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Sunday, January 31, 2021

Coast-to-Coast Trail: The Journey Continued

When I did Coast-to-Coast Trail last December, I never expected to repeat this trail again. I thought once was enough, but then my ex-housemate Lina asked if I was going to do it again. Since there was an interest, I didn't mind organizing it. That's when the journey continued.

Checkpoint 5.

We resumed where Yani and I left off: Checkpoint 5. Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is located around the centre of three stations. Two of them were where the Park got the name from. The other one was Marymount. We decided to start from Bishan. It looked quite close from Google Maps, but it turned out that checkpoint was still quite far from Bishan MRT, haha.

We weren't complaining, though. It was a fine morning and the other half of the park before the checkpoint looked amazing, thanks to the greenery and shallow river. It was so beautiful that we actually went for a proper visit a week later, haha. What's more fascinating was the signboard about what to do if we encountered a stingray. When I saw it, I was like, "really?"

Visiting Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, a week later.
Photo by Yani.

Anyway, back to Checkpoint 5, we reached there at 9.20am and started walking from there. We passed by Ang Mo Kio Hub and Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West as we made our way to Luxus Hills Park. I don't know if it's just me, but half way through our journey, the view all became too familiar. Probably because I had passed by the road quite often.

Checkpoint 6, before Kampong Lorong Buangkok.

It got better after we reached Checkpoint 6. The next route brought us to Kampong Lorong Buangkok, the last village in Singapore! I'd heard about it, but this was the first time in 15 years that I ever had a chance to check it out! It looked like... well, if you came from countries like Indonesia, Kampong Lorong Buangkok looks familiar, except it is located next to one wide canal that somehow reminded me of Japan.

We had a detour for lunch before reaching Checkpoint 7. Since all of us love kolo mee and the three who studied in Kuching were feeling nostalgic, we went for it. After a long walk, it was good to sit down and drink something cold, haha. The meal could have been better, but the togetherness was splendid. 

Enjoying kolo mee.
Photo by Liwana.

It was noon time when we resumed our journey. With a full stomach and waning enthusiasm, the last leg of the trip felt challenging. But still we shouldered on. The scenery around Punggol was new to me and it did help in maintaining the last shred of interest. But once Liwana parted ways with us and we decided to had a toilet break at the Waterway Point Mall nearby, that was it. We called it a day, sat down to drink Koi and went home after that. 

We never made it to Checkpoint 8. In hindsight, it had lost its excitement and started to feel like a chore. It was fun to do it the first time, because we didn't know what to expect and the experience was entirely new. The second time, not so much. It's like, "been there, done that." This doesn't mean I dislike going for a morning walk. I still love doing it, but I just need a new trail. Only by walking one can discover and appreciate the beauty of Singapore! 

Last stop: Checkpoint 7.

Coast-to-Coast Trail Lagi!

Ketika saya menjajal Coast-to-Coast Trail di bulan Desember lalu, saya tidak pernah berpikir untuk mengulanginya lagi. Saya kira sekali saja cukup, namun Lina, mantan teman serumah di Kembangan, bertanya apakah saya akan berjalan pagi lagi. Karena ada yang berminat, saya pun tidak keberatan untuk mengkoordinir. Perjalanan menyusuri Coast-to-Coast Trail pun berlanjut. 

Checkpoint 5.

Kita mulai dari Checkpoint 5, tempat terakhir di perjalanan sebelumnya. Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park terletak di antara tiga stasiun MRT. Dua stasiun dipakai namanya sebagai nama taman dan yang satunya lagi adalah Marymount. Kita memutuskan untuk mulai dari Bishan, sebab posisinya terlihat lebih dekat di Google Maps. Ternyata jaraknya lumayan juga setelah ditempuh, haha. 

Akan tetapi kita tidak mengeluh. Pagi itu cukup cerah. Hijaunya pemandangan dan juga sungai dangkal yang kita lalui sangat memikat mata. Begitu indahnya sehingga kita memutuskan untuk mengunjungi taman ini di minggu berikutnya. Satu hal yang unik di sini adalah papan peringatan tentang ikan pari. Pas saya pertama kali melihat ini, reaksi saya langsung, "ah, yang benar saja?" 

