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Monday, June 24, 2019

A Father Figure

I'm not sure if the same thing did happen to you, but I always had certain default images in my head for certain age groups that would turn out to be incorrect when I reached that age. For example, when I was a primary student, I always thought that high school students, with the long trousers they wore and a bit of moustache above the upper lip, were very mature. Years later, when I myself was a high school student, I realised that the image couldn't be more wrong. At that age, we were like a man-child. We had grown up physically, but we were still wrecking havoc when opportunities arose.

I'll be 40 years old next year. A husband and a father of two these days. I seldom felt old, but there were times when I was reminded that I wasn't young anymore. When I filled up an online form, for instance, suddenly scrolling down to the year 1980 took longer than it used to be. When I saw Bruce Lee's photos on the internet, I couldn't help thinking that I had lived much longer than my hero. Then the most obvious one was of course the time when I accidentally discovered that it was much more comfortable to look at my phone without glasses.

Those hints aside, I was oftentimes oblivious to the fact that I had aged a lot since high school. This was probably due to the fact that I still hung out with old friends on daily basis. The close friendship I had was quite genuine in the sense we weren't showing off or comparing who was richer and so forth. It was so easy-going that we could simply be ourselves. I liked the way that it could be full of nonsense sometimes... correction! It was full of nonsense for most of the time!

Such exposure, in turn, only enhanced the fun-loving character in me. At home I could be a stern father when I needed to be, but more often than not, I would just joke around and be playful with the kids. If I used my daughter Linda as a reference, her childhood and mine couldn't be more different.

When I was a boy, I feared my Dad. When I was being naughty and Mum said, "wait until your father gets home," I knew I was doomed. One thing that I also remember well was when I asked him questions. He would just answer, "hmm." It was so vague that I actually didn't know if it was yes or no, let alone answering a more complicated questions I had. Further enquiries would only get me into dire consequences, so after a while, I knew how to read the situation and behave.

What I experienced eventually formed a certain image. Before I was a father, I thought I had to be this serious and authoritative fellow in front of the kids all the time. Now that I was one, I realised that I was far from it and hey, I didn't even have to be like that! It was a different generation and I wasn't my Dad, so I did it my way. There's no telling if I do it right, but time will tell.

Now, one thing I learnt since I became a father was, despite what you'd heard, being a Dad didn't seem to be a full time job. Apart from playing the role as a breadwinner nine hours a day, I still manage to spend some time doing all the silly stuff and today's technology made it even easier because almost everything could be done through the smartphone. In short, I wasn't a 24/7 father! This finally got me thinking: Dad was 34 when I was Linda's age, much younger than me when he was a father of a six-year old boy. If I am still behaving this way when I'm almost 40, could there be any possibilities that he, too, wasn't always this strict figure I thought he was?

The mystery was resolved recently. It was interesting to learn that he was a young man just like me back then, trying his best to be a father and himself in the era before the Internet (that meant instead of Google, he'd go to Taoist priests to ask questions) He hung out with friends and did all the silly things, of course, but he was also a father who made sure in his limited ways and gestures that I knew I was loved. To give you some perspective, fatherly love wasn't commonly expressed in Pontianak during the 80s while spanking and canning were widely practiced.

It was an endearing conversation. He wasn't a perfect Dad, but I couldn't be more proud to be my father's son. It was also good to know that apparently we weren't that different at all. If you still had the chance, I'd suggest you to approach your old man and had a civilised adult conversation. You'd definitely see him in a different light...

A father figure...


Figur Seorang Ayah

Saya tidak tahu apakah anda pernah berpikiran sama, tapi sedari dulu, saya senantiasa memiliki persepsi tentang kelompok usia tertentu yang lantas terbukti salah saat saya mencapai usia tersebut. Sebagai contoh, ketika saya masih murid SD, saya selalu berpikir bahwa siswa SMU yang mengenakan celana panjang dan memiliki kumis tipis itu terlihat sangat dewasa. Bertahun-tahun kemudian, ketika saya mencapai jenjang SMU, saya menyadari bahwa apa yang ada di benak saya itu keliru. Di usia remaja SMU, kita masih bertingkah seperti bocah. Meski secara fisik sudah tumbuh dewasa, kita masih tetap berbuat nakal di kala ada kesempatan. 

