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On Embracing Individuality

This blog entry comes out as a result of my muse under the shower. Yes, bathroom inspiration isn’t a myth, especially when you have a long hot shower! Haha..I’ve been thinking about what a woman has told me on a travel mart I attended earlier this weekend for quite some times.  To give you a background story; this travel mart was a table top style business to business dealing. So the buyers came and sat face to face with the sellers to have business talks. The sellers, who mainly were tour operators and hotels, sold their products to the buyers, who mainly were travel agents. Each round lasted for some minutes, and once a season ended, the buyers would move to the next seller’s table.

And there came this woman to my table. A young, energetic, loud woman in her late 30s, who showed high interest on my company’s products. It was a regular business talk until she told me “You have interesting products and you seem to be a fun person. However, being an adventure travel company owner, you should represent yourself and your company the way it should be. You should wear a safari shirt and cargo pants instead of this sleek suit. Wear your trekking boots instead of these high heels. You look too sweet and pretty to convince us that you and your company have what it takes to run an adventure travel company. Just saying though”. The evil part of me said “Talk to my hand! Since when do I care?”, and the angel part of me said “Everyone has their own opinion. Relax and sell on!”Not wanting to lose my precious limited selling time, I just told her “Thanks for your feedback, I appreciate it”, and sold on. I was there to make money, and who knows that she would be one of my prospective clients? So I carried on until the table top ended.

However, what she said bothered me somehow. No, not that she said I didn’t appear to be credible enough. To put things into perspective: I didn’t see myself as a victim because I wasn’t one. I dressed the way I wanted. It was a business to business dealing so I wore my pants and suit to respect the occasion and the dress code. I didn’t think I wore the wrong attire.

What bothered me was the fact that we are still defined by stereotype. The way she portrayed adventurer girls bothered me. In her imagination, adventure girls should look strong, like, manly strong, and not sweet. In her imagination, adventure girls should look rebellious in their t-shirt or safari shirt and cargo pants or shorts. In her imagination, adventure girls would look the same, regardless their individuality.

Those who’ve known me for quite long time would know that I was tomboy growing up. I played tennis on Sundays with my dad back when I was in elementary school. I was active in Girl Scout as well back then. I was in flight flying brigade in middle and high school, and was physically trained to stand for hours under the brutal sun of equator. I would do sets of pushups, sit ups, and backups every morning. I played guitar and made paintings in my art classes instead of dancing. When I danced, my dance teacher would teach me traditional dance that normally would be danced by male dancers. I kept my hair chin length most of the time until freshman year of high school.

As I grew older I embraced more of my femininity. Well, I’m still far from being a lady. I still laughed loudly with my friends. But I know I am a woman and I found that my femininity is really empowering. I put make up on when I wanted. I know I can put either skirt or pants when I want to. I am still me regardless what I’m wearing, be it skirt or pants. On top of all, I dress to express, not to impress.

I accept my contradictions. My staffs, colleagues, and clients mostly are men and that doesn’t make me have to behave like men. I like adventures but I have femininity that I’m proud of. I ran the mountains wearing my pink shoes and pink running tee. And putting some girly things didn’t make me less strong than other runners. I know people would doubt that a short delicate looking girl would climb mountains, let alone taking clients to the mountains. But hey, I’ve reached some mountains with crazy prominence, with my feminine upbringings. I know some strong female ultra-runners who’re really feminine. I know some great business women who are good at leading the companies yet still show their femininity. I know iron ladies who are feminine and classy. My close female friends are strong and confident, yet they embrace who they want to look like or dress like.

It’s ok to be different from the stereotype. We don’t have to fit the mold. Credibility isn’t only built by look. Wear what you want. Be what you want. You can be feminine or tomboy, as long as you’re comfortable with that. There’s no “you should appear the way it should be”. As long as you’re comfortable and it’s appropriate, go ahead. Be strong, act strong, even when you don’t appear “strong enough”.

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Begin By Letting Go

 

“…And all of my limitations begin to fade away, In this place I have freedom, it’s here I wish to stay. Thoughts become distant feelings, going with the flow, I’ll just sit still now. Begin by letting go…” ~ Etherwood – Begin By Letting Go

 

I saw the video clip of this song for the first time on my friend’s Facebook wall some years back. And it resonated again after I got a phone call from a good friend from high school earlier this morning. She was a bubbly, brave, sporty, stubborn, and smart girl. We used to push each other to excel in our study, and we even co-founded English debate club in our high school back then. Today she called me in tears, telling me about her (long overdue) breakup stories. And that broke my heart.

Well, it’s never been easy to let go. Especially letting go of the fear. Be it the fear of rejection, fear of being lonely, or fear to fail. We, human, need validations. We, human, need acceptance. We, human, hate rejection.

I’m no exception in this matter. I worry a lot.  I overthink what the outcome of a process might be. I always tend to take control of everything. It’s still what I face now but it gets better after  I started doing trail and ultra marathons. Not the “crazy” ultra, but I’ve done two 60 Km runs so far. Not bad, huh? :p

Fellow runners must know the doubt before starting the race. The intense anxiety. That “why would I do this?” thinking. That “Oh My God, it will be so hot today”. That “It will hurt my legs”. That “will I be able to finish it?”. That “what if I can’t finish? What would be my excuse?”. Or “what if I get cramped legs?”

We, runners, may seem strong on the outside, but trust me, we have that vulnerable side at some points of our life. But once we pass the starting line, we will let go of everything. We will let go of our negative thoughts. We will just move our legs as long and as far as we can. If we can’t run, we walk. We concentrate on where we are, running towards the finish line. We have the battle with ourselves and our own thoughts. We try our best not to quit, until we reach the finish line. Sometimes we reached the finish line over the cut off time. Sometimes we had to stop for awhile because of injuries. Sometimes we had to drop out of the race for some reasons. But at least we’ve been brave enough to start. And to let go.

Once we reach the finish line, we will know how worthy it is to start. As in life, sometimes it will be worthy to start to let go when we’re scared the most.