Mengunjungi Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park di minggu berikutnya.
Foto oleh Yani.

Kembali ke Checkpoint 5 yang kita bicarakan barusan, kita sampai di sini jam 9.20 pagi dan memulai rute perjalanan dari sana. Kita melewati Ang Mo Kio Hub dan Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West sewaktu menuju Luxus Hills Park. Mungkin ini cuma perasaan saya semata, tapi rute yang kita lalui setelah Ang Mo Kio tidaklah terlalu menarik. Ini mungkin dikarenakan saya sering melewati jalan tersebut.

Checkpoint 6, before Kampong Lorong Buangkok.

Setelah Checkpoint 6, barulah sesuatu yang baru muncul di depan mata: Kampong Lorong Buangkok, kampung terakhir di Singapura! Saya sudah cukup mendengar tentang tempat ini, tapi setelah 15 tahun tinggal di Singapura, baru kali saya melihat langsung keberadaan kampung ini! Suasananya seperti... kampung yang biasa terlihat di Indonesia. Bedanya cuma kanal lebar di samping kampung yang mengingatkan saya tentang Jepang. 

Sebelum mencapai Checkpoint 7, kita menyimpang sedikit untuk makan siang. Karena kita semua menyukai kolo mee dan tiga teman kita yang pernah kuliah di Kuching ingin bernostalgia, jadi kita pun menyantap mie yang khas Sarawak ini. Setelah berjalan cukup lama, enak rasanya duduk dan minum minuman yang dingin. Mienya lumayan, terbantu oleh kebersamaan kita sebagai teman lama. 

Menikmati kolo mee.
Foto oleh Liwana.

Usai makan siang, perjalanan terasa lebih menantang dari sebelumnya. Hari sudah siang, perut kenyang dan semangat pun kian pudar, namun kita tetap lanjut. Pemandangan di sekitar Punggol terlihat baru bagi saya dan masih menarik perhatian, namun ketika Liwana berpisah dan kita memutuskan untuk mampir sejenak ke toilet di mal Waterway Point, acara akhirnya bubar. Setelah bersantai menikmati Koi, kita pun pulang ke rumah masing-masing. 

Kita tidak pernah mencapai Checkpoint 8 yang sebenarnya sudah tidak terlalu jauh dari mal. Kalau dilihat kembali, antusiasmenya memang sudah pudar dan acaranya mulai terasa seperti pekerjaan, hehe. Di kali pertama saya menyusuri Coast-to-Coast Trail, rasanya seru karena terasa seperti petualangan baru. Di kali kedua, rasanya sudah pernah dan tidak terlalu menarik lagi. Ini bukan berarti saya kini bosan dengan aktivitas jalan pagi, tapi saya jelas butuh rute yang baru. Berjalan kaki adalah cara yang tepat untuk mengagumi keindahan Singapura! 

Last stop: Checkpoint 7.

Monday, January 25, 2021

COVID-19 Case #58502

It was a joyous occasion coming back to Singapore after almost six months. I was scheduled to be quarantined for 14 days before heading home. But it did not turn out the way it supposed to be.

Let's rewind to the eve before my departure. That night I was catching a bad cold and I couldnt sleep well. I kept telling myself it was normal flu. Upon reaching Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, temperature was taken, and I was fine. The flight was not crowded. It was pleasant. I had one row by myself and I comfortably watched Ford v Ferrari during the flight. 

Upon arrival, we were shown the way to bus that would then send us to our stay for the next 14 days. I was checked in to Regent Singapore.

Regent Singapore.

Day 1

I was feeling cold and got myself under the blanket. I turned the aircon off and get a towel to cover the gap under the main door to prevent the cold air from coming in. I told myself it was due to the lack of sleeping.

Day 2 - Saturday

Almost my whole body, up to the neck, was aching. I didnt prepare any medication so I used minyak kayu putih (eucalyptus oil) to keep myself warm. I also drank lots of hot tea. 