Tahun depan saya akan memasuki usia ke-40. Saya adalah seorang suami dan juga ayah dari dua orang anak sekarang. Walau saya jarang merasa tua, tetap saja ada sesuatu yang mengingatkan saya bahwa saya tidak lagi muda. Tatkala mengisi formulir online, misalnya,  saya kini membutuhkan beberapa saat untuk menggulirkan pilihan tahun kelahiran yang tertera sebelum akhirnya mencapai tahun 1980. Sewaktu saya melihat foto Bruce Lee di internet, saya seringkali teringat bahwa saya sudah hidup jauh lebih lama dari idola saya. Kemudian yang paling terasa adalah ketika saya secara tidak sengaja menyadari bahwa lebih jelas bagi saya untuk membaca tulisan di telepon genggam saya tanpa menggunakan kacamata. 

Kalau bukan karena tanda-tanda yang saya sebutkan di atas, saya sering lupa dengan faktor usia. Ini mungkin dikarenakan oleh pergaulan dengan teman-teman lama dalam kehidupan hari-hari. Persahabatan yang dekat itu boleh dikatakan terjalin apa adanya dalam arti kita tidak saling pamer dan membanding-bandingkan siapa yang lebih kaya. Pokoknya terasa enteng dan memungkinkan kita untuk menjadi diri kita sendiri. Saya juga suka dengan pertemanan yang terkadang penuh dengan kekonyolan yang jenaka... koreksi! Bukan terkadang, tetapi hampir setiap saat, haha! 

Situasi dan kondisi seperti ini kian menguatkan karakter humoris saya dalam menyikapi hidup. Meski saya bisa menjadi ayah yang tegas di rumah di kala mendisiplinkan anak, namun saya cenderung senang bercanda dan bermain bersama anak-anak di saat santai. Jika saya menggunakan putri saya Linda sebagai acuan, masa kecilnya jauh berbeda dengan masa kecil saya. 

Ketika saya masih kanak-kanak, saya takut pada ayah saya. Bilamana saya tidak patuh dan ibu saya berkata, "tunggu sampai ayahmu pulang," saya tahu saya pasti celaka. Satu hal yang juga saya ingat betul adalah ketika saya bertanya pada Ayah. Biasanya dia hanya akan bergumam, "hmm." Saya bahkan tidak tahu apakah itu adalah artinya ya atau tidak, jadi bayangkan betapa bingungnya saya saat menerima jawaban seperti itu untuk pertanyaan yang lebih kompleks. Kalau saya bertanya lebih lanjut, akibatnya bisa fatal. Setelah beberapa kali mengalaminya, saya pun belajar untuk membaca keadaan.

Apa yang saya alami akhirnya membentuk suatu persepsi. Sebelum saya menjadi seorang ayah, saya mengira bahwa saya harus menjadi sosok yang serius dan berwibawa di depan anak sepanjang waktu. Akan tetapi, setelah saya jalani, saya mengetahui bahwa saya jauh dari sosok yang saya bayangkan itu dan hei, ternyata saya juga tidak perlu menjadi seperti itu! Saya berasal dari generasi yang berbeda dan saya bukanlah ayah saya, jadi saya lakukan dengan cara saya. Apakah cara saya itu benar, biarlah waktu yang berbicara nantinya, ketika anak-anak sudah dewasa. 

Satu hal yang saya pelajari sejak saya menjadi seorang ayah adalah, berbeda dengan apa yang saya dengar sebelumnya, menjadi ayah sepertinya bukan pekerjaan setiap saat. Sebagian besar waktu saya digunakan untuk bekerja menafkahi keluarga dan di samping itu, saya masih sempat berkawan, membanyol dan lain-lain, terutama karena begitu banyak hal bisa dilakukan lewat telepon genggam pada zaman sekarang. Singkat kata, saya tidak selalu memainkan peran sebagai ayah selama 24 jam dan 7 hari seminggu! Hal ini lantas membuat saya berpikir: ayah saya berusia 34 tahun saat saya seumuran Linda, jauh lebih muda dari saya ketika dia menjadi ayah seorang bocah laki-laki berumur enam tahun. Kalau saya sendiri masih haha-hihi saat menjelang usia 40, apakah mungkin bahwa Ayah juga tidak selalu menjadi sosok tegas yang selama ini saya lihat? 

