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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Culinary Tour

The other day, a friend posted pictures of fritters called cireng and right after that, another friend asking if it tasted any good. I was amused by the fact that she had never tried it before, then I realised that I, too, first ate it only after I knew my wife. Further conversation they had only revealed that a food so common in West Java (including Tasikmalaya, my wife's hometown) was actually unheard of in Pontianak, at least during our formative years.

In order to explain this anomaly, let's look at the popular misconception about Indonesia. Based on my past encounters, I noticed that some foreigners seemed to have this idea that if an Indonesian wasn't a Chinese, then the person had to be a Malay. It never occurred to them that Indonesia would be so different than Malaysia! Unlike our neighbour, Indonesia is an archipelago inhabited by more than 300 ethnic groups!

Having lunch at the traditional eatery in West Java. 

In Java alone, there are Betawi people, Sudanese, Javanese, Madurese and who knows what else. Each one of them has their own cooking style. Some cook spicy food, some like it sweet. Some are known for their fried chicken or duck, others serve the best soup and stew in the world! You might have heard Indonesians using the phrase culinary tour. The truth is, they weren't just kidding about it. We are spoiled rotten by too many choices!

Now, it'll be impossible to cover all the cuisines from every nook and cranny of the archipelago, but I had tried some from as far as Medan in the west to Manado in the east. Admittedly, certain cuisines are memorable for a wrong reason. Manado food, served with a type of condiment called dabu-dabu, was so hot that I sweat like a leaky faucet. I also didn't even bother to try the notoriously spicy Mie Aceh. However, some are so mouth-watering that you'll feel hungry just by thought of it. Nasi Padang is, of course, the world-famous food from Indonesia, but we had talked about it before, so we'll skip it this round. Here's a list of personal favorites!

At Lapo, having soup, saksang, panggang anda a bottle of Badak. 

We shall begin with another myth buster. You see, Indonesia may have the biggest Muslims population in the world, but not all the ethnic groups are practicing Islam, therefore pork is included in their diet. As a case in point, Balinese is Hindu and their most iconic dish is babi guling or grilled suckling pig. That's one fine example, alright, but the one I want to talk about is the lesser-known Batak cuisines.

The Batak eateries are called Lapo. The one that I frequented when I was living in Jakarta was Lapo Ni Tondongta. The pork specialties were saksang (pork cooked with spices and its own blood) and panggang (Batak style roasted pork). The soup was also rich and tasty. Papaya leaves was a must, too. It was bitter, but perfect for the meal. All these, eaten together with the green chili sauce (it came with two types, the rough and the refined ones), made me believe that heaven was a place on earth. How I miss eating this again!

A bowl of yammie in Pontianak. 

Then of course noodles are a big deal in Indonesia cuisines, too. Noodles come with many names, such as yammie in Pontianak, yamien in Tasik or bakmie in Palembang (you'll hear the name Palembang quite often from here onwards). They are all prepared in a similar way: boiled and then stirred with the mixture of condiments such as salt, soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar and MSG. There are variants, too, for instance, mie celor that came from Palembang. It is served in coconut milk and shrimp-based broth. Quite delicious. Oftentimes, you'll also find the cousins of noodles, namely kway teow, mee pok and locupan (translated as rat noodles due to its shape), being sold at the same stall.

I like noodles, but if I had only one chance and I got to choose, I'd go for kwetiau bun sapi. This beef kway teow had the moist quality that made it special. For your information, the stir-fried beef kway teow had three versions. The original is dry, bun version is slightly wet, then kwetiau siram has a thick sauce poured on top of it. The regular stir-fried is for beginners and the siram version is so gooey that some may not like it, but the bun one, not only it mixes well with the egg, it is so soft that it is very inviting.

A plate of kwetiau bun sapi

Next to be mentioned is the fried chicken and duck. I had this unfounded theory that Burger King didn't do well in Indonesia because it didn't sell fried chicken. On the other hand, McDonald's survived the competition against KFC because it had paket panas that came with fried chicken. This goes to show how much Indonesians love fried chicken (and duck, to certain extent, but people certainly care less about burgers). We have a lot of household names such as Ayam Goreng Suharti, Ayam Goreng Mbok Berek, Bebek Kaleyo, Bebek Sinjay, etc. Even ayam penyet (smashed chicken) from East Java is very popular in Singapore.

All these are good stuff, but my preference is still something from my hometown: Nasi Uduk Borobudur. Nasi uduk is rice cooked with coconut milk. Very tasty, but what makes it even more special is the crispy flour that comes with it (if my memory didn't fail me, Nasi Uduk Borobudur was the first that featured this back in the late 80s). The fried chicken thigh is fantastic, best eaten using hands. The meat is easily peeled off from the bone and before you eat it, dip it to the belacan sauce first. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

Fried chicken from Nasi Uduk Borobudur. 

For those of you who like soups, I wasn't exaggerating when I said Indonesia has the best soup and stew. No, it's nothing like the elegant looking mushroom soup or clam chowder you see at the western restaurants. What we have, ranging from goat meat soup, various soto to beef rawon, are less fancy, but boy, what I wouldn't give for a bowl of oxtail soup right now! The one at Hotel Borobudur was legendary! As for soto, there are plenty, be it the plain ones or the ones with coconut milk. There are beef, chicken and even intestines soto. Some are served with rice, some have the rice in it! You can eat it with krupuk (deep fried crackers), but I think soto tastes better with emping (chips made of melinjo).

I like rawon, the black colored beef stew, simply because it's easy to find here in Singapore. As it was originally from East Java, some of the ayam penyet stalls at Lucky Plaza have rawon on their menu, too. It's good and the salted egg that comes as a side dish only makes it better. What I like best, however, is actually tongseng kambing, goat meat stew in curry-like soup. It's a bit too hot for me, but it tastes so good that the show must go on! Just like most of Indonesian cuisines, pouring the sweet soy sauce into the soup will make tongseng even more irresistible!

Goat meat tongseng.

By the way, you might have noticed that Indonesians often had rice to go along with anything else during meal time. Yes, there's this lingering feeling that we haven't eaten anything if we haven't eaten a plate of rice! Yet there are cuisines that don't come with it. I would consider this as snack time! There are plenty of food that fall into this category, starting with bakso (meatballs in plain soup), batagor (fried meatballs and tofu served in peanut sauce), siomay Bandung (steamed fish dumplings, bitter gourd, cabagges, potatoes and eggs, also served in peanut sauce), tekwan and pempek (both were fish-based delicacies from Palembang), etc. Some, like lontong sayur (another personal favorite) or satay, have compressed rice cake hidden underneath.

Worth mentioning among these snack-time meals is gado-gado. This Indonesian salad in peanut sauce (yes, peanut sauce rules!) comes with many aliases and slight differences in its ingredients. It's known as lotek, pecel, ketoprak and the one with raw veggies is called karedok. I was once specialised in eating ketoprak because at IDR 3K, it was the cheapest meal I could buy when I was staying in Jakarta, haha. Joke aside, I really like it because it has all the right ingredients for me (beansprouts, lontong, rice vermicelli, cucumber and fried tofu). In fact, I first knew it when I was in Pontianak, long before I moved to Jakarta. Good stuff, but hard to find here, so I had to make do with gado-gado.

There you go, the very high level of Indonesian cuisines. You have to bear in mind Indonesia has more stuff that I myself haven't even tried. If you are keen but not sure where to go, then your safest bet is Jakarta. You may not have much to see down there, but when it comes to food, Jakarta is the melting pot! You want it, you have it. So why are we still here? Let's a plan a culinary tour!

Gado-gado (and batagor at the back). 

Wisata Kuliner

Beberapa hari yang lalu, seorang teman mengunggah foto cireng dan seorang teman yang lain pun bertanya, apakah gorengan ini enak rasanya. Saya tertegun karena dia belum pernah mencoba cireng sebelumnya, namun lekas saya sadari pula bahwa saya pun baru mencicipinya setelah berkunjung ke rumah mertua saya. Percakapan antara dua teman ini akhirnya mengingatkan saya kembali bahwa makanan yang begitu lumrah di Jawa Barat (yang mencakup Tasikmalaya, kampung halaman istri saya) ternyata tidak pernah terdengar di Pontianak, minimal saat saya masih tinggal di sana. 