Day 4 

As I felt better, I finally switched on the aircon. My work kept me busy all day and I did some light exercise at night. I was no longer feeling cold but the body aches were annoying. I didn't have a good night sleep. However, since I had body aches from time to time when I wasn't feeling well, I didn't really suspect anything.

Day 11

Fast forward to day 11, I finally could step out from my room to do swab test. It was a compulsory test before releasing us to the communities. By the way, there was daily call and check to make sure I was fine and not under any form of stress.

The alleged scam.

Day 12

My wife called in the morning to inform me that she received SMS stating she was in contact of COVID-19 case and should immediately return home and avoid close contact with others. it also mentioned that a MOH officer would call her soon. 

It was such a coincidence that I had my swab test the day before and she received SMS the day after. I thought that even I really was positive, that had nothing to do with her as I was quarantined. I told her it might be a scam. 

Shortly after that, I received call from MOH and a doctor told me the news: I was infected with the virus and swab test came out positive! I was told to pack my belonging and put them outside the hotel. All my luggages and bags were then disinfected. Around 2pm on the same day, I was escorted by the hotel and hospital staff with protective suit to the ambulance and was sent to Alexandra hospital. 

Upon arrival, there was this guy escorting me to my room and chasing away all the people in front. I somehow felt like an important person, LOL. Joke aside, on the very same day, my blood was drawn for serology test. ECG and X-ray were also performed. While waiting for the results, doctor ask me not to worry. 

I was given a set of hospital pijamas. The room was not as comfortable as the hotel room but I felt more secure as I knew the experts are just around the corner. The food was surprisingly better compared to the hotel food (or I  was simply too damn bored after eating the hotel food for many days).

When I was finally alone, I tried to exercise. I could feel breathless after like 10 minutes. Probably that's how the f**kin' virus messed around with the body system. 

The hospital room.

Day 2 in Hospital

Three visits from the nurse and doctors to check on blood pressure, oxygen level and, of course, the temperature. At this point, i started searching more on what the blood test meant and what to expect when I was declared safe

Day 3

The blood test result came back positive, but it's a good positive. It meant I had the antibody now. Nevertheless, I was still required to be quarantined for another seven days after the earlier 14 days.

The recovery center.

Day 4 (or Day 1 at D'Resort)

I was in a van, transported to recovery center. Together with me was an Indian and we fetched a Chinese guy from another hospital before we headed to D'resort, the recovery center. I couldn't help feeling sad when I saw the empty BBQ pits. The silence was eerily disturbing. I mean, it was December, a festive season, and D'resort was supposed to be a happening place for friends and families. 


Day 2

I was required to do heart pressure, oxygen level and temperature check three times a day and the report had to be submitted online. i was provided with a finger clip pulse oximeters and termometer to do the necessary.

By this time, I was better already, i could to my exercise without any breathing difficulty. It's also worth noting that I was not prescribed any medication at all during my stay in the hospital and recovery center. 

Day 5 - Check Out 

Like any other normal person would do, I was worried that the virus was still inside my body and the last thing I wanted to do is unknowingly spreading it. I had asked the doctors several times and they assured me there was no need to do another swab test and I was safe to go. The explanation was long, but the summary was the virus no longer contagious.

I am lucky to survive this saga and I certainly hope that this pandemic will end soon. Some of us were upset because we couldn't travel, couldn't have big gathering,  couldn't eat out or couldn't have the usual lifestyle. But we got to remember, there were also many people out there has lost the source of income and even their lives. I strongly encourage readers not to take the pandemic lightly. Please stick to the health protocols.

Note: This experience was written and shared but do take note that this is not an advice on how to handle coronavirus. Do consult the expert if needed.

I'm back!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Food Tourism

A few years ago, I did mention that Singapore has a lot of good food. The local delights such as mui fan or chicken rice are delicious and affordable. Then, if you felt like trying something different and foreign, you could go for Thai food, Japanese or even exotic cuisines from Middle East and Europe. 

In normal circumstances, you'd go for your favourite restaurant to have some food your were craving for every once in a while. However, last year had been anything but normal. Many of us, I believe, went through the lockdown for the first time ever. What were normally taken for granted turned out to be privileges that had to be stripped off. With not much left to do, anything that was remotely entertaining suddenly seemed to be worth trying!