Misteri ini terkuak baru-baru ini. Menarik untuk dipelajari bahwa dia pun seperti saya dulunya, seorang anak muda yang berusaha untuk menjadi ayah dan dirinya sendiri di dunia sebelum internet merambah (ini artinya dia bertanya ke loya/tatung alias orang pintar dan bukannya ke Google). Di luar rumah, dia juga berkawan dengan banyak teman dan cukup heboh untuk ukuran zamannya. Sebagai seorang ayah, meski ia memiliki keterbatasan dalam bersikap dan berkata-kata, dia senantiasa memastikan bahwa saya tahu bahwa dia menyayangi saya. Untuk memahami penyataan ini, perlu saya beritahukan bahwa di Pontianak pada dekade 80an, kasih sayang seorang ayah itu tidaklah lumrah untuk ditunjukkan secara langsung dan ekspresif pada anak sementara hukuman fisik menggunakan rotan dipraktekkan secara umum. 

Percakapan saya dan Ayah sangat mengesankan. Dia bukanlah ayah yang sempurna, tapi saya sangat bangga menjadi anaknya. Senang rasanya bisa mengetahui bahwa ternyata kita berdua, ayah dan anak, tidaklah jauh berbeda. Jika anda masih memiliki kesempatan, saya sarankan anda untuk berbincang-bincang dengan ayah anda secara dewasa dan terbuka. Setelah itu anda juga pasti akan melihatnya dari sudut pandang yang berbeda...

Friday, June 21, 2019

PR Holders: Getting A Primary School For Children

We have reached the 6th month of 2019 year, June. One month later, a lot of parents will be busy enrolling their children into the Primary School. It reminds me of what I experienced last year. The Primary One registration was even more challenging last year because there were many kids looking for school last year and the seats were limited. Based on the statistics, there were 42,663 dragon babies who were born in 2012 while in 2013 there were only 39,720 babies. Getting a primary school was more challenging last year and it was even harder for Permanent Resident holders because if the number of seats are less than the applicants, the priority would be given to Singaporeans.

My first consideration was to get a primary school nearer to our home. It will save a lot of time and energy for the kid and also the parents who bring them to school. Ideally the school is within the walking distance so we can save the transportation cost, too. The second criteria was getting a reputable school in academic and character development. Knowledge is important but good attitude is the one that will bring our kids further in life.

Based on these criteria, we would like our kids to study in RPS that is located just in front of our home. Walking to the school only takes us 5 minutes. I wanted it badly since two years before the registration year, but I knew it was kind of impossible because even the citizens needed to do balloting to enter the school every year and that meant no hope for a PR holder's kid to get a seat there. The only chance was to do parent volunteer. As soon as they opened the registration for parent volunteer, I registered. However, as expected, there was no response from the school. My application for PV was eventually rejected. I was so disappointed. I knew there was no hope anymore to enter this school. Every time I passed  by the school when I wanted to go out to the LRT station, I was sad. The school is so close but yet so far to reach. However, I started to accept the reality and began to look for another school.

As you may already know, our guidance for PS registration is MOE web (www. moe.gov.sg). There are several registration phases:
1. Phase 1: For a child who has sibling studying the PS of choice.

Our dragon baby (who wasn't a baby anymore) is our firstborn so she can't enter through this phase.

2. Phase 2A (1):
a. For a child whose parent is a former student of the PS and who has joined alumni association as   a member not later than 30 June 2018
b. For a child whose parent is a member of School Advisory/Management Commitee

Both of my husband and me studied in Indonesia until university so our kid also cannot enter this phase.

3. Phase 2A (2): 
a. For a child whose parent or sibling has studied in the primary school of choice
b. For a child whose parent is a staff member of the PS of choice
. For a child from the MOE Kindergarten under the purview of and located within the primary school of choice

Our only chance in this phase is the third criteria but RPS does not have affiliated MOE Kindergaten and if they have, it will be too late to register since MOE just added this criteria last year.