 

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On Running A Race : The Art of Understanding the Self

My bucket list number 7 is done! Yaay!! I did my very first half marathon at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore last weekend. It was super fun! I know I got sweaty and dirty after the race, but the joy and pride beat the pain! On top of all, what’s better than to run like a beast and party like a beauty? Ha! I managed to hang out and eat with some friends of mine and the post-race pains vanished in a sudden 🙂

I actually wasn’t and still am not good at running. I hiked and walked a lot before, but running is a whole new thing. I can walk for say, 30 km or so in a day, but running requires more endurance, mentally and physically. I just started running this year, and I found that it’s kind of interesting stuff to do. I only did one 10K and one half marathon race far by far. And here are some lessons I learned from running the races :

1. It’s not about how far or fast we can go, but how good we can listen to ourselves

Who doesn’t want to run far and fast? Duh! But for me, running is the art of pushing ourselves and listen to our body at the same time. Running is not only about physical endurance, but also mental endurance. On my first half marathon race, I found that I felt okay until the first 10K. After that, I kept talking to myself to go further and exhaust my potential. Listening to my ipod, I kept pushing myself to run some more steps further, while singing a bit. Oh yes, it was a good self-motivating thing to do. Haha.. But then I made a huge mistake : I drank too much water. Yes, I got side stitch after I passed the 13th km. I wanted to keep running but I decided to walk instead and listen to what my body needed. I know that my mental wanted me to push harder, but then the logic told me not to, for the sake of my own safety.

2. Running is the art of controlling our own selves

So when I went home from Singapore, I was in the same shuttle bus with a full marathon finisher of the same race I was in. He lives in Malang as well, and he was about 50 something years old. We talked a bit about the marathon we were in, and I told him that I got a side stitch that bothered me a lot. You know what he said? Instead of giving some technical advice, he told me “You need to be more patient. Young people are lacking of patience”. I felt like I was slapped, right in my face! Haha.. He told me that hydrating is important, but I need to know when to hydrate and how to run in a constant pace, instead of brutally speeding up and slowing down my pace in a messy rhythm. I realize that I lacked of self-control. I thought I needed to grab the opportunity to drink at the every water station I passed, in order not to collapse. But it was a wrong strategy. From this talk I learned that we need to know about what and when we need something.

3. Age is not more than a number if we can give some meanings on it

In the midst of my run, I met a 70 something years old man who ran alone. I was so surprised and humbled by his youthful spirit. I have no words for him. I then ran beside him, gave him a high five, and told him “good luck, uncle!”. He was just awesome!

4. Running in a race is about the art of being selfish and selfless at the same time

So I ran with a friend of mine, who also didn’t run that fast. We came to this race to have fun, and our goal was only to hit the finish line. Sometimes I ran faster than her, but sometimes she outran me. She got a side stitch in the first 5k, so we ran a bit slower, until she then told me to just pass her and run my pace. But I was the one who dragged her into running this half marathon, so I felt that I should have been with her, so she didn’t feel left out. So I mostly stopped at the 5K, 10K, and 15K marks to wait for her, gave her high five, and shouting “half way to go!”, or “a quarter more to finish line!”. I really wanted to be so selfish and getting the most of my speed capability. But then again, I’m not yet a competitive runner after all. I was debating of being selfish to get my time record or to run together with her. Well, she also waited for me when I got side stitch anyway, so yeah. I came into realization that it’s okay to be selfish, but being selfless is much more important, especially when someone we care needs us. So yes we hit the finish line almost at the same time. She was only 30 people away behind me. Awesome!

5. Singaporeans are kind!

Well, it may be out of the topic, but people mostly told me that Singaporeans live like robots. But I found totally different experiences. Well, maybe people didn’t see what I saw, or I was lucky to experience Singapore from different point of view. So I had a carbo loading night appointment with some friends of mine. With my poor spacial intelligence, I asked the cab driver to bring me to a cone-shaped building at Orchard road. Maybe it was me who’s been so stupid not to remember the name of the place, or maybe the taxi driver who didn’t understand what I told him: blame my accent!, I should have learned how to speak Singlish! Haha. The cab driver ended up dropping me at an intersection to Orchard road. It was raining, and I was lost, and I just kept walking, without even knowing where to go. I walked along Orchard road and didn’t find that cone-shaped building, because I actually walked the wrong direction! Thanks to my very bad spacial intelligence. Again. But Thanks God that I found a tourist center and asked them where is that cone-shaped building was located. They told me the name of that building : “Wheelock Place”, which really saved my night. I walked a bit longer, but I was so desperate that I ended up buying a take away Subway Sandwich in case I couldn’t find the place. So I then stood in a shop’s terrace next to an intersection, until suddenly a girl asked me “are you gonna cross the road?”, and she opened her umbrella for me. Dang! People cared about me! I guess it was because I was almost totally wet! Haha.. So she told me how to get to Wheelock Place, and I was glad to actually meet my friends. Even if I was an hour late. Haha

The morning after the race, I walked to get a bus to get to my friend’s apartment, the place where I got asylum for 3 days. Haha.. I didn’t know that the bus couldn’t give a change, so when I paid with S$10, the driver said “No exchange” and just let me in. I didn’t feel comfortable not to pay the fare, so I asked other passengers if I could change my bill with some coins. And no one had the coins. I remember that I only had S$20 in my pocket, and other 70 cents coins. I needed 40 more cents to pay the S$1.1 bus fare. Then an old man who sat next to me gave me 50 cents. I was so surprised. I know it was only a small amount of money, but it opened my eyes that Singaporeans aren’t as heartless as robots. They are human after all. I’m glad that I experienced the different things from what most people say. Sometimes we learned something from an unexpected occasion and place.

And anyway, I finished the half marathon within 03.17.34.43, and my rank was 2109 over 12000 participants. Not too bad! 😉

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In Defense of Nationalism: Does Travel Disrupt Our Love Affair with Our Beloved Country?

