Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Scent of a Golden Tulip

My first visit to Golden Tulip Pontianak was for a dinner with my family. At the time it was in a soft opening phase, which was visually quite obvious. But don’t be surprised if even today it felt or looked like the same old story. Ask away when you’re there, and chances are the hospitable staffs will tell you that it is in fact still in that phase. Can’t really say that I blame them. Why wait till everything is smooth and perfect if you can rake in some cash NOW? It’s simply Business 101.

The second visit was more “intimate”. This time I went as far as the bedroom, free of charge. And before you start being judgemental, let me assure you it was for a photo shoot. Me Vs The Bedroom, with no other living object, that is. Now if anyone should bother to ask since when have I become a professional photographer, I haven’t quite just yet. Unless selling those photos that decorate my travel writings is considered to be a pro act. My being there was to participate in a photography competition.

My first stop for the session was the Diamond Function Hall. Eventhough the round table with circling chairs looked ready, nice and all, the room as a whole was not quite as enchanting. I was surprised to find some parts of the function hall still required finishing. Or a touch-up at least. But I’ll be even more surprised if I was mistaken, and the hall was already as good as it gets. The last time I checked, I was no design critic, so I took a few shots and split.

The next object was just across the hall, the meeting room. First impression wise, it was a better view. It would make an appropriate business venue, if you or your company can afford it. So if next time you’re in town to make a good impression, this place is worth considering.

Speaking of good first impression, Branche, the resto and bar lounge, didn’t make the cut for me. “Soft opening” was no excuse for the nicely hanged TV being unwatchable (that they left it on with a seemingly scrambled channel was beyond me). Nor was it for the more than half hour wait they made us do for dinner, when there was barely anyone in the lounge. The only consolation was the pineapple fried rice.  

Fortunately, everything was better the second time. The TV miraculously worked! And the whole lounge area looked more operational than it did the first time. But it was still quiet as before, with only a few patrons at the outdoor smoking section. Which made it easier for me to explore possible angles without snapping anyone’s head in the process, you dig?

The bedroom was next on the list. Each participant was only given a few minutes for the bedroom shot. The room was relatively small and hardly inspiring. But I guess it’s good enough to meet the international three star hotel standard. There are 186 rooms in total, in case you’re wondering.

The Copacabana Pool & Lounge, as you probably would have guessed, is where the swimming pools are located. You would perhaps also think that it’s the most interesting area in the hotel. It was in fact so fascinating that I couldn’t seem to produce quality shots :) (How’s that for an irony?)

Last but not least, outside view of the hotel. As far as architectural design is concerned, for me Golden Tulip is definitely one of the finest in Pontianak. It definitely plays a role in beautifying the city’s sky. Especially when there are not many good-looking high rise in town. So eventhough I’ve never been an official guest yet, I surely appreciate its presence. Hopefully it can make a significant contribution in growing the local tourism industry, and eventually, the economy.

Bienvenidos, Golden Tulip Essential Pontianak. Welcome.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sky Cafes - Borneo Sky Cafe

I’ve read about this place before, or heard of it at least, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I decided to actually check it out. Truth be told, cafes with live music is my thing. By that I mean I enjoy the experience, despite not being a cafe regular. Unfortunately, it has become so yesterday that I don’t even remember when’s the last time I went to one. But yesterday, after glancing at the hotel ads section on the newspaper, I suddenly had the urge to go. Not for the live music, nor the “see and be seen” drama. I was there for the sunset and photography thirst.

It was around 17:45 on a Wednesday afternoon when I arrived at the premises. Only a few tables were occupied, which was super fine for me and my camera. The waiters were busy tending the other customers that I had no choice but to approach the staffs at the bar area just to make them notice. No biggie, I wasn’t in a rush. All I need was an excuse to sit there, enjoy the ambience, and hopefully take some quality snaps. And a few minutes later, a cappucino blend was my imperfect excuse. It tasted ok, not bad, but to label it good would be stretching. Needless to say, I’ve had better ones. It didn’t really matter anyway, except for the fact that I had to pay for it.

To sum it up: The view from this top is far from exceptional. Nothing quite caught my eyes about the surrounding area. The sunset from here, at least on that day, was just ok, but it got better when it’s darker. A bit of a plus about this place is the interior design. It would be a fine choice to hang out. Just not too frequently for most people, considering the quite pricey menu.