4. Phase 2B
a. For a child whose parent has joined the PS as a parent volunteer not later than 1 July 2018 and has given at least 40 hours of voluntary service to the school by 30 June 2019
b. For a child whose parent is a member endorsed by the church/clan directly connected with the primary school
c. For a child whose parent is endorsed as an active community leader


This phases is the updated version for this year's registration. Parent volunteer should be done at least a year before registration. I registered as soon as our PS of choice opened their PV registration but as I mentioned above, my application was rejected. Being a parent volunteer meaning that we can submit registration form in Phase 2B but there is still no guarantee we can be accepted in the school. If the number of applicants are exceed the number of vacancies in Phase 2B, the school will still do the balloting.

After this phase finished last year, there were only half of the available seat in RPS left for the next phase. That was also what happened in other popular primary school, a lot of seat were occupied in this phase.

5. Phase 2C
For all children who are eligible for Primary One in the following year and are not yet registered in a primary school.

This is the most competitive phase among all, especially for babies born in the year of dragon. There are a lot number of applicants while the vacancies are limited in popular school. Singapore Citizen (SC) will be given absolute priority over Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) when balloting is necessary. If the number of applications exceed the number of vacancies, SC will be admitted first ahead of PR before home school distance is considered. Hence for PR, the home school distance is not an "important factor" because even though our home is very close (around 30m) from RPS, Singaporeans who stay 100 m from RPS will be given priority over us.

Registration in phase 2C can be done in three days and it is not based on the first come, first serve basis. It means there is no different in chances whether we register on the first day or the 3rd day. The school will collect the number of all applicants who register in those three days and compared with the number of vacancies. If the number of applicants exceed the number of vacancies, they will do balloting.

MOE updated the number of applicants vs vacancies every day on their website. We watched the number closely to know our chances. By the end of Day 1, the number of applicants in RPS already exceeded the number of vacancies. I knew I had to forget RPS and register at other school. I didn't feel sad anymore because a year had passed since I was first rejected. Another PS of choice that is located within 1km from my home was also balloting for SC so I needed to find other school.

I considered 2 other PS that are located within 3km from my place,  let's say PS A and B. By the end of Day 2, the number of seats left in PS A was only less than 20 seats while in PS B there were still around 60 seats. At Day 3, we had to make a decision which PS we were going to register our kid. Shall we register her in PS A that is more established and has a good reputation but subjected to balloting for PR who stayed within 3km? Or shall we register her in PS B, a new school that still had more vacancies and most probably no balotting? In term of distance, both are relatively the same. We need to take public transportation for around 30-40 minutes to reach both schools.

After a long consideration finally we decided to register at PS B. We did not want to face balloting and took the risk of registering in Phase 2C supplementary as the chances of getting a good school for PR would be even slimmer. As predicted, we gott the seat at PS B when MOE announced the result. Praise God.

For your information, the next phase of registration are Phase 2C Supplementary and Phase 3:

6. Phase 2C Supplementary
For a child who is not yet registered in a primary school after phase 2C.

7. Phase 3

Only for non Singapore citizen/no Permanent Resident children who have indicated their interest and are informed by MOE in October 2019 that they can be offered a P1 place. 

It had been half a year since my girl started her school at PS B. She is growing well there. From only reading simple words, now she is able to read a thick book. She has a good form teacher who recognizes her potential and gives her trust to be a Prefect. She has many friends and builds close friendship with some of them. She is happy and excited to go to school everyday. The only downside is the distance. She needs to wake up very early in the morning to go to school. It takes 40 minutes for us to reach her school. But after some time, we get used to it.

In summary, here are some tips for PR:
1. Gather information about Primary Schools within your area. If the nearby Primary School is a favourite school, prepare for other alternatives that may be a bit far but is accessible by public transport. You can check OneMap.sg to know which primary schools are available within your area. To check the balloting history of primary schools, you can follow kiasuparent.com.