Let me clarify to begin with. I am not a globetrotter yet, neither a long term traveler. I’ve only been to less than 10 countries, and I never traveled long term for say, a year. Thus, the view expressed in this writing is totally subjective, based on what I feel, what I’ve done, and my first hand observation.  And yes, I’m always open to any discussion J

I believe most of us have faced a situation when people ask about our nationality, or in more general form, where we are from. This is not uncommon question that most travelers ever be asked at least once. But I believe more than once in every place we visit. Haha

I am not really sure why our nationality or our home country is among the first questions local people ask to travelers. Maybe because we are physically different so they are curious about the origin of these ‘different’ creatures. Maybe because they can associate us with certain ‘stereotype’ or ‘identification’ that may belong to our ‘group’, so they can know how to behave with us. Or maybe because it’s just the easiest ice breaker question, instead of asking the annoying ‘are you single?’ thing. Haha..

Indonesia does exist

But things never ended up there. People often asked where I am from, but turned out they didn’t even know where in the world Indonesia is located. Oh wait, some of them didn’t even know that there is a country called Indonesia. So one day I was in Grand Bazaar, looking for some silk scarf for my mom. A merchant asked me “where are you from?”. I replied “Ben Endonezya’lıyım (I am Indonesian)”. “Oh, Malezya!”, he shouted. “Hayır, abi! Endonezya! Evet, Malezya’dan Endonezya uzak değil! (No, brother! Indonesia! Yes, Indonesia is not far from Malaysia!)”. When I was in Ürgüp, I looked for a pharmacy to find aspirin for a friend of mine. The exactly same thing happened. “Gunaydın, burada aspirin var mı? (Good morning, is there any aspirin here?)”, I asked. “Evet, aspirinim var. Nerelisiniz? (Yes, I have aspirin. Where are you from?)”, he asked me back. “Ben Endonezya’lıyım, ama İstanbul’da yaşıyorum (Iam Indonesian but I live in Istanbul)”, I replied. “Endonezya nerede (where is Indonesia?)”, he asked me again and made me draw a map of Asia to help him figure out where Indonesia is.

This really made me sad. Not many people knew about Indonesia. Or, if they knew about Indonesia, they mostly never thought that I was Indonesian. When I was in Thailand, people thought I was a Thai. When I was in Cambodia, local people thought I was a Cambodian, that the waiter in restaurant tried to talk with me in Khmer language. Most people I met on the road guessed that I was a Philipino. The most annoying part was when I saw a guy on a bus from border to Siem Reap, Cambodia. He was looking for a seat on that bus, and the seat beside me was empty. In order not to be mean, I offered him the seat beside mine. “Are you looking for a seat? You can take this space if you want”, I told him. Can you guess what he told me back? No, he didn’t say thank you, instead he said “Oh, you speak English!”. I was like, okay, I speak human language, if that’s what you mean! Later on he wondered why Indonesian does speak English. Duh! There was even the worse guess when a French girl and a Swiss guy I met in Ho Chi Minh City  thought that I was an Asian-French (Vietnamese-French) because I talked to them in French. I told them that I was an Indonesian who happened to speak French. Only a Dutch girl guessed it right that I was Indonesian. Oh, did I mention that it was because she was half-Indonesian? Haha

The fact that people don’t know about Indonesia really bothers me. I felt so angry that how came people didn’t know about Indonesia? It is the largest archipelago on earth, fifth most populous countries, and among the most economically growing countries. They literally should read more! Well, I have to say that I was in this anger stage, until I realize that I didn’t know all of the countries on earth as well. I knew that a country named Burkina Faso did exist when I was in a short diplomatic course, and we were simulating the UN security council meeting. Burkina Faso was one of the members of UN temporary security council back then. Like, I am now in more relax state when people don’t know about my country, because I myself also don’t know about all of the countries on earth.

However, the fact that not many people know about Indonesia awakens the sense of nationalism inside me. The term nationalism itself is varied among the scholars, based on the angle they take. Max Weber argued that nationalism can be formed by ‘togetherness’. In short, he argued that common ancestry is a consequence of collective political action. People see that they belong to each other as a consequence of acting together[1]. In addition, according to Benedict Anderson[2], nation is an imagined community, in which the members might never meet each other, but they have a common identity. Anderson within his book was trying to explain that the most important one is the imagined identity the members believe they share together. In sum, nationalism is a sense of belonging to the nation. Thus, within this writing, nationalism is defined as feeling of loving the nation or identity that people bond themselves in.  Nationalism within this paper is more associated with patriotism, an awaerness of moral duty to the nation or community we belong to[3]. I would sum up that nationalism is the feeling of patriotism towards my beloved nation; Indonesia.

Citizen of the World vs Patriotism

Well, sometimes I adore the more comfortable life in some other countries I’ve visited. I envy how their transportation system is way better than the one in my country. I envy how their education system is really good. However, I also found that my country is better in some other aspects. Like, the people are really welcoming, helpful, and honest. By traveling, we know that yes, our country is sometimes left behind, but still there are lots of things to love. Comparing and contrasting the countries is not a bad thing, to see that there’s still many things to be proud of our home country, and yes to make betterment out of it.

Well, in another point of view, some people assume that we should leave our national pride behind when we travel. When we travel, people say that we should become the citizen of the world. But hey, I personally think that where I am from makes who I am today. The nationally inherited values I hold shape how I am today. I am proud to be an Indonesian, and I will always show that wherever I go. I won’t give up my identity only to mingle with people and be ‘the citizen of the world’. I do agree that we all are equal and should respect each other, but it doesn’t have to make us uniformed. The uniqueness of our identity is what makes traveling an exotic thing to do ; to meet different people from different part of the world. And yes, to respect the uniqueness itself.

Other than that, traveling is the right way to promote my own country to people who don’t know yet about it. Traveling awakens my sense of nationalism in term of “proving” that my country does exist. I was so proud to present about Indonesia in my roommate’s cultural class back when I was in Istanbul. I was so happy that finally they knew about Indonesia. When I travel, I usually suggest fellow travelers to visit Indonesia. I also mostly happy to clarify the news they heard about my country. Like a fellow traveler still thought that cannibal people still exist in Papua. Oh my. It was like hundreds of years ago! Haha.. Thus, I’d like to say that traveling revives the sense of belonging of my nation. Like, I tend to show how my country is like, how the people are like, and how we can stand up in the crowds. I love Indonesia! 🙂


[1]    Philip Spencer & Howard Wollman, Nationalism: A Critical Introduction, (London: Sage, 2002)

[2]    Benedict Anderson. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991) p.6-7

[3]    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (June 2009) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/patriotism/

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On Having A Serious Fun : A Bucket List to Keep the Child’s Spirit Inside My Older Body

Time indeed flies so fast! I thought I’m still 18! I thought I was just doing silly stuffs and laughing out loud with my high school friends yesterday! And now I’m already, what? 23? Haha..

