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Sunday, August 28, 2022

Malaysia Boleh: Johor

If you checked out the Malaysia Boleh series, you'd notice that I only wrote about Kuching, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Despite the fact that it was right to Singapore, I didn't write about Johor. To tell you the truth, it was exactly due to its close proximity that Johor felt... hazy. It was like a place I'd go only for a short getaway, so short that it was often a few hours trip only. 

At City Square, 2009.

As a result, I actually didn't know much about Johor. I did a quick get-in, get-out when I was looking for a job in Singapore. After that, I had a couple of day trips to Johor Bahru. I was at Larkin bus interchange and Senai Airport for a trip to Malacca and Kota Kinabalu in 2009. Then, in 2010, I had my first tandoori chicken in Pasir Gudang. I also had a lunch with Uncle Eddie and other ex-colleagues in Gelang Patah back in 2014. I remember seeing the signboad of Kluang and a glimpse of Segamat when I visited Wiwi in 2017.

But all those moments in Johor came and went like blurry images. I only understood it better this year, when I did the great crossing. That's when I really observed what Johor Bahru was like. Saw the Chinese and the Indian parts of it nearby the customs. Then, as I headed to Puteri Harbour for a Hard Rock moment, it dawned on me that Johor as a state was much more spacious and less compact than Singapore. During the visit with Alvin that happened about two months later, we went to Bukit Indah, a place that I visited two or three times before since I first entered Johor in 2006.

In Bukit Indah with Alvin and Landak.

And the last trip I had brought me to the easternmost tip of Johor: Desaru Coast. I always loved the idea of lazing around at the hotel and this one was exactly that. Between Westin and Hard Rock Hotel, I chose the latter. Wasn't that great, though. The swimming pool reminded me of Wild Wild Wet in Singapore. The hotel was less superior, too. You'd feel that there was nothing special with the beach, especially if you'd been to places like Bali or Boracay. On top of that, the nearest town with a decent food was about 10 KM away, so Desaru Coast was actually quite secluded.

I had never been to the west side of Johor, but Google Maps did show that there was a town called Batu Pahat and it was famous for durians. Now, conclusion? Even I felt that this was a rather uninspiring article, haha. It reflected the feeling I had about Johor. Unlike Penang or Malacca, it lacked character. One would arguably go there because everything was three times cheaper than Singapore, but that was pretty much it. Perhaps it was just hard to be special when the place was located so close to Singapore.

Family trip, 2022.

Malaysia Boleh: Johor

Jika anda melihat kembali serial Malaysia Boleh, anda akan menyadari bahwa saya hanya menulis tentang Kuching, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur dan Penang. Meskipun letaknya bersebelahan dengan Singapura, saya tidak menulis tentang Johor. Jujur saya katakan bahwa karena lokasinya yang berdekatan itulah maka Johor terasa tidak jelas. Saya hanya ke sana untuk liburan singkat, bahkan seringkali hanya beberapa jam lamanya di sana. 

Di City Square, 2009.

Alhasil, saya tidak tahu banyak tentang Johor. Saya beberapa kali masuk dan keluar dari Johor sewaktu saya mencari kerja di Singapura. Setelah itu saya, sempat mampir beberapa kali ke Johor Bahru. Saya berada di terminal bis Larkin dan bandara udara Senai untuk berlibur ke Melaka dan Kota Kinabalu di tahun 2009. Kemudian di tahun 2010, saya mencicipi ayam tanduri untuk pertama kalinya di Pasir Gudang. Saya juga makan siang bersama Uncle Eddie dan juga mantan kolega lainnya di Gelang Patah pada tahun 2014. Setelah itu saya sempat melihat papan nama Kluang dan juga melintasi kota Segamat saat mengunjungi Wiwi di Kota Kemuning. 

Tapi semua kenangan ini terasa buram dan kurang berkesan. Baru sekarang saya mulai memahami Johor, tepatnya ketika saya berjalan kaki menyeberang ke sana. Di saat itulah saya baru benar-benar mengamati, seperti apa sesungguhnya Johor Bahru ini. Sempat saya lihat bagian kota bernuansa Cina dan India di dekat perbatasan. Dari situ saya bertolak ke Puteri Harbour untuk membeli kaos Hard Rock. Selama perjalanan ke sana, saya lihat bahwa negara bagian Johor memang lebih luas dan tidak sepadat Singapura. Kunjungan berikutnya bersama Alvin juga membawa saya kembali ke Bukit Indah, tempat yang pernah saya singgahi dua atau tiga kali sebelumnya, sejak saya pertama kali menjejakkan kaki di Johor pada tahun 2006.

Di Bukit Indah bersama Alvin dan Landak.