2. Be realistic in setting your expectation. If the track record shows that SC needs to do balloting at your primary school of choice, join Parent Volunteer. That is the only chance to get the seat. If you can't join PV then it will be better to find another alternatives. Personally I believe every government school will not be much different in term of education quality. The curriculum for each school will be the same.

3. At Phase 2C, monitor closely on daily basis, what the chances are to enter your primary school of choice and then register at the last day of phase 2C.

I wish all the parents who register this year a very good luck!

The dragon baby and Dad. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Money Game

One of the recurring topics that we always talked about in our high school chat group is the money game. If I remember correctly, the first one was Dream for Freedom. We discussed about it as early as 2015. It tanked and was eventually parodied as Dream for Crot (crot as in the sound of male orgasm). The latest ones, MIA and GCG, were also heavily debated before they allegedly went bust.

A couple of friends joined MIA. One friend even arranged a meeting with another friend to convince this potential downline that MIA was safer than the other because it came with certificates and so forth. Always one with sense of humour, I actually couldn't help thinking how that was possible, given the fact that MIA normally stands for Missing In Action, haha. However, this old friend of mine, a money game veteran, gave me an interesting insight when he came to Singapore recently.

He told me that the risk of getting involved in money games was like stretching your hand into the mouth of a crocodile. It opened wide for now, but you just wouldn't know when it was going to bite you off. If there was anything precious inside the mouth, you'd just want to grab as much as you could within the shortest time possible. You certainly didn't want to hang out too long there, especially when you knew you'd lose your arm in a very excruciating way!

Having said that, money games were never safe to begin with, regardless how many certificates it had. Thanks to the flawed logic that paid a big sum of money to those who joined first, there would come a time when things slowed down and it simply couldn't sustain the flow anymore. It would eventually collapse, therefore if one would like take the risk, safety should be the least of the concerns. If you were going to get screwed, you might as well choose the money game with the highest return of investment in the shortest period of time. In this case, GCG was a lesser of two evils.

Needless to say, he reaped the profits when the scams folded. In the aftermath, there were many opinions about the money games. One said she'd join only if she had extra money. Someone else commented that she would join but wouldn't drag others to join for fear that it'd do more harm than good (noble though the intention was, it sounded like it defeated the very purpose of the money game itself, haha). There was also another point of view, which were rather lengthy, saying that the calculation was unrealistic, therefore it didn't make any business sense for him to invest.

Eventually, when money was involved, you'd either be greedy or be fearful about it. Human nature, I reckon. Some were smart enough to take profits. Others must have been regretting the actions they took. Many were too scared to get involved, perhaps for their own good. A few were very much aware of this was all about, thus they stayed away from the money games. Then, finally, came a question that I was never prepared for: "did you join GCG or MIA, Anthony?"

It never occurred to me that one would actually ask me this, but when I gave it a thought, I never had any doubts about why I didn't join. Numbers always made me nervous. I remember how I checked and re-checked again when I entered something as simple as a bank account number. I was just not smart enough for the money games, so I wouldn't touch them with a barge pole. In life, I'd rather have one less thing to worry about and spend my time writing, haha...

The money games: no guts, no glory?


Permainan Uang

Salah satu topik yang sering didiskusikan di grup teman-teman SMU adalah permainan uang. Jika ingatan saya tidak keliru, yang pertama kita bahas pada tahun 2015 adalah Dream for Freedom. We discussed about it as early as 2015. Perusahaan ini bangkrut dan akhirnya diparodikan sebagai Dream for Crot, dimana crot adalah suara ejakulasi pria. Yang terkini adalah MIA dan GCG yang menuai pro dan kontra sebelum kedua-keduanya disinyalir gulung tikar.

Beberapa orang teman bergabung dengan MIA. Salah satu dari mereka bahkan mengatur pertemuan dengan seorang teman lainnya supaya dia bisa menjelaskan investasi MIA pada teman yang berpotensi menjadi calon investor ini. Dipaparkan olehnya bahwa MIA memiliki sertifikat yang menjamin keamanan investasi. Sebagai orang yang berselera humor, saya sebenarnya agak geli saat mendengar nama MIA, sebab itu merupakan singkatan missing in action, jadi mana mungkin bisa aman? Akan tetapi teman saya yang merupakan seorang veteran dalam permainan uang memberikan saya sudut pandang yang menarik. Dia menceritakan pendapatnya saat berkunjung ke Singapura.