From left: Winter Soldier and God. 

Thus began our story at a Lebanese restaurant called Urban Bites. In late August, I had lunch with two friends of mine. One looked like Winter Soldier, the other was nicknamed God. Both, as you might have guess, were such colourful characters. As we enjoyed hummus, flatbreads and kebab, it dawned on us that trying out foreign menus on regular basis sounded like a brilliant idea. Since we couldn't travel at all, the least we could do was to have food from other countries.

Indonesian food with Franky and Winter Soldier.

And we did exactly that for the next five months. We made it a mission to have meals that weren't from Singapore. We went to IndoChili for Indonesian food. Of all the menus that we ordered, tempe orek was the only one that I could remember, but not for a good reason. I mean, this was a roadside food, easily the cheapest one in Indonesia, but priced here in SGD. Felt like sucker for having this, haha. 

French cuisines. The one on the right is Poulet Rotisserie.

A week later, Winter Soldier and I thought we should go for Filipino food at Leslie's, not very far from Bugis, but little did we know that the place had closed down. We walked around and eventually decided that we should go French cuisines at Saveur. We had something called Poulet Rotisserie. It was like eating chicken from chicken rice, but this one came with a French name and therefore had a much higher price tag.

Left: lechon. Right: Directornado and God, after we exited Gerry's Grill.

After that, God and I explored Burmese and Filipino food at Inle Myanmar Restaurant and Gerry's Grill, respectively. I had always love Burmese food, especially the crispy eels, since I first tried it with my ex-housemates many, many years ago. As for Filipino food, of course we had to order lechon kawali. But after tasting it, I still missed the one I had in Cebu. It was the best lechon ever. 

Next lunch was organized by STV, a friend who could speak Thai. We had lunch at Beerthai House Restaurant inside Golden Mile Complex and his skill was proven to be useful. It was easier to order a glass of lemon grass in Thai. The food was not bad and I heard the price was kind of friendly, too. We had omelette, tom yum soup and steamed fish and some other menu.

Top: God and Directornado. Bottom: paneer.

Then we went for authentic Southern Indian food in Little India. Brought them to Anjappar. Not exactly near, but still within the walking distance from the MRT station. What's good here? We ordered paneer, mutton biryani, prawn masala, ghee rice and... probably tandoori chicken, too, since it was red color, haha. I always love eating here. The spice taste is so rich.

Top: pytt i panna. Bottom: with God, Directornado and Winter Soldier at Fika.

The next one was Swedish cuisines. Yes, when it comes to anything Swedish, people immediately think of IKEA and the meatballs, but we went to a bistro called Fika instead. I had something called pytt i panna. I couldn't even pronounce it, but it was basically beef. Tasted quite good, too. 

We planned for Italian or Spanish after that, but I almost couldn't make it due to some unforeseen issues. The original plan was abandoned and we switched to Mexican food at Guzman y Gomez nearby our office. I always love having the pork burrito bowl there! While having lunch, Winter Soldier joked that for all we knew, Guzman and Gomez were just some random Mexicans. It was like calling a restaurant Lim and Tan just to make it sounded Chinese. It turned out that he was right! Wikipedia said this is actually a restaurant chain from Australia and its origin got nothing to do with Guzman and Gomez, haha.

Top: Russian dumplings. Bottom, from left: salted herring fish and a glass of sour milk.

A Russian restaurant called Dumplings.Ru was the next one we visited. I had some salted raw fish there. Really salty, but I liked it! Then we shared a few plates of lamb and pork dumplings. To be frank, I couldn't tell the difference between Chinese and Russian dumplings. Apart from the fact that the Russian dumplings didn't come in soup or weren't served with noodles, they were quite tasty. 

Spanish cuisines and God enjoying his meal.

For our next meal, Winter Soldier suggested an Israeli meal at Miznon, but it was full when we reached there. As a result, we detoured and had Spanish in a restaurant named Gaig. Spanish food was all about tapas. It could be hot or cold. By the way, tapas is not exactly a specific name of food, but a general term for snacks, so tapas came in many forms. As the names on the menu sounded alien, I chose the one with rice. I thought rice would be the safest bet, it turned out to be a plate of sticky rice that tasted quite bland. 