Dan liburan terakhir pun membawa saya ke ujung timur Johor: Desaru. Saya selalu suka ide bersantai di hotel dan liburan kali ini terwujud persis seperti yang saya harapkan. Antara Westin dan Hard Rock Hotel, tentunya saya pilih Hard Rock. Tapi yang di Desaru ini tidak sebagus hotel serupa yang ada di Sentosa. Kolam renangnya pun mirip Wild Wild Wet di Singapura. Pantainya juga biasa, terutama bila anda sudah pernah berkunjung ke Bali atau Boracay. Selain itu, kota terdekat jaraknya 10 KM dari hotel, jadi lokasi Desaru ini sebenarnya agak terpencil.  

Saya tidak pernah mampir ke sisi barat Johor, tapi dari Google Maps terlihat bahwa ada kota lain yang bernama Batu Pahat dan kota ini terkenal dengan duriannya. Nah, kesimpulannya? Bahkan saya sendiri beropini bahwa tulisan kali ini terasa miskin inspirasi, haha. Tapi inilah yang saya rasakan tentang Johor. Berbeda dengan Penang atau Melaka, Johor terasa kurang berkarakter. Banyak yang ke sana mungkin lebih cenderung karena barang-barangnya tiga kali lebih murah dari Singapura. Mungkin karena lokasinya yang terlalu dekat dengan Singapura, maka Johor terasa tidak istimewa. Lebih enak di Batam!

Family trip, 2022.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Book Review: Zhuan Falun

I would categorise myself as an avid reader. There were times when I happened to read something unusual such as Hotel K and I still ended up finishing it at my regular reading speed, which was about a month per book. But for the first time ever in God knows how long, I actually struggled reading a book that it took me seven months to finish it. I put three new books from my favorite author aside because of this one!

I didn't really follow how this topic came about, but when I joined the conversation in our chat group, they were already talking about the controversial book. My friend Jimmy insisted that it was a good book and he challenged everyone to read it instead of just making comments based on what they might have heard. When I said I would read it, he imposed on me the condition that the book had to be read at least twice. I shot back that he must watch the eight-hour Beatles Anthology series twice as well.

Thus began the deal. The book was easily obtained from Once I got it, I immediately understood why he said many people he knew had had given up after few pages. The book was indeed controversial that it challenged the belief system one might have known his or her entire life. As an example, I had a Catholic background and I believed in Christianity. When we had the introduction of Buddhism during one of my talkshow sessions, I found myself subconsciously resisting what I heard.

This book was much more provoking than that, so the immediate response I had in mind was, "what an utter nonsense!" But we had a deal, so I took the empty glass approach. I knew nothing about this book, but I didn't need to judge it. I'd just read it and see what it was about. Once I adopted this mindset, the experience was not as revolting as before. But still it wasn't a pleasant reading experience. It was not engaging and it tended to be boring at times.

The author was Master Li. Throughout the book, he explained his version of qigong. I often associated this to a slow-moving exercise done by a bunch of old people in the park. Alternatively, I'd think of Jet Li doing some fancy moves in his movies. At the vaguest level, I seem to recall that it was practiced for healing purpose. But according to Master Li, this was a low level understanding of qigong.

His ultimate version of qigong was a very complex stuff involving karma, third eye and many Chinese jargons. Oh yes, he said stuff like de (the good substance), gong (the energy) fashen (the protective aura) and many more. These words were not translated in English that after a while, I just couldn't recall what they actually meant. It just reminded me of the word smurf, which could mean anything.

He then brought it up a notch by referencing heavily on Buddhism, Taoism and Chinese history. He talked about the enlightenment of Shakyamuni, which was all right. But then there were stuff like each Buddha owning one heaven, which meant there were multitudes of heavens. He also told the story about how he defeated the snake demon from Ming Dynasty. On one of the chapters, he talked about the same soul that lived in multiple dimensions and affected one another. Reading all this, I couldn't help thinking of Marvel's multiverse, starring Dr. Strange.

I mentioned earlier that I struggled reading the book. It was this mind-boggling part that deterred me from reading it. Certain parts of his preaching that reminded us not to show off and be righteous, they were fine. But most of the parts, such as the explaining he was the only who could install the wheel of Falun into somebody, were beyond my comprehension. I'm an IT guy and my idea of installation involved the next and install buttons.

It was a relief when I finished reading the book. I wanted to say that it was seven month of my life that I wouldn't get back, but I couldn't. If anything, it had been an unusual journey. Not life-changing like the Beatles, but it was definitely a glimpse of how astonishing that people would actually subscribe to this. But then again, perhaps the same would be said by the non-believers. 

