in Surabaya. After lunch, we would make our way to Malang, where we will be staying at Hotel Tugu. There is actually a complimentary afternoon tea offered to guests of the hotel, and somehow i’m quite looking forward to that. Dinner is WellDuck Bebek Goreng & Bakar, which obviously specializes in duck.

Day 3

We’ll start the day by visiting an Orchid Orchard along the way to Batu, after which we will check out Coban Rondo, a nice looking waterfall. After having lunch at Warung Wareg, i will bring the kids to Batu Secret Zoo. By the end of a 3 hours journey back to Surabaya, we will probably be ready for dinner, which i have decided on Dewa Ndaru, a restaurant housed in what looks like a former Chinese temple.

Day 4
Spend half a day in Galaxy Mall, one of the bigger malls in Surabaya. Dinner would be at Kya-Kya Kembang Jepun, the Chinatown of Surabaya, with street food sold from stalls.

Day 5
Check out Pasar Atom, a wholesale market. Have buffet lunch at Arumanis, a restaurant of Hotel Bumi. Fly home.

Looking forward to a relaxing holiday, and i think my parents will be pleased.