God and dishes from Putian.

The Spanish meal became the last one we had together in 2020. There were still plenty to go, though. We have yet to try out African, Israeli and many more. In fact, we just began this year with cuisines originated from Putian, a city in Fujian province, China. Good stuff, but perhaps a story for another time. The bottom line is, after doing it for few months, I realized that Singapore is indeed heaven for food lovers. You have almost everything here, except food from Laos, perhaps. Just couldn't find it!

The food tourism...

Wisata Kuliner Di Singapura

Beberapa tahun silam, saya pernah bercerita bahwa Singapura menawarkan banyak makanan enak. Masakan lokal seperti mui fan atau nasi ayam terjangkau harganya dan murah pula. Kalau anda ingin sesuatu yang berbeda dan berasal dari luar negeri, anda bisa mencoba makanan Thai, Jepang dan bahkan menu eksotis dari Timur Tengah dan Eropa.

Di situasi normal, kita bisa ke restoran favorit kita untuk mencicipi makanan yang kita idamkan. Akan tetapi tahun lalu tidaklah normal. Banyak di antara kita yang menjalani karantina wilayah untuk pertama kalinya. Apa yang dulunya tergolong biasa, misalnya ke bioskop atau restoran, tiba-tiba tidak lagi diperbolehkan. Karena tidak banyak yang bisa dikerjakan, ide sepele pun terlihat menarik. 

Dari kiri: Winter Soldier dan God. 

Cerita kali ini bermula dari restoran Lebanon bernama Urban Bites. Di akhir Agustus, saya makan siang bersama dua teman. Yang satu mirip Winter Soldier di film Captain America, yang satunya lagi dijuluki God. Seperti yang bisa diterka dari penampilan mereka, perangai dua orang ini sangat unik. Setelah menyantap humus, roti pita dan kebab, kita lantas berpikir bahwa mencoba masakan asing secara rutin sepertinya ide yang bagus. Meski kita tidak bisa berlibur, setidaknya kita bisa menyantap makanan luar negeri.

Menikmati tempe orek bersama Franky dan Winter Soldier.

Dan inilah yang kita lakukan dalam lima bulan ke depan. Misi kita adalah menjajaki masakan asing yang kita temukan. Pertama-tama kita coba yang lebih lazim: makanan Indonesia di IndoChili. Masakannya tidak terlalu lezat dan satu-satunya yang saya ingat adalah tempe orek. Ini sebenarnya masakan kelas warteg di tepi jalan, tapi malah dipesan di restoran. Konyol rasanya harus membayar tempe orek dengan dolar Singapura, haha.

Makanan Perancis. Yang paling kanan adalah Poulet Rotisserie.

Seminggu kemudian, Winter Soldier dan saya berada di sekitar Bugis untuk menjajal masakan Filipina di Leslie's, tapi ternyata sudah tutup restorannya. Setelah berjalan sana-sini, akhirnya kita sepakat untuk mencicipi masakan Perancis di Saveur. Kita pesan menu yang namanya Poulet Rotisserie. Rasanya seperti ayam yang disajikan di nasi ayam, tapi yang dihidangkan di meja ini memiliki nama Perancis dan oleh karenanya menjadi berkali-kali lebih mahal.

Kiri: lechon. Kanan: Directornado dan God, setelah kita keluar dari Gerry's Grill.

Setelah itu God dan saya pergi ke Inle, restoran khas Myanmar, dan Gerry's Grill yang menawarkan menu Filipina. Saya selalu menyukai makanan Myanmar, terutama belut garing yang pertama kali saya cicipi bersama teman-teman serumah beberapa tahun silam. Akan halnya masakan Filipina, tentu saja kita harus memesan lechon kawali. Kendati begitu, saya masih merindukan lechon yang saya santap di Cebu. Sepertinya itu yang paling enak. 