As for our deal, I am quite certain that I'm not going to read it twice. It was, to put mildly, an exhausting experience. I'd like to resume those new books by Sinead Moriarty that I was supposed to read. And talk about the Beatles Anthology, Jimmy didn't watch it. He simply said that I didn't send him the DVD box set. Oh, but I will. Just wait for it! 

Zhuan Falun and the Beatles Anthology.

Ulasan Buku: Zhuan Falun

Saya cenderung berpendapat bahwa saya ini bisa dikatakan tergolong kutu buku. Bahkan di saat membaca buku dengan topik yang bukan pilihan saya pun, misalnya Hotel K, masih juga saya lahap dengan kecepatan membaca yang sama, kira-kira sebulan per buku. Tapi untuk pertama kalinya entah sejak kapan, saya berjuang keras dalam tujuh bulan terakhir untuk menyelesaikan satu buku. Bahkan tiga buku terbaru karangan penulis favorit saya jadi tertunda untuk dibaca karena buku yang satu ini. 

Saya tidak ingat bagaimana asal mula topik ini, namun ketika saya bergabung dalam percakapan yang sedang berlangsung di grup SMA, teman-teman sudah berbicara tentang buku yang kontroversial ini. Teman saya Jimmy bersikeras bahwa ini adalah buku yang bagus dan dia menantang yang lain untuk membaca dulu sebelum berkomentar panjang-lebar hanya karena apa yang mereka dengar. Ketika saya berkata bahwa saya akan membacanya, dia menekankan bahwa saya harus membacanya dua kali. Saya lantas berujar, kalau begitu dia juga harus menonton serial the Beatles Anthology yang berdurasi delapan jam sebanyak dua kali. 

Terjadilah perjanjian baca-nonton ini. Buku ini kemudian saya dapatkan dari Begitu saya terima dan baca, saya langsung menyadari kenapa Jimmy berkata bahwa banyak kenalannya yang menyerah setelah membaca beberapa halaman pertama. Buku ini sungguh kontroversial dalam arti bertolak-belakang dengan apa yang mungkin telah dipercaya pembaca sepanjang hidupnya. Sebagai contoh, saya dibesarkan di lingkungan dan pendidikan Katolik dan saya juga percaya Kristen. Ketika seorang teman berbagi cerita tentang pengenalan agama Budha di acara obrolan santai yang saya selenggarakan, terus-terang saya juga tanpa sadar merasa sulit untuk percaya dengan pemaparannya. 

Dan buku ini jauh lebih provokatif. Apa yang langsung terpikir di benak saya adalah, "omong kosong macam apa ini." Tapi karena kita sudah berjanji, saya lantas menggunakan pendekatan cangkir kosong. Saya beranggapan bahwa saya tidak tahu apa-apa dan saya tidak perlu menghakimi apa yang ditulis di buku. Saya hanya perlu membaca dan mencari tahu, tentang apa buku ini sebenarnya. Begitu saya mengadopsi pemikiran ini, pengalaman membaca buku Zhuan Falun tidak lagi seburuk sebelumnya. Ya, memang masih tidak menyenangkan seperti buku lain yang biasa saya baca, tapi ini cenderung karena terasa membosankan.  

Penulis buku ini adalah Master Li. Lewat buku ini, dia memaparkan tentang qigong menurut versinya. Selama ini saya sering berpikir bahwa qigong ini olahraga pelan yang sering diperagakan sekumpulan orang tua di taman. Selain itu, hal yang sama juga mengingatkan saya tentang film Jet Li. Dan kalau saya tidak salah ingat, sepertinya pernah saya baca bahwa qigong ini semacam pengobatan tradisional yang menyembuhkan. Akan tetapi menurut Master Li, semua itu adalah pemahaman tingkat rendah tentang qigong

Versi qigong menurut Master Li sangatlah kompleks dan melibatkan karma, mata ketiga serta banyak istilah Mandarin. Oh ya, dia menggunakan kata-kata seperti de (substansi baik), gong (energi) fashen (aura pelindung) dan masih banyak lagi. Kata-kata ini, terutama yang jarang muncul, cenderung tak diingat artinya ketika muncul lagi bab berikutnya. Saya justru jadi teringat tentang kata smurf yang bisa berarti apa saja, tergantung kalimatnya.

Master Li kemudian membahas lebih dalam lagi dengan menggunakan banyak referensi Budhisme, Taoisme dan sejarah Cina. Dia berbicara tentang pencerahan yang dialami oleh Sakyamuni dan sampai sejauh ini masih bisa saya terima. Tapi dia kemudian membahas tentang satu Budha memiliki satu surga dan potensi keberadaan begitu banyak surga. Dia juga bercerita tentang bagaimana dia akhirnya memusnahkan siluman ular yang telah hidup dari sejak zaman Dinasti Ming. Di bab lainnya, dia berkisah tentang jiwa manusia yang hidup di berbagai dimensi dan mempengaruhi satu sama lain. Yang terbayang setelah membaca semua itu adalah kisah multiverse yang baru-baru ini muncul di film Marvel dan menampilkan Dr. Strange. 