Untuk menjelaskan anomali ini, mari kita lihat dulu kesalahpahaman tentang Indonesia yang tampaknya cukup populer di mata orang asing. Saya perhatikan bahwa seringkali orang luar memiliki pendapat kalau orang Indonesia yang bukan Tionghoa pastilah orang Melayu. Tak pernah terlintas di benak mereka bahwa Indonesia berbeda dengan Malaysia. Tidak seperti halnya negeri tetangga kita, perlu diketahui bahwa bumi nusantara ini dihuni oleh lebih dari 300 suku!

Makan siang di Ayam Penyet Ria bersama teman-teman Singapura. 

Bahkan di Pulau Jawa sendiri pun ada orang Betawi, Sunda, Jawa, Madura dan masih banyak lagi. Setiap suku ini memiliki budaya dan resep masakan tersendiri. Ada yang pakar masakan pedas, ada pula yang sukanya manis-manis. Ada lagi yang jagonya ayam dan bebek goreng, ada juga yang menyajikan sup dan soto terenak di dunia. Kalau anda tinggal di Jakarta, anda mungkin pernah mendengar istilah wisata kuliner. Ini bukan sekedar lelucon, tetapi kebenaran yang hakiki! Bangsa Indonesia sungguh dimanjakan dengan beraneka ragam makanan yang lezat! 

Adalah tidak mungkin bagi kita untuk membahas masakan dari seluruh penjuru nusantara, tapi setidaknya saya sudah pernah mencoba masakan mulai dari Medan di belahan barat sampai Manado di sisi timur Indonesia. Perlu saya akui bahwa beberapa jenis masakan itu menjadi kenangan tersendiri karena pengalaman yang kurang baik, misalnya masakan Manado yang baru saya sebutkan tadi. Dulu saya tertarik untuk mencoba karena nama sambalnya yang lucu: dabu-dabu. Siapa sangka pedasnya sungguh luar biasa dan membuat jera? Kendati begitu, masakan yang membuat saya lapar hanya karena teringat dengan kesedapannya pun tak kalah banyaknya. Nasi Padang yang boleh dikatakan sebagai makanan paling terkenal dari Indonesia sudah tidak diragukan lagi kenikmatannya, namun karena sudah pernah kita kupas habis, kita tidak akan membahasnya lagi di sini. Kita akan lihat yang lain dan apa anda akan simak berikut ini adalah menu favorit saya!

Nasi Padang di mal Nagoya Hill, Batam. 

Mari mulai dengan klarifikasi terhadap mitos lainnya. Indonesia mungkin saja negara dengan populasi muslim terbesar di dunia, tapi Indonesia bukanlah negara muslim, tapi negara dengan dasar negara Pancasila. Masih banyak suku lain yang tidak menganut agama Islam dan mahir dalam mengolah daging babi. Sebagai contoh, orang Bali beragama Hindu dan masakannya yang terkenal adalah babi guling. Contoh lainnya, yang menjadi kesukaan saya, adalah masakan Batak.

Rumah makan Batak disebut Lapo. Sewaktu saya tinggal di Jakarta, saya sering makan di Lapo Ni Tondongta. Menu daging babi yang khas dari masakan Batak adalah saksang (babi yang dimasak dengan rempah dan darah babi) dan juga babi panggang Batak. Supnya pun gurih dan nikmat. Daun pepaya juga wajib dipesan. Pahit rasanya, tapi cocok dimakan bersama yang lain. Tidak ketinggalan pula cabe hijaunya, baik yang kasar maupun yang halus. Begitu lezatnya masakan Batak ini sampai membuat saya percaya bahwa sungguh surga ada di dunia!

Bakmie Aloi khas Palembang. 

Selain itu, yang namanya mie juga populer di dalam kuliner Indonesia. Namanya banyak dan mirip-mirip pula, misalnya yammie di Pontianak, yamien di Tasik dan bakmie di Palembang. Cara penyajiannya kurang-lebih sama: direbus dan kemudian dikocok bersama bumbunya yang terdiri dari garam, kecap asin, kecap ikan, cuka dan penyedap rasa. Beberapa daerah memiliki mie yang khas, misalnya mie celor asal Palembang yang dihidangkan dalam kuah santan dan kaldu udang. Saya sering memesan mie celor sewaktu bekerja di Kalbe dulu, jadi rasanya sudah teruji dan dijamin enak. Terkadang anda juga akan menemukan kwetiau, mipok dan locupan (mie tikus) dijual di toko bakmie yang sama. 

Saya suka mie, tapi jika saya hanya memiliki satu kesempatan dan harus memilih, biasanya saya cenderung memilih kwetiau bun sapi. Jenis yang satu ini basah-basah empuk. Sebagai informasi, kwetiau goreng sapi itu ada tiga macam. Yang pertama adalah goreng biasa, lalu ada bun yang agak basah, kemudian ada lagi kwetiau siram yang pada intinya adalah kwetiau yang disiram dengan kuah kental. Kwetiau goreng sapi adalah pilihan paling aman untuk pemula dan kwetiau siram mungkin terlalu ekstrim bagi beberapa orang karena kuahnya yang lengket. Menurut saya pribadi, kwetiau bun sapi adalah yang paling pas bercampur dengan telur. Lembut dan mengundang!

Paket Panas McDonald's. 

Yang perlu dibahas berikutnya adalah ayam dan bebek goreng. Saya memiliki teori yang mungkin saja keliru tentang kenapa Burger King dulu kalah bersaing sementara McDonald's yang menjual Paket Panas bisa beradu dengan KFC. Terlepas dari benar atau tidaknya teori ini, saya harap anda jadi mengerti betapa cintanya orang Indonesia terhadap ayam goreng (dan juga bebek goreng, namun tidak banyak yang peduli dengan burger). Nama-nama besar yang sering kita dengar adalah Ayam Goreng Suharti, Ayam Goreng Mbok Berek, Bebek Kaleyo, Bebek Sinjay dan lain-lain. Bahkan ayam penyet dari Jawa Timur pun sangat terkenal di Singapura. 

Semua yang baru saja saya sebutkan tentu tidak diragukan lagi kenikmatannya, tapi saya lebih menyukai menu yang berasal dari kampung halaman saya: Nasi Uduk Borobudur. Nasi uduknya mantap, namun yang lebih istimewa lagi adalah tepung gorengnya yang garing (seingat saya, tepung goreng ini pertama kali diperkenalkan oleh Nasi Uduk Borobudur di akhir tahun 80an). Ayam gorengnya dashyat, paling pas dimakan dengan tangan dan dicelupkan ke sambal belacan dulu sebelum disantap.

Sup buntut Hotel Borobudur. 

Bagi mereka yang menyukai sup, saya tidak sedang melebih-lebihkan ketika berkata bahwa sup Indonesia adalah yang terlezat di dunia. Tampilannya boleh saja tidak elegan seperti sup jamur atau sup kerang di restoran masakan bule, tapi nikmatnya sup buntut, soto dan rawon bisa menggugah panca indra. Sup buntut Hotel Borobudur sudah terkenal dari sejak dulu kala. Akan halnya soto, ada yang bening dan ada pula yang bersantan. Dagingnya bisa dari ayam, sapi bahkan jerohan. Ada yang disajikan terpisah dengan nasi, ada pula yang sudah langsung beserta nasi di dalam mangkok soto. Kadang disantap bersama kerupuk atau bisa juga dengan emping melinjo. 

Saya menyukai rawon sapi karena bisa ditemukan di Singapura. Rawon berasal dari Jawa Timur, jadi kedai yang menjual ayam penyet biasanya juga memiliki rawon di menunya. Rasanya sedap dan telur asin yang menjadi pelengkap membuat rawon kian mantap. Yang benar-benar saya gemari sebenarnya adalah tongseng kambing. Daging kambing yang disajikan dalam sejenis kuah kari ini terasa agak pedas bagi saya, tapi tetap saya santap karena terlalu menggiurkan. Sama seperti masakan Indonesia lainnya, tambahkan kecap manis untuk menambah selera!