But hey, isn’t the older the better? The older a wine is, the higher it may worth. The older a cheese is, the more delicious and expensive it may become. This logic should apply to human as well, I guess. The older someone is, the better personal quality she/he may have.  And it means that the higher he/she should worth, at least for her/himself!

Being older sometimes equals to being more serious. In every sense, in everything we do. It sounds so boring, right? Wrong! We can always be serious and have fun at the same time. Sounds contradictory? Not really! We can always have serious fun or having fun seriously. Yes! I nailed it! Haha 😀

“The year you were born marks only your entry into the world. Other years where you prove your worth, they are the ones worth celebrating. 
”
― Jarod KintzThis Book Title is Invisible

During my entire life, I have always been so competitive and love to chase goals, name it personal or communal ones. I understand that people may feel worthy through different ways and by different means. I feel happy when I’m able to do something that makes myself and other people happy. I also feel happy when I do silly things and laugh out loud. Thus, today, when I enter my first day of becoming a 23 years old girl, I set a bucket list for myself. I hope that by making this bucket list I can be more driven, determined, persistent, and still having fun at the same time. Not to mention to get support and prayer from those who read this list. The more people who know what I wish for, the more prayer and support I will get, and the bigger chance I’ll have to make it happen. I think. Amen!

So here are 23 things I wanna do in my 23 :

  1. Getting an empty jar and fill it with good things that happen to me in my 23. By July 21st 2014 I’ll empty it and see what awesome stuffs have happened to me
  2. Learning how to swim. I know, you’re now just laughing at me. I won’t demand you to stop laughing at me, though. I know I should have written ‘learn how to dive’ or ‘learn how to surf’ instead. But hey! I wouldn’t feel secure to learn how to dive or surf before learning how to swim! Enough said! 😉
  3. Do a daily meditation
  4. Run at least 15 miles per week for at least 6 months
  5. Wall climbing at the karst walls in Phuket, Thailand
  6. Take a volunteer work in an orangutan protection center in Borneo
  7. Do at least one half marathon race
  8. Write a letter in the bottle and send it from a foreign country and see whether it will ever happen to reach me or not 🙂
  9. Do at least ten random acts of kindness
  10. Bungee jump or do a tandem paragliding
  11. Climbing 2 of 3 highest active volcanoes in Indonesia, which are…. *drum roll* Kerinci and Rinjani!! Yay!!
  12. Take mom and dad to Gili islands or Belitong island for their 25th wedding anniversary
  13. Get my opinion or analysis published in a national newspaper/magazine
  14. Be able to speak Spanish at least at the intermediate level
  15. Do a silent day. So I won’t speak at all for a day in a foreign country and I’ll have to still be able to enjoy the travel, get some foods, and get directions at that day. Yeah!
  16. Involved in a project with a social cause
  17. Make a painting and hang it at my room’s wall
  18. Being in an international conference or festival
  19. Teaching English to people in my area
  20. Sponsor a student to a sporting or academic competition
  21. Visit Myanmar and go back home alive! Kidding! Myanmar isn’t that scary 🙂
  22. Try a new ‘occasional job’ beside my full time job, like a non routine work that I’ve never done before. A magazine contributor, maybe? Setting a new business with my brother, maybe?
  23. Read at least 2 books in French. I know it’ll take forever but this is just cool thing to do! Yes, the language itself is cool and sexy! 🙂

And that’s my bucket list. I wish it doesn’t only end up as a list, but a checked list!

Let’s have fun together, people!

Hugs and Kisses,

Rani

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Beyond the Beauty of Angkor Wat : Five Lessons I’ve Learned From My Travel in Siem Reap

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust

Traveling abroad is not only a matter of seeing new places we’ve never been to, or getting new stamp on our passport pages. Well, seeing my passport pages filled with foreign immigration stamps is exciting, but it is more exciting to recall the memories I’ve had in a place when I see the stamp of the country. The lessons I’ve learned also change the way I see things, sometimes. One of the most memorable places was Siem Reap, and here are 5 lessons I’ve learned when I was in this town.

1. Being friendly doesn’t have to make us becoming compliant

After a night of stay at @Hua Lamphong Hostel in Bangkok, I took a morning train to Aranyaprathet, the land border area between Thailand and Cambodia. It was a 3rd class train that departed at 05.55, and it took about 5 hours to reach Aranyaprathet. I saw some fellow travelers in the first two coaches, but I decided to sit in another coach, in an empty seat across a mid-aged man. He talked to me in Thai, but I told him -with my very limited Thai, of course- that I’m not a Thai. We ended up talking in sign language. Yay! I was becoming a Tarzan since then! Haha.. He then asked me whether I was a Buddhist or not, because he saw me wearing a bracelet that I got from a monk in Wat Arun. Thanks to my Thai language illiteracy, I had to demonstrate a monk praying, splashing some holy water to me, and putting a bracelet on my wrist!

In the midst of our absurd conversation, he showed me someone who sold a lottery, and he asked me to take picture of the lottery. So I took a photo of the lottery because it was interesting to me to see an official Thai government lottery. We don’t have that in Indonesia! Long story short, turned out he asked me to buy him some lottery. I didn’t mind to give some amount of money to him, but I wasn’t sure whether it was legal or not for a foreign citizen to buy lottery in Thailand. I thought it was just plain dumb if I got arrested because I bought some lottery that only worth USD 3! Ouch! So I told him politely that I didn’t want that lottery, and I didn’t have enough money to buy him one. Sometimes it’s good to just play safe 🙂

Thai Goverment Lottery

Thai Goverment Lottery

2. Travelers have common interest : to extend their dollars

When I got out of the train in Aranyaprathet, I knew I had to take tuk-tuk to Poipet, the border area in Cambodian side. The tuk-tuk driver told me it would cost me THB 100 (around USD 3) to get to Poipet. It was really cheap, but then I saw other two girls standing around me. So I started the conversation and asked them where they were gonna go, and we ended up sharing the tuk-tuk for three of us. The thing is, we didn’t only share the transport fare, but we also helped each other in the immigration office. I helped them watching over their bags when they were in line to get the visa, and they helped me spending time together so I didn’t feel dumb travelling alone. Moreover, the more people in a group, the safer it would be, because we could protect each other, and we could remind each other to use our common sense.