Saya sampaikan di awal cerita bahwa saya berjuang untuk membaca buku ini. Adalah hal-hal yang mencengangkan di atas yang membuat saya enggan membaca lebih lanjut. Bagian di mana dia menasehati pembaca untuk tidak pamer dan bijak dalam menyikapi hidup adalah sesuatu yang bisa dicerna. Namun lebih banyak hal-hal yang sulit saya pahami, misalnya hanya dia yang bisa melakukan instalasi roda Falun ke tubuh seseorang. Bagi saya yang berprofesi di bidang IT, instalasi bisa dilakukan siapa saja dan hanya melibatkan tombol next dan install

Ada rasa lega setelah usai membaca. Ada pula niat untuk berkata bahwa tujuh bulan ini terbuang sia-sia, tapi sejujurnya tidak begitu. Ini adalah sebuah pengalaman yang unik. Tidak mengubah hidup saya seperti halnya the Beatles, tapi cukup memberikan gambaran tentang kenapa ada saja orang yang bisa percaya hal seperti ini. Di satu sisi, saya jadi berpikir bahwa hal yang sama pun bisa dikatakan oleh mereka yang tidak percaya dengan Yesus. 

Mengenai perjanjian kita di atas, saya tidak melihat kemungkinan bahwa saya akan membaca buku ini lagi untuk kedua kalinya. Bila saya simpulkan, membaca buku ini adalah sebuah pengalaman yang melelahkan. Lebih baik saya lanjut membaca tiga buku karangan Sinead Moriarty yang sudah saya beli. Dan, hei, bicara tentang the Beatles, Jimmy tidak menonton dokumenternya. Alasannya karena saya tidak mengirimkan DVD the Beatles kepadanya. Oh, kalau begitu akan saya kirimkan. Tunggu saja!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Host

I like playing host in Singapore. It's part of the Robinson Travel thing, the in-joke I had with the group chat. After the Walking Tour and SNY 2019, I finally had a chance to plan another one in this post-COVID world. My friend Alvin came visiting for the first time ever and, as he was fit enough, I thought of organizing an end-to-end trip, including a glimpse of Johor as a comparison of how different Singapore and Malaysia are.

First stop: Jewel!

As Alvin arrived quite early, Endrico and Landak went to pick him up and brought him to Jewel. Oh yes, a visit to the iconic Rain Vortex is a must! Then I went to meet them at Hong Lim Food Centre. I was actually wondering why Landak brought him there. It turned out that they occupied one corner for Landak to try out Alvin's noodles and drunken chicken. Good stuff! The man could surely cook.

At Hong Lim Food Centre.

After I finished my share, we walked around Chinatown to buy what other friends requested, then we headed to Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. It was the first destination. Coming from a Catholic background, it must be quite a view for Alvin. From there, we went to see Taty in Downtown via Maxwell and Telor Ayer. 

Visiting Taty in Downtown.

It was good to meet Taty, especially because we could hand over the leftover food we carried around, haha. Endrico came to join us and we continued our journey to a place not many had visited before: the Singapore Maritime Museum. Indeed it was a rare visit that even Endrico hadn't been there before. He tried out the simulator and navigated his way to the port, but failed spectacularly.

Endrico feeling lost.

From there, we passed by Gardens by the Bay and cut through Marina Bay Sands as we made our way to the casino. The tourist had a privilege to enter the casino freely, so we sent Alvin in to have fun on our behalf. The guideline given was to place one Big bet on the dice game. Alvin did exactly that and came out immediately as he lost it all in no time, haha. 

Checking out Merlion.

Then we went one big round to the Merlion before we detoured to Fullerton Hotel and the quieter side of Boat Quay where the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles stood tall. From there we walked to Brotzeit at Raffles City for our dinner. German cuisines meant bratwurst, pork knuckles and beer! After the meal, we took a bus to Orchard and walked all the way to Dhoby Ghaut. The visit to the city centre ended here.

A night in Orchard.

We started early on the following day and made our way to the Inscription of the Island on the east side of Singapore. From there, we travelled to Pasir Ris, took the train to Kembangan and walked to East Coast via Park Connector. We took a break at McDonald's before continuing our journey to Eunos for chicken rice. Oh yes, there's a good one there called Eng Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice. Loving it since 2005.