Berikutnya adalah masakan Thai. Seorang teman lain berinisial STV menjamu kita di restoran Beerthai House di gedung Golden Mile Complex. STV bisa berbahasa Thai dan kemampuannya terbukti berguna, sebab pelayannya lebih memahami apa yang kita pesan dalam bahasa Thai. Makanannya cukup enak dan saya dengar harganya pun tidak terlalu mahal. Kita memesan omelet, sup tom yam, ikan kukus dan beberapa menu lain. 

Atas: God dan Directornado. Bawah: paneer.

Selanjutnya kita mengunjungi Little India untuk masakan India Selatan yang otentik. Restoran Anjappar cukup jauh dari stasiun MRT, tapi masih bisa dicapai dengan berjalan kaki. Apa yang enak di sini? Kita memesan paneer, nasi biryani domba, udang masala, nasi ghee dan... kalau tidak salah, ayam tandoori, sebab merah warnanya, haha. Saya suka masakan di sini. Rempah-rempahnya sungguh terasa. 

Atas: pytt i panna. Bawah: bersama teman-teman di Fika.

Yang berikutnya adalah masakan Swedia. Ya, jikalau bicara tentang Swedia, biasanya yang langsung diingat adalah IKEA dan baksonya, tapi kali ini kita ke restoran bernama Fika. Yang saya pesan adalah pytt i panna, semacam masakan berbasis daging sapi. Rasanya lumayan. 

Menu Italia dan Spanyol menjadi topik perbincangan minggu berikutnya, tapi misi kita hampir saja batal karena ada masalah di kantor. Setelah isu selesai, kita hanya bisa mampir ke Guzman y Gomez, kedai masakan Meksiko di dekat kantor. Selagi makan, Winter Soldier berkomentar, jangan-jangan Guzman dan Gomez cuma sekedar nama Meksiko. Ini sama halnya dengan menggunakan nama Lim dan Tan sebagai nama restoran supaya terdengar seperti restoran Cina. Ternyata dia benar! Setelah saya cek di Wikipedia, restoran ini berasal dari Australia dan asal-mulanya tidak ada kaitan dengan Guzman dan Gomez, haha. 

Atas: Pangsit Russia. Bawah, dari kiri: ikan herring asin dan segelas susu asam.

Sesudah Meksiko, kita mencoba pangsit Rusia di Dumplings.Ru, sebuah restoran di dekat MRT Tanjong Pagar. Saya memesan ikan mentah yang luar biasa asin, tapi enak. Selain itu, kita juga mencoba pangsit isi domba dan babi. Jujur saya katakan bahwa saya tidak bisa membedakan pangsit Cina dan Rusia. Rasanya sedap juga. 

Masakan Spanyol.

Masakan Israel di Miznon, Stanley Street, harusnya menjadi menu berikutnya, tapi tempat makannya penuh ketika kita tiba di sana. Alhasil kita pindah lokasi dan makan di Gaig, sebuah restoran Spanyol yang juga berada di jalan yang sama. Menu Spanyol menawarkan aneka tapas, baik yang dingin maupun panas. Oh ya, tapas itu cemilan, jadi banyak bentuknya. Setelah tapas, kita juga memesan menu utama. Saya pilih yang ada nasinya, tapi ternyata lengket dan agak tawar rasanya. Agak kurang nikmat rasanya. 

Dan masakan Spanyol menjadi menu terakhir di tahun 2020. Masih banyak lagi yang bisa dicoba, misalnya menu Afrika. Di awal tahun ini kita baru saja menyantap masakan dari Putian, sebuah kota di provinsi Fujian, China. Enak nian. Setelah saya jalani wisata kuliner di Singapura, saya yakin bahwa Singapura adalah surga bagi mereka yang suka makan. Hampir semuanya ada di sini, kecuali makanan Laos. Sampai sekarang belum berhasil saya temukan!  

God dan masakan khas Putian.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Fear Of Flying

There was a plane crash in Indonesia yesterday and it turned out that a friend's auntie boarded the same plane. Upon hearing the sad news, I couldn't help thinking that I should write about it. You see, as much as I love traveling, I have this fear of flying. Kinda ironic, eh?