Writer’s Verdict:
Place : 7
View  : 6
Drink : 5

Borneo Sky Cafe
Jl. Merdeka Barat No. 428 Pontianak
Phone: 62-561–768111 / 62-561–766787 / 62-561-7908558
West Kalimantan

- SW -        

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Magical Coastal Walk : From Coogee to Bondi Beach

Pernah mendengar istilah “everything starts with an idea”? Atau “everything starts with a dream” mungkin? Pernyataan yang tidak berlebihan menurut saya, karena semua hal yang diciptakan atau dicapai oleh manusia di dunia ini memang awalnya berasal dari sebuah ide atau impian. Mobil, pesawat, penaklukan Everest, perjalanan keliling dunia, you name it. Perjalanan kecil yang saya lakukan tentunya tidak bisa disetarakan dengan hal-hal tersebut, tapi prosesnya sama, dimulai dari sebuah ide.

Suatu hari di dalam kelas, salah satu lecturer Tourism saya Mrs. Parsonage bercerita tentang coastal walk atau perjalanan kaki menyusuri garis pantai yang dilakukannya dari pantai Bondi ke pantai Coogee di akhir pekan yang lalu. Cara beliau menggambarkan perjalanannya itu membuat saya terkesima dan terbersit ide untuk melakukan perjalanan yang sama suatu hari. Bondi dan Coogee merupakan dua pantai yang sangat populer di kota Sydney, Australia. Kedua pantai tersebut terletak pada satu garis pantai panjang di pesisir timur Sydney dan diantaranya masih ada pantai-pantai lain yang lebih kecil. So, saya dan teman sekelas saya yang asal Chile, Mauricio sepakat mengatur waktu untuk mewujudkan ide ini.  Can’t hardly wait!

Tidak lama kemudian, hari yang sudah ditunggu-tunggu itu pun tiba. Pagi-pagi kami berdua berangkat dari tempat tinggal masing-masing dan sepakat untuk bertemu di Coogee. Saya naik bis dari pusat kota dan Mauricio mengendarai mobil pribadinya dari rumahnya yang berlokasi di Seven Hills, sebuah suburb di Sydney. Jadi yang akan kami lakukan kebalikan dari rencana semula untuk start dari Bondi. Alasannya, menurut Mauricio parkir mobil di Coogee lebih mudah. Memang harus diakui, pantai Bondi memang lebih ramai dibanding Coogee dan masalah parkir mobil bisa menjadi kendala. Ternyata saya sampai duluan dan harus menunggu sesaat sebelum menemui Mauricio di area parkir dekat pantai. Cuaca musim panas hari itu sangat cerah, benar-benar perfect untuk jalan-jalan. Dari area parkir kami langsung berjalan ke area jalan setapak yang akan membawa kami menyusuri pesisir pantai timur Sydney.

Kami disambut oleh sebuah sign board yang bertuliskan Gordons Bay dan di bagian bawahnya ada petunjuk arah panah ‘jalan terus’ serta tulisan Eastern Beaches Coastal Walkway. Good, we’re on the right track. Di awal perjalanan ini, kami disuguhi pemandangan teluk dengan rentetan gedung-gedung dan perumahan di pinggir tebing. Kedalaman air di sini masih relatif dangkal sehingga dasarnya masih terlihat. Berikutnya kami berjalan melewati suatu area perumahan dengan view yang menghadap ke laut. Bagaimana ya rasanya bangun tiap hari dengan pemandangan seperti ini? Mungkin para penghuni di situ tidak akan merasa spesial karena sudah terbiasa melihat panorama teluk dan laut, tapi bagi saya terasa sangat dreamy...  

Setelah itu kami sampai di Clovelly Bay. Di sini ada sebuah area untuk berenang dengan platform beton di kedua sisinya. Kondisi permukaan platform yang keras sama sekali tidak menghalangi para pengunjung untuk berjemur di sini. Gak ada pantai berpasir, lapangan semen pun jadi. As long as they get to sun bathe, it doesn’t really matter. Australians just LOVE the sunlight! Dan yang patut diacungi jempol, meskipun area ini relatif kecil, tetap ada lifeguard yang standby untuk berjaga-jaga. Dari sini, kami terus berjalan dan sampai ke Clovelly Beach. Pantai berukuran mini yang lebih mirip pantai pribadi daripada pantai untuk umum. Meskipun begitu, tetap saja di sini penuh dengan pengunjung.