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The busy border between Thailand and Cambodia

3. When Plan A didn’t work, remember that there’s always plan B. And sometimes it works better!

So in Siem Reap I stayed in a mixed 8 beds dorm at Jasmine Family Homestay for two nights. I planned to do a full day Angkor Wat tour in the second day, and it would cost me USD 12 to USD 15 for renting the tuk-tuk. It was actually a good price for me, until Ryan, a Scottish room-mate of mine offered me to join him and other people to share the tuk-tuk fare. Well, who didn’t want the cheaper price? Plus, there would be some friends to talk with. Then I went down stair to the lobby, and turned out there were already 4 people who wanted to share the tuk-tuk, and it meant that there wasn’t any more space for me. So I went back to my first option ; renting tuk-tuk on my own. Not long after that, another room-mate of mine told me that she was gonna ride a bike to Angkor Wat. I then thought that it would be a good option to enjoy the site, plus, I still have friends to talk with. So, that night, at 11 pm, I decided to went out with my sleeping attire to rent a bike. Yes, I was ready to sleep at that time! And guess how much did I pay for renting a bike? USD 2 for a whole day! Bingo! Haha

Long story short, the next day I started riding my bike early in the morning. In the entrance there was a tourism police who controlled our ticket, and I didn’t have one! Haha.. But I know that God is everywhere! That police didn’t  mad at me, he offered to take me with his motorbike to get the ticket, instead. Well, even if I had to pay some money. It was much better than riding my bike for 5 km to get to the ticket booth! And finally I could see the sunrise at the Angkor Wat! 🙂

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Sunrise at the Angkor Wat

Riding bicycle was much more tiring than riding tuk-tuk, but the experience was incomparable. Riding bike allowed me to enjoy the site as well as the ride. Riding tuk-tuk will make me talk with other passengers and I wouldn’t pay attention to what happened around us. Meanwhile, riding bike gave me time to enjoy the view in silence, in solitude, without having to feel weird not talking to anyone.

Funny thing happened when we visited Bayon temple, where a lot of monkeys hung out that morning. We parked our bike and went visit the temple. Like only a minute after we parked the bikes, I heard that one of the bikes fell down. Turned out the monkeys were eating the mangosteens that Amy and Ivone kept in the bike front-basket. We were scared and tried to hold our laugh at the same time!

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Amy and Ivone tried to save their mangosteens from the naughty monkeys

4. Indonesians travel, too!

Yes, during my Bangkok days, I didn’t even meet any other Indonesian who traveled. But when I visited one of the temple in the Angkor Wat complex, I met two other Indonesian girls. It was funny that at the first time I apologized to them because I passed in front of them while they were taking pictures – in English, of course. But then I heard them chatting in Bahasa Indonesia, and I started to talk with them in my native language! Then we decided to ride our bikes together around the complex. We were almost lost, but it was good to laugh over our stupidity! Then I went back to my dorm room, and tadaaa!!! another surprise came to me! A new room mate came, and guess what? She was Indonesian! Double bingo! Then I asked her to dine out with me and two other Indonesian girls I met in Angkor Wat. We ate at Curry Walla, a cheap Indian restaurant near to night market. I was so happy to meet fellow Indonesians on my trip, that I didn’t realized that I was in Cambodia. I spontaneously called the waitress “Mbak” (sister in Indonesian language) that it burst our laugh that night! That night I learned that Indonesians travel, too! We are the explorer, we are the descendants of Gajahmada the conqueror! Haha

Another stupid thing happened when I was packing my backpack and talking with my Indonesian room mate in the dorm room. I coincidentally spilled my water, and I immediately took a towel to clean it up. After I finished packing my stuffs, I realized that there were two towels on my bed, a used and a new one. So whose towel did I use to clean the floor? Oh gosh! It was Ryan’s towel. Haha.. So I took my new towel, wrinkle it a bit, and put it on the floor, beside Ryan’s bed which was next to my bed. I told this stupid incident to my Indonesian roommate and we laughed together. Oh, I was too excited to talk in Bahasa Indonesia that I lost my brains!

5. Age doesn’t always matter. Hard work does!

Angkor Wat didn’t only give me a great view of a complex of an ancient city, but it also gave me a new perspective on seeing this life. It was raining in the area, so I, Amy, and Ivone decided to take a rest while waiting for the rain to stop. Two very young girls came to us to sell some souvenirs. They talked in pretty good English, and eloquently explained the pictures on the post cards they sold. We bought some souvenir from them, and we talked with Sawin, a pretty and smart little Cambodian girl. We didn’t find any difficulties talking with her in English. I thought I didn’t understand English that well when I was in the 2nd grade.

She might only be a second grader, but she taught me a lot. I also worked during the school breaks when I was younger, but it wasn’t as hard as what Sawin has to do. I couldn’t imagine that I should sell some souvenirs to the tourist. I guess it’s not every girl’s dream part-time job. But Sawin reminds me that I was, and still am, a lucky girl.Ii didn’t have to work hard like Sawin does when I was kid. She’s willing to sell some souvenirs after school time to help her family. It reminded me that I should do something for the less fortunate girls around my area. Thanks for indirectly reminding me, Sawin!

Moreover, she’s able to speak some languages, which I adore!  She even talked to Amy and Ivone in Mandarin, and she knew some French. I learned Chinese Mandarin for a year and I forget a lot! Oh my! She was just smart! She might have to work hard at the moment, but I saw that she was a confident and smart girl. I knew she could get what she wants someday. Amen!