Out of the three methods of transportation (by land, by sea and by air), I dislike flying the most. I hate having my feet so far off the ground. I feel insecure to be inside a giant flying metal that rested its wings on invisible air. If anything ever happens to the flight, it's likely to be doomed. 

Aerial view of Pontianak, taken from AirAsia that just took off. 

For the longest time, the duration of the flight I took was roughly about one and a half hours. My first flight that took more than two hours happened when I was working at Kalbe. It was from Jakarta to Medan in 2005. It was also the first time I ever flew at night. I remember staring at the blinking light at the tip of the wing and I looked at my colleague Felik when the turbulence happened, wondering how he could be so calm. 

The shortest flight I had was from Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia to Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei. It lasted only 45 minutes. Best flight ever. The plane took off, I filled in the immigration card and it landed immediately after that. The longest one was a 2x7 hours flight from Singapore to London via Dubai. It was quite a smooth flight, but I still couldn't have a good sleep. During the round trip, I stayed awake most of the time, watching the first season of the Flash that was available on the in-flight entertainment. 

Happy faces when we landed in Dubai. 

The extremely bad turbulence occurred at least three times. The first one was the worst. When I took Adam Air from Jakarta to Pontianak, the plane shook so violently and passengers started shouting, "Allahu Akbar." Trust me that it wasn't something you'd want to hear when you were flying. I remember holding the amrest tightly and I stared intensely at the ceiling, half-convinced that it would crack open any time soon. It didn't happen, of course. The plane's safety record, as I would learn later on, was awful. 

The second one was the return flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong. Instead of the big and comfortable Cathay Pacific, we boarded a smaller Dragonair. It was a night flight and my Dad had fallen asleep when the turbulence happened. When the stewardess asked if I'd like to have fish or chicken for my meal, the only thing I could think of was the Last Supper. I didn't think I could eat at all, so I told her, I didn't wish to have anything. 

With Lawrence on the runway of Hang Nadim Airport, Batam. 
Photo by James Wu.

The last one so far was when my wife and I flew from Shanghai to Nagasaki using China Eastern Airlines. It was a short flight, but it was bloody bumpy! I stopped filling in the immigration form and told my wife that perhaps we'd just do it later, if we ever landed safely on the ground. 

I guess it was just me and, in all honesty, my tolerance level was low. My track records showed that I was often nervous and jumpy when the plane went through the clouds. Like I said earlier, I have this fear of flying, but I still travel whenever I can. Why?

Another happy faces as we landed in Bangkok.

Well, John Lennon once sang that life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. In this context, I take it that when the time comes, there's no runaway from it. What happened with the plane crash was a tragedy. More often than not, we don't get to choose how we die, but we surely get a chance to choose how we live. And that fear of flying? It's part of me, but I choose to live a life well-traveled instead...

Fobia Terbang

Pesawat Sriwijaya rute Jakarta-Pontianak jatuh kemarin dan ternyata bibi seorang teman tercatat sebagai penumpang. Saat mendengar kabar buruk ini, saya jadi terpikir lagi tentang satu hal yang selalu membuat saya risau. Meski saya suka berlibur, saya sebenarnya takut naik pesawat. Ironis, ya? 

Dari tiga sarana transportasi darat, laut dan udara, saya paling tidak menyukai pesawat. Saya tidak suka berada di ketinggian, apalagi sampai ribuan kaki jauhnya dari permukaan bumi. Saya juga senantiasa gelisah saat membayangkan bahwa saya duduk di dalam konstruksi baja yang sayapnya disangga oleh udara, sesuatu yang sama sekali terlihat oleh mata. Jika sesuatu terjadi dengan penerbangan udara yang sedang ditumpangi, besar kemungkinannya bahwa semua akan celaka. 

Kota Pontianak, difoto dari AirAsia yang baru lepas landas. 

Dari usia empat sampai 20an tahun, lamanya penerbangan yang saya tempuh berkisar satu setengah jam. Penerbangan pertama yang lebih dari dua jam terjadi saat saya bekerja di Kalbe. Di tahun 2005, saya bepergian dari Jakarta ke Medan. Perjalanan ini juga merupakan penerbangan pertama saya di malam hari. Saya ingat dengan kelap-kelap lampu di ujung sayap pesawat. Ketika pesawat berguncang, saya serasa tak percaya saat melihat kolega saya Felik yang tenang-tenang saja. 