Menurut teman saya ini, ikut serta dalam permainan uang ini tak ubahnya seperti menjulurkan tangan ke mulut buaya. Rahangnya mungkin menganga lebar sekarang, namun kita takkan tahu kapan sang buaya akan mengatupkan mulutnya. Jika di dalamnya ada sesuatu yang berharga, anda harus bergegas mengambil sebanyak mungkin dalam waktu sesingkat-singkatnya. Tentunya anda tidak ingin berlama-lama, apalagi anda tahu pasti kalau anda mungkin bisa kehilangan satu lengan dengan cara yang teramat sangat menyakitkan!

Berdasarkan perumpamaan di atas, jelas sudah bahwa permainan uang bukanlah investasi yang aman, tidak peduli seberapa banyak sertifikat yang terlampir. Ada yang salah dengan logikanya. Mereka yang telah bergabung duluan mungkin cepat balik modal dan dapat untung, tapi akan tiba waktunya dimana aliran dana akan tersendat dan tak lagi sehat perputarannya. Pada akhirnya bisnis ini akan tumbang. Dengan demikian, segi keamanan seharusnya tidak menjadi faktor penentu bagi untuk ikut serta, karena dari awal memang sudah tidak aman. Jika anda memang mau mengambil resiko, maka pilihlah permainan uang yang paling menguntungkan dalam tempo sesingkat mungkin. Dalam kasus ini, GCG lebih unggul dari MIA. 

Teman saya ini bukan hanya telah balik modal, tapi juga sudah untung ketika GCG mulai menunda pembayaran kepada nasabah. Setelah banyak kabar tak sedap, teman-teman di grup pun kembali beropini. Ada yang berkata bahwa dia hanya akan ikut serta bila mempunyai uang lebih. Ada pula yang berkomentar bahwa dia mau bergabung tapi tidak akan menyeret orang lain untuk masuk karena dia tidak ingin menjerumuskan. Ada lagi pendapat lain yang berbicara tentang hitungan permainan uang yang tidak realistis sehingga tidak masuk akal baginya untuk berinvestasi. 

Pada akhirnya, ketika uang yang tidak sedikit jumlahnya itu dipertaruhkan, tabiat manusia pun terlihat, entah itu serakah atau takut. Mereka yang cerdas bisa memetik hasil, namun saya rasa tidak sedikit jumlah orang yang menyesal karena telah salah langkah dalam permainan uang. Di satu sisi, banyak yang takut untuk terlibat dan dengan demikian terselamatkan secara tidak langsung. Ada juga yang sepenuhnya sadar bahwa permainan uang ini bukanlah untuk mereka. Yang seperti ini patut diacungi jempol karena kemampuannya dalam menahan diri.  

Bagi saya pribadi, saya sebenarnya terkejut ketika ditanya apakah saya juga turut bermain MIA atau GCG, apalagi yang bertanya adalah teman dekat. Saya katakan padanya bahwa saya tidak ikut. Alasannya sederhana saja. Angka selalu membuat saya gelisah. Deretan angka seperti nomor rekening bank saja cukup untuk membuat saya untuk memeriksa dan memastikan berulang kali secara teliti namun lamban, jadi saya jelas tidak akan bisa menangani yang cepat dan beresiko tinggi seperti ini. Saya rasa saya tidak cukup pintar untuk mencoba peruntungan di permainan uang sehingga sebaiknya saya tidak menyentuhnya. Di dalam hidup ini, saya lebih memilih untuk tidak memusingkan hal-hal seperti ini. Di kala luang, saya cenderung lebih suka mengerjakan hobi saya, misalnya menulis, haha... 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Man In Seat 61

In a blog post called Ticket to Ride, I did mention that travelling by train is my favourite mode of transport. I like the views, alright, but most importantly I like the fact that it's planted firmly on the solid ground, speeding through railway track that was carefully laid out from where we start to our destination. Compared with aeroplane or ship (a big, heavy piece of metal flying in the sky or floating above the water), the train ride is supposed to be the safest way to travel. Having said that, if things still go wrong, then it must be the act of God, haha.