Heading to McDonald's in East Coast.

After exposing the art of buying 4D to our guest, we headed to Aljunied for a kungfu lesson. You heard it right! We met a tai chi master there, Alvin's shifu from Indonesia. The man, probably in his late 40s, was friendly. When he wasn't busy bouncing off his students, especially the Caucasian, he would sit in the corner to talk to us. Landak was given chances to block his hands but always ended up having a fist within an inch of his nose. I enjoyed talking about all those past masters such as Guan Yu and Huo Yuanjia while Endrico was asked to push only to have himself bouncing off.

Landak and Endrico practicing what they saw earlier.

You'd noticed that I used this term "bouncing off" twice. I meant it literally, because the students were bounced off by some sort of irresistible force. It was the tai chi thing. The stronger you came, the further you'd be pushed back. It was fun to see the big Caucasian man, whose veins were popping out from his muscular arm, being thrown here and there like a rag doll. It was so fun that we actually stayed there for few hours without realising it.

Having frog porridge.

We left only after the class ended. The Frog Porridge was only two bus stops away from the dojo, so the dinner started early, right when Taty came to join us in the late afternoon. Since we were in Geylang, it was decided that they'd have a durian or two. Smelly stuff, but they seemed to enjoy it. It was during this time that Andiyanto joined us.

Heading to Mustafa.

The night was supposed to be concluded with a visit to Bugis Street. But guys like Alvin was clueless when it was time to shop for souvenirs, so we continued to Mustafa instead to buy some chocolates. The visit also provided him the experience of Little India. 

In Johor Bahru.

The next morning began with a bus ride to Woodlands. We crossed the border and had a breakfast in Johor Bahru! We walked a bit, then we Grab-ed to Aeon in Bukit Indah to buy Mamee and pee there. As planned, we headed to Sultan Abu Bakar Complex to go back from Second Link. 

Exiting Malaysia!

But imagine my surprise when the destination I chose turned out to be a school instead of an immigration border. Apparently the list of destinations on Grab didn't include the customs. Lucky for us, the Grab driver was a kind fellow. He ignored the app and drove us to our destination. We rewarded him handsomely for his act of valour. 

Heading to Tuas.

The journey back to Singapore was quite smooth from there onwards, except for the slight hiccups that Alvin was stuck for quite some time at the Singapore Customs, haha. But things were all right after he filled up the online arrival card. The Causeway Link Bus then brought us to Jurong East and we boarded the train to the final destination of the trip: Sentosa.

Sentosa. At last!

Thus began round two of our casino rider. From some strange reason I failed to understand, again Landak gave the same advice: place one Big bet on a dice game. To quote Alvin, then the banker legally collected his money right after that, haha. But he stayed there for a while to watch a young man playing baccarat. The bet was as big as SGD 10K and that made it all the more interesting.

That free chili crab courtesy of Endrico!

Endrico said he'd treat our guest chili crab. So off we went after Alvin gave me one free chiropractic and massage session. After the heavy meal, Endrico suggested us to take a walk to bus stop, which turned out to be his bus stop, as there was no bus to my house. If I had to sum up the experience, I'd say, "that's just very Endrico!"

That dinner capped Alvin's three-day visit to Singapore and he went home on Monday morning. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I like playing host. Why is that? What's in it for me? There are three things that always motivate me to do so. One, it reminded me of the first time I visited Kuching as an adult. I was with Parno then and Jimmy Lim spent the whole day showing us around. Two, I always enjoy planning and presenting the beauty of Singapore from different angles. This round, though it didn't happen the way I planned it, we still covered Singapore from east to west. 

The third one, the one reason that means a lot to me, is the wish that my friends, especially the first timers, will gain enough experience to inspire and motivate them to work harder and dream further. And most importantly, the very idea that all this can be done. If you can come to Singapore, then quite a fair bit of things are within your reach if you plan carefully...

Menjadi Tuan Rumah

Saya suka menjadi tuan rumah di Singapura. Profesi ini adalah bagian dari Robinson Travel, lelucon yang sering muncul di grup WhatsApp SMA. Setelah Tur Jalan Kaki 2017 dan SNY 2019, saya akhirnya kembali menggelar tur setelah Singapura berdamai dengan COVID. Teman saya Alvin datang berkunjung untuk pertama kalinya dan karena staminanya yang bagus, saya jadi berpikir untuk mengajaknya menjelajah Singapura dari ujung ke ujung, termasuk kunjungan singkat ke Johor sebagai perbandingan betapa bedanya Singapura dan Malaysia. 

Di Jewel.