Pempek kapal selam. 

Oh ya, anda mungkin memperhatikan bahwa rata-rata orang Indonesia jarang makan tanpa nasi. Bagi saya sendiri, sepertinya ada yang kurang kalau belum makan nasi. Meskipun demikian, ada juga masakan yang dihidangkan tanpa nasi. Makanan seperti ini saya kategorikan sebagai jajanan. Ada banyak yang masuk dalam kelompok ini, misalnya bakso, batagor, siomay Bandung, tekwan, pempek dan lain sebagainya. Beberapa di antaranya, seperti lontong sayur (yang juga makanan favorit saya) dan sate, menyertakan nasi dalam bentuk ketupat atau lontong. 

Yang juga layak disebutkan dari begitu banyak jajanan adalah gado-gado. Selada Indonesia yang disiram dengan bumbu kacang ini memiliki banyak alias yang disertai sedikit perbedaan dalam bahan-bahan makanannya. Ada yang disebut lotek, pecel, ketoprak dan mentah bahannya itu namanya karedok. Saya sendiri adalah pecandu ketoprak karena dengan harga 3.000 rupiah, ketoprak adalah makanan paling murah yang bisa saya beli saat tinggal di Jakarta, haha. Selain harga, alasan yang lain adalah karena ketoprak memang enak dan cocok untuk saya (bahannya adalah kecambah, lontong, bihun, timun dan tahu goreng). Saya sudah membeli ketoprak dari sejak di Pontianak karena dijual di samping jalan menuju sekolah Petrus. Namun ketoprak susah ditemukan di sini, jadi saya harus berpuas diri dengan gado-gado. 

Jadi demikianlah garis besar tentang masakan Indonesia. Banyak yang masih belum pernah saya coba. Jika anda berminat tapi tidak tahu mesti ke mana, Jakarta adalah pilihan yang bijak. Walau tidak banyak tempat wisata di Jakarta, kalau soal makanan, Jakarta adalah pusatnya karena banyak orang dari seluruh nusantara yang mengadu nasib di ibukota. Apa yang anda mau pasti bisa dijumpai di sana. Kalau begitu, tunggu apa lagi? Mari kita berwisata kuliner!

Lontong sayur. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Appreciate What You Have

Greeting from Ah Bong or Parno Bong again. After a long while, finally I got myself to write a blog.  Well, life as Parno Bong is not the same with other kids in my younger years. When I was young, I had a neighbourhood friend named Teddy Ponti Sari. As for why he was called Ponti Sari, it's because his father was the owner of a department store called Ponti Sari. It's already closed for good due to certain factors that I don't know, but I do know his father was really angry with me when we were playing inside his big house.

I was kind of tired after playing and I tried to relax by leaning with my dirty feet on the wall. Suddenly he was mad at me because the wall was dirty. I was shocked by the warning, hahaha.

Then when I was in secondary school, I met many friends. Played with a lot with them and didn't care about the future while other were already thinking of saving money bit by bit. But me, I was enjoying the time of my life, playing, going to gaming arcade, read comics everyday until I got my diploma. I was poor, but I enjoyed it because I made a lasting friendship for my whole life for sure.

You know, for some other kids around my age, they have to know how to earn money. For me, it's a different thing. I did nothing. Just played the role of a son that went to school, studied hard and enrolled to favorite college. That was my parents' dream, but I failed to make it happen. It was awful. Bad behaviour. 

Then both my father and mother suddenly opened shops to make a living. As the eldest son, I directly helped both of them to do business. My Mum sold salted fish while my father sold second-hand stuff. I barely adjusted myself in this kind of life, especially after so much leisure time I had, but after some time I got used to it. In the morning, I helped my Mum to open the shop and worked as the shopkeeper. I also worked as a driver sending goods from my father shop. I remember the time when I went to school. A girl told me, "you really smell like salted fish." Hahaha, upon hearing that, I was silent and blushing.

And I carried on doing the job, because this was how we could be staying alive, hahaha. Then until the end of high school I studied hard to pass the final exams. Some of my friends had to work and study in college at the same time. I was influenced by them, so I went to college, too. Frankly speaking, I shouldn't have studied in college if I knew my parents wouldn't come to my graduation, haha. Only a friend that I knew came, hahaha. 

My mindset at time was just to finish college and I did it. I wrote my paper at my Mum's salted fish shop. I bought a typewriter to do the paper and the shop owner came to me, asking if I wanted to open an office here. Well, that was embarrassing. 

I am 40  years old this year, married with two children now. I'm happy and I never regret what I'd done after all these years, even though I'm just an old school guy. I once wanted a decent work, lived my life to the fullest, got married, bought a house, excelled in what I'm passionate at, some thing that made me proud to be who I am, you know. But, huff, it was not an easy task. Things never turned out that way for me, Parno Bong, while others just could just work towards their dreams until they reached them. 

Yeah, let's face it. When I was in my elementary, secondary and high schools, I've experienced an enourmous adventure. The friends that I went through this life with, we had a great time. However, I might have playing too much and was not focus on my education. Could have saved more money, too...

Monday, May 13, 2019


The good thing with chat group is, you'll always see some innocent remarks that get you thinking. Recently, we had a friend who stood for election as a legislative candidate and after an apparent loss, he boasted that he would sell two of his store houses to fund his protest movement. Upon reading this, another friend made a comment about how rich the sore loser was while he himself never had IDR 20 million even at the age of 40.

Now, before I proceed further, let's be open-minded. It's a sensitive subject and I'm not doing any comparison here. I merely found that I could relate with the rather sad remark made by a friend of mine and it reminded me that I had a story of a similar tone, too. I remember telling my wife I was always amazed by the fact that the empty house we bought is filled up with many things today. I guess it happened gradually, just like how my life is as I grow older.

I was poor, not to mention underweight, when a teenager was supposed to be the coolest at the age 17 or 18. I was embarrassed to ride my bike when I entered college, because everyone else was riding a motorbike or driving a car. When I had to do that, I remember clearly that I'd be the earliest one to reach the campus and when the class ended, I'd wait until other students went home, then I'd quietly push my bike out from the parking lot. It was not easy to be so poor at such a young age, because you'd be worried about what other people would say.

The only saving grace was those people I called friends. They loved me the way I was, not due to what I had because frankly speaking, I had nothing. Looking back, the genuine friendship I had made me a decent and happy human being in the material world. Yes, I was embarrassed at times of what I didn't have, but at the same time, I wasn't jealous of what my friends had, too. I had no idea how the feelings so contrast could co-exist, but somehow, someway I managed.

When I graduated from college and started working at Kalbe Farma, I had a slightly older colleague who sat literally next to me. Both of us had a dream that we'd be rich one day, but our approach towards the same goal couldn't be more different. He was the type of person with a financial plan whereas I, on the other hand, had only a vague idea and little interest on how to achieve that. At that time, I only cared about writing and having a good laugh!

As we were quite close then, he always reminded me that I should have had a fixed deposit as the interest was much higher than a savings account. That was very nice of him, but as much as I tried to listen, I simply couldn't bring myself to do what he suggested. Needless to say, I also never saw IDR 20 million during my time in Jakarta. I started with IDR 1.5 million in late 2002 and my last drawn salary was IDR 2.8 million in early 2006, but till the day I left Jakarta, the amount of money in my savings account was never higher than IDR six million.

If not for the royalties I earned from two books that I published in 2005, I wouldn't be able to save up USD 1,400 that I'd eventually use to start anew in Singapore. Moving to Singapore turned out to be a life-changing decision and my fortune got better since then. However, in all truthfulness, I don't think I was ever getting more sophisticated. Yes, the vastly improved financial situation had very much to do with the right timing I was at, the right people I met, the hard work I did, but it was also due to the fact that I took the shortcut by working in the country with a currency that is so much stronger than IDR. Those people that earned rupiah and travelled abroad with their family, let's say for a holiday in Japan, they are the real heroes out there!

But that's beside the point, though. If my personal experience so far ever taught me anything, then it had to be these three following points. The first and most obvious lesson was something that we already knew: it's good to have money. Yes, having money is good because it enables us to do many things. Let's face it, without money, you can kiss your dreams goodbye.