Siem Reap, a humble place, with humble people, has made me feel so humbled! 🙂

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A Note From My Indochina Trip: How I Kept My Sanity When I Traveled Solo. Part 1. Bangkok

Journeys are made by people you travel with ~ Unknown, I got from an article in an in-flight magazine

That quote sounds almost perfect! For we can share the laughter, silly things, and even hard moments with the people we travel with. Then a question arises ; how would you create a journey if you travel solo, Rani? That was my question at the very beginning of my Indochina trip. I was supposed to travel with my brother, but he had to look for universities he wanted to go for his bachelor degree, so he quit from the trip. Yup, then I had to travel solo!

Well, to cheer myself up, I assured myself that everyone needs a moment of solitude, sometimes. But again, I thought it would be just stupid and boring to travel solo and enjoy the trip in silence. But the tickets have been booked, the itinerary has been made, and the time has been allocated. So I packed my 40 liters backpack and I flew to Bangkok!

Turned out things were not that scary as I thought. I met lots of people to share the laughter with. Yes, I love to laugh, and I don’t want people to think that I’m insane laughing alone. Boys don’t date insane girl! Duh! Haha

The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.  ~Henry Boye

During this trip, I met lots of people who gave interesting experiences for me. From thoughtful small talks to stupid inconsiderate attitudes. So I’ll be writing about the people I’ve met and how I learned from them and the experiences I shared with them. This is the first part of the series.

After 4 hours flight from Surabaya to Bangkok, I arrived at Khao San Road area around 9 pm. I stayed in a mixed dorm-room in Nap Park Hostel in Tani Road, two alleys next to Khao San Road. I was preparing to take shower that night, when a boy asked me “Did you just arrive here? Do you have any plan for tonight?”. “Nope. I don’t have any plan yet”, I replied. “I am going to go to Ping-Pong show with other 14 people. Are you coming with us? We’ll be leaving at 11.30 pm”, he asked again. “I’m a bit exhausted, so I’ll have a shower and take a nap for a while. I’ll see you guys afterwards”. Well, you may wonder what is interesting with a ping-pong show. It is not a sport game, for sure. It is Thai ping-pong show.

I’m not saying that it’s a bad show at all, people may find it as a source of fun entertainment.  I’m just not into it. First of all, I’m not a night owl, I’m bad at staying awake at night. Second, I see this show as an exploitation of women, and third, it is a source of scam. People often have to pay a lot for the entrance ticket or for the drinks. Eww..!! I’d better to be safe than be sorry! So I preferred to go to bed.

I was in a 6-beds room that night. Only I and a guy in the bunk below mine were in the room, sleeping.  He didn’t go to the show either. I was waken up at 04.00 am by a loud conversation between 2 guys in the room. I had no idea whether they were drunk or not, but they just came from watching the ping-pong show. They were talking about how cool the show was, and how one of the guy really wished to hook up with a cute British girl named Georgia. He was disappointed because Georgia shared a bed with her friend, so he couldn’t find any space to hook up with her. Well, don’t get me wrong. Hooking up or not, it is their right, and their personal choice. The thing is, they should haven’t talk about it loudly and at 04.00 am when other people in dorm were still sleeping. Enough said! Haha

On my second day in Bangkok, I intended to visit Grand Palace, Wat Po, and Wat Arun. After exchanging some amount of money – yes, I still bring some cash! An obsolete way that still works!-, I get out of the bank with a hopeless mind. I just walked along when suddenly I saw another Asian girl walked alone as well. I then asked her what was she looking for, and she told me that she wanted to go to the Grand Palace as well. Yay! We then decided to explore the city together that day.  Her name was Jeon. We almost got scammed by a man who said that Grand Palace was temporarily closed due to the Buddhist Day, and we could come 1 hour later, and we could spend the time cruising the Chao Praya river in between. He offered a tuk-tuk for 10 Baht (USD 30 cents) to go to the harbor. We took that great deal, but we didn’t go cruising. The tuk-tuk driver took us to a small harbor, whom the owner he knew so well, apparently. We knew that was an attempt of scam. The tuk-tuk driver might get some commission if we took the tour. Sorry, Sir! We knew you needed some money, but we did, too! 🙂

So we explore the traditional market and got our breakfast in a small restaurant near the harbor and the market. I intended to tell them not to give me the spicy one, but we all lost in translation. I remembered that I had a Thai language application in my android phone, so I showed her the sentence I meant. It was funny because it was a recorded voice that I needed to press a button to listen to. So we all laughed over this stupid lost in translation and the use of this application as the way out. It was a bliss to laugh with strangers. We don’t speak the same language but we understood each other and laughed over the silly things we’ve shared together.

I found that I and Jeon got along well. We both loved to explore the off-beaten places. We visited a museum of King Rama VI, which wasn’t really popular among travelers.  I and Jeon entered the building, turned out it was a military base.  We saw people in a line to get such background check, apparently.Haha.. We laughed at ourselves because we thought we went to a wrong place. Well, actually the museum was in the second floor of the building. We even were accompanied by a beautiful and knowledgeable army major! The museum was dedicated for King Rama VI. He was the father of modern Thailand. He went to pursue a degree  in UK and served in British royal army before he adopted the western system to Thailand after he went back home.

What I learned from Thai people was that they seem to really respect their Kings. I often see lots of photos of the kings in front of a building, with an altar to worship them. So was in the museum. There was an altar with the statue of King Rama VI.

Picture of King Rama VI in the museum

Statue of King Rama VI in the museum

We then went to Grand Palace and Wat Arun. We were happy that we weren’t trapped in the scam. The man offered the Chao Praya cruise for over THB 1000 (app USD 30), and we actually only had to pay for THB 3 to cross the river to Wat Arun when we took the official regular  long tail boat.  And we did some sport in Wat Arun afterwards! The stairs to reach the top were so steep that Jeon and I took a long-deep breath to climb the stairs and she was afraid to step down. I then held and led her to step down the stairs. We both laughed a lot afterwards, it was like grandmas holding hand in hand to step down the stairs. Interesting thing happened again when a monk called and blessed us and gave us bracelets. He spelled some prayers and said “Good luck.. Good luck..” to us. We both laughed and questioned whether we had a bad aura so the monk called and blessed us. Haha..