Ada sedikit pemandangan berbeda ketika kami mencapai area yang disebut Bundock Park. Sesuai namanya area ini berupa taman yang cukup luas dengan padang rumput dan pepohonan hijau. Di sini ada sebuah lapangan rumput seukuran kurang lebih dua kali lapangan tenis, yang digunakan untuk permainan menggelindingkan bola yang disebut lawn bowls. Beberapa orang tampak sedang serius bermain. Jadi jangan khawatir, pemandangan yang akan Anda lihat di sepanjang perjalanan ini cukup variatif dan tidak membosankan. Tidak melulu pantai dan “obyek jemuran” :)

Pemandangan berikutnya yang kami temui lebih istimewa lagi dan agak sedikit mengejutkan. Area kompleks makam yang kami lewati memberikan kesan tersendiri yang sulit dijelaskan dengan kata-kata. Nuansa creepy yang bercampur beauty karena pemandangan di sini yang cukup mengesankan. Waverley Cemetery benar-benar tempat untuk “beristirahat dengan tenang” yang ideal, menurut saya. Sempat berhenti sejenak untuk menikmati pemandangan di sini, kami lalu melanjutkan perjalanan dan menemukan pantai berikutnya, Bronte. Dari kejauhan saja sudah kelihatan kalau pantai ini penuh sesak dengan pengunjung. Dari dekat terlihat jelas para beach goer ini sangat menikmati suasana pantai. Ada yang sekedar berbaring santai menikmati sinar matahari dan indahnya cuaca musim panas. Ada juga yang memilih untuk beristirahat di dalam tenda atau di bawah lindungan payung. Pengunjung lain memilih untuk baca buku, bermain voli pantai dan tentu saja berenang. Pantai ini terkenal sebagai family haven yang populer sebagai pantainya keluarga.  

Waverley Cemetery

Dan akhirnya, the finale! Perjalanan kami yang sangat mengesankan ini ditutup dengan pemandangan pantai paling populer di Sydney, Bondi Beach. Needless to say, pantai ini sangat ramai. Rasanya sudah tidak sabar untuk bergabung dengan keramaian dan menikmati suasana pantai. But first things first! Perjalanan sejauh 6 km yang memakan waktu kurang lebih dua jam ini ternyata membakar cukup banyak kalori juga. Apalagi di bawah sinar matahari yang bersinar dengan terik. Saatnya untuk mengisi perut yang sudah keroncongan. Berhubung sudah lapar kami tidak terlalu selektif untuk memilih menu. We need something fast, so pilihan jatuh pada fast food chain yang  sangat populer di Sydney, Hungry Jack’s. Burger dan soft drinks yang kami santap pun terasa seperti layaknya suguhan restoran bintang tiga Michelin. Setelah lunch kami sempatkan untuk hang out di Bondi sebelum akhirnya naik bis untuk kembali ke Coogee. Mauricio kemudian mengantar saya pulang dengan mobilnya.

Kilas balik, Mrs Parsonage jelas tidak berlebihan waktu menceritakan kepada kami tentang indahnya coastal walk ini. Kami benar-benar sangat puas dan senang telah mengikuti saran beliau untuk menjajal perjalanan ini. Kalau boleh sharing sedikit, next time you’re in Sydney, Anda patut mempertimbangkan...koreksi...Anda WAJIB mencoba coastal walk ini. Dijamin tidak akan menyesal! It’s an experience of a lifetime!

  • Gunakan sepatu yang nyaman untuk berjalan kaki, karena jarak tempuh yang cukup jauh.
  • Jangan lupa untuk memakai topi dan juga sun block, apalagi kalau Anda melakukan perjalanan ini di waktu musim panas.
  • Kamera juga wajib dibawa untuk mengabadikan “peristiwa bersejarah” ini J Tapi jangan keasikan foto-foto lalu lupa menikmati pemandangan. Melihat dari balik lensa atau lewat foto tidak pernah akan sebanding dengan melihat dan mengalami secara langsung dengan mata dan hati!
  • Bawa minuman yang cukup untuk menghindari dehidrasi. Boleh juga menyelipkan sedikit makanan ringan untuk mengganjal perut, just in case diserang rasa lapar di tengah perjalanan. Breakfast sebelum melakukan perjalanan juga sangat disarankan. Tapi ingat untuk tetap travel light, karena excess baggage di ransel hanya akan semakin menguras energi Anda.
  • Untuk informasi transportasi umum ke pantai, baik Bondi maupun Coogee, bisa mengakses website transport resmi pemerintah www.131500.com.au

- SW -   

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Glimpse of the Past – Fort Canning Park, Singapore

“Have you been to Fort Canning?” was the question asked by Okky, a long time friend from the memorable yet nasty office days. I’ve heard of the place, or at least I think I have. Or read about it. Or something in between. It didn’t matter. What mattered was I haven’t actually been there in person, contaminating the place with my footprints, hoping to leave behind some DNA proof that I was there, without having to engage in law-breaking, mindless, beauty-trashing, unnecessary graffiti job or the sort. So to the truth seeking question (or perhaps he was just being friendly), I replied “Hell NO!” and “Let’s!”. The rest was history.