Karena Alvin tiba di pagi hari, Endrico dan Landak pun menjemput dan membawanya ke Jewel. Oh, kunjungan ke Rain Vortex yang tersohor ini adalah wajib hukumnya bagi turis. Saya lantas menjumpai mereka di Hong Lim Food Centre. Sebenarnya saya agak heran juga kenapa Landak membawanya ke sana, tapi saya akhirnya mengerti alasannya. Mereka duduk di pojok supaya Landak bisa mencicipi mie dan ayam arak buatan Alvin. Lezat nian. Teman yang satu ini memang bisa masak! 

Di Hong Lim Food Centre.

Setelah saya selesai menyantap porsi saya, kami berputar sejenak di Chinatown untuk membeli pesanan teman-teman. Kemudian kami pun mampir ke Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Dengan latar belakangnya yang bernuansa Katolik, pemandangan kuil ini tentu memberikan pengalaman yang baru bagi turis kita ini. Dari situ, kami bertolak ke Downtown melewati Maxwell dan Telor Ayer untuk menjumpai Taty.

Bersua dengan Taty di Downtown.

Ada kesenangan tersendiri saat bertemu dengan Taty, terutama karena kami bisa serah-terima makanan yang tersisa, haha. Endrico kembali bergabung dan kami meneruskan perjalanan ke tempat yang jarang didatangi turis: Singapore Maritime Museum. Bahkan Endrico juga belum pernah mampir. Saat berada di museum, dia menjajal simulator dan mengarungi lautan untuk kembali ke dermaga, namun gagal berlabuh.  

Endrico yang tak sanggup lagi mengarungi lautan.

Dari museum, kami melintasi Gardens by the Bay dan juga Marina Bay Sands untuk menuju kasino. Karena turis bisa masuk dengan gratis, kami mendukung Alvin untuk mencoba berjudi. Panduan yang diberikan adalah pasang taruhan Besar di meja dadu. Alvin menaati panduan dari Endrico ini dan keluar dalam sekejap setelah kehilangan semuanya dalam sekali pasang, haha.

Mampir di Merlion.

Kami lalu berjalan dari MBS ke Merlion dan akhirnya putar balik sedikit untuk melewati terowongan bawah tanah ke Fullerton Hotel. Berbeda dengan biasanya, kali ini kami berjalan di sisi Boat Quay yang lebih sepi dan melewati patung Sir Stamford Raffles. Brotzeit di Raffles City berada tidak jauh dari situ dan kami akhirnya makan malam di sana. Menu Jerman berarti sosis, kaki babi dan bir! Setelah kenyang, kami naik bis ke Orchard dan menyusuri jalan hingga tiba di Dhoby Ghaut. Perjalanan mengitari pusat kota pun berakhir di sini. 

Menyusuri Orchard di malam hari.

Keesokan paginya, kami pergi ke Inscription of the Island yang berada di sisi timur Singapura. Alvin mencoba sarapan pagi khas Singapura yang berupa roti bakar, telur setengah matang dan kopi. Usai bersantap, kami menuju Pasir Ris dan naik MRT ke Kembangan. Rute ke East Coast ditempuh lewat Park Connector, semacam jalan khusus bagi mereka yang senang jogging dan bersepeda. Kami melepas penat sejenak di McDonald's, lalu lanjut ke Eunos untuk makan siang. Eng Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice di belakang stasiun MRT ini nikmat rasanya. Saya suka sejak pertama kali cicip di tahun 2005.

Menuju McDonald's di East Coast.

Setelah memperkenalkan cara membeli 4D kepada tamu kita ini, kami pergi ke Aljunied untuk mengikuti pelajaran kungfu. Ya, anda tidak salah baca! Ada seorang pakar tai chi di sana, guru Alvin yang juga berasal dari Indonesia. Pria yang sepertinya hampir berusia 50 ini cukup ramah. Di kala ia tidak sedang sibuk membuat muridnya terpental, dia duduk di pojok untuk berbincang dengan kami. Landak diberi kesempatan untuk menangkis serangan shifu, namun selalu berakhir dengan kepalan tangan di depan hidungnya. Saya sempat berbincang tentang Guan Yu dan Huo Yuanjia dengannya sementara Endrico diminta mendorongnya sebelum dibuat terpental dalam sekali gebrak. 

Landak dan Endrico berlatih kungfu yang baru saja mereka lihat.

Anda mungkin perhatikan bahwa saya dua kali menggunakan istilah terpental. Memang itu yang saya saksikan. Murid-muridnya terpental dengan enteng karena jurus tai chi. Jadi semakin kuat anda menyerang, semakin gampang terpental pula anda. Seru rasanya melihat orang bule dibanting sana-sini, padahal bule ini berotot sampai-sampai urat pun terlihat di lengannya yang kekar. Tanpa sadar kami menghabiskan waktu beberapa jam di sana. 