Secondly, while money can do wonders, it is not exactly the source of happiness. Based on what I went through, I learnt that happiness comes from within. In a simplest example, my lifestyle might have changed along the way (and for the better, I hope), but the sense of humour that defines who I am, it comes from my heart. If you slow down and give it a thought, you don't just buy all this from a shop just because you are richer these days. It's not for sale, anyway. Another thing also worth mentioning is, good friends don't just appear because of money. As illogical as it sounds, they are actually there for you when you're down and out.

Lastly, the importance of the love we invest in what we're doing. It does make a difference! If I looked at what I had done for the past twenty years, the moral of the story is, when you are passionate about something good, people tend to notice and changes do happen. Sometimes the result comes with monetary gain and other nice surprises, so be passionate and don't stop believing. At the very least, you are doing things that you like and you can sleep peacefully at night. 

Back to that remark of IDR 20 million, it was a wake up call that some people were apparently not so fortunate. In all honesty, just like how puzzled I was when I looked at our house now, I also don't really know how I got this far as I seemingly did the same thing that many of us did. However, throughout the journey, I learnt that being rich is relative. The question now is: am I now the rich man that the younger me used to dream about? No, the truth is I never have much, but thank God I always have enough...

"Money is a great servant but a bad master."
~Francis Bacon~


Satu hal yang menarik dari chat group WhatsApp adalah munculnya komentar polos yang membuat kita tergelitik untuk berpikir. Baru-baru ini, ada seorang teman yang menjadi caleg. Begitu ada indikasi gagal dalam perolehan suara yang cukup, teman yang satu ini berkata bahwa dia akan menjual dua rukonya untuk menggalang dukungan massa. Setelah membaca sesumbar ini, seorang teman lain berkomentar tentang betapa kayanya si caleg sementara dia sendiri bahkan tidak memiliki 20 juta rupiah meskipun sudah berumur 40 tahun. 

Oh ya, sebelum saya bercerita lebih lanjut, saya meminta pembaca untuk berpikiran terbuka. Uang adalah topik yang sensitif dan saya tidak bermaksud membuat perbandingan apa pun. Saya hanya merasa bahwa topik ini mengingatkan saya tentang cerita serupa yang pernah saya alami. Beberapa waktu yang lalu, saya juga berujar pada istri saya bahwa saya sangat takjub dengan keberadaan barang-barang yang memenuhi rumah yang dulunya kosong. Mungkin semua ini terjadi secara perlahan, sedikit demi sedikit, seperti halnya hidup saya seiring dengan bertambahnya umur. 

Saya miskin dan kurus pula di saat seorang remaja seharusnya gagah dan memikat di usia ke-17. Memasuki jenjang kuliah, saya sangat malu bersepeda, sebab semua orang memiliki motor atau mobil. Kalau saya harus mengengkol sepeda ke kampus, biasanya saya akan berangkat lebih awal dan pulang paling akhir. Saya akan menunggu sampai semua bubar, barulah saya mendorong sepeda saya keluar dari tempat parkir. Tidak mudah menjadi orang susah di usia tersebut, sebab saya khawatir tentang apa yang akan orang lain katakan tentang saya. 

Satu-satunya hal yang menjadi pelipur lara adalah mereka yang menjadi teman-teman saya. Mereka menjadi karib bukan karena apa yang saya miliki, tetapi karena mereka menerima saya apa adanya. Jika saya lihat kembali, persahabatan yang tulus inilah yang membuat saya menjadi pribadi yang gembira dan sederhana. Ya, ada kalanya saya rendah diri karena saya tidak memiliki apa-apa, namun di saat yang sama, saya tidak iri dengan apa yang mereka miliki. Saya tidak tahu bagaimana caranya dua perasaan yang begitu kontras ini bisa muncul berdampingan, tapi syukurlah saya bisa melewati masa-masa ini dengan baik. 

Ketika saya lulus kuliah dan bekerja di Kalbe Farma, di sebelah kanan saya duduk seorang kolega yang berumur dua tahun lebih tua. Kita berdua memiliki impian bahwa suatu hari kelak kita akan sukses, tapi cara kita mencapai impian itu sungguh bertolak belakang. Rekan kerja saya ini adalah orang yang memiliki rencana finansial yang matang, sedangkan saya tak jelas arahnya dan tidak pula berpikir jauh. Pada saat itu, saya hanya suka menulis dan juga hal-hal yang lucu.

Saya dan kolega yang duduk di sebelah kanan saya di Kalbe Farma. 

Berhubung kita berteman cukup dekat, dia selalu menasehati saya untuk menyimpan uang dalam bentuk deposito karena bunganya lebih tinggi dari tabungan biasa. Saya menghargai kebaikannya dan saya pun coba mendengar, tapi saya tidak pernah berhasil menjalankan sarannya. Alhasil, sepanjang karir saya di Jakarta, saya tidak pernah memiliki uang 20 juta rupiah. Saya mulai dengan gaji 1,5 juta dan ketika saya berhenti, gaji saya adalah 2,8 juta, namun dari awal hingga hari terakhir saya di Jakarta, nominal tabungan saya tidak pernah lebih tinggi dari enam juta rupiah. 

Jika bukan karena royalti dari dua buku yang saya terbitkan di tahun 2005, saya tidak akan bisa menabung sebanyak USD 1.400. Tabungan inilah yang saya pergunakan saat saya memulai lagi dari awal di Singapura. Langkah saya untuk pindah ke Singapura akhirnya terbukti tepat dan sisi finansial saya pun membaik sejak saat itu. Peningkatan yang signifikan terjadi karena saya datang pada saat yang tepat, bertemu dengan orang yang tepat dan saya juga bekerja sebaik mungkin. Di sisi lain, perlu saya akui juga bahwa saya sebenarnya mengambil jalan pintas dengan pindah ke negara yang mata uangnya jauh lebih kuat dari rupiah. Secara singkat, itulah yang saya lalui. Kalau mau bicara soal kehebatan, saya cenderung lebih mengagumi mereka yang mencari nafkah dalam rupiah dan mampu berlibur bersama keluarga ke luar negeri, misalnya ke Jepang. Di mata saya, mereka adalah pahlawan sesungguhnya! 

Itu sedikit selingan dan pendapat dari saya. Kembali ke cerita, jika pengalaman pribadi saya mengajarkan sesuatu pada saya, maka itu adalah tiga hal berikut ini. Yang pertama dan paling jelas bagi semua orang adalah: mempunyai uang itu sesuatu yang bagus. Ya, uang memungkinkan kita untuk mengerjakan banyak hal. Kalau tidak ada uang, tentunya tidak gampang untuk mewujudkan apa yang kita inginkan.

Hal kedua adalah, meski uang bisa melakukan banyak hal, uang bukanlah sumber kebahagiaan. Berdasarkan apa yang saya lalui, kebahagiaan itu datang dari dalam hati. Contoh yang sederhana adalah, meski gaya hidup saya berubah (menjadi semakin baik, saya harap) karena adanya uang, selera humor yang membuat saya gampang tertawa sudah tertanam dari sejak dulu. Hal-hal seperti ini tidak bisa kita beli toko hanya karena kita memiliki lebih banyak uang dibandingkan dulu. Hal lain yang layak untuk disebutkan adalah, teman-teman baik datang bukan karena uang. Kendati kedengarannya tidak logis, teman-teman yang tulus ini tetap hadir di saat anda susah. Mencengangkan, bukan?

Terakhir, jangan pernah anggap remeh ketulusan dalam bekerja. Hal ini sungguh bisa membuat perbedaan. Bila saya melihat kembali apa yang saya kerjakan selama 20 tahun terakhir, moral dari cerita saya adalah, ketika anda mengerjakan sesuatu dengan baik karena anda menyukai pekerjaan tersebut, orang lain mungkin akan memperhatikan secara diam-diam dan perubahan pun terjadi. Terkadang hasilnya datang dalam bentuk uang atau bahkan kejutan lainnya. Jadi janganlah perhitungan dalam bekerja dan jangan pernah berhenti percaya bahwa anda sedang membuat perubahan. Dengan demikian, setidaknya anda menikmati pekerjaan anda dan tidur pun terasa tenang karena anda sudah memberikan yang terbaik. 