In the evening I had to say goodbye to Jeon. I know she was sad, so was I. It’s really interesting for me how a stranger could be a friend in a strange place. This experience reminded me of what my dad’s friends told me. They were from Olympia, Washington, which was not a big city at that time. The mother told the son not to talk randomly with stranger. And the son, who was 3 years old at that time, replied to his mom “If I talk to them, they are no longer stranger”. I find it true to me, but again, however deep we can trust them when we travel, they are still stranger. It is good to befriend sincerely, but we haven’t known them for quite long time, so we better set a standard for our own security. We can trust them more after we know them quite well.

It was only 2 days but I’ve learned a lot, that laughters can be shared with whoever, wherever, and whenever. Thailand, the land of smile, had certainly put a smile on my face 🙂

Disclaimer : the links I provided are for information purpose only. I didn’t get any commission from the links of the products I’ve linked here. The products are those I use personally.

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On Deciding Where to Go : How I Tried Not to be Overwhelmed

Traveling always makes me feel excited. I love the process of deciding what to do, where to stay, how to get to a place, what to wear, what to eat, what souvenirs to buy, and what kind of experiences to expect. Those expectations make every trip interesting! However, on top of all, deciding where to go is the most exciting part yet frustrating, sometimes.

 

Things will be easier when we travel with some one else or some friends. Every feedback counts and one’s opinion can complement others’. The thing is, I’ll be traveling solo to Indochina next month. I travel solo quite often but within my own country’s boundaries, so I always feel safe doing so. Crossing border where people speak different languages is another thing, even if I know that sign language will always help! The Tarzan’s language, my mom would call it 🙂

 

So I researched for my trip. I browsed some of my favorite travel blogs, my favorite travel social media, and even asked for itinerary to my friends who’ve been there before. Traveling solo is all about myself and what I want to do or experience, so I tried to make it as personally enjoyable as possible. As I am a very curious person, I wanted to visit as many places as possible, yet again, I have time limit. Oh, I hate it!

 

I jumped from one possibility to another and to another one and the list goes on and on. I arranged and re-arranged my itinerary based on my main considerations : budget (yes, I’m on a budget, buddy!), the attractions that a place offers, time allocation, and how that place can fit my interest. I’m not a party hopper, so I will skip the full moon parties and river tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos. I don’t drink alcohol so I won’t hang out until the morning comes at Khao San Road.  I’m also not really a beach girl (I am a mountain girl! ), so I’ll skip Pattaya or Phuket, even if people said that those beaches are cool! Apart from those personal preferences, it was not easy at all to decide where to go since every place is unique in its own way. Chiang Mai offers elephants preservation park, while Siem Reap offers the beautiful Angkor Wat. It was not easy at all to decide whether I should be heading to the north or to the south.

 

Yet again, I only have around 10 days to travel to Indochina, so yes, my time is very very very limited. I always want to do this and that, going here and there, but finally I (hopefully) decided that I’ll be heading south instead of north. So pity that I’ll have to skip Luang Prabhang and Chiang Mai, but I have to be rational as well. So I would probably go to Bangkok, Siem Reap, Pnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh, Halong Bai, and Hanoi.

 

Well, on top of all, I don’t want the time constrain to deter me enjoying my trip. Wherever I go, I’ll make sure that I’ll bring my good mood along with me. I will have to ask other fellow travelers for advice as well. So, I’ll update again with my packing list and trip report afterwards!

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An Open Letter to the Man I Love The Most : Dad

Image

Look! How happy I was (and still am) to be your daughter. Attention people, my forehead doesn’t look this broad now :p
Photo from circa 1992

Daddy is the daughter’s first love and son’s first best friend ~ Unknown

Hi Dad,

Happy 49th Birthdaaaay! I know.. I know you wish you were only 39. I know you always feel younger. I know how happy you were when a shopkeeper called you “Mas” instead of “Pak”.  I know you too well for this matter. And yes, for however old you will be, you’re still the fun dad I always have! 🙂

Dad, I may be almost 23 years old, but I’m still proud to call myself daddy’s little girl.  You may never regard it as important stuff, but you have to know how happy I am when people tell me how I really look like you. Our eyes, our lips, our eyebrow, even the way we talk.

I can barely remember how my childhood looked like.  I wouldn’t recall everything well though. Hehe..  However, I still remember that we used to go together on Sunday evenings to the tennis court near to our house. You played with your friends, while I attended tennis course in the next court. I remember how I and brother enjoyed going to some different places to follow you playing tennis with friends. Oh yes, I remember that three of us went hiking together and you kept making brother sure to keep on walking by saying that there were only two turns left. You kept saying that until we realized that yes there were only two turns left, the right and left turns. That was a bad joke, dad! Oh yeah, I still remember that you had a weird lullaby song I’ve never heard before. Oh dad, I remember how I used to beg for another “normal” lullaby song like the one I used to hear from kids’ song, but you said this song was only for me. Tu as la raison! Haha

Dad, I don’t know how can I be grateful of having a great dad like you are. I can’t thank you enough for making me who I am today. I thank you so much for being a very supportive daddy. I remember how you encouraged me to enroll in best junior high school in town. You made me believe that I would be able to compete with those bright kids. I remember that you used to drive me to every competition I was in. I remember that you used to drive me to the train station at 04.00 on Mondays, in order to catch the train to Surabaya. I thank you so much for not being an overprotective dad. I have to thank you for letting me go to Makassar by myself, joining leadership summer camp program held by the Navy. You know I was the only 7th grader among the High School students there; I was even only 11 at that time. Despite of that, you believed me that I would be just fine. And I was fine! I thank you for letting me do what I want. I still remember how hard we argued regarding the major I’d love to take. You convinced me to go to medical school, while I believe that my passion is politics. Once you told me “You can do everything you want, as long as you’re responsible with it”. Anyway, Dad, don’t you realize that I have to blame you? You made me love politics because we used to talk about politics when I was in high school!