Menyantap bubur kodok.

Kita baru beranjak pergi setelah kelas berakhir. Bubur kodok hanya dua stop jauhnya dari dojo, jadi makan malam pun dimulai lebih awal dari biasanya. Taty tiba saat bubur kodok disajikan. Karena kami berada di kawasan Geylang, masuk akal rasanya untuk mencicipi durian juga. Kecuali saya dan juga Taty yang sedang pantang durian, yang lain tampak menikmati. Andiyanto juga bergabung dan turut serta.

Berjalan ke Mustafa.

Malam itu diakhir dengan kunjungan ke Bugis Street. Akan tetapi pria seperti Alvin terlihat bingung saat tiba waktunya untuk membeli oleh-oleh, jadi kami lanjut ke Mustafa untuk membeli coklat. Pemandangan di sekitar Mustafa juga memberikan kesan seperti apa yang namanya Little India. 

Di Johor Bahru.

Pagi berikutnya dimulai dengan bis ke arah Woodlands. Kami menyeberang ke Malaysia dan makan pagi di Johor Bahru! Sesudah berjalan sejenak, kami naik Grab ke Aeon Bukit Indah untuk membeli Mamee dan kencing. Sesuai rencana, perjalanan pun dilanjutkan ke Sultan Abu Bakar Complex untuk pulang lewat Second Link. 

Akhirnya keluar dari Malaysia!

Bayangkan betapa kagetnya saya ketika tujuan yang saya pilih ternyata membawa kami ke sekolah, bukan ke imigrasi di perbatasan. Ternyata daftar tujuan di Grab tidak mencakup imigrasi! Untung saja supir Grab baik orangnya. Dia mengabaikan aplikasi Grab dan mengantarkan kami ke tempat tujuan. Atas kebaikannya, kita pun memberikan tips yang jauh melebihi harga Grab.

Menuju ke Tuas.

Perjalanan kembali ke Singapura tergolong mulus, namun Alvin sempat tertahan lama di imigrasi dan baru bisa keluar setelah mengisi kartu kedatangan secara online. Bis Causeway Link Bus lantas membawa kami ke Jurong East dan dari situ kami menuju ke tempat tujuan terakhir: Sentosa.

Sentosa. Akhirnya!

Dan mulailah ronde kedua bagi pemain kasino kita ini. Namun entah mengapa Landak pun memberikan wejangan yang sama: pasang Besar di meja dadu. Mengutip ucapan Alvin, jurus ini lagi-lagi memberikan hak kepada karyawan kasino untuk meraup uangnya secara legal, haha. Setelah kalah, Alvin menonton seorang anak muda yang bermain bakarat. Taruhannya yang berjumlah SGD 10 ribu per game membuat permainan terasa tegang dan menarik. 

Kepiting saus cabe yang ditraktir oleh Endrico!

Endrico lantas memberitahu bahwa dia mau traktir kepiting saos cabe. Setelah Alvin selesai memberikan saya satu sesi pijat, kita pun berangkat. Makan malam yang lezat dan berat itu dilanjutkan dengan ide Endrico untuk berjalan kaki sejenak. Dan kami berjalan sampai ke halte bis yang hanya ada bis ke rumah Endrico sehingga saya dan Alvin pun terlantar. Kalau saya harus jabarkan pengalaman ini dalam satu kalimat, maka saya hanya bisa katakan, "ini memang khas Endrico!" 

Makan malam itu pun menjadi penutup acara kunjungan tiga hari ke Singapura. Alvin pulang keesokan paginya. Nah, di awal cerita, saya sebutkan bahwa saya suka menjadi tuan rumah. Kenapa begitu? Sebenarnya apa untungnya buat saya? Ada tiga alasan yang membuat saya senantiasa termotivasi untuk menggelar acara ini. Yang pertama, hal ini selalu mengingatkan saya akan kunjungan pertama saya ke Kuching bersama Parno. Kala itu Jimmy Lim membawa kita berjalan kaki sepanjang hari untuk menjelajahi Kuching. Kedua, saya selalu suka menyusun rencana dan memperlihatkan keindahan Singapura dari sudut yang berbeda. Kali ini, meski tidak sepenuhnya berlangsung seperti rencana, kami masih tetap berhasil melihat Singapura dari timur ke barat. 

Yang ketiga dan yang paling berarti buat saya adalah harapan bahwa teman-teman, terutama yang pertama kali ke Singapura, mendapatkan pengalaman yang menginspirasi dan memotivasi mereka untuk bekerja keras dan bermimpi lebih jauh lagi. Yang paling penting itu semoga mereka memahami bahwa semua ini mungkin dicapai. Jika seseorang dari Indonesia bisa ke Singapura, maka sesungguhnya itu membuktikan banyak hal yang bisa dicapai bila anda mau merencanakannya dengan baik... 