Kembali ke komentar teman saya tentang nominal 20 juta di atas, itu adalah sesuatu yang mengingatkan saya kembali bahwa tidak semua orang sama peruntungannya. Seperti halnya ketika saya merasa bingung dengan rumah yang kian lama kian dipenuhi barang, dengan jujur saya katakan bahwa saya tidak tahu persis bagaimana saya mencapai hari ini, sebab saya sepertinya melakukan hal-hal yang juga bisa dilakukan oleh orang lain. Akan tetapi, dari proses yang saya lalui, saya belajar bahwa kekayaan adalah sesuatu yang relatif. Pertanyaannya adalah: apakah saya kaya dan sukses sekarang, seperti apa yang saya impikan dulu sewaktu mulai berkarir di Jakarta? Tidak, saya tidak kaya, tapi saya bersyukur pada Tuhan bahwa saya berkecukupan... 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Short Getaway

For once I'd like to start my story with a disclaimer: what you are going to read is likely to be biased, mostly due to the fact that I'm an Indonesian, haha. So here's the thing: when you have lived in Singapore for a while, sooner or later you'll realise that when you get bored, you actually have two destinations that you can go to for a day trip. Yeah, it's either Johor Bahru or Batam. The question now is, which one is a better choice?

First of all, let's see how to travel to each destination. Johor Bahru is reachable by land transportation, so you can either take a private car, the public buses or a 5-minute train. My personal recommendation is the train from Woodlands. The immigration is much shorter. The other two options have horrible queues, especially during public holidays. When it comes to Batam, you have to take a ferry. The journey is roughly one hour and it can be unpleasant when the sea gets rough! Cost-wise, the return tickets to Batam is around SGD 50 per person. The public buses and train to Johor Bahru will only cost you less than SGD 10.

That trip to Johor I had with church friends many years ago.
Photo by Andri Yau.

Up until here, it seems like Johor Bahru is a more attractive destination, eh? Well, yes and no. It'll be fun if you are a first-time visitor, when everything is a new experience to you. The entry point via Woodlands, which is often used by those who don't drive, brings you directly to JB Sentral, an integrated transport hub, and City Square shopping centre. As someone who came from a small town called Pontianak, I'd say that part of Johor Bahru made a good first impression. You can spend half a day here for your first taste of West Malaysia. The other entry point is officially known as Tuas Second Link. If you are driving to Legoland or taking a coach to Malacca or Kuala Lumpur, then I reckon you'll pass by this route. Not much to see here, so it'll be less memorable.

Now, based on the description above, you either shop, eat or go to the amusement park when you do a day trip to Johor. Given the choice, I won't do the latter one. When it comes to shopping, I don't mind to tag along, but I'm not exactly a big fan, too. Having said that, the one thing left to do is eating. The food there isn't bad, but if I have to go through a long queue at the immigration just for that, I don't think it's worth the effort. Furthermore, the moment I step out from Singapore border and set foot in Malaysia, there is this lingering feeling that the place is not really safe, haha.

Yani, Linda and Leny at Sanrio Hello Kitty Town.

Batam, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of Johor. To me, going to Batam was like homecoming. The excitement was clearly in the air. Chaotic though it was, it felt great to be home again. My country, Indonesia the beautiful. Oftentimes, if I arrived at Batam Centre, I would go to Pempek Kolekta at Mega Mall and began my day there with my favorite food, lontong. After that I might go to Nagoya Hill Mall (or BCS Mall if I need to visit Gramedia book store). I could spend some time watching a movie with Indonesian subtitles, enjoy a cup of kopi susu (unfiltered black coffee with sweetened condensed milk) at the local café or buy Indomie, sweet soy sauce and other goods at the hypermarket. Then before I returned to Singapore, I'd normally go for a plate of nasi Padang. Oh, the mouth-watering kikil (tendon), green chili, daun singkong (cassava leaves) and paru (fried lung). Life was so good indeed! Last but not least, when time permitted, buying a box of Sari Eco's martabak manis sold in front of Nagoya Hill complex would make me a hero for my wife!

So there you go, I think it's pretty obvious that Batam is a better destination for the short getaway. Look, I spent more words describing Johor Bahru and only one paragraph was dedicated to Batam. You can't say that I'm not fair, but you'll have to pardon me if all the love and joy in writing were reserved only for Batam! It's skewed, alright, but check the disclaimer above. You can't sue me, haha!

Lontong. A must for you to try!

Liburan Singkat Satu Hari

Untuk sekali ini, saya ingin memulai cerita dengan sebuah pemberitahuan: apa yang akan anda baca berikut ini pastilah terasa bias karena saya adalah orang Indonesia, haha. Jadi ceritanya begini: kalau anda sudah tinggal di Singapura untuk beberapa saat lamanya, lambat-laun anda akan menyadari bahwa di kala bosan, anda sebenarnya memiliki dua tujuan untuk berlibur singkat satu hari: Johor atau Batam. Pertanyaannya adalah, pilihan mana yang lebih menarik?

Pertama-tama, mari lihat beberapa sarana transportasi untuk mengunjungi masing-masing tempat yang sudah disebutkan tadi. Johor Bahru terhubung oleh jalan darat, jadi anda bisa menggunakan kendaraan pribadi atau sewaan, naik bis umum atau naik kereta yang hanya berdurasi lima menit. Saran saya adalah naik kereta dari Woodlands karena antrian imigrasinya jauh lebih pendek. Dua pilihan yang lain sangat parah antriannya, terutama pada saat liburan. Akan halnya Batam, anda harus menyeberang laut dengan feri. Perjalanan ke sana memakan waktu satu jam dan jika laut sedang bergelora, anda mungkin akan merasa mabuk. Dari segi harga, tiket pergi-pulang ke Batam berkisar SGD 50 per orang, sedangkan bis atau kereta ke Johor hanya sekitar SGD 10 atau bahkan lebih murah lagi.

Wawa naik ke kereta ke Johor Bahru.

Sampai di sini, rasanya Johor Bahru lebih menarik, ya? Hmm, antara ya dan tidak, sebenarnya. Jika anda ke sana untuk pertama kalinya, maka jawabannya mungkin iya. Woodlands, perbatasan yang sering dilalui oleh mereka yang tidak mengemudi, terrhubung dengan stasiun terpadu JB Sentral dan mal City Square. Sebagai orang yang datang dari kota kecil bernama Pontianak, kesan pertama saya adalah Johor Bahru terasa ramai dan seru. Setengah hari bisa berlalu hanya dengan menjelajahi kawasan ini. Perbatasaan kedua, yang lebih terkenal dengan nama Tuas Second Link, hanya akan dilalui bila anda bepergian ke Legoland atau menaiki bis ke Melaka atau Kuala Lumpur. Tidak banyak yang bisa dilihat di sini, jadi kurang berkesan. 

Nah, berdasarkan deskripsi di atas, anda mungkin akan berbelanja, makan atau ke taman bermain di kala anda berlibur singkat satu hari ke Johor. Kalau saya bisa memilih, saya tidak pergi ke Legoland karena saya memang kurang menyukai taman bermain seperti itu. Perihal belanja, saya tidak keberatan untuk turut serta, namun terus-terang saya bukan tipe yang gemar melihat-lihat saja tanpa tujuan jelas hendak membeli apa. Jadi satu-satunya pilihan yang tersisa bagi saya adalah makan. Masakan Malaysia lumayan enak, namun bila harus antri lama di imigrasi hanya demi makanan, saya cenderung tidak bersedia. Lagipula, begitu anda melangkah ke luar Singapura dan menjejakkan kaki di Malaysia, ada rasa tidak aman di hati, haha.

Bersama Surianto, Linda, Fendy dan Sudarpo di Johor. 