One fine day, which was more like or exactly like the day after the historical question, we met up to have a glimpse of the past, at an equally historical site. It was Saturday afternoon, and my friend Okky was able to leave office earlier to be a good sport and accompany me for the visit. I took a bus from Jurong Kechil heading towards Orchard’s direction, alighted at the bus stop in front of Plaza Singapura, and walked for a bit more to meet up with him. Impatience as he was (must be the blood pressure hehe), he was expecting me to run or even fly, not walk. Long story short, after about ten and a half texting and phone calls later, we finally managed to meet and greet. Without further ado, we took off to the precious fort.

Fort Canning Park

Entering the premises, he told me that this venue was sometimes used to stage some popular musical events. “Beyonce performed here once”, explained Okky, almost proud. I could nearly hear “Halo” in the air. Must be quite a show, I presumed. 

It’s a nice place to go for a walk. Or simply to just chill and relax on one of the park chairs. Have a chat with serenity, if you please. When there’s no concert with blaring sound, of course. But Fort Canning Park is obviously more than just your regular green area. Malay royalty once ruled here in medieval times. It’s also where the British surrendered to the invading Japanese during the Second World War. Yoursingapore.com put it nicely with “Whether you’re a history buff, music fan or nature lover, this historic landmark on a hill is full of surprises.”

Fort Canning Park

Fort Canning Park

Before the word “hill” kills your interest, let me assure you that the hike required was not even close to being scary. If anything, it was a gentle trek. Nothing to be anxious, left alone brag about. Forget notifying your insurance agent in advance. You know what I’m saying? But just to be fair, there are steps. If that’s too much for you, dude...get a life...a real one...

On this historical trip, we stumbled upon the nearby, also historical building which colorful windows must have attracted lots of tourist attention. If you’ve been to Singapore, chances are you’ve seen this building. You just probably didn’t know what building it was. And I’m willing to bet that many don’t. I’m talking about the Old Hill Street Police Station a.k.a the Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth building. If you ever wondered how many rainbow-colored windows it has, let me enlighten you, there are 927! It definitely play a part in painting Singapore’s sky, even though it’s merely six storeys high. I couldn’t just pass this place by without immortalizing it, so I took a few quick snaps and we moved on.

The sun was almost setting when we reach the end of our walk. We continued strolling to the nearby Clarke Quay area with dinner in mind. But we ended up just passing by and took the bus to Upper Thomson Road to devour what Okky claimed to be “the best roti prata in town”. Moments later, we arrived at The Roti Prata House which was packed with customers. Such a sight was a dilemmatic one. It looked promising on one hand, but depressing on the other. The smell of roti prata was killing us, two starved souls looking for immediate quenchers. Yet there seemed to be no vacant tables or seats! But we’re not travelling this far just to throw in the towel, we persevered! Now is the time to put the slogan “Persistence is the key to winning” into practice. So with a bit of hunger-driven hope, fingers crossed, we decided to penetrate the ‘roti prata heaven’ anyway. And it wasn’t a waste after all. On the far corner of the prata house, there was ONE vacant table! HALLELUJAH! Okky was the one doing the ordering, and I, the eating (he ate too, obviously).

Image result for roti prata house singapore
Source: nightdowhat.com
We then finished up with some ice cream at a shop nearby. I had an epiphany here (ice cream shop? really? Yes, really). Somehow we decided to get a bowl of three scoops to share. But when I asked the staff for a cup so we didn’t have to eat from the same bowl and looked gay, she said I’d have to pay for it. Excusez-moi?? Are you shi**ing me?? I didn’t say it to her face, but she probably could read my reaction. “Can I borrow a bowl then?” I said, not given up just yet. “NO” was the flat out answer. My fellow Indonesian, that was the very moment I miss our country. This kinda thing never happened to me back home. At least not yet, and not ever I hope. Cheapskate you say? Me? You have every right. But that to me, ladies and gentlemen, was not the best business and customer service practice. Ugly was what it was. And yes, I ended up buying a cup...


Roti Prata House
Address: 246M Upper Thomson Road, Singapore 574370
Phone:+65 6459 5260

- SW -