My first ride, I believe, was from Jakarta to Bandung. My shortest ride was the five minutes trip from Singapore to Johor Bahru. The longest ride so far was the overnight train from Vientiane to Bangkok. The most impressive ride would be from Nagasaki to Fukuoka. The kamome train was so cool! But what would be the ultimate ride, the one that I dreamed the most?

In order to answer that, let's go back to how it all started. The first ride I had was pretty much organised by my friend Soedjoko and everything was taken care of. The first time I ever purchased the tickets myself was in Nanning, when Nuryani and I intended to go to Guilin by railways. It was a year later, in 2010, that I really planned for a train ride as part of the trip (it was the Laos-Thailand journey that I mentioned above).

It was during the research that I stumbled upon seat61.com. It's owned by Mark Smith, the man in seat 61 (that's his favourite seat). The information was quite comprehensive and, after I did the trip, I could confirm that it was accurate, too. Since then, I'd visit the website from time to time just for the sake of reading it. That's when I learnt about the Trans-Siberian Railway and its siblings, Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian. It was like the granddaddy of all train rides! So old, so mysterious. Imagine travelling from Moscow to Vladivostok, making our way through cities such as Ulaanbaatar and Beijing! Definitely a must try!

But all this paled in comparison with the revelation that one could actually travel by train from Singapore to London! It never occurred to me before that it was possible! However, after looking at the routes described on seat61.com, the world suddenly looked much smaller and connected. I might have to improvise a bit here and there to suit my need, but it was certainly doable. I couldn't help thinking that I should do it one day.

If I could make it happen, I would travel from Singapore to Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. I reckon I would enter China by crossing from Hanoi to Nanning. Then I could go to Kunming, passing by Shangri-La before reaching Urumqi in Xinjiang. From there, I'd go to Kazakhstan in the west, then crossed the Caspian Sea to to reach Azerbaijan before continuing to Georgia. Things would probably get tricky in Crimean Peninsula (it was a disputed region since it was annexed by Russia), but once I arrived in Ukraine, the ride should be smoother by a lot. I'd make my way to Poland, then Germany and France. The last leg would be from Paris to London by Eurostar.

In my mind, it was a leisure and spontaneous trip. I'd travel lightly by just bringing the basic necessities and credit cards. Despite the initial plan above, I also liked the idea about making some last-minute changes that brought me to somewhere else. I'd stay in one city for one or two days, enjoying life down there before departing to the next city. Only God knows how long it would take, but it would be real fun. The only problem would be the visa application required for Indonesia passport. That would be a nightmare! The trip would be much easier with a Singapore passport or its equivalent. I should get myself one of those!

With Benny at Thanaleng Station in Vientiane.


Pria Di Kursi Nomor 61

Di artikel blog yang berjudul Ticket to Ride, saya pernah bercerita sedikit bahwa kereta api adalah sarana transportasi favorit saya dalam berkelana. Saya menyukai pemandangan di luar jendela, tapi yang lebih saya sukai lagi adalah fakta bahwa kereta api berada kokoh di atas permukaan tanah, melaju di atas rel yang telah tersusun rapi dari stasiun tempat kita berangkat hingga ke tempat tujuan. Bila kita bandingkan dengan pesawat atau kapal yang tak ubahnya seperti besi baja yang melayang di udara atau mengapung di atas air, boleh dikatakan bahwa kereta adalah metode transportasi paling aman. Kalau ternyata memang masih celaka juga, apa boleh buat, namanya juga takdir, haha.

Saya pertama kali menaiki kereta sekitar 14 tahun yang lalu, ketika saya berangkat dari Jakarta ke Bandung bersama Parno dan kawan-kawan. Durasi yang paling singkat dalam menaiki kereta api adalah lima menit, dari Singapura ke Johor Bahru. Sejauh ini yang paling lama adalah kereta yang berangkat dari sore hingga pagi berikutnya, dari Vientiane ke Bangkok. Yang paling menakjubkan keretanya adalah jurusan Nagasaki ke Fukuoka. Dinding kaca kereta kamome bisa buram dan transparan secara otomatis! Akan tetapi apa sebenarnya perjalanan kereta yang paling saya impikan? 