Ini jelas bertolak-belakang dengan Batam. Bagi saya pribadi, Batam itu tak ubahnya seperti pulang ke negeri sendiri. Ada rasa riang di hati. Ya, Batam memang semrawut, tapi senang rasanya bisa berada di Indonesia lagi. Seringkali, ketika saya tiba di Batam Centre, saya akan mampir dulu ke Pempek Kolekta di Mega Mall dan memulai petualangan saya dengan lontong, makanan favorit saya. Setelah itu, saya mungkin pergi ke Nagoya Hill Mall (atau BCS Mall bila saya ingin mengunjungi toko buku Gramedia). Saya kadang menonton film di sana, menikmati secangkir kopi susu khas Indonesia atau berbelanja kebutuhan dapur seperti Indomie, kecap manis dan lain-lain. Sebelum kembali ke Singapura, biasanya saya akan ke rumah makan Padang untuk menyantap kikil, cabe hijau, daun singkong dan paru. Hidup langsung terasa nikmat! Terakhir, kalau waktu memungkinkan, saya akan membawa pulang martabak manis Sari Eco yang dijual di depan kompleks Nagoya Hill, oleh-oleh yang membuat saya menjadi pahlawan di mata istri saya. 

Jadi rasanya bisa disimpulkan kalau Batam adalah pilihan yang lebih menarik untuk liburan singkat satu hari. Jika anda perhatikan dengan seksama, saya jelas-jelas menghabiskan lebih banyak kata-kata untuk menggambarkan Johor dan hanya satu paragraf yang ditulis khusus untuk Batam. Dengan demikian, anda tidak bisa menuduh kalau saya tidak adil, tapi anda harus bisa memaklumi kalau rasa cinta dan suka-cita hanya dipersembahkan untuk Batam. Bias? Ya, tapi saya sudah deklarasikan di awal cerita, jadi anda tidak boleh protes, haha!

Makan siang di Batam.
Foto oleh Franky.

Friday, May 3, 2019

A Letter to My Daughter, A Junior Prefect

Dear My Little Girl,

April 26 was a very special day for you as well as for me. This was the day when you received your badge as a Junior Prefect. There was this proud feeling when Mummy saw you saying out loud your pledge together with the other Prefects.

Ever since you were in playgroup, you already showed you had a strong will and how you wanted things to be done. Glad to know your school recognised your leadership potential and gave you a chance to develop it. I wish you could use this opportunity well, learning as much as you could and be a good leader who could lead others by showing good examples.

Linda, in the middle of the stage.

Remember that before you could lead other, you must first lead yourself. Control yourself, take a deep breath and think twice before you put anything into actions. Kindly understand that what you want sometimes may not what you need.

When you were a toddler, you might feel the whole world evolved around you. As you enter your primary school life, you will start to understand that you are part of the community. Respect your teachers and your friends. Try to figure out what others think and feel because that will help you to be fair and just.

Your Daddy often quoted Uncle Ben from Spider-Man, "with great power comes great responsibility."

Indeed it is true, Little Girl. Responsibility is very important, not only for Prefect, but also for all kids and adults. Be responsible in preparing your school materials, in doing your homework and study. Be responsible in doing your duty as a Junior Prefect. It might be tiring and tough, but it would make you a stronger and better person.

When you made a mistake, Admit that you were wrong and apologise. The apology didn't mean that you were weak, because only the bravest people dared to do so.  

There are still so many things for you to learn to be a good leader. It's a long journey, just do it step by step. Mummy believes you can do it.

And here is one good quote from General Douglas MacArthur as an ending:

"A TRUE LEADER has the confidence to STAND ALONE,
 THE COURAGE to make tough decisions and
 THE COMPASSION to listen to the needs of others."

Selamat bertugas, Junior Prefect Emily!

PS: if Mummy ever limited your screen time, that's because Mummy knows watching too much is not good for your brain and your health.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

SNY - Singapore Next Year

SNY was an acronym that wasn't thought properly, but it stuck because it had a nice ring to it! Planned in June 2018, it stood for Singapore Next Year. By the time the two-day tour for high school friends happened in April 2019, SNY felt very much inaccurate, haha. The name was made up by Hendra, the founding father of the event that irresponsibly bailed out and travelled to Hong Kong instead. In the end, the holiday was participated by Harry, Parno, Gek Hui and Novi from Pontianak as well as Muliady from Jakarta. Co-hosting the event together with me were Surianto, Taty and Andiyanto.

As a host, I never doubted that Singapore is a very beautiful country. The problem is, after few repetitive visits, the visitors may find it less charming than before. Since there was no first timer in the group, I kept thinking that we should look at the country from a slightly different angle. Two years ago, I organised the Walking Tour. Sightseeing on foot was definitely one way to enjoy Singapore, but it turned out to be very torturous for those who weren't used to it. This time it had to be less walking and more trains/buses. Apart from the iconic places, I added in some lesser-known destinations as well.

James, Parno and Lawrence at Harbourfront MRT station.

The trip began on 18/04, the arrival day. I went to Harbourfront to fetch the tourists in the afternoon. Lawrence and James, the friendly Singaporeans that visited Pontianak in 2016, joined in as well. We waited for almost an hour before the first guest, Gek Hui, came out from arrival hall. As usual, Parno was the last because he looked suspicious and therefore was bombarded with questions by the immigration officer, haha. From Harbourfront, we walked to VivoCity to collect the pre-ordered Irvins. Oh yes, the salted egg fish skins were the prized commodities these days. Indonesians that came to Singapore often bought back Irvins for their closed ones or made money out of it.

Once Irvins was transacted, we headed to the Harbourfront MRT ticket office to purchase the Tourist Pass card. In hindsight, after comparing it with the normal EZ-Link card used by Harry and Parno, I think the Tourist Pass was a better deal. Within the two days they were here, Harry and Parno certainly spent more than SGD 20 for travelling. Anyway, from there, we went to Chinatown to drop the luggage. After a quick bite at Ya Kun Kaya Toast (oh yes, this a must-visit for tourists. IDR 50k for two slices of bread, two half-boiled eggs and a small cup of tea or coffee, haha), we travelled to Sengkang to have a glimpse of how friends such as myself lived in Singapore. We continued to Endrico's house not long after that to deliver the layer cake.

Dinner at the Container Park.
Photo by Harry.

Then came the time for dinner. Since we were in Punggol, it'd be too far to head back to the city. We went to the Container Park nearby the Riviera LRT instead. Not very tourist-y, but had a brilliant ambience. We had the delicious Korean delight, Andong-jjimdak and a dozen bottles of Hite beer. Lawrence rejoined us for drinks and James, being a good host he was, also ensured that the guests got enough supply of chips with various condiments such as curry, cheese and salted egg.

The next morning was when the tour really began. From Chinatown, we walked to Lau Pa Sat to have our breakfast. While we were on our way, we stopped by at Grab office for a moment because Parno would like to take a picture or two. After that, we resumed walking to Merlion, passing by Raffles Place as we intended to cross to the riverside via Fullerton underpass. Surianto told Parno that the tap water in Singapore is drinkable, so Parno did the stuff only Parno would do: he filled up his bottle while he was inside the toilet at Fullerton Hotel!

At Lau Pa Sat.

Mul came here roughly a month before and he had to make do with a tiny Merlion because the big one was under renovation. By the time we reached there, it wasn't finished yet so we had no pictures with Merlion, too. We took a few with MBS as the background instead, then we hopped on the bus to VivoCity and switched to Circle Line to alight at Haw Par Villa station. For your information, Haw Par Villa was one of the top tourist destinations in the 90s, but how the mighty had fallen from grace! It looked rundown, uninspiring and dated. We left Haw Par Villa after we literally went through 10 levels of hell. Taty met us at the exit/entrance and we took the train together to Orchard.

The only way to enjoy shopping malls that stretched from Orchard to Dhoby Ghaut was to walk from one end to another. At Wisma Atria, we had Old Chang Kee, the popular local snack, then we went for book hunting at Kinokuniya. Once done, we exited Takashimaya to enjoy the roadside ice cream. We crossed to Apple Store because Parno, an Apple fanboy, would like to take a picture. From there, we walked all the way to Plaza Singapura and had late lunch at Kopitiam where Harry finally had a chance to eat Hainanese chicken rice.

Waiting nearby the Kwan Im Temple.