Dad, how funny it is to know how our relationship has changed. From daughter-daddy, to best friends, to business partner. I might have never been your sweetest little girl, as I sometimes am stubborn. You know that I have some weird and wild dreams. But thanks that you never pushed me. I thank you for your patience. Thanks for keeping me down to earth. I thank you for being one of my best friends. Thanks for being a very good business partner, despite the fact that I’m a massive procrastinator. Hehe.. I know I have to fix this bad habit. I’m working on it Dad, hang on a bit! High five! 🙂

Dad, I learned a lot from you, to be grateful, to be caring to people, and not to easily hate people. I know when someone tried to let you down couples of month ago, you felt so devastated. But you never told us that you were sad. You tried to show us that you were strong so we could become stronger as well. Dad, it is okay that you whine, you’ll still be my hero. You’re still our hero because you didn’t even try to hurt people back. You always believe that good deeds will always win. You always believe that we’ll harvest what we’ve planted. And what you said was proven true. You are my life guru.

Dad, you’re the most dedicated person I’ve ever known. You love your family, you love your job, you love your friends, you love your people. Well, for me and mom, you’re such an annoying guy though. However , your oh-not-that-funny jokes still make us laugh out loud. It wasn’t the joke that funny, but the way you told the joke was.

Dad, let me apologize that there’s still a thing  that I haven’t done yet. I’m working on it dad, I will never ever try to make you feel disappointed. I’ll do that for me, for you, for mom, for brother, for us.

Well dad, this letter won’t certainly express my love for you or how I feel about you. You just have to know that we love you so much, just like the way you love us. I wish we can still keep each other strong, supporting each other, praying for each other, and still seriously having fun together. I love this imperfectly perfect family 🙂

Your former remote control battle opponent,

Rani

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Adventure in Sukamade : Meeting Up With the Turtles

It’s always nice to travel and work at the same time. Challenging myself to accept an offer from my dad’s friend’s travel company, I worked as a French tour guide. I went with Frederic, Jerome, and Tanguy to Bromo and Ijen via Sukamade. I’ve never been to Sukamade before. So, besides of earning more money, I also grab this opportunity to make survey for my own adventure tour operator company. What else could be better than getting to know new place, making survey for free, meeting and learning from new people, and getting paid? It was perfect! 🙂

Brief Description

Sukamade is the name of a beach in Meru Betiri National Park, Banyuwangi, where turtles usually put their eggs on. During certain time, turtles seek some beaches to put their eggs, bury them deeply under the sand, and let the eggs naturally hatched. However, due to human’s greedy nature, many eggs were stolen from the beach, and being sold in black market trade. Thus, Meru Betiri National Park was making a hatchery for the turtles. The eggs will be brought to the hatchery center, and buried until they naturally hatched. The baby turtles then are put into an aquarium for 7 days as “adaptation” phase before they will be sent to the beach.

Getting There

I visited this beach as a guide of an organized tour, thus I came there by private car. I started the journey from Kalibaru, Banyuwangi by taking 4 wheel drive jeep, and it took like 5 hours to reach Sukamade. You can reserve a 4 wheel drive jeep at Kalibaru. Most of the hotels have this kind of service, and they even organize a tour to Sukamade. So far, renting private car will be the best and easiest option. However, I was amazed that there were some European guys coming with public transport to Sukamade. I had no idea how they got there, but maybe they got ride from a truck that went to rubber factory near to Sukamade. Those guys had style, man!

What To Do?

  • Bird watching and (shallow) swimming. I went to a river in the late afternoon to get some refreshment. Remember : it’s not Amazon, the river’s depth was not more than my knee. The guys went swimming while I did bird watching. We found some toucans and bats flying home that afternoon.
  • Waiting for the turtles to come to the shore. Well, it was nice activity, anyway. I went there when it was full moon, so it was pretty romantic to watch the moon with a handsome French boy… who was 12 years old. Ahahaha 😀
  • Watching the turtle delivering its eggs. if you’re not brave enough to see human delivering their baby’s birth, watching a turtle lying its eggs is more than enough.

People were watching and filming Mama Turtle lying eggs

Go Mama Turtle, Goo!!!

  • Watching turtle bury her eggs and go back to the sea. People normally went back to their lodge after they watch the turtle lying her eggs. However, if you want to be a bit more patient, you can see how turtle made camouflage to keep her eggs safe. Watching the “turtle mama” going back to the sea also gave me a touching feeling. I know what she thought was more or less like this; “Kids, be safe there. I’ll find your daddy. He has to pay the bill!”

Hiding something? It’s women’s expertise :p

The rangers were counting the eggs for identification matters

Bye Mama Turtle! Be safe!

  • Animal watching. If you’re lucky like I was, you’ll be able to see some animals hunting foods in the night. I saw some deer and pigs. In the day, you can see some species of monkey hanging around on the trees. They were photogenic. Trust me 🙂
  • Releasing turtle. Well, it may look interesting to release baby turtles to the sea. However, we have to know that baby turtle doesn’t eat anything until they lost their placenta. It took like 7 days. Sometimes, because the demand is high (and the economical income so), the ‘under aged” turtles were released. It will kill them, because they are not ready enough to hunt any food before the placenta has totally gone.
  • Visiting Teluk Hijau (green bay). This is what we call as paradise! It was so calm, quiet, and “untouched”. It has white sands and in the rainy season, there will be a waterfall there. We were like in our private beach, minus the party :p

Cap Vert, Green Bay, Teluk Hijau

Private beach for four of us 🙂

Accommodation

We don’t have many options regarding accommodation. The youngsters prefer to set the tent. While I stayed at a lodge. It was basic accommodation with typical Indonesian “bak mandi” way of taking bath. There are two choices of lodge. The first one is called “wisma pantai” (beach lodge), which is closer to the Sukamade beach. I prefer to stay at “wisma kebun” (garden lodge). It has a mini restaurant with quite peaceful environment.

How Can I Feed My Appetite?

You better carry food yourselves if you choose to stay at wisma pantai or setting tents. But if you stay at wisma kebun, they will cook for you. It costs around IDR 40.000,-/pax

Is there any notice I should pay attention to?

Bring your mosquito repellent. When I was there, there was no single mosquito. But just to let you know, mosquitoes are everywhere in Indonesia. Just be prepared 🙂 And yes, please bring some sarong or mattress, or whatever available as a layering. You’ll wait for hours for the turtle to come. You may fall asleep, too. Thus, bringing a linen to lie down is a good idea 🙂

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