Durasi paling singkat bagi saya adalah penerbangan dari Kota Kinabalu di Malaysia ke Bandar Seri Begawan di Brunei. Perjalanan ini berlangsung selama 45 menit. Tak lama setelah pesawat lepas landas, formulir imigrasi dibagikan dan pesawat pun mendarat beberapa saat setelah formulir selesai diisi. Akan halnya penerbangan terpanjang sampai sejauh ini adalah 2x7 jam dari Singapura ke London lewat Dubai. Penerbangan ini sebenarnya tergolong lancar, tapi saya tetap kesulitan tidur selama di udara. Alhasil, dalam perjalanan pergi dan pulang, saya hampir menonton habis seri pertama the Flash di pesawat.  

Wajah gembira saat mendarat di Dubai. 

Setidaknya ada tiga penerbangan dalam cuaca buruk yang akan selalu terngiang di benak saya. Yang pertama adalah yang paling parah. Saat itu saya menumpang pesawat Adam Air jurusan Jakarta-Pontianak. Pesawat berguncang hebat, sampai-sampai penumpang lain berteriak, "Allahu Akbar." Ini bukanlah jeritan histeris yang ingin anda dengar saat naik pesawat. Saya sempat menggenggam erat sandaran lengan di kursi saya sambil menatap langit-langit pesawat yang sepertinya akan terbelah dua. Setelah penerbangan tersebut, saya baru menyadari bahwa rekam jejak Adam Air sangatlah buruk. 

Kali kedua saya mengalami hal yang nyaris serupa adalah penerbangan dari Tokyo ke Hong Kong. Berbeda dengan pesawat Cathay Pacific yang besar dan nyaman yang kita tumpangi saat ke Jepang, saya dan ayah saya menaiki Dragonair yang lebih kecil saat perjalanan pulang. Di malam itu, ketika ayah saya sudah tertidur, pesawat mulai berguncang-guncang. Ketika pramugari bertanya apakah saya ingin ikan atau ayam untuk santap malam, satu-satunya hal yang melintas di benak saya adalah Perjamuan Terakhir. Saya langsung kehilangan nafsu makan dan menolak tawaran pramugari tersebut.  

Bersama Lawrence di landasan pacu Bandara Hang Nadim, Batam. 
Foto oleh James Wu.

Tiga tahun kemudian, di tahun 2018, saya dan istri menaiki China Eastern Airlines dari Shanghai ke Nagasaki. Jarak tempuh kali ini sebenarnya cukup dekat, tapi penerbangannya sungguh tidak nyaman. Pesawat berjuang naik-turun melawan angin hampir sepanjang penerbangan. Saya jadi berhenti mengisi formulir imigrasi dan berkata kepada istri saya, nanti saja isinya, kalau kita sampai dengan selamat sampai di tujuan. 

Ya, mungkin saja saya memiliki toleransi yang rendah saat naik pesawat. Saya sering terlonjak dan gugup saat pesawat melewati awan. Seperti yang saya katakan sebelumnya, saya memiliki fobia naik pesawat, namun kenapa saya masih berkelana selagi saya bisa?

Wajah-wajah yang gembira saat mendarat di Bangkok.

John Lennon pernah menyanyikan lirik berikut ini: "life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Artinya hidup adalah apa yang terjadi selagi Anda sibuk membuat rencana. Dalam konteks ini, saya merasa bahwa bila sudah waktunya, kita takkan bisa menghindar. Kecelakaan pesawat Sriwijaya adalah sebuah tragedi yang mengajarkan bahwa seringkali kita tidak bisa memilih bagaimana kita berpulang. Tapi saya rasa kita senantiasa memiliki kesempatan untuk memilih, bagaimana kita hidup. Fobia dalam menaiki pesawat adalah bagian dari saya, tapi saya bisa memilih dan saya memilih hidup yang penuh petualangan dalam melihat dunia...