While it was actually just one stop away, we took the train to Bras Basah station out of convenience. As luck would have it, the train was leaving and only some of us made it! The rest eventually waited for the next one, haha. From Bras Basah, we walked to Mercure Singapore Bugis where Mul finally checked-in after dropping his luggage at the concierge earlier that day. The hotel was near to Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple in Rochor. Some went to pray, some went to shop at the Chinese store right across the temple. We walked to Bugis Street afterwards and took the train to the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. It was casino time, though most of us would end up waiting at the Coffee Beanstro, haha. James met us there and we headed to Gardens by the Bay.

We stayed there for the Garden Rhapsody, a 15-minute light show sync-ed with a compilation of oldies. It was 8pm when it was over, so we went back to Chinatown for dinner at Dong Fang Mei Shi Fan Dian (东方美食饭店). The guests loved eating there, especially its stir-fried dou miao (pea shoots). Before the dinner ended, Lawrence came by just to pass Lim Chee Guan, the best bak kwa in Singapore, to Harry and Parno. That was very nice of him!

At Jewel, Changi Airport. 

The newly opened Jewel was the first destination on 20/04. We went there early in the morning where there wasn't much crowd. The beauty of Changi Airport was the fact that it was often visited like a mall. Now, with the existence of Jewel, we had even more reasons to go there! It was beautiful, though it somehow reminded me of Jurassic Park. We had our breakfast there. Parno also had his first taste of masala tea and Subway sandwich (Cold Cut Trio with sweet onion and BBQ sauce).

From Changi, we went to Bugis station as we intended to walk to Arab Street. I wasn't quite familiar with the area and Surianto went there only once, so we couldn't really show them much of it. From there, we walked towards Mustafa. It was quite interesting to see Gek Hui bought various types of Korean noodles in an Indian supermarket. Novi bought some Indian sweets, too (I'm wondering what the response is like in Pontianak). After that, we had lunch at Anjappar, the authentic Chettinaad restaurant. Unlike the previous group of high school friends that went there two years ago, this group didn't seem to be very enthusiastic in eating Indian cuisines, haha.

At the Universal Studios Singapore. 

The next destination was Sentosa Island. We returned to Chinatown to buy some Chinese medicines and dropped all the stuff we bought earlier. Surianto finally said goodbye to the guests as he had to go and run some errands. We eventually parted ways and I brought the tourists to VivoCity. There was a bus there that took us directly to Resorts World Sentosa. Once we reached our destination, we wasted no time in taking pictures at the Universal Studios Singapore. No, we didn't go in, only stopped at the rotating globe, haha. After the visit to Hershey's and Candylicious, we took the monorail to return to VivoCity. We met my wife and daughter as well as Taty and son. The long-awaited man, Endrico, finally made his appearance, too!

The sky was dark when the evening came and it was raining right after we boarded bus #100 to Golden Mile Complex. The old building with an exquisite smell was indeed an unusual destination for tourists, but the Thai food there was good! At a restaurant called Diandin Leluk, Endrico made sure that our guests had what they were craving for, so he ordered aplenty, from mango and papaya salads, tom yum soup, pad thai and many more! All spicy cuisines, so we ate until we sweat before we aptly flushed it down with Thai ice tea. After the meal, we passed by the Thai mini mart where the ladies had a quick shopping for something Thai or Vietnamese.

We said goodbye to Taty, Gek Hui and Novi at Golden Mile Complex, but Endrico still planned an encore for Parno and Harry. He invited Swiandy to my house and sent Parno back with my wife to meet him first while the rest of us walked to Cheers convenience store for a dozen cans of beer. So there we were that night, just five old friends hanging out in my living room, talking about life until late at night. It was a time well-spent, until we meet again next time...

Dinner at Diandin Leluk, Golden Mile.
Photo owned by Endrico. 

SNY - Singapore Next Year 

SNY adalah singkatan yang tidak dipikirkan secara matang, namun tetap dipakai karena terdengar mantap di telinga. Direncanakan sejak Juni 2018, SNY yang berarti Singapore Next Year terasa cocok pada saat itu. Akan tetapi, di saat acara tur dua hari untuk teman-teman SMU ini berlangsung pada bulan April 2019, namanya terasa tidak akurat, haha. SNY diciptakan oleh Hendra dan pelopor yang satu ini tidak hadir dan malah muncul di Hong Kong. Pada akhirnya, yang ikut serta adalah Harry, Parno, Gek Hui dan Novi dari Pontianak dan juga Muliady dari Jakarta. Surianto, Taty dan Andiyanto pun bergabung menjadi tuan rumah acara ini. 

Sebagai pemandu wisata, saya tidak pernah meragukan keindahan Singapura. Yang menjadi masalah adalah, setelah dikunjungi berulang kali, pesona negara kota ini pastilah memudar. Karena semua peserta sudah pernah mengunjungi Singapura sebelumnya, saya berpikir bahwa kali ini kita bisa melihat Singapura dari sudut pandang yang berbeda, jadi saya menyisipkan beberapa tempat yang menarik tapi jarang dikunjungi turis. Saya juga melihat kembali Walking Tour yang saya selenggarakan dua tahun yang lalu. Banyak yang tidak tahan berjalan kaki berjam-jam lamanya, jadi kali ini kita akan lebih sering menaiki bis dan kereta.

Lawrence dan James menunggu kedatangan tamu-tamu Pontianak. 

Acara dimulai pada tanggal 18/04, hari ketibaan peserta. Saya menunggu para pelancong di Harbourfront pada sore itu. Lawrence dan James, warga Singapura yang pernah berkunjung ke Pontianak di tahun 2016, turut datang menjemput. Kami menunggu hampir satu jam lamanya sebelum tamu pertama, Gek Hui, keluar dari ruang kedatangan. Seperti biasa, Parno adalah peserta yang muncul paling akhir. Ternyata dia dibombardir dengan pertanyaan oleh petugas imigrasi karena terlihat mencurigakan, haha. Dari Harbourfront, kita beranjak ke VivoCity untuk mengambil Irvins yang telah dipesan sebelumnya. Oh ya, kulit ikan dengan bumbu telur asin ini adalah oleh-oleh paling populer pada saat ini. Orang-orang Indonesia yang datang ke Singapura kini sering membawa pulang Irvins.

Setelah Irvins dibeli, kita menuju ke stasiun MRT Harbourfront untuk membeli kartu Tourist Pass di loket. Setelah saya bandingkan dengan kartu EZ-Link biasa yang dipakai oleh Harry dan Parno, kartu Tourist Pass lebih murah. Selama dua setengah hari mereka berada di Singapura, Harry dan Parno menghabiskan lebih dari SGD 20 untuk biaya transportasi. Kembali ke cerita, sesudah semua memiliki kartu, kita berangkat ke Chinatown untuk menyimpan bagasi di kamar sewaan di People's Park Centre. Kemudian, sambil menunggu Muliady yang datang dari Bugis bersama Surianto, kita beristirahat sejenak sambil menyantap Ya Kun Kaya Toast (oh ya, ini adalah makanan khas Singapura yang layak dicoba oleh turis. Untuk dua potong roti, dua telur setengah matang dan secangkir kopi atau teh, kita harus mengeluarkan uang sebesar 50 ribu rupiah, haha. Setelah mengisi perut, kita akhirnya berangkat ke Sengkang untuk melihat seperti apa kehidupan teman-teman di Singapura. Dari rumah saya, kita lantas berjalan ke rumah Endrico dan membawakan kue lapis pesanan istrinya.

Di stasiun LRT Meredian, setelah mampir ke rumah Endrico.
Photo oleh Muliady.

Kemudian tiba waktunya untuk makan malam. Karena kita berada di Punggol, tidak masuk akal bila kita kembali ke kota. Oleh karena itu saya membawa para tamu ke Container Park di dekat stasiun LRT Riviera. Tempat ini tidak lazim dikunjungi oleh para pelancong, tapi memiliki nuansa yang santai untuk makan dan berbincang. Kita mencicipi sup ayam Andong-jjimdak dan menenggak bir Hite dari Korea. Lawrence yang sempat pulang sebentar ke rumah pun bergabung kembali dengan kita untuk minum bersama Parno. Akan halnya James, sebagai tuan rumah, dia menjamu tamu-tamunya dengan keripik kentang goreng yang berlimpah dan dimakan dengan beraneka saus, mulai dari saus kari, keju sampai telur asin. 