Friday, August 5, 2022

Prau: The First Climb

There were four of us going for the Prau trip. We used as our guide. Gusti, AW and I were to meet Jimmy in Patak Banteng.

The departure, with Gusti and AW.

The trip started with wrong bus tickets booked by me. We were supposed to depart from the nearer terminal (Kalideres) but I ended up buying the further one. It was fortunate that we could make it on time. We had an overnight ride and we reached Mendolo terminal in Wonosobo around 5 AM. I never expected that the weather was cold (around 16 degrees Celsius)!

Jimmy had reached Patak Banteng earlier. We met around 7 AM. Put our stuff at's office. Since we had few hours before departure, we Grab-ed and visited the famous spots around the city: Telaga Pengilon and Kawah Sikidang.

Visiting Kawah Sikidang.

We gathered back at office and was briefed. After praying for the smooth trip, the journey began. It was around 11:50 AM. Prau height is 2590 meters above sea level. As it was a guided tour, we only brought certain essentials; backpack, trekking pole, jacket, gloves, headlamp, mattress, sleeping bag, raincoat, etc. The guides were responsible mainly for the tent and the food. Nevertheless, I believe each of us carried around 20-25 KG of weight. 

We had at least 6 breaks before reaching the top. AW looked exhausted during the first hour but managed to get himself back on his feet. Gusti was amazing. He had the most hiking experiences, so seasoned that he started the hike with a cigarette. He was talkative but never ran out of breath. Jimmy played it safe, slow and steady with his umbrella-cum-walking stick.

AW exhausted!

Along the way, we met fellow climbers that headed back and they said the day before was bad, as there was big thunderstorm and some didn't make it to the top. I guess we were lucky that our journey was smooth. There was one part when we thought it was going to be a downpour and we put on the raincoat, but it was just a brief drizzling.

During breaks, we played cards, took photos and chatted with the guides. Cards was fun, the winner was Gusti and Jimmy at the end. About the guides, they could move very fast and were able to carry stuff equal or more than their bodyweight. For photos, they were mostly taken using our phones though some were taken using my DSLR. Talking about phone, the signal was minimal and surprisingly, it felt good taking a break from the device. 

Taking a break.

We reached our base around 3:50 PM. It was a four-hour hike. Once we reached, the fatigue was gone. I had thought earlier that the mountain would be littered with trashes. but it was extremely clean. The tent was ready for us. We put down our stuff and started enjoying the weather and the view. The sky was still clear. We then set up mattresses outside the tent. We had biscuits, Indomie and Jimmy brought Soju, too. The Indomie tasted a lot better when eaten on the mountain. When the sky got darker, we put on some head lamp. It was totally dark at 6 PM and the wind was chilly. We had soto for dinner. After few rounds of cards game, we headed to the tent. It was around 9 PM and getting colder. Jimmy kept us warm by setting up fire powered by ethanol. By the way, there was no rest room, so you got to walk further from your tent to do your business.

The meal is served!

Now, the sleeping part was not easy. It was cold and the thin mattress definitely didn't help. I had backache and I probably  slept less than two hours that night.

It was 4:45 AM when we woke up and prepared for sunrise. The view was superb with a perfect silhouette. We walked from one camp site to another to hunt for a better view. The sky got brighter very fast. by then, we had taken hundreds of photos.

And when the morning came...

As the sun rose, the weather was more bearable. We  headed back to our camp, had our breakfast and packed for departure. We took a different route when we descended the mountain. It was a route less travelled as we did not see many climbers along the way. 

Heading down was faster and not as tiring as climbing up, but it was more challenging for me. Subconsciously, I was worried for my knees and still traumatised (I fell on my butt during the last trekking last year). I slipped three times, but no serious fall this time. The view on the way down was different. We passed through some potatoes farm and we also passed by a spring (the water was in a big bucket, flowing directly from the mountain). It was refreshing. 

We conquered Prau!

It took us around 2.5 hours to head back to the starting point and that was it. If you asked whether I would go for another hiking trip, the answer is yes, but definitely with thicker mattress! 

Our tips for the 1st timers: hiking might or might not be your stuff, so test it by joining the tour. Google the destination, know your stamina and prepare for it. And by joining the tour, you don't need to buy all the things required. Most of them can be rented; gloves, trekking pole, jacket, mattress, headlamp, torch, sleeping bag. You should buy comfortable shoes, though. Get some friends to go with you, it helps a lot. Take your time, you are not racing. Relax and and enjoy the trip!