Untuk menjawab pertanyaan ini, kita harus kembali lagi ke asal-mula kegemaran saya dalam menaiki kereta. Perjalanan pertama saya di stasiun Gambir itu sudah diatur semuanya oleh teman saya Soedjoko, jadi pertama kalinya saya membeli tiket sendiri itu sebenarnya pada saat saya berada di Nanning, ketika saya dan Nuryani hendak berangkat ke Guilin dengan kereta. Di tahun berikutnya, tahun 2010, barulah saya merencanakan perjalanan kereta api sebagai bagian dari liburan Laos dan Thailand yang saya sebutkan di paragraf sebelumnya. 

Saat sedang mencari info di internet, saya menemukan situs bernama seat61.com. Pemiliknya adalah Mark Smith, pria di kursi nomor 61, kursi favoritnya di kereta Eurostar. Situsnya sangat detil dan setelah saya jalani, saya bisa jamin keakuratan informasinya. Sejak itu, terkadang saya mengunjungi situs ini di kala senggang untuk membaca. Dari sinilah saya mengetahui tentang Trans-Siberian dan dua rute lainnya, Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian. Kereta ini bagaikan sesepuh dari berbagai kereta terkenal lainnya, begitu tua dan serasa penuh misteri pula. Bayangkan jika bisa menempuh perjalanan dari Moskow ke Vladivostok dan melewati kota-kota seperti Ulanbator dan Beijing! Tentunya layak dicoba! 

Akan tetapi daya tarik ini pun pudar saat saya menyadari bahwa kita sebenarnya bisa menaiki kereta dari Singapura ke London! Ini adalah sesuatu yang tidak pernah terpikirkan oleh saya sebelumnya. Setelah saya liat rute-rute yang ada di seat61.com, dunia tiba-tiba terlihat lebih kecil dan terhubung. Saya mungkin perlu melakukan sedikit perubahan di sana-sini untuk menyisipkan kota-kota yang hendak saya kunjungi, tapi perjalanan ke Inggris bukanlah hal yang mustahil. Saya jadi tertarik untuk berkelana suatu hari nanti. 

Jika bisa terwujud, saya akan menyusuri Asia Tenggara dengan melewati Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Selanjutnya saya akan memasuki Cina dengan cara menyeberang dari Hanoi to Nanning. Dari Provinsi Guangxi, saya bisa ke Kunming di Yunnan, mampir sejenak di Shangri-La sebelum meneruskan perjalanan ke Urumqi di Xinjiang. Dari situ, saya bisa ke Kazakhstan yang berada di sebelah barat Cina, lalu menyeberangi Laut Kaspia dan tiba di Azerbaijan. Georgia menjadi pemberhentian berikutnya sebelum saya memasuki Semenanjung Krim, daerah sengketa yang diklaim sebagai milik Rusia. Setibanya saya di Ukraina, perjalanan akan menjadi lebih mudah. Saya bisa lanjut ke Polandia, Jerman dan akhirnya tiba di Perancis. Paris akan menjadi kota terakhir yang saya kunjungi sebelum saya menaiki Eurostar ke London.  

Di benak saya, perjalanan ini harusnya santai dan spontan. Saya akan bertualang tanpa banyak bawaan, yang penting ada kartu kredit. Mungkin terkadang ada juga perubahan mendadak yang disesuaikan dengan situasi dan kondisi, sehingga saya pun menuju ke suatu tempat yang berbeda dari tujuan semula. Saya bisa tinggal sehari atau dua hari di suatu kota, menikmati kehidupan di sana, sebelum melanjutkan perjalanan ke kota lain. Entah berapa lama perjalanan dari Singapura ke London ini akan memakan waktu, tapi yang jelas rasanya seru. Kendala satu-satunya adalah urusan visa negara-negara lain bila saya memakai paspor Indonesia. Ini akan repot sekali! Akan lebih mudah jika bepergian dengan paspor Singapura atau yang setara dengannya. Saya mungkin harus dapatkan yang seperti itu!