Tur dimulai pada keesokan harinya. Dari Chinatown, kita berjalan ke Lau Pa Sat untuk sarapan pagi. Di tengah jalan, Parno berhenti sejenak di kantor Grab untuk berfoto. Seusai makan, kita melanjutkan perjalanan ke Merlion dan melewati Raffles Place karena kita menuju ke terowongan Fullerton untuk mencapai tepi sungai. Surianto bercerita pada Parno bahwa air di Singapura bisa diminum langsung dari keran, jadi Parno pun melakukan sesuatu yang khas Parno: dia mengisi botol minumnya saat berada di dalam toilet di Fullerton Hotel!

Di dekat Fullerton Bay.

Sebulan yang lalu, Muliady membawa putrinya ke Singapura dan dia hanya bisa berpose dengan Merlion yang mungil karena Merlion yang berada di tepi sungai sedang direnovasi. Ketika kita tiba di sana, ternyata renovasi belum rampung, jadi tidak ada foto bersama Merlion kali ini. Sebagai gantinya, kita berfoto dengan latar belakang MBS. Dari situ kita menaiki bis ke VivoCity dan berganti ke jalur Circle Line untuk menuju ke stasiun Haw Par Villa. Bagi yang belum tahu, Haw Par Villa ini adalah tujuan wisata yang terkenal di tahun 90an, tapi kondisinya tidak lagi sebagus dulu. Pokoknya terlihat tidak terawat dan kuno. Kita akhirnya meninggalkan Haw Par Villa setelah berjalan melewati wahana 10 tingkat neraka. Taty datang dan menunggu kita di pintu keluar, lalu kita pun pergi ke Orchard. 

Satu-satunya cara untuk menikmati pusat perbelanjaan yang berderet dari Orchard ke Dhoby Ghaut adalah dengan berjalan kaki dari ujung ke ujung. Di Wisma Atria, kita sempat mencicipi Old Chang Kee, cemilan Singapura yang terkenal. Selanjutnya kita pergi membeli buku di Kinokuniya, lalu keluar dari Takashimaya untuk menikmati es potong di tepi jalan. Kita juga sempat singgah ke Apple Store karena Parno ingin berfoto di depan toko tersebut. Setelah meninjau Apple Store, kita berjalan sampai ke Plaza Singapura. Di sana kita makan di Kopitiam dan Harry akhirnya berkesempatan untuk menyantap nasi ayam Hainan.

Para turis memasuki Gardens by the Bay. 

Walaupun Bras Basah hanya satu stasiun jauhnya dari Dhoby Ghaut, kita memutuskan untuk naik kereta karena Plaza Singapura berada tepat di atas stasiun. Karena berjalan santai, separuh rombongan tertinggal sedangkan beberapa di antara kita sudah terlanjur berada di kereta yang berangkat, haha. Setelah bergabung kembali, kita berjalan dari Bras Basah ke Mercure Singapore Bugis tempat Mul menginap. Sesudah dia mendapatkan kamar, barulah kita lanjut ke Kuil Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho di Rochor. Beberapa pergi sembahyang dan sisanya berbelanja di toko Cina yang berada di seberang kuil. Setelah selesai, kita berjalan menuju Bugis Street dan kembali menaiki kereta untuk mengunjungi mal di Marina Bay Sands. Ini adalah waktu yang ditunggu-tunggu oleh penggemar kasino, namun banyak dari kita yang ternyata menunggu di Coffee Beanstro, haha. James menjumpai kita di sana dan perjalanan pun diteruskan, kali ini ke Gardens by the Bay.

Kita sempat menyaksikan Garden Rhapsody, sebuah atraksi cahaya lampu yang disesuaikan dengan irama rangkaian lagu. Acara singkat berdurasi 15 menit ini berakhir pada pukul delapan malam dan kita pun kembali ke Chinatown untuk bersantap malam di Dong Fang Mei Shi Fan Dian (东方美食饭店), sebuah restoran yang menyajikan masakan Dongbei. Para tamu kita tampak menikmati makan malam di sana, terutama sayur dou miao. Sebelum perjamuan makan berakhir, Lawrence hadir dan membawakan Lim Chee Guan, dendeng populer di Singapura, untuk Harry dan Parno.

Parno dan Lawrence di restoran Dongbei.

Jewel yang baru dibuka menjadi tujuan pertama di tanggal 20/04. Kita tiba cukup pagi dan tidak banyak pengunjung saat kita berada di sana. Yang menarik dari Bandara Changi adalah fakta bahwa bandara tersebut sering dikunjungi seperti layaknya mal. Sekarang, dengan adanya Jewel yang megah, semakin lengkaplah alasan bagi setiap orang untuk pergi ke sana. Taman dan air terjun di tengah Jewel sangat bagus, namun entah kenapa bentuknya mengingatkan saya pada Jurassic Park, haha. Kita sarapan pagi di Five Spice dan di situlah Parno untuk pertama kalinya mencoba teh masala dan roti Subway (menu yang dicobanya adalah Cold Cut Trio dengan saus bawang manis dan BBQ).

Dari Changi, kita menuju ke stasiun Bugis karena kita ingin berjalan kaki ke Arab Street. Saya tidak begitu mengenal kawasan tersebut dan Surianto pun hanya pernah sekali ke sana, jadi tidak banyak yang bisa kita tunjukkan di sana. Kita hanya melewati jalan-jalan bernuansa Arab, lalu lanjut ke Mustafa. Gek Hui memborong mie instan Korea di supermarket India sementara Novi membeli makanan India yang terkenal manis (saya jadi ingin tahu tanggapan mereka yang ada di Pontianak tentang makanan ini). Ketika tiba waktunya untuk makan siang, kita makan di Anjappar, restoran India yang otentik. Akan tetapi, tidak seperti rombongan turis sebelumnya yang datang dua tahun yang lalu, grup pelancong kali ini tidak terlihat antusias mencicipi masakan India, haha.

Belanja di Mustafa. 

Tujuan berikutnya adalah Pulau Sentosa. Kita kembali ke Chinatown untuk membeli obat Cina dan menyimpan barang belanjaan. Surianto pun pamit di sini dan akhirnya kita berpisah jalan. Bersama para turis, saya lanjut ke VivoCity. Di sana ada bis yang langsung membawa kita ke Resorts World Sentosa. Setelah tiba, kita bergegas menuju bola dunia Universal Studios Singapore untuk berfoto di sana. Ya, kita tidak masuk, cukup berfoto saja, haha. Setelah menjajaki toko Hershey's dan Candylicious, kita menaiki monorel untuk kembali ke  VivoCity. Kita berjumpa dengan istri dan putri saya serta Taty dan anaknya. Endrico yang telah lama dinantikan pun akhirnya muncul.

Langit terlihat mendung ketika senja tiba. Hujan pun turun sewaktu kita berada di dalam bis #100 yang menuju Kompleks Golden Mile. Bangunan tua dengan aroma Thai yang unik ini mungkin bukan tujuan yang lazim bagi turis biasa, tapi lezatnya makanan Thai di sana tidak perlu diragukan lagi. Di restoran bernama Diandin Leluk, Endrico memastikan bahwa nafsu makan para tamu terpuaskan, jadi dia memesan beragam makanan, mulai dari salad pepaya dan mangga, sup tom yam, pad thai dan masih banyak lagi! Rata-rata pedas rasanya dan kita makan sampai berkeringat, setelah itu membasuh dahaga dengan es teh Thailand. Sehabis makan malam, kita berjalan pulang melewati mini market Thailand dan para ibu pun berbelanja sejenak di sana.

Di mini market Thai, setelah makan malam.

Kita akhirnya berpisah dengan Taty, Gek Hui dan Novi di Golden Mile, tapi Endrico masih memiliki satu acara terakhir untuk Parno dan Harry. Dia mengundang Swiandy ke rumah saya dan meminta Parno untuk menemuinya dulu selagi kita pergi ke Cheers untuk membeli minuman beralkohol. Akhirnya lima teman lama pun berkumpul dan berbincang hingga larut malam. Dan acara pun berakhir. Sampai bertemu lagi di lain